Best Laptops for Programming – The Complete Guide

Looking for that perfect laptop match can become very difficult without the proper knowledge. It becomes more difficult if you’re a programmer, and therefore a laptop can become your best friend or the worst enemy, depending on your situation and necessities. 

With great selections, you’ll be rewarded with a device that will serve you anywhere and will be used to turn your ideas into actual running projects. Hence we’ve tried our best to compile a list to answer all your queries and present you with an attractive choice.

What should you expect from a Programming Laptop?

Programming can mean many things ranging from coding programs on C++ or Python to Game development on Unity or Unreal Engine. The tasks are different with different needs and hence should be viewed as two separate choices. So, in general, running with tested machines can result in less hassle and better performance.

The general things that you should consider for a programming laptop:

Performance: 

Programing, explicitly coding, isn’t very task intensive and could quickly be done on any budget machine, but programming isn’t just coding but also includes testing, prototyping, and designing. Hence, with all this in mind, a safe choice would be to look for a device with above-average specs consisting of Intel’s i5 or AMD’s Ryzen 5 processors with a minimum of 8GB of RAM. The FULL HD IPS/OLED displays also play a significant factor in providing a clean user experience and should be on a priority list.

Comfort:

Programming sessions can easily extend to hours, and something to keep in mind is comfort. Without it, the experience would easily be chopped down, and any development you might be doing would be at a standstill. So good keyboards with palm rests and a precision trackpad can make all the difference.

Battery Life: 

Generally, any device with 6+ hours of battery life would work fine. Anything above would save time and ease the mind due to fewer charge cycles and travel freely without worrying about power drain.

Top 8 Laptops for Programming

Here’s a review of the “Best Programming Laptops” that money could buy with all consideration for budget seekers, students, and gamers. The list would provide you with excellent choices that would deliver fantastic programming and laptop experience.

1. Dell XPS 13

Best Windows Laptop for Programming
1. Dell XPS 13
9.9/10 Our Score
  • Beautiful display panel
  • Impressive performance
  • Great typing experience and comfort levels
  • An expensive price-tag
  • Average battery life with the 4K variant

The Programming Experience

The Dell XPS 13 is an excellent laptop that critics have praised from all over, and you won’t be finding another 13-inch notebook that’s more suitable for programming on Windows. With a comfortable, lightweight build, impressive display, and performance, the laptop does it all and does it well. The integrated graphics also helps in running all physics development applications that are mostly seen with game development. It stood up to all our testing parameters and took the crown for the best programming laptop for Windows.

You might also be interested in Dell XPS 15, bigger screen/bigger keyboard and everything, but with that also comes a bit better performance than 13-inch Dell XPS. But that’s all preference.

Display and Build

The display boasts an impressive 80.7% screen-to-body ratio and a 13.3” screen in an 11-inch form factor. Its 400-nit brightness makes it easy to work outside even when the weather is sunny, and the carbon fiber deck and aluminum build make it durable and comfortable for all applications.

Performance 

The Dell XPS 13 comes equipped with a 10th generation Intel Core processor that clocks up to 4.5Ghz, 8+ gigs of RAM, and up to 2 TB of solid-state storage. Having so much power in a compact device can make it difficult to keep temperatures under control, but that’s not the case here, and the laptop runs smoothly with controlled temperatures.

 

2. Apple MacBook Pro M1

Best Apple Laptop for Programming
2. Apple MacBook Pro M1
9.8/10 Our Score
  • Impressive performance
  • 15+ hours of battery life
  • Color calibrated display with a touch bar panel below
  • Facial recognition and biometric authentication
  • iOS app support
  • An expensive price tag and limited connectivity options

The Programming Experience

The new Apple MacBook Pro has struck gold and is the most powerful laptop Apple has ever launched. A 13-inch color-accurate retina display with small bezels and a touch bar provides more functionality than ever before. Though it has a big screen, the form factor is almost similar to a laptop with a 15-inch screen. The color-calibrated display helps game developers, especially while coding or developing environments. The latest flavor of Big Sur on the already optimized OS also helps by providing excellent reliability and a battery life unmatched by others.

Display and Build

The 13-inch Retina display produces authentic colors and crisp images with 500 nits of brightness. The realistic approach makes the display panel a marvel, and the sRGB and true-tone features are just the cherries on top. The aluminum build is perfected with the lightweight body, zero flexings, and the one-finger panel life that feels premium and in a class of its own.

Performance 

The new M1 chip Macbook Pro breezes through tasks like any other on the market. The eight powerful cores can spread through demanding jobs and make coding and game development look like children’s play. The CPU cooler is paired with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage, making it snappy and fluid with any operation. 

