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I am a mechanical engineering student in my second year and I am about due for a new laptop.... I think.

I would like to run Matlab, Creo, and solidworks as needed. I do not play video games and I rarely watch movies so neither of those are important to me. I also run programming software for my HAM raido equipment but that software is not very demanding of computing abilities.

I am currently running a HP ProBook 6360b, intel i3-2350M @ 2.3GHz, 4.00GB RAM, 32 bit OS, Intel HD graphics 3000.

This laptop is old but it still works. It was free and if some minor upgrades would keep me going for a few more years for a considerable cost savings I would rather do this. I will need a new dvd drive (mechanical issue, does not read) if I am convinced to run this a few more years.


If I buy new it is going on a credit card. I am not afraid of spending more money for something that will last me several years. With that I would say $2k or less.

i am not a fan of small computers with small keyboards but at the same time I am not looking for a 15lbs jumbo laptop.

  • You are sorely out of luck. Sorely. You need a low-end dedicated GPU, a high-end CPU, lots of RAM and a good screen. I recently picked a notebook for an interior design friend of mine who needed something similar. My research ended up with either a mid-range gaming notebook or a low-end pro one. The hardest part is the display. You need something with a high resolution and anti-glare. – Jan Dorniak Mar 3 '16 at 15:07
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You really should upgrade, minor upgrades just won't do. Right now you might not be doing any computationally heavy tasks, maybe a few scripts in Matlab, assemblies with only a few parts in Solidworks/Creo and writing up the reports. Your laptop may get those done but probably very slowly.

In the later years, you'll need to be running larger assemblies along with CFD, thermal and FEM simulations that can take a few hours. You'd also like to do these from home instead of staying late after lectures in the computer labs all the time. Your work (particularly solid modeling) will be much more interesting and fun on a better machine, you'll be dying to learn more! You'll want it to last a few years after college and I've factored that in too.

Spec wise what you're looking for is any laptop with all of the following:

  • a Skylake i7
  • 12-16GB RAM with support for 32GB and access to slots
  • 256GB ssd (preferably 500+GB)
  • a Thunderbolt 3 port
  • a mid range gaming graphics card for Solidworks, a GTX 960M will more than suffice
  • 14+inch matte screen (preferably 15.6+inch)
  • obviously Windows as a host OS

The above should easily get you through college and longer. But if you find that you really like designing and need to do even more complex assemblies, when the time comes you can upgrade to a desktop graphics card via the Thunderbolt 3 port. If you are trying to decide between specific machines, post them up here and the Exchange can help you out.

Be prepared to spend $1000-1500. That'll leave you ~$500 to buy student versions of Matlab, Solidworks, Creo, Office etc if you need to. Many laptop manufacturers have student discounts of 10-15%.

Treat yourself like a professional and you'll naturally start acting like one.

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