First of all, a big congrats on reaching graduate school. It is one of the best feelings pursuing graduation. Being someone who has gone through this phase, I can surely understand how significant this stage is. And in this journey, a laptop plays an extremely significant role in improving your study efficiency. Higher education is expensive in the US, and where you’re not compromising with anything, the laptop should also not be neglected.
As a grad student, you’re going to use this laptop for at least 3-4 years, and hence the laptop you’ll choose should also be powerful enough to withstand this long-term usage. Especially when working on AI, Machine Learning, Data science, 3D modeling, etc., it becomes essential to opt for a powerful laptop. Along with that, the laptop must also be well-built and portable to have good mobility and handy usage.
After keeping all the required criteria in mind, I have researched and come up with the list of the 10 best laptops you can use for your graduate school journey. No company makes purpose-specific laptops, so it is important to know what you need in your laptop. Hence I have come up with a detailed buying guide for a laptop a grad student should get. And after that, I have shared the list of best laptops for grad school.
Recommended: Best Laptops for College Students under $500
Buying Guide: Things to look for in a good laptop for Grad School?
Here are some important aspects you should consider before buying any laptop for a graduate school student:
It is a crucial thing to consider while buying a laptop as a student. As a student, you are needed to have a laptop that provides mobility as a primary thing. Also, the build and design of the laptop require to be strong enough to withstand normal wear and tear while carrying it. The laptop should not be huge, or it will hinder the mobility factor otherwise.
Also, there can be a need for a specific kind of laptop based on the requirement. E.g., some students working includes a lot of notes taking and in that case, a touchscreen laptop works out to be effective. Similarly, a 2-in-1 laptop can further serve better productivity as it allows you to use it as a laptop as well as a tablet.
Processor and Graphics Card
Now comes the performance of the laptop, which is yet another factor that can’t be neglected. If you plan to use your laptop for a couple of years, it must be strong hardware-wise.
Irrespective of what you’re going to do on your laptop, the processor can’t be compromised. For a laptop that will be used for basic students’ tasks, the processor must have at least 2-cores at a minimum; however, a 4-core CPU is still advised. And if you’re a student of AI-Machine Learning, 3D Modeling, Game Development, etc., the processor must have a 6-core CPU from the latest generation of Intel or AMD.
As for GPU, the conclusion boils down to how much Video Memory the dedicated GPU provides and the generation of that VRAM. For basic tasks, the integrated GPU from Intel and AMD is more than enough. However, some GPU-intensive works like handling AutoCAD, 3D & 2D Game Development, Gaming, etc., require dedicated GPU for more video memory. And in that case, GPU ranging from 2GB to 8GB of VRAM can be chosen.
RAM and Storage
The memory and storage of your PC play a major role in deciding how smooth your laptop’s daily performance will be. The RAM needs to be enough to allow the user to multi-task, and the storage should be fast enough to provide high speeds in reading and writing the content.
The minimum requirement for RAM is 8GB. However, you can only go for 4GB RAM when you don’t use your laptop for any high-level work. It is fine for works like watching movies, casual web browsing, etc. But if your want to have a proper and justified laptop performance, there has to be at least 8GB of DDR4 RAM. You can also go higher as needed.
As for the storage, the laptop is needed to have SSD storage. This is because an SSD serves way more fast read and write speeds than a conventional HDD. SSDs do cost more and provide less space but spending extra bucks on the speed factor is definitely worth it. If you require more storage, you can either have complete SSD storage or have a combination of SSD and HDD.
Display Size and Quality
Now, if you’re seeking mobility, the laptop has to be compact, resulting in a smaller display as well. Hence in the desire to have a display may not be fulfilled completely. But you can still make sure that you’re getting a big screen as much as possible by checking that you have a laptop with the best possible screen-to-body ratio or thin bezels around the display.
Talking about the quality of the display, there must be at least a Full HD resolution to have a crisp and clear output. Along with that having a color-accurate display will help you a lot in works like 3D modeling, game development, Photoshop, video editing, etc.
