Best Laptop for Mechanical Engineering Students [2021 Reviewed]

An Overview of the Best Laptops for Mechanical Engineering Students

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We understand that you may be in a rush, and that’s totally okay! We’d like you to know that we have shortlisted the Apple MacBook Air as the best laptop for Mechanical Engineering Students due to it’s unmatched performance and affordability!

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Introduction

Engineering, whether it be mechanical or electrical is difficult as it is. Having a ton of assignments and strenuous course work is already really tiring. On top of that, choosing the perfect laptop to accompany you throughout your college years is yet another difficult decision you have to make!

Moreover, as a student, you probably don’t have a really high budget either so getting the best value for the money you pay is a must. Every Mechanical Engineering student most likely has a different use case scenario, because of the slight difference in course work. Keeping that in mind, this article focuses on giving you advice that applies to a wide array of mechanical engineering students.

One of the primary concerns that people have is about performance. Luckily, for mechanical engineering, you don’t need a lot of performance. Having a modern i5 or equivalent processor should be sufficient. Even though you’re not a computer science student, a lot of your coursework will involve some kind of mathematical or scientific programming using a language such as MATLAB, which is not as demanding and can be run on any modern machine.

You may also use some kind of computer-aided program (CAD) like SolidWorks. Some people may tell you that it requires you to have at least some kind of Quadro GPU, but that’s not true anymore. Modern integrated graphics on laptop processors are already so powerful that you will not need any dedicated graphic card.

A major part of a laptop that many students overlook is the portability. You will spend hours upon hours on campus having to use your laptop for classes. You will thank yourself for buying something that’s easy to carry and doesn’t put a toll on your back.

Furthermore, having a laptop with good build quality and battery life is also a must, so that your device doesn’t run out of juice in the middle of a day having you running looking for a wall outlet. Having a laptop with a screen on-time of at least 5 to 6 hours will comfortably get you throughout the day, although we recommend having at least an 8-hour battery life just in case.

Top 3 Laptops for Mechanical Engineering Students [Reviews]

Apple MacBook Air

The first laptop on our list is the MacBook Air. Many people, especially students, like Macs for their seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem and the fact that they’re reliable machines. If you’re one of them, then you’ll be pleased to hear that a MacBook can be a viable option. We have particularly chosen the MacBook Air because of its relatively low cost and good value. We will specifically talk about the M1 equipped one that was released in late 2020. This review will help you determine whether the MacBook is the right choice for you.

The M1 processor is certainly the highlight of this laptop. It performs in equal footings to or sometimes better than the i9 processor found on the last generation Intel laptops. Those were, and to some extent still are one of the best CPUs found on any laptop, and it’s pretty impressive that the M1 can keep up with them. It’s especially impressive considering that this is a first-generation product and that ARM processors aren’t meant to be that powerful. The M1 one the MacBook Air has 2 of its performance cores disabled which means that it will perform slightly worse. However, this is still enough to outperform a modern i7 processor. Apple has done this because the Air doesn’t have any fans. Despite this, it managed to avoid thermal throttling even in more power-intensive tasks. While a Mechanical Engineering student may not require this much power, but it still goes to show how powerful this processor is. It will also help your laptop stay relevant even a few years down the road.

These processors are usually more power-efficient, and that’s also the reason why they can run so cool. Another advantage of this is that you can expect to get up to 18 hours of screen on time which is absolutely insane for any laptop. They haven’t included a particularly large battery, so Apple managed to achieve this amazing battery life just through the M1’s energy efficiency and their optimizations.

The only small problem with ARM-based MacBook is that they don’t support a lot of programs natively, including many popular engineering programs that you may want to run like Matlab. To circumvent this issue, Apple has provided an emulation program called Rosetta 2. It’s similar in concept to the original Rosetta which was used during the transition from Power PC to x86. Running an emulation does mean that you have a bit of performance drop, but even despite that, it manages to perform on an equal footing when compared to an i7 running it natively. It’s also good to see that due to Apple’s strong share in the laptop market, many developers, including that of Matlab and other similar programs have quickly started to adapt their programs to run on ARM Macs. If all goes well, in a few years you won’t even need to use Rosetta.

You get 8 GB of the fastest LPDDR4x RAM at 3733 MHz clock speed. This should be more than sufficient, especially considering how macOS runs well even with 4 GB of RAM. Bundled with that you get either 256 GB or 512 GB SSD. We recommend going for 512 GB since you may be storing a lot of eBooks and programs, although if your budget doesn’t allow for that then 256 GB should also suffice for the most part. Sadly, neither the storage nor RAM is upgradeable, so if you run out of space, you’ll have to resort to using an external device.

The display on the MacBook Air is absolutely stunning. The 13.3 inches, 2560 by 1600-resolution Retina panel is pretty much the best in the market. Not only that, it has amazing color accuracy as it covers 25 percent more than the sRGB Color Gamut. Color accuracy doesn’t matter that much for Mechanical Engineers, but if you plan on doing Graphic Design on the sideline then this can be really useful. It also helps to enhance the overall user experience.