 

3. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

3. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
9.4/10 Our Score
  • Excellent typing experience
  • It can come equipped with Linux (Ubuntu)
  • Anti-glare display and authentic biometric features
  • Average battery life
  • No dedicated graphics card
  • Linux can require a learning curve

The Programming Experience

ThinkPads had a reputation for being bulky and not the most aesthetically pleasing laptops. However, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a device that blends portability with durability and creates what can only be defined as a developer’s dream. The laptop comes with Windows to boot but can also be configured for Linux through the manufactures webpage. Linux is very suitable for development and is an open-source Operating System with a large community. All packages and root access are natively available and supported, making it an excellent choice for all developers.

Display and Build

The 14″ FHD (1920×1080) 400 nits, IPS display produces crisp images, and the anti-glare coating provides excellent anti-reflection properties making it a fantastic option to work on bright sunny days. The carbon fiber body and deck delivered superior comfort with a keyboard adored by developers and provided us with a typing experience on par with the top contenders.

Performance 

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon comes equipped with an 8th generation Intel i7 processor that clocks up to 4.6GHz, 16GB of RAM, and up to 512 GB PCIe SSD, which makes the combination an ideal performer and will be able to handle any task that’s related to development.

Note: The upcoming Purism Librem 14 can also be a fantastic option and could be found here.

4. ASUS ZenBook Duo

Best Dual-Screen Laptop For Development
4. ASUS ZenBook Duo
9.3/10 Our Score
  • Beautiful displays with touch built-in
  • Windows Hello facial recognition
  • Amazing performance
  • The second display can bring some durability issues
  • The keyboard and trackpad requires some learning experience as they can feel cramped
  • Battery life is just average

The Programming Experience

The ZenBook Duo(Dual Screen Laptop) is one of the best laptops suitable for developing high-end games and over-world designing. It has a primary FULL HD resolution display and a second panel, which is used to access additional applications or functions. Both display panels are also color calibrated, with the primary display panel being the highlight for excellent color accuracy. The performance also stumps most others with even an i9 variant that is just over the top for any usage.

Display and Build

The FHD NanoEdge primary touchscreen display looks stunning and delivers excellent colors, with a secondary panel used to provide extra screen real-estate and other similar functions. The build also stood up to our testings with zero deck flex and an angled body for a comfortable typing experience.

Performance 

It comes equipped with an i7 – 10510U processor and Windows 10 Pro with 16 GB RAM, 1TB SSD storage, and an Nvidia Geforce MX250 graphics card that is more than enough to handle multiple game development projects at once without breaking a sweat.

 

5. Razer Blade Stealth 13

5. Razer Blade Stealth 13
9.2/10 Our Score
  • Dedicated GPU for Gaming
  • Beautiful high refresh rate display panel
  • Excellent performance and multi-tasking capabilities
  • Average battery life as gaming consumes a lot of battery
  • An expensive price tag

The Programming Experience

Suppose developing and programming is not the only thing you do, and gaming is a priority. In that case, the Razer Blade Stealth delivers an excellent balance between gaming and programming with an Intel core processor that offers some of the best single-core performance on the market and an Nvidia MaxQ GPU that delivers comfortable 60+ FPS on all high-end gaming titles. We had a fun gaming experience on the  FULL HD 120Hz display that produces excellent blacks and colors and could also be swapped for a 4K 60Hz panel. With this beautiful combination, the Razer Blade makes a perfect all-rounder option for all buyers out there.

Display and Build

The 13.3-inch 1080p 120Hz IPS panel produces stunning images, and the high refresh rate makes gaming joy and as buttery smooth as it can be. The body is also compact and lightweight, with a full black aesthetic that makes it a fantastic gamer option. The keyboard and trackpad also feel precise and comfortable so that any programming can be done with ease.

Performance 

The Intel Core i7-1165G7 4 Core processor works wonders, and the combination of 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage makes the device a beast. The dedicated 1650Ti MaxQ GPU performs great by delivering on all high-end titles and any development needs.

 

6. HP Pavilion Gaming 15

6. HP Pavilion Gaming 15
9.1/10 Our Score
  • Productivity centric display
  • Beautiful and durable build
  • Affordable price tag
  • Excellent Gaming Performance
  • Average battery life

The Programming Experience

The new HP Pavillion Gaming 15 solid build even compares to the highest-end laptops, and dare I say. It feels even better. The Pavillion brings in excellent compatibility and support and is tailored to students, and the body feels portable and durable. The development and programming experience is also substantial, with a typing and trackpad experience unmatched by others. 

Display and Build

Productivity and gaming are the highest priority, and the large 15.6-inch FULL HD panel looks beautiful with excellent colors and multi-tasking capabilities. The large display panel provides extra space, so coding becomes easy to glance through, and the real estate also comes in handy while developing games. The aluminum build is lightweight and comfortable, with excellent portability for everyday travel.

