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 2018
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 8th generation Intel i7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM and 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 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 512 GB SSD, amazing speed
- high-end six-core i7 CPU, dedicated GPU
- awesome display
- very good autonomy (up to 10 hours)
Great Choice for Programming and Design
This HP Elite Book is the definition of a business laptop, featuring a 14 inch anti-glare full HD 1080p display, and a powerful i7-6600U CPU, a low voltage version that is, which translates into better autonomy. The laptop ships with a generous 512 GB SSD and 32 (!) GB of RAM (DDR4), and comes preloaded with Windows 10 Professional. As far as tech specs go, the HP EliteBook 840 G3 is a true beast, short of having a dedicated graphics card.
However, the Integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU is perfectly capable of handling almost all tasks, except for heavy gaming. Considering its solid tech specs, classy design, and excellent keyboard, the HP EliteBook 840 G3 can be described as one of the best machines out there for both design and programming, due to its competitive price tag.
The chassis is made of aluminum, and the design is minimalistic. The build quality is top-notch, the keyboard features an island-style design and it’s back-lit, while the sound system is signed by Bang & Olufsen.
The ports include a USB 3.0, an RJ45, one USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt, HDMI, a headphone/microphone jack, an HP UltraSlim dock connector and a WWAN SIM card reader.
For “heavy” users, it’s worth mentioning that the EliteBook 840 G3 comes with MIL-STD-810G certification, which means it can endure tons of abuse, such as extreme temps, humidity, high altitude and vibration. The keyboard is great for typing fast, featuring short travel and requiring strong actuation force, being very comfy and relatively quiet.
- nice design, light and thin
- top-notch hardware
- impeccable audio quality
- impressive keyboard
- lots of connectivity options
- average display quality
- mediocre autonomy (~7 hours)
The Best Laptop for Programming Student
The Samsung Notebook 9 Pro is an interesting machine, featuring a 15-inch full HD 1080p touchscreen, which makes it a 2-in-1 laptop if you like, i.e. the best of both worlds between a stand-alone laptop and a tablet. Along with the “touch-screen” thing, Samsung threw in a 360° flip-and-fold rotating display and a built-in S pen.
As per hardware specs, the Notebook 9 Pro brings you a 7th gen/mobile Intel Core i7 CPU 7500U (low voltage), 16 GB of RAM (DDR4) and a 256 GB SSD. Considering its price tag vs tech specs, the Notebook 9 Pro makes for the best programming laptop for students, offering pro-level performance at an affordable price.
- decent price, awesome features
- good hardware
- adequate display
- tons of versatility
- beefy battery
- speakers are not so great
- mediocre keyboard
Great Cheap Laptop for Programming
The VivoBook from Asus is a great laptop for programming, especially if you’re on a tight budget, featuring an 8th gen I5 CPU from Intel, 8 GB of RAM and a classic 1 TB hard disk drive. Even if the tech specs are not as spectacular compared to the previous laptops, the VivoBook comes with a more than adequate CPU for programming tasks, a 15.6 inches full HD 1080p nano-edge bezel display, which features an amazing 80% screen to body ratio, and a plethora of ports/connections, which include one USB 3.0, one USB 3.1, two USB 2.0, one HDMI, SD Card, and a microphone-jack combo.
Now, even if the tech specs are not stellar, this laptop is hard to beat considering the price asked. The latest gen i5 processor is good enough for programming tasks, and it comes with integrated UHD 620 graphics, which means it can handle basically anything you throw at it, including moderate gaming. In terms of battery life, the Asus VivoBook has enough juice for up to six hours, which is not bad in its price range.
- excellent value for money, sleek design
- solid build quality
- adequate battery life
- crisp and bright screen
- latest 8th gen CPU
- no SSD
- poor audio quality
- not a back-lit keyboard
Best Bang for The Buck
Dell is one of the best-known players in the industry, and their XPS 13 9360 makes for arguably one of the best laptops for college if you’re into programming and want a piece of high-quality gear coming from a reputable manufacturer.
This particular configuration features a 7th gen i5 7200U (low-voltage) CPU from Intel, 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD. The 13’’ display is absolutely stunning, along with the CPU performance and battery life, considering the laptop’s price range.
