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If you’re a professional software programmer, you know the importance of a great laptop for programming.
Though you can do some type of coding on any laptop, you will often require a powerful one that is lightweight and portable for easy use during your hours of coding. No one wants a laptop slower than their thought process or one that needs too much strength for convenience to move around after a long session of crazy programming. For this reason, finding a modern, high-quality laptop that will serve you well is paramount if you are a professional coder.
Best Laptop for Programming
The best programming laptop is one that is powerful, portable, and provides the coder with all the necessary ports and facilities they’d want. Programmers love portable, slim laptops so they can do their work in any setting, and that’s what we’ve considered (along with power, of course) when selecting our 5 favorite laptops for programming.
Be sure to check out our buyer’s guide after the reviews too so you know what to look for in great programming laptop.
Our Top Pick
We feel the Asus Zenbook 13 is the best overall laptop for programming because of its power, portability, ports, battery life, and gorgeous design.
- CPU: Intel Core i5 8th Generation 1.6GHz
- RAM: 8GB
- Storage: 256GB SSD
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce MX150
- Display: 3” FHD (1920×1080)
We’ll admit that we’ve always been fans of the Asus laptops. Their gorgeous design and high quality build combined with competitive pricing and powerful specs make them attractive for just about everyone.
Given its price, the Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UN is our favorite laptop for programming. It comes in a compact 13.3-inch form factor and packs all the latest features that make it an excellent device for coding.
Integrated into this beautiful dark-blue machine is an Nvidia GeForce MX150 which offers added graphical advantage over most laptops in this price range and size. While it’s not the most powerful graphics processor you can find in laptops, it’s more than capable of handling graphic-oriented programming tasks.
The battery life of this laptop can last up to 9 hours, which is pretty good for its size. The Asus laptop also comes with plenty of ports for connectivity, including two USB 3.0 ports, a microSD card reader, and an HDMI port.
Because of its perfect balance of design, performance, and pricing, we consider it the ideal laptop for all kinds of programmers that want to utilize the Windows platform.
- Beautiful design
- Strong performance
- Decent graphics performance for the price
- Good battery life
- Poor webcam
Best Value for Money
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Xtreme Gen 2 laptops are one of the best workstations, of which the lowest variant of the laptop has an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q 4GB, a 9th Generation Intel Core i5 CPU, long and strong battery life of 12+ hours and a 4k OLED display. All of that at an affordable price tag!
- CPU: 9th-Gen Intel Core i7-9850H
- RAM: 32GB DDR4 2666MHz
- Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650
- Display: 15.6-inch (3840×2160)
When it comes to workstations, you can never go wrong with Lenovo. The ThinkPad series has been a huge success as a workstation with people who need to carry work with them home. The lowest variant of the ThinkPad X1 Xtreme Gen 2 laptop has a 4-core 9th Generation i5, with a 2.4 GHz clock speed and a boosted clock of 4.1 GHz. With the multicore count, you can multitask and even perform your CAD operations smoothly.
Having the graphics support of an NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1650 Max-Q 4GB, your 3-D rendering will go smoothly without any hitches. The GTX 1650 Max-Q easily overpowers the GTX 1050 Ti and is one of the best laptop GPU for a workstation. Meaning not only does it support 3-D modeling better than most laptops out there, but it also makes this workstation ideal for high-resolution video rendering and editing.
While it has a medium-tier graphics card, it also sports a 4k OLED display. This enables you to have the best graphical experience and actually is a great choice for utilizing the potential of the graphics card. It has a 256 GB PCIe SSD, which means that loading time is much shorter than normal. It also enables this laptop to write data at incredible speeds.
The laptop has 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports, which support up to 40 GBPS transfer speed. It also has ThinkPad Thunderbolt 3 dock support making data transfer extremely fast while simultaneously charging your devices. Having 40 GBPS transfer speeds to transfer those large CAD, 3-D modeling and video rendering files was never easier. Everyone gets tired of how long it takes these files to transfer since they have such a huge GB count. But with the dock support, you are set to transfer files without the hassle of waiting too long, making the ThinkPad Thunderbolt 3 dock a really good investment as well.
