Best Laptops For Doctoral Students In 2020

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Searching for the best laptop for doctoral students?

You’re in the right place.

ASUS Zenbook 13 table

In a hurry?
Here’s our Editor’s choice:
ASUS ZenBook 13

The right laptop for you depends on your doctoral degree, but we have found the sweet spot and this guide will tend to people from all disciplines.

Whether you need to write a ton or need a lot of computational power, this guide will give you options that will serve you best.

Without wasting any more time, let’s take a look at the best notebooks for doctoral and research students.

Best Laptops For Research & Doctoral Students

ASUS ZenBook 13
(Editor’s Choice)

ASUS Zenbook 13 table
13.3″ FHD
Intel Core i7

Apple MacBook Pro
(Best Mac Choice)

MacBook pro 13 table
13.3″ Retina
Intel Core i5/i7
8/16GB RAM

Acer Aspire 5
(Best Budget Choice)

Acer aspire 5 table
15.6″ FHD
Intel Core i5

Best Laptop For Doctoral Students – Editor’s Choice

ASUS Zenbook 13

The ASUS ZenBook 13 is our Editor’s choice for the best laptop for doctoral students.

When it comes to power and portability, there are a few laptops that catch our attention. When you add an additional layer of budgeting into the picture, the ASUS ZenBook 13 emerges as a clear winner.

With affordable pricing, this ASUS laptop brings you a horde of hardware features that will give you superior user experience. One excellent processor that is complemented by a more than adequate memory which will give an excellent overall user experience.

As a doctoral student, you might end up writing a lot. The keyboard on the ASUS ZenBook 13 is an extraordinary one. It comes with an excellent layout and has well-spaced keys with good travel. The typing experience on this keyboard is quite pleasant.

The keyboard comes with backlighting which enables you to work in dimly lit rooms. The keyboard does not have a dedicated number pad but it makes up for it with the help of a virtual number pad that appears on the touchpad. This is an innovative step from ASUS and we think we could see this in more laptops in the future.

The touchpad on this laptop is pretty good as well. It has excellent support from all the Windows gestures and you should have a good overall experience.

Let’s talk about the display. We have a 13.3-inch display with full HD resolution. What grabs our attention more than the resolution is the size of the bezels.

ASUS calls it the NanoEdge display. The bezels are shrunk to a point you actually don’t notice them anymore. These thin bezels give the laptop a modern look and will present you with an uninterrupted viewing experience. Thanks to the IPS panel underneath, the display is not just looks.

If you’re looking for a touchscreen on the Asus Zen book 13, prepare to be disappointed.

The ASUS ZenBook 13 is an excellent laptop and it comes to portability. With the weight of just 2.60 lbs, you can easily move this around without feeling any extra baggage. If you are a student who values portability, you will love this laptop.

The battery life of this ASUS laptop is another major selling point. With light use, you should be able to squeeze at least 9 hours of battery life out of this laptop. Even if you’re going to do anything heavy, the laptop will still last for at least 5 to 7 hours which is quite impressive.

The storage on the device is a 512 GB solid-state drive. This SSD it’s a fast one and it comes with amazing reading and writing speeds. You will be able to move even gigabytes of data in a flash.

Another minor drawback of this laptop is the lack of a dedicated graphics card. If your discipline does not require intense competition or graphical work, then you shouldn’t have much of a problem.

Overall, the ASUS ZenBook 13 is a well-rounded laptop that comes ticking all the checkboxes. If you are a doctoral student who needs an affordable and powerful laptop, then this one might be the best choice for you.


Excellent performance
Amazing display
Brilliant battery life


No touchscreen

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Best Mac For Research Students

MacBook pro 13

If you’re a fan of Apple and they looking for a laptop for doctoral studies, then the best choice for you it’s probably the MacBook Pro 13.

Apple recently revamped the MacBook Pro lineup and the 13-inch version got a big bump in terms of hardware and overall performance. This makes the MacBook Pro and even better option for doctoral students.

