Heading off to college to learn the ins and outs of programming? We’ve found the 5 best laptops for programming that will fit your budget and give you a smooth experience
Whether you use, Java, C++, PHP, CSS, Objective C, Swift, or some other language entirely, we’ve got you covered with these contenders. Or reading this programming laptop buying guide first.
Recommendations for August 2020
Best Laptops For Programming In 2020
Dell G5 15 – Gaming And Programming
Finding the best possible processor is critical for programming games, no matter what platform or programming language you utilize.
That’s where this Dell model shines, with a 9th gen processor featuring an absolutely huge cache. That feature is very helpful for programming, since the laptop will be running repetitive tasks with the same data over and over.
Besides the CPU, your next concern should be whether the dedicated graphics can handle game programming. The Ti version of the GTX 1650 video card is more than enough to run the vast majority of gaming applications.
The only downside there is that the 1650 isn’t technically VR ready. If you need to be able to program and test VR programs, you should look for a system with a RTX instead since those are better suited for VR.
Coding is all about spending long hours typing, so the full size keyboard with plenty of backlighting color options is a major pro here.
Want to know the best part?
You also get better battery life than many other gaming models, allowing you to code longer before plugging into an outlet.
Buyers typically praise the keyboard and specs on this model, but do often note one problem. Most users report some issues with the drivers, and end up having to hit the Dell website to manually download the latest drivers.
That’s a small problem for such a high end machine, especially since this Dell model is typically available to you at a reasonable price.
Don’t have that much to spend and want to save more money? The MSI GBV62 is another excellent choice for both gaming and programming, although it only sports half the amount of RAM.
Recommended configuration for Dell G5 15
CPU: 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 with 4GB GDDR5 Graphics | RAM: 16GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM| Screen: 15. 6-Inch FHD (1920 x 1080) Anti-Glare LED backlight Non-Touch narrow Border IPS display| Storage: 256GB SSD and 1TB SATA | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 7 hours | Weight: 8.58 pounds
Samsung Notebook 9 Pro – Well-rounded Laptop
For aspiring software developers, this is the model you should compare all other contenders against.
An i7 8th gen processor with a big cache and 8 GB of RAM will keep you going no matter what kind of program you are coding. With a Intel UHD Graphics 620 graphics card included, you are completely covered on hardware specs.
For marathon doding sessions that go all day long and into the night, you get up to 16 hours of battery charge! Samsung’s entry in our list of contenders far outstrips all others for battery life.
Does your programming team use Office for keeping track of tasks? This machine also has an Office 365 subscription bundle version available at Amazon.
With plenty of ports for connecting external devices and a lightweight design, there aren’t many downsides to picking this notebook computer. Only one particular issue may be a sticking point for you.
This model features the faster solid state drive technology, it also has a secondary SS for storage. If you are coding programs with large graphics files, this is the laptop for you since you’ll have over 2 TB of storage space at your disposal.
Recommended Configuration For Samsung Notebook 9 Pro
CPU: Intel Core i7-8565U up to 4.6GHz | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB RAM | Screen: 13.3 inch FHD SVA BrightView WLED-backlit touchscreen (1920×1080) Display| Storage: 2TB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home| Battery Life: 9 hours | Weight: 2.84 pounds
Acer Aspire 5 – Cheap FHD Display
Students need just as much power under the hood as any other user, but they tend to have smaller budgets for spending.
The Acer Aspire sits smack dab in the mid-way point between price and specs, offering a mid- end experience for a low end cost.
No matter what coding language you are learning about in school, this model has you covered. With a high end processor, 4GB of RAM, and a AMD Radeon Vega 3 card, you can expect a smooth experience across the board.
It also comes with an FHD display allowing you to easily spot errors in your code.
The Aspire is also designed with future upgrades in mind, which is helpful for the college student trying to save money. If you find you need a bigger SSD or more RAM later, it’s fairly easy to pop in upgraded components.
There’s one potentially divisive feature to take note of here. The Aspire 5 has Alexa built in, which some students will love and other students won’t care about in the slightest.
If you don’t want the voice recognition feature, you can find older versions of the Acer Aspire without Alexa for a slightly lower price.
That issue aside, there’s one issue often noted by college students who use this laptop for gaming on the side — it tends to get hot while graphics-intensive programs are running.
