Long gone are the days where consumers had less than 10 options when buying a new laptop. Technology has advanced immensely in the past couple of decades, and now there is a slew of laptops to choose from. Whether users are looking for specific laptops such as gaming laptops or the best laptops for programming, it is important to determine what they want before shopping.
Choosing a Laptop for Programming
Any time people are looking to buy a new piece of technology, they have to know what specs and features they want in it. This includes a processor, RAM, storage, cache, and many other things.
“Programming” is a simple word but refers to a vast variety of things. There are now many different programming languages that techies use to code, so it is important to buy a laptop that is able to run needed IDEs, virtual machines, etc. whatever you may need for seamless programming.
Below are some important things to consider when someone is in search of the best laptop for programming.
Programmers spend the majority of their time on their computers. The invention of laptops was excellent for this group of people because they can work from anywhere and they are able to travel and still work. Comfort and convenience are key.
Before purchasing a laptop, it’s important to make sure the keyboard is comfortable. Many people don’t even consider how “touchy” and “responsive” a keyboard is, but developers have to. People who work at night also find a backlit keyboard useful.
Obviously, decent battery life and portability are also required in a laptop, especially for freelancers and those who work remotely. Consumers should look for a laptop that will give a minimum of six hours of battery life.
Smaller screens (more in the 13-inch range) are easier to carry around and usually more lightweight. Users who stay home or in an office most of the time, on the contrary, can get by with larger displays (around 17-inches).
Displays are also important, as eyestrain is real and programmers spend an enormous amount of time looking at them. Eye doctors recommend looking away from the screen every 20 minutes, but many people forget or are too engrossed in their work to do so. Also, the general consensus is that a touchscreen is not necessary unless someone is looking for a 2-in-1 laptop.
Many companies try to sell expensive 4k displays, but these are usually not necessary. As long as buyers get a laptop with at least a 1080p display, it should be just fine.
Of course, one of the biggest considerations that needs to be made when buying any type of laptop is the operating system (OS) consumers want to use. Microsoft Windows and macOS are the most prominent, but Linux is extremely close.
Microsoft Windows is typically the choice of programmers because Windows offers cheap laptops that are still able to provide the processing power a programmer needs. Most programming languages are supported by Windows and therefore are more attractive to general programmers.
Macs, on the other hand, are typically much more pricey; however, Apple developers need to work on them. Xcode isn’t available on Windows (well, you can try to emulate it though) so if you write software for iOS or macOS, Apple laptop is preferred. Apple laptops are also very popular among front-end developers.
As mentioned, Linux systems can also be used for programming and are mainly useful for developers who work with Ruby on Rails, Python, and PHP.
As one would expect, the processors in the programming laptops are crucial. Regardless what users are doing with their programming laptops, they will need a processor powerful enough to support their work.
Intel, of course, has been a powerhouse for processors for many years. Despite being on the more expensive side, the Intel i7 processor is excellent for programming. If you are using developing resource-heavy apps and games, the Intel i7 processor is probably the best choice. Most programmers can usually get by with an Intel i5 processor.
Laptops for programming students who are on a tight budget might have an Intel i3 processor, which is good for basics but not sufficient for heavy programming. These are probably not the best laptops for video editing and graphic design; however, they work fine for the basics.
Another important factor in a programming laptop is RAM. Running a lot of applications and programs at once can really slow a laptop down, but laptops with a large amount of RAM can handle them and allow users to switch between them seamlessly.
Entry level and most intermediate programmers can get by with about 8GB of RAM. This can handle code editors, a browser, local servers, and so on relatively quickly without problems.
On the other hand, hardcore game developers and graphic designers should have more RAM, more in the range of 12GB to 16GB.
Basic laptop buyers don’t even consider the debate between hard drives (HDDs) or solid state drives (SSDs), but programmers do. These both have their pros and cons, so users should make sure to weigh their options when deciding.
Hard drives are typically much slower than solid-state drives, but they usually also come with much, much more storage. Solid state drives are much faster but these laptops are usually more pricey and don’t have as much storage.
Ideally, the best laptop for programming would arguably have a solid state drive and 1TB of storage, but this is expensive and not everyone has that kind of budget.
Overall, if a user is looking for a lot of storage and average speed, hard drives are better, but if the user in search of an extremely fast laptop and can sacrifice storage space, solid-state drives might be the better option.
Though experts would know the answer to this, many beginners question whether to get a discrete graphics card or integrated graphics cards. Luckily, the integrated graphics card is likely the better option here, and it is cheaper than a discrete graphics card. This will allow users to use the saved money on other upgrades and options.
9 Best Laptops for Programming to Buy in 2020
Apple MacBook Pro 15″ With Touch Bar
Speedy Laptop with Apple Quality
In typical Apple fashion, the MacBook Pro 15″ is packed with useful features and nice accessories. With a speedy Intel i7 or i9 processor and a 256GB-512TB SSD storage, this laptop comes in a sleek space gray color and boasts a crisp retina display.
