Top 10 Laptops for Grad School in 2023: From Budget-Friendly to High-End

grad school

As a graduate student, you're no stranger to the demands of your academic journey. From intense research projects to writing papers and attending seminars, you need a reliable and powerful machine to keep up with your workload. That's why finding the best laptop for grad school is crucial to your success. In this guide, we'll dive into the unique requirements that graduate students have when it comes to choosing a laptop, making it easier for you to find the perfect device for your needs.

Graduate students often work with large datasets, perform complex calculations, and run demanding software. Therefore, the best laptop for grad school should have a powerful processor, ample RAM, and a fast SSD to ensure smooth multitasking and quick data access. Additionally, a laptop with a comfortable keyboard, long battery life, and a high-quality display is essential for those long hours of typing and reading.

Over the years, I've developed a keen eye for laptop selection by reviewing an extensive laptop spreadsheet containing recent releases, comparing specs, and analyzing professional and user-generated reviews. By narrowing down the top laptops based on graduate student-specific requirements and price ranges, I'm confident that this guide will help you find the ideal laptop for your academic pursuits. As someone who's been in your shoes, I understand the importance of having a reliable laptop that can handle the rigors of grad school. Together, we'll explore the best options available to ensure you're well-equipped for the challenges ahead.

Power up your Grad School Journey: Choosing the Right Processor


When it comes to selecting the right laptop processor for grad school, there are a few factors to consider. Firstly, the laptop market is constantly evolving, with new processors being released all the time. For example, Apple has introduced its M1, M2, M2 Pro, and M2 Max processors, which offer excellent single-core performance and battery life. AMD has also captured a significant share of the laptop CPU market, with its latest 7th-generation Ryzen processors being a good option for those in need of a long-lasting battery life.

If you're looking for a Windows laptop, you'll need to choose between Intel and AMD chips. For most grad students, we recommend going for an AMD Ryzen 5 or 7, as they offer great value for money.

It's also essential to consider the type of work you'll be doing on your laptop. If you're running scientific applications, you'll need a fast processor. Still, you'll also need plenty of RAM to ensure smooth performance when working with large datasets. For most students, 16 GB of RAM should suffice, but if you're working with large datasets or using multithreaded applications, we recommend opting for 32 GB.

When comparing CPUs, we suggest using Cinebench R20 scores as they're most relevant to scientific research. If you're on a tight budget, be prepared to make some sacrifices in terms of performance and battery life. But if you can afford it, we recommend investing in a mid-range or high-end ultrabook that offers excellent performance and battery life.

Here are our recommendations for different budgets:

Processor Price Range
Minimum: i3-1115G4 $350-$450
Recommended: i5-1135G7 $600-$800
High-end: i7-11370H $1,000-$1,500

Ultimately, the right processor for your grad school laptop will depend on your specific needs and budget. But with our recommendations, you should be able to find a processor that offers great performance and value for money.

Powering Your Grad School Dreams: Graphics Card Essentials


When it comes to choosing a graphics card for your grad school laptop, there are a few key things to consider. While a dedicated GPU may not be necessary for most students, it can be helpful for tasks such as machine learning models or gaming.

Firstly, it's important to note that the laptop GPU market has seen some changes in recent years. Nvidia continues to dominate the market, but the gap between power-limited notebook graphics and desktop graphics cards has widened. Additionally, Nvidia has discontinued the Max-Q label for its RTX graphics cards, resulting in a wide variance in graphics performance even in laptops with the same GPU chipset.

If you do decide to go for a laptop with a dedicated GPU, you'll need to decide whether you want to prioritize performance or battery life. Nvidia's RTX series offers the best possible performance, but these chips are only available in gaming laptops and require a more powerful CPU to reach their full potential. AMD's Radeon line offers more options for those seeking an ideal balance between performance and battery life.

It's also worth noting that some laptops come with a discrete GPU, while others rely on an integrated chip that can't deliver the same level of performance when gaming or training machine learning models. If you need a laptop with a fast graphics chip, make sure it has an Advanced version of Nvidia's Optimus technology (or AMD's equivalent).

To help you make a decision, here are our recommendations for different price ranges:

GPU Price Range Recommended Use
GeForce GTX 1650 Entry-level Suitable for basic tasks and light gaming
GeForce RTX 3050 Mid-range Suitable for gaming and running machine learning models
GeForce RTX 2060 High-end Suitable for demanding tasks such as 3D rendering and advanced machine learning

We recommend using 3DMark to compare different GPUs, but specific tests such as Deep Learning training time or Cinebench R23 single-threaded score may be necessary depending on your needs. Keep in mind that gaming laptops can be expensive due to high-quality components such as IPS displays, RGB lighting effects, and other flashy aesthetics. Ultimately, it's important to choose a GPU that meets your specific needs and budget.

Boost your Productivity with Ample RAM


As a grad student, you'll likely be running multiple programs and applications simultaneously, including virtual machines, programming software, and databases. For this reason, RAM is a crucial component to consider when choosing a laptop.

