Don’t think you can study civil engineering without a powerful rig! You need a blend of power and performance that you can bring with you.
Some students can get away with using a laptop that’s light on specs, but you, unfortunately, can’t; unless your civil engineer work is very light.
I’ve reviewed some of the best laptops for civil engineering students here, so you can start looking before classes start. Read on!
The 7 Best Laptops for a Civil Engineering Student
Without further ado, here are some of the best laptops for civil engineering students!
1) Best Overall – Dell Precision 5760
- 17-inch anti-glare display
- 11th-gen Intel core i7 chip
- 32GB of RAM
The Precision 5760 is a mobile workstation that’s designed for heavy work. It features the same thin bezelled design as Dell’s other productivity laptops.
Its looks remind me of an Alienware device, and rightly so; with 32GB of RAM and an RTX A3000 card within, this laptop’s equally ready for both work and play!
I particularly enjoyed using this laptop thanks to its beautiful display: A 17-inch display at 16:10 is a thing of beauty.
Unfortunately, Dell’s port choice baffled me. They’ve dropped everything but type-C USB ports and an SD card reader.
With a price fit for an established civil engineer, the Precision 5760 is a svelte powerhouse that can run any software you need. Pick one up here.
- Intel Core i7 2.50 GHz processor provides lightning fast speed and peak...
- With 32 GB of memory, users can run many programs without losing execution
- Exceptionally large 17" diagonal display provides 1920 x 1200 resolution
- Surprisingly light at 4.7lbs
- 16:10 aspect ratio
- Large and accurate trackpad
- Very expensive
- Only packs USB C ports
I also recommend reading: 10 Best Laptops for Mechanical Engineering Students in 2022
2) Best Value – HP Spectre x360
- 11th-gen Intel Core i7 chip
- Windows 10 Pro operating system
- 16GB of RAM
The Spectre is a convertible laptop perfect for engineering students who need something light but powerful to throw inside their bags.
You won’t have storage issues because this UHD display can pack 512GB to 2TB of storage within its slim chassis!
When you look at a Spectre, you’re looking at HP’s answer to Lenovo’s Thinkpad series. Premium chassis, subtle looks, and a very powerful battery.
I wasn’t a fan of the bloatware on the device, but it was easy enough to remove. You can get a Spectre here.
- BRAND NEW FACTORY SEALED - You will receive a HP Factory sealed Brand New laptop...
- WITH EXCELLENT PERFORMANCE, BATTERY EFFICIENCY & A NEW AND STUNNING DESIGN, THE...
- ASTOUNDING VIDEO AND IMAGE QUALITY WITH A 13.5" WUXGA TOUCHSCREEN AND A 3:2...
- Impressive battery life of 10 hours
- Solid metal chassis
- More screens to enjoy
- Comes with bloatware
- Attracts smudges and fingerprints
3) Best Budget – Acer Aspire 7
- 15.6-inch IPS display
- 12th-gen Intel core i7 chip
- 8GB of RAM
Aspires are typically affordable middle-ground laptops that can do everything from productivity tasks to light gaming. The Aspire 7 is no different.
Don’t expect Intel HD graphics from this lightweight laptop; It’s got Intel Iris XE graphics, which are a great improvement over their predecessor.
While Intel Iris isn’t as strong as a dedicated GPU, it’s still enough for designing simpler models.
It also packs a fingerprint sensor to make unlocking easier. When you get an Aspire, you get a jack-of-all-trades device that can cover all bases. You can get one here.
- Powerful Productivity: 12th Generation Intel Core i7-12700H processor delivers...
- Visibly Stunning: Experience sharp details and crisp colors on the 15.6" Full HD...
- Thermal Solutions: Designed with an air inlet keyboard that upgrades the thermal...
- The full-size keyboard has a number pad
- Well-ventilated and stays cool
- The display has great viewing angles
- Thick top and bottom bezels
- Stock RAM is lacking
4) Razer Blade 15
- 15.6-inch 360Hz display
- RTX 3070 GPU
- 1TB SSD
When you think “gaming laptop,” a Razer device will inevitably pop into your head. Whether an engineering student or a professional, the Blade 15 has the power you need.
