Need a Good Laptop for UC Berkeley Engineering

I will be a freshman Materials Science Engineering student at Cal and have used mostly an Acer chromebook for high school work (because of cost and convenience) and another 15.6in HP laptop with i5 processor, for light gaming and miscellaneous stuff.
Anyways I want a laptop:
13-14 inches
good display - like watching movies a lot
decent to strong battery life
touchscreen/2in1 so i can use as tablet and digitalize notes with a pen
fast processor
run engineering programs (MATLAB , CAD, etc…) i’m not really sure what these are lol
light gaming (maybe Fortnite and League of Legends)
don’t want Macbook or chromebooks
the cheaper the better, max budget is around the low thousands
I looked into a few, and the Dell XPS 13 was amazing, but it costs a lot more for 2in1. The HP Spectre 360 13 inch and also the Lenovo Yoga 920 were also really good. SurfaceBook seemed nice, but also a bit costly.

Does anyone have suggestions for a strong, slim, portable, productive laptop that can be used for daily activities as well run software for engineering, particularly materials science (not exactly sure what engineering softwares are needed for the major). Also I don’t want to spend that much if I don’t have too. Please help me!

A fully loaded Dell XPS 15 (9560 version) is what both my kid and I use. Very powerful.

I understand that the Dell XPS is an amazing device. My concerns are:
It might not be able to support engineering programs, a Best Buy salesman said that it couldn’t even support photoshop.
Also I want a 2 in 1 touch screen laptop to use as a tablet.
Also I prefer a 13.3 inch much over a 15inch.
@ProfessorPlum168 do you think the Dell XPS 13 2 in 1 would be still good and affordable?
Does anyone else have any suggestions?
I need to get the laptop ASAP since I will be on vacation soon.

The Dell XPS issue is here:

Looks like a semi-easy fix

Ok, but I feel like it still wouldn’t be good to use as a tablet or for digitizing notes. I also see many reviews that say people get a lot of defective laptops?
anyways @ProfessorPlum168 what were you’re personal experiences (and your kid’s) with the XPS? And is there any other recommendable laptop for my listed qualifications?

My kid loves his XPS. I don’t particularly like the new style of trackpads, I’m so used to the older style trackpad plus raised buttons and eraser heads. It’s very very powerful and fast. I wind up using the screen and finger to move the mouse about 2/3 of the time.

As for a 2 in 1, can’t help you much there. My kid also has the 13 inch iPad Pro with a keyboard case, but I suspect he uses it more to play NBA 2K more than anything.

does anyone else have suggestions?
are Lenovo yoga 920 and hp spectre x360 good?


As of now my top 2 are Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre 13 x360 2 in 1. How important is a 2 in 1 for college? I never tried using a tablet with a pen for digital notes, but is it good?
I don’t think I really need 2 in 1 but it is nice.
Also which is more recommendable of the 2 laptops I suggested and what specific model?
And what specifications do I need for engineering? Like ram, how many gb, I am not really good with all this computer terminology.
Please help!

D graduated EECS not sure about her laptop exactly. She had an Apple. However, she had an external monitor for when she was in her dorm/appt. She wanted a lighter laptop that would be easier to carry around on campus but larger monitor at times was helpful.

thanks for the info. however, I am not really interest in Apple.
I want a light laptop with strong battery life, mostly looking at Dell XPS 13, which is good, and HP Spectre x360, which is also good in every aspect (except I heard bad reviews about the temperature and loud fan noise). I don’t want to get a laptop and end up returning it.
Which is better?

also what specs do I need for engineering? Is 4gb RAM fine and is 128 gb SSD fine as well? Or should I go higher?

BTW XPS 13 is $300 off at Costco currently

A big misconception is how much horsepower you’ll need. Matlab is not that processor intensive and almost 100% of the time all you use the computer for is to display the homework problems you’re working on and googling things for your assignments. I’d go for lighter and better battery life. Walking around is super tiring. A hp spectre x360 is well priced has all the specs you need and is light too. The configuration that would work for all four years in engineering would be a core i5, 256 or 512 gb ssd (use google drive though cause you never know if the computer crashes) and 8gb of ram. 16 is overkill for even engineering students needs. The core i7 is not worth it in an ultraviolet because it is on the Intel 15watt architecture so the difference between an i5 and i7 is negligible. In fact the i7 May run at a lower clock speed due to thermal throttling. I’m a EE and haven’t had any problems not using a workstation laptop. I use a MacBook pro

Thanks for the advice! Is 256gb SSD and 8 gb RAM suitable I guess? The HP Spectre x360 seems like the best choice for me, as it is strong, light, has the option to use the pen and even turn into a tablet! However, on reddit and other places, I see reviews on how the new spectre x360 is good for most things except that it makes a LOUD noise, and can get really HOT sometimes. I am worried about this, and is this something most people get?
This is my main concern. I also see the Lenovo yoga 920 is similar to the Spectre x360, would it be good as well?
The Dell XPS 13 is also my top choice, it is a bit costly though.

@SREE33 For best reliability and build quality buybthe yoga 920. Do the i5 256 8gb. There’s lots of salesin Lenovo’s website. You’ll be good to go for 4 years. The watchband hinge on Lenovo’s yoga is fantastic

Do you have any experience or info about the Yoga 920, and why it would be better than a XPS or Spectre x360? Also would be fine for engineering programs?

@SREE33 Look at reputable tech reviewers online. They are all about the same in terms of performance. And yes you can run “Engineering” programs just fine. You’ll find most Homework is all just by hand. Matlab maybe the most intensive thing you do. And that’s not intensive at all.

Lenovo yoga 920 seems good but also a bit costlier than the spectre. Also, is it better to get a 2 in 1 or traditional laptop?
I am interested in watching movies, so either laptop style is fine, but I don’t know if taking digital notes on a tablet with a pen is good for me.

That you would have to decide. Like I said earlier both laptops are fine it’ll be up to what you think feels nicer to use. Go to bestbuy to try them out. Most students will find notebooks just easier to take notes on as they’re fool proof. Plus if a prof has an open note exam you can’t bring a laptop only paper notes