Laptops

5 Best Laptops For GIS: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

As anyone who works in the GIS field will tell you, your laptop matters. Nobody wants their system to crash or hang when they’re trying to process large datasets because of inadequate hardware.

That’s why we’ve picked out the best laptops for GIS and reviewed, rated, and compared them below. If you’re looking for a laptop that works well with GIS, you’ll find it here.

Every laptop in this list is capable of handling the demands of GIS data and will meet the minimum system requirements for ArcGIS, Maptitude, QGIS, or whatever your GIS software of choice is.

Image

Product Name

Operating System

RAM

Graphics /GPU

Screen Size

Battery Life

Check Price

Huawei MateBook X Pro Signature Edition Thin...

Windows 10 Home

16 GB

NVIDIA GeForce MX150

13.9 inches

15 hours (web browsing)

Asus ZenBook 14 Ultra-Slim Laptop 14” Full...

Windows 10 Pro

16 GB

GeForce MX250

14 inches

N/A

Microsoft  Surface Pro 6 (Intel Core i5, 8GB...

Windows 10 Home

8GB

Intel UHD Graphics 620

12.3 inches

13.5 hours (video playback)

Apple MacBook Pro (13-Inch, 8GB RAM, 256GB...

Mac

8GB

Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655

13 inches

10 hours

Asus Vivobook S14 S432 Thin and Light 14”...

Windows 10 Home

8GB

Intel UHD Graphics 620

14 inches

N/A


Understanding GIS

GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. It’s a technological field in which geographical features are combined with tabular data to better visualize, map, and analyze information. You can think of it kind of like a cross-over between a map and a database.

Businesses across the globe increasingly rely on GIS to inform their decisions. It’s used in all kinds of industries in all kinds of different ways.

For example, in a healthcare setting, it might be used to help decision-makers to visualize vulnerable populations and monitor the spread of disease across a geographical area. In policing, it might be used to identify areas of high crime using hot spot analysis.

Retail businesses might use GIS to find suitable sites for their new store location by evaluating data points like population size. I could go on.

The point is, GIS is everywhere, and GIS professionals are in demand. However, if you want to work with professional GIS software, you’ll need a laptop with the right specs first. 


Recommended Laptop Specs for GIS

Your laptop will need to meet certain minimum system requirements to run GIS software properly. Different software systems have different recommended specs, but the specs below should be sufficient for pretty much all of them.

Processing Power/Clock Speed

I’d recommend choosing a laptop with a CPU clock speed of at least 2.5 GHz, or as much as you can afford. The clock speed is an indicator of the processor’s performance and measures the number of cycles it can process per second. The higher the clock speed, the better the performance.

ArcGIS lists a minimum system requirement of 2.2GHz clock speed. However, I’d suggest shooting for 2.5GHz to ensure it remains compatible across all different CIS software now and in the future.

RAM

You’ll want to choose a laptop with at least 16GB RAM if possible. Having 16GB of RAM will be sufficient for you to complete most day-to-day GIS tasks while also running other programs or browsing the web at the same time, without putting too much strain on your system

If budget constraints make 16GB out of the question, you might be able to get away with 8GB at an absolute minimum. However, you might find that struggle to run intensive GIS data processes and complex spatial analysis if you have other tabs open at the same time.

Graphics Card/GPU

Your GPU isn’t super important unless you plan on working within a 3D GIS environment. The most important thing is that your graphics card is compatible with the software you’re using. ArcGIS, for example, recommends a GPU with 1GB RAM and supports NVIDIA, ATI, and Intel chipsets.

A better graphics card will help with certain tasks, like 3D rendering and ‘big data’ analysis. If you know you’re working in these areas, you'll need to pay more attention to the GPU. However, in most cases, any graphics card should work.

That said, I’d recommend aiming for a laptop with a dedicated NVIDIA GPU, such as the GTX 1060 or MX150, over an integrated GPU if possible.