You may want to pick up a lap seat with an extra cooling fan if you intend to keep the computer on your lap while gaming.
Recommended Configuration For Acer Aspire 5
CPU: AMD Ryzen 3-3200U| Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 3| RAM: 4GB RAM | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display| Storage: 128 GB SSD| Operating System: Windows 10| Battery Life: up to 7.5 hours | Weight: 3.97 lbs
HP 15 – Ideal For Web Design
Web developers typically don’t need the same level of power as game programmers, but will probably want a touch screen.
Most people browse the web from a mobile device at this point, so that’s a feature you don’t want to skip.
For a very reasonable price, you can get a touch screen display and high end specs with this HP model.
While the overall hardware specs are fairly close to our other contenders, there are a few features worth noting that make this unit stand out.
FIrst up, you get a DVD-RW drive, which is an anomaly in modern laptops. This machine also features absolutely massive storage space, with both a 512 GB SSD for holding all of your files and projects.
The only complaint frequently brought up by buyers is that the plastic clamshell chassis feels a little flimsy in comparison to aluminum models, although it doesn’t actually impact usage at all.
Recommended configuration for HP 15
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1, quad-core, 1.0 GHz Base frequency, up to 3.6 GHz | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics | RAM: 16 GB RAM| Screen: 15.6-Inch diagonal HD SVA bright View micro-edge WLED-backlit touchscreen display (1366 x 768) | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 | Battery Life: 6 hours| Weight: 3.74 lbs
Asus VivoBook S512 – Thin And Powerful
You don’t need to spend thousands to pick up a high end laptop for programming. By making a few trade offs, you can easily find a machine built for coding being sold at a reasonable price.
You’ll notice all the specs listed above are easily inline with our other contenders. An i5, 8th gen processor is perfect for most programmers, and 8GB of RAM will typically get the job done.
The laptop has your needs in mind as it comes with both an SSD and an HDD. So you can store all your archived code in the HDD and keep your important ones in the SSD for faster loading times.
That issue aside, the Asus VivoBook is an excellent budget choice, whether you are a web developer, app programmer, or game designer.
There are ways to get an even cheaper laptop for programming tasks, although the trade offs become much larger.
Depending on the specs you choose when customizing, you can find the Lenovo IdeaPad 330 for $50 – $100 cheaper. You’ll end up with a significantly slower processor though, and that be a huge negative for coders.
Recommended Configuration For Asus VivoBook S512
CPU: Intel Core i7-10510U| Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics| RAM: 8GB RAM | Screen: 15.6-inch 1920×1080 FHD display| Storage: 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD| Operating System: Windows 10| Battery Life: up to 7 hours | Weight: 3.97 lbs
Acer Predator Helios 300 – Solid Specs
Its NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660Ti GPU and a 4.5 GHz Intel Core i7 CPU delivers more than what has been the norm in mid range laptops built for gaming programming.
When you factor in the 512 GB SSD coupled to a 16 GB DDR4 RAM, the end result is an astonishing laptop ready to tackle complex software and games.
Normally, gaming laptops have not been designed for high portability and the Predator Helios 300 is no exception. Weighing at 5.29 lbs, it isn’t very suitable for carrying over longer distances.
Some of its most outstanding features include the flagship cooling system which is quite effective and you can also overclock the GPU to get more power when needed.
And while the manufacturer implies that this laptop can last up to 7 hours, reviews from users suggest otherwise. Under average use, the laptop can give you an average of 3 hours of battery life.
But this shouldn’t be a deal breaker. In fact, the Acer Predator Helios 300 makes for the ideal laptop for computer students looking for a device that can handle their computing needs.
Recommended Configuration For Acer Predator Helios 300
CPU: 9th Generation Intel Core i7-9750H 6-Core Processor | Graphics:NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Graphics with 6 GB of dedicated GDDR6 VRAM | RAM: 16 GB | Screen: 15. 6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) Widescreen LED-backlit IPS display | Storage: 512 GB| Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 3 hours | Weight: 5.29 lbs
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – Powerful 2-in-1
Microsoft Surface Pro is one of the most elegant laptops on the market.It’s simply an amazing choice if you want portability and power at the same time.
