February 26, 2021

As a business and management student at college, you need a good laptop to keep yourself ahead of the game. Projects, shared files, photos, PDFs, charts, etc. can be viewed and worked on with any decent laptop these days.

However, you don’t want to cheap out because a poorly designed laptop will fail you when you need it the most.

Worry not, we made a list of the top laptops for MBA students. If you don’t have the time to read through our entire article, our top pick is the ASUS ZenBook 15.

The ZenBook 15 represents a good balance of portability and power in a package that isn’t very expensive compared to rival models from other companies.

Here is our list of 7 best laptop for MBA students:

Our top choice for MBA students, this laptop comes with a ton of advantages over its competition. For starters, it uses an Intel Core i7-10510U processor.

Unlike most other ultrabooks in this price range which use Intel’s new Ice Lake 10nm based chips, this might seem like a step backwards. But it is incredibly fast in terms of clock speeds, one advantage the old Comet Lake 14nm chips have over their Ice Lake counterparts.

This means you get better performance in software that relies on clock speed, like certain games and productivity apps. There are downsides though, it consumes more power and has worse onboard graphics.

But there is more to look at in the ZenBook 15. It is an extremely slim laptop, yet the chassis feels super rigid. That’s because ASUS used premium materials and high quality machined parts to make this laptop tough, it won’t bend or flex even when you cram it into your backpack with a bunch of other heavy stuff.

The onboard audio is excellent, thanks to Harman Kardon. And you get all-day battery life. However, keep in mind the fact that this laptop packs a GTX 1650 dedicated graphics processor from NVIDIA with 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM.

So gaming will decrease battery life significantly, down to 4 or 5 hours from the usual 9 to 10. Everything on this laptop just feels right- a super thin bezel FHD IPS display, an ergonomic hinge that lifts the keyboard into a more comfortable typing position, the innovative ScreenPad 2.0, etc.

Pros

  • Intel 10th generation Core i7 processor with 4 cores and 8 threads (Comet Lake, 14nm)
  • 16GB dual channel RAM
  • 1TB PCIe SSD
  • NanoEdge thin bezel 1920x1080 IPS display with 92% screen to body ratio
  • Just 0.74” thick and 3.64lbs
  • Durable despite being slim and light: MIL-STD 810G certified
  • TPM firmware and Windows Hello IR webcam for secure logins
  • Beefy 71Wh battery for all-day battery life
  • GTX 1650 dedicated graphics
  • Harman Kardon audio

Cons

  • The Comet Lake processor in this laptop isn’t as energy efficient as Ryzen 4000 series or Intel Ice Lake processors
  • No hardware based shutoff/ privacy shutter on the webcam
  • Comes with ASUS bloatware preinstalled

Ah, the good old Lenovo ThinkPad. Can’t have a list of student laptops without at least one of these. And the all new E15 model is an excellent laptop, a good successor to the old E590. It’s designed for self-employed people, small businesses, students, and pretty much everyone in between.

The Lenovo ThinkPad E15 delivers solid performance, great security, and an excellent keyboard at a rather reasonable price. It even has the TrackPoint aiming device- a tiny red joystick nestled in the keyboard so you can scroll or select items on the screen without having to remove your hands from the keyboard.

Once you get used to it, the trackpad won’t seem very appealing. Plus, it is your only option if you are wearing thick gloves.

In terms of security, Lenovo has scored a full 10/10. You don’t get any more secure than this on most commercially available laptops for the common user.

The ThinkPad E15 has biometric security via a fingerprint scanner(integrated into the power button), and a discrete TPM 2.0 chip installed on the mainboard for data encryption. The webcam won’t record you when you don’t want it to, since there’s a physical shutter on it.

Pros

  • Tons of security- TPM 2.0 chip, fingerprint reader, physical shutter on webcam
  • 1920 x 1080 anti glare IPS display
  • 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor (i7-10510U Comet Lake chip based on the 14nm node)
  • 16GB dual channel DDR4 RAM
  • 2TB PCIe SSD (this is massive, most other laptops in this price range have half the storage capacity)
  • Windows 10 Professional installed- ideal for students and small businesses
  • TrackPoint aiming device
  • Solid build quality with metal on top and heavy duty plastic underneath
  • Excellent full-sized keyboard with spill resistance and ample key travel
  • Lots of ports- USB Type C with power delivery and DisplayPort capabilities, USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type A, USB 2.0, HDMI 1.4b, RJ 45 Ethernet jack

Cons

  • Low display brightness of just 250 nits
  • Poor quality audio
  • Webcam could have been better

The old ThinkPads look like… well, ThinkPads. However, this looks like something completely different even though it belongs to the same family. Almost like an evolution, as if the ThinkPad went on a diet, started hitting the gym, and got into CrossFit.

The X1 Carbon is marketed at executives and creative professionals, people with no time to waste and lots of really important work to do.

It certainly packs the power needed by executives and creative professionals- a quad core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM should be enough. Not the fastest laptop at this price range but good enough for most enterprise applications that still run fine on old hardware.

