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.
Last update on 2021-10-19 // The links above are affiliate // Images from Amazon
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.
Best Laptops for Programming
Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch
High-End Laptop for Programming
We cannot make an article about the best laptop for programming and not talk about Apple’s best stuff, i.e. the MacBook Pro. The new MacBook Pro 16-inch is arguably the best thing ever released by the Cupertino based company, and by that we mean it’s the most powerful machine made by Apple so far.
The new MacBook Pro is a true beast, as Apple learned what they did wrong with previous models and took its customers’ demands seriously, hence the new MacBook Pro improved on basically every aspect of the iconic workstation. If you have enough dough to get it, this is probably one the best laptops money can buy.
Here’s what’s new: a better/improved keyboard over the previous generation, and that’s awesome for programmers. Then, there’s the stunning 16 inches Retina display with True Tone technology, perfectly calibrated from the factory. The show is powered by a 9th gen hexa-core I7 CPU, while graphic-intensive applications are taken care of by a strong AMD Radeon Pro 5300M GPU with GDDR6 memory.
Moreover, you’ll get 16 GB of RAM, a 512 GB SSD and an awesome 6 speaker sound system with force-canceling woofers and studio-quality mics, and there you have it: $2000 from your bank account are gone baby, gone.
- Fabulous Retina display
- 500 nits of brightness
- Fantastic keyboard
- Strong hardware
- Premium build quality
- Amazing speakers
- Gaming ready
- Only 4 Thunderbolt ports
- Kind of expensive
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
Solid Ryzen-Powered Laptop for Programming
Microsoft launched its Surface Laptop 3 earlier in 2020, marking a first for the company: this is a flagship machine that sports an AMD Ryzen CPU. Until now, it was Intel business as usual, but the Surface Laptop 3 follows the current world-trends, breaking up with tradition.
Besides rocking a Ryzen CPU, the AMD Ryzen 7 Surface Edition respectively, this premium laptop features a 15 inches screen, a clean and elegant design, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB SSD. According to Microsoft, the AMD Ryzen 7 Surface Edition is the fastest in its class, hence if you want blazing speeds while coding stuff for Google, this is the droid you were looking for.
Another strong selling point of the Surface Laptop 3 is its fantastic battery life, not to mention the fabulous 15-inch 2,496 x 1,664 PixelSense display. The graphics part is covered by a top-notch Radeon Vega 9 GPU, and for the price asked, you’re getting a lot of computing power and excellent graphics, not to mention the sharp screen.
Unlike the Apple machine, the Microsoft flagship doesn’t offer dedicated AMD GPUs, relying on the embedded thing on the Ryzen CPU. That’s why the Surface is more affordable than the MacBook Pro by the way.
- Thin and light
- Exceptional battery life
- Smooth trackpad
- 2,496 x 1,664 resolution
- Solid hardware
- Touch Screen
- USB-C and USB-A ports
- Lacks Thunderbolt 3 support
Razer Blade 15 Advanced Gaming Laptop
One of the Best Laptops for Programming and Gaming
As per its name, the Razer Blade 15 is a gaming-centric laptop, a high-powered machine that costs north of $2.000, so what on Earth are we doing, you may ask? Well, from a programmer’s point of view, gaming is life, in those breaks between 5000 lines of code, but joke aside, there’s no such thing as a programmer who doesn’t indulge himself in gaming hard when there’s time and space.
The point being, the Razer Blade 15 is excellent for both work and play, and if you check out the specs, you’ll be flabbergasted: octa-core I7 10875H CPU, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super Max-Q GPU, 16 GB of RAM (expandable), 512 GB SSD, a full HD 15.6 display with a 300 Hz refresh rate, what more can you ask from this life?
On top of that, the chassis is made from aluminum, full-block CNC aluminum respectively, just like a MacBook Pro, and you also get Chroma RGB lighting and Thunderbolt 3 compatibility. But, as far as programming goes, you’ll definitely love the 4K OLED touch display, which is arguably one of the best in the industry, and the thin and compact aluminum unibody frame, that houses an amazing keyboard.
Finally, the Razer Blade 15 looks like a serious business laptop provided you’re turning off the RGB thing, which means you can take it with you anywhere without anyone suspecting anything. In this regard, the Razer Blade 15 is incredibly versatile and stealth, and yes, that’s another reason why we absolutely love it.
- Excellent build quality
- Top-notch hardware
- Stunning display
- Fantastic keyboard
- Good battery life
- No bloatware
- Full-size HDMI
- Quiet fans
- Quality control issues reported
HP Pavilion 15-cs3019nr
Best Bang for The Buck
If you don’t have $2k to spend on a laptop, don’t worry, we got that covered: enter the HP Pavilion cs3019nr, a 15 inch laptop that retails for way less than $1000, yet it comes packed with all the necessary hardware to please the pickiest programmer.
To begin with, you have a 10th gen quad-core i7-1065G7 CPU, which is kind of nice for the money asked, 16 GB of RAM, a blazing fast 512 GB SSD, Intel Iris Plus graphics and even Amazon Alexa compatibility, that provided you enjoy having spyware installed on your machine.
