In this Article
We have reviewed best laptops for programming 2021 based on their performance and cost. Programming no doubt is a demanding job, you will need something that is equipped with powerful specs like CPU, RAM, Storage, etc. For a purpose after a thorough research, we managed to list down all those top rated laptops for programming along with a detailed buyer’s guide carrying all important factors. For all your relevant queries, we have also added a Frequently Asked Questions section to help your clear your mind.
Best Laptop for Programming 2021
- Apple Macbook Pro 13 – M1 Chip
- Acer Aspire 5 – Latest Gen CPU
- Lenovo ThinkPad X1 – Hardcore programming laptop 2021
- Apple MacBook Pro – Best Macbook for Programming
- Acer Swift 5 – Best Portable
- ASUS ZenBook 14 – Best Ultrabook for Coding
- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 – Windows Programming Laptop
- HP Envy x360 – Best 2-in-1
- Huawei MateBook X Pro – Professional Laptop
- Dell Precision M5510 – Best Workstation for Programmers
For all developers out there, we have put together a list of some best laptops for programming. You will love them for sure and they are good for all tools and languages like HTML, CSS, PHP, JAVA and C etc. You may hear a lot that algorithms and code must be optimized etc, but you rarely hear that for good programming you need hardcore hardware as well. Faster the performance, better will be your coding experience.
No matter, if you are at the beginning of your coding journey or a professional, you need a powerful and best laptop for coding. The good thing about programming is that a powerful laptop here doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive. On the contrary if a gamer or graphics designer want a powerful laptop then it would be an expensive one because of graphics hardware. But for computer programming, all you need is a fast processor and good RAM along with other small things which we will be discussing below.
Our Top 3 Picks
1. Surface Laptop 3
Display: 15 (2256×1504)
2. Dell M5510
Display: 15.6 (3840×2160)
3. ThinkPad X1 Extreme
Display: 15.6 (1920×1080)
What is the Best Laptop for Programming?
While choosing a laptop for development purposes, you must be very specific about the most important things. You may want to go for a laptop which has additional features but those might distract you from the real aim which is computing performance. This is why you need to be focused on limited things which will enhance your coding from all aspects like quick compilation and execution of the code. Let’s have a look at what makes the best laptop for developers.
As a programmer, you must know that CPU is the most important thing when talking about coding and compilation. When you write the code in any editor, you don’t need a huge CPU. But when it’s time to compile your code and then run it, this is when the role of a CPU comes in. For this reason, your CPU needs to be a good one. However, this does not necessarily mean that your laptop should have a latest Gen fast CPU.
All of it actually depends on what tool you are using? how many lines of code you have and if you are using any external help like APIs etc. So, if you are looking for a best laptop for programming student then any CPU above Core-i3 should work fine for you. But if you are working on complex stuff then you need a new Gen and more cores. For beginner and intermediate level programming, an optimal CPU would be Core-i5 from 6th Gen or above.
Size of the RAM directly effects the tool you are using. Now, if your coding language is JAVA and you are using any IDE like Eclipse or NetBeans then a 4GB will do the work. However, if you are working on a massive tool like Android Studio then you must have a minimum of 8GB RAM. The good thing about RAM is that you can always increase it by adding a similar RAM card as the one present in your laptop. Or simply remove the old one and add a single enhanced RAM.
If you belong to development and programming world, you must know a little about the hardware as well. Old laptops used to have HHD as their primary storage. HDD uses mechanical arms which makes it slow, they can not load your OS and data quickly. On the contrary an SSD is much faster compared to conventional HDD. If you have an SSD, it will start your laptop quickly and all your programming tools will load quickly too. This is why, your programming laptop must have an SSD.
Finally keyboard is important too. Better and responsive your keyboard, better will be your productivity. Two things should be checked in a keypad of the laptop. First is whether it has a numpad or not, for many people a numpad is important. But you will only have a numpad in your laptop if it is a large one. Second is the keypunch and space between the keys. Good key space and better punch will allow your fingers to code fast.
