Top 5 Best Laptops for Programming in 2020

Looking for the best laptops for programming and coding is always the top priority of a developer or a computer science student.

Isn’t it?

best-laptops-for-programming

If you are a tech geek or a student pursuing a career in the field of programming, you’ll need the best laptop for programming that can support the heavy Lifting of your codes.

Moreover, If you are a student, you might be looking for a laptop that can handle your codes and massive software used throughout your curriculum.

But Programmer is a broad term, and It includes a wide variety of professionals from fields like web development, ethical hacking, software development, AI, ML, etc.… and each one is different and unique in its way with a whole lot of different requirements.

(Skip to the top 5 list)

What components to look for in the Best Laptops for Programming?

It is tough to suggest a single laptop for everyone’s needs. For basic coding requirements like web development and script kiddies, any laptop will do just fine.

There are a lot of powerful laptops available out there, but you should buy the one that suits your needs because buying an all-powerful laptop would be just a waste of money and processing power.

If you have a gaming laptop then it may be used as a workstation for your programming needs to some extent.

But what if you don’t know what specs you need to look for to find the best laptops for programming?

There are tons of recommendations available online, but I don’t recommend you to go with the one with the highest rating blindly. Instead, you should do comprehensive research according to your needs.

Let’s see what you need to look for in a laptop that can suit your curriculum and programming requirements.

RAM – Essential for Multitasking and heavy Lifting

RAM is one of the critical components of a developer’s laptop as you might run virtual machines and heavy IDEs. These applications consume an enormous amount of memory to run.

But If you are a web designer or developer, Ram shouldn’t be a concern for you. These works don’t require you to deploy heavy performance tools. Web development, in general, also requires moderate to little compiling work.

People who design software or just are deep into codes that require them to run virtual machines, emulators, and IDEs to compile their projects need more RAM. 8 GB of RAM is ideal for the best laptops for programming.

But with the rise of Electron apps, which consumes a lot of memory. Also If you are a game developer, the requirement goes even higher for you. You should opt for 16 GB RAM Laptops if money is not the issue.

Alternatively, find laptops with an extra RAM slot so that you can expand it to 16 GB when needed.

High-End Processors

Processors are very Important no matter what you do. But the demand changes as per the requirements and kind of job you do.

You’ll need a faster processor for handling big projects and graphically intensive applications. It also decreases the lag while switching between different windows and screens.

Talking about programming, you won’t usually need any more than an Intel Core i5. But again If you are a game developer, the Intel Core i7 is the ideal one.

Game developers have a host of different needs than a regular app or software developer mainly because they keep switching between those heavy design/development tools to the game.

For these very reasons, they need dedicated graphics to run these performance demanding software.

To sum it up If you are compiling a lot of resource-intensive codes, at the end of the day, a faster processor is going to save you a lot of time.

Display – The more, the better

Here comes one of the essential laptop parts for a programmer. Either It is writing long lines of code or developing applications, you need to stare at the screen for these long periods.

Most of the average laptops for programming come with a resolution of 1366 x 768, which is kind of mediocre. But these screens are not ideal for multitasking as text won’t be sharp enough hindering your reading comfort.

I’ve heard some YouTubers telling to go for a 4k display, but in my opinion, It is overkill especially if you consider the amount of battery drained.

My suggestion would be to go for any display which is more significant than 1920 x 1080 pixels even if it feels you unnecessarily expensive. The reason is that we tend to forget the long term effects of eye strain caused by low-resolution laptops.

But if you are a programmer or you are going to a lot of time with your screens on display is one of the most important things that you should invest your money in.

Keyboard – Don’t compromise on comfort

As much as we have delved deeper into the internal hardware, the keyboard is another hardware that deserves your consideration.

I don’t think I need to point out the importance of a comfy keyboard for a tech geek. Try to find the one that comes with a numerical pad.

While considering a comfortable keyboard for your needs, you need to take a look at the sturdiness and quality. Specifically, try to go for the one with a decent key travel and comfortable, smooth keypress.

