Laptop for University (Information Technology Degree, Budget $1400)

Just seeing if anybody has experience with the degree personally or can recommend a laptop having general knowledge of how taxing any of the software is in the course.

Have a few in mind:

Ideapad S540 $1219
16GB DDR4 3200

Asus Zenbook $1149

Not looking to spend more than $1400.


  • +5 votes

    Any laptop is fine. Macbook is probably better if you do programming because all courses will require some type of linux server or command line use.

    • +1 vote

      I would recommend a macbook also, esp for IT degrees. I also just enjoy using MacOS on a laptop over windows.

    • +2 votes

      Having finishing a comp sci degree recently, the people with affordable Macbooks struggled hard. Especially those with less than 16GB of memory during AI and Data Science classes.

      Either spend big and get a spec'd out Macbook, or get a windows laptop with better specs for the price and use Git Bash + VMs/WSL. Generally there were instructions to setup both OSX and Windows Git Bash in tutorials, so both will work fine as long as it has the grunt.

      The Ideapad S540 is one of the best buys you can get, I would say jump on it. 8 strong cores, 16GB of RAM, 512GB NVMe, QHD screen, not much more you can ask for at that price point.

    • +2 votes

      all courses will require some type of linux server or command line use

      Wouldn't that mean it's better to buy something that actually runs Linux? macOS has "command line" but far from being Linux, if any part of your stack expects a Linux Standard Base installation. Heck, even Windows Linux Subsystem is more Linux than macOS.


        Nah, they show you how to use a VNC client. Most of the uni computers in the computer science labs run Fedora or some other variant.


          Meanwhile mine had iMacs running Windows.


        macOS has "command line" but far from being Linux

        I disagree.

        No one in the industry actually uses Linux as a personal desktop OS.

        Heck, even Windows Linux Subsystem is more Linux than macOS.

        Uh what…


          No one in the industry actually uses Linux as a personal desktop OS

          What "industry"? Plenty of developers use Linux as personal desktop OS. Moreover we aren't talking about personal desktop OS here, but an OS suitable for studying in an InfoTech uni degree.

          Uh what…

          Does macOS

          • Run lsb_release?
          • Run unmodified Linux binaries?
          • Have GNU userland?
          • Provide Linux system calls?

          You don't have to dig much to figure out the vast difference between macOS (Darwin microkernel + Free BSD derived userspace) and GNU/Linux. On the other hand WSL uses virtualisation to bring an actual Linux subsystem in Windows so you get both the Linux kernel + GNU userland.


            @scotty: You're right. 25% of developers use some form of linux. That's surprising to me. I wouldn't recommend it.

    • +1 vote

      Just dual boot Linux and Windows.

  • +1 vote

    I used a surface pro 2 then a surface pro 5 for my CS degree, they were fine.


    Touch screens can make using viewing poorly designed documents easier.

  • +1 vote

    The coursework all depends on the university. I did all the Java/C/SQL coursework fine on an old Windows celeron and that was prior to Windows 10 with Bash Shell. Mac really wasn't necessary


    Would recommend a decent Windows laptop over a mac, purely due to value for money. You can get a Windows one with far better specs for the same price, compared to a mac. If you have a lot of Linux and command line stuff, you can use WSL. Would recommend you to go for at least 16G ram and 512GB NVME m.2 storage. And I strongly recommend investing for a monitor too (even a cheap second hand one) if you don't have one already. Your neck and eyes will be thanking you after sometime.

    I purchased one last month and did some thorough research on it. And finally selected Lenovo E14 Gen2 for $1,072 during black Friday. Now the price is even lesser.

    I purchased this for my home/office use. But I generally use it with considerable loads ie. data science, gaming etc. The biggest complaint I have is the 250 nitts display which was sufficient indoor, yet not that great if you are using it outdoor. This was ranked as the number 1 in the Top 10 Budget Office Notebooks, Budget Office Notebooks in notebook check. You can see the full review here

    + ThinkPad input devices
    + very fast Ryzen 4000 CPUs
    + good expandability
    + quiet cooling system
    + more compact chassis than the predecessor
    + comparably good speakers
    + affordable

    - cheap, below average LCD panel
    - cost-cut port selection
    - no (micro)SD slot
    - not many business features
    - heavy
    - middling battery life
    - heating palm rest under load

  • -1 vote

    Better value getting a desktop…


      christmas is over


    I would definitely recommend a laptop with USB 3.1 and a decent amount of RAM.
    Programming will be via an IDE and this give you the ability to run VMs for Linux (or just use free tier from AWS/Oricle/IBM/../..)
    Check the RAM status, and ensure you can upgrade.

    And if you are doing much AI work on your machine, you are doing it wrong! (says the person who shell scrips document word searches from his machine, as work is too stingy to get an office licence for the server. only 11 tb to search - and counting, each time!


    Either of the laptops you listed will be fine, though I would recommend going for 16GB.

    As for Mac vs Windows, both will be good, it's a matter of personal preference. I've been using Windows 10's WSL2 for the past few years and it's worked for me. The development ecosystem on Mac is also quite solid.

    Keep in mind that you may have a unit to develop an iOS app, which will require a Mac. You may also run into a unit teaching you .net, which requires Windows (unless it's net core). These would be the exception though, C/Java/Python would be more widely used.