The XPS 13 9360 is the quintessential ultra-portable laptop, boasting an amazing bezel-less screen (InfinityEdge) and all the connectivity you’ll ever need for a hassle-free experience.
There’s also a built-in webcam, Bluetooth 4.1, an integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU, 1x Thunderbolt 3 via USB Type-C port, 2x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, along with a Headphone/Microphone Combo Jack. The laptop ships with Windows 10 pre-installed and weighs 3.7 pounds.
- lightweight and looks awesome
- amazing battery life
- strong performance
- excellent display with wide viewing angles
- none really at this price
Working Class Hero
When it comes to solid performance at a cheap price, the Acer Aspire comes to mind, and the same stands true for the Acer Aspire E 15, a very affordable laptop under $400, that can be successfully be used for programming, among other things.
The E15 comes with an 8th gen i3 CPU from Intel, along with 6 GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard disk drive; on top of that, there are a full HD 1080p 15.6’’ display and an amazing battery, which delivers over 10 hours of autonomy.
For people on tight budgets who are looking for a solid machine to be used for programming, the Acer Aspire E15 delivers outstanding bang for the buck. As far as budget notebooks go, it doesn’t get any better than this one.
- amazing value for money
- premium performance
- good keyboard/touch-pad
- excellent autonomy
- none at this price
The Microsoft Surface Pro is not actually a “laptop”, but a glorified tablet that can be transformed into a laptop-like machine “with a flick of the switch”. With the Surface Pro, it’s a “2 for the price of 1” kind of a deal. This tablet/laptop combo is a premium device by all metrics, and also comes at a premium price. However, for just over $1000, you’ll get Microsoft’s best: high-end build quality and top-notch software.
This particular model comes with a 7th gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. Battery life is pretty good, with the Surface Pro delivering over 13 hours of video playback, and presumably the same stands true for programming. If you’re looking for a “laptop replacement”, the Surface Pro is really worth a look, being the best product (hardware) offered by Microsoft today.
- better and larger screen compared to previous generations
- pen comes standard and works great, the new Type Cover is excellent
- the display is pixel-dense
- good performance in all areas
- relatively heavy compared to other tablets
Great Laptop for Programming and Gaming
Everyone needs a break from programming, and here this Dell machine comes into play. Powered by a latest-gen 6-core Intel i7 CPU and boasting 16 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD plus a 1 TB HDD, this laptop makes for the best of both worlds, whether you’re into gaming or creating the latest app. However, the cherry on top is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti GPU, which is capable of running the latest games hassle-free.
This Dell laptop is a true powerhouse, being engineered for gaming excellence, and that says it all. The 15’’ full HD 1080p display offers wide viewing angles and has an anti-glare coating, while the 8th gen i7 CPU is perfect for working or playing hard. This laptop is built for performance and speed, hence if you’re looking for “power overwhelming”, i.e. the best laptop for both gaming and programming, look no further, you’ve just found it.
- stellar performance
- good value for money
- built for convenience, stays cool under heavy load
- hard to get better specs for the price asked
- excellent customer service/proprietary drivers/updates
- battery life surprisingly good (~10 hours)
- relatively heavy (5.57 pounds-2,5 kg)
- gets noisy under load
Built for Business
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E580 is an all-rounder business laptop, which delivers an interesting mix of features: the legendary ThinkPad design, impeccable workmanship and an amazing typing experience, along with solid hardware, all at an affordable price. As far as programming laptops go, this machine is hard to beat. This particular unit comes with a full HD 1080p display, an Intel Quad Core i7-8550U (low voltage), 16 GB of RAM and a 500 GB SSD.
To make a long story short, this laptop is top-notch performance wise, and for programmers or coders, I must mention its world-class keyboard. There are few laptops on the market today that can match the quality of a ThinkPad keyboard. If you’re looking for a great typing experience and stellar performance, the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E580 has your name on it, as it checks all boxes required from the best laptop for programming, and then some.
- stellar performance
- build quality
- keyboard is best in industry
- iconic ThinkPad design
- excellent value for money
- screen could be better
- modest autonomy for a business workhorse (8 hours)