A major disadvantage that the MacBook has is the lack of ports. You only get 2 USB-C ports, although they can be used for charging and attaching an external display. This is probably because they don’t have that much space inside, but it still hinders productivity. If you wish to have more ports, then you’ll have to buy an external dock. 

There are a few additional noteworthy features that are exclusive to the MacBook which you may find useful. Firstly, they have the best trackpads on any laptop, as it is large and has very precise tracking. The keyboard is backlit and feels pretty good to type on. You also get the option to instantaneously wake up your device from sleep, which is something that was introduced this year and is found exclusively on the M1 models. Lastly, MacOS in itself has many amazing features like seamless integration with other products from the Apple ecosystem.

The dimensions of the MacBook Air are 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches and it weighs 3 pounds which makes it a really thin and light device, perfect for portability. The design of this laptop is a bit monotonous since it’s the same one that’s found on a 4- or 5-year-old MacBook. Despite that, the build quality is excellent and Apple will most likely change the design next year since their hands were tied up making sure the M1 processors run perfectly.

What We Liked
  • Amazing performance
  • Best battery life on any modern laptop
  • Great display
  • Excellent trackpad and keyboard
  • Portable
  • Good build quality
What We Didn’t Like
  • Not user upgradeable
  • Only 2 ports

ASUS UX534FTC-AS77 ZenBook 15

The next laptop on our list is the Asus ZenBook 15. It is an ultrabook with some pretty decent specifications for the price, as well as a lot of unique features that make it worth looking into.

For the processor, you get an Intel Core i7-10510U. It right about what you would expect from a laptop in this price range. It’s much less powerful than the M1 processor found on the MacBook Air. Regardless, it’s still a really powerful processor that can easily handle anything you throw at it. You even get an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q discrete graphics. It’s pretty powerful since it can easily handle most modern graphically intensive tasks. While a GPU is not needed for your main course work in mechanical engineering, but if you want to do gaming, video editing, or any graphically intensive task then this will be an amazing laptop for you.

You also get a 512 GB SSD, which is upgradeable to 1 TB. Most people will probably be fine with 512 GB, but it’s good to see that you have the option to upgrade if you want to. Sadly, the RAM is not upgradeable. You do get a plentiful 16 of DDR4 memory, which shouldn’t provide any problems in the coming few years, but we would’ve still like to have the option to upgrade so that you can use your device for a bit longer.

The display on this laptop is one of the highlighting features. It’s a 15.6 inch wide-view 4K UHD panel which is absolutely stunning to look at. Moreover, the bezels are really small, at a 92 percent screen to body ratio, which makes the viewing experience very immersive. The fact that this is a well-calibrated 4k display means that this is arguably better than the one found on the MacBook Air, although it’s not as color accurate.

We previously mentioned how modern Thin and Light laptops remove a lot of ports just for the sake of making their device more aesthetically pleasing. Asus has managed to make this laptop sleep while also keeping a lot of the traditional ports that one might use on a day-to-day basis. The port selection may not be as extensive as the one found of the ThinkPad, but it’s certainly better than the MacBook’s as well as most other UltraBooks. You get 1 USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 port, 1 USB-A 2.0 port, 1 USB-C 3.1 port supporting Thunderbolt, HDMI, hybrid audio jack, Micro-SD card reader, and a DC charging port.

There are a few additional features that make this laptop a much better deal. The main selling point of this laptop is a secondary external display in place of the trackpad which can be used for shortcuts or better accessibilities to certain tools. A lot of people claim that it’s just a gimmick that actually hinders the trackpad usage, but that’s for the end-user to decide. Asus has even managed to fit a webcam in the small bezel which is something that a lot of other manufacturers skip out on. Another selling point for this device is an amazing design. It’s pretty durable and even looks good, while also maintaining the sleek form factor. The only downside is that the glossy aluminum finish is a fingerprint magnet.

The dimensions of this laptop are 12.60 x 7.80 x 0.70 inches and it weighs a bit less than 2.8 pounds. That makes it right on par with the MacBook Air when it comes to portability. You even get a pretty sizeable battery providing you 10 hours of battery life which easily makes it an all-day battery life.

What We Liked
  • Great performance
  • Plentiful RAM and storage
  • Upgradeable storage
  • Great port selection
  • Amazing design
  • Portable
  • Good battery life
What We Didn’t Like
  • RAM is not upgradeable
  • The secondary screen is gimmicky

Lenovo Flex 5 14″ 2-in-1 Laptop

If you’re looking for a 2-in-1 laptop, then we recommend getting the Lenovo Flex 5. It can be used in many different orientations, including regular laptop mode, like a tablet, or even tent mode. Most people will appreciate the laptop mode for productivity and tablet mode for note-taking. Speaking of note-taking, there is a stylus included which works perfectly. This is an amazing feature for those who like digital note-taking.

