12 Best Laptops For Grad School in 2020

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As you are here, we believe that you are planning to join a graduate school soon. Being gone through a similar phase, we understand that it might be the most significant decision in your life. Higher education in our country (United States) is indeed an expensive affair. But, you would not want to save money by choosing a cheap $200-300 laptop. But, why?

Think about this: You are going to use this laptop for quite a few 2-4 years. If you are working on areas like Data Science, AI, Machine Learning, 3D modelling, you have all the reasons to get a powerful, reliable, and well-built laptop.

Brands don’t make machines specifically for the usage-purpose. So, the best you can do is to choose a laptop that fulfills your basic requirements. However, you should consider a machine that has a long battery life, sturdy build, ultra-portable design, excellent keyboard, and state-of-the-art performance.

The system requirements vary for different streams of studies. For instance,

Minimum & Recommended System Requirements

The laptop you choose should meet these requirements. While this set of specifications can provide you a decent grad school life, you can’t expect gaming or high-end tasks.

 Minimum System RequirementsRecommended System Requirements
CPUIntel Core i3Intel Core i7 or higher
RAM8GB16GB
Storage128GB SSD and or 500GB HDD512GB SSD or higher
DisplayFull HD (1920 × 1080)FHD or 4K based on budget
GPUAMD or Intel integrated graphicsDedicated graphics with 2GB+ VRAM
BatteryUp to 5 HoursUp to 10 hours
WeightLess than 6 lbs/poundsLess than 4 lbs/pounds

We also understand that budget is a major concern while choosing a laptop. Most students don’t want to spend more than $1000 or $1500 on a notebook. Considering this, we have included models that come under within that price range. Of course, there are some exceptions, in case you are ready to pay more or can’t spend more than $500 (not for power users).

Best Laptops for Grad School in 2020

We have also included products on notebooks running on different Operating Systems like Windows and macOS. And, yeah, all these are from trusted brands with excellent after-sales support.

Now that you know the basics, shall we check out the product coverage?

1. Best For All Grad Students: Apple MacBook Pro

Are you looking for a powerful device that can run any CPU/GPU intensive task that you throw at it? Then this device is highly suited for you.

  • CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i9 (9th Gen)
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 1TB SSD
  • Display: 16-inch FHD Retina (3072 x 1920)
  • Graphics: 4GB AMD Radeon Pro 5500M
  • Battery: Up to 11 hours
  • Weight: 4.3 lbs

The 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro is hands down the best laptop you can get for your grad school. Although, it is highly recommended for people who are into graphic intensive tasks such as video editing, photo editing, motion graphics, music production, etc, anyone looking for a smooth machine should consider it.

Even the USC Cinematic Arts recommends this device as a high-performance configuration. So, if you are okay to spend around $2500, you should consider this ultra-portable performance beast from Apple.

The laptop packs a 2.3GHz Intel Core i9 processor, you don’t have to worry about performance. Even while running CPU-intensive tasks, this notebook can keep up. Although it comes with a 4GB AMD Radeon Pro 5500M, you can use it for GPU-enabled applications only – Gaming is out of the story.

To keep up with performance, 16GB of DDR4 RAM is more than sufficient. macOS is especially good at RAM management, and this factor helps a lot while running film editing suites or so many web browser tabs. This variant of the MacBook Pro 16” comes with 1TB of SSD storage as well.

With this notebook, Apple had stepped into the game of bezel-free panels. The 16-inch Full HD panel has an improved resolution of 3072 x 1920, bringing the Retina Display as Apple calls it. Its P3 color gamut and 500 nits of top brightness are features that filmmakers love on a laptop.

Despite carrying a 16-inch Display, it’s smaller than a lot of 15.6-inch laptops! So if you’re skipping it because of the display size, then DON’T!