Connectivity options in laptops are one of the most neglected things. One rarely thinks about what connectivity options that he is getting. But this needs to be considered as there are many things that you’ll attach to your laptop like an external monitor, storage, printer, ethernet cable, etc. Along with that, you should also make sure that you are getting wireless connectivity options like WiFi and Bluetooth of good quality like WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0.
Along with a wide range of specifications, the laptops are segregated by their Operating Systems. There are three mainstream PC operating systems: Windows, macOS, and ChromeOS. If you are going for an Apple laptop like the MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, you’ll get the macOS inside it. It is one of the well-optimized operating systems on the planet and works flawlessly.
Windows is the Operating System that is ruling the PC market and every other PC and laptop uses Windows. This is also a very polished OS and provides support for tons of comparatively unavailable software on macOS or ChromeOS. However, Windows laptops are generally not very good at delivering long battery backup. Coming to ChromeOS, this is the lightest OS of all the three. Made by Google, it supports android apps and is lightweight; it also provides hours of battery backup.
Best Laptops for Grad School Students in 2021
Here is our list of best laptops for grade school students to buy in 2021:
1Apple MacBook Air (Overall Best Laptop for Grade Students)
Any student would prefer to have a powerful laptop yet portable to carry from home to campus. And for that, Apple’s Macbooks have been proved to be a great deal, especially the MacBook Air laptops. The Macbook Air is lighter and compact, along with being powerful. Hence my very first recommendation for you would be the new 2020 Apple MacBook Air. Even though it was an experimental push, there are some compatibility issues. But overall, it supports most of the important applications.
- Display: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600p QHD+
- Processor: Apple M1
- Graphics: Apple-designed 7-Core GPU
- RAM: 8GB DDR4
- Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD
The laptop features a 13.3-inch super bright display offering the 2560 x 1600 pixels QHD resolution. Macbook’s display has always been a center of attraction, and there is no difference with the latest Macbook air. It is a great panel with good viewing angles and excellent color accuracy, making it a great machine for productivity. You can easily edit videos using Final Cut Pro, and it’s speedy to render any video file. If you are a professional photographer, you can also take advantage of enhanced color accuracy. The laptop houses the company’s new and very first ARM-based laptop SoC, the Apple M1 Chip. Depending upon your choice, it has an 8-core CPU, 7-core or 8-core GPU, and a 16-core Neural Engine.
Apple Macbook Air 2020 is an all in one solution for grad school students for extensive multitasking & productivity
There is 8GB of DDR4 RAM and comes in SSD storage variants of 256GB and 512GB. The laptop has been rated to deliver up to 18 hours of battery life, and it’s a fanless laptop, i.e., there are no cooling fans. This the laptop to be light alongside having powerful performance. The battery life is pretty impressive, and Apple’s claim 18 hours of run in a single change makes sense. However, it is not precisely 18 hours, but you can easily get more than 10 hours of battery life in a single charge. I am personally using this laptop, and I am impressed with the performance, battery life, and laptop build. This could be a perfect choice for casual multitasking, writing, taking notes, productivity, web browsing, and other things a grade school students require.
2Acer Swift 3 (Best for Multitasking)
The next laptop on the list is the Acer Swift 3. If you’re looking for a powerful and compact windows laptop at a reasonable price, then you should have a look at the Acer Swift 3 laptop. The laptop comes with a 14-inch IPS LED-Backlit display with a Full HD resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio. With 1920 x 1080p resolution, it generates highly color-accurate visuals with 100% sRGB coverage and great viewing. Overall, the display doesn’t compromise in quality and is one of the world-class offerings in the budget segment.
- Display: 14-inch 1920 x 1080p FHD
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 5700U
- Graphics: Radeon RX Vega 8
- RAM: 8GB LPDDR4X
- Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
Moreover, a compelling Ryzen 7 5700U chipset backs the laptop. The chipset is manufactured on a highly power-efficient 7nm processing node using FinFET technology. Eventually, this is potent processing with an octa-core CPU and base clock speed of 2.0GHz, which can go as high as 4.1GHz. Further, it integrates the Radeon RX Vega 7 graphics card to handle the graphics performance. The laptop also shines in the memory front with 8GB LPDDR4X RAM and 512GB SSD storage. It is a good combination to store large files with excellent processing power.
