February 26, 2021

For medical school, you don’t need a super fast laptop. Anything relatively new that is lightweight with good Wi-Fi, a decent screen, and good battery life will do.

You’ll mostly use your laptop for taking notes, doing online research, accessing cloud data, etc. And sometimes you will use it for recreational activities like gaming, movies, music, etc. which we shall get into later during the actual reviews.

For those of you who don’t have enough time to read through the entire article, our top pick for the best laptop for medical school is the Apple MacBook Air (512GB variant).

It has just the right amount of storage space for some notes, a few movies, light gaming, and storing eBooks. And the 10th generation Core i5 processor makes it feel snappy.

Read on to learn more about the MacBook Air and other laptops in this article.

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

This is an extremely popular laptop among students due to a variety of factors. First off, it’s Apple and even non tech people have heard of this brand.

They are known for creating some of the most premium and well-built machines that live within a tightly knit ecosystem of proprietary software.

If you already own an Apple iPhone or iPad, purchasing a MacBook ensures seamless integration between your various Apple devices.

The MacBook Air isn’t a powerhouse, it is designed to be slim and light before anything else. And that it does very well, with a machined aluminum alloy chassis and 13” thin bezel IPS display.

The overall weight is under 3lbs, and it still packs quite a punch with a 10th generation Core i5 quad-core processor (for the 512GB variant).

Pros

  • Excellent battery life (around 8 to 10 hours with movies, web browsing, and indie gaming)
  • Solid build quality, there is little to no flex in the chassis and everything feels premium to the touch (all glass and metal)
  • Despite its small form factor, the MacBook Air has a great keyboard that is large with good key travel (and it is pretty silent even if you’re typing fast)
  • Best trackpad in any laptop, period
  • Great top firing stereo speakers
  • Intel 10th generation Core i5 quad core processor
  • 16:10 aspect ratio 2560 x 1600 resolution IPS retina display with True Tone technology for excellent colors
  • Touch ID
  • Fast PCIe SSD
  • Super fast 3733Mhz LPDDR4X RAM

Cons

  • RAM cannot be upgraded so you’re stuck with what you purchased
  • No Wi-Fi 6

Lenovo makes some fine laptops that everyone can afford without having to give up an arm and a leg, unlike Apple which charges a premium even for its base models.

The IdeaPad 3 is affordable, but not a slouch since it packs an AMD Ryzen 5 3500U with 4 cores and 8 threads. You are getting superior multithreaded performance compared to the base MacBook Air (256GB variant). And better onboard graphics with a Vega 8 iGPU that is actually capable of playing modern games with settings turned all the way down.

The display is perfectly fine for watching some movies on the weekend with your buddies. And battery life is good enough, so you don’t have to carry a power brick around the campus.

The laptop looks sleek with a nice, brushed finish on the chassis. The keyboard feels good and is relatively silent, so you won’t annoy your roommates when you’re up at night typing.

Pros

  • Great multithreaded performance with an AMD Ryzen 5 3500U quad core processor (Zen+ core)
  • 7 to 8 hours of battery life with moderate usage (Web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, etc.)
  • Nice spacious keyboard with ample key travel and large, well designed fonts
  • 14” FHD IPS display with narrow bezels
  • Vega 8 onboard graphics
  • Lay-flat 180° hinge

Cons

  • No 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • No charging over Type C
  • 256GB SSD is a bit small

It costs significantly less than the MacBook Air for similar specs, so we think you should definitely check out the ZenBook 13 from ASUS. This is an extremely lightweight laptop at just 2.45lbs, and it is still very tough (meets MIL STD-810G durability standards).  

There is a great trackpad and keyboard on this device, so much so that you don’t even notice it while typing.

The best keyboard is one that gets out of your way, like it isn’t even there. And the keyboard on the ZenBook 13 is super-silent with just the right amount of key travel and tactility to know when you press a key (and the bounce back is super snappy).

As far as Windows laptops are concerned, this has one of the best trackpads- smooth, precise, and extremely responsive to the touch. Performance is superb thanks to a 10th generation Intel Ice Lake Core i5 quad core processor.

Plus, you won’t run out of juice even on a busy day thanks to the massive 67Wh battery (fast charge takes it from zero to 60% in just 40 minutes).

The display is another brilliant feature of this machine, it is a 13.3” FHD IPS panel with excellent color accuracy and viewing angles.

And you get 802.11ax, the latest iteration of Wi-Fi which brings enhanced peak speeds plus much better individual throughput when there are multiple clients.

