Laptops for Data Scientists and Big Data Analysts

Data Science Laptop

Today’s laptops are all becoming smaller in the name of portability.  The knock on effect is that computational power is reduced. However, many big data use cases require the power to run computationally heavy tasks such as high memory simulations or big multi core data analytics. In these cases the low power processors won’t cut it. Here we look at powerful laptops, with high memory and fast processors.

With the release of Intel’s Skylake line-up a mobile version of the Xeon processor range was released. Traditionally only found in big server farms, the Xeon processor opens up, not just more computational power, but access to more memory also. It’s not all about Xeon though. The top end of Intel’s i7 range (even pre Skylake) offer exceptional performance, and some great savings can be made here.

In this review we’re going to focus on laptops with fast processors and lots of memory. Unlike a gaming environment we’re less concerned with GPU performance here (although worth noting). Also, whilst these computers are laptops, they going to be larger than those found on the ultra portable market today.

All of the laptops we discuss here feature multicore processors. Remember that, whilst all contemporary operating systems support multi core CPUs, the software you are running (or more likely, writing), needs to parralelize its computation. If you are restricted to single core execution then you need to look at the single core performance of the laptop’s CPU.

There many good laptops out there. We’ve selected the Lenovo laptop as the Thinkpad range has always been a workhorse, the MSI laptops because MSI have been building exceptional performance laptops for a while now and a MacBook Pro because many coders will be wanting to work on OSX.

Lenovo Thinkpad P70 – A beast with monster memory!

Lenovo Laptop for Data Scientists
Lenovo Laptop for Data Scientists

The Lenovo is the newest laptop on test here and sports a 17.3inch display. It features either a 6th gen i7 processor or the 6th gen Xeon mobile processor (specifically the E3-1505M v5 unit with variable clocking up to 3.70 Ghz). It holds up to 64GB of ECC DDR4 ram, a monstrous amount of memory. This is more than enough more the most insane of analytics tasks – if you need more than this then either there is something wrong with your code, or you are working on such large datasets that a large compute server is the only way.

Quite honestly this laptop is a processing beast, and has a beastly price tag to match. If a 17inch display is what you are after you may wish to look towards the lower end of the range which still features an i7-6700HQ Quad core and still be configured up to 64GB of memory.

The little brother to the P70 is the Lenovo Thinkpad P50. Still with a Xeon option and loads of memory, the P50 has a 15.6inch display, but comes in at with a cheaper price tag.

Click here to see the Lenovo on Amazon (US)


MSI W range with 6th gen Intel processors

MSI Laptop for Data Scientists
MSI Laptop for Data Scientists

Advertised as a workstation laptops, the W range offer serious power. The range gives you both Intel i5/i7 and Intel Xeon processor options. Amazon has a convenient browser (click here to see it) that makes it easy to see the differences between models.

The WT72 6QJ model comes with an Intel i7 6700HQ clocked at 2.6GHz and 16GB of memory (although across the W range you can select up to 64GB). Your data is held on an NVMe pCIe SSD which MSI say is 5x faster than other SSDs. Like most, the machine had a 17 inch display with a graphics card kicking loads of grunt. You’ll inevitably be moving large datasets about across your network so it is handy that this laptop has gigabit Ethernet on top of all the usual ports.

The price tag is much more modest here at around the $2000 mark, depending upon the model you chose. MSI have been making performance laptops for a long time now and they know what they are doing. With MSI you get good power, but also good value.

Click here to see the MSI on Amazon


MSI GE72 – Budget price with premium power

Great value performance laptop
Great value performance laptop

This MSI holds a 4th generation Intel i7 processor. Whilst this is a few generations behind the current Skylake range (6th gen) don’t thing it is sluggish – it even beats some of the 6th gen processors in performance (although power consumption is generally higher). For $899 on Amazon you score a quad core i7-4720HQ with 12GB of memory, 1TB of storage and a 17 inch display. The processor scores 8110 on the PassMark score sheet across its 4 cores, which is higher than the current i7-6700HQ featured in the laptops above (7982).

This laptop isn’t going to have the latest features, but at this price you are getting some very decent performance and this would make a great data analytics laptop.

Click here to see it on Amazon


15 inch Macbook Pro – Good looks, OSX and good performance

Apple Laptop for Data Scientists
Apple Laptop for Data Scientists

Not all the powerful machines are a bit weird. A good old Macbook Pro offers some great performance, and if OSX is the way you like to go this one is for you. Look to the 15 inch Macbook Pro range and you’ll find a laptop with an SSD, 16GB of memory and a Quad core Intel i7-4770HQ which has a PassMark score of 8964. The build quality is obviously fantastic given it’s an Apple machine.

Click here to see the Macbook Pro on Amazon


If you were to ask us, we’d take the MSI laptop with the 4th gen i7 processor. For $899 it is hard to find a better deal for this performance. There are other laptops out there though, so do your research and pick one that works for you.


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