Let’s start with the design of the laptop. Apple has been known for the design of its laptops and this one fits the bill perfectly. The MacBook Pro 13 is one of the most portable laptops out there and you will love this if you value portability.

Like we discussed earlier, having a good keyboard can sometimes even make or break your entire experience as a doctoral student. Luckily, the MacBook Pro comes with one of the best keyboards out there.

The keys come with good travel and give you an excellent typing experience. The backlighting on the keys on the MacBook Pro is special because each key is individually lighted up. It is very pleasant and makes your working in the dark a bit more enjoyable.

The trackpad on the MacBook Pro is the best you can get on any laptop. It might look like a bold claim but if you take a look at the other laptops, you will know that this is not far from the truth.

The trackpad is huge in size and gives you a lot of space to play with. The gestures on the Mac operating system pretty much drive the entire operating system and with this trackpad, you will have a fine experience.

The display on the MacBook Pro is a 13.3-inch one with a Retina resolution. The Retina resolution is much better than the full HD resolution and is closer to quad HD resolution. You have more than 4 million pixels on the display which makes the picture crisp and delivers amazing quality when it comes to photos as well as videos.

If you are planning to use the MacBook Pro as your media consumption device, you will be a very happy doctoral student. In addition to this extraordinary display, speakers on this laptop are truly amazing. It can fill a medium-sized room with so much sound that you can even throw a party with these speakers alone. The speaker setup is probably the best you’ll find in a 13.3″ laptop.

The processor on the MacBook Pro is an Intel Core i7 chip. This is a pretty good processor and can handle your everyday work routine without any issues. If you’re going to run a lot of resource-hungry applications, be assured that this processor can handle them fine without any issues.

The processor gets ample support from the 16GB RAM in the memory department. Macs are known for their memory management and this one doesn’t falter on that either. You can run multiple apps at the same time and you will not have any performance deterioration of any kind.

The battery life is one of the most important things you need on a student’s laptop. The MacBook Pro comes with all-day battery life with light use. If you’re going to work on something complex, expect that figure to go down but you might still end up with more hours than you’d expect.

Overall, the MacBook Pro is an excellent Apple laptop. It brings portability without compromising on power. If you’re looking for a pristine Apple computing experience while working on your doctorate, then this is clearly one of the best laptops for doctoral students.


Excellent build
Impressive battery life
Amazing performance


Only USB Type C port

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Best Budget Laptop For Doctoral Students

Acer aspire 5

The Acer Aspire 5 laptop is a choice and if you are seeking for a budget laptop for your doctoral studies.

In spite of bearing a budget price tag, the Acer Aspire 5 comes with a neat hard way that gives you solid user experience. For a doctoral student, you will have a laptop that can handle all your everyday needs without any issues.

The display we have here is a 15.6-inch one with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Acer has decided to go with a full HD display even for a budget laptop which is a commendable decision.

We have an IPS panel on board which helps in improving the picture quality in every way possible. The colors are vibrant and you will be surprised how good it is. Thanks to the IPS panel, you also get very good viewing angles so you can now see the same contents on the screen from any corner of the room.

Being a 15.6-inch laptop, the Acer as per five is not as portable as one would want. The bigger form factor brings you a bigger display but also increases the weight you’re going to carry around. If portability is your top priority, then this may not be the right laptop for you.

The processor that powers the Acer aspire five is an Intel Core i5 processor. This is a dual-core processor from mental and it has an impressive job in handling your everyday apps and workflows. There are 8GB of RAM in the memory department and they offer very good support to the processor in giving the user wholesome computing experience.

For storage, we have a solid state drive with a capacity of 256GB. The fact that Acer has decided to go with a solid state drive instead of a hard drive desk is one of the reasons why we prefer this budget laptop over many other models. Having an SSD totally change the way you use your laptop. It is fast and brings a ton of performance improvements across the board.

The Acer Aspire 5 also shines in the battery department. With light use, you should easily get around 6 to 8 hours of battery life which is amazing for a budget laptop. If you’re planning to run heavy applications, the battery life might take a hit but it would still be the best for a budget laptop.