OS is an important thing you need to decide about before getting on with your new laptop. There are two different views about OS. Some people say that OS matters and some say that they are good with all operating systems. Technically speaking, you may see difference among operating systems based on what tools or IDE you are using. MacOS, Windows and Linux are most prominent and popular among programmers. Let’s peek into how they are different and which will suit your work the most.
Windows OS is most used among all operating systems. The reason for this is compatibility, simplicity and its price. Majority users are good to go with Windows OS because they have been using it for a long time. Additionally, it can be installed on wide range of laptops from various manufacturers. For programmers, if you are working on any IDE, tool or language, Windows OS can handle it for you. Especially, if you are working on things like Visual Studio, .NET etc, then Windows OS is going to be the best option.
macOS is only available in Apple laptops, which means for using macOS properly you will have to buy a MacBook. Now the downside to them is that they are expensive. But the fact exists that people have been switching to macOS and the number has been increasing for the past few years. The main reason for this could be its virus-free nature and the fact that they are fast. Performance wise, you may add more RAM or SSD to a Windows laptop and increase its performance. However, the good thing about MacBooks is that not only the hardware is good, but their software is much more optimized compared to Windows and this is why macOS is fast. So, for things like Ruby/Rails stuff or if you are developing for OSX and iPhones etc, then definitely macOS is the best choice.
Linux is popular among programmers as well. It is basically an OS which programmers have setup for their own ease. Linux OS is safe and easy to use as well. So if you are working on things like Python and C, then Linux OS is perfect. This is because such things are easy to develop in Linux OS. You would only know when you get your hands on to it. One good thing about Linux is that it supports all languages. You can easily switch between programming languages and use all languages like JAVA, C++, Apple’s Swift etc.
Finally, Chrome OS is not much prominent for developers and coding purposes. But you can very easily use it. Many people think that one can not use it for development purposes but this is not the case. It offers a good experience, however the reason for it not being popular among developers is that it is not widely used. However, you can always switch to a different OS like Linux using ChromeOS.
Best Laptop for Coding 2021
1. Apple MacBook Pro
Apple has this time banged with its same old design but latest M1 chip (Well capable to bring true workhorse like performance). M1 chip is a combination of amazing technologies like 8 Core CPU, 7 Core GPU, and 16 core neural engine to bring ultimate graphical performance. The laptop apart from programming, is also ideal for other demanding jobs like content creation, film-making, casual gaming, graphics designing, etc. The MacBook Pro with its bright and clear 13.3 inches display emits true colors with WQXGA resolutions display screen. The true tone color included makes the display to look more promising. The ultra-portable nature of Macbook Pro makes it super easy to carry alongside on business or family trips. Moreover, the laptop manages to give you a battery backup of almost 20 hours on a single recharge which is quite impressive for this much robust internals. Similarly, Thunderbolt 3 port included is a biggest plus for those who usually faces large file transfer issues, TB 3 ports has a transfer rate of almost 40GBs/Sec. Overall if you want a laptop that is portability friendly, provides faster performance, offer good decent port with a long lasting battery life, Apple Macbook Pro is a perfect option to go with for programming.
Pros: Powerful M1 Chip, Battery Life, Build Quality, Keyboard.
Cons: Only 2 USB-C Ports, No touch screen, Price.
2. Acer Aspire 5
Acer Aspire 5 coming up right next on the list of best laptop for programming, holds latest 11th generation Intel processor. Programming is surely a handy job and urges us to have powerful laptop in order to keep things smooth and un-interrupted. The Acer Aspire 5 for professional programmers is a budget option because what ever it holds is exceptional from performance point of view. The laptop has an amazing display with FHD (Full high definition, 1920 x 1080 that works perfectly fine. If you are a creative professional, graphics designer, or someone who prefers higher resolutions in order to acknowledge your art in a best possible way, you can then opt for a laptop with better display than this. Also the laptop offers great storage options from a fast 16GB RAM to 512GB of SSD (Solid state drive). If you are a programmer and needs a low budget laptop for different kind of development, Acer Aspire 5 is best to go with.
Pros: Performance, Affordable, Ports, Wi-Fi 6, Portable.
Cons: Display, Not for gaming, No backlit keyboard.
3. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme
Lenovo is well-known for their ThinkPad lineup which basically are sleek yet powerful notebooks. You will comes across a lot of models from this series, however the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is one of their new releases which comes with powerful internal components and is specifically developed for hardcore tasks. The price of it might be on the higher side for programming students, though for professionals this is the best go to option. And the notebook does not only restrict you to dull tasks, it comes with a dedicated Nvidia GPU which allows you to do a lot more. Speaking of power, ThinkPad X1 Extreme packs powerful internal components and this is the reason for its name Extreme. You can literally go on for any IDE or development tools and the laptop will work lag-free. For battery backup, you get well above 8 hours which is more than enough for a laptop packing this sort of heat. X1 Extreme weighs 3.8 pounds and is 0.7 inches thick, this makes it a highly portable laptop. As for the ports, you are getting well capable two Thunderbolt 3 ports with 40GB/sec transfer speed.
Pros: Performance, Storage, Two TB3 Ports, Durable.
Cons: Expensive, Display.
4. Apple MacBook Pro 15
Who would argue against a Macbook not being good for development or programming. Macbooks have got it all when it comes to programming. Not only the performance lets you compile code with efficiency but other aspects like its display, slim design and the super comfortable keypad adds to efficient coding of your project.
This 15 inches Macbook Pro model has to offer a lot. With its power i7 processor and 16GB RAM you get to compile large chunks of codes very easily. Besides, you get a nice GT 750M GPU which can be helpful if you also work a GUI developer at times. For connectivity everything you want is available starting form USB-A right to a Thunderbolt 2 port. More, as for the battery backup this brilliant laptop for programming has to offer an 8 hours of backup which might sound less compared to new laptop but is good enough considering the performance and price of it. Finally, there is no doubt about the portability of the laptop. At 4.46 lbs weight it might sound heavy but is not considering it is a 15 inches laptop. Besides, the laptop is a mere 0.71 inches in height which advocates its portable nature.
Pros: Affordable, Efficient, Display, Thunderbolt 3 ports, Keyboard.
Cons: Heavy, No USB-A port.
5. Acer swift 5
Acer Swift 5 is a thin and all metal laptop featuring the new Intel Evo platform that boosts laptops performance in terms of responsiveness, alluring graphics, and amazing battery life. With these Intel Evo platform based laptops, you can open new ways to creativity, focus, and capture at some other level. The next strongest point of this amazing laptop is its latest 11th generation Intel processor which is greatly capable to bring efficiency and sheer performance to the desk. Acer Swift 5 comes with an antimicrobial deck that help it to stay cleaner for longer terms without contracting germs and dust, you need regular alcoholic scrubbing. The laptop has a minimal weight of 2.31 pounds, means you can easily carry it anywhere when required to work remotely. Wireless connectivity has been upgraded this time to Wifi-6 to bring more speed. Acer swift 5 has a 14 inches full high definition display screen encased in a durable Corning Gorilla Glass covering 340 nit brightness and 100% sRGB color gamut. Connectivity section is further blessed with a Thunderbolt 4 port to connect anything for higher transfer rate. Last but not the least, the Acer Swift 5 offers you a massive battery backup of almost 15 hours with a single recharge.
Pros: 11th gen processor, SSD, Intel Evo platform, Thunderbolt 4, Battery Life, Durable.
Cons: No 4K option, Uncomfortable keyboard.
6. ASUS ZenBook 14 Ultra-Slim
Asus Zenbook 14 is one of the best Windows laptop for programming. It is an optimized version of all features which a developer or any other normal user would love to have. Starting from the stylish chassis and ending on its LED numpad embedded within the touchpad, everything is simply stunning. It has one of the slimmest chassis you will every come across and the screen bezels are on a next level on minimalism. Moreover, the blue paint job upon its metallic surface gives one amazing look. It also houses a dedicated Nvidia MX150 GPU. All this combined with its 14 inches FHD (1920X1080) display makes one nice laptop to be used for development purposes. Another best thing about this laptop is its lightweight, it weighs a mere 2.6 pounds which places it into the bracket of the lightest laptops. The laptop is housed with almost all necessary ports and it has a lot. ThunderBolt 3 should not have been skipped in such a premium laptop. Finally, the battery life is what anyone would love to have. It easily gives you a backup of over 8 hours.