You need to have a good look at the key positions as well because some of the laptops have different positions of Ctrl and Fn keys. Also, Enter and Backspace keys might be a bit smaller in some laptops to save up space.

These small changes in keyboard buttons may not feel so alarming to you. But even the tiniest change in the keyboard buttons can become a pain in the ass for you. You might forget and relearn to get used to your new one.

So choose wisely, and you can also opt for a backlit keyboard if you are a night owl and prefers to work in a dim environment.

But If the budget is tight, then there is a pretty good chance that you might not get what you are looking for in your keyboard. For this, my suggestion would be to buy an external USB keyboard. They are usually very comfortable.

Top 5 Best Laptops for Programming

Now It’s pretty evident that you should keep your eyes on specs like RAM, Processor, Display, and Keyboard If you are looking for the best laptops for programming.

If you’re looking for a budget programming laptop, then check out this article. Now let’s see some of the best available options in the market right now.

1. Apple Macbook Pro 16-inch


ProcessorIntel Core i7, Turbo Boost, 12MB shared L3 cache
Operating SystemmacOS
Memory16GB of 2666MHz DDR4 onboard memory
Display16.0‑inch LED‑backlit display; 3072×1920
GraphicAMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6
Storage512GB SSD
KeyboardFull-sized backlit Magic Keyboard
BatteryBuilt‑in 100‑watt‑hour lithium‑polymer
See All the Specifications

If you are looking for the best of the best, then the new Apple Macbook Pro ( 16-inches ) is a real beast. Although It’s costly and It is quite fair actually as you can’t match this level of performance without taking a toll on your budget.

MacBook Pro (16-inch) is a premium laptop combined with all the most exceptional hit features from its predecessors. It competes closely with Dell XPS 15.

The 16-Inch Macbook pro has the most significant and biggest improvements done in a single release. But If you can wait there are also rumors of 2020 MacBook.

Processor & RAM – Performance

You do have an option to choose between 6 Core i7 Processore or an 8 Core i9 CPU. It comes packed with 16 GB RAM initially, but you can expand it to 64 GB, but I don’t think It would matter a lot as 16 GB is enough for all your programming needs.

The 16-Inch Macbook pro can handle any kind of workload. You can take a wild guess about its performance by the fact that It took just 8 minutes to convert a 6.5 GB 4k video to1080p.

On the Graphics Front, It includes The AMD Radeon Pro 5300M, but you can upgrade it to 5500M and expand up to 8 Gigs of VRAM. It is the first one to use AMD graphics.

Performance-wise, It gives pretty good frame rates with about 27.2 fps at a resolution of 1920 x1200 in “The Rise of the Tomb Raider” game with high graphic settings.

Display & Battery

apple-macbook-pro

Its 16-Inch DCI-P3 wide color gamut Retina display with a resolution of 3072×1920 pixels looks incredible. You are going to fall in love with its ultra slimmer bezels in the first look.

Apple has documented its brightness to be 500 nits, which is the same as its 15-Inch laptop. It is designed to be able to edit 4k videos, but it can handle up to 11 4k streams at a time. I am very much surprised by the fact that It doesn’t support 4k resolution.

Apple claims that you can enjoy up to 11 hours of web surfing, which is surprisingly good considering Its 16-inch display. It houses a 100-watt-hour-lithium-polymer battery.

It has an excellent battery life even with its big screen. You won’t have any complaints with its battery except the charging time as apple doesn’t promise you fast charging capabilities.

Other Misc. Features

Some other benefits that you get with this beast are its Redesigned Magic keyboard, 6-speaker sound system, and the very much awaited physical ESC button.

The new 16-inch Macbook pro keyboard was the most needed design improvement after the criticism of Its Butterfly Keyboards.

Now Keys do have a much softer feel with more key travel. Apple accomplished the same with a scissor mechanism taking inspiration from Its desktop keyboards.

Another bonus feature in the keyboard is the real Esc key that people missed earlier.

If you get a chance to experience the sound of this programming laptop, I bet It’ll blow you minds. Its 6-speaker sound system outlasts any competitor by a mile.