Pros

  • Excellent performance with a 10th generation Intel Ice Lake i5 processor, ideal for casual gaming and light productivity
  • Fast LPDDR4X RAM, 8GB of it
  • ErgoLift hinge for a better typing experience
  •  Edge to edge keyboard with silent keys and good travel
  • Large trackpad with built-in numpad
  • Windows Hello with facial recognition (has IR camera)
  • 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • HDMI 2.0b, Thunderbolt 3 over Type C, Micro SD card reader
  • Extremely thin at just 13.9mm and weighs only 2.45lbs
  • Massive 67Wh battery

Cons

  • Fans do spin up quite a bit under load (compared to other ultrabooks from Dell or Microsoft)
  • Speakers could have been louder
  • 256GB SSD is small

Another white 15.6” HP laptop with black bezels and an Intel 10th generation processor. Nothing revolutionary to see here, and you shouldn’t be expecting too much since this device costs less than half of a MacBook Air.

It does the job well and that’s about it, no fancy bells or whistles to talk about. The webcam is surprisingly better than even laptops which cost over a grand.

The trackpad is alright, not as smooth or responsive as an XPS or ZenBook trackpad but OK. Students won’t mind the 1366 x 768 display resolution if they are just interested in doing some web research and reading PDFs.

But a higher resolution does help with display sharpness, even when you’re working with text (since letters look less jagged and are smoother on the eyes).

Pros

  • Cheap, and delivers everything a student needs
  • Good 720p webcam for Zoom calls (for the price it is hard to beat this webcam)
  • Decent keyboard and trackpad (clicky and good key travel)
  • Intel 10th generation Core i3 Ice Lake dual-core processor
  • Good selection of ports- HDMI 1.4b, USB Type C, 3.5mm combo jack, Media card reader, Type

Cons

  • Low display resolution (1366x768) which makes this a less than ideal choice for movies or gaming
  • The numpad is a bit cramped
  • Windows 10 in S-mode by default (you can change it back to regular mode manually, it doesn’t take much time)

This one’s for all you students who are on extremely restrictive budgets, and don’t want to spend a single dollar more than what you absolutely need to.

HP has an excellent value laptop with the HP 14, it has all the essential stuff like Wi-Fi and a basic dual core processor from AMD.

And that’s about it, there is a keyboard (not the best, but it works). There is a trackpad (again, not that good but you won’t see us complaining about it considering the price).

The only real downside to this laptop is the 64GB of eMMC storage which is faster than a spinning HDD but much slower than a PCIe SSD or even standard SATA III SSD. This is also not as reliable as regular SSDs, and you only get 32GB of capacity.

This laptop is for students who use campus Wi-Fi and have 24x7 access to some form of internet connectivity (because you will be reliant entirely on cloud storage).

Pros

  • AMD dual-core 3020e processor with 2 cores and 2 threads, max boost lock of 2.6GHz (alright for MS Office, web browsing, movies, streaming, and essential apps)
  • 14” display with good brightness and decent enough colors (we won’t complain about the 1366 x 768 resolution since this laptop is so cheap)
  • Trackpad is good enough; it isn’t very tall but is quite wide
  • The keyboard has large keycaps with good key travel and is actually fun to type on (quite surprising)
  • Just 0.71” thick and weighs slightly over 3lbs (very portable)
  • Good battery life (around 7 to 8 hours)
  • One year of Microsoft 365 included

Cons

  • 64GB of eMMC storage
  • Speakers sound bad
  • Webcam is subpar

This is the cheapest laptop on our list, and it is primarily intended for those students who wish to stream content and use cloud storage via campus Wi-Fi.

It has a Celeron N4000 dual core processor which is rather anemic but does the job if you just watch movies, listen to music, and post stuff on social media.

It is fast enough for stuff like MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and web browsing.

Don’t expect to do any gaming or photo/ video editing on this laptop, it isn’t fast enough for that. But if you’re doing conference calls, streaming videos, sharing projects, etc. this laptop is perfect.

It has a dainty little 11.6” Antiglare display which is “good enough” for word processing, taking notes in class, and doing some online research.

Pros

  • Cheap and compact solution for digital classrooms, very good for students on a small budget
  • Easy to carry around since it is so thin and light, you don’t even need a sleeve or bag
  • Decent keyboard, has large keycaps with good travel and some tactility
  • Sleek looks with a brushed finish and rounded edges
  • USB Gen 3.1 Type C port and 3.5mm combo jack, also has a Media card reader and HDMI 1.4 output
  • 4GB of DDR3L RAM, most other laptops at this price range have 2GB of RAM
  • Free 1 year subscription for Office 365

Cons

  • 32GB of eMMC storage
  • Non-upgradeable RAM

Want a convertible for college? They offer more versatility compared to regular laptops since you can use them like a laptop or tablet depending on your needs.

