February 26, 2021

If you’re in college to study computer science or information technology, you need a laptop. Yes, it doesn’t have to be some expensive model that is finely crafted from exquisite materials with the highest end processor inside. It can be any lower midrange 14” or 15.6” notebook with a simple 1080p display and an i5/ Ryzen 5 processor.

We did all the research and concluded that the best laptop for information technology students is the humble 15.6” Lenovo IdeaPad 5. This is the 2020 edition with 16GB of RAM, and a blazing fast Ryzen 7 4700U octacore processor for all your programming and compiling needs.

Read on to learn more about why we chose this laptop and the other options you have.

Here is our list of 7 best laptop for information technology students:

A solid performer for basic computing tasks and even some light content creation, the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 has an extremely fast CPU combined with ample RAM and storage.

This is a complete package- everything from the performance to build quality and design is excellent. Especially for the money since this is a cheaper option than even an entry level MacBook Air.

If you want to code and work with software such as MATLAB, SolidWorks, PSpice, etc. this is an excellent machine.

It has the 8-core (no SMT though) Ryzen 7 4700U processor based on Zen 2 architecture and built on TSMC’s 7nm node which makes it fast while also being very energy efficient.

 That means more battery life, so you don’t have to carry the charger around with you in campus.

Pros

  • Solid performance, thanks to an AMD Ryzen 7 4700U processor with 8 Zen 2 cores
  • 16GB of dual channel DDR4 RAM
  • Fast 512GB PCIe storage
  • 15.6” FHD anti-glare display
  • Ample I/O with USB Type C, USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type A, HDMI, Multi-format SD card reader, and combo 3.5mm audio port 
  • 802.11ax Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.1
  • Around 8 to 10 hours of battery life if you’re just browsing the web or working in MS Word/ Notepad

Cons

  • Display isn’t very color accurate (45% NTSC) or bright (250 nits max)
  • Mediocre 720p webcam

Yes, this is a gaming laptop. No, it isn’t that unwieldy or heavy for daily use if you’re walking around the campus. The Nitro 5 is one of the more manageable gaming laptops for students if you can get around the mediocre battery life.

Unless you’re playing games in class though, that battery shouldn’t be an issue. It will easily go 7+ hours with low screen brightness if you’re browsing the web or taking notes/ reading PDFs.

The main reason we’re choosing this gaming laptop over others in the same price range is its Ryzen 5 4600H processor. The “H” designation means this is a more powerful laptop chip and has the full 12 threads since SMT is enabled, as opposed to the Ryzen 5 4600U.

But it also draws more power on average, so don’t do stuff like video encoding, streaming, gaming, rendering, etc. unless you’ve got the charger nearby.

Pros

  • Excellent performance for students who want a laptop for both studies and gaming
  • Ryzen 5 4600H hexacore processor with 12 threads
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM, upgradeable
  • 256GB PCIe SSD
  • 1TB HDD
  • 15.6” IPS display, refresh rate of 144Hz
  • GTX 1650 graphics with 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM
  • Free 16GB MicroSD card from Delca
  • Good cooling system

Cons

  • Even though it isn’t super heavy, it still weighs over 5lbs
  • Webcam and speakers are of mediocre quality

This 13” laptop has the new M1 ARM based processor from Apple, a true beast in terms of both performance and efficiency. If your course doesn’t require any software which is Windows Exclusive, this is truly one of the best laptops you can purchase.

It can edit videos and photos much faster than many Windows machines, and is also an excellent laptop for coding in the Apple ecosystem.

 The M1 is a SoC (system on chip) built specifically for Apple machines. It integrates the CPU, GPU, I/O, and even a neural engine for AI into a single processor. And you get 8GB of high speed memory for lag free multitasking and productivity. The only downside is 256GB of storage, but you can spend extra and get a model with more storage if your budget permits it.

Pros

  • Apple M1 octacore processor with insane performance and efficiency
  • 13” Retina display with TrueTone for accurate colors
  • Excellent webcam which is aided by the image signal processor within the M1
  • Unified low latency 8GB memory pool
  • Very well built, the chassis is all machined aluminum alloy which makes it very light and rigid
  • Good keyboard with the latest scissor switches
  • Excellent speakers
  • Perhaps the best trackpad on any laptop
  • Enhanced security with the M1 chip and Touch ID
  • Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 4
  • Completely silent fanless cooling

Cons

  • Only 256GB of storage
  • Hard to upgrade and maintain (you pretty much have to take it to an official Apple store)

A convertible is always nice to have when you want to switch between work on play on the fly. Whether you’re taking notes in class or kicking back on weekends for movie night with friends, the ThinkPad Yoga is capable of it all.