It is powered by the AMD Ryzen 5 4500U mobile processor with integrated Radeon graphics. A few years back you wouldn’t have seen AMD compete with Intel, but in recent times, they have caught up with the competition and even surpassed it. This CPU is slightly weaker than that found on the ASUS, although the graphical performance is slightly better than the i7. It will be perfect for note-taking and even many heavier programs like Graphic designing or gaming. Undoubtedly, it should also be more than enough for Mechanical Engineering specific programs. Most people will have no problems with the performance, so we highly recommend that you go for it.

Bundled with that you get 16GB DDR4 RAM, which will be more than enough for anything you throw at it and will also future proof your device. The RAM isn’t user upgradeable, but we doubt anyone would feel the need to increase it anyway. You only get a fast 256 GB SSD, which might be a bit less for some people, especially considering how you can’t upgrade it. Although you can still attach an external storage device to ensure that you don’t run out of storage.

The display is a 14-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS touchscreen with extremely narrow bezels, providing an excellent viewing experience, and is on par with other laptops in this price range. The 14-inch size is also the perfect size making it small enough to be portable, yet large enough to feel like an actual laptop. It is 250 nits and bright enough to viewable outdoors as well, which is also partly because the screen itself isn’t glossy. Don’t expect to be blown away by the quality, but it’s still a decent display.

Despite the laptop being thin and light it has a decent selection of ports. You get 2 USB-A, 1 USB-C, an HDMI port, an SD card reader, a headphone jack, and a separate charging port. It has a ton of other features, like a serviceable webcam, a pretty nice backlit keyboard with 2 brightness levels, and a fingerprint scanner for secure access. There is also a physical shutter for the camera so that you don’t accidentally open your camera in the middle of a video meeting. It also helps in maintaining privacy since webcams can easily be hacked and this shutter helps that no private video is taken.

The Lenovo Flex 15 comes in at 12.66 x 8.56 x 0.82 inches and weighs 3.63 pounds, which is a bit heavier than normal 14-inch laptops, but not so heavy that carrying it becomes an issue. The battery life is rated at 10 hours, and in real-world usage, it provides about 8 hours which is excellent and won’t require you to bring the charger everywhere you go. Moreover, you get fast charging which can top up your laptop from 0 to 80 percent in only an hour. To conclude, we think that this is a really great budget option providing features that hold their ground even against devices twice the price.

What We Liked
  • 2-in-1 form factor
  • Great performance for the price
  • High RAM capacity
  • Good port selection
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Camera shutter
  • Good battery life
  • Fast charging
What We Didn’t Like
  • Low storage
  • RAM and storage aren’t upgradeable
  • Slightly heavy

Final Words

We looked at some amazing laptops at different price points. Each of them had unique selling factors that made them worth buying. Most of you have probably already figured out which laptop you should go for. But just in case you are still unsure, or you want to know if your decision is correct, we have compiled all the reasons why one would want or not want to purchase the laptops on our list. In the end, we have given the conclusion as to which laptop we think is the best.

First comes the MacBook Air. Apple has truly made an excellent product with this one. While it’s a first-generation product, it certainly doesn’t feel like that. The CPU performance is unrivaled by any other laptop in this price range and even competes with some desktop-grade processors. Even the battery life is terrific which makes it amazing for students. If you own other Apple products then this laptop should be a no-brainer for you. The only reason why one might not want to buy it is because of its sub-par port selection, but the other features more than makeup for that.

Next is the Asus ZenBook 15. If you’re looking for a windows laptop in this price range, then this is your best bet. It’s a well-rounded laptop with great performance, battery life, design, and a top on the line display. It has very few flaws which make it a reliable laptop.

Lastly, we reviewed the Lenovo Flex 5. It is a great deal considering it’s the cheapest option in our roundabout, providing one of the best and most practical features. The amazing 2-in-1 form factor with the included stylus is definitely the highlight of this laptop. It’s an especially useful feature for students considering they have to take a lot of notes and annotate many documents. It doesn’t skip out on other essentials like a powerful processor and good port selection, making it a really good laptop for most people.

Our pick for the best laptop for Mechanical Engineering student has to go to the Apple MacBook Air. It has almost everything that one would want from a laptop like amazing performance and great battery life. It doesn’t have a high price tag either when compared to the Pro model which makes it perfect for students.

However, it’s still a bit pricey so if you don’t want to spend that much money then you won’t go wrong with the Lenovo Flex either. It’s just a really solid 2-in-1 device for a good price. You won’t sacrifice much when it comes to this laptop.

As for the ASUS Zenbook 15, it’s also a really solid laptop, but there are a few reasons why we won’t recommend it. It is really expensive as it’s even pricier than the 256 GB MacBook Air. For that price, we think the excellent battery life of the MacBook as well as the other features like its performance and integration with other Apple devices make this device unbeatable. In that regard, Asus didn’t manage to impress us that much. However, if it has some feature that you really like, such as the powerful GPU for gaming, then this is certainly not a bad option and worth consideration.