Falling under the umbrella of ethical hacking, pentesting is quite demanding when compared to other tasks. For that reason, you’d need a laptop that can provide you with excellent performance and a comfortable display without costing a fortune. Sadly, that’s not an easy balance to achieve.
That’s why I’ve decided to create this list of my top 5 laptops for pentesting based on my own personal experience, market research, and asking my colleagues for their valuable input.
Eventually, I was able to narrow down everything you need to know about laptops and pentesting into this article.
So, without further ado, keep on reading to meet my top picks.
I am kicking off this list strongly with the outstanding Dell XPS 15 7590. This laptop offers everything a pentester might need in a laptop, including a powerful processor, a wide-capacity RAM, and even a beautiful, crisp display.
First and foremost, the XPS 15 secures speedy performance with no glitches or freezes thanks to its 9th Generation Intel Hexa-Core i7-9750H processor. That’s one of the most powerful processors on the market, so it’s beyond capable of handling pentesting with ease.
Secondly, the laptop has 16 GB of DDR4 RAM. For pentesting, such capacity is more than enough to ensure smooth performance, even when you’re using a Virtual Machine (VM).
In order to further ensure the best performance possible, the laptop comes with 512 GB of PCIe SSD storage. If you know a thing or two about computers, you’d know that an SSD storage is incredibly reliable, long-lasting, and speedy when compared to a traditional HDD storage.
Running on Windows 10 Home, the laptop is quite versatile, allowing you to perform your penetration tests without any restrictions.
For graphics, the laptop has NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1650 GPU that has 4 GB of GDDR5 VRAM.
Moving on to battery life, the laptop can last about 7-8 hours on mixed usage, quite impressive considering it’s powering a Hexa-Core processor. Moreover, it comes with an SD card reader, Thunderbolt 3 port, and a USB 3.0 port.
Regarding the laptop’s display, you can rest assured that even after spending hours pentesting, you’ll not suffer from eye strain thanks to its FHD display resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. For a 15.6-inch laptop, that resolution is standard, but it’s excellent, so no complaints!
What’s more, the XPS 15 7590 has an InfinityEdge screen, meaning it has narrow bezels that provide the laptop with a modern look that’s easy on the eyes. Additionally, the display is anti-glare with IPS Technology and 500 nits of brightness, so you can say hello to wide-viewing angles and goodbye to fatigue.
Lastly, carrying the laptop around in your bag is a breeze! It has a slim body, and it’s only 4 pounds in weight, making it one of the most portable laptops on the list. If you like working on the go, the XPS 15 will be your next best friend.
9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GDDR5
15.6 inch, FHD InfinityEdge
Windows 10 Home
Anti-glare screen with IPS Technology
Decent battery life
Expensive for its specs
Looking for a powerful laptop that’s perfect for pentesting? Dell is here to save the day with its XPS 15 laptop. It has 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage, so you can forget all about freezing or glitching. Not to mention, it has a beautiful anti-glare display that prevents eye fatigue in the long run.
I can’t make a list of the best laptops for pentesting without including the ASUS ZenBook 13. It has everything you might be seeking in your next laptop without costing a fortune. At its price point, it’s near impossible to find such high-quality components.
I just have to start this review with the laptop’s 10th Generation Intel Core i7-105101U processor. Some high-end laptops don’t offer such a powerful processor, let alone an affordable one just like these cheap laptops for gaming.
What’s more, the laptop offers 16 GB of RAM, which is perfect for pentesting, especially if you’ll be using VMs. It also has 512 GB of PCIe SSD storage to guarantee a speedy performance at all times.
Besides, the laptop boasts an Intel UHD Graphics GPU, which is more than enough for pentesting. However, if you want to take it a step further, there’s a model of this laptop that offers NVIDIA’s GeForce MX 250 graphics card, but that’ll come at a price.
So, by now, you must be wondering, “what’s the catch?” expecting to find something terrible about this laptop. Well, you’d be surprised to know that it runs on Windows 10 Pro that no other laptop on this list has.
I hope you’re ready to get even more impressed because the ZenBook 13 secures a beautiful, crisp display with its 1920 x 1080 resolution. Additionally, it has a NanoEdge, WideView display, meaning its screen-to-body ratio is outstandingly high at 95%, and the image stays crisp no matter what viewpoint you’re looking from.