Thanks to its RTX graphics processor, you can expect to render images super quickly and efficiently, but watch out for the Blade’s fans!
Razer’s sleek laptops still haven’t managed to balance the power of their parts with the form factor of their chassis, so your laptop will get loud.
The Blade has a consistently smooth design and a consistently high price, but Razer’s always prided itself on its sleek machines. You can get it here.
- Aspect Ratio:16:9
- GeForce RTX 3070: NVIDIA’s 2nd gen RTX—with new RT Cores, Tensor Cores, and...
- More Power, More Cores: The 8-Core 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10875H processor...
- Tough aluminum chassis
- Excellent and comfortable trackpad
- Discreet design
- Fairly weak battery life
5) Acer Predator Helios 300
- Intel core i7 11800H
- RTX 3060 GPU
- 16GB of RAM
The Acer Predator Helios 300 is a solid mid-range laptop that can run either engineering software or the latest and greatest games.
It’s retained a plastic clamshell look for a few years, which makes it look dated, but I can’t complain about the performance and internals.
With an RTX 3060 and i7 11800H within, this laptop will render your AutoCAD model space without fuss, thanks to NVidia’s 2nd-generation Ampere architecture.
The Helios 300 also has a good selection of USB ports, so you won’t have to worry about connectivity issues. Despite the design, it’s still a solid machine.
You can pick it up here.
- Aspect Ratio:16:9
- Extreme Performance: Crush the competition with the impressive power and speed...
- RTX, It's On: The latest NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 (6GB dedicated GDDR6 VRAM) is...
- Relatively quiet fans
- Anti-glare 144Hz display
- Quiet typing experience with a full keypad
- Unappealing clamshell design with thick bezels
- Low-quality speakers
6) Microsoft Surface Studio
- 11th-gen i7 chip
- NVidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
- 32GB of RAM
Microsoft wasn’t content with creating a killer operating system, so they decided to make laptops too! It isn’t just any kind of laptop, either; it’s a convertible!
The Surface Studio has a very powerful processor and an almost-excessive amount of memory, so you can rest assured that your software will run quickly.
Despite being equipped with a smaller screen than I would’ve preferred, the Surface Studio’s touchscreen display didn’t give me any problems while browsing.
It’s bright enough and packs a surprisingly high refresh rate for a convertible device (120Hz!). However, I have an issue with the port selection.
Similar to the Dell Precision 5760 above, the Surface Studio only has USB C ports and an SD Card reader. However, this is a minor gripe at best.
You can pick up this laptop here.
- The most powerful Surface Laptop. Quad-core powered 11th Gen Intel Core H Series...
- Design, animate, and render at top speed. Step up to the award-winning Ampere...
- Boundary-pushing design with sleek 14.4“ (5) touchscreen makes seamless...
- Sturdy in both clamshell and tablet mode
- Good combination of portability and performance
- High refresh rate combined with a responsive touchscreen
- Poor selection of ports
- Fairly shallow keyboard
7) Dell Alienware m15 R6
- 11th-gen Intel core i7
- NVidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU
- 16GB of RAM
Alienware is well-known for making non-compromising machines, and the m15 R6 maintains this proud tradition.
With an upper-range dedicated graphics processor and 16GB of RAM, your 3D software won’t have any issues with memory!
It’s modestly priced compared to other Alienware laptops, but that doesn’t mean Dell’s skimped on performance. The m15 R6 is still plenty powerful.
Power isn’t an issue, but I did experience some minor backlight bleeding when testing the screen with a black image. Not too severe, but check your model just in case.
The m15 R6 is a mid-range Alienware gaming laptop with high-end parts and a top-tier price. You can get it here.
- Dell Alienware M15 R6 (Latest Model) 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11800H (8-Core)
- 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD | 16GB DDR4 RAM | RTX 3070 8GB GDDR6
- 15.6" QHD (2560 X 1440) 240Hz with GSYNC LCD Display
- 8-core and 16-thread Intel core processor
- QHD 240Hz display
- The chassis is a sturdy mix of magnesium and plastic
- Most USB ports are located in the back
- Weak battery life
What Are the Best Laptop Specs I Need for Civil Engineering?