Being a filmmaking graduate student is about being on the move. Fortunately, despite the heavy hardware inside, Apple has kept the thickness to a mere 0.64 inches. Combined with a reasonable weight of 4.3 lbs, it is the best portable option you have among today’s sleek notebooks.

On the connectivity side, this MBP is the typical Apple product. You get 4 Thunderbolt 3-enabled USB Type C ports, which you can use for almost everything from data transfer to extended displays. In the event you find the included GPU insufficient, you can even connect an external GPU to the machine.

Apple has brought the scissor switches to its keyboard with this notebook. For those quick shortcut combos and lengthy essays alike, the keyboard is better. Just like other Apple products, the trackpad on this laptop favors precision and control. You also get Touch ID and Touch Bar for additional convenience. Despite it being a high-end machine, a lot of writers, programmers, prefer getting it because of the magic keyboard!

Another fantastic thing about this Apple notebook is battery life. The battery estimates a backup of up to 11 hours. So, unless you are editing heavy 4K content on the go, this laptop can last a day. In our tests, it lasted around 8 hours while browsing on Chrome and running Sketch.

Pros
  • High-performance i9 processor
  • Portable, ultra-thin design
  • Best-in-class SSD storage
  • Minimal-bezel Retina display
  • Excellent battery life
Cons
  • Expensive as hell

2. Best Lightweight: LG Gram

  • CPU: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 1TB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch FHD IPS Touch (1920 x 1080)
  • Graphics: Intel HD 620
  • Battery: Up to 5 hours
  • Weight: 2.44 lbs

One of the very few laptops from LG, the LG Gram 2019 edition, is a superb pick for graduate students who need excellent performance. Even better, the company has managed to include incredible battery life and sturdy build while keeping the notebook lightweight.

Clocked at 1.8GHz, the Intel Core i7-8565U inside this ultrathin notebook showcases superb performance. If not high-end video editing, you can run any type of resource-intensive apps that your subjects require you to. As you can guess, though, the laptop uses integrated graphics from Intel and not something dedicated.

Just like the super-expensive MacBook Pro above, The LG Gram also uses the combination of 16GB DDR4 RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. The system runs on Windows 10, and the booting process is almost instant. You do not have to worry about storage space either.

This machine has something you don’t expect from an ultrathin variant: a 15.6-inch Full HD display. It has a skinny IPS panel that has a top resolution of 1920 x 1080. The multi-touch enabled touchscreen support is an added advantage that can make all the difference while you are on the move.

As we said earlier, the LG Gram lineup makes some of the ultra-lightweight laptops in the market. This device also belongs to that category, thanks to its 2.44 lbs weight and a thickness of 0.7 inches. LG has also used premium materials for the entire construction.

In comparison to MBP, the LG Gram 2019 edition has a more practical connectivity setup. There are 3 USB 3.1 ports, including a Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port and Type-A ports. The dedicated SD card reader and HDMI port bring convenience to photographers and students. However, it lacks a dedicated GPU.

The keyboard on this machine is also nice, if not exceptional. The keys have convenient travel and a full-sized numeric keypad as well. Arranged on the top and bottom parts of the device are a fingerprint reader and a precision-friendly trackpad.

Last but probably the best, the LG Gram laptop offers an impressive battery life of 18.5 hours. Getting even half of what’s promised is excellent for all students out there.

Pros
  • Ultrathin, lightweight design
  • High performance i7 processor
  • Fast SSD storage and sufficient RAM
  • Extensive connectivity options
  • Incredible battery life
Cons
  • Sound quality could have been better

3. Best with 4K Display: Dell XPS 13 9370

  • CPU: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 13.3-inch 4K Touch (3840 x 2160)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Integrated
  • Battery: Up to 8 hours
  • Weight: 2.7 lbs

Dell XPS has been one of the most popular executive laptop lineups in the market. Even getting a previous-year variant of the device can offer a superior experience. As it happens, the 2018 edition of Dell XPS 13 9370 packs impressive performance, a sleek design, and a high-quality display.

