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 gone through research and came 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
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 really great deal, especially the MacBook Air laptops. The Macbook Air is lighter and compact, along with being really powerful. Hence my very first recommendation for you would be the new 2020 Apple MacBook Air.
- 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 comes with a 13-inches IPS LED-Backlit display with a resolution of 2560×1600 pixels. It’s a 16 by 10 aspect ratio display and is really gorgeous in color reproduction. The laptop houses the company’s new and very first ARM-based laptop SoC, the Apple M1 Chip. It has an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, and a 16-core Neural Engine.
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 really light alongside having powerful performance. I am personally using this laptop, and I am impressed with the performance, battery life, and laptop build. This could be an ideal pick for video editing, photo editing, and other productivity tasks.
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.
- Display: 14-inch 1920 x 1080p FHD
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 4700U
- Graphics: AMD Radeon RX Vega 7
- RAM: 8GB LPDDR4
- Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
The laptop has the AMD Ryzen 7 4700U mobile processor. This processor consists of 8 cores, 8 threads and goes up to 4.1GHz in clock speed. For graphics performance, the Acer Swift 3 relies on the integrated AMD Radeon graphics. The integrated GPU has 7-cores and goes up to 1.6GHz in speed.
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 Wi-Fi 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 11.5 hours of battery life.
3Razer 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 really awesome 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.
- 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 the AMD’s Ryzen 9 5900HX processor that consists of 8 cores and 16 threads. This is a mighty processor and can hit up to 4.8GHz in top clock speed. To company this beefy CPU, the GPU needs to be equally powerful. Hence, it has been fit with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, one of the latest GPUs from Nvidia.
It has 16GB of DDR4 RAM and is accompanied by 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD storage. There is Wi-Fi 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. There is also a vapor chamber cooling technology for efficient and better cooling of the components.
4HP 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 2020 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 is an anti-glare display and goes to 250nit in peak brightness.
- Display: 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080p FHD
- Processor: Intel Core i5-1135G7
- Graphic: Intel Iris Xe Graphics G7
- 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.
For storage, there is a 256GB of PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD storage. It has Wi-Fi 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.
5HP Chromebook 14 – Entry-Level Chromebook
Chromebooks can be a really 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.
- Display: 14-inch HD Touchscreen
- Processor: Intel Celeron N4000
- GPU : Intel UHD Graphics 600
- RAM: 4GB DDR4
- Storage: 32GB eMMC
The laptop has a 14-inches anti-glare display with an HD resolution of 1366×768 pixels. The display is pretty decent for the budget. It uses the Intel Celeron N4000 processor with 2-cores and comes with integrated UHD Graphics 600. The CPU tops 2.6GHz in clock speed which is sufficient to do any basic computational task.
There is 4GB of DDR4 RAM working at 2400MHz clock speed and works hand in hand with the 32GB of eMMC storage. The laptop is rated to have a battery life of 13 hours and 30 minutes, which is impressive. It has Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.0, 2x USB-C port, 1x USB-A port, and a 3.5mm audio jack.
6Acer Aspire 5 A515-56-36UT – Cheaper 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.
- 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
This machine further uses the latest 11th gen Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor. This processor has 2 cores and 4 threads which is more than enough for a mid-range laptop. This processor goes a maximum turbo clock speed of 4.1GHz. And for graphical performance, the laptop has the power of Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics.
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. Altogether, the laptop does its job, barely costing under $400.
7Lenovo Flex 5 14 – Best for Art Students
I personally 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 wider range of possibilities to use it as per the convenience. And if you agree with me, then Lenovo Flex 5 14 is such a laptop.
- Display: 14-inch 1920 x 1080p Touchscreen
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U
- Graphics: Radeon RX Vega 6
- RAM: 16GB DDR4
- Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD
This laptop is obviously a 2-in-1 convertible laptop and comes with a 14-inch IPS touchscreen housing a Full HD resolution. And to utilize the touchscreen, there is a digital pen included with it. An AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor imparts 6-cores and 6 threads along with a 4.0GHz of top clock speed for performance. There is also a 6-core integrated AMD Radeon graphics unit with 1.5GHz speed.
As for memory and storage, the laptop has 16GB of DDR4 RAM with a 3200MHz dual-channel configuration. Along with that, the storage capacity of the laptop is 256GB which is an NVMe SSD. It has Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 4.2, two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, and an HDMI port. And the laptop has been claimed to deliver up to 10 hours of battery backup on a single complete charge. This could be an ideal choice for drawing portraits and related artistic work.
8Asus TUF Dash 15 (2021) – 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 Asus TUF Dash 15. 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 144Hz refresh rate.
- Display: 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080p (144Hz)
- Processor: Intel Core i7-11370H
- Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 3050Ti 4GB VRAM
- RAM: 8GB DDR4
- Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
The laptop uses the 11th gen Intel Core i7-11370H processor with 4 cores and 8 threads and hits a maximum turbo clock speed of 4.8GHz. Along with that, this laptop also fulfills the need for a powerful dedicated GPU. The TUF Dash 15 comes with Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU with 4GB of dedicated GDDR6 video memory.
There is 8GB of DDR4 RAM and 512GB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage. There is Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 for wireless connectivity. And for physical connectivity, there is one 3.5mm Audio Jack, an HDMI 2.0b port, three USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports, an Ethernet port, and one Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port.
9Apple Macbook Pro 2019 – Productivity King
Even though the new Apple M1 chip MacBooks are much more powerful and cost significantly less, there are some slight compatibility issues as there is a gradual shift from Intel-based processors to ARM-based processors. So, opting for a 2019 Macbook Pro will provide a great and completely fulfilled experience. It has a 16-inch IPS LED-Backlit Retina display which is just 13-inches in the new M1 Macs.
- Display: 16-inch 1920 x 3072 pixels
- Processor: Intel Core i7 9th generation
- GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 5300M
- RAM: 16GB DDR4
- Storage: 512GB SSD
The laptop has a Hexa-core Intel Core i7 processor with 12MB of shared L3 cache and up to 2.6GHz of base clock speed for performance. This laptop also comes with a dedicated AMD Radeon Pro 5300M GPU that serves a dedicated and fast GDDR6 memory. This CPU and GPU setup is killer on any MacBook. Along with that, there is also the Intel UHD integrated graphics as well.
There is 16GB of high sped DDR4 RAM and 512GB of pure SSD storage. It has a 6-speaker system, making the laptop one of the best in the audio output. The laptop is rated to have a battery backup of 11 hours and comes with four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports and a headphone jack.
It uses Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless connectivity and comes with Apple’s signature touch bar. However, the laptop is available at a high price of more than $2000; still, it’s worth picking for productivity, especially for those who love to use macOS. If you are into video editing work, this is one of the best options for 4K video editing.
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 performance. Its clock speeds measure to go up to 5.0GHz while 2.6GHz being the base clock frequency.
The laptop comes packed with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and is 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.
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 really 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 provides 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 Wi-Fi and Bluetooth of good quality like Wi-Fi 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 software that are comparatively not available 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.
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 Aspire 5, and the list goes on. For mac users, we have compiled multiple options; Macbook Air M1 & Macbook Pro 2019.
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.