3 Best Laptops for Instructional Design – 7 Things to Know When Choosing It

The global pandemic made it perfectly clear that online learning and remote education are a critical need for society to function under such conditions. Educators, who are going into the field of instructional design, are in high demand. I want to give you a head start by quickly identifying the top three laptops that you can consider for your needs when learning instructional design and thereafter, to use for deploying and teaching online or virtual classroom courses.

My Top PickNew MacBook Pro

New Apple MacBook Pro →

Top Features

  • 50% Faster Graphics Performance
  • Pro Display XDR
  • Faster file compression

Check price →

3 Best Laptops for ID

I have used different laptops, and here are 3 of them I would recommend:

  1. New Apple MacBook Pro →
  2. Lenovo Thinkpad E590 →
  3. Acer Aspire 5 →

1. New Apple MacBook Pro →

New MacBook Pro

Processor: Six-core Intel i7 or i9.

OS: Mac OS X Lion.

RAM: 8 GB HBM2 High Bandwidth Memory (expandable up to 64 GB).

Storage: 8 TB of SSD storage.

GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 5000M.

Screen Quality: The Pro Display XDR is suitable for one 8K display at 30 Hz, two 5K displays at 60 Hz, or up to three 4K displays at 120 Hz.

Size: 16-inch Retina display.

Battery life: Up to 11 hours.

Overview

The New Apple MacBook Pro is a terrific computer if you are taking a course to get your instructional design certificate. This laptop is a perfect choice if you want blazing fast graphics that can integrate with an online learning system based on web programming design 3.0 capabilities. This laptop is superb for those who need to work with large graphic files used for online presentations, 3D modeling, and to have clear, robust, live video streaming for group sessions.

Pros

  • Ultra fast.
  • Stunning graphics.
  • Touch Bar and Touch ID.
  • Six speaker audio system with studio-quality microphones.

Cons

  • Pricey, much more expensive when compared to a PC.
  • Many add a second, larger monitor for more screen space.

Best for: teachers and those using a laptop as part of a home recording studio or for video editing and production. This laptop is an excellent choice for anyone working with large graphic files. It can be used for designing online courses, game development, 3D mapping/modeling, and running software applications that manipulate the data in large files. It is also a perfect choice for those needing to conduct online presentations and teach online courses via live streaming and/or group video chat.

New MacBook Pro

All Apple products are extremely easy to use and the interface for applications is always very intuitive. This is one reason why MacBooks are so popular. You do not have to be a techie to get your work done.

In this video below, the reviewer is full of praise for the new MacBook Pro 16. He even goes so far as to say it is the best laptop ever and you definitely need to buy one. This powerful laptop has thermal management and its keyboard is exceptional. Thermal performance is the most important thing in a laptop. If the laptop does not stay properly cooled, the performance will suffer.

Gaming, video editing, and any other intense application processing is easily handled by this laptop. The speakers are outstanding. This laptop is suitable for those who do lots of typing and terrific for instructional design workflow. FaceTime meetings are easy to do. Sharing files is easy between devices. For example, making a video using an iPhone and it can be immediately imported and dropped into a video edit on the MacBook Pro with ease.

For those curious about the comparison between the MacBook Pro 16 and the smaller MacBook Pro 13, this reviewer in the video below does a side-by-side comparison.

Of course, the recommendation is to get the MacBook Pro 16 for its superb features but it costs about twice as much as the smaller MacBook Pro 13 when fully loaded. For professional work, the MacBook Pro 16 is the better choice, especially when working with video editing.

2. Lenovo Thinkpad E590 →

Lenovo ThinkPad E590

Processor: Intel Quad Core i5-8265U 1.6 GHz.

OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit.

RAM: 16GB DDR4.

Storage: 512 GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD.

GPU: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620.

Screen Quality: Supports an external monitor (HDMI or USB Type-C connection) with a maximum resolution of 1920 by 1080 at 60 Hz.

Size: 15.6 inches (1366 by 768) display.

Battery life: Uses a lithium ion battery that lasts up to 12 hours.

