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.
Best Laptop for Programming 2021
- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 – Windows Programming Laptop
- Apple MacBook Pro – Best Macbook for Programming
- Dell Precision M5510 – Best Workstation for Programmers
- Lenovo ThinkPad X1 – Hardcore programming laptop 2021
- Huawei MateBook X Pro – Professional Laptop
- Apple MacBook Air 13 – Macbook for Developers
- Samsung Notebook 9 – Portable 2 in 1 Laptop
- ASUS ZenBook 14 – Best Ultrabook for Coding
- ASUS Chromebook Flip – Chromebook for Programming
- Google Pixelbook – Small laptop for developers
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)
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 like 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.
Best Laptop for Coding 2021
1. 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. Not only the internal performance, but the design and looks, in fact everything is simply stunning and so it is totally fair calling it the best laptop for programming and developer.
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. Same happens to it keypad and trackpad, as minimal as the inside look, it is totally best for typing coding and heck even playing games. 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. And to everyone’s surprise, the price of it is not something which hesitates people, it is pretty mush affordable.
2. Apple MacBook Pro
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. Besides, as a true developer you would know that compilation and running of many IDEs and tools is what Macbook is best for.
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. The display you get here is Retina and so means a lot in terms of pixels and resolution. 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.
3. Dell Precision M5510
Apart from the Dell XPS 13 and XPS 15, the manufacturer hasn’t been doing so great. Most of its laptops are same old design having no innovative changes the way ASUS or some other manufacturers are doing. However, the Precision M5510 is something pretty unique. 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. Under the hood of M5510 lies an Intel Core i7-6820HQ processor backed by 32GB DDR4 RAM and a 500GB SSD. And to make things eve better, there lies an NVIDIA QUADRO M1000M with 2GB VRAM. This specification configuration is pretty tight and will never let you down in your intense coding sessions.
More about this development laptop, for I/O you get 2 USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a Thunderbolt 3 port, an HDMI, an SD card slot and of course a headphones jack. These actually are all the ports you will be needing because of the presence of Thunderbolt 3. 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.
4. 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. The laptop is home to Intel Core i7-8750H CPU which is backed by 16GB RAM and has a 215GB SSD storage room. More, you get a dedicated GTX 1050 Ti graphics card. This setup is pretty powerful and so is the laptop itself which makes it one of the best programming laptop. You can literally go on for any IDE or development tools and the laptop will work lag-free. Even better is the fact that it comes packed with a dedicated GPU and so you can do a lot of other things too.
For battery backup, you get well above 8 hours which is more than enough for a laptop packing this sort of heat. Speaking of the design, the X1 Extreme weighs 3.8 pounds and is 0.7 inches thick, this makes it a highly portable laptop. You will definitely see other notebooks having better dimensions but again, the laptop comes with powerful internal components and a good number of ports. As for the ports, you get 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports, 2 USB-A ports, an SD card reader, headphones jack and an HDMI as well. This connectivity configuration is no less than a surprise for those who get this laptop.
5. Huawei MateBook X Pro
When compared with the above mentioned two laptops, Huawei MateBook X might not be able to beat them in performance or more precisely the speed. But its design, resolution and connectivity options are amazing. It beats MacBook and Surface Laptop when it comes to features and connectivity. 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.
As mentioned earlier, it kicks other laptops when it comes to ports and connectivity. You get 3 USB 3.0, USB Type-C and a Thunderbolt 3 as well. Its fingerprint scanner is embedded in the power button which you can use for Windows sign in and yes, it’s fast. Finally, talking about its portability and design, it’s a lightweight laptop weighing 2.92 pounds only. Additionally, its keypad is easy to use for coding and developing purposes. 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.
6. Apple MacBook Air 13-inch Retina
MacBook is a dream for many developers, it always stays up-to the mark when used for programming purposes. For many developers, budget might be a problem in their early career. But the thing here is that MacBook Air 2018 is not too expensive, one can easily get it for somewhere near 1000 bucks. What makes it good for programmers of course is its macOS which is always preferred for coding. Besides, it offers a good battery life and is one of the top performers among laptops.
Talking about the hardware, you get a Dual Core 8th Gen Intel Core i5 Processor besides an 8GB RAM which is upgradable to 16GB. The storage type here is SSD, you can choose between 128GB or 256GB. Plus, you get a nice built-in graphics card which is Intel UHD Graphics 617. You may not need this for programming purposes, but it can be handy at times. This MacBook Pro comes with 13 inch 2560 x 1600 Retina display which offers ultimate details and a sharp view. The hardware performance and display quality combined together will truly give you a good programming experience.
Talking about the ports, Apple has acted miser, you only get two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left and a headphone jack on the right. If you want to have any other connectivity then you’ll have to seek help from dongles which may cost you some bucks. The battery life is superb as well, MacBooks are known for their good battery backup and this one is a beast too. It offers a massive backup of over 9 hours under continuous use. Finally, as always the keypad is impressive and you even get a fingerprint scanner on the top right of the keypad.