Performance 

The Ryzen 5 processor with 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD storage brings forward a rounded performance that delivers on all tasks thrown at it. All daily tasks and coding work as a charm, and with the GTX 1650, gaming also becomes an option.

7. Apple MacBook Air M1

7. Apple MacBook Air M1
8.7/10 Our Score
  • 2+ days of battery life
  • As fast as the Macbook Pro
  • Compact, durable body
  • Truly silent operation
  • iOS app support
  • Expensive and generally out of stock
  • Can have minor compatibility issues that are being ruled out with updates

The Programming Experience

The experience an M1 Mac provides is something to be enjoyed physically as it destroys all tasks thrown at it with exceptional efficiency. The combination of the M1 chip and the efficient Mac OS Big Sur is something this device excels at, and any programming application runs smoothly. All game development tools are compatible with the new silicon chip, and this makes the device one of the best compact laptops out in the market and the best in the battery life category.

Display and Build

The display and build are also exceptional as Apple always delivers, and the compact body also makes it portable for everyday use. The 13-inch retina display looks crisp and produces natural-looking colors, making it an exceptional designing and rendering machine for all game developers.

Performance

The M1 chip coupled with 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD storage makes it the fastest compact laptop on the market, and programming and development become its strong suit. The battery life is also impressive as the efficient chip and Mac OS combination is just unbreakable. Our regular day-to-day testing on this machine easily lasted us two days without charge.

8. Microsoft Surface Pro 7

7. Microsoft Surface Pro 7
8.6/10 Our Score
  • Convertible form factor
  • Excellent battery life with fast charging built-in
  • Beautiful display with touch and pen support
  • Comfortable typing experience
  • Windows Hello Support
  • An expensive option
  • Has high competition with different devices that deliver better performance at this price tag

The Programming Experience

Alternative choice to usual programming laptops, instead you get to pick a 2-in-1 hybrid tablet/laptop

The improved Surface Pro 7 is a laptop/tablet for game developers and coders who are always on the move and need a portable and travel-friendly laptop. It comes equipped with a 12.3-inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 2736 x 1824p resolution. As this is a touchscreen panel, you can interact with all the 3D models designed for game development, and with pen support, the designing experience is unique to its own.

Display and Build

The unique build, which can turn into a tablet, provides exceptional use cases, and the aluminum body is light with a stand that allows it to be usable on most surfaces. The display is also a 3:2 aspect ratio panel that looks stunning and supports touch and pen input making it an option for anyone looking for portable programming and designing a laptop.

Performance 

The 10th Gen Intel Core-i7 processor with integrated Iris Plus GPU performs well at all tasks and is highly efficient, offering a battery life of 10 hours with regular usage. The laptop comes equipped with 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD-based storage that is user upgradable. However, the port selection is limited to only a USB 3.0 and Type-C port.

 

Final Verdict

When you choose a laptop, you usually choose it for 2+ years, so we know how difficult it is sometimes to make the decision, your brain keeps asking you questions like “what if I make the wrong choice? what if I don’t like it? what if it’s not powerful enough?” Our suggestion is – don’t stress about these things, technology changes all the time, just pick the one you feel the most comfortable with. We gave you a list of really good laptops to choose from and any of these will suit you great, but of course, we always recommend our top picks – Apple Macbook Pro M1 and Dell XPS 13, overall they are the best for programming. We gave you guidelines(which professional developers and programmers helped us with) and if you follow the guidelines you should be good for the next couple of years.

Let us know which one you chose in the comments below and if you have any questions – feel free.

Some general FAQ’s:

Which laptop is best for coding HP or Dell?

With HP more focused on laptops’ budget segment, Dell comes out ahead by providing a better programming experience through its higher tier line-ups. However, the budget segment will always be dominated by HP and would give you a better option anytime. So, in short, if you’re a budget-oriented programmer, then go for the HP option and if you can bail out some cash for a good laptop, then definitely opt for the Dell.

Should I buy a cheap programming laptop?

No, though, it again depends on the budget on the laptop. If you’re buying a sub $400 laptop, then keep in mind that it won’t be able to run any intensive application or tool. Programming isn’t very resource-intensive and could quickly be done on average performing laptops. If you’re on a budget or are looking for a budget school or college laptop, buying cheap affordable laptops with impressive reviews should be an option you should be aiming for.

Is Mac or PC better for programming?

Generally, all OS work fine with programming, and it depends entirely upon your preference. Both of them nearly perform the same but still have minor differences such as better security and privacy in mac and freedom and excellent community support for Windows. So, depending on the situation, the different operating systems perform differently.

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