Pros: Stylish design, durable, Performance.
Cons: No Thunderbolt 3, Mediocre Display.
7. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
As a programmer, once you decide between MacOS or Windows, the Surface Laptops 3 is by far the best and most powerful laptops powered by Windows OS. It is manufactured by Microsoft and is then powered by Windows which again is Microsoft. This combination gives the laptop an unfair advantage over any other Windows laptop. Design wise, the laptop looks cool, comes in variety of colors and is thin too. The laptop comes with a thickness of 0.6 inches and is 3.4 pounds in weight. Despite having a large 15 inches display, the weight and dimension of it depicts minimalism. For connections, you get USB-A, USB-C and Microsoft’s own Surface Connect port. Now for programmers, AMD Ryzen 5 with 16GB RAM and 256GB SSD space is amazing. This configuration gives you a ton of performance boost makes all your programming work feel pretty basic. The battery backup here is over 9 hours, just the perfect fit for long hours of coding and sleepless nights.
Pros: Display, Battery Life, Remains cool.
Cons: Shallow Keyboard, Expensive.
8. HP Envy x360
HP Envy x360 is a lightweight and travel friendly laptop featuring amazing specifications with affordable price tag. The Envy x360 is equipped with a latest 11th generation Intel processor to bring efficiency and faster performance when dealt with demanding jobs like programming, graphics designing, film-making, and running simulation related heavy applications etc. For instance, the biggest drawback that might bother you in terms of performance is its fixed RAM storage. The HP Envy x360 comes with a fixed 8GB RAM (Not upgradable), which surely isn’t enough for extreme multitasking situations. Apart from that, the laptop comes with a compact but bright 13.3 inches of full high definition display, ideal for watching your favorite video clips etc. The backlit keyboard adds more aesthetics to its overall design, it has low key travel and well placed key caps for ideal typing experience. In connectivity section, now a days its a plus to have Thunderbolt 3 port equipped. TB3 supports file transfer speed up to 40GBs/sec with is quite something in terms of large files. Furthermore, if you are a travel geek and loves to have programming on trips etc, the laptops offers you 12 hours of battery backup with which you won’t be required to electricity boards all the time.
Pros: Portable, Performance, Battery Life, Thunderbolt 3.
Cons: Touchpad, Fixed 8 RAM.
9. Huawei MateBook X Pro
The Huawei MateBook X Pro is a worthy contender with so much to offer. The reason it can be added to the list of programming laptops is its good performance alongside an ultra-slim design. One can easily take it to his/her teacher or boss for a quick checkup of the code. Under the hood you get a mighty Intel Core i7-8550U and a 16GB RAM for fast performance. It also houses a 512GB NVMe SSD which further adds to the overall speed of the execution. The display in this laptop is an amazing one as well, MateBook X Pro comes with a 3K touch enabled screen having a resolution of 3000 x 2000. Up on the top you also get a dedicated GPU from Nvidia, its an Nvidia MX150. You might not be needing it for programming work but you never know, you might need it somewhere for intense graphical work. It kicks other laptops when it comes to ports and connectivity with a Thunderbolt 3. You get a feel same as of Apple’s MacBook. It can prove to be the best laptop for programming and gaming because of its minimal design and good graphical power.
Pros: 3K Display, Lightweight, Ports, Design.
10. Dell Precision M5510
Dell has managed to tightly pack huge power into a sleek chassis hence giving you a mobile workstation. The laptop comes with awesome looks, in fact it’s an award winning design. And it packs good power for all your programming needs. Additionally, the design of it gives you more comfort than any other laptop at this price range. Now why would this be one of the best laptops for developers? Well, it’s pretty simple, the laptop is powerful, it can very easily handle multi-tasking, the chassis of it is durable so you can use it in any situation and it comes with a powerful dedicated GPU in case you are working on some intensive GUI development tasks. More about this development laptop, for I/O you get a powerful Thunderbolt 3 port with 40GBs/sec transfer speed. The display of it comes with minimal bezels and it’s a UHD touch screen. About the keyboard, the keys come with more depth than usual but it’s not that big of an issue and the good thing is that it is a backlit keyboard. For battery backup, you will get over 5 hours of battery life which is more than enough for such a powerful laptop.
