Help Me, Laptop! What’s the Best Notebook for an Engineering Student?

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help me ltp leadIt's a reasonable expectation that if someone is shopping for a gaming laptop, they want a system that can pump out consistently solid frame rates. But our forum user Collin0599 is also looking to do some CAD/design modeling as an aerospace engineering major.

For Collin, this notebook also needs to be affordable, which is why he's narrowed down his choices to  the Lenovo Legion Y520 (starting at $849) and the HP Omen 15 (starting at $899).

First off, Collin, congratulations on your choice of major. Now let's get down to the nitty-gritty and help you choose the best laptop for you.

Design

While both the Legion Y520 and the Omen 15 are swathed in faux carbon fiber, I prefer the Y520. It has a better feel than the Omen 15. I'm also not particularly enthralled with the Omen 15's chrome-painted plastic hinges. The laptops are on a par in terms of weight and dimensions: The Y520 is 15 x 10.4 x 1 inches and 5.6 pounds, and the Omen 15 is 15.1 x 9.9 x 1 inches and 5.8 pounds.

The Y520 also gets my vote when it comes to ports, as it adds the newer USB Type-C port to the usual line of slots, jacks and ports.

MORE: Here Are the Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,000

Display

One of Collin0599's key concerns is the display. The Omen 15's panel can reproduce 71 percent of the sRGB gamut, which is better than the Y520's 68 percent. Averaging 247 nits, the Omen 15 is also brighter than the Y520 (220 nits) but below the 278-nit average.

Performance

The Y520 and the Omen 15 can be configured with similar specs. While I don't have an apples-to-apples comparison of both systems, I can still give you a solid picture of what to expect. In terms of gaming, the Omen 15 and its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 2GB of VRAM notched 43 frames per second on the budget version of the Rise of the Tomb Raider test (1080p with high settings and SMAA anti-aliasing), while the Y520 (GTX 1050 Ti with 4GB of VRAM) hit 46 fps.

Both systems are equipped with a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, but the version of the Omen we reviewed has 8GB of RAM, compared with the Y520's 16GB of RAM.

On our Geekbench 4 synthetic performance test, the Y520 scored 13,037, while the Omen delivered 11,769. On the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, where a laptop is tasked with pairing 20,000 names and addresses, the Y520 finished in 3 minutes and 19 seconds, compared with the Omen 15’s 3 minutes and 48 seconds.

MORE: Best Laptops for College Students

For file-transfer speeds, the Y520's 256GB PCIe solid-state drive (with a 2TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive) duplicated 4.97GB of mixed media files in 14 seconds, for a rate of 363.5 megabytes per second. The Omen 15 and its 1TB, 7,200-rpm hard drive delivered a measly 42.4 MBps. The Omen, however, can be configured with several PCIe storage options (128GB to 512GB), which should deliver faster speeds.

Battery Life

If you're looking to take your laptop on the road, the Omen 15 is the way to go. The notebook lasted 5 hours and 34 minutes on our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi). That’s short of the 7:06 mainstream average, but much better than the 3:39 from the Y520.

Price and Configuration Options

The base configurations of both laptops are below $900. The $849 base model of the Y520 has a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM; a 1TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive; and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM. The $899 base model of the Omen 15 offers a more powerful 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7 CPU; 8GB of RAM; a 1TB, 7,200-rpm hard drive; and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 2GB of VRAM.

If you need a little more oomph, there's the $1,249 premium iteration of the Y520, with its 2.8-GHZ Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU; 16GB of RAM; and a 256GB PCIe SSD with a 2TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive. This configuration also comes with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU and a 1920 x 1080 panel.

The Omen 15 is a little pricier, at $1,349. But it features a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 128GB PCIe SSD with a 2TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive. The price also includes an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with a sharp 3840 x 2160 display.

Bottom Line

On paper, the HP Omen 15 and the Lenovo Legion Y520 are fairly similar. But ultimately, for Collin0599's needs, I'm going to recommend the HP Omen 15. It has a better display and longer battery life. In terms of performance, you can configure the system to have specs similar to the Y520’s for $1,389.

However, the $1,249 iteration of the Legion Y520 is cheaper and offers more power at the expense of the display and the subpar battery life. Overall, the Omen 15 is a solid, affordable choice for school as well as extracurricular activities.