The keyboard and the trackpad on the Acer Aspire 5 are very impressive. The typing experience on this laptop is a pleasant one, thanks to the key travel and the key design. The keyboard also comes with backlighting which is definitely a plus. The trackpad is the standard one and comes with full support for Windows gestures which is nice.

Overall, the Acer Aspire 5 is an impressive budget laptop. If you are a doctoral student who is on a budget, then this laptop might be the perfect choice for you if you’re not willing to compromise on performance.


Budget price
Neat performance
Excellent battery life


None at this price point

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Best 2-in-1 Convertible Laptop For Research Students

Surface Pro 7

The best 2-in-1 convertible laptop for doctoral students is the Microsoft Surface Pro 7.

You want a super portable to win one laptop, then the Surface Pro 7 is probably the best choice out there. At 1.7 lbs, this is the lightest convertible laptop you can find in the market. Just slide it in your backpack and you can get on with your day as if nothing has happened.

The display on the surface pro seven is one of its best features. We have a 12.3-inch display that comes with a resolution that Microsoft calls Pixel Sense resolution. This resolution has 3200 x 1800 pixels and is better than your run of the mill QHD resolution.

This resolution on a smaller display result in an improved PPI which means you will get crystal clear images and super sharp text. The contrast ratio is brilliant and as a result, you can observe millions and millions of colors on this display with true accuracy.

Another major selling point of the Surface Pro 7 is its battery life. With light use, you can easily get around 11 hours of battery life which should last a day and a half with ease. Even if you do something system-intensive, the laptop will still last you for at least five hours which is still crazy good battery life.

Overall, the surface book 7 as an extraordinary two in one convertible laptop. The keyboard of this laptop is not your regular one and that could disappoint some. But when it comes to sheer portability, it is very hard to beat the surface pro seven. Without a doubt, Surface Pro 7 is the best convertible laptop for doctoral and research students.


Super portable
Excellent performance
Incredible battery life


Keyboard might disappoint some

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What To Look For In The Best Laptops For Doctoral Students?

If you’re not content with the options provided above, feel free to find a laptop that suits you more.

But before you select one make sure it fits certain criteria. These criteria make sure that the laptop you select is good enough for your doctoral degree.

They are discussed below.


Being a doctoral student, you will have to move a lot between lectures. The portability of your laptop is very important if that is true in your case.

Picking the right size laptop is crucial because you won’t be able to upgrade the size later. So be sure to go with a size you are comfortable with.

If you value your portability, then we would recommend going with a 13.3-inch laptop. Most 13.3 inch laptops come with a weight of around 3 pounds which is easy to carry around.

If your discipline requires more computational power or a bigger screen, then we would recommend going with a 15.6-inch laptop. You may not have the most portable device on your hands but it is something that your discipline warrants.

While considering portability, be sure to take into account the amount of computational power you need and see if that body can handle the thermals and using a high-end processor.


As a doctoral student, you’re going to spend hours and hours in front of your laptop screen. Getting a good laptop display is as important as any other thing on the laptop.

The first important thing to note about the laptop display is its resolution. As a minimum, we suggest going with a full HD display. This resolution gives you excellent quality pictures and sharp texts.

If you can afford, we recommend going with a QuadHD display as it gives you a better experience when it comes to reading as well as consuming media. Since you’ll be typing a lot, the ability to see crisp text will only improve your user experience.

Make sure that the display comes with an IPS panel. The IPS panel ensures very good images and is responsible for the vibrancy of the picture you see on screen. The IPS panel also delivers excellent viewing angles which you will notice when consuming media or other content.

If you are going to work in a bright environment, then we recommend going for an anti-reflective display. This will help in deflecting reflections from the screen. In simple words, you will not see your reflections on the screen which is a relief in bright environments.