Processor

The processor (CPU) plays a big part in the overall performance of your laptop. It’s the main chip in the computer that’s responsible for performing all the calculations needed to operate it. The best processor for GIS would be a multi-core Intel i7 7th Gen processor or better. Any later i7 generations, or an i9 processor, would be even better if you can afford it.

Storage Space

When you’re working with GIS data, you need plenty of storage space to keep it all in. HDDs (hard-disk drives) tend to offer more storage space for a lower price, but I wouldn’t recommend them.

It’s better to go for an SSD drive over an HDD as it'll give you a significant performance boost when you're launching your GIS software, even if that means you have to settle for less space.

If you can’t afford a decent-sized SSD, you can use a bog-standard second/external hard drive to store your data and your smaller SSD as your boot drive. The bottom line: just get an SSD with as much memory as possible within your budget.

Battery Life

Another relevant laptop spec to consider is battery life. There are no minimum battery life requirements to work with GIS software, but it's important nonetheless.

Having more battery life means you can work for longer on the go without having to worry about finding a power outlet to recharge. This is especially important for us as GIS work tends to use up a lot of power and can drain your battery quickly—the greater the battery life, the better. Anything over 8 hours is reasonably good.

Extra Features

Other features you might want to consider are the weight and portability of the laptop, ports, screen size/resolution, and operating system. Make sure you choose a laptop with an OS that’s supported by your GIS software, think about how many USB ports you need, and what kind of screen you like to work with.

Price & Warranty

And of course, don’t forget about the price. A good GIS laptop is likely to set you back around $1,000-$1,500. At the lower end, you can get reasonable budget options for $500-$1000. Set a budget and compare your options within that price range to find the best deal. You’ll find some options in both price ranges below.

Most laptops will come with some kind of manufacturer’s warranty. Check the small print and make sure you understand how much cover you’re entitled to, and for how long.


5 Best Laptops for GIS Reviewed

1. Huawei MateBook X Pro

Huawei MateBook X Pro Signature Edition Thin...
  • World's First FullView Display: Immersive...
  • Powerful Inside: Windows 10 Home Signature...
  • Home Theater: 3K touchscreen with 3, 000 x 2,...
  • One Touch Power Button: Enabling users to...

Our top pick

Operating System

Windows 10 Home

Processor

i7

RAM

16 GB

Graphics/GPU

NVIDIA GeForce MX150

Screen Size

13.9 inches

Battery Life

15 hours (web browsing)

Our top pick for the best GIS laptop has to be the Huawei Matebook X Pro. This is Huawei’s answer to the MacBook and is almost as good with a similar build but for a fraction of the price.

In terms of specs, it knocks it out of the park. The 8th gen Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB RAM ensures excellent performance and is more than sufficient for even the most demanding GIS tasks. It also has a discrete NVIDIA GeForce MX150, which is perfect for graphic design work, GIS work, and gaming.

The 13-9 inch 3k touchscreen display is stunning with excellent viewing angles, and the ultra-thin bezels ensure you get to enjoy that screen to the fullest.

Another neat feature I like is the one-touch power button, which powers up your laptop and logs you in less than 8 seconds so you can spend less time logging in and more time working. It’s a great way to maximize your productivity.

The MateBook X Pro also has a ton of battery life thanks to the monstrous 57.4 Wh battery packed in. It lasts around 15 hours of continuous web browsing, so it should last at least a full day of GIS work.

If you’re using this to work from home and plan on having conference calls, you’ll appreciate the recessed pop-up camera which pops up only when you need it and disappears out of sight when you don't, to ensure privacy.

The only downside I’ve found so far with this laptop is the precision touchpad. It seems to feel kind of ‘cheap’ compared to what I’d have expected and tends to rattle when you click it. Nonetheless, overall, it’s a fantastic laptop that represents excellent value.