With its Intel Iris Plus Graphics in a 12.3-inch screen and a 2736 x 1824 resolution, it is definitely one of the best displays found on 2-in-1 laptops thus delivering crispy images. In addition, both the stylus pen and the touchscreen are quite responsive.
Surface Pro 7 comes with a 10th Generation Core i7-1065G7 CPU that works perfectly with the 16 GB RAM and 512 GB SSD for storage. As a result, running intensive tasks on this laptop is a breeze.
For computer science students with lots of programming and coding tasks for projects, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is a worthy ally. Whether you are working in a class setting or in a café, the laptop offers about 10.5 hours of battery life under average usage. However, the keyboard is sold separately but the typing experience is outstanding.
Recommended Configuration For Microsoft Surface Pro 7
CPU: Core i7-1065G7 processor | Graphics: Iris Plus 940 graphics card | RAM: 16 GB| Screen: 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI) touchscreen | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 10.5 hours | Weight: 1.74 pounds
Asus TUF FX505DT – Affordable High-end Laptop
While ranking below the Asus’ ROG flagship product line, the TUF series has been introduced as the starting range for the brands’ gaming laptops. This model is built for heavy users and gamers looking for better performance but are on a tighter budget.
From the word go, The TUF FX505DT puts extensive emphasis on value therefore delivering a clear message to consumers not to expect high-end luxurious features found on premium laptops.
The TUF FX505DT stands to be counted as a powerful AMD-powered laptop available on the market. With the AMD Ryzen 5 R5-3550H coupled to a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650i GPU and a 8 GB DDR4 RAM, this laptop is geared up for performance.
Besides the 8/16 GB already on the laptop, you can extend the RAM to 32 GB. Even without expanding the memory, the 16 GB is enough to execute demanding tasks and resource intensive programming tools like PyCharm run effortlessly on the laptop.
On the downside, this laptop’s battery life is less than 5 hours under standard use and the body is made from plastic.
Considering its price point and the performance features, this shouldn’t distract you from the main aim of the Asus TUF FX505DT which is providing a powerful laptop at a budget.
Recommended Configuration For Asus TUF FX505DT
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 R5-3550H Processor | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650| RAM: 8 GB RAM | Screen: 15.6-inch 120Hz FHD IPS| Storage: 256 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home| Battery Life: 5 hours | Weight: 4.85 lbs
Dell XPS 15 – Infinity Edge Display
The XPS brand line from Dell has earned its place as the high-end and premium offers for Dell’s laptops and the XPS 15 doesn’t fall short of the expectation. The recent Dell XPS 15 is among the top performing laptops on the market thanks to its phenomenal 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H CPU, 16 GB DDR4 RAM, 512 GB SSD, and the powerful NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU.
And the XPS 15 is not just about mind-blowing computing power. It incorporates the 4.0 oriented design, crisp 4K display, and super sleek bezels. On the flip side, users have pointed out the oddly-placed webcam but it’s a negligible glitch if you are not obsessed with the small aesthetic features.
The 4K display produces rich and very sharp images making it mesmerizing to stare at and the matte feature ensures minimal eye strain. This is quite what computer science students should be looking for considering the longer periods of time spent using the computer for class work and projects. And if you want to take a break and relax, the XPS 9670 is fun when watching movies.
While this laptop looks sleek and ergonomic on the outside, it’s a formidable beast on the inside. The 8th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H processor works in tandem with the 16 GB RAM and you can have Netbeans, MATLAB, and Intellij running in the background while watching a 1080p show and won’t notice disturbing lags.
If your computer science projects revolve around game programming, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with the phenomenal 400nits display makes your work smooth and enjoyable. Given its capabilities, testing your games won’t be something you dread. Without a shred of doubt, Dell XPS 15 is a must have for computer science practitioners.
Recommended Configuration For Dell XPS 15
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H Processor | Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 1650 4GB GDDR5 | RAM: 16 GB RAM| Screen: 15.6″ 4K UHD (3840×2160) Touch Display, | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 | Battery Life: Dell XPS 15 7590 | Weight: 4 pounds
ASUS ZenBook 13 – Ultraportable
While the Asus ZenBook 13 comes with a 13.3-inch screen, it has been designed with smaller bezels resulting in a visually appealing device. The laptop weighs only 2.8 pounds making it the second lightest option on this list. If you’ll be hopping from one computer science class to another, this laptop is convenient to carry around.
