Today’s article is a definitive buyer’s guide with regard to the best laptops for programming, so keep reading if you’re looking for the best gear designed for your craft. Despite what many people claim, programming can be lots of fun, and even if I’m not falling into either of those categories, I know a little bit of HTML and PHP. Hence, I’ve done the research and combed the web for the “best deals”, so you won’t have to. So, here it comes.
How to Choose the Best Laptop for Programming
High-quality gear doesn’t come cheap, or at least that’s the “general rule of thumb”. However, if you have patience, you can definitely put your greedy little hands on cheap laptops, but you’ll have to pay extra attention to a number of details if you want to get the most bang from your hard earned buck. So here’s what to look for in laptops for programming:
Storage capacity is an important metric in any laptop. Nowadays, classic hard drives are a dying breed, as they’ve been replaced with solid state drives. If you’re a “serious cat” programmer, look for at least 256 GB SSDs. By the way, SSDs are way better than regular (mechanical) hard drives in terms of sheer performance, but this comes at a cost, like all good things in life. Yet, speed is crucial when you’re testing an application or a program, so keep your eyes peeled for SSD equipped laptops.
The Amount of RAM On-board
RAM is another factor to be considered when choosing a laptop for programming. The more of it, the better, that’s the general rule. All applications use RAM, and the more RAM you have, the more things you can do simultaneously on your laptop without it getting sluggish.
If you want to open 50 tabs in your web browser, you’ll see what not having enough RAM is all about. 8 GB of RAM is the minimum amount required nowadays for a good programming laptop, but 16 GB would hit the sweet spot. Again, the more, the better.
Processing Power or CPU
The CPU is the “brain” of your laptop, and it’s responsible for all the hard work, hence look for at least an i5 CPU (or equivalent), for the best programming experience money can buy. An i7 (the top of the range from Intel) CPU would be even better if you can afford it. Newer CPU generations are far superior in terms of processing power to older ones, even if the latter may have more “speed”, as in more Ghz(clock speed) per core.
Graphics Card or GPU
Modern CPUs come with very good (integrated) GPUs onboard, and truth be told, laptops used for programming do not necessarily require top-notch graphics cards. A low-end integrated GPU would get the job done with flying colors, even if it would not excel at gaming or graphics-intensive applications. Going for an integrated GPU means you can save money for a better CPU, which is crucial for programming.
Autonomy or Battery Life
Finally, you must consider the laptop’s battery life. This metric is important if you plan to use your laptop while on the go or outdoors, especially if you like to code while sitting on a bench in the park, i.e. in a serene and quiet environment. The worst part about working “in nature” is that you won’t be able to find a power outlet, hence you should focus on autonomy more than a “Starbucks” type of coder.
OS: MAC vs Windows vs Linux
This is a hot topic in the programmers’ community, and it’s a matter of personal preference and compatibility. It all depends on what you’re using your laptop for.
With all these things considered, here are our top picks for the best laptops for programming.
9 Best Laptops for Programming You Can Buy in 2020
Apple MacBook Pro 15″
The Best Laptop for Web Development
The Apple MacBook Pro 15’’ is arguably the best laptop for web development (especially front-end), and also one of the most expensive, as quality comes at a price. This particular model comes with a high-res (2880 x 1800 Native Resolution) Retina display, a high-end six-core Intel i7 or i9 CPU, 16 GB of RAM and 256-512 GB of storage (SSD).
This laptop has it where it counts, and in terms of sheer power and storage, it would be hard to find a rival. It’s also worth mentioning the dedicated Radeon Pro 555x or 560x graphics card with 4GB of GDDR5, which makes the laptop suitable for various other tasks, like video editing and even moderate gaming. There are no less than four USB ports and if 16 GB of RAM are not enough, you can upgrade it to 32 GB.