A minimum of 16 GB of RAM is recommended for most grad students, while 32 GB is recommended if you're working with large datasets or running multiple virtual machines. Having enough memory will allow you to load all your applications at once without any lag or constant reloading.

When it comes to RAM types, the vast majority of laptops come with DDR4 memory, which is perfectly fine for most users. However, if you're looking for the best possible performance, you should consider laptops with DDR5 memory modules. While still rare in the laptop market, they're becoming more popular and offer faster data transfer speeds.

Here's a breakdown of what you can expect in terms of RAM at various price points:

Price Range Median RAM Configuration
Under $500 4-8 GB
$500-$1,000 8-16 GB
$1,000-$1,500 16-32 GB
$1,500 and above 32 GB or more

It's important to also consider the upgradability of your laptop when it comes to RAM. Some laptops have limited M.2 slots and RAM configurations, which can limit your ability to upgrade in the future. If you're looking for a laptop that will last you through your entire grad school career, make sure to choose one with the ability to upgrade its RAM.

In summary, for grad school laptops, a minimum of 16 GB of RAM is recommended, with 32 GB being necessary for more intensive tasks. DDR5 memory modules offer better performance but are still rare in laptops. Consider your budget and laptop's upgradability when deciding on the amount of RAM you need.

Grad school laptop buying dilemmas: solved

Q: What is the best laptop for grad school?

There is no single "best" laptop for grad school, as it will depend on individual needs and preferences. However, some top options for different price points include the ASUS Zenbook for $640, the HP Victus 15t for $900, the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro for all budgets at $1,350, the GIGABYTE AORUS 15 XE4 for all budgets at $1,600, and the Dell XPS 17 9720 for $5,600.

Which laptop is best for research and writing?

For research and writing, you will want a laptop with a good keyboard and a clear, bright display. We recommend the ASUS Zenbook for $640, the HP Victus 15t for $900, the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro for all budgets at $1,350, the GIGABYTE AORUS 15 XE4 for all budgets at $1,600, and the Dell XPS 17 9720 for $5,600.

What laptop specs are needed for grad school?

The minimum requirements for a grad school laptop include a graphics card of at least GeForce GTX 1650, processor of at least i3-1115G4, and memory of at least 8 GB. For a better experience, we recommend a graphics card of at least GeForce RTX 3050, processor of at least i5-1135G7, and memory of at least 16 GB.

Can a MacBook Air handle grad school?

Yes, a MacBook Air can handle grad school tasks such as word processing and basic research. However, it may struggle with more demanding software and tasks such as running virtual machines or video editing.

What is the ideal battery life for a grad school laptop?

A good battery life for a grad school laptop should be at least 8 hours, but ideally closer to 10 or more. This will ensure that you can work for a full day without having to constantly search for a charging outlet.

Is it better to use a laptop or a tablet for grad school?

While a tablet can be useful for note-taking and reading, a laptop is generally more versatile and better suited for grad school tasks such as research, writing, and data analysis. We recommend using a laptop for grad school.

How much RAM is required for grad school laptop?

The minimum RAM required for a grad school laptop is 8 GB. However, for a better experience, we recommend at least 16 GB.

Should I get a touchscreen laptop for grad school?

While a touchscreen laptop can be useful for note-taking and drawing, it is not necessary for most grad school tasks. However, if you plan on using the laptop for creative work, a touchscreen can be a helpful feature.

How to choose a laptop for grad school?

When choosing a laptop for grad school, consider factors such as performance, battery life, display quality, keyboard comfort, and portability. Look for laptops with a graphics card of at least GeForce GTX 1650, processor of at least i3-1115G4, and memory of at least 8 GB, with 16 GB or more being ideal.

Is it necessary to have a dedicated graphics card for grad school?

While a dedicated graphics card is not strictly necessary for most grad school tasks, it can be useful for software that requires heavy graphics processing, such as 3D modeling or video editing. We recommend a graphics card of at least GeForce GTX 1650 or higher for best performance.

5 Best Laptops for grad school

Ryzen 5 5500U | MX450 | 8 GB RAM | 512 GB SSD | 14″ IPS; 1920x1080 |

1.ASUS Zenbook

The ASUS Zenbook UM425QA is a great value performance ultrabook with a sleek design, excellent battery life, and fast processor.
  • Excellent battery life
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Fast processor and good fan profiles
  • Sleek design and bright display
  • Soldered RAM that cannot be expanded
  • Fan behavior can be annoying at times
  • High emissions under load and weak Wi-Fi
  • Only a few ports available

The Zenbook 14 UM425QA is a great option for those seeking a lightweight and slim laptop with a powerful Ryzen CPU that offers excellent battery life, sleek design, and bright display. While the fan behavior can be annoying at times and there are only a few ports, this laptop is an excellent option for grad students on a budget.