To sum It up I’d say that If you can afford the 16-inch Macbook Pro, then It’s all you need to have to get all your work done. The display looks impressive (the only thing is that It’s not 4k ). Speakers are the best that you can get on any laptop.

Processor and performance are also great, i.e. you can do whatever you want, like editing videos, coding, developing the game and even playing high graphic games won’t be much of a problem.

But a little warning from my side is that you shouldn’t be stretching your budget very much to buy this one. As there is a pretty good chance that this might be an overkill for your needs and even if you need more processing and speed for your projects, there are cheaper alternatives in the market.


2. Microsoft Surface Pro X


ProcessorMicrosoft® SQ1™
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home
Memory8GB or 16GB LPDDR4x RAM
Display13” PixelSense™ Display; 2880×1920
GraphicMicrosoft® SQ1™ Adreno™ 685 GPU
StorageSSD options: 128, 256, or 512GB
Dimensions287 mm x 208 mm x 7.3 mm
BatteryUp to 13 hours of typical device usage
See All the Specifications

Next up on our list of best laptops for programming is Microsoft Surface pro X. It comes in 4 configurations starting with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage and extending till 16 GB RAM and 512 GB storage.

The surface pro X is suited for people who run Native ARM64 apps and emulated 32-bit Intel apps. Most applications out there are not suitable and recompiled for ARM. It is also ideal for you if you are looking for a good Ipad alternative.

You should only consider buying Surface pro X only if you need to develop and run ARM64 apps. You will run into a lot of compatibility issues with a lot of different software.

I am surprised to see that some people are also complaining about the gaming performance of Surface Pro X. This isn’t a gaming laptop, Windows on ARM PCs is for those who value productivity, connectivity, battery life, and portability.

Processor & RAM – Performance

surface-xtreme

It is packed with Microsft SQ1 which is pretty similar to Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx. You can think of it as If Microsoft has done some improvements and modifications in Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx.

For example, It increased clock speed, used slightly different Graphics and then rebranded It as Microsoft Chip or Microsoft SQ1.

The full form of SQ1 in Microsoft SQ1 is Surface Qualcomm 1. Performance-wise It does pretty good, but compatibility always becomes an issue as your native apps run very fast like browsers, but you can’t even install AMD64 apps.

You can buy Its different variants having RAM from 8 GB to 16 GB. There is no doubt that It is a premium machine with a fast processor and enough memory. So If you want to buy It for your Programming project, then this could be a life-changer. But It is not apt for daily use due to a lot of compatibility issues.

Display, Battery & Other Features

microsoft-surface-x

It Includes a 13-inch display with 267ppi making it bigger than Surface Pro 7. The screen is quite stunning and a perfect fit for enjoying videos and movies.

Its screen is different from Surface Pro 7 as top and bottom have larger bezels but narrow side bezels.

Large top and bottom bezels are justified by the fact that It houses a webcam and an Infra-red camera on top and It needs space in the bottom so that you can attach it to the keyboard.

The battery is pretty decent, but It is not that good as It was promised. It was said that you could go for days without the need to charge. But It still is better than many other touch screens with Windows on ARM programming laptops available out there.

Although It has excellent standby time, as Surface Pro X uses ARM big.LITTLE architecture which makes It power efficient. If you are using Intel laptops for some time, Its power buttons will come as a big surprise to you. It wakes up instantly when you press the power button similar to that of a smartphone.

It does have some more features similar to a smartphone, for example, you can pop off the panel beneath the hinge with a sim pin and can insert your sim in the nano-sim slot.

There’s also a pen garage that can hold a slim pen, and It charges itself while It is stored. So you don’t need to worry about swapping AAAA batteries.

3. Hp Spectre x360 15T


ProcessorIntel® Core™ i7 9750H
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro 64
Memory16 GB DDR4-2666 SDRAM
Display15.6 inch 4K with Corning Gorilla Glass (3840 x 2160)
GraphicGTX 1650
StorageIntel® Optane™ memory 32 GB + 512 GB QLC
KeyboardBacklit keyboard with numeric keypad
Battery6-cell, 84 Wh Li-ion
Dimensions36.12 x 25 x 1.93 cm
See All the Specifications

Hp Spectre x360 15t is another touch laptop on our list of best laptops for programming. It does have a little extra weight, but the trade-off is fair if you consider Its comfy keyboard, excellent performance and slick design.