Its webcam though, that could have been better. But hey, you get a privacy shutter for security, so no one watches you when you don’t want them to.

And there’s the fingerprint scanner, although Lenovo didn’t integrate it into the power button and left it near the trackpad instead. Almost seems like a step backwards from their cheaper E15 models which have fingerprint readers built into the power button.

There’s also a TPM 2.0 chip installed for hardware based encryption. And the display is a WQHD 2560 x 1440 resolution IPS panel with a matte finish for those boardroom meetings.

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Thinner and lighter than older ThinkPads, while having a longer battery life
  • Very premium in both looks and feel
  • Hardware based security via TPM 2.0 chip
  • Privacy shutter on webcam
  • Tenkeyless keyboard with good key travel, and nice large keycaps (plus there’s the TrackPoint)
  • 2560 x 1440 anti-glare matte display
  • Windows 10 Professional
  • Weighs under 3lbs
  • Stays quiet even under load

Cons

  • Sort of pricey considering the processor and memory/ storage specs
  • Webcam picture quality is underwhelming
  • Speakers don’t sound very good

The best display, trackpad, and keyboard of any laptop on this list. No doubt about it, the Dell XPS 9300 is an excellent machine and is perfect as a student laptop.

It is light, has tons of battery life, performs well, and is built to last. The carbon fiber deck looks and feels great, it also acts as an insulator to prevent heat from the components underneath reaching your palms as you type.

Plus carbon fiber is light yet strong, so it adds to the durability of the machine. The chassis is constructed from precision machined aluminum alloy, and the display is protected from scratches by Corning Gorilla Glass 6.

The trackpad has a glass cover on it so it feels smooth to the touch. Everything about this laptop is premium, so it is well worth the price tag.

Pros

  • Intel 10th generation Ice Lake 10nm i7 quad-core processor with Iris Plus onboard graphics
  • 16GB dual channel 3733Mhz LPDDR4x RAM
  • 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
  • Dual fan cooling system that is quiet
  • Fingerprint sensor built into power button so you can log in with a literal touch
  • Good quality webcam and mic
  • Excellent keyboard and trackpad, best in class and perhaps best among all Windows laptops currently on sale
  • Gorilla Glass 6 on top of FHD 13.4” IPS display with ultra thin bezels (500 Nits of brightness, Dolby Vision HDR)
  • Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX500-DBS + Bluetooth 5

Cons

  • Some earlier units have a defect where the touchpad is too wobbly (report to Dell support and they will get it replaced if yours has this issue)
  • Comes with McAfee antivirus preinstalled which drains battery life unnecessarily
  • Can get really hot if you push the hardware for extended periods of time

If you guys felt all the previous laptops were too expensive for MBA students, check out this budget option. It’s an IdeaPad, and you will be hard-pressed to find something better at this price.

The overall package is what we’re looking at, rather than pure specs. Even in terms of pure specs this IdeaPad looks pretty good thanks to an Intel Ice Lake 10th generation i3 processor and 8GB of DDR4 RAM.

It's plenty fast for stuff like MS Office, occasional photo editing, casual gaming, etc. The display is only 768p, but it’s a touchscreen which enhances productivity in many applications.

Plus, this laptop is just 0.78” thick and weighs around 4lbs. The bootup times are good thanks to a 256GB PCIe SSD, and there is no bloatware.

Pros

  • Intel 10th generation Ice Lake dual core i3 processor with 4 threads
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM
  • Touchscreen
  • Tenkeyless keyboard with large keycaps, easily readable font, and ample key travel
  • Built tough with no flex in the deck or lid, and a rugged hinge

Cons

  • No Type C port
  • Windows 10 in S-mode by default (can be changed to regular mode manually)
  • Speakers sound hollow and weak

A premium laptop at a not-so-premium price, the MSI Prestige 14 doesn’t have a fancy machined aluminum chassis or carbon fiber panels. But it gets the important stuff right- an Intel Core i5-10210U with 4 cores and 8 threads ensures this laptop can run anything you throw at it.

And there is a GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics card for when you need to edit videos or render 3D models. Oh, and you can definitely game on this laptop although 1080p medium settings is where it works best in most modern AAA games.

It has a 14” FHD display with 100% sRGB color gamut coverage and good viewing angles. The overall performance is good enough for most applications, and you get a nice 84-key backlit keyboard with a glass covered trackpad.

The laptop feels well-built with little flex in the display or deck, and battery life is adequate (there are laptops with better battery life like Dell’s XPS and HP’s Spectre).

Pros

  • Intel 10th generation quad core i5 processor
  • 16GB dual channel RAM
  • GTX 1650 Max-Q dedicated graphics
  • Good FHD display
  • 84-key backlit keyboard that feels smooth, is quiet, and has ample key travel for those long typing sessions
  • Great glass trackpad
  • Sleek and stylish design

Cons

  • Battery life will drop hard if you do anything that uses the GTX 1650 (it is only slightly above average to begin with)
  • Mediocre webcam
  • The speakers aren’t very good, low on volume and no bass

For the price, this laptop is hard to beat. It has an Intel 10th generation Ice Lake quad core processor with 8 threads and 32GB of DDR4 RAM. Plus 1TB of PCIe NVMe storage, which is double what you get in other laptops in the same price class.