Moving to the memory and storage of the laptop, there is 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM with up to 4.1GHz of frequency and has been coupled with 512GB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage. There is a WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port, 1x USB 3. 2 Gen 1 port, 1x USB 2. 0 port, and an HDMI port. The laptop has been rated to deliver up to 10 hours of battery life. Moreover, the body construction is solid. It is made of a robust metal unibody design with an extremely lightweight body. Being a Windows machine, it runs on Windows 10 operating system out of the box. In my opinion, this is the best budget laptop for graduate students priced under $800.
3HP 15 (Best Value Pick)
If you’re seeking the best value for money deal that can bring the most out of every single penny you spend, then you should consider the new 2021 HP 15 laptop. From the latest specs to impressive battery life, the laptop brings the best possible performance. The specs’ sheet starts from its 15.6-inch IPS display, packing a Full HD resolution. It covers a 45% NTSC color gamut, 250 nits of peak brightness, and a good-looking bezel-less design with an anti-glare coating on top to avoid unwanted reflection.
- Display: 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080p FHD
- Processor: Intel Core i5-1135G7
- Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
- RAM: 8GB DDR4
- Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD
For processing, the laptop has been equipped with the latest 11th gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor. The processor comes with 4 cores and 8 threads, along with a max turbo clock speed of 4.2GHz. Plus, integrated Iris Xe graphics for 11th gen intel processor go up to 1.3GHz on speed. The laptop packs 8GB of DDR4 RAM (2x 4GB RAM) that works at a clock speed of 2666MHz and delivers a data transfer rate of 2666 MT/s. The laptop runs on Windows 11 operating system out of the box, making it one of the earlier adopters.
For storage, there is a 256GB of PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD storage. It has WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, 1x USB Type-C port, 2x USB Type-A ports, an HDMI 1.4b port, 1x AC smart pin, a multi-format SD media card reader, and a headphone/microphone combo jack. The laptop is rated to deliver up to 7 hours and 15 minutes of battery life in mixed usage. Overall, this is the finest laptop available for under $600.
4Razer Blade 14 (Best for Heavy Workload)
If you’re a student of 3D-Modeling and deal with software like AutoCAD, or if your works ask for a beefy GPU on your laptop, then the Razer Blade 14 can be a superb option for you. Additionally, you can do decent game development if you are into this particular stream. The laptop comes with a 14-inches IPS-type display with a high resolution of 2k (2560×1440 pixels) along with a 165Hz refresh rate. More importantly, this display supports a 165Hz refresh rate making it an ideal choice for gaming. Not only that, this is a highly color-accurate panel with 100% sRGB. So, people working in the professional field can easily use it as a workstation for 4K video editing, AutoCAD, Solidworks, game development, Photoshop, photo editing, etc.
- Display: 14-inch 2560 x 1440p (165Hz)
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
- GPU: RTX 3080 8GB GDDR6 VRAM
- RAM: 16GB DDR4 3200MHz
- Storage: 1TB NVMe SSD
It uses powered by the AMD 5000 series Ryzen 9 5900X processor, which packs an octa-core CPU and 16 threads with hyperthreading. The base clock speed is 3.7GHz, and the maximum speed is 4.8GHz while running the demanding tasks. A powerful CPU also requires an identical GPU to avoid any potential bottleneck. As a result, this computer is loaded with the best-in-class Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU, the best performer among the RTX 30 series (RTX 3050, RTX 3060, RTX 3070, RTX 3080, etc.), making it one of the best graphics cards of 2021. Hence, the GPU celebrated all the latest optimizations under RTX 30 series, such as 2nd generation RT Cores, improved DLSS chip for machine learning, realistic Ray Tracing, and many others.
