What specs should I look for in a laptop

After completing my sophomore year at college as a Physics major and I realized that the laptop I currently have is not able to keep up with the demand I put it under for school. The laptop I currently have has a <2 hour battery life and has been known to crap out (didn't know how else to explain it) on me while opening up excel. So I am asking for specs that I should look for in a laptop.

I need to be able to run Matlab as well as mathematica (I prefer mathematica but need Matlab for projects). I will also need to run latex to write my lab reports for class. I write programs for fun and would like to continue that as comp sci is my minor. I would also like a laptop that has a good battery life (>5 hours, but I am willing to sacrifice a good battery life for preformance).

I appreciate all the help that you would be able to give me, I would also take recommendations of laptops that you may use or laptops you did use when going through college.
 
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It depends quite a bit on how much you are willing to spend, how long you want the laptop to remain reasonably "up to date", and just how fast you want it to be. Other than that, a general rule is memory. More is better and more than that is better still.
 
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Check the recommended machine hw specs for matlab and mathematica and then look for comparable machines within your budget.

Nowadays, 500GB is a good base HD size with i3 or i5 cpu.

Here's a comparison of the best of 2019:


which one do you like?

NOTE: Chromebooks wouldn't fit your needs for Matlab or Mathematica.
 

Drakkith

Staff Emeritus
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Just about any laptop should be able to do what you're wanting. The only issues are how quickly can they do it, and how much multi-tasking you want to do. I'd personally recommend a laptop with at least 6-8 GB of ram and a 500+ GB SSD hard drive. The processor is up to you. Any new processor from intel or AMD should work just fine. As always, you get what you pay for.
 
Thanks for the replies they have been helpful @Drakkith and @jedishrfu
 

rkr

Gold Member
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MATLAB is actually not terrifically efficient. You may get cheaper, faster mileage and good power efficiency by doing things with MATLAB on AWS, and only accessing your instances over ssh. You may also have access to university server compute resources that you're unaware of, and the ability to ssh into it as long as you're within the university's network. University I was at has quad-processor (80 cores), 1 TB memory servers for students nowadays. Offloading the compute in this way will drastically improve your battery life.

That said, anything with a good PCIe/M.2, NVMe SSD tends to help a lot with productivity and power efficiency. 8-16G memory is good. I deal with a lot of machines at work and so far the best engineering quality I've come across on a laptop is on an HP Spectre (unfortunately discontinued), followed by the pre-touchbar generations of MacBooks, then ASUS. Don't like the Dells myself. All have in excess of 2 hours of battery life for sensible workloads.

Edit: Would pick the Huawei Matebook or one of the Macs nowadays.
 
Last edited:
thank you @rkr i looked up the Huawei Matebook X pro and the specs on the laptop look amazing
 

rkr

Gold Member
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No problem, good luck.
 

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