This machine uses an Ultrabook-based processor, Intel Core i7-8550U, with a maximum clock speed of 4GHz. However, Dell has done a great job of optimizing it for ideal performance for students. As expected, you do not get a dedicated graphics card with this package.

The trusty combination of 16GB DDR4 RAM and 512GB SSD storage makes this device appropriate for most graduate students. Even if you are into something specific like photography, the laptop can handle apps like Photoshop and Blender. The SSD storage provides sufficient super-fast space as well.

The 13.3-inch 4K touchscreen display is probably the Unique Selling Point of this XPS machine. The display comes with multi-touch support and has a screen-to-body ratio of 80.7%. Resembling other XPS devices, its bezels are minimal as well. Altogether, you can expect an immersive viewing experience.

The Dell XPS 13 is an Ultrabook at its core, and you can feel this in its thickness of just 0.3 inches. When you consider the negligible weight of 2.7lbs, you won’t even know that a laptop is in your backpack. So, the sleek design makes it the favorite choice of students across the world.

Like most of the other high-end Windows-based Ultrabooks, this Dell XPS laptop has a good sensibility about connectivity. In addition to a full-sized HDMI port, a few USB 3.1 ports and a physical battery indicator, it has a dedicated media card reader as well. And if you are still using a legacy camera, you’ll love that media port.

The manufacturer is famous for making some of the best ultrabook keyboards, and this device isn’t a case of exception. In addition to the click feel and sufficient travel, the backlit keyboard is quite durable. It can be a perfect companion for your late-night essay-writing streaks.

The performance-friendly machine estimates a battery life of up to 8 hours, which is commendable. You can expect a lesser backup if you are going for photo editing, though.

Pros
  • 4K touchscreen display
  • Sleek and thin design
  • Versatile connectivity ports
  • Lightweight and easy for portability
  • Decent battery life
Cons
  • It’s a renewed device.
  • No dedicated graphics card.

4. Best Under $1000: HP Pavilion Laptop

  • CPU: 1.3GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 1TB HDD
  • Display: 15.6-inch FHD IPS Touch (1920 x 1080)
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Integrated
  • Battery: Up to 8 hours
  • Weight: 4.23 lbs

Many people get worried about pricing while purchasing a performance-oriented laptop for grad school. The 2020 edition of HP Pavilion comes at a superb price and is a great consideration that packs a 10th generation processor and a truly portable design.

As we said, you get an Intel Core i7-1065G7 with this laptop. This 10th generation process has a base speed of 1.3GHz but can go up to 3.9GHz when the demand is high. Also, you cannot expect a dedicated graphics card in a sub $1000 laptop, but the integrated card does a good job.

To best complement the processor, HP has included 16GB of DDR4 RAM in this machine. This is more than enough for most of the resource-intensive apps you may use, including Photoshop. However, we found that the 1TB HDD is not up to the mark, but it’s still not a deal-breaker.

The 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display is a valuable addition to this performance laptop. The touchscreen display has a top resolution of 1920 x 1080, providing crystal-clear shots every time. Its touch support comes in very handy if you like to use your laptop at unconventional angles.

Because it’s from an Ultrabook lineup of HP, you don’t have to worry about portability. This HP laptop has a thickness of 0.7 inches and a total weight of 4.23lbs. Although not incredibly light, it will not be a burden in your college backpack.

This 2020 edition notebook does not disappoint when it comes to connectivity. Arranged on both sides of it are 2 USB Type-A ports and 1 USB Type C port. Besides, the full-sized HDMI port and dedicated RJ45 port add so much functionality, especially if you prefer an extended setup when you’re in the dorm.

The keyboard and the overall construction of the HP Pavilion 2020 are impressive. The keys provide feedback in the best way possible, and there is backlit support as well. Although not comparable to MacBook devices, the trackpad also feels premium to use.

