Help Me, LAPTOP: Comp Sci Major Needs a Notebook

When you're shopping for a college laptop, you need to look for something that is durable, has a good keyboard and screen for writing papers, and provides the performance you need for your major. Forum user Taylornicole is planning to start college in the fall and looking for a sub-$1,200 laptop that will last through four years of computer science study. Taylor is considering a 14-inch Lenovo Flex 5 2-in-1, because there's an optional active stylus that makes it easy to take notes in class.

We haven't reviewed the Flex 5 yet, but it does offer a lot of value for the money. Right now, is selling the bend-back convertible with a Core i7-7500U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1920 x 1080 display, Nvidia GTX 940MX graphics, and a 128GB SSD and 1TB hard drive combo. The Lenovo Active Pen costs another $39.

The Flex 5's specs are more than adequate for editing code or compiling software, two common computer science tasks. However, we haven't tested this laptop's battery and can't vouch for its endurance. Lenovo claims 8 hours, but manufacturer estimates like that are usually best-case scenarios. We don't know, either, if the keyboard on the Flex 5 is exceptionally good.

For a long school day, we'd like to see a laptop getting more than 9 hours on the Laptop Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi. If Taylornicole is willing to consider a traditional clamshell laptop rather than a 2-in-1, we have a few suggestions that get significantly longer battery life than the Flex 5. 

The Dell XPS 13 starts at just $799, weighs a mere 2.7 pounds (which is a pound less than the Flex 5) and lasts nearly 14 hours on a charge. It has a fantastic, nearly bezel-free display; a speedy PCIe SSD; and a full array of ports, including both Thunderbolt 3 and classic USB 3.0 connections.]

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Starting at $881, the Lenovo ThinkPad T470 has one of the best keyboards of any laptop and, with its extended battery, lasts over 17 hours on a charge. This 14-inch laptop is built to be durable and has passed MIL-SPEC and Lenovo proprietary tests that show the machine can survive shocks, vibrations, bumps and limited drops. With its larger battery, the T470 weighs 3.9 pounds, just a little bit more than the 3.7-pound Flex 5.

If Taylornicole definitely wants a 2-in-1, then the $1,099 HP Spectre x360 is also a great choice. Our favorite 2-in-1 overall, the 13-inch x360 has a gorgeous display, speedy PCIe SSD and comfy keyboard. Best of all, it gets over 10 hours on a charge and weighs just 2.9 pounds.

The Lenovo Flex 5 is certainly a great deal, but these others choices offer longer battery life and are lighter. Any of the laptops we mentioned, when configured with a Core i5 or Core i7 CPU, at least 8GB of RAM, a 1080p screen, and an SSD, would be powerful enough for computer science study.

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.