Overview

For the budget-conscious, the Lenovo Thinkpad E590 will set you back only about half what the MacBook Pro costs. Obviously, I like the MacBook Pro better but this is an excellent quality PC with some of the older processor technology that allows it to be priced a lot less. I like that you can operate this laptop with dual independent displays so that the smaller laptop screen size of 15.6 inches is not a hindrance. You will be able to afford a second monitor display and still spend less than what you might spend on a MacBook Pro.

Lenovo ThinkPad E590

A nice feature is that this laptop is lightweight. It weighs less than 5 pounds. If you do need to take it with you; it is very easy to carry. It has built-in Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and has an HD webcam with 720p resolution.

Pros

  • Good value for a low price.
  • Lightweight.
  • Sturdy case with a solid feel.
  • Responsive keyboard.

Cons

  • Has the older Intel processors.
  • Small screen.

Best for: Teachers and trainers, who are on a tight budget and who need to get the job done but cannot afford the much higher priced Apple MacBook Pro. The Lenovo ThinkPad E590 is a popular series of laptops. It comes in more than 20 different configurations so make sure you carefully select the one with the specifications that you need.

In this video below, the reviewer shows the Lenovo ThinkPad E590 a month after it first came out in early 2019. It received plenty of positive comments and became quite popular. The reviewer says the speaker quality is not that great, so it is not good to listen to the internal speaker. The sound comes out the bottom of the laptop and the sound quality is poor. The audio may make a kind of buzzing sound depending on what type of surface the laptop is placed on.

He likes the sturdy quality of the case that is aluminum, not plastic. The backlit keyboard is very nice and important if you work in a darker room. The backlight makes it possible to see the keys. Once you start the laptop, you should check to see if there is a system update. If there is a newer version, you should update it. If you want to use the laptop for development or playing games, the processor chip is strong enough to do those things well.

This reviewer in the video below talks about the advantages of having the upgraded Intel i7 processor. He takes a look inside with the laptop open. He finds it a disadvantage that the battery compartment is not easy to get to and that the bottom plate needs to be unscrewed to reveal the battery. This may cause a problem if the battery needs to be temporarily disconnected for a hard reset of the system.

He opens the laptop so you can see inside and describes the placement of all the components. Then, he closes it back up and runs some HD video-playback tests so you can see how well the Intel i7 processor and the integrated video work together.

3. Acer Aspire 5 →

Acer Aspire 5

Processor: Intel dual-core i5-10210U or i7-1065G7.

OS: Windows 10 Home.

RAM: 8GB DDR4.

Storage: 512 GB PCIe NVMe SSD.

GPU: Integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics.

Screen Quality: Full HD LED backlit widescreen with 1920 by 1080 resolution.

Size: 15.6 inches.

Battery life: Up to eight hours.

Overview

The Acer Aspire 5 is an entry-level laptop for instructional design. It is sufficient for taking classes to get your instructional design certificate. However, you will probably want a more robust system if you plan on teaching any classes or deploying online educational courses or managing a virtual classroom. It comes with built-in Wi-Fi 6, a fingerprint security reader, and an HD webcam.

Pros

  • Rapid boot up time.
  • Stunning display.
  • Fast processing.
  • Thin and lightweight (5.7 lbs.).

Cons

  • The size of the hard drive at 512 GB is small so many upgrade or use external storage.
  • No support for an external display.

Best for: students learning educational theory and instructional design. This is the least expensive laptop in this category that I reviewed. I wanted to include the cheapest solution that I could find that would still have the basic minimums for doing instructional design work.

Acer Aspire 5

In this video review below from PC World, the reviewers say that this is the most popular seller in the category of cheap laptops. It uses the full Windows 10 operating system, which allows any applications to run. This means you will not be limited to only those applications found in the Microsoft store for the scaled-down Windows 10 S version of the operating system that is found in many cheap laptops. The reviewers talk about a lower-cost version of the Acer Aspire 5, which I do not recommend. Get the upgraded version of the same model laptop instead.