HP says the laptop delivers a battery backup of up to 8 hours, with mixed usage, of course. However, if you plan to get the best out of that i7 processor, you should expect around half.

Pros
  • Affordable pricing
  • Touchscreen Full HD display
  • Well-built keyboard
  • Decent battery life
  • Versatile connectivity options
Cons
  • Slow HDD storage

5. Best for Portability: Huawei MateBook 13

  • CPU: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 13-inch 2K Touch (2160 x 1440)
  • Graphics: 2GB Nvidia GeForce MX250
  • Battery: Up to 10 hours
  • Weight: 2.86 lbs

Every student loves to have an ultra-portable laptop, but many cannot spend around $1000 for such a device. So, if you cannot go for the like of expensive MacBook Pro devices, you should consider the Huawei MateBook 13 Signature Edition.

We are looking at the high-end variant of the device, which comes with an Intel Core i7-8565U. It has a base clock speed of 1.8GHz with Turbo Boost support. On the graphics side, Huawei has managed to include an NVIDIA GeForce MX250, which has a VRAM of 2GB. While this isn’t huge, it’s a great place to start.

Because it’s an affordable device, Huawei has used only 8GB of DDR4 RAM on board. Similarly, you get the trustworthy 512GB of SSD storage. On the bright side, you won’t notice much lag, thanks to that i7 processor alongside all this hardware.

Huawei has done an impressive job in the display department, though. The ultra-portable notebook comes with a 13-inch 2K touchscreen display. This panel has a maximum resolution of 2160 x 1440, which does not compromise details when rendering content.

It looks like an Apple MacBook. There is no denying that. Even the name of the device takes inspiration from Apple’s MacBooks. In the end, you get a sleek design with a thickness of 0.59 inches and a total weight of 2.86 lbs, which are the best for students.

The connectivity sector of the device does not strike as the most versatile one, though. You have two USB Type-C ports arranged on both sides of the laptop. Unlike Apple, Huawei is considerate enough to offer a dongle with the package. This dongle will be enough for HDMI and VGA connectivity.

The keyboard used on the Huawei MateBook is pretty decent, if not the best. The chiclet keyboard is so nice and becomes a productivity advantage for many professionals. The notebook also comes with a fingerprint reader and a precision-friendly trackpad.

Huawei says the MateBook 13 can run for up to 10 hours on a single charge. Even if that’s not the accurate figure, the quick-charging adapter surely clears many doubts.

Pros
  • Sleek, lightweight design
  • Dedicated graphics
  • Touchscreen 2K display
  • High-end performance
  • Excellent keyboard
Cons
  • Limited connectivity

6. Best Value For Money: Apple MacBook Air

  • CPU: 1.1GHz Intel Core i5 (10th Gen)
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 13.3-inch Retina FHD (2560 x 1600)
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Integrated
  • Battery: Up to 12 hours
  • Weight: 2.8 lbs

Apple MacBook Air has been a go-to laptop for students for more than a decade now. In the past couple of years, Apple has brought some changes. Now, the 2020 MacBook Air is the best choice if you are looking for a comprehensive notebook for your grad school experience.

This device isn’t a performance beast, and the Intel Core i5 processor has a base clock speed of 1.1GHz. The same processor can reach up to 3.8GHz. The processors used in the newest MacBook Air are 10th generation, and they offer the best performance. As you can guess, the device runs on integrated graphics.

As we see the inside, the 8GB of DDR4 RAM seems impressive enough. We have chosen the upgraded storage version for obvious reasons. While 8GB is enough for macOS to give a good experience, 128GB or 256GB of storage would be too low for most people. You will have to purchase some external storage eventually.

Apple has brought the much-acclaimed Retina Display to the MacBook Air lineup now. The 13-inch Full HD panel looks stunning, and the resolution is a bit higher, at 2560×1600 pixels. Focusing on details won’t be an issue with this panel on any day.