If you’re in the dorm room, relaxing on your bed, you can fold it in half and use it like a tablet while browsing the web with a touchscreen. 

In class, you can use the keyboard for typing notes like a regular laptop. Or you can switch to tent mode if you wish to share ideas within a group.

The touch display supports stylus input, although you need to buy the digital pen separately. There is a fingerprint reader and physical shutter on the webcam for maximum security, you know your data won’t fall into the wrong hands.

And the actual display itself is pretty good since it is a 14” FHD IPS panel with accurate colors and viewing angles.

Pros

  • Excellent 10th generation Intel Ice Lake Core i5 processor
  • 1920 x 1080 IPS touchscreen
  • Good backlit keyboard
  • 2-in-1 convertible design
  • Great battery life
  • Solid build quality

Cons

  • 128GB SSD will definitely make you run into storage limitations within just a couple months
  • Fingerprint reader could have been implemented on the power button itself (minor nitpick)
  • Webcam quality isn’t the best

You need to remember that most of the stuff you will use your laptop for in medical school is not very hardware intensive. You are primarily going to take notes, access cloud databases, use the campus Wi-Fi, and maybe watch movies/ play games in your spare time.

Sometimes you will be required to do a presentation in PowerPoint or a spreadsheet in Excel, maybe you’ll have to edit some photos in Photoshop. But that’s about it.

So we recommend any laptop that has the processor equivalent of an Intel 9th/10th generation Core i3, or an AMD Ryzen 3 processor. Any dual core will do, especially if you’re just going to browse the web or stream content online.

 About 4GB RAM is the minimum, although 8GB is solid and will set you up for the next 3 to 4 years. The more important factors are battery life, it should be at least 7 to 8 hours.

You also need a laptop that is slim and light. It feels terrible lugging around a 7lb monstrosity and its power brick all day from dorm to classroom and everywhere in between.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is a dual core processor sufficient these days?

A. Ideally, you want at least a quad core. It may or may not have hyperthreading/ SMT, but 4 cores is a good way to ensure that your work proceeds smoothly.

However, if you have a very tight budget and can’t spend over 300 dollars on a laptop, then 2 cores is fine provided all you do is web browsing, streaming, word processing, etc.

Q. What kind of laptop do I need as a student?

A. Definitely not one that is too expensive or on the premium end. Unless you actually have the budget and require a powerful machine with lots of power for gaming, CAD, visualization, simulation, AI, etc.

A decent mid-range laptop under the 800 dollar price point is ideal for a student, it just needs to have a good enough processor with 8 to 10 hours of battery life  and an FHD IPS display.

Q. Mac or Windows as a student?

A. Honestly, either one is fine. Just go with whatever suits your budget and needs. Both ecosystems have a large selection of cross-platform apps, although some are exclusive to one OS. The included software that you get with Mac OS for free is superior compared to Windows. You have GarageBand, a superior video editor, and a music streaming service.

 In terms of third party software, Windows supports more custom business applications but most 3rd party home software that you use daily is supported by both operating systems. So if you are an iPhone owner and want to stay within the Apple ecosystem, get a Mac (keep in mind it costs more though). If you are a long time Windows user, you might want to go with a Windows 10 laptop.

Q. How much storage space do I need as a student?

A. Honestly, not a whole lot unless you store a lot of movies and music locally (or games). You can get away with a 256GB SSD, but we recommend 512GB since it is the sweet spot in terms of value. That is plenty to store some eBooks, music, videos, photos, and a couple of games.

Of course, you always have the option of getting an external storage drive or upgrading the built-in storage (unless it is a netbook with eMMC flash storage which cannot be changed).

Q. Can I use a tablet instead of a laptop for school?

A. You could, if all you need is some device to take quick notes and read eBooks. An 11” tablet will do the job fine, if it’s an iPad you can do almost everything that you do on a cheap laptop.

However, tablets aren’t good for stuff like typing, creating presentations, or running scientific/ CAD applications. So if you work with the MS Office suite or want a machine for doing projects in MATLAB/ Autodesk, a laptop is crucial.

Conclusion

We hope this article gave you all the info you need to purchase the best laptop for medical school. As a medical student you need something reliable and well-built, which is why we chose the MacBook Air (512GB version) as our overall champ.

It has the ideal balance of everything- performance, display quality, battery life, build quality, and keyboard + trackpad feel.

Of course, there are cheaper options too which we have reviewed in this article such as the two HP laptops that both cost a third of the 512GB MacBook Air.

Take your pick based on what you need, the ASUS ZenBook 13 is a nice Windows laptop alternative to the MacBook Air for significantly less money. 

And if you want a convertible, there’s the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 (its only real downside is the small 128GB SSD).

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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