Apple also decided to include the new Apple T2 chip that offers encrypted storage and secure booting. As far as ports go, this laptop offers four Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Users report getting over 8 hours of battery life out of this MacBook and the speakers are also reportedly good quality as for a laptop. Apple made sure to include special features including Touch ID and the Touch Bar. Better yet, users can talk to their best friend Siri, too.
- SSD storage
- Intel i7 processor
- Adapters are needed for anything other than Thunderbolt 3 connections
ASUS ZenBook Pro 15
If you’re looking for the best laptop for programming, you should take a close look at the popular ASUS ZenBook Pro 15, an interesting machine that comes with a 15.6’’ 4k/UDH touchscreen and features an innovative screenpad. The retail price is pretty steep, but truth be told, you’ll get a lot of bang for the proverbial buck asked: Intel’s latest gen Core i9-8950HK, 16 GB of DDR4 RAM, a lightning-fast 512 GB PCIe SSD drive, and, if you’re getting bored coding, there’s an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU under the hood, a nice touch if you’re into gaming and/or video editing.
So, yeah, this machine ticks all the important boxes, as it’s perfectly capable of handling tons of work, while its innovative screenpad thing operates like a regular trackpad, but allows swiping, which launches a small toolbar, from where you can quickly access a number of applications, such as a music player or a calculator or whatever. What’s cool is that specific controls for the respective apps will appear directly on the screenpad.
But wait, it gets better: the screenpad can also act as a second screen, and you can drag programs from Windows to the “extended” secondary display. However, this is more like a gimmick, as the secondary display is not optimized for small text.
- well-built and designed
- sturdy chassis
- fantastic and perfectly calibrated UDH touchscreen
- the ScreenPad can work as a secondary display
- decent keyboard for typing
- the RAM is soldered to the mainboard
- battery life could be better
Google’s Place in the 2-in-1 Market
Of course, Google had to get in the laptop game, too. Currently in high demand, the Google Pixelbook costs about $1,500 and conveniently comes with a built-in Google Assistant.
The Google Pixelbook is fitted with an Intel i7 processor and has 512 GB for storage. Also featuring 16 GB RAM, the 12.3” screen makes this an exceptional gadget for those looking for portability. The full version of Microsoft Office is not yet supported, but the mobile versions work just fine.
The Pixelbook is great for developers who like Linux, but may not be the best for developers who work in other OSes. An optional accessory users can purchase with the Pixelbook is a “Pixelbook Pen.”
- Easy setup
- No USB-A port
- Developers and programmers report incompatibilities and crashes
HP Spectre x360 Gemcut 15t
One True Gem
Basically, if you’re looking for a gadget that can transform into a tablet and then back again into a fully functional laptop, the Spectre x360 15 should rank high on your shopping list. And there are quite a few reasons for that: first, for way under $2000 you’ll get premium build quality and top-notch hardware under the hood.
Think along the lines of Intel’s top hexacore i7-8750H CPU, not to mention a high-performance NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti (4 GB) GPU; this combo allows you to mix productivity (video editing and the like) with gaming in a big way. But wait, there’s more: everything will run smoothly and also look stunning on the stellar Touch 4K UHD display, which is a rare treat in this price bracket. There are also 16 GB of RAM and a fast 512 GB SSD drive, so, yeah, HP really hit the nail on its head with their updated HP Spectre x360 Gemcut 15t.
- premium build quality
- high-end performance
- stellar 4K IPS display
- comes with Windows 10 Pro preinstalled
- Bang and Olufsen sound system
- good connectivity options
- amazing value for money
- good keyboard
- battery life is outstanding considering the 4K display
- a bit heavy at 4.8 pounds to be used in tablet mode
- the touchpad needs work
ASUS VivoBook 15 F512DA-EB51
Solid Choice for Tight Budgets
Following the company’s tradition, the ASUS VivoBook 15 is built around its panel, ports and power. To make a long story short, this affordable laptop is designed to win the hearts and minds of users looking for a no-nonsense workhorse that looks pretty bland yet makes zero compromises in regard to quality and performance. The Vivobook is powered by an AMD Quad-Core R5-3500U CPU and features 8 GB of RAM, a lightning-fast 256GB PCIe SSD, AMD’s famous Radeon Vega 8 Graphics and a full HD 15’’ display.
The laptop comes with Windows 10 Home preinstalled and you’ll definitely love Asus’ so-called nano-bezel. Connectivity is top-notch, and includes USB 3. 1 Type-C (Gen1), USB 3. 0, USB 2. 0, and HDMI. The keyboard is rather good considering the price asked, but don’t expect miracles from the TFT panel, nor gaming performance in a budget-oriented laptop. To describe this VivoBook 15 in a few words, we’d say that it’s the definition of “less is more”.
- slick design
- solid hardware for the price
- highly portable
- features fingerprint sensor and a backlit keyboard
- solid connectivity options
- amazing value for money
- above average battery life (8 hours plus)
- surprisingly good speakers
- the display is not the best out there
- lacks Thunderbolt 3 support
Microsoft Surface Pro 6
The Best Portable Laptop for Programming
Programmers come in all shapes and sizes, just like the programs they design and the laptops they use. The Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is a hybrid device due to the detachable keyboard, but it’s more powerful than a slate along with half the laptops on our list.