Spectre x360 15t comes with a 15.6-inch 4k IPS display which makes it look even more stunning. The trackpad of this programming laptop is okayish, It works well, but the build quality can not be said to be good enough.

Processor & RAM – Performance

hp-spectre

It comes packed with the Intel i7 8th-gen processor and is blazingly fast. It is a perfect fit for all your programming needs, render 3d projects or to edit 4k videos.

It is equipped with NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1050 Ti graphics so that you can play some games on it too. But It is more of a work or programming laptop rather than a gaming one.

Also, It is not the best laptop out there for game development. It is equipped with 16 GB DDR4 SDRAM to help you with multitasking and aid to smooth workflow during heavy loads.

Its left to the center placement of trackpad can be a bit annoying for you if you are used to working with a center placed trackpad. You’ll take time to get used to this design change as you will confuse a lot between right and left clicks.

I’d recommend that you should buy an external mouse even if you are not going to play games. Believe me; you will thank me later as this will save you a lot of time.

Display, Battery & Other Features

You are going to fall in love with its dazzling 4k screen, and It is one of the Uniques selling points of this robust programming laptop. HP Specter x360 15T has an incredible 4k IPS display with extraordinary image quality and a 60 Hz refresh rate.

Its responsive touch screen display is coated with gorilla glass, protecting it from accidental damages. The touch is very accurate and responsive.

HP claims the battery life of Its programming laptop to be 17 hours, and this is a massive improvement in battery life as compared to its predecessor.

It is mainly because HP Spectre x360 15t is using a low wattage OLED panel resolves battery drain by Its 4k display.

It is more stylish than others in this range. On one edge near the hinge is a Thunderbolt 3 Port while on the other It is the Power button. Its position is very intuitive.

4. Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Extreme


ProcessorIntel Core i7-8750H Processor 
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro 64
Memory16.0GB PC4-21300 DDR4 
Display39.62cms (15.6) UHD IPS
GraphicNVIDIA GTX 1050Ti 4GB
Storage1TB SSD PCIe
KeyboardBacklit with white LED lighting
Battery4Cell 80Wh
Dimensions361.8 mm x 245.7 mm x 18.4 mm
See All the Specifications

Most of the Lenovo X series can be used as a laptop for programming with ease. But ThinkPad X1 extreme takes it to the next level if you talk about the performance.

It doesn’t have the best look & design that is available in other 15-inch programming laptops. It is a slick and lightweight best laptop for programming professionals and developers.

Its build quality and finish are exceptional with carbon-fiber chassis. It’s also very secure as you get a fingerprint reader on the right side of the keyboard and an optional smart card reader for login.

Processor & RAM – Performance

thinkpad-carbon-x1

It houses an Intel Core i7-8850H, Its clock speed ranges from 4.3 GHz to 2.6 GHz. i7-8850H has many other features than just fast processing speeds.

Vpro, Stable Image Platform Program, and Trusted Execution technologies are three other notable features mentioned in Intel’s ARK CPU database.

These features mainly are useful for Professionals and business suit corporate peoples. Vpro offers fleet management, Stable Image Platform program is denoting that the CPU is going to be there and support for at least 15 months and last but not the least Trusted execution technology aids in security features.

It can also work Its magic in medium level gaming as It comes equipped with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4 GB of VRAM. You can also play some of the high-level games at low to medium graphics settings.

The base model comes with 8 GB of RAM and can be expanded up to 64 GB with M.2 slots.

Display, Battery & Other Features

lenovo-thinkpad

You can get a fantastic 4k (3840 x 2160 pixels) HDR touchscreen display if battery life isn’t a problem for you. It is one of the best 15.6-inch display available in a professional programming laptop.

