5 Best Upgradeable Laptops (Including High End) In 2018

Your standard desktop machine is designed to have parts swapped out over its lifespan as new components are released. Laptops are a different breed of machine entirely, with modularity sacrificed for greater portability.

With so many parts stuffed into such a small space, it’s often difficult to upgrade any one single component. Some notebook computers make this process much easier, and we’ve rounded up the best options from around the web.

Want to start with a computer on the less expensive side that’s more budget friendly? With a smaller investment at the start, there’s more wiggle room to spend on upgrades later for better specs!

Picking The Best Laptop With Future Upgrades In Mind

When looking for the best laptop for future upgrades, always plan on starting at a lower hardware threshold. You should be willing to have something less high-end now that can become better later.

None of the five laptops listed below have extremely high end specs, as that would defeat the purpose. Instead, they stick with middle-of-the-road hardware to save on price.

With only a single exception, every laptop in our group of contenders is well below the $1,000 threshold.

Your goal here is to get something acceptable now. It can then be made into a true powerhouse down the line, or at least future-proofed against rising minimum specs.

Besides just the ability to add more memory, stay on alert for devices with M.2 slots for installing or replacing the SSD. Getting more hard drive space can be a critical upgrade if you have plenty of music or images to store.

While choosing a new laptop, keep in mind that ultra thin and super rugged models tend to be the least modular. Due to space constraints, many of those styles of machine have parts that can’t be removed at all.

Touch screen models also tend to be restricted on this front. Many of them allow drive upgrades but not RAM upgrades, or vice versa.

Ready to get started looking for a great laptop that’s easy to upgrade? Let’s dive into the options available!

NBN’s cheat sheet

Top pick

Acer Nitro 5

In 2018, the single best laptop designed for upgrades is the Acer Nitro 5. You get a solid 7th gen processor out of the box and a decent graphics card for gaming options.

The Nitro makes major concessions on the RAM and hard drive fronts to save on money, and that makes it perfect for future upgrading. Best of all, the upgrade process is super simple!

The Contenders For Most Upgradeable Laptops

Acer Nitro 5

  • Extremely easy upgrading
  • Quality graphics card
  • No optical drive
  • Less comfortable keyboard design

Should this be your choice?

Want graphical power and the ability to easily upgrade RAM and the SSD down the road? This should be your first pick!

When it comes to picking a modular laptop with upgrades in mind, Acer’s Nitro 5 series perfectly fits the bill.

You can save a whole lot of money by choosing the least powerful configuration available on this model. While these are low end specs to start, swapping out parts here is an absolute snap.

There’s only one single screw to remove for accessing the RAM ports on the bottom. Likewise, the SSD is accessed in its own bottom compartment with only a single screw standing in the way.

With a strong mid-range graphics card, this is an excellent compromise machine. It will keep you playing games or performing work tasks for years to come with a few upgrades.

Buyers love the price and graphics card, but often criticize the “Industrial” design with its sharp angles. While that looks cool, it also means the keyboard and touchpad are less comfortable to use for extended periods of time.

Hardware specifications for Acer Nitro 5
Processor Intel Core i5-7300HQ (2.5GHz)
RAM 8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage 128GB SSD
Graphics GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (4GB)
Display 15.6-Inch Full HD IPS Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating System Windows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life 5 hours
Weight 5.95 lbs

Dell Inspiron 15 7567

  • Quality graphics card
  • Spaced out full keyboard design
  • Small starting storage space
  • No optical drive

Should this be your choice?

Looking for the most upgradeable laptop with the least effort and an ergonomic design? This should be your pick! Although you will need to swap out the SSD ASAP, all the other specs make for a decent starter machine.

The Inspiron 15 has very similar specs to the Nitro 5 and features some of the exact same upgrade capabilities. What sets this model apart then?

The basic designs diverge radically, making for completely different ergonomics and upgrade procedures.

Only a single captive screw needs to be loosened on the bottom to access internal components. It doesn’t even come all the way out of the laptop, so you can’t possible lose it!