It has 16GB of DDR4 RAM and is accompanied by 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD storage. There is WiFi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, along with plenty of physical ports for connectivity. It further adds 2x USB Type-A ports, 2x Type-C ports, an HDMI 2.1 port, and TPM 2.0 for additional security. The laptop also supports the multi-color RGB backlit keyboard making it a more attractive gaming machine. Apart from that, Vapor Chamber Cooling is there to help this machine against overheating, which is a common problem with the majority of powerful gaming laptops. All the essential connectivity options are available, and the body is also very well constructed with Aluminium chassis. By concluding, Razer Blade 14 is an ideal choice for students working on heavy applications.
5HP Chromebook 14 (Entry-Level Chromebook
Chromebooks can be a nice package for students who want laptops to do basic things like taking notes, managing data files, and binge-watching. Chromebooks are also more likely to purchase even on a tight budget. And if you’re in search of an entry-level Chromebook, then look at the HP Chromebook 14. It comes in both touch and non-touch variants with identical specifications. So, if you don’t need of touchscreen, you can save lots of money by going with the non-touch variant. Speaking of the specifications, it has a 14-inch display with an HD resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
- Display: 14-inch 1366 x 768p HD
- Processor: Intel Pentium Silver N4000
- GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 600
- RAM: 4GB DDR4
- Storage: 32GB eMMC
The provided panel is an anti-glare display that is missing in most of the laptops on the list. This display features narrow bezels and hence is still compact to carry. The touchscreen support makes it more viable in the given price range. Moreover, the HP Chromebook 14 is backed by the Intel Celeron N4000 processor, packing dual-core COU with a base clock speed of 1.1GHz. There is an Integrated UHD 600 graphics to handle graphics-hungry applications. The laptop packs 4GB of DDR4 RAM running at 2400MHz frequency and works flawlessly with the 32GB of eMMC storage. Running on ChromeOS, it provides excellent performance, and this laptop is my personal favorite in terms of look and design.
On top of the display, there is an HD webcam to utilize for video conferencing, working from home, attending online classes, etc. The camera quality is average but performs well for basic tasks. Regarding the battery, HP Chromebook 14 is rated to have more than hours of battery backup, which is impressive. It also has WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0 for seamless wireless connectivity, along with a good set of physical ports like USB-A, HDMI, etc. Hence, if you want good brand value at a reasonable price, HP Chromebook 14 might be the ideal choice with touchscreen support for graduate students having a minimalistic budget.
6Acer Aspire 5 A515-56-36UT (Cheap Windows Laptop)
If Windows is your primary requirement on a laptop and you want it on a tight budget, then Acer Aspire 5 is a good option for you. The laptop has pretty impressive specifications and comes at a reasonable price. It comes with a 15.6-inches LCD LED-Backlit display with a Full HD resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio, which provides sufficient brightness. The collective display quality is pretty impressive but not exceptional like high-end laptops. Unlike other plastic laptops, it is made of a robust metal unibody design for sturdy build quality. With the powerful SSD drive, you can transfer files from it instantly without waiting hours for it.
- Display: 15.6-inch Full HD IPS Panel
- Processor: Intel Core i3-1115G4
- GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics G4
- RAM: 4GB DDR4
- Storage: 128GB NVMe SSD
The laptop is powered by the Intel Core i3-1115G4 for flawless multitasking. The chipset arrives with a dual-core CPU having 4 threads and a base clock speed varying between 1.7GHz to 3.0GHz; meanwhile, it can go as high as 4.10GHz by utilizing the Turbo Boost technology. For graphics, there is an integrated Intel Iris Xe GPU to take care of graphics performance. The laptop is packed with 4GB of DDR4 SDRAM along with 128GB of NVMe SSD. This set of RAM and storage is decent enough for normal work related to any student.
There is WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, 1x USB 3.2 Type-C port, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port with HDCP support, a headphone jack, and Ethernet (RJ-45) port. The company claims to provide a decent battery life of 5-6 hours with 65W fast charging support. All the essential connectivity ports are available on this device. It arrives with Windows 10 in S Mode activated out of the box. Some people might feel restricted because it is not the full version of Windows OS. There are some restrictions applied in the name of security, but the reality is you may be prevented from taking some actions. Overall, it is a decent option for grad school students under the $400 price range.