Good
  • Powerful processor
  • Lots of RAM
  • Discrete GPU
  • Great battery life
  • Stunning display
Bad
  • Touchpad rattles
  • The laptop seems to get hot quickly

2. Asus ZenBook 14

Asus ZenBook 14 Ultra-Slim Laptop 14” Full...
  • Innovative screen pad: 5.65-Inch interactive...
  • App switcher on screen pad: easily move...
  • Handwriting on screen pad: take note or jot...
  • Number key on screen pad: turn screen pad...

Most portable laptop for GIS

Operating System

Windows 10 Pro

Processor

i7

RAM

16 GB

Graphics/GPU

GeForce MX250

Screen Size

14 inches

Battery Life

N/A

Next up, we have the Asus ZenBook 14” laptop. If you’re looking for the most portable laptop for GIS, this is it. It’s an ultra-compact and lightweight (just 2.8lbs) laptop with a bunch of features that make it perfect for GIS work on the go.

The most interesting of these features is the innovative ‘ScreenPad,' a 5.65-inch interactive touchscreen that replaces the standard trackpad seen on most laptops. Instead of using your touchpad to scroll your cursor around the page, it acts as a secondary display.

You can use it to control your laptop, draw on it, handwrite on it, switch between apps, use it as a numeric keypad, and much more. All that extra touch screen workspace enhances productivity so you can get more GIS work done, faster.

Despite being so portable, you still get a lot of screen space to work with too. The thin bezels and four-sided NanoEdge design ensure you get the most screen space in the most compact size, with a 92% screen-to-body ratio.

Aside from all that, it also boasts a powerful Intel i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a dedicated GeForce MX250 graphics card - everything you need and more in a high-performance GIS laptop. It doesn’t state it’s battery life in the product listing, but my best guess is that it lasts around 8 - 8.5 hours of continuous web surfing, which isn’t bad.

All things considered, I’m surprised that this laptop is available for under $1,250. It’s excellent value.

Good
  • Excellent internal specs
  • Good screen-to-body ratio
  • ScreenPad technology
  • Very compact & lightweight
Bad
  • Mediocre speakers
  • Mediocre battery life

3. Microsoft Surface Pro 6

On Sale Today
Microsoft  Surface Pro 6 (Intel Core i5, 8GB...
  • A best in class laptop with the versatility...
  • More power now with the new 8th Generation...
  • Ultra slim and light, starting at just 1.7...
  • All day battery life, with upto 13.5 hours of...

Best cheap GIS laptop

Operating System

Windows 10 Home

Processor

i5

RAM

8GB

Graphics/GPU

Intel UHD Graphics 620

Screen Size

12.3 inches

Battery Life

13.5 hours (video playback)

If the two laptops above are out of your price range, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 might be your best option. Currently available for under $800, this is probably the best cheap GIS laptop on the market right now.

The internal specs aren’t quite up to par with the Asus ZenBook and Huawei MateBook X Pro, but they should be good enough for GIS work in most cases.

The processor is an 8th gen Intel core i5. I would have preferred an i7, but at least it’s 8th gen. It has 8GB RAM, which is more than the minimum required for most GIS software systems. 16GB might have been nicer, but considering the price, 8GB is plenty.

The GPU doesn’t matter so much if you’re not planning on doing any 3D GIS work, so the integrated Intel UHD graphics should be sufficient. The SSD is speedy, which is great news, and if 128GB of memory isn’t enough, you can always use an external hard drive to offload some of your data.

The best thing about the Surface Pro, though, is its versatility. It’s kind of like a cross-over between a tablet and a laptop, with the best of both worlds.

You can open the kickstand and attach the type cover to use it in laptop mode, close it to use it in tablet mode, or lower the kickstand to 15 degrees to use it in 'studio mode.' It’s great for GIS professionals and students who are looking for something portable.

Overall, I’d recommend this Microsoft Surface Pro 6 laptop for GIS students or anyone working with a limited budget. 