Unfortunately you do still need a pry tool to pop off the bottom (or in a pinch, your credit card or a guitar pick will work).

Once inside, you can upgrade to 32GB of RAM and up to a 1TB SSD, which will put your laptop at the top of the tech pile. Upgrading the storage drive will be high priority here, as 128GB is barely enough space for Windows 10 and some extra programs.

Buyers frequently mention that this model features the wide, spacious keyboard design with the full 10 keybar on the side. That’s a plus if you are used to desktop keyboards and need more room for your wrists.

Be careful when browsing other models in this same series however. Some Inspiron 15 models have 9 screws on the bottom, so take a careful look first if you want different starting specs!

Hardware specifications for Dell Inspiron 15 7567
Processor Intel Core i5-7300HQ (2.5 – 3.5GHz)
RAM 8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage 128GB SSD
Graphics GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (4GB)
Display 15.6-Inch FHD LED-backlit Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating System Windows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life 4.5 hours
Weight 5.84 lbs

Alienware AW17R4

  • Larger screen
  • Best graphics card
  • Higher starting price
  • More screws to remove for upgrading

Should this be your choice?

Want to spend a little more to have better gaming performance but still leave room for upgrading later? This should be your pick for the best modular laptop!

Want to kickstart your modular system by starting with better specs? You’ll have to lay down more starting cash, but otherwise this Alienware is an excellent option.

The GTX 1060 will future proof you against most new games for some time to come, but there’s still room to upgrade in other areas.

Unfortunately this one ditches the single-screw design of the previous two contenders It’s still fairly easy to upgrade by laptop standards, however.

Seven screws on the bottom restrict access to the internal components, but none of them are hidden underneath rubber feet. As a bonus, the bottom pulls off easily without having to use a pry tool.

The RAM is freely visible, although the hard drive is held in a cage requiring a few extra screws be removed first.

In terms of potential issues to look out for, many buyers have had driver problems out of the box. Be prepared to spend some time updating the wifi and sound drivers to prevent problems.

But hey, if you are afraid of a little work, you wouldn’t be looking for an upgradeable laptop, would you?

Hardware specifications for Alienware AW17R4
Processor Intel Core i7-7700HQ (3.8GHz)
RAM 16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage 1TB HDD
Graphics GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB)
Display 17.3-Inch FHD Anti-Glare Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating System Windows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life 3.5 hours
Weight 9.7 lbs

Dell Inspiron 13 5000 2-In-1

  • Touch screen
  • 8th gen processor
  • Weak graphics
  • Only upgrades to 16GB RAM
  • Runs hot

Should this be your choice?

Need a compact touchscreen model that can be upgraded later with better RAM and a faster hard drive? This should be your pick!

This Inspiron is one of the rare few 2-in-1 touchscreen models that can be significantly upgraded. If you want a super portable unit that doubles as a tablet, this is the way to go.

There are a full nine screws and you have to fully pull off the bottom cover to access the interior section.

From there, it’s simple to upgrade, however. Just pull up a small black flap to access the RAM or remove 3 screws to pull out the HDD.

When dealing with a smaller touchscreen model, there are a few limitations to keep in mind. Most of these laptops go all the 32GB on the RAM front, but this one is restricted to a 16GB maximum.

Although it has a killer processor, this isn’t meant to be a gaming machine. With integrated motherboard graphics, don’t expect to run any games on high settings.

Buyers constantly mention the fast speed of the processor, but note the laptop tends to run pretty hot.

Hardware specifications for Dell Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1
Processor Intel Core i7-8550U (4.0GHz)
RAM 8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage 1TB HDD
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics 620
Display 13.3-Inch FHD Touchscreen Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating System Windows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life 5 hours
Weight 3.43 lbs

Lenovo IdeaPad

  • Very low starting price
  • Includes optical drive
  • Weak graphics
  • More screws to remove for upgrades

Should this be your choice?