7Lenovo Flex 5 14 (Best for Art Students)
I believe that a 2-in-1 convertible laptop with a touchscreen is of greater use for a student, and a graduate student is no different. The convertible laptops can be used both as a normal laptop and as a touchscreen tablet and hence serves a broader range of possibilities to use it as per the convenience. If you are looking for a convertible laptop, Lenovo Flex 5 is a good option. It is powered by the AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor. This is a six-core chipset designed on the 7nm TSMC technology. Additionally, they have used the latest Zen 2 microarchitecture for better performance. With its eight-core, this laptop can reach 4.0GHz of max clock speed.
- Display: 14-inch 1920 x 1080p FHD
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 5500U
- Graphics: Radeon Vega RX 7
- RAM: 16GB DDR4
- Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD
Moreover, this laptop comes with an integrated AMD Radeon Vega RX 7 GPU for graphics performance. In addition to that, this laptop has 16GB RAM and 256GB internal Solid State Drive. You will see a 14-inch display with 1920 × 1080 resolution on the outside, and this is a 2-in-1 laptop. So it features a touchscreen. You can use a digital pen for a better experience. Besides, it offers bright and vivid colors, which are good for creators. Other than that, you will be able to use it without the keyboard and trackpad. Meanwhile, this laptop has a backlit keyboard and a physical camera shutter for privacy.
Lenovo Flex 5 is a good laptop to browse the internet as it has WiFi 6 alongside Bluetooth 5 connectivity features. Therefore it offers a high-speed internet connection. It has one USB C with power delivery support, two USB A ports, and an HDMI port. Additionally, it has an audio jack and an SD card reader. Apart from that, you will get 6-7 hours of total backup on a single charge. Lenovo Flex 5 is designed to give flexibility. This could be an ideal choice for drawing portraits and related artistic work.
8Lenovo Legion 5 (Affordable Option for Graphics Work)
A grad student whose work is related to AI and machine learning, or looking for a laptop with powerful specs and falls under the $1000 budget, looks at the new 2021 edition of the Lenovo Legion 5. The laptop has a 15.6-inches anti-glare IPS display with a Full HD resolution. It is a nice and color-accurate display with a 165Hz refresh rate. The panel offers 100% sRGB coverage to provide you with a great experience with 4K video editing, photo editing, photoshop, AutoCAD, game development, and various other tasks requiring good color calibration.
- Display: 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080p (165Hz)
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H
- GPU: NVIDIA RTX 3050Ti 4GB GDDR6
- RAM: 16GB DDR4 3200MHz
- Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
Furthermore, the laptop is powered by the AMD 5000 series Ryzen 7 5800H processing, which comprises an octa-core CPU with a base clock speed of 3.2GHz and a maximum 4.4GHz. Undisputedly, this is a better chip compared to the Intel Core i7 used by its arch-rivals. Being a gaming laptop, it arrives with a dedicated Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti with 4GB GDDR6 VRAM. The graphics card is well-capable of running AAA titles, but hardcore gaming should be avoided due to noticeable heating in the long run.
In terms of memory, as we discussed earlier, the computing machine packs best-in-class 16GB DDR4 RAM coupled with 512GB SSD storage. Both RAM & storage are sufficient to run gaming operations smoothly, and you can easily store large gaming files using internal storage. Apart from that, the laptop is equipped with a 4-zone RGB backlit keyboard for immersive gameplay. However, the light output is a concern because it produces dim light. Other notable features include pre-installed Windows OS, essential ports, durable design, and dual speakers. Altogether, this is the best budget laptop for graphics-intensive tasks.