Pros: Strong Performance, Massive RAM, Graphics Card, 4K Display .
FAQs on Programming and Coding Laptops
How Powerful Should my Laptop be?
In order to understand the level of performance you need from your laptop, you should first know what level of code you are working on. Are you a beginner? Are you at intermediate level working on a project of your own? OR Are you a professional developer working at a giant company like Google or Facebook? Well, we have categorized the levels and mentioned the level of performance you will need.
As a beginner like someone who is just starting to learn programming and coding, you do need an efficient laptop but not very powerful. For starters, you will be using basic IDE’s and simple code libraries which do not require too much from your laptop internals. Even a 4GB RAM, with core-i3 or above processor and an SSD will allow you to compile your code easily.
For those working on projects of their own or maybe a computer science teacher at some university, you will need intermediate level performance. This means your laptop should be powerful but does not necessarily need to be a workstation or some other professional laptop. You can work on Huawei Matebook X and Surface Laptop 3 reviewed below. The recommended requirements for this level will be an 8GB RAM, core i5 and above processor and obviously an SSD which makes sure things are fast. An SSD is something you should not compromise on. HDD as a secondary storage option is fine but do not make it your primary storage.
If you are a professional programmer, which means you do it for earning money. Then you need a powerful development laptop which never leaves you behind in any aspect and you do not see lag when working on it. This is where workstations, high-end macbooks and other similar laptops come in. Laptops like Dell M5510 or Lenovo X1 Extreme will help you at this level, they are reviewed below. Such laptops are made for people like you, they come with powerful processors and RAM. Besides, powerful does not only mean high capacity but quick speed and the ability to not degrade under high loads.
Do I need a Portable laptop for Programming?
The answer to this would be Yes and No. See, majority of programmers and full-stack developers likes to carry their laptops to places you would not imagine and sit there to write code. This is because writing good code requires a lot of your brain and for that you need to find a place where you feel relaxed and do your work. For this type of developers portability matters a lot. A laptop with below 4 lbs weight would be consider portable for this type of use. On the other hand, their are people who are only good when they work on their desk. And for this scenario, you can go for anything no matter heavy or not, since the laptops rests at your desk all day.
What do I need for effective Compilation?
Using any IDE and then writing code is not what takes most of the resources. In fact, all of your laptop components are put to work when you try and run the code because this is when each line of code is executed and checked for any errors. So, for effective compilation you need a lot of RAM and a CPU which will not degrade under intense load. Now, this is for you decide and know what level of load you put on your laptop when it is compiling the code you have written. For professionals, this could be 16GB RAM, a Core-i7 or better processor with high clock speed like 2.5 GHz or above and of course good level of storage space.
Mainstream Programming IDEs and their Recommended Requirements?
There are hundreds of IDEs available for different programming languages but platforms like Visual Studio, Android Studio, XCode, Flutter, Atom, Intellij Idea, Eclipse and Net Beans along with some others are most prominent. Now, you need to know the difference between the requirements for an IDE and then the requirements for running your code.
IDEs like Android Studio and Visual Studio by Microsoft will install and run even with 4GB RAM. But if you try and compile a good program which comes with multiple classes and modules then you will feel the lag while compiling and executing the code. So, as beginner it is OK if you visit the official documentation of these development platforms and see their minimum requirements. But when it comes to intermediate projects and hardcore programming then you should chose based on your needs like mentioned above at each level.
What do I need for multiple display setup?
Multiple display setup is pretty much useful when you are someone dealing most of the time with intensive multitasking. In programming, a single compact display might give you congested feeling because at a same time you will be dealing with hundred lines of code. For that purpose, going with multiple display setup would definitely make it easy for you to optimize your code. For bringing several display together, make sure that you have VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, or USB Type-C port in your system. Thunderbolt 3 port can connect up to four displays with 4K resolutions or two with 5K resolution.