It has a nice 13.3” FHD IPS touchscreen which is bright and accurate with colors. The chassis is tough yet light, and the hinges feel rock solid.

You can draw, sketch, and write on this touch laptop. It is also an excellent choice for editing videos or photos, the addition of a touchscreen really makes the process faster and more intuitive.

An Intel Comet Lake i5 processor (i5-10210U) ensures snappy performance and ample multitasking ability. Plus, since this is a ThinkPad you get an ample quantity of ports- HDMI, Type A, Type C, etc.

Pros

  • Seamlessly transition between work and play in laptop or tablet mode
  • Just 0.7” thick and 3.15lbs
  • You get 10+ hours of battery life
  • 13.3” FHS IPS touchscreen display
  • Intel i5-10210U quad core processor with hyperthreading
  • TrackPoint mouse joystick
  • Ample I/O

Cons

  • This laptop gets quite toasty if you’re doing any CPU intensive tasks for extended periods of time
  • Fingerprint reader is not integrated into the power button

A very simple design combined with a mid-range processor is what allowed Acer to keep the manufacturing costs down on this 15.6” notebook.

As a customer, you’re getting a well built and relatively slim laptop with an Intel 10th generation Ice Lake i5 processor. For less than half the price of most premium ultrabooks (like a Dell XPS or HP Spectre).

The Aspire 3 is what we believe most students on a budget should consider since it has most of the features you need from a laptop at a very aggressive price. You’re getting 12GB of DDR4 RAM which should be more than enough to run any IDE or simulation software, even virtual machines.

You also get a fast quad core Ice Lake CPU with 8 threads. This chip excels at multitasking while maintaining low power draw so the battery life is easily 8 to 10 hours.

Pros

  • Intel 10th generation quad core Ice Lake processor (i5-1035G1)
  • Gen 11 graphics (G1 has 32 Execution Units)
  • 12GB DDR4 RAM
  • 256GB SSD
  • 500GB HDD
  • Ample I/O with Type A, Type C,  Ethernet, and HDMI ports
  • 15.6” display with decent colors and 1080p resolution

Cons

  • Has 802.11ac Wi-Fi instead of the newer 802.11ax (can be fixed by purchasing an AX200 adapter)
  • Mediocre speakers, they sound weak and tinny

Not so budget compared to most of the Pavilion lineup, but still well below the asking price of a MacBook or Dell XPS laptop. The Pavilion 15-cs3019nr has a very uninteresting name, however it looks quite unique.

Clean lines with subtle beveled edges and a nice mineral silver finish make it look like a laptop that an executive at some big company might carry.

However, what lies underneath is the interesting stuff. An Intel Ice Lake quad core i7 processor with Intel’s latest Gen 11 G7 graphics. G7 graphics has the full 64 EUs and supports VRS (variable rate shading).

It performs better than even a Vega 10 iGPU in the Ryzen 7 3700U. Which means excellent 720p or even 1080p gaming at low settings. And it also excels in video editing if you use Intel Quick Sync.

Pros

  • Power for everything from daily tasks to professional workloads
  • Intel i7-1065G7 quad core processor with 8 threads
  • FHD IPS display with slim bezels, good colors and brightness
  • 16GB DDR4 RAM
  • 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
  • Goes from 0 to 50 percent charge in just 45 minutes with HP FastCharge
  • 10 hours of battery life
  • Full-size backlit keyboard
  • Responsive and accurate trackpad

Cons

  • Single channel RAM that isn’t upgradeable
  • Comes with HP bloatware installed
  • No display output through Type C

By paying slightly more than what you would for the Acer Aspire 3, you’re getting a 2-in-1 laptop with a 10th generation Intel processor and 13.3” FHD touchscreen. It also has Wi-Fi 6 Gig+ capability, something that the Acer lacks.

The Dell Inspiron 13 can be used by artists, students, travelers, and professionals who need a light yet powerful laptop for their daily work.

Whether you’re coding or writing a blog post, the keyboard in this laptop is surely going to please you. It has enough key travel and a tiny bit of feedback as the key activates which is enough to let you know when you can let go.