The RAM comes in handy if you’re working with large datasets or doing photo editing/ lots of multitasking. It also makes the laptop more future proof.

And the large storage means you can pretty much carry all your movies, music, and games with you at all times (no external storage drive needed).

This is an Inspiron, so it’s targeted at students and homeowners who need an affordable yet reliable machine which is powerful enough to handle daily tasks. Social media, browsing, spreadsheets, blog writing, casual gaming- you can do it all on this laptop.

Pros

  • Intel Ice Lake quad core processor
  • 32GB DDR4 RAM
  • 1TB PCIe SSD
  • Windows 10 Professional
  • Slim and light with 8+ hours of battery life
  • 17.3” FHD display
  • Disk drive
  • Backlit Full-Size keyboard

Cons

  • Slightly on the heavier side at 6.16lbs
  • No Type C port
  • Mediocre webcam

Essentially, you want to focus on three things- security, battery life, and portability (not necessarily in that order). Security is essential if you’re going to handle a lot of sensitive or high value data on your laptop.

Battery life is important because you don’t want to be forced into cutting work short just because your laptop ran out of juice.

Portability ensures that you can carry your laptop with you wherever you go- to class, the dorm room, a conference hall, on the bus/ train/ plane, etc. Battery life and portability go hand in hand, you don’t want one without the other.

A laptop with a massive battery that isn’t portable doesn’t make sense because you can’t really make use of that battery. Might as well be tethered to the wall, in which case the battery didn’t do anything.

Conversely, a really light and slim laptop that only lasts 3 hours on battery will never get anything done either.

Performance isn’t super important, any laptop with a recent Core i3/ i5 from Intel will get the job done although you might want a Core i7 model if you like things to run fast. And don’t forget the storage- it has a to be a PCIe SSD.

At least 8 GB of RAM is what we recommend, 16GB is ideal. You also want a laptop with a robust cooling system, one that doesn’t rev up the fans too loud. A loud cooler can be quite distracting in class or when you’re doing a presentation in front of colleagues.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Laptop “X” has superior specifications (processor and graphics) compared to laptop “Y” for a similar price. Doesn’t that make laptop “X” the obvious choice?

A. We always advise our readers to think of a laptop as an experience, it’s not just about the hardware inside but everything else. The cooling system, software, build quality, ergonomics, battery life, charging speed, I/O, etc. are all important factors to be considered.

For instance, a laptop with a faster processor might actually perform similarly or even worse compared to a laptop with a slightly weaker processor if the latter has a more aggressive power plan and superior cooler.

Plus, you don’t want a laptop for college that runs out of juice in less than 5 hours, even if it is very fast. You will never be able to apply all that power if your laptop shuts down in the middle of class.

And some laptops actually perform better with the same processor by using faster memory and better storage (PCIe SSD vs SATA III SSD).

Q. Is a MacBook good for MBA students?

A. Many colleges we looked up in the United States advise their students to purchase a Windows machine. That’s because most of the software you’ll be using like MS Office is for Windows (or at least the best version of said software is Windows exclusive).

Even if a software is shared on both platforms, a lot of the tools will be missing from the Mac version. So we suggest you go with a Windows laptop.

And if you’re already the owner of a MacBook, you can try to run Windows on it using a virtual machine (although the performance will be far worse than running Windows natively).

Q. How important is security on a business laptop?

A. Very much. A business laptop is supposed to hold and manage high value data on a regular basis. And depending on the type of work you’re doing it is important that this data stays secure.

Hence you want a laptop with hardware based encryption like a TPM chip, a secure OS (Linux or Windows professional), and biometrics like a fingerprint reader, facial recognition, etc.

Q. Do I need a good keyboard on my laptop for management/ business school?

A. It’s quite high on the list of priorities, right alongside security and battery life. A good keyboard lets you focus on what you’re doing without drawing any attention to itself.

We don’t recommend touchscreen keyboards or type faces for that reason; you need a good solid keyboard with large keycaps and ample key travel.

Q. What sort of ports should I look for in a laptop for MBA college?

A. The usual- USB Type A, Type C, HDMI out, Ethernet, etc. A SD card reader also helps, and you need a laptop capable of fast Wi-Fi connectivity (preferably the latest standard which is 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6). 

If you have to hook up with an old conference room projector, VGA might come in handy but most modern laptops have ditched that.

Conclusion

We hope this article helped you purchase the right laptop for MBA school. Our top pick or best laptop for MBA students is the ASUS ZenBook 15. It has a good processor, is built rugged, and has excellent battery life (can last a whole day).

And on top of all that it’s also extremely sleek and lightweight so you can travel around with it.

For the more security focused among you, a Lenovo ThinkPad E15 with Windows 10 Professional installed on it is a better choice. It has a TPM 2.0 security chip installed, and a fingerprint sensor as well. There is a privacy shutter on the webcam too.

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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