What’s really important besides processing power is the display, since you’re going to spend countless hours looking at it. The Pavilion comes with a Full HD IPS WLED-backlit full HD screen with 81% screen to body ratio. Battery life is rated at 10 hours, give or take, and you’ll benefit from HP’s fast-charge technology that gives you 50% juice in 45 minutes flat.
Basically, if you’re looking for professional performance for your workday at an affordable price, it doesn’t get much better than this; however, if you want some gaming on the side, the Iris Graphics is not the droid you were looking for.
- Top-notch hardware
- Slim and light
- Wi-Fi 6, BT 5
- Good keyboard
- Aluminum case
- 7 hours autonomy
- Finicky touchpad
- Keyboard is not backlit
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 7
The Best Portable Laptop For Programming
It’s time for a flagship, henceforth we present you the Surface Pro 7 from Microsoft. This laptop of sorts is an interesting choice for programmers on the go, due to its ultra-lightweight and compact design, which is best in class according to the company.
This particular model comes with a 10th gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8 GB of RAM and a fast 128 GB SSD. It doesn’t sound like much, but the price is also affordable considering the flagship-build quality, not to mention the excellent 12.3’’ touchscreen display.
Compared to the 2019 model, the 2020 version comes with USB Type C, yet the rest remains basically the same. The laptop weighs 1.7 pounds or 770 grams, which is amazing, and measures 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches (292 x 201 x 8.5mm). The bright screen boasts a resolution of 2,736 x 1,824 pixels, with a 267 ppi density, featuring an outstanding saturation-color balance, plus an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts brightness.
Build quality is as solid as it gets, the kickstand is an engineering masterpiece and quite steady in any imaginable scenario, the sound quality is decent, and charging is quite fast, taking 45 minutes from 0 to 50 percent. However, battery life is nothing to write home about at 8 hours, i.e. we expected more to be honest. Finally, keep in mind that you’ll have to spend extra money for a keyboard and a pen eventually, but other than that, this is a very good choice for productivity-focused people who travel a lot.
- Premium build quality
- Good value for money
- Fast charging
- Micro SD reader
- USB Type C
- Light and compact
- Outdated design
Dell XPS 15 9500
Excellent Laptop for Programming
The Dell XPS 15 is arguably the best 15’’ laptop on the market today, and that makes it a fine contender for the “best laptop for programming” extravaganza. To describe it in a few words, the XPS 15 9500 is a premium desktop replacement that’s as close to perfection as humanly possible.
If you’re looking for slick design, top-notch components and robust build quality, the Dell XPS 15 9500 ticks all the important boxes in our book. Depending on your budget, you can configure a 4K touchscreen dream-machine, an Infinity Edge display with 100% Adobe RGB color, up to 10th gen i9 i9-10885H CPU, up to 32 GB of RAM, up to 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD and even a GTX 1650 Ti 4GB GDDR6 GPU.
Build quality is amazing, though a little on the heavy side, the 4K UHD+ (3840 x 2400) display is one of the best in the industry, and that counts for programmers, and the keyboard is fantastic for avid typists, being quiet and responsive, i.e. perfect for touch-typing.
The sound system is excellent, you get both USB Type-C and USB Type-A ports, and even battery life is outstanding at 12 hours autonomy. As we already told you, this is one of the best desktop replacements money can buy, highly configurable, built to last and very pretty; if you can afford it, just go for it and thank us later.
- Highly configurable
- Impressive display
- Top-notch hardware
- Thin bezels
- Great keyboard
- Stellar audio
- A bit heavy
MSI P65 Creator-1084
Dressed to Kill
The MSI P65 Creator is an amazing gaming laptop, filled to the brim with the latest technological bells and whistles, everything packed in a slick and sober design. With a retail price of less than $2k, the Creator is an excellent laptop for programming, gaming, video-editing, what have you, i.e. a jack of all trades if you like, provided you can live with the price tag.
Under the hood, you’ll find an Intel Core i7-9750H CPU, 32 GB of RAM, a beefy 1 TB SSD, a GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, everything VR Ready and running on Windows 10 PRO. We almost forgot the fabulous wide-view angle 4K UHD screen, anti-glare treated, since you’ll be staring at it all day long.
Design-wise, the laptop is ultra-thin, amazingly light and business-looking, or, to put it another way, it’s basically a gaming laptop in sheep’s clothing. The aluminum-built chassis oozes class, build quality is as solid as it gets in an expensive laptop, the keyboard is pretty good and performance is superb, as per tech-specs.
All in all, if you can live with 4-5 hours battery life, which is not impressive to say the least, and the fact that the laptop can get hot and loud when pushed (read gaming hard), the MSI P65 Creator is an interesting choice if you want an all-rounder capable of handling anything you throw at it.
- Superb display
- Solid build quality
- Top-notch hardware
- Nice keyboard
- Good value
- Mediocre battery life
- Dim display (270 nits)
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.