9Apple Macbook Pro 16 2021 (Productivity Powerhouse)
If you are fond of using macOS, there is no alternative to the Apple Macbook series. So, the latest Macbook Pro 16 becomes a viable choice becuase it is the most powerful offering from Apple in 2021. Even if you don’t particularly focus on macOS but need a long-lasting battery life with compelling hardware, you can surely go with this option. The laptop is backed by either 10-core Apple M1 Pro or an Apple M1 Max chipset, depending upon which variant you choose. There are some major differences between M1 Pro and M1 Max. Specifically, M1 Max comes loaded with a 32-core GPU, while the M1 Pro supports a 16-core GPU.
- Display: 16-inch 3456 x 2234 pixels
- Processor: Apple M1 Pro or M1 Max
- GPU: 16-core or 32-core
- RAM: 16GB LPDDR5
- Storage: 1TB NVMe SSD
Furthermore, the laptop offers a big 16-inch Retina display at 3456x2234p resolution. This display touches a peak brightness of 500-nits, making it usable in outdoor light. The display covers a wide P3 color gamut for superb accuracy. However, color accuracy doesn’t matter a lot for architects, but it could help you with other content creation tasks, such as video editing and photo editing. There is 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM with a huge 1TB SSD storage so that you can store tons of files. If you want more RAM & storage, Apple gives you an option to customize during purchase through Apple-certified stores. Besides, there are 2x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports along with a 3.5mm audio jack, HDMI port, and an SD card reader.
The laptop further adds a 1080p Webcam with a face detection feature to improve the overall camera quality. The camera quality is very good and suitable for video conferencing, working from home, online classes, and similar tasks. Overall, it is the most powerful Apple laptop available in the market right now. Hence, if you rely on macOS for your heavy productivity task, it may be the best computer that flawlessly handles all the graphics-intensive applications, including 4k video editing, game development, Revit, 3DS Max, AutoCAD, etc. Indeed, this is the most powerful MacBook available out there. A more prominent variant with the M1 Max chip is even more powerful than the “Pro” variant. That is up to you what your requirements are.
10ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 (4K Dual-Screen Display)
Now, this laptop is a fascinating one. The Asus ZenBook Pro Duo is a laptop that provides a dual-screen setup. Yes, this laptop has 2 separate displays embedded in a single laptop chassis. There is a primary 15.6-inches OLED display with 4k resolution, and the secondary display measures 14-inches, and this one is also a 4k display. On top of that, both these displays are multi-touch supported.
- Display: 15.6-inch 4K UHD (2nd 4K Panel)
- Processor: Intel Core i7-10750H
- Graphics: Nvidia RTX 2060 6GB VRAM
- RAM: 16GB DDR4
- Storage: 1TB NVMe SSD
Coming to performance, the laptop comes with a 10th gen Intel Core i7-10750H processor. This processor comes with 6 cores and 12 threads and is very good for multi-threaded execution. Its clock speeds measure to go up to 5.0GHz while 2.6GHz is the base clock frequency. The laptop comes packed with 16GB of DDR4 RAM coupled with 1TB of PCIe NVMe SSD. There is WiFi6 and Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless connectivity. For physical connectivity, there is one Thunderbolt 3 port, two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, an HDMI 1.4, and an HDMI 2.0a port, along with a 3.5mm Audio Jack.
The device operates through Windows 10 Pro operating system, which has some pro features for professional work. However, the battery life is not that impressive due to the power-hungry 4K display, but the laptop offers some crucial advantages for professionals. Every laptop has its strength and weakness. Hence, you can pick this device if it fulfills your requirements. You can surely increase your productivity with this laptop being a graduate student.
Final Conclusion – Which is the best laptop for a graduate school student?
So, you’ve finally made it to the end of the list of best laptops for grad students. I have listed the 10 best laptops that you can buy without any second thought in your mind. The listed laptops are mentioned so that I can cover as much diversified usage as possible. E.g., If you are looking for high-end laptops, you can consider the Razer Blade 14, or if you want the best value, you can consider HP 15 or Acer Swift 3, and the list goes on.
For mac users, we have compiled multiple options; Macbook Air M1 & Macbook Pro 2021. I hope this article will help you in improving for laptop buying desition. If this article could positively affect your buying decision, you can leave an appreciation in large comments below. Or, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can tell them to us via the comments below.