Additionally, the ZenBook 13 has an ErgoLift design that lifts the keyboard up, making it a lot more comfortable when you’re typing, and therefore increasing your productivity.
If you’re worried about the laptop’s battery life, you can rest assured knowing that it can last up to 14 hours on a single charge. That’s one of the best battery lives on the market, and it can last you quite a while, even during pentesting.
Weighing just 2.8 pounds, you can easily and effortlessly carry your laptop around. However, its small-sized screen of 13.3 inches could be a little restricting for pentesting.
Lastly, for connectivity, the laptop comes with multiple ports, including USB 2.0, HDMI, USB 3.1 Type-A, USB-C 3.1, HDMI, audio, and MicroSD.
Intel Core i7-10510U
512GB PCIe SSD
13.3” FHD WideView
Windows 10 Pro
Great battery life
Windows 10 Pro OS
NanoEdge and WideView display
Small-sized screen at only 13.3 inches
Heats up easily
If you’re looking for a laptop that’s worth way more than its actual price, the ZenBook 13 is just that. It boasts a powerful i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM while rocking a high-resolution screen with a NanoEdge display. On top of that, it has an outstanding battery life of 14 hours. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Being bound by a budget could be a little restrictive when you’re trying to find a good laptop for pentesting. However, the Acer Aspire 5 is an excellent choice due to its relatively high specs when compared to its competitors in the same price range.
First things first, the laptop boasts an incredible display with IPS Technology and narrow bezels. It’s one of the best laptops you could go for if you often suffer from eye strain, and you want the most comfortable display possible.
The laptop comes with eye-care technologies, including Acer’s BlueLightShield that significantly decreases blue light, which is a major cause of eye strain and fatigue. When combining that with its Acer Color Intelligence Technology, you can extend your time in front of your laptop; therefore, increase your productivity.
Additionally, the 15.6-inch laptop has a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and 250 nits of brightness, so you’re guaranteed a bright, crisp image at all times.
It also rocks NVIDIA’s GeForce MX250 with 2 GB of GDDR5 VRAM to further ensure excellent display quality.
Moving on to the laptop’s performance, it comes with a 10th Generation Intel Core i5-10210U processor. Though not the most powerful one on the market, it’s able to handle pentesting smoothly.
It also comes with 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, which is not the best capacity for a pentesting laptop, to be fair, but it’ll get the job done.
Furthermore, the laptop has 512 GB of PCIe SSD storage, so you can store all the files and tools you need for pentesting without running out of space.
When it comes to battery life, the Aspire 5 can last up to 9.5 hours on one charge, meaning it can easily last you all day long.
The laptop is versatile in more than just one way. Firstly, it runs on Windows 10 Home, one of the best operating systems, especially for pentesting. Secondly, it has a wide range of ports that includes USB 3.1 Type-C, USB 3.1, USB 2.0, HDMI, LAN, and audio ports.
10th Gen Intel Core i5-10210U
512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
NVIDIA GeForce MX250
15.6″ Full HD IPS Display
Windows 10 Home
Decent battery life
Excellent display with BlueLightShield
Wide range of ports
Relatively low specs
The Acer Aspire 5 is an excellent budget-friendly laptop. It offers decent specs that are good enough for pentesting like its i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM without breaking the bank. On top of that, the laptop has an outstanding display that’s comfortable to the eye.
If you’re looking for the best display possible in a 16-inch laptop, the Apple MacBook Pro 16 is the one you’re seeking. It also offers sturdy build quality, a powerful processor, and extended battery life, making it perfect for long hours of pentesting.
As the laptop with the best display on the list, it’s only fair that I start the review with its incredible 16-inch screen. First of all, it has an excellent display resolution of 3072 x 1920 pixels with 500 nits of brightness, so you can rest assured that your display will be crisp and bright, even if you’re working in direct sunlight.
Additionally, the laptop has IPS Technology that guarantees wide viewing angles and True Tone Technology for vibrant colors.
The Apple MacBook Pro has a 9th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, which is quite powerful, and it can handle your penetration tests with ease. It also has 16 GB of RAM that’ll be able to run all your tools smoothly.
