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Laptop Recommendations For Engineering Student

I'll be entering college next fall as a computer engineering major and I'm currently looking at laptop options. I'm currently leaning towards the new XPS 13 Plus specked as follows: 

 

Dell XPS 13 Plus 

  • i7-1280P 
  • 32 GB RAM 
  • Iris Xe Graphics
  • 2 TB SSD
  • UHD+ 3840 x 2400 touch display 

 

I am concerned about a few things, mainly the lack of ports, and the ability of the integrated graphics to handle software like MatLab and Solidworks. I also haven't heard great things about the battery life, especially if I use a UHD+ display. Because of the lack of a dedicated graphics card in the XPS 13, I've been looking at the new XPS 15 but it seems like this comes with extreme battery sacrifices and will require an even larger hit to my wallet. I'm looking for a laptop that will be able to comfortably handle my workload for the next 4-5 years with a decent battery life that won't require me to be tethered to a charger and be reasonably portable. The Mac ecosystem seems too insulated and expensive for what I want, and a lot of the other high-end laptops in this price range seem like huge gaming laptops with terrible battery performance. I'm looking for something in the 2,000-2,5000 range including peripherals like USB hubs.

 

Answers to these questions would be helpful in my decision-making process:

  • Do I need a discrete graphics card to run engineering software or will integrated graphics serve me fine?
  • Are there problems with the UHD+ display and battery life? Would opting for the FHD display be worth the sacrifice for battery life? 
  • How big of a sacrifice is only having 2 USB C ports? I've never had a personal laptop so I don't really know what my usage is. 
  • Should I be looking at larger laptops that offer more performance but have significant sacrifices with battery life and portability? 

 

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Hi Joe, I'm in quite a similar situation as I am majoring in mechanical engineering and was looking at the new Dell XPS 15. To answer a few of your questions:
 

  • Yes a dedicated gpu would likely improve work efficiency in programs like Solidworks enough to constitute looking at other options because the configurations for the XPS are all or nothing with having to choose between integrated graphics or having to shell out for a RTX 3050. There is a disappointing scarcity of laptops with mid-range gpu's, for instance a GTX 1650.
  • With your situation I recommend the FHD display as it would save you a considerable amount of money, extend battery life, and improve performance running programs at a lower resolution. As long as you aren't doing work that requires color accuracy or anything in that field it's more of a luxury.
  • The importance of IO definitely varies from person to person, I don't personally find myself using it very often besides charging and the occasional data transfer to external storage.
  • I believe 15" is a good middle ground still being light enough to be comfortable using and carrying around while having enough processing power to keep up productivity, also having the possibility for a larger battery ie longer battery life.


Ultimately, if you decide to stick with the XPS I recommend going with the FHD display and using that money for a better graphics option, also 32GB of RAM seems unnecessary and 16GB would perform just fine. Another way to save costs if you are willing is to pick 512GB of storage and buy some second hand to upgrade it yourself. You can wait and save up until necessary to do so. I hope some of this was of use to you!

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Thanks Iroto, that was very helpful. The only thing keeping me back from just getting the XPS 15 is the battery life, I have a friend who got the 15 and is experiencing battery life around 4 hrs which seems insane to me. In your experience has it been much of a problem and is it worth the sacrifice in order to get a dedicated GPU?

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