The design of this MacBook barely needs an introduction. With a thickness of just 0.63 inches, it’s still one of the slimmest laptops you can purchase. A negligible weight of 2.8 lbs also makes this Apple notebook an excellent choice for students and on-the-go professionals alike.

Just like other Apple products, this machine also struggles when it comes to connectivity. While you get two USB Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support, you will have to buy an adaptor eventually. However, if you have already shifted to the USB Type-C world, this is a great place to begin.

This device uses the redesigned scissor mechanism from Apple. This new design is not only better than what Butterfly keys had offered but also offers a professional typing experience. Besides, the package includes a fingerprint reader and a bigger-sized trackpad with gesture support.

On a single charge, the MacBook Air 2020 can run for up to 12 hours. As you know, you cannot expect this figure if you are using resource-intensive programs.

Pros
  • Sleek and suoer lightweight design
  • Incredible performance
  • Excellent battery life
  • Professional-grade keyboard
  • High read & write speed with SSD storage
Cons
  • Limited connectivity options

7. Best For Affordability: Acer Swift 3

  • CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080)
  • Graphics: Intel HD 620
  • Battery: Up to 10 hours
  • Weight: 4.63 lbs

If you don’t want to spend more than $1000 but want a premium-built laptop, you should consider what the Acer Swift 3 offers. It packs the standard performance a graduate student needs, along with reliable battery backup and portability.

As an Ultrabook, the device has gone for an Intel Core i5-8250U processor with a clock speed of 3.4GHz. It’s the maximum speed, and you may not need it all the time. Similarly, the system relies on integrated graphics from Intel, which is a decent choice for most people.

On the storage and memory side, this Acer laptop upholds the market standards. There is 8GB of DDR4 RAM and 256GB of SSD. Now, while it’s true that 256GB is a low storage space, purchasing an external HDD is way better than having a slow HDD as the system drive.

This slim-design notebook comes with a rather spectacular display with standard bezels. The 15.6-inch panel is of IPS and has a top resolution of 1920 x 1080. Considering that the device does not have a dedicated GPU, the visual quality from the panel itself is impressive.

Design-wise, the Acer Swift 3 is like most Ultrabooks in the market. The device has a thickness of 0.74 inches, which is the sweet spot for students and professionals such as stock traders, digital nomads. Similarly, the weight of 4.63lbs is more than efficient for your commute needs. As we said, the all-metal design brings a premium look and feel as well.

There are enough ports in the connectivity sector. The laptop offers three USB 3.0 Type-A ports and 1 USB 3.1 Type C port along with HDMI and a dedicated media card reader. The fingerprint reader and an enhanced mic with noise removal options add more value too.

The keyboard in this device isn’t exceptional, but it excels in most tasks. The keys offer good feedback and do have the best travel in the category. Its backlit capability makes the keyboard one of the best options for professionals in the market right now.

Last but not least, the excellent battery life of up to 10 hours complements the laptops as an excellent choice for your grad school needs.

Pros
  • Reasonable pricing
  • Full HD Display
  • All-metal design
  • Extensive connectivity
  • Excellent battery life
Cons
  • Less storage space

8. Lightweight Laptop Under a Budget: ASUS VivoBook S15

  • CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-10210U
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD 620
  • Battery: Up to 8 hours
  • Weight: 3.97 lbs

A superior typing experience is something that every grad student looks for in their laptops. ASUS VivoBook S15 is a laptop that packs such an impressive keyboard, competitive performance, and the convenience of a thin profile.

This 2019-launched laptop makes use of a 10th generation Intel Core i5-10210U processor with a clock speed of 4.2GHz. This improved chip will be able to pull off most of the processing tasks, including some resource-intensive ones. However, being a budget-friendly device, it settles for Intel integrated graphics.

As a device that is supposed to run multiple programs and mediocre pressure, 8GB of DDR4 RAM seems very promising. To complement the super-fast performance, ASUS has also included 512GB of full SSD storage. It works in sync with the bloatware-free design from ASUS.

