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Best laptops for computer science and programming students

Computer science and programming students spend long days in front of a screen analyzing and creating code; they can work to complete projects from just about anywhere, and they don’t want to be slowed down when testing their creations. Finding a laptop that’s powerful enough to handle the workload, portable enough to carry around everywhere, and long-lasting enough to not require charging every couple of hours is key.

With these qualifications in mind, Dell’s XPS 13 Plus (9320), HP’s Spectre x360 13.5, and Microsoft’s Surface Pro 8 are all top picks for computer science and programming students.

Dell XPS 13 Plus (9320)

Dell XPS 13 Plus (9320)

Best Ultrabook for computer science students

Reasons to buy

  • New keyboard, haptic touchpad, capacitive function buttons
  • Stunning looks and design
  • Beautiful display options
  • 16:10 display aspect ratio, thin bezel
  • Strong performance from 12th Gen Intel Core CPUs

Reasons to avoid

  • Webcam still at 720p
  • Can get expensive

The XPS 13 Plus (9320) is a fantastic pick if you want to stick with a non-convertible PC. The XPS 13 Plus is a recent refresh of a laptop we already loved. In his Dell XPS 13 (9310) review, Executive Editor Daniel Rubino made it clear that this was the best-looking laptop on the market with the features and performance to back up its appearance.

Major changes to the laptop for this generation include a new keyboard and touchpad, improved webcam, more speakers, and better performance. The keyboard now stretches from edge to edge thanks to larger keycaps, with almost no space between the keys. Below, the touchpad hides beneath a full glass palmrest for a seamless look. Instead of a real physical click, the touchpad uses haptic feedback for a natural feel. The keyboard now has capacitive function buttons to boot.

Underneath the keyboard are two extra top-firing speakers to join the down-firing audio. Although the camera is still set at a 720p resolution, the RGB and IR portions are now separated for a better overall image.

Performance is stellar thanks to Intel’s 12th Gen mobile CPUs, nearly doubling what the previous XPS was capable of in some cases. LPDDR5x-5200MHz RAM is much faster, as is PCIe 4.0 storage. You’re going to be able to cut through any standard work with this laptop, and the battery will get you through a day of lectures.

Displays are the same as the previous generation, with multiple FHD+, UHD+, and 3.5K OLED options. We’ve used a bunch of these screens and they all look great thanks to plenty of brightness, accurate color reproduction, and Dolby Vision in the high-end panels. This is the best Dell laptop out there right now, and it will make a great partner for college students.

If you’re not looking to spend quite as much, the Dell XPS 13 (9315) is a more affordable alternative that continues the traditional design and feature set. Check out our XPS 13 Plus (9320) vs. XPS 13 (9315) comparison for more details in the next post.

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