And the keyboard isn’t too noisy, which is a bonus if you’re up at night working or studying. Build quality is really good, the chassis feels durable and there isn’t any excessive flexing in the lid or keyboard deck.

Pros

  • Intel i5-10210U Comet Lake quad core processor with 8 threads
  • 8GB RAM
  • 512GB PCIe SSD + 32GB of ultra high speed Intel Optane memory
  • 1080p 13.3” touchscreen
  • Just 0.6” thick and weighs 3.2lbs
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Micro SD Card Reader
  • Quick Charge
  • Type C port with DisplayPort output and charging

Cons

  • RAM is soldered, so you can’t upgrade your laptop’s memory
  • Glossy display, plus it doesn’t have very good colors

You don’t need anything too fancy. Just make sure your laptop has at least an i3 or Ryzen 3 processor so you can program and compile without any hiccups.

You don’t want to end up with a Celeron, AMD A series or MediaTek processor. If you do, your laptop will feel sluggish and hang up on you, even while watching movies or browsing the web.

Next, you need at least 8GB of RAM. Preferably 16, in dual channel. Dual channel RAM results in better performance and it boosts the capabilities of your laptop’s iGPU.

You also want at least 256GB of solid state storage, ideally PCIe (SATA SSDs are slower). Either Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Professional will do, although many of you will probably install Linux in a dual boot configuration or run it on a virtual machine.

Note: A dedicated GPU isn’t required, but it will come in handy if you’re working with CAD or TensorFlow applications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What kind of laptop should I get for IT, 2-in-1 or standard?

A. Either will work just fine. A 2-in-1 will cost more for similar performance, and they cap out on the high end in terms of how much processing power they can have.

However, a 2-in-1 is more versatile and easier to carry around since it can be a tablet or laptop. Some even have detachable screens. And they are better if you’re an artist or like taking notes with a digital pen.

Q. What is the difference between LPDDR4x, LPDDR3, DDR4, etc.?

A. These are just different types of RAM, don’t bother too much with the exact specifications since they rarely impact performance in most applications. Faster RAM is better (you can see the speed shown in MHz), since it speeds up the rate at which your laptop’s CPU can access information. It also influences the performance of your laptop’s integrated GPU.

 “LP” means low power and is more energy efficient. However it also means lower memory bandwidth. LPDD3 or LPDDR4 will result in longer standby times for your laptop. LPDDR4x is extremely fast, faster than regular DDR4 (this is what you’ll find on premium ultrabooks).

Q. How important is a webcam for college?

A. In these times when everyone is doing online classes, a decent webcam is very important. Some laptops don’t come with any webcam, although that isn’t a very big deal. If you aren’t satisfied with the webcam quality, you can purchase an external webcam and plug it into a USB port. This will give you far better image quality and sound.

Q. Glossy vs Matte display

A. Glossy displays are basically useless in direct sunlight unless they have 400+ nits of brightness. Matte is what we recommend for college students and professionals who want a laptop that they can actually use in a conference room.

Glossy displays are better if you want the best colors and contrast. If the room isn’t extremely bright, a glossy display will look better.

Q. Do I need an optical disk drive?

A. No, these days almost every college, cafe, or train station has decent Wi-Fi. With the internet speeds we’re getting these days, loading from a disk is actually slower in most cases.

And if you really want to enjoy your old disk collection of movies or games, it’s super easy to just buy an external DVD/ Blue Ray drive and plug it into a USB port.

Conclusion

We hope this article was informative and gave you an idea of what to look for in your new laptop. Our top choice is the Lenovo IdeaPad 5. It is the best laptop for information technology students because of an excellent price to performance ratio.

The IdeaPad 5 has an excellent CPU, making it faster in CPU dependent applications compared to any other laptop on this list.

Except maybe the Nitro 5 which has a Ryzen 5 4600h that should be equivalent to the Ryzen 7 4700U. Plus, the Nitro 5 is more of a gaming machine so if you want a laptop for both studies and entertainment that is what you should get. 

For students on a budget, the Acer Aspire 3 is an excellent choice. Just spend 20 bucks on a Wi-Fi 6 card and you have a laptop that is well built and has all the latest features.

About the author

Saurav Rath

Saurav has been writing about technology for the past 4 years, but has been a fan of all things computer related since he was 7 years old. He is a ghostwriter for multiple sites, and covers everything from PC hardware to chainsaws and mobile game development (yep, the guy has a lot of range). Learn more

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