Best Laptops for programmers, and things to look for in a programming laptop

Programmers are often required to use their laptops for long periods of time. They spend hours at a time coding, writing code, debugging, testing, etc.

A lot of people think that programming requires a powerful computer. However, there are plenty of laptops out there that are capable of running your builds and performing other tasks needed to debug or test your new future commit.

In this article, I will share my favorite laptops for programmers. These are the best laptops for coders, back-end developers, front-end developers, apps developers, you name it (I do some front-end development myself btw), and anyone else who spends a lot of time copy and pasting solutions they found on StackOverflow (yeah we all know you do this).

Doing research in my spare time on tech is a thing I really love to do! When you decide to buy well-researched tech via an affiliate link on this site I’ll earn coffee money (woohoo!) and you don’t pay a higher price!

TLDR;

Time is money, so here are the best laptops for programmers in a nutshell.

‘App(le)’ development

  • Apple MacBook Air M1 – great and affordablefor Apple specific development
  • Apple MacBook Pro M1 MAX – the best for Apple specific development

Development on windows

  • Dell XPS 15 – One of the best developers laptops on windows
  • Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop – One of the cheapest windows laptop for programming

Development on Linux

  • Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition – One of the best laptops to buy for developing on Linux
  • Dell XPS 15 – One of the best Linux-ish programming laptops

What specifications does a laptop for programming need?

As a programmer, you don’t want to wait too long on your build to be ready or docker to be finally up and running after running some clean and docker-compose up commands. These kinds of things are CPU and memory-intensive, so I really recommend not saving much money on those.

Based on reviewers, and my own experience I recommend getting at least an Intel Core I7 processor or AMD Ryzen 7 processor, this can be from the current or previous generation, with 16GB of RAM, and at least 512Gb of Storage. For the graphics card, you can look at Intel UHD Graphics, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, or AMD Radeon Graphics Vega 8 or higher. An integrated graphics card is usually more than enough to build your programs because you won’t use it for programming. Of course, you can opt for any of Nvidia GeForce GTX, Nvidia GeForce RTX, or AMD Radeon RX external graphics cards for some in-between projects headshots.

For screen size, you can go for ultra-portable like a 14-inch, though my personal preference is to have at least a 15″ display, the weight difference between a 14 and 15-inch laptop is usually not that big, but the screen size you get back is major!

Although all these specs can be expensive, you can expect to pay everywhere between $700 – $1500 depending on what specific configuration you’re going with. Depending on the price paid and specs you can expect a laptop to go through its battery in about 4 to 8 hours of normal programming use.

So my core recommendation in short is:

  • Processor: Intel Core I7 or AMD Ryzen 7
  • Graphics Card: Intel UHD Graphics, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, or AMD Radeon Graphics Vega 8 or higher
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR4
  • Storage: 512GB
  • Screen size: 15-inch
  • Battery life: 6 – 10 hours
  • Price: ~$700 – $1500

That being said, Intel Core I5 or AMD Ryzen 5 aren’t the worse CPUs if you’d like to go with a more budget-friendly laptop. These can be perfect for some simple website programming. My experience so far is that these can get very slow quite quickly so the lifespan of those processors is shorter than that of an I7 or Ryzen7.

What is the best operating system for a programmer’s laptop?

The best operating system is depended on what you are used to and in what language and for what platform you would like to code. If you’re an app developer creating iOS, iPadOS, or macOS apps, you’re basically stuck with a macOS device like an Apple MacBook (Pro). If you’re a web developer (front-end or back-end) it can vary based on your development stack, but most OS’es would do, macOS, Windows, Linux, or even Chrome OS.

What are the best laptops for programming?

If you’re looking into buying a new laptop specifically for coding, then there are many different options out there. The first thing to consider is whether you’ll be using it primarily as a desktop replacement or just for occasional usage while traveling. A lot of people will say they prefer having their laptop docked at home, but I personally find myself working better without a docking station. It depends on how often you travel and where you work. Another thing to consider is the platform you’ll develop for. Some laptops are better for certain platforms than others.

Apple development for iOS, iPadOS, macOS

When only developing for Apple products it’s strongly recommended to get an Apple device. Apple gives access to great developing tools like Xcode and Swift which make it easier to create native applications for iPhone/iPad/Mac devices. You also don’t need to worry about compatibility issues since everything works together seamlessly. However, if you want to build websites or other cross-platform solutions, you can opt for a little bit cheaper windows laptop.

Apple MacBook Air M1 

The Apple MacBook Air M1 has been designed with an all-new unibody enclosure that’s thinner than any other MacBook yet it still manages to be up to 1.29 kg (2.8 lbs). It’s a great laptop for developers who mainly program for Macs. This laptop is cheap compared to other mac products but gives you enough CPU power to create your awesome application thanks to its revolutionary M1 chip. Besides this laptop easily manages to get you 11 hours of battery life before a single charge. 

APPLE

M1

PROCESSOR
Integrated

7-core

GRAPHICS CARD
MEMORY

8GB

APPLE (soldered)
STORAGE

256GB

SSD

Developing on windows for web

When developing for Windows, you need the Windows OS with Visual Studio. Of course, this can be done on the old MacBook Pro Intel version with Bootcamp, parallels, WINE, VMWare fusion, or Oracle Virtualbox, but not the M1 version. So if you dedicate your development to Windows you should go with a windows laptop. Unlike developing for Apple, with Windows you have many different options. From very expensive to some great budget-friendly laptops.

Dell XPS 15

This Dell XPS 15 comes with a powerful 8-core i7 processor along with 16 GB RAM, 512GB storage space, and an RTX 3050 Ti. With these specs, you won’t feel shortchanged when it comes to performance. In fact, this laptop offers more processing power than the previous generation model. And because of its slim design, you can carry around this machine anywhere. Its sleek appearance makes it perfect for both business and personal use.

INTEL CORE I7

11800H

PROCESSOR
NVIDIA GeForce RTX

3050Ti

GRAPHICS CARD
MEMORY

16GB

DDR-4-3200
Storage

512GB

SSD

Acer Aspire 5 Slim

AMD RYZEN 7

5700U

PROCESSOR
AMD RADEON

RX Vega 8

GRAPHICS CARD
MEMORY

8GB

DDR 4 3200
Storage

512GB

SSD

Developing on Linux for web

Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition

Dell XPS 15

INTEL CORE I7

11800H

PROCESSOR
NVIDIA GeForce RTX

3050Ti

GRAPHICS CARD
MEMORY

16GB

DDR-4-3200
Storage

512GB

SSD

What makes you the expert in laptops for programmers?

Well, I read and watched reviews from review tech experts like TechRadar, Laptopmag, and Creative Bloq and based my advice on their reasoning and advice. Besides, I’m a front-end developer myself and know what benefits me the most when developing on different projects. The most pain in the ass is a cheap laptop to save money at the start, but when you need to wait before everything is built and running, that can cost a lot of time.

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