It’s worth mentioning the laptop also comes with an i9 processor configuration, and its RAM is upgradable up to 64 GB, so you can go for higher configurations if you want to. However, for pentesting, the i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM configuration should be more than enough.
What’s more, the MacBook Pro comes with 512 GB of SSD storage that’s also upgradeable up to 8 TB. Nevertheless, the 512 GB configuration is sufficient.
Running on macOS, you have the freedom to use all your pentesting tools with no restrictions.
For GPU, the laptop has two graphics cards: AMD’s Radeon Pro 5300 and Intel UHD Graphics 630. Whatever task you’re currently working on, the laptop automatically switches to the more appropriate GPU.
Another significant advantage of the MacBook Pro is its 11-hour battery life. You can easily use your laptop through a whole day of pentesting on just one charge.
Finally, the laptop is quite sturdy yet light in weight so you can carry and use it on the go without suffering any fatigue.
2.6GHz Intel Core i7
Excellent display resolution
True Tone Technology
Lightweight and portable
Extended battery life
Upgradable RAM up to 64 GB
The MacBook Pro 16 is the perfect laptop for pentesting. In addition to its extended battery life, you can rest assured knowing that the laptop’s performance is top-notch. Additionally, it has an excellent display with a resolution of 3072 x 1920 pixels and 500 nits of brightness. It’s a pleasure to look at!
No ordinary laptop can match the performance of the Acer Predator Helios 300 gaming one. The laptop has excellent display quality and high-quality components that will take your pentesting to the next level.
Since we’re already on the subject of performance, it’s only fair to mention the laptop’s powerful 9th Generation Intel Core i7-9750H processor. Being Hexa-Core, you can expect a seamless pentesting experience without any lagging or freezing.
Additionally, it has 16 GB of DDR4 RAM, and 512 GB of PCIe SSD storage, which are significant identifications that the Predator Helios 300 offers speedy, smooth performance, even while you’re using VMs.
It comes with NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU, and I wouldn’t expect any less from a gaming laptop, to be honest.
Furthermore, your laptop will stay cool while you’re penetration testing thanks to its AeroBlade Fan Technology that will prevent your laptop from overheating, even if you’re running heavy-duty applications.
In order to guarantee a beautiful, crisp display, the laptop has a 15.6-inch screen with IPS Technology. It also has 144 Hz of refresh rate that’ll make for a high-quality display that’s comfortable to the eye.
It also has a display resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and 300 nits of brightness, quite average for gaming, but just perfect for pentesting.
Regarding the laptop‘s longevity over long working days, its battery lasts 6 hours. To be honest, penetration testing will drain your battery much quicker than you expect, so you’ll probably need to recharge your laptop throughout the day.
If you want a versatile laptop that you can connect to other devices, the Predator Helios 300 has got you covered with its wide range of ports, including HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort, USB 3.1, and USB-C. Not to mention, the laptop’s OS is Windows 10 Home that further ensures its versatility.
Intel Core i7-9750H
512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
15.6″ Full HD 144Hz
Windows 10 Home
AeroBlade 3D Fan Technology
Mediocre battery life
Gaming laptops are known for their excellent performance, and the Acer Predator Helios 300 is no exception. What’s more, the laptop has a beautiful display of 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution and IPS Technology and 300 nits of brightness. You can’t go wrong with the Predator Helios 300, to be honest.
Before committing to the first laptop your eyes land on, you need to thoroughly understand its specs so you’d know its abilities as well as limitations.
So, here’s everything you need to know about pentesting and its requirements so that you’ll get the best laptop possible without spending a fortune on a high-end laptop, only to end up disappointed with its performance.
As an ethical hacker myself, I know what it’s like when your laptop is not powerful enough to run your tools smoothly. Whether you’re penetration testing a server, a network, or a simple web page, you need a processor that can keep up with your task.
I strongly recommend going for an i7 processor as they always perform best without costing a fortune like i9 ones do.
Additionally, it’s possible to pentest using an i5 processor, but I wouldn’t recommend it for professionals. If you’re new to ethical hacking and just testing the waters, by all means, go for it as i5 processors will save you a lot of money. However, don’t expect the best performance.