I’ve laid out some vital specs to help narrow your search for the best laptops for engineering students. Note that these aren’t arranged in any particular order of importance.
- CPU: There was a time not so long ago when a mobile CPU couldn’t hope to match up a desktop-grade CPU’s performance. Those days are gone because mobile CPUs have caught up! However, you can’t pick up any old CPU and expect it to run engineering software perfectly. That’s not realistic unless you’re working with extremely simple models. Look for a laptop that packs a 10th-12th generation Intel core i7 or a Ryzen 7 processor. You may find that some of the best laptops for engineering students pack AMD CPUs instead of Intel Core chips. An AMD CPU is also powerful, and they tend to be more power efficient too! AMD’s Ryzen series processors pack as much CPU performance as your standard Intel chip, so they’re also an excellent option!
- GPU: It’s no coincidence that I’ve added a few gaming laptops to this list. Intel UHD graphics won’t quite cut when running programs like Microstation. Fortunately, discrete graphics cards in laptops have recently gained a massive power increase, so your civil engineering software should run pretty well on a laptop. Students on a tighter budget can look for a slightly older NVidia GeForce GTX-equipped laptop, but I’d recommend getting something with an NVidia GeForce RTX card instead. RTX cards improve on the old NVidia GeForce GTX architecture, and since NVidia streamlined their naming conventions, mobile workstations also have RTX cards.
- Storage: If you’ve been looking at laptops for engineering students (or laptops in general) for the last 6 years, you’ll know that storage has generally moved away from mechanical drives or HDDs. SSD storage is the new in-thing, and I cannot recommend them enough! Their speed’s a lifesaver when you want to do anything more complex than stream videos. Get a laptop with a 256GB SSD at minimum for your most essential civil engineering software. If you can spring for one with 512GB or 1TB, all the better! You may be able to find a laptop with both SSD space and an HDD, which may be more affordable. Ensure you put your operating system on the SSD and other files on the HDD. With a combination SSD and HDD setup, your laptop will boot up fast and have lots of storage, for a win-win!
- Display: The best laptops for engineering students should have a sizable screen so you can see your work and be both bright and clear enough so you won’t have to strain your eyes during class. I’d recommend getting a laptop with an HD display and a screen size of 14-17 inches. It should also have a native resolution of 1920×1080 for a clearer image. Note that larger screens use more power, so don’t expect an excellent battery life while using a 17-inch laptop. I mentioned brightness earlier because that’s another big factor. I don’t mind laptops with so-so speakers, but I won’t compromise on display brightness. Look for a laptop with at least 250nits brightness. 250-450 nits is a good metric for laptop brightness indoors and in lightly-shaded areas outdoors. If you find a laptop with over 450-600 nits, those can be used even on sunny days!
- Battery Life: If you’re a student, you’ll need to be mobile as you move between classrooms. This also means you’ll need a laptop with decently long battery life. Unfortunately, not a lot of laptops for civil engineering prioritize battery life over power. I can’t recommend a laptop with a battery life of less than an hour, but don’t expect anything amazing. Your laptop should last 7-9 hours on a single charge. This reasonable period will give you enough time to find an outlet. Strong components have strong power requirements, so expect the best laptops for engineering students to have short battery life. Conduct a battery test with your laptop by setting it to 75% brightness and full charge, then unplugging it. Start timing and do light browsing until the battery needs another charge.
- Extra Features: If you’ve already got a good laptop, you can start looking at bonus features that’ll benefit you. The two main things on my list are extra security and greater comfort. An engineering student typically won’t be handling extremely sensitive work, but a fingerprint reader can provide additional security. While it’s not essential for the best laptops for civil engineering students, a well-spaced and backlit keyboard can be invaluable. Good spacing will stop your hands from cramping up, while backlighting can help if you plan to work in the dark. Many gaming laptops also offer backlit keyboards alongside their incredible performance, so you can find everything you need in one package!
Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Best Laptop for Civil Engineering Students
A powerful laptop that can handle demanding apps is good, but here are some other things that I think you should watch out for.