All in all this laptop is a great choice and has amazing functionality since it has a long battery life of up to 12 to 14 hours, you are not bound by a cord when working with this workstation. If you plan on getting the 4k IPS display, the battery still easily runs for up to 6 to 7 hours. The laptop sports a carbon fiber texture which gives it a pretty sporty look for a workstation. ThinkPad laptops have always been great when it comes to workstations, but the X1 Xtreme Gen 2 laptop, it definitely gives you the value for what it’s worth.
- Excellent build quality
- Dual M.2 slots
- Vibrant, bright 4K display
- Thin and light workstation
- Fairly expensive
3. Dell XPS 13
- CPU: Intel Core i5 8th Generation 1.6GHz
- RAM: 8GB
- Storage: 128GB SSD
- GPU: Intel HD Graphics 620
- Display: 3” FHD (1920×1080)
We considered the Dell XPS 15 the best laptop for video editing due to its powerful features and performance, and we have much of the same to say for the smaller version, the Dell XPS 13. The version we’ve chosen is one of the more affordable setups of the Dell XPS 13, with an 8th generation Core i5, 8 gigs of RAM, 128GB SSD, and Intel integrated graphics.
What makes the Dell XPS 13 a fantastic programmable laptop is the combination of incredible battery life, one of the smallest footprints among 13-inch laptops, and an all-white interior. We thought we wouldn’t like the all-white interior, but it is strangely elegant.
The 2018 model is slimmer than its predecessors, but it proudly keeps the near bezel-less screen design that makes it fantastic for coding projects. Powerful new processors and specs make it ideal for almost all developer tasks, making this an excellent laptop for programming and coding. A fingerprint reader under the power button will also keep your device biometrically secure, in case you’re programming on something sensitive.
The only reason the Dell XPS 13 doesn’t get the nod as our top laptop for programming is because of its lack of dedicated graphics. While not a necessity for most programmers, some would want a GPU for graphics oriented coding.
- Beautiful remodeled design
- Excellent performance for the price
- Incredible bezel-less display
- Excellent battery life
- Awkward webcam placement still a problem
- Most ports have been replaced by USB Type-C
- CPU: Intel Core i7 9th Generation
- RAM: 8-32GB
- Storage: 128GB-2TB SSD and Up-to 2TB HDD
- GPU: NVIDIA Quadro P1000
- Display: 15.6” 1920×1080
The Dell Precision Series of laptops has been widely successful, with people performing heavy oriented performance tasks easily without any problems. The Precision 5530 is specially meant for people who have some heavy duty programming tasks to perform. Equipped with an Intel Core i7-8850H which is a 6 core, 12 thread CPU, this laptop is no less than a high performer.
You get variety of options in memory, from 8GB up to 32GB RAM, depending on how much budget you have. This laptop is also armed with a great GPU, a Quadro P1000, which can enable you to perform graphical tasks with ease. You can also do some light gaming with this laptop thanks to it but do not expect 1080p gaming.
You have 2 storage options in this laptop, you get a 256GB in the base model which is around $1000, but if you have more money to spare you can go up to 2TB of SSD along with 2TB HDD. But for programming tasks even the base 256GB of Solid State storage will do just fine for you.
It has a Thunderbolt 3 Type-C USB port for connecting to a bigger screen or transferring data at 40GB/s speed along with 2xUSB 3.0 Type-A for connectivity options. You also get a fingerprint scanner for added security and backlit keyboard for an enhanced experience.
If we were to pick out one bad thing about this laptop it would only be that this laptop, regardless of being slim and sleek is a bit on the heavy side, not a lot though. Also, the battery could have been better. Otherwise, this is a perfect laptop for graphic oriented programming and programming in general.
- Great minimalistic design
- Excellent performance
- Ideal for Android developers
- Limited application for developing for other operating systems
- Speakers are weak
- CPU: Intel Core i3 or i5 10th Generation
- RAM: 8GB
- Storage: 256-512TB SSD
- GPU: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
- Display: 13.3” 2560×1600
MacBook Air is preferred by programmers all over the world for two reasons, one it is extremely lightweight and portable and second is that it utilizes the potential of the hardware to the max.