ASUS has used a 15.6-inch full HD IPS panel as the primary display for this device. This NanoEdge Bezel panel has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and maintains an excellent screen-to-body ratio of 88%. The laptop comes with a 5.65” touchpad that can double as a touch-sensitive, secondary display.

In terms of design, the ASUS VivoBook S15 resembles the typical Ultrabooks in the market. It has a thickness of 0.71 inches and comes down to a weight of 3.97lbs. This laptop has an ErgoLift hinge that provides a much smoother typing experience by creating a 3-degree angle.

The rich connectivity options that you see on the laptop are no less than impressive. In addition to 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 USB 3.1 port, and 1 USB Type C port, you can find a full-sized HDMI port and media card reader. For grad students who like to create an extended desktop setup, these ports come in handy.

Now, coming to the feature in point, this laptop offers a genuinely superior typing experience. The chiclet keys on the keyboard are well-designed; they also provide good feedback while typing for an extended period. You can also customize the built-in touchpad for your convenient needs.

This portable machine offers a battery life of up to 8 hours, which isn’t excellent but not bad either.

Pros
  • Bezel-less display
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Superior performance
  • Extensive connectivity
  • Customizable touchpad display
Cons
  • Poor graphics card

9. Best i3 Laptop with SSD: Acer Aspire E15

  • CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i3-8130U
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD 620
  • Battery: Up to 12 hours
  • Weight: 5.27 lbs

Are you looking for a standard laptop that comes with a DVD drive for your grad school? In that case, you’ve to consider Acer Aspire E15 as the right candidate. This machine packs appreciable specifications and a terrific battery backup inside a reasonably priced package.

This rather bulky laptop uses an 8th-generation Intel Core i3-8130U processor. Because it’s a chip made for Ultrabooks, the clock speed of 2.2GHz cannot do much magic in terms of performance. Also, you can’t even expect a dedicated graphics card at this price point.

There is some noticeable compromise when it comes to RAM and storage. 6GB of DDR4 RAM is barely good for multitasking needs. On the bright side, Acer has included 512GB of SSD storage on this device. Still, we would have loved to see some extra RAM.

One of the more standard hardware in the package is the 15.6-inch Full HD IPS panel. This is a satisfactory panel with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. Because Acer Aspire E15 is a relatively older laptop, the bezels on the screen are noticeable and hinder the immersive experience.

As we said, this is a bulky laptop when compared to other entries on our list. 1.19 inches is a noticeable set of thickness, and it weighs 5.27lbs as well. Although you can carry this around, you can feel the extra weight in your backpack. On the other hand, for semi-desktop setups, this device is the best.

The bulkiness helps the device to provide one of the most versatile connectivity options, including some of the legacy ports. The connectivity panel comes with multiple USB Type-A and Type-C ports, HDMI port, and even a VGA port. As the title says, there is an 8X-speed DVD-RW optical drive as well.

Like other laptops in the category, Acer Aspire E15 can provide a smooth typing experience. The keys are of good quality and offer more travel. However, you will be missing backlit support here. However, the package includes a better sound system, among other improvements.

Acer estimates a battery life of up to 12 hours with this laptop, which is impressive.

Pros
  • DVD-RW Optical Drive
  • Excellent battery life
  • Versatile connectivity
  • Full SSD storage
  • Superior sound quality
Cons
  • Average display quality
  • Bulky design

10. Cheap yet Thin: ASUS VivoBook 15

  • CPU: 2.1GHz Intel Core i3-8145U
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch FHD NanoEdge bezel (1920 x 1080)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD 620
  • Battery: Up to 8 hours
  • Weight: 3.75 lbs

If someone tells you that you can’t get a good laptop under $600, you can show them this ASUS notebook. If you have such a budget and want decent performance and hardware specs, you can consider this portable laptop.