If you’re a student, your budget won’t exactly be unlimited. Fortunately, if you’re a civil engineering student, you’re likely to have a more flexible budget.
You don’t need to break the bank to get a great laptop, but you’ll generally be looking at prices from $800-$2500, depending on the models you’re looking at. All that power adds to the price!
If you can score an older model with an NVidia Geforce GTX 1650 or 1660, that might help you save money.
I’d expect other future brands to rise in price as powerful parts become more common steadily. This trend is also visible in other gaming laptops, like Dell’s Alienware series.
I mentioned battery life earlier, but you’ll also need to consider your laptop’s weight. How much clunkier will it get with a power adapter if it’s heavy enough unplugged?
Since most appropriate laptops for engineering students are gaming-focused, you can expect weights in the range of 2-2.5Kg without the power brick. Get a larger backpack; you’re going to need it!
Powerful parts aren’t just heavy; they’re also very hot! Unless your new versatile laptop turns into a space heater, you’ll want a laptop with a good cooling system.
With so much power running through your system, you’re guaranteed to run into high temperatures now and again.
Browse online for reviews about your model’s thermal management before getting any laptop, and check out the best tech tutorials if you need to clean or re-paste your laptop.
If you’re scared of damaging your laptop’s internals, I advise always keeping your cooling vents clear!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Learn more about the best laptops for civil engineering students here!
Is a Macbook Good for Civil Engineers?
Windows laptops haven’t completely cornered the market, so what about mobile Apple users? Can they run the right software?
While AutoCAD will run, the requisite software for most big engineering projects is primarily designed to run on a Windows device.
If you’re dead set on using a Mac and your software skills can handle it, you can use Bootcamp to install Windows, but it’s easier to start with a Windows machine instead.
Are Graphics Cards Necessary for AutoCAD?
Very strictly speaking, no. An integrated graphics processor will be enough if your civil engineering classes only go as far as designing 2D models.
However, it’s much easier to display a design if you use 3D modeling. I recommend getting a gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card for 3D work.
NOTE: AutoCAD is also CPU-intensive, so pair your dedicated GPU with a powerful CPU for a speedier and more efficient laptop.
Is More RAM Better for AutoCAD?
Normally I’d suggest using 8GB of RAM as a baseline and recommend getting 16GB for a better experience, but AutoCAD has other ideas.
AutoDesk, the manufacturer of AutoCAD, recommends having 16GB as a minimum and says, “It’s better to use more RAM than written in the system requirements for good performance.” [R]
There’s also the speed of your RAM to consider. If you have 32GB but slow, it won’t be as good as 16GB of high-speed RAM. Ask your laptop’s manufacturer to make sure!
Is Intel Core I3 Good for AutoCAD?
I’ll be extremely direct: No, an i3 likely won’t be enough to run AutoCAD. I advise getting a laptop with a 9th-12th generation Intel Core i7 chip instead.
They state that you’ll need a processor that can hit 2.5-2.9GHz, but they recommend one that can reach 3GHz and above [R].
Now, laptop i3 processors from the 10th-12th generation operate within the range of 1.0-4.4 GHz, but that’s in turbo boost mode.
Intel’s Turbo Boost mode won’t last for too long, so you can’t depend on it to kick in. Get a processor that safely fits within AutoCAD’s recommended range for your laptop’s sake.
Here’s a refresher on the best laptops for civil engineering students!
Best Budget – Acer Aspire 7
The Aspire 7 can do it all and then some, thanks to its H-series processor and Iris XE graphics! Just don’t mind the thick bezels.
Best Value – HP Spectre x360
HP’s Spectre is a slick touchscreen with great viewing angles. It cuts a stunning figure no matter what mode you put it in!
Best Overall – Dell Precision 5760
My number 1 best laptop for civil engineering students is the Dell Precision 5760. Whether you install Linux on this beast or craft a 3D model of a walkway, the Precision 5760 can handle it!
Running civil engineering programs smoothly will take a beefy device, but your choice will mainly come down to personal preference and needs.
Ask your upperclassmen or professors what software you’ll need, and select your laptop based on their answers!