Good
  • Versatile
  • Switch between laptop and tablet mode
  • Good value for money
  • Excellent battery life
Bad
  • Mediocre CPU & GPU
  • Limited RAM
  • Small screen

4. New Apple MacBook Pro

On Sale Today
Apple MacBook Pro (13-Inch, 8GB RAM, 256GB...
  • 2.4 GHz 8th-Generation quad-core Intel Core...
  • Brilliant Retina Display with True Tone...
  • Touch Bar and Touch ID
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655

Best apple laptop for GIS

Operating System

Mac

Processor

i5

RAM

8GB

Graphics/GPU

Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655

Screen Size

13 inches

Battery Life

10 hours

So far, we’ve only looked at laptops with Windows operating systems. If you prefer to work with Mac OS, then you might want to go for the New Apple MacBook Pro instead.

This MacBook is built for productivity. It has a blazing fast SSD that makes quick work of booting up your GIS software and data, four ultra-versatile Thunderbolt 3 ports for rapid data transfer and charging, touch ID for faster logins, and an innovative 'Touch Bar' to boost productivity. 

The Touch Bar itself is probably my favorite feature of this laptop. It replaced the (largely useless) function keys that usually sit at the top of your keyboard with something much more useful.

The TouchBar automatically adapts and changes to give you touch access to relevant tools, like volume controls, brightness controls, predictive text, and more. You can use it to rewind or fast-forward movies, switch between open browser tabs, change font colors, and much more.

The butterfly keyboard is a nice touch too. It provides four times the key stability than traditional keyboards and feels great beneath your fingers. All these little things add up to really help with your workflow productivity.

In terms of specs, You can choose between a 1.4GHz and a 2.4GHz quad-core i5 processor; I’d recommend the latter as 2.2GHz clock speed is the minimum required for ArcGIS. An i7 or later processor might have been nicer, but if you’re set on getting a Mac and have budget constraints, this might be your best option.

The battery life is good; it lasts around 10 hours doing general computing tasks, and the retina display offers stunning visuals. All in all, it’s a great option.

Good
  • Stunning Retina display
  • TouchBar technology
  • Butterfly keyboard
  • Mac OS
Bad
  • Mediocre processor
  • Limited RAM

5. Asus Vivobook S14

On Sale Today
Asus Vivobook S14 S432 Thin and Light 14”...
  • ScreenPad 2 0 adds an interactive secondary 5...
  • ScreenPad 2 0 fits a series of handy ASUS...
  • 14 inch Full HD 4-way NanoEdge bezel display...
  • Powerful Intel Core i7-8565U Processor (8M...

Laptop for gIS student

Operating System

Windows 10 Home

Processor

i7

RAM

8GB

Graphics/GPU

Intel UHD Graphics 620

Screen Size

14 inches

Battery Life

N/A

Last but not least, we have the Asus Vivobook S14 S432, another great laptop for GIS students. This is a more affordable alternative to the ZenBook. It has many of the same great features, including the innovative ScreenPad 2.0 technology, which turns your mouse pad into a second touchscreen monitor when you press the F6 key.

Other innovative features that I like about the Vivobook S14 are the facial login via IR camera, which makes logging in faster, easier, and more secure, and the backlit keyboard with precision-engineered ErgoLift hinge. The hinge tilts the keyboard very slightly by a few degrees to create a more ergonomic typing position that’s easier on the wrists.

Like the ZenBook, it has a powerful Intel i7 processor that ensures high-performance and a large 14-inch screen with thin bezels. The main trade-offs between this and the ZenBook are the RAM and the GPU.

You get less RAM (8GB compared to 16GBP) and have to settle for the integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics card. That being said, you’re getting it for a much better price than the ZenBook too.

Again, battery life isn’t stated in the product description, but based on what other users are saying, it seems to last pretty much a full day (9-10 hours) if you’re not doing anything too demanding on it. Overall, I’d recommend it for GIS students that like the Asus ZenBook but want something more affordable.