Once again, we see an 8th-generation processor inside. The Core i3-8145U has a base frequency of 2.1GHz but can reach up to 3.9GHz on Turbo Boost. Of course, there is no dedicated graphics at this price point. So, unless you use GPU-accelerate apps, you can expect a decent performance.

ASUS has taken a more appropriate decision in the memory and storage department. The system has 8GB of DDR4 RAM and 128GB of full SSD storage. This is a combination that manufacturers like Apple have been using for years, and VivoBook 15 is also a success story.

Despite being an ultralight laptop, it comes with a 15.6-inch Full HD IPS panel. This panel not only has a top resolution of 1920 x 1080 but also keeps bezels to the minimum. The screen-to-body ratio of 88% is no less than impressive for most people.

Coming to the design, ASUS VivoBook 15 stays in tune with contemporary laptops. The device has a total weight of 3.75 lbs, which is pretty convenient. At a thickness of 0.75 inches, the laptop won’t consume a lot of space from your backpack, either.

This portable laptop excels in the connectivity department as well. You get 1 USB Type C port, 1 USB Type-A, and 2 USB 2.0 ports on both sides. Besides, there is a full-sized HDMI port and a micro-SD card reader as well. ASUS has also included a fingerprint scanner.

The VivoBook series from ASUS is noted for its impressive backlit keyboards. Keeping that tradition alive, this device also packs a backlit keyboard with a dedicated number pad. Compared to other devices that you get for the price, the trackpad is just excellent.

ASUS VivoBook 15 also offers an impressive battery life of up to 8 hours.

Pros
  • Ultra-portable design
  • Bezel-free Full HD display
  • Lightweight and sleek
  • Extensive connectivity
  • Decent battery life
Cons
  • Less storage space

11. Cheapest Laptop For Grad Students: Dell Inspiron 15

  • CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Core i3-7130U
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch HD Touch (1366 x 768)
  • Graphics: Intel HD 620
  • Battery: Up to 5 hours
  • Weight: 5.1 lbs

A touchscreen display isn’t something you expect in a laptop that costs less than $500. However, if you are a student on a tight budget, the Dell Inspiron 15 gives you an unusual deal. As you can expect, the package is just decent and offers a standard computing experience.

Just like almost every other laptop under $500, this Dell notebook is also using an Intel Core i3-7130U. This processor has a base clock speed of 2.7GHz, which should be enough for word processing and some severe web browsing.

Once again, we see the minimal yet impressive combination of 8GB DDR4 RAM and 128GB SSD storage. We think this is great because going for a larger, but HDD storage option can slow down the computer. Now, the worst that could happen is that you’d need an external HDD.

The 15.6-inch HD ready touchscreen display is something unique in this affordable package. The panel has a low resolution of 1366 x 768 but has considerable bezels. Considering that you are spending less than $500 and getting a touch-enabled display, we think you have to settle for mediocre visual quality.

As you can guess, this is a bulky laptop by all means. While it does not come with any DVD/CD drive, there is a noticeable thickness on the system. When combined with a weight of 5.1lbs, the device becomes a rather tough-to-carry-around package.

Connectivity is, however, a more robust forte of the package at this point. The thickness helps the laptop when it comes to accommodating a variety of ports like USB, HDMI, and media card reader. It even has an RJ45 port for Ethernet connectivity if you are looking for that.

Dell was able to include a decent keyboard with this package as well. The keys are sufficiently large and give a good clicking feel. The laptop also has significant heat dissipation options on the left side, making things super-fast on a favorable day. These fans can boost the speed too.

Battery life from the device is quite disappointing, at up to 5 hours, though.