When staying to a tight budget is your main concern, this should be your pick. You get a decent starter system with lots of room to upgrade.

In terms of starting specs, this Lenovo model is easily at the bottom of the barrel. When you are looking to save money now and upgrade later however, that might be a perfect fit.

You can’t upgrade the graphics card, so this will never be a high end gaming rig. That being said, you can still get a solid machine here by replacing the RAM and throwing in an SSD.

The procedure here is slightly more involved than the other contenders, but still fairly simple. There’s one screw to slide out the optical drive, then eight screws to pop off the bottom cover.

A small silver covering must be removed to reach the RAM, but the hard drive is immediately accessible.

For buyers, the big draw here is the low price that still offers 8GB of RAM to start instead of 4GB. They do often mention that the power cord is quite short however, so you may want to buy a longer aftermarket cord.

Hardware specifications for Lenovo IdeaPad
Processor AMD A12-9720P (2.70GHz)
RAM 8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage 1TB HDD
Graphics AMD Radeon R7
Display 15.6-Inch HD Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating System Windows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life 3 hours
Weight 4.85 lbs

Is It Possible To Upgrade A Laptop GPU Or Change The Processor?

In most cases, the answer to this question is a simple and resounding “nope.” Laptops with upgradeable GPUs are quite rare.

In order to give you so much power in such a tight space, major concessions have to be made in a notebook’s design. They simply aren’t intended to have easily swappable primary components.

Laptop motherboards use a different form factor on their processors and graphics cards than a desktop. In many cases, these components may even be soldered directly to the motherboard and can’t even be removed.

There are only a handful of exceptions with a few brands (noted below). In the vast majority of brands and models, however, you just simply can’t replace or upgrade these parts.

For most users, the RAM, hard drive, optical drive, and CPU cooling paste are going to be the primary components to upgrade over time.

What Potential Problems Should I Look Out For?

There are some major pitfalls to be aware of when trying to find a laptop with hardware upgrades in mind.

Pay very careful attention to the system specs, and even try to verify those specs direct with the manufacturer if necessary. Descriptions on reseller sites like Amazon, Newegg, etc. aren’t always 100% accurate.

First and foremost, verify the maximum amount of RAM that the motherboard can handle. Be sure to also find out how many sticks of RAM the current device features out of the box.

For instance, a laptop might have one 16GB stick, or it could have two 8GB sticks. The latter will be twice as expensive to upgrade to 32GB, since you will need to buy two 16GB sticks instead of just one.

Keep in mind you can also upgrade laptops in other ways beyond just internal components. For more functionality, you could also add a USB hub for extra ports, or an external card reader.

Are There Any Laptops Specifically Made To Be Modular?

Most laptops from big name companies are designed to save space by cramming in as many components as possible in a tiny area. Upgradeability is always an afterthought in the design.

There are a handful of manufacturers who specifically build notebooks with upgrades in mind, such as Eurocom. These manufacturers utilize standard desktop socketed processors rather than mobile equivalents.

That means nearly every part can be swapped out, unlike with the typical notebook. Their laptops don’t tend to look as flashy on the outside as brands like HP, Dell, etc. but they have greater upgradeability.

The only downside is these manufacturers don’t often offer products through the usual electronics websites. Amazon, Newegg, TigerDirect and so on will usually only have a handful of models available, and they won’t typically be the newest offerings.

No matter what brand you go with or buying outlet you choose, always head over to the manufacturer’s website before making a decision.

Most manufacturers have manuals online that show the specific method for accessing the RAM or hard drive. You want to make sure the process will be simple and you have the right tools ahead of time.

With some devices this is incredibly easy, only requiring you remove a single screw. Other designs require taking off the entire keyboard and removing several other components first.

Saving Money By Buying A Modular Laptop

These five upgrade-focused laptops will meet any price range for any type of computer user. Whether you are a die hard gamer or just need a portable computer for work or school, one of these options will fit your needs.

What did you think of our picks for the best upgradeable laptop in 2018? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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