B-school laptop

Feedback from current MBA students appreciated!

I'm looking for a b-school laptop and narrowed my choices to two: Dell XPS 13 or Surface Pro 4

Surface pros:
- Lighter
- Pen support/tablet form factor

Surface cons:
- Bad battery life
- Limited ports

So, how important is battery life at b-school? And is note taking on tablet practical, or is it just a gimmick? Thanks.

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Comments (38)

May 3, 2017 - 8:53am

I use a surface pro.

In battery saver mode I can get 6+ hours out of it using web-based apps.

The limited ports is a hassle so I have a mini-ITX build at home I use for the heavy stuff (photo editing, etc)


May 3, 2017 - 9:19am

Same boat as you guys. Does anyone know if there's really an advantage for having an i7 processor over i5? And 16gb of memory over 8gb? Particularly for excel/finance work. The value doesn't seem to justify the price differences, especially for 2 years of bschool...

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May 3, 2017 - 9:40am

Same boat as well. Read about a lot of problems with the XPS so avoiding that one, haven't looked at the Surface Pro as I'd prefer to use a proper laptop rather than a 2in1. I'm going to buy a Lenovo T470 on student discount, check it out.

And yes I'll be getting i7 and 16gb I would definitely get the RAM for future proofing, processor depends more what you plan to use it for beyond excel and word.

May 3, 2017 - 12:25pm

What have you heard about XPS 13? All reviews I've seen were stellar. I'm leaning towards the QHD-512GB-16GB model.

I am also tempted to go with SP4 but they say battery life is just terrible. I wonder how many hours of battery life is needed for b-school.

May 3, 2017 - 1:18pm

I bought an XPS 13 when I went to MBA like 5 years ago and still use it. If you go down that path, would suggest you look at buying refurb with some serious coupon.

May 3, 2017 - 2:01pm

Wouldn't get a surface unless you have a tower/other computer at home with full monitors/keyboard/mouse/etc when you actually need to grind something out, but for class, the surface is great. If you love traditional keyboards or only want to have one computer, I'd go with the XPS or another ultrabook. They're powerful enough and have enough ports that you can plug in enough shit at home for it to function as a desktop.

May 3, 2017 - 2:23pm

Frankly it depends on what you need it to run. Personally I'm a gamer so I have a gaming desktop at home in case I had to time to play some AAA games, but I also bought an ASUS UX305ua back in college since I had an alienware and needed something more portable and still strong enough.

Finance and Excel work shouldn't be too cpu intensive, and an integrated gpu would be fine. 8gbs of ram is more than enough unless you're doing some sas/spss/matlab heavy modeling. Difference between i5 and i7 is minimal especially at lower versions, e.g. 7200u. Both are quard cores.

Some laptops you might want to look into are the ASUS UX series, the Spectre x360, xps 13, Lenovo Yoga, etc. I personally wouldn't get the Surface Pro since I don't see myself ever needing the tablet mode, and it's comparatively underpowered and overpriced over its competitors.

I should note that unless you desperately need and use it, try not to get touchscreen as you would want a matte IPS screen that doesn't reflect light.

Edit: If money is not much of an issue I would go with the XPS 13 for the thunderbolt, good amount of ssd storage, and the overall sexy sleek look.

May 3, 2017 - 2:52pm

Ok, I also read online that the i7 is not significantly more powerful than the i5 and that 8gb of RAM should suffice for bschool.

I actually got both the HP Spectre x360 13" (4K screen, i7, 16gb RAM, 512gb SSD) and the new Lenovo Yoga 720 13" (i5, 8gb RAM, 256gb SSD) and will be playing around with them for the next two weeks before returning one. So far though, despite the x360's stunning screen and build quality, I'm not sure it's worth double the price of the Yoga 720 ($1600 vs. $800). However, the x360 is fairly future-proof - then again, how long will these machines even last?

Laptop shopping has been surprisingly stressful lmao.

May 3, 2017 - 2:58pm

Tell me about it. Took me three months to decide on a gaming laptop back in my freshmen year of college, granted my budget was like $1k so could only afford entry level lenovo y510s/msi ge.

I would recommend not getting the 4k on a 13" laptop. Despite all the glamour, human eyes really can't tell the differences between 4k and 1920 x 1080 from a distance in a small monitor, let alone the lack of sources that support 4k to begin with aside from like Netflix.


Surprisingly a good laptop should last you at least 5-7 years, unless if you constantly need to upgrade it to play games but then you wouldn't get an ultrabook to begin with.

May 3, 2017 - 5:38pm

most people at my M7 school use lenovo X1 carbons, Dell xps 13s, or macbooks. I personally have an x1 carbon and recommend it highly.

May 3, 2017 - 6:22pm

Reliability matters. Macbook ThinkPad and pro laptops are generally safe bets.

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May 4, 2017 - 3:25am

Mixed stories. I've been using a MacBook for university and it has its pros and cons. Biggest con for me was having to use Excel and other Windows programs with the Mac keyboard. Biggest pros were its obvious ease of use, speed and battery life.

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May 9, 2017 - 12:56am

I use my MacBook Pro and I am quite happy with it. I use Mac Excel for ~90% of my work and have parallels and a keyboard at home for the ~10% of stuff that requires more heavy duty modeling. Mac excel sucks in general, but I like everything else about my Mac enough that it makes up for the occasional hiccups in excel. That being said, if you are not skilled with PC excel, I might suggest going with a PC so you can get better with shortcuts etc. that will be useful during internships and post-MBA (depending on what your plans are.

Also - my school has a "layflat" policy where you can only use tablets for a lot of classes, so I use an iPad + apple pencil for notetaking. Yes, I realize I could use an all-in-one instead, but I am enough of an Apple fanboy to not care about carrying around both.

May 5, 2017 - 1:12am

I have a Yoga (2015 edition) that has worked well for me. I'm in law school but did take a few finance courses in the MBA program.

May 4, 2017 - 5:21pm

Not in bschool, but I recently got a Dell XPS 1500 and it rocks. The i7 processor is so fast and has a large amount of storage, I forgot, but I have roughly 100 movies, music, pictures and a lot of school work on it. I would advise against a mac for excel reasons, but overall this is a tier 1 computer I am typing on! Fast, powerful, light, and durable.

May 5, 2017 - 1:34am

If you're into an option that will bear years of abuse, give you i5/i7 intel chips, 8 gigs of ram, FHD screen, 16-17 hour battery, 12.5" FHD screen and other amazing specifications go for the Lenovo Thinkpad X260/270.
Make sure that you get the one with the 1920x1080 screen and 6 cell Li-ion add-in (instead of standard 3-cell).
This has by far been one of my best life decisions.

May 9, 2017 - 1:33pm

Currently use XPS 13 and about to start B-school this fall. Have had no problems so far and consider it the best laptop I've ever had. I can't talk on how the surface laptop is but if your looking for a super light, quick processing and battery life, can't go wrong with the XPS 13. Only thing i don't like is that the camera is on the lower bottom left hand camera of the screen, so Skype sessions could be awkward.

May 10, 2017 - 7:29pm

Dell Latitudes or Surface Pro (if you like the tab experience and can't live without it).

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