It’s accurate and vivid, and saturated colors will force you to rewatch your favorite movies so that you can experience and enjoy the details. The display covers a whopping 186% of sRGB color gamut, which is higher than many others like MacBook Pro and Asus ZenBook Pro in this price range.

Battery life is not very great considering Its premium price range; It approximately lasts up to 6-7 hours while surfing.

As far as my opinion is concerned, It is a very classy and performance-oriented programming laptop. Still, I think It’s a bit overpriced for a programmer’s needs as those corporate features have added a lot to the price.

5. Acer Aspire 5


ProcessorIntel® Core™ i5-10210U
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home
Memory8 GB, DDR4 SDRAM
Display15.6 inch 1920 x 1080
GraphicIntel UHD Graphics
Storage256 GB SSD
Battery4-cell Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion)
See All the Specifications

Acer Aspire 5 is one of the cheap and reliable best laptops for programming. Its performance and specs are way above the expectations. Earlier we were talking about premium best laptops for programming, but Acer Aspire 5 is the affordable one with the best specs in Its price range.

This isn’t a laptop for hardcore programmers who spend their days experimenting and compiling their codes and game developers. Instead, It suits more to students, web designers, app developers, and web developers.

It weighs only 1.7 Kg and is only 18mm thick. This combination of weight and thickness is scarce in a 15 Inch programming laptop.

It would be best if you go one model higher than the base model, the one having quad-core i5 Processor, 8 Gigs RAM and 256 GB SSD.

Processor & RAM – Performance

aspire-5

Acer is a budget-friendly laptop for programming. It makes the proper use of money and doesn’t pour too much effort into things like all-metal chassis and bright, vibrant high-res touch screens. It spends well on Internal components, and that’s what matters in a budget-friendly best laptops for programming.

It has many variants ranging from Intel Core i3 to Intel core i7 and RAM ranging from 4 GB to 12 GB. But I’m talking about A515-51G having Intel Core i5 and 8 GB RAM.

Acer Aspire 5 A515-51G is optimal for the Medium level of programming and processing requirements. This is the highest level of processing capabilities in a programming laptop that you can get in this price range.

Display, Battery & Other Features

aser-aspire-5

Acer Aspire 5 Features a 15.6-Inch of Full HD display with a dedicated GeForce 940MX graphics card. Its full-HD IPS display looks good even from the off-angles.

So you can also play games that are not very harsh on VRAM. But again this is not a gaming laptop, and you can’t play very advanced games on it.

The display and build quality are average, but hey, you aren’t going to get the durability and quality of a premium laptop in this one.

It houses a 4-cell 37 Watt-hours battery. Battery Life is pretty excellent, and It lasts up to 7-8 hours in a single charge easily.

The keyboard size is also excellent, which aids in the typing. Overall It’s a lovely looking budget-friendly laptop for programming and coding and probably the best in terms of performance in Its price range.

Conclusion

Did you like our top 5 best laptops for programming picks?

If you have any other options in your mind, then let us know in the comment sections below.


FAQs

  1. Do I need a powerful laptop for programming?

    You’ll need a faster processor for handling big projects and graphically intensive applications. Go for a higher number of cores for optimal performance.

  2. Which is the best laptop for computer science students?

    Best laptops for Computer Science Students in 2020
    1. Apple Macbook Pro 16-inch
    2. Microsoft Surface Pro X
    3. Hp Spectre x360 15T
    4. Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Extreme
    5. Acer Aspire 5

  3. How much RAM do I need for coding?

    8 GB of RAM is ideal for the best laptops for programming. You should opt for 16 GB RAM Laptops if money is not the issue. Alternatively, find laptops with an extra RAM slot so that you can expand it to 16 GB when needed.

  4. Is Windows or Mac better for programming?

    As a programmer, my first preference is always UNIX, as same as other programmers. I think Mac is better than windows for coding. Anyways, you can also dual boot your Windows PC with an UNIX OS.


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About Ravi Ranjan Kaushik

Ravi Ranjan Kaushik is a health and tech enthusiast. He is the founding Face behind the "Look Your Best" blog. Inherently curious tech geek by night and health addict by day. He loves to travel and enjoys unique and thrilling experiences.

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