Before we get to the tech specs, one advantage of this laptop is portability. It’s ideal for students or anyone that needs quick access to a laptop when an idea comes to mind as the 12.3-inch PixelSense Display won’t weigh you down. While it’s not the best option for gaming, media lovers will appreciate its portable nature as well.
This 2-in-1 has 16GB of RAM and a large 1TB solid-state drive. When you factor in the 8th gen Core i7, it can handle anything you throw its way, and the battery life is great as well with over 8-10 hours per charge. Unfortunately, due to its size, you’ll have to get by with a minimum amount of ports with one USB-A port, a mini DV port, microSD slot, and headphone jack.
If you’re on a budget, you may want to look at one of our other options as this configuration of the Surface Pro 6 is pricey. That said, it lives up to its name as it’s a Pro level laptop that’s built for speed and efficiency, not casual use. There are three variants of the Pro ranging available in two colors, and bundles including the Surface Type Cover as well.
- 2K PixelSense display
- 1TB solid-state drive
- Battery life
- Less than 2 pounds
- It’s expensive
- Could be too small for some
Jack of All Trades
Dell’s Latitude/XPS series are a wet dream for many, but the G7 is a very different beast: a large (17 inch) gaming laptop built for the masses, or so they claim. Truth be told, the price tag is very alluring, considering what’s under the hood: a 9th gen Intel Core i7-9750H CPU, working together with a powerful NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti 6Gb GPU, not to mention 16 GB of RAM and a solid 512GB SSD drive. Just looking at the tech specs, you’ll quickly realize that you’re getting a lot of laptop for the money.
But arguably Dell G7’s main selling point is its large real estate 144Hz display, which is bright and well-calibrated out-of-the-box. So, if you’re a hardcore coder looking for a versatile laptop, the Dell G7 has your name on it: it’s big, beautiful, powerful and can handle virtually any task: programming, multimedia, gaming, you name it, bring it on!
- high-performance machine
- solid keyboard with impressive tactile feedback
- excellent display
- solid choice for video/photo editing
- RGB backlighting
- 144Hz display
- cool metal finish
- great connectivity
- the webcam is impressively good
- battery life needs improvement
- gets noisy under load
- big and bulky
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen
Designed to Impress
The ThinkPad series from Lenovo (well, that would be IBM actually, but who remembers those guys nowadays) is the stuff legends are made of, and the same stands true for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen. If you’re a geek who works for NASA looking for a bad-ass looking machine to make your colleagues envious, this is the droid you were looking for all your life: this beast is designed to impress, but besides its sexy design and hefty price-tag, there’s a lot to brag about under the hood.
Keep in mind that what we’re dealing with here is Lenovo’s flagship ultrabook, hence the company tried their best to take your money: you’ll get a Core i7-8565U CPU, 16 GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a high-end 14″ FHD Touchscreen Display. Obviously, the legendary backlit keyboard is extra, and we’re talking about the famous “business-oriented” ThinkPad keyboard, which is arguably the best in the business. Because yes, this is a business-oriented laptop, which makes it perfect for programming.
- stellar build quality
- excellent keyboard for typing
- solid hardware under the hood
- bright 500-nit 4K IPS panel with Dolby Vision
- HDR400 certifications (factory calibrated)
- features Thunderbolt 3 ports, USB 3.0 Type-A, HDMI 1.4
- business-oriented ultra-portable
- no bloatware
- good value for money
- amazingly enough, there’s no SD card reader
Huawei MateBook X Pro
An Ultrabook with a Stunning Display
Huawei started turning heads with their smartphone lineup, but they got our attention because of a slick PC. The MateBook X Pro is in the ultrabook class and has a fantastic display with a 91% screen-to-body ratio.
It took a while, but manufacturers have begun to realize consumers love bezel-less displays. Huawei almost achieved that with this laptop as there is just a hint of black border around the top and sides. What really makes it pop is the tech behind the glass however as its 3K with a resolution of 3,000 x 2,000 and a contrast ratio of 1500:1. It’s also a touchscreen…
Huawei went with the 8th gen Core i7-8550U for the MateBook X, and it gets some help from 16GB of RAM. App and file access is snappy because of the 512GB SSD and the company’s One-Touch power button. While only 0.57 inches thick, it has all the essential ports as well with a USB-A, USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 port. We’re also fans of the little privacy pop-up camera and the battery life.
The one negative for this laptop is the trackpad, and some users have reported issues with coil whine. Aside from that, it’s a reliable laptop with a nice price tag and more than enough power to satisfy most users.
- Vivid 3K display
- Stylish design
- Great keyboard
- The trackpad could use some work
With so many laptops available on the market today, shoppers must be aware of what they want in their laptops and what they want to do with them. Price points of laptops can vary greatly and so can the specs of each one available. Some of the best laptops for programming have been outlined, but as usual it is an excellent idea to research all options yourself.