Laptop for engineers

I’m going to school next month to be a 3rd assistant engineer and I need a new laptop. What do engineers need laptops to do in the engine room? Should I get something large, powerful and a good battery or stick to a small version?

3rd AEs are allowed to use computers?!?

Something that will run all the programs the school requires. Word, excel, maybe a CAD program.

Call the school and ask them what the requirements are.

Something with a clear screen for all the “technical” videos.

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Something with a uuuuge hardrive to hold the movies you will watch once you get that 3rds license. Both in your cabin and whilst night hawking (should you choose MEBA). :grinning:

But seriously, a laptop to type up papers for school can be had anywhere at a relatively cheap price.

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Ive used a cheap HP Laptop. Around $400. Can run and edit just about anything needed.
You can rotated it 360 into a tablet type thing for planes and if something happens to your seabag (dropped or thrown) and it breaks its no real sweat for the most part. I also invested in some external hard drives as well for all studying, papers, resumes etc so nothing will ever be really lost. Keep it in some waterproof tupperware in transit to ships. Im sure everybody has heard stories about seabags going in the drink
Also easy to trade music and media around the boat with external hard drives.

Ive found that ships can be hard on personal electronics sometimes. It always sucks when your at sea or in some far away port and your computer shits the bed. Can also be hard to find the time to make it ashore sometimes as an engineer. Given its usually when work or bunkers happen.

Get a small beater dude…After school its mostly just used for the basics as far as work is concerned.

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I’m not an engineer, so you can take my advice or leave it, but Lenovo has a line of gaming laptops pretty reasonably priced that won’t look out of place in a business meeting that have all the computing power you might need for Autocad, etc too. I’ve got the (now discontinued for the newer model out) Legion Y530 and couldn’t be happier with it. Like haws91 said, a 2in1 wouldn’t be a bad idea either, just make sure the storage is sufficient for anything you might need at your price point.


Good to bring a few USB sticks on any vessel. I scan all of my documents onto a couple of cheap flashdrives. I also email myself the documents so they are in the gmail cloud.

I also take any interesting manuals that are in PDF. You never know when you’ll need a manual you don’t have. So much of the equipment doesn’t really lend itself to google searches. A 5.4 triton engine will have plenty of google info. An K8FE auto backflush won’t have much on the google machine.


You’ll need at least 8 Gb of ram to run programs like solid works, labview, and matlab. Other than that any laptop should be fine.

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What traditional maritime engineering curriculum would use those programs?

At cal maritime there is an engineering graphics course where solid works is used. There are at least half a dozen lab courses where data is collected and analyzed. Excel is great but there are some things it just can’t do. For example analyzing dynamic control systems. Are you going to use bond graphs and try to calculate your “p” and “q” values for a control system by hand or would you rather build a simulink model and let the computer handle the LaPlace transforms?

Sounds like coursework found in an ABET mechanical/electrical degree path, which I think most maritime grads do not pursue.

Some marine ops degrees do not include integral calc, let alone LaPlace transforms.

PS: did you mean Bode plots?

Cal maritime is an abet accredited program. I have used control theory aboard a ship when programming a PLC. With increasing automation I think it is wildly irresponsible to not teach control theory to marine engineers.

Bond graphs are a great way to obtain a state space eq. by hand. Their only short fall is modeling op-amps for reasons too complex to go into here.

If you can swing it, go for something with a SSD (solid state drive) instead of a spinning disk. They last longer, are more reliable, and use less power. Costs a few hundred more for reasonable size, but you get it back in computer longevity.

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Mechanical Engineering is ABET, but Marine Engineering Technology is not (correct me if I’m wrong). I’m curious how many 3rd AEs take the ME vs MET degree. At Maine, I’ve heard it’s like 5% or fewer (Systems Engineering).

I just bought two Lenovo 330s at work. They have good battery life, boot about as quick as you can blink, run all the diagnostics software without asking any stupid questions, and are small enough to balance in your hand as you’re trying to reach an inaccessible control module.

Whether they will stand up to the rigors of field use is another question that will be answered in due time, but laptops generally don’t. For shipboard use, you might want something that does, due to the logistical difficulties in getting a replacement. Prices are eye watering (Google “toughbook”) and redundancy is probably cheaper.

If you’re serious about CAD work, a laptop is the wrong tool for the job. Just get a capable workstation and RDC in when you need the computing power remotely. That’s cheaper, nicer and more flexible than buying a high spec laptop.