- high-end build quality
- minimalist design
- generous SSD, amazing speed
- high-end six-core CPU, dedicated GPU
- awesome display
- very good autonomy (up to 10 hours)
ASUS VivoBook Pro 17
A Portable Programming Machine
You never know when inspiration strikes or when you need to make some emergency edits to your code! This is why a programmer must always be prepared to write some code and test its efficiency, regardless of their location.
Luckily, the ASUS VivoBook Pro 17 has the power and portability you need for such a mission. With the Latest 8th generation Intel Core i7-8565U processor, GeForce GTX 1050 graphics, 16GB DDR4, and 256GB SSD + 1 TB HDD storage space, the laptop packs enough power to perform the majority of programming tasks.
Moreover, it comes with Windows 10 and supports lightning-fast dual-band 2×2 Wi-Fi 5 (802.11AC). The battery is durable and can be charged up to 60% in only 49 minutes due to fast charging technology.
The VivoBook Pro 17 can also be used for entertainment (games and videos) due to its 17.3-inch FHD wide-view display with 72% NTSC color gamut. The backlit keyboard is great for both gaming and programming (it comes with numeric keypad).
Finally, the slim design and light weight makes it easy to carry in a bag or backpack, which is ideal for when you need computing power on the road.
- Portable and powerful
- Good configuration
- Powerful graphics
- Impressive port configuration
- Backlit keyboard with numeric pad
- Durable battery
- Fans are noisy even on low stress
- The numeric pad is too compact
- No optical unit
HP Spectre x360 Gemcut 15t
A Precious Gem(cut)
Gemcut series brings out another gem worthy of your attention. This 15” mean machine comes equipped with all kinds of goodies, which more than justify its rather high price.
15t comes equipped with Intel’s Core i7 8750H hexa-core processor, clockable to up to 4.1 GHz, 16 GB RAM. Graphics-wise, GeForce GTX 1050Ti with 4 GB RAM allows both heavy-duty graphics design and photo and video editing, and it’s perfect even for your gaming needs.
When it comes to storage, HP Spectre x360 Gemcut 15t has a great 512 GB SSD, which provides a solid amount of data storage with great speed of access.
What makes this model stand is the fact that it’s a 2-in-1 model: it can be used both as a laptop and as a tablet, with stylus support. It is this impressive versatility, including some impressive hardware, which makes this model more than worth the money.
- Powerful six-core processor
- 4k performance doesn’t majorly affect battery life
- Excellent 2-in-1 performance
- Excellent versatility
- Elegant desig
- A bit too large for tablet mode
- Subpar trackpad
ASUS VivoBook 15 F512DA-EB51
Asus is another long-time veteran when it comes to laptops, and this mid-high-tier model is another great addition to their already impressive roster. The combination of great hardware and relatively affordable price make this model more than attractive.
EB51 packs a serious punch. It is equipped with AMD Quad-Core r5-3500u 3.1 GHz processor, 8 GB DDR5 RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. Its chassis is elegant and modern, with an ergonomic backlit keyboard, which is of great use if you’re spending a lot of time behind the screen.
A fast and reliable model, with a full HD display, Asus VivoBook 15 F512DA-EB51 will cover both your professional and your leisure needs. Inspired by their more expensive ZenBooks, Asus shows how high quality is not always reserved for super-expensive models.
- Much more affordable than most models on the list
- Beautiful design
- Lightweight yet sturdy chassis
- Excellent performance
- Ergonomic backlit keyboard
- No Thunderbolt 3 support
Dell XPS 13 9380
Light and Might
Another Dell model on this list, XPS 13 9380 is another 13” model, but don’t let the size fool you. Being on the smaller side gives it an advantage when it comes to mass and ease of portability, but otherwise, there’s some rather impressive hardware under the hood.
Let’s start with the processors. Once again, Intel brings out another one of their finest: 8th generation Core i7 8565u with 8 MB of cache, 4 cores, and awesome 4.6 GHz. Paired up with 8 GB RAM, it will enable you to run even the most demanding design programs and video games.