HP Victus 15
  • Excellent price
  • Can handle high-end games
  • Poor battery life
  • Plain design
i7-1280P | Iris Xe | 16 GB RAM | 1000 GB SSD | 13.4″ IPS Touch; 1920x1200 |

2.MSI Summit E13

MSI Summit E13 is a sleek and powerful laptop with a luxurious design, great battery life, and impressive performance, but its display response times are slow, and it runs hot under load.
  • Large battery with respectable runtimes
  • Great CPU and GPU performance
  • Bright display with high contrast
  • PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD support
  • Slow display response times with noticeable ghosting
  • Runs hot under load
  • Accessing MicroSD reader is a hassle
  • RAM is not removable

MSI Summit E13 is a visually striking laptop that packs a great CPU and GPU performance, a bright display with high contrast, and a large battery with respectable runtimes. However, its display has noticeable ghosting, and the laptop runs hot when under load.

Acer Nitro 5
  • Fair processor (i5-12500H)
  • Solid graphics card (RTX 3060)
    Ryzen 7 6800H | RTX 3060 | 32 GB RAM | 2000 GB SSD | 16″ IPS HDR G-Sync; 2560x1600 |

    3.Lenovo Legion 5 Pro

    Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is a powerful laptop for grad school but lacks Thunderbolt support.
    • High-quality 165 Hz 16:10 IPS display
    • Relatively easy serviceability
    • Integrated numpad
    • Very fast charging
    • Low-resolution webcam with no IR or privacy shutter
    • Very warm CPUGPU temperatures when gaming
    • Moderate-heavy uneven backlight bleeding
    • Only average battery life

    The Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is a high-performance laptop that comes with an upgraded AMD Zen 3+ CPU and 150 W TGP GeForce RTX 3070 Ti. Its 165 Hz 16:10 IPS display, easy serviceability, and fast charging make it an excellent option for graduate school students, but its low-resolution webcam, high CPU/GPU temperatures, and moderate-heavy uneven backlight bleeding are some downsides.

    Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
    • High-quality 165 Hz 16:10 IPS display
    • Relatively easy serviceability
    • Low-resolution webcam with no IR or privacy shutter
    • Very warm CPUGPU temperatures when gaming
    i7-12700H | RTX 3070 Ti | 64 GB RAM | 2000 GB SSD | 15.6″ IPS-level; 2560x1440 |


    The GIGABYTE AORUS 15 XE4 is a powerful and versatile laptop with a high price tag, best suited for grad students who require high-end performance.
    • Top-notch performance
    • Fast PCIe 4.0 SSD storage
    • Wide color gamut
    • Responsive 165Hz panel
    • High power usage at idle and low load
    • No card reader
    • Only

    The GIGABYTE AORUS 15 XE4 is a compact gaming laptop that boasts of top-notch performance, wide color gamut, and fast PCIe 4.0 SSD storage. It also features a responsive 165Hz panel, Thunderbolt 4, Power Delivery, and solid battery life. However, it has a high power usage at idle and low load, lacks a card reader, and has only one USB-A port.

    ASUS ROG Strix G15 G513RM
    • Solid build quality with a fair design
    • Punchy and fast QHD 240 Hz screen
    • Quirks affecting everyday ergonomics
    • No ThunderboltUSB 4, card-reader, camera, or biometrics
    i9-12900HK | RTX 3060 | 32 GB RAM | 6000 GB SSD | 17.3″ IPS HDR; 3840x2400 |

    5.Dell XPS 17 9720

    Top-notch performance and 4K display come with a high price tag and some minor issues.
    • Excellent 4K display with AdobeRGB
    • High-quality case
    • Thunderbolt 4 PCIe 4.0
    • Very high system performance
    • Lower graphics performance than the predecessor
    • Performance not completely stable under combined load
    • Not Wi-Fi 6E compatible
    • 720p webcam

    The Dell XPS 17 9720 is a high-performance laptop with a top-of-the-line 4K display and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity. However, it comes with a few minor drawbacks such as lower graphics performance than its predecessor and not being Wi-Fi 6E compatible.

    Dell XPS 17 9720 review
    ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo
    • Thin and elegant design with dual screens
    • Top-notch performance with RTX 3080 Ti GPU and Ryzen 9 CPU
    • Expensive price tag
    • Awkward keyboard and touchpad layout

    Table of the Best Laptops for grad school

    LaptopPrice (approx)
    ASUS Zenbook$640
    MSI Summit E13$1,140
    Lenovo Legion 5 Pro$1,350
    GIGABYTE AORUS 15 XE4$1,600
    Dell XPS 17 9720$5,600
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    John Winstler
    With over a decade of experience in the tech industry, combined with a degree in computer science, I have developed an in-depth knowledge of laptops, PC games, software, 3D modeling, video editing, and photo editing. My detailed and unbiased laptop reviews have helped many people make informed decisions about their technology purchases.

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