Need a new laptop for aerospace engineering grad school: real graphics but portable.


Sep 11, 2015

I'm back in school to complete a Master's degree in Aerospace Engineering, and I fear that my laptop from 2007 is not going to last long at this rate! Currently I have a Sony Vaio SZ-650N, which was/is a perfect machine but is now way past its prime.

This is my wishlist:
1. Small/light.
No more than 15" screen, no more than ~5 lb. Preferably smaller/lighter.

2. Real graphics capability.
Needs to be able to handle Photoshop, big Excel files with macros (we design aircraft in Excel), and ridiculously big Powerpoint presentations. I most likely will not be doing CAD on here. I'm not a fan of integrated graphics, but I also haven't kept up with all the latest mobile technology.

3. Decent processing.
Same as above--big Excel/Powerpoint files, etc. Some MATLAB work also. Any real computational work will be done via ssh/Remote Desktop or my desktop computer at school.

3. Price <$1500, preferably <$1000. If it's something you think will also last me 5+ years (with possibly RAM upgrade or HDD/SSD replacement during that time), I'm willing to go towards the higher end.

4. Preferably not Windows 8 or 8.1. Everyone gets to upgrade to 10 soon, but I've dealt with driver nightmares in the past, and I'd like to minimize this if possible. Perhaps I should wait a few more months for all the laptops out there to be designed around Windows 10?

5. PC only please.

6. Preferably with some ports on the side: VGA, USB 3.0, Ethernet.

7. Preferably with a writeable optical drive.

- Touchscreen is unnecessary. I have a tablet and a smartphone already.
- I am not a gamer (anymore).
- I do not have a personal desktop computer anymore, so this is really somewhat a desktop replacement.



This $839 ASUS laptop has a powerful quad-core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB HDD, as well as a large, high-quality 1080p display - all of which are essential to what you're looking for. It's well below your budget, its CPU is still high-end even with Broadwell i7s out and Skylake mobile coming any day now. Caveats include its 5.4 lb weight, and the inclusion of Windows 8.1 as an OS. However, Windows 8.1 is very stable by now, and driver issues are not to be concerned about if your hardware is also new.