When it comes to storage, 512 GB SSD does its job just fine, and Intel’s UHD 620 integrated graphics card allows for full HD resolution with an impressive number of details! InfinityEdge touch screen technology further enhances the versatility of this model. It’s more than worth the price.
- Light and durable chassis
- Great battery life
- Updated camera position
- Infinity Edge technology
- Elegant design
- Battery life worse on XPS 13 models with no 1080p resolution
Acer Aspire 5 A515-43-R19L
Budget Build with Certain Compromises
Acer often knocks it out of the field when it comes to budget mid-tier laptops, and A515 is no exception. It does have some compromises, but for a price this affordable, it isn’t much of an issue.
With its aluminum top cover, the model looks pretty amazing. Its plastic chassis is wrapped around a pretty solid configuration. AMD’s Ryzen 3 3200U 3.6 GHz Dual Core processor powers this model, with 4 GB RAM and a smallish, yet dependable 128 GB SSD.
Graphics card is integrated but still allows Full HD resolution with some impressive visuals, especially for this quality tier. It may not be as impressive as the previous Acer model on our list, but it does warrant your consideration.
- Great battery life
- Super affordable
- Elegant design
- Stable performance
- Better-than-average display when it comes to this price range
- Plastic exterior
- Not that good of a touchpad
Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Ready to Work Wherever You Want
With an 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and 1TB storage space, the Surface Pro 6 device is perfect for a programming session on the go! Moreover, the fact that it’s, in fact, a tablet with an attached keyboard, pen, and mouse, makes it ideal for working on mobile apps.
The device comes with Windows 10 Home and features a powerful battery (up to 13.5 hours of video playback) so you can work wherever you feel most inspired.
Still, it’s important to highlight that Surface Pro 6 doesn’t come with the Signature cover with keyboard, pen or mouse. So, if you truly want to write code, we recommend including some of these devices in your calculations (especially the keyboard).
Another impressive feature is the 12.3-inch PixelSense touchscreen provides users with gorgeous imagery and lets you work with graphic elements like you would on a high-quality monitor.
- Ultra-portable design
- Powerful and easy to work with
- Long battery life
- PixelSense touchscreen with amazing details
- Cool accessories
- Accessories are not included in the initial price
- No USB-C port
- It gets a bit hot on long-term use
Awesome, but Is the Price Worth It?
As per usual, Dell brings in the cavalry of great hardware and more than reliable performance, although this time our taste is a bit soured by the perhaps overly steep price. But let’s see just how this model fares.
Dell G7 does have some pretty sweet hardware. It’s powered by Intel’s 9th Generation Core i7-9750h 6-core processor, with 12 MB of Cache and 4.6 GHz. It’s equipped with a 512 GB PCI.E SSD, and 16 GB DDR4 RAM.
Graphics-wise, this model comes with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6G GDDR5 graphics card, so once again you get a great professional and gaming laptop in one package!
As great as these components are, however, it must be stated that the price is higher than it probably should be. If you’re interested in this bad boy, maybe wait for a discount before buying it. Nevertheless, it is a rather great notebook!
- Beautiful design
- Stable performance
- High-quality display
- Decent battery life
- Excellent sound quality
- Despite the quality of hardware and performance, the price is too high
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen
Finally, we have the first and only Lenovo model on our list, and it’s a real blast. Lenovo added several improvements compared to the previous ThinkPad model, and it’s a step forward in all the right directions.
ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen is run by Intel’s Core i7-8565U 1.8 GHz quad-core processor, overclockable up to 4.6 GHz. The combination of it, 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD provides great speed, stability, and just enough storage space.
Intel’s integrated UHD 620 graphics card allows for full HD resolution, and with the top quality Anti-Glare display you’ll be able to enjoy in countless hours of smooth and satisfying work and leisure.
The backlit keyboard is a nice bonus, and Finger Print Reader adds much on user safety.
- Awesome design
- Improved sound quality
- Improved display quality
- Superior keyboard quality
- Great Battery life
- The MicroSD Card slot is not supported