7. Samsung Notebook 9
Samsung Notebooks have not been mainstream but it’s not fair with them. Up to an extent, these laptops from Samsung are pretty good, they come with good specs configuration, a nice portable design and better than most displays. Samsung Notebook 9 Pen is a smart laptop, it is not very big and packs good internals. Additionally, you get a nice vivid display which makes you like working on it. More, it’s a flip design so you can change your laptop to tent mode and use it with the stylus you get with your laptop.
Speaking of the specs, Samsung Notebook 9 is home to Intel Core i7-8550U CPU supported by a 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD. This configuration is powerful enough combined with integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620. You get enough power for all your programming work. The display on this laptop comes with 1080p resolution and is one fine display. It vivid, clear and comes with good brightness. Speaking of the touch display, it’s a fine touch and the stylus here is a cherry on top. One can very easily perform quick tasks.
About the ports, you do not get a lot here which is because of the minimal design. All you get is a USB-A, an HDMI, a Type-C port and a micrsoSD card. This setup skips a Thunderbolt 3 which should have been here because the laptop is not cheap either, it costs you a good sum. The keyboard of the laptop is not something which can be called excellent, however it is better than many other laptops out there. As for the battery backup, Notebook 9 Pen can pass on a battery juice for over 6 hours which is not so good.
8. 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.
Performance wise it’s a beast too. Asus Zenbook 14 rocks an Intel Core i7-8565U, a non-upgradable 16GB RAM and a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD. 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. Asus has placed one nice keypad into the inner body, it really suits fast typists and coders. And not to forget, the touchpad also acts as a numpad. It transforms into an iluminated LED numpad.
Now, this laptop is housed with almost all necessary ports and it has a lot. You get USB-C, USB 3.1, HDMI, SD card reader and USB 2.0 ports. What you may not like, is that it lacks a Thunderbolt 3 port. It 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.
9. ASUS Chromebook Flip 12.5-inch
Some programmers prefer to have a 2-in-1 laptop for their work. This is because their work may involve using a touch convertible at times. For someone who need a lightweight yet powerful 2-in-1 laptop, this one is the best fit. It is lightweight, slim, has an amazing 1080p display and is powerful too. Some may not like the fact that it’s a Chromebook which means you’ll have to use ChromeOS inside. But we have discussed in detail that ChromeOS can be easily used for coding as well.
Now the design is what makes it the best. First and foremost as you know its a 2-in-1, so you can easily flip and use it as a tablet. However, it will not decrease the overall weight because it’s a not a detachable one. It weighs 2.6 pounds when used in either style. The display here is a rather nice one as well, you get a 12.5 inches 1920×1080 screen which is bright, sharp and has a nice view. It is not like some ordinary 12 inches display where things are not so clear. Under the hood, it houses an Intel Core m3 6Y30 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 64GB eMMC storage.
Among the ports, you get two USB-C and an SD card reader. These USB-C ports can be used for charging the laptop or connecting any other peripherals. What lacks here, is USB 3.0 ports, which indicates that very soon things will be shifted to Type-C and Thunderbolt 3. However, if you still use standard USB drives then you’ll have to get yourself separate adapters. It’s keypad is easy to use as well, you can easily write you lines of code without hitting the wrong key time and again. Finally, it does justice with the battery life too. You easily get a backup of around 9 hours which is quite impressive.
10. Google Pixelbook
Google Pixelbook can be considered to be one of the best Chromebooks ever, but it is expensive. Well, it’s price is not too high when compared to what it offers. But when compared to other 2-in-1 laptops and Chromebooks, then it may sound expensive. It’s designed to be slim, smart and lightweight too. Weighing only 2.4 pounds, you would barely feel it while using it as a tablet. But the good thing about its design is that it can be used in many forms. You can use it in tent form by rotating it such that it makes a triangle, as a tablet when rotated to full 360° or simply set it plane on your desk adjacent to its keypad.
Performance wise it’s superb too. You get a Core i5-7Y57 alongside an 8GB RAM which is upgradable to 16GB. And then there is 256GB of eMMC storage which you might know is fast in loading things. Most Chromebooks rock 1080p dispaly, well here, Google has gone a little further by equipping it with 2400×1600 display panel which is not QHD, but is almost there. It offers a vibrant view with sharp colors and good brightness as well. You might not want to watch a movie on it, but it’s ready for that as well.
Among the ports you do not get much but only two USB-C ports on either sides and a headphone jack on the left. This clearly means that you’ll be using adapters for things like conventional USB drives. The keyboard here is a tiny one, but it is easy to type upon. Plus, it’s a silent keypad, you won’t hear loud clicky sounds while typing your code. Finally, the battery life is good too. Upon continuous use like web surfing, it will last for above 7 hours which is impressive from Google.
Which OS is Good for Programming?
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.
So, these were the best laptops for programming. We have tried to explain in the guide above about which OS suits your work the most and what sort of performance you need under the hood. Hope you find a best laptop for your coding work.
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.