Related: 7 Best Laptops For College Students: All Budgets Reviewed

Good
  • Facial login
  • ScreenPad technology
  • Good processor
  • Great value for money
Bad
  • Limited RAM
  • Integrated GPU

Essential GIS Software & Systems

Below, we’ve listed some of the essential GIS software systems and applications used by GIS analysis, developers, and students.

  • ArcGIS
    ArcGIS is probably the most well-known and widely-used GIS software solution on the market. It offers a modern ribbon interface with 3D integration and 64-bit processing. It’s an advanced GIS solution with lots of moving parts.
  • MAPublisher
    Marketed as the ‘industry-standard’ cartography solution, MAPublisher® is another leading name in the GIS industry. It integrates with Adobe Illustrator, allowing you to use fifty GIS mapping tools to create beautiful, crisp, clean maps in the Adobe design environment.
  • Google Maps API
    Yep, Google Maps is a GIS too. Google Maps web mapping service API allows app developers to integrate their mapping platform into their own applications, which includes Street View imagery, driving directions, and many other features.
  • Maptitude
    Maptitude is a more affordable GIS platform. It isn’t capable of quite the same higher-level analysis as ArcGIS, but it's a great low-cost professional GIS solution. 
  • QGIS
    What makes QGIS unique is that it’s open-source. It’s a volunteer-driven community GIS project that breaks the mold of commercial GIS solutions. It has a robust feature set and is now in 3D.

Laptop Maintenance & Troubleshooting

Caring for your GIS laptop is much the same as caring for any other kind of laptop. There are a few steps you’ll need to take regularly to keep it in tip-top condition. Here they are:

  • Keep your software up to date
    Rule number one with laptop maintenance is ensuring you keep software and firmware up to date at all times. Your laptop should already be set to download and install your OS updates automatically, so just let it do its thing and don’t turn that setting off.
  • Delete unwanted files, apps, and cookies periodically
    An untidy, clogged up hard drive can cause your system to slow down. Periodically delete any files, folders, and programs that you no longer need to keep it tidy.
  • Clean your screen regularly
    Use a screen wipe or microfiber cloth to clean off any dust, dirt, or grease from your screen once a week or whenever you think it’s needed.
  • Clean your keyboard and ports with compressed air periodically
    You can’t clean keyboards and ports the same way you do with a screen, thanks to all those cracks and crevices. Instead, you’ll need to get a can of compressed air and use it to blow away any dirt or dust caught in there carefully.
  • Shut down your laptop when it’s not in use
    Because machines need sleep too.
  • Try to keep your battery between 20% and 80%
    This helps to put less strain on your battery and extends the number of charge cycles it can go through before giving up, thus improving the longevity of your battery.
  • Run virus scans periodically
    I’d recommend scanning for viruses monthly, or at least quarterly.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Is 8GB RAM enough for data analysis?

You need 8GB RAM at an absolute minimum to run GIS software with reasonably good performance. However, I’d recommend shooting for 16GB or more if you can afford it.

Which processor is best for GIS?

The best processor for GIS would be an Intel i7 or later with the highest clock speed that you can afford.

Are gaming laptops good for GIS?

Any gaming laptop that comes with the recommended specs given above will be good for GIS. Just make sure it has at least 8GB RAM, a dedicated NVIDIA GPU, SSD, and 2.5GHz clock speed.

Should students consider a cheaper or more expensive brand on our list?

I’d recommend choosing a cheaper laptop if you’re a student as, by the time you finish your studies and enter the workplace, you may need to replace it anyway.


Conclusion

That concludes this article on the best laptops for GIS. Hopefully, you’ll have found the right choice for you in this list. If you’re still unsure which one to go for, I’d suggest the Huawei MateBook X Pro - it’s a great GIS laptop that won’t let you down.

Enjoy!


Last Updated on