Whether you want a touchscreen or not is dependent on your field. In our opinion, touch screens on laptops do not serve a great purpose unless it’s a convertible laptop. So if you need a touchscreen, make sure you are going with a convertible laptop and not a regular laptop.

Processing Power

Different doctoral students will have different needs when it comes to processing power.

If you are someone who is going to be writing a lot, then you don’t need a lot of processing power. An Intel Core i3 processor will most likely get the job done.

If you’re going to be using a lot of office applications and some specialized applications, then you’re going to need a little more firepower in your arsenal. In this case, and Intel Core i5 processor will make more sense as it brings a little bit more to the table.

If your doctor and green walls a lot of computation, then we would recommend going with an Intel core I seven processor as it brings a lot of power and will help you get things done without making a fuss.

As a general rule, we recommend doctoral students to go with a processor that has 4 cores because dual-core processors may not be as effective in the near future. You can also go for Hexa core processors but that is completely dependent on your requirements.

Intel is not the only maker of processors, so if you want to save some money on CPUs, we advise going with equivalent AMD processors. AMD chips can get quite hot so if you’re going with one, make sure the laptop has good cooling in it.

How much RAM do you need?

The memory you need also depends on your discipline. If you are going to be running a lot of applications side by side, then we do recommend going with a minimum of 8 GB of RAM.

If you are going to be dealing with a lot of complex applications that involve a ton of computations, then 16 GB of RAM would be an ideal minimum. Having some memory left is a great way to make sure that the laptop will not buckle down when it comes to performance.

Keyboard and Trackpad

As a Ph.D. student, you will be writing a lot.

Having a good keyboard on your laptop is one of the most important things you need to be sure of when getting a laptop.

The keyboard should come with a good layout and should have well-spaced keys so that typing on it is easier. Laptop keyboards do not come with good travel so pick one that has decent key travel.

If you’re working on a field that focuses a lot on numbers, make sure that the keyboard comes with a dedicated number pad. Most 13.3-inch laptops do not come with a dedicated number pad. But the ASUS ZenBook 13 comes with a virtual number pad which could come in handy and is a nice innovation.

It is important to have a backlit keyboard in this day and age because you will be working in a dimly lit room at one point or the other.

The trackpad on the laptop must support Windows gestures. The surface of the touchpad should be smooth and should make way for the sliding moment of your fingers without any friction.

Battery Life

Battery life is another crucial aspect of any laptop, especially for students.

if you are someone who moves a lot during the day, then you need a laptop with all-day battery life. This will help you get through your day without having to recharge your laptop again.

Campuses do have charging points but they are usually crowded and chances are, you won’t get one when you need one.

Even if you can’t afford a laptop with all-day battery life, we recommend getting one that gives you at least six hours of battery life. This is a sweet spot as it can give you enough time to recharge your laptop before you need it again.

Battery life can get worse over time. There are a few ways to keep your battery life strong. Make sure you follow them for better user experience.


As a doctoral student, connectivity is very crucial.

Your laptop needs to have the latest ports that can enable you to transfer data and connect with external devices.

Some of the most important ports are the USB type C port, the USB3.0 port, the HDMI port, and the audio jack. There are adapters to make things work but carrying a few adapters all the time can make your life a lot more difficult than it should be.

The laptop should also have Wi-Fi connectivity so that you can connect to the internet and get high speeds without the need for wires. Bluetooth is something you get and every other laptop now which will also be useful in external connectivity.


The budget is probably the most important factor in selecting a laptop. You don’t have to get the best laptop when it comes to your doctoral degree.

Understand the demands of your degree and get a laptop that fulfills it. Not everyone will need a laptop that has all the bells and whistles which can get quite expensive.

If you’re really stuck in a budget, we recommend going with a budget laptop until you can make some money to get a laptop that will help make your workflow better.

That’s all we have for this post.

We believe we help you in making a better decision when it comes to picking the best laptop for doctoral students.

If you are still not able to come to a decision, please get in touch with us so that we can talk and find a laptop that suits you best.

Do visit our website for more useful and elaborate buying guides.

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