Pros
  • Touchscreen display
  • Extensive connectivity
  • SSD storage
  • Under $500 price tag
  • Good keyboard
Cons
  • HD screen resolution
  • Low battery life

12. Best for Young Professionals: Lenovo Flex 14

  • CPU: 2.1GHz Intel Core i3-8145U
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Display: 14-inch HD Touch (1366 x 768)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD 620
  • Battery: Up to 8 hours
  • Weight: 3.52 lbs

If you don’t have a high budget but still want a good convertible laptop for grad school, Lenovo Flex 14 is a fantastic choice. This laptop isn’t a performance beast, per se. Nevertheless, it will not let you down when it comes to everyday tasks either.

The device uses a processor that is common in lower-end notebooks in the market. The Intel Core i3-8145U has a base clock speed of 2.1GHz and can Turbo Boost to up to 3.9GHz. To complement the thin profile and the price limit, Flex 14 has chosen integrated graphics only.

The real bummer for most people comes when we look at the RAM allocation. The device has only 4GB DDR4 RAM onboard, which is never enough, even for standard browsing via Google Chrome. On the bright side, it also has 128GB of SSD storage.

There are compromises in the display compartment as well. The 14-inch IPS panel is incredibly flexible, but it has a rather disappointing resolution of 1366 x 768. But, let’s be real here, you can’t expect a full HD panel when you are spending less than $500. By the way, the touchscreen works well.

You could guess the design of the device from the title itself. The design allows you to tilt the screen into several modes. The overall body has a thickness of 0.7 inches and a total weight of 3.52lbs. Both these things make the laptop a truly portable pick.

The flexible laptop brings enough ports to the front as well. There are 2 USB Type-A ports and 1 USB Type-C 3.1 port as well. You also get a dedicated HDMI port and memory card reader on the right side of the body. It also has a dedicated Recovery button on one side.

The keyboard on Lenovo Flex 14 isn’t anything exceptional, but it does the job very well. You can get a decent typing experience on the go. You should also keep in mind that you can purchase an Active Pen that you can use along with the touchscreen display.

This Lenovo Flex 14 claims to run for up to 8 hours on a single charge, which is satisfactory.

Pros
  • Flexible design
  • Lightweight notebook
  • Touchscreen with stylus support
  • Standard connectivity
  • Quite affordable
Cons
  • Only HD-ready display
  • Limited RAM

Frequently Asked Questions

How much should I spend on a laptop for grad school?

Although the final decision depends on your area of work, it’s safe to keep a budget of $1000. This way, you can get a decent laptop that provides adequate performance and multitasking ability. However, if you are studying something like filmmaking and photo editing, you need a high-end laptop like MacBook Pro.

Should I get a tablet PC like iPad Pro instead?

iPad Pro and other tablet computers have indeed become so advanced in the past years. However, in grad school, you may end up spending hours in front of computers, typing out long essays, and everything. In consideration of this, it’s always good to have a laptop with good connectivity, a comfortable keyboard, etc.

Are touchscreen laptops worth it for college?

Even if you are not someone artistic, a touch screen laptop is an advantage for sure. Even when you want to read a lengthy document or write something big, the touchscreen input comes in handy. So, if you have a choice, you should get a touchscreen laptop over a non-touch one.

How many connectivity options should I have?

In the world of Thunderbolt 3, you should ideally have a couple of USB Type C ports. Nevertheless, we can’t say the same about all notebooks. So, all things considered, you should at least ensure an HDMI port and a USB Type-A port for convenience’s sake.

What is the ideal weight for a grad school laptop?

Trust us; you don’t want a heavy laptop for your college. However, a heavy laptop becomes a necessary evil at times. For instance, when you are a budding photographer who edits off of RAW, you need to carry around a rather heavy laptop.

The Verdict

As we said, the range of laptops people consider for grad school is quite broad. So, we had to come down to this list of 12 laptops after reviewing more than 50 potential choices. As you can see, we have tried to bring products from several categories, like professional, gaming, and casual.

That is why we have included products from the MacBook and XPS lineups. You can count on these laptops when you want a durable yet performance-friendly laptop for long-term usage. All these devices come with amazing connectivity options as well.

We hope you can find the right laptop for your needs from this list.

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