With 13.3 Inches of Retina display, this laptop is almost always the first choice of all student and professional programmers because of its versatility.
The latest iteration features a 10th Generation Core i3 and i5 Processor and 8GB of RAM, which supports all your programming tasks fairly easily. For storage you have ultrafast Solid State memory, you can get 256GB, 512GB or expand even further depending on your budget.
It does not have a powerful graphics card though, it utilized the Intel Iris Plus Graphics, which is the next-generation graphics provided by Intel which is fairly powerful, just like the AMD Vega graphics built-in some of their CPU.
The Apple MacBook Air also has 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports for charging and connecting to a bigger display simultaneously. It has a huge battery life of 10 hours which just lasts a whole day without problems.
- Fantastic form factor
- Very portable
- Powerful for a tablet
- Incredible battery life for such a device
- Keyboard and stylus require separate purchase
Best Laptop for Programming – Buyer’s Guide
Okay, we know that the bulk of the heavy lifting is done by the computer processor and even RAM, but in a laptop for programming, you also want to look at the storage type. Programming and coding will require frequent read/write functions, and in order to keep pace, you want more SSD storage instead of hard disk drives.
Even the weakest SSDs are around 7-8 times faster than the hard drive with the most RPM. More importantly, SSDs are more durable and have a much longer life – the chance of failure is almost nonexistent as there are no moving parts.
Ideally, your programming laptop should have an NVMe PCI-e SSD. This type of SSD is not only small and compact, it is also the fastest in the world in 2018. Having such a fast SSD will ensure you have no slow-downs when performing regular read/write tasks during programming.
Processing Power and RAM
The processor and the RAM are the two most important components in a laptop for programming. You will need a good amount of memory to run most coding programs and environments. Larger compilations will require plenty of processing power, and to get through it you’ll want a modern multi-core processor.
Processing power is arguably the most important feature. The CPU is the brain of the computer, and its job is to handle all the information you feed it in the form of coding. Compiling a program you’ve written is a CPU intensive task, so the best speeds are associated with the best processors.
Memory is also important because it allows you to run several different programs at once without stressing your computer. Many programmers utilize different software all at once, and in that scenario a lot of memory is essential. For modern laptops, 8GB memory will suffice. If you are running an unusually large number of programs at once though, you should consider 16GB instead.
Sitting in front of a computer screen for hours is what most programmers are used to, but the very reason laptops are more popular among coders than desktops is because of their portability. As a programmer, you will likely be doing your work in your office, in a bar, on the bus while traveling, and maybe even while on the loo.
Portability is paramount here, and that is why we’ve only featured laptops that are highly portable yet have powerful hardware to run all major programming software smoothly.
Do I need a dedicated graphics card in a laptop for programming?
This will depend on the type of programming you are doing. Most programming requires good RAM and a powerful processor, but a dedicated graphics card is entirely optional.
Some software for programming which deal with graphics content such as UnrealEd or Unity will require good VRAM (video RAM) and graphics power, which is not available in integrated graphics. In such scenarios, a graphics card is highly recommended.
Are gaming laptops good for programming?
Gaming laptops have a lot of RAM and powerful processors, so they generally tend to tick the box. However, they are much more expensive than regular laptops, have inferior battery lives, generate a lot of heat, and are much heavier.
For this reason, they are not usually preferred by hardcore programmers. If, however, you’re a gamer and a coder, you could benefit greatly from a feature-packed gaming laptop.
Which is better for programmers: Mac or Windows?
This question has been thrown around for decades now. Mac OS is loved by coders because it has better cross-platform compatibility. More importantly, Mac provides a streamlined operating system that has an ideal environment for programming. For this reason, it is the more popular choice.
However, Windows is catching up, and as laptops become more powerful, the difference in performance between the two platforms is minimal. Windows offer better fidelity and customizability and is better at performing all tasks because of better program compatibility, making it a great platform if you’re interested in performing all major tasks.