The integrated Ryzen GPU is nice for making a crisp display. However, it is not strong enough to do extensive HD video editing or play video games running at high resolution and 60 frames per second. The workaround is, if you want to play graphic-intensive games, you can connect to the cloud and play games in HD that are hosted on cloud servers.

The display is bright and has an IPS panel, which makes for good viewing angles. There is an Ethernet port, a USB port, and an HDMI port. The keyboard has a nice feel and is backlit, which makes it easier to see the keys in a low-light condition. The reviewers conclude that this laptop represents very good value for the price.

Seven Things to Know When Choosing a Laptop for Instructional Design

Instructional design includes analyzing the learning needs of students to meet those needs with instructional specifications. It also requires developing a delivery system to meet educational goals and testing outcomes. You want to have a laptop that exceeds the minimum technical requirements, especially if you will do other things with the same device.

Here are the minimum requirements:

  1. Processor: Intel i5 or AMD10 for text-based instruction, Intel i7 or AMD 12 if you plan to edit video files. You want 64-bit and a dual-core processor (quad-core is better).
  2. RAM: 8GB of RAM for text files, 16 GB of RAM for video editing.
  3. Storage Disk: 512 GB for regular work. 1 TB for video editing. Cloud storage may substitute for disk storage.
  4. Graphics: If you plan to do 4k video editing then you want to have a dedicate graphics processing unit (GPU).
  5. Screen Size and Resolution: If you are going to work with video, you want a screen of at least 16 inches with a high-resolution display.
  6. Web Cam: If you use live streaming with your webcam you want a high-quality webcam.
  7. Battery Life: Most laptops have a battery life of around eight hours. This is less of a concern if you work from home where it is easy to stay plugged in.

In this review below from PC World, the reviewers compare the performance of the Intel i5 versus the Intel i7. The big difference is the processor boost clock speed of 4.2 GHz (i7) versus 3.4 GHz (i5). This difference in processor speed is not noticeable by most people. However, any other options like RAM upgrades or wanting to have a larger SSD hard drive and you will need to get the Intel i7 to support those options.

Budget entry-level laptops have the Intel i5 processor as a standard. However, to get more features, such as doing video editing or intensive gaming, the Intel i7 processor is the better choice. This is not because the Intel i7 processor is so much faster but because any of the popular upgrades require it.

Employment Prospects for Instructional Designers

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median pay for an Instructional Coordinator (another name for an Instructional Designer) is $31.87 per hour or $66,290 per year. The requirements are a Masters level certificate in education and five years of experience as an educator or administrator.

The job outlook is rosy, with the projected rate of job growth at 12 to 13% per year. Right now, there are close to 200,000 jobs available in America, in this field, and around 12, 000 new jobs are expected to be added each year up to 2029.

ID Jobs

With those kinds of prospects, it is certainly reasonable to get a high-quality laptop to do your work. You will be tasked to design instructional systems, create podcasts, videos, and interactive content, and evaluate eLearning materials. These requirements will necessitate a laptop that is robust enough to handle the processing requirements of working with these files.

You may need to rework legacy systems and bring everything into an online environment as well as implement feedback from program reviews. On top of this, you will need to train others on how to present the material and keep up with innovations in education and learning design. With all that responsibility, I think you deserve the investment in a MacBook Pro 16 or one of the other two laptops I reviewed if you cannot afford the MacBook Pro.

My Top PickNew MacBook Pro

New Apple MacBook Pro →

Top Features

  • 50% Faster Graphics Performance
  • Pro Display XDR
  • Faster file compression

Check price →

Conclusion

Naturally, all of my picks meet the minimum requirements. If your budget can handle it, I highly recommend you always buy the latest, best laptop that has more capability than the minimum requirements needed. In this way, you can keep your laptop in service for a long time before needing to replace it.

Be sure to consider this if you plan on taking a course to get your instructional design certificate and check out my recommendations by reading my list of the best instructional design courses.

Wishing you the best and big success in your new career, if you decide to become an Instructional Designer.

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