Choosing on the best RAM capacity depends on what kind of tools you’ll be using during your ethical hacking journey.
If you are pentesting professionally or on a large scale, like using multiple VMs, I recommend going for 32 GB of RAM to avoid any inconvenience in the long run.
Nonetheless, 16 GB of RAM should be more than enough for an average pentester who uses a couple of tools and one VM at a time.
Additionally, you must have seen laptops for pentesting that only have 8 GB of RAM. To be fair, that could be good enough for lighter usage, like pentesting web pages or web applications. However, I would advise against it for multiple reasons.
Technology is developing by the day, and the minimal requirements of some tools are increasing at an equally fast pace. Having a RAM of 8 GB isn’t future-proof, and you’d need to upgrade sooner than you think.
You can always avoid that by ensuring that your laptop’s RAM is upgradable, so you can just increase its capacity for a reasonable price without having to purchase a whole new laptop.
There’s no right or wrong here, honestly.
Some people prefer large screens that are about 17 inches, so they’d be able to view more windows at a time. On the contrary, others prefer smaller screens, around 13-inches, because they’re much more portable and lighter in weight.
Personally, I prefer 15-inch screens because they have the best of both worlds. Your screen will be large enough for you to display multiple windows simultaneously, but still small enough so you can comfortably walk around with your laptop.
Always make sure your display is of high resolution, at least 1920 x 1080 pixels, because that’s much more comfortable on your eyes.
Additionally, you should be on the lookout for eye-care technologies in order to prevent eye strain and fatigue. As a pentester, you’ll spend a lot of time in front of your laptop, and you need to be as comfortable as possible.
Your storage capacity heavily depends on what kind of tools you’ll be using. You should have a general idea of how large your applications are, and if not, doing quick research will provide you with what you need to know.
If you’re new to pentesting and don’t know where to start, I recommend going for a storage capacity of 512 GB. Also, make sure that it’s SSD, not HDD.
SSD storages are a lot more reliable and quicker, but they’re pricey. In my opinion, it’s completely worth it to spend a little extra on reliable storage that won’t let you down rather than mediocre storage that could ruin your entire pentesting experience.
Kali Linux is the most popular operating system that’s used for pentesting, so I recommend starting there if you’re new to ethical hacking. However, it’s not very user-friendly, especially if you’ll be using your laptop for anything else besides pentesting.
So, I recommend going for a traditional Windows or macOS device and getting a Virtual Machine where you can run other operating systems, including Kali Linux, which is what most—if not all—pentesters opt for.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are MacBooks Good for Pentesting?
Definitely! You can download a VM on a MacBook just like you’d do on a Windows device. Among the most popular VMs are Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion. Whether you go for macOS or Windows, you’ll need a Virtual Machine for the best pentesting experience possible, so it doesn’t really matter which OS you decide on.
Which Processor is Best for Pentesting?
An Intel Core i7 processor is the safest bet for any pentester. It provides the laptop with excellent performance, yet it’s not nearly as pricey as an i9 one. Additionally, you can always go for an i5 processor if you’re tightly bound by a budget; just beware that it’s not as fast as an i7 processor.
Are 2 GB of RAM Enough for Pentesting?
No. While the capacity depends on what kind of penetration tests you’ll perform, 2 GB of RAM is still too limited, even for regular day-to-day use. Applications and tools are quite demanding these days, and I would recommend going for 16 GB of RAM for the most convenience.
By this point, you should have a clear idea of what kind of specs you need in your next laptop. You might have even settled on a laptop already! Either way, here’s a quick recap of my top three picks for a quick memory refresh.
First of all, the Dell XPS 15 7590 is an incredible laptop for any pentester. Whether you’ll be testing web pages, networks, or servers, the XPS 15 has got your back. With its 9th Generation i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a display resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, it’s perfect for any scenario.
The ASUS ZenBook 13 easily took second place because it offers excellent value for the money. The lightweight, portable laptop offers excellent performance even if you’re running multiple VMs. Also, its battery life is outstandingly long for such a price point.
Lastly, the Acer Aspire 5 will be your next best friend if you’re seeking a budget-friendly option. It boasts an i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage, guaranteeing speedy performance without costing a fortune.