The 16 GB LPDDR3 memory is sufficient to support multiple applications running concurrently without breaking a sweat. Under the hood, the 10th Generation Intel Core i7 processor ensures quick operations .
Although the Zenbook 13 doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card, it’s still a good pick considering how much you are paying. For students, battery life is a top feature to consider in a laptop. The Asus ZenBook 13 doesn’t disappoint in this area and it delivers up to 9 hours of continuous use with lowered screen brightness.
Recommended Configuration For ASUS ZenBook 13
CPU: Intel Core i7-10510U |Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce MX250 | RAM: 16GB RAM | Storage: 512 SSD| Screen: 13.3 inches; 1920 x1080 resolution| Storage: 512 GB SSD|Operating System: Windows 10 Pro | Battery Life: 11 hours | Weight: 2.8 lbs
Apple MacBook Pro 16 – Comfortable Keyboard
When it comes to practical functionality, the Apple MacBook has earned a top spot. If you are seeking a powerful laptop that can handle programming tasks with ease, you’ll probably want to get a MacBook Pro. More so, it’s the perfect option if you are working to build software for the macOS platforms.
With its Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB DDR3 RAM, and the AMD Radeon Graphics card, the laptop has been designed to run multiple programs concurrently. But of course, heavy gaming will take a toll on the resources.
Unlike the older MacBook Pro models, this one comes with Apple’s TouchBar. In addition, its keyboard is soft, runs quiet, and it’s dust proof. Meaning your experience on the keyboard goes to another level which is exactly what a computer science student needs considering that most of the time is spent typing on the keyboard.
On the flipside, the Apple MacBook Pro 16 only comes with Thunderbolt 3 ports which poses challenges to people used to normal USB ports. However, you’ll appreciate the higher transfer speeds compared to regular USB ports. Under standard usage, the battery lasts about 6 hours.
Recommended Configuration For Apple MacBook Pro 16
CPU: Intel Core i7| Graphics: AMD Radeon Graphics| RAM: 16GB RAM | Screen: 16-Inch Retina with True Tone display| Storage: 512GB SSD| Operating System: Mac OS| Battery Life: up to 11 hours | Weight: 8.23 lbs
LG Gram – Long Battery Life
There’s this thing about programmers working in coffee shops which is starting to become a trend. Not only is this trendy but this gives you a new environment to work on enhancing productivity and the progress of your work.
The thing is, most laptops will last an average of 4 to 8 hours which may not be enough for you to work in the coffee shop the entire day. Charging outlets could be taken and you’ll be left with a day of unproductiveness as you move around looking for a charging station.
The LG Gram solves this problem by having a ridiculously long battery life. With this bad boy you’ll be able to work up to 21 hours without charging, its simply an amazing laptop for programming.
And its specs are no joke either, it has the latest 10th gen i7 processors and an Intel Iris Graphics card for rendering files. So if you’re the type who prefers working in coffee shops or outdoors in general, then you will love the LG Gram.
Recommended Configuration For LG Gram
CPU: 10th Gen Core i7-1065G7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics | RAM: 8 GB RAM| Screen: 15.6” Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS LCD Screen | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 21 hours | Weight: 2.4 lbs
Picking The Best Laptops For Programming In 2020
When looking for a notebook computer specifically meant for coding, you need to look for different specs than with typical home or office usage.
In particular, this is a category where the processor is more important than nearly any other hardware component.
Compiling and running programs eats up a lot of processor power, so the better your CPU, the faster you will be able to crank out the code.
Unless you are coding apps to be used on a tablet or phone, touch screen capability is less important and is simply a personal preference issue.
You can save quite a bit of money by ditching the touch screen and avoiding hybrid models when looking for a great coding laptop.
Let’s dive in and see what’s available for the best programming laptops this year!Processor
The various tasks and projects undertaken for computer science requires a powerful CPU.
Ultimately, you might need to run multiple programs at once which requires more processing power.
One of the most important parts of any computer is the processor. Being the brains of the computer, a processor helps it perform applications and tasks quickly and reliably. Any computer with a slow, outdated or weak processor will have performance issues.
It wouldn’t matter how much storage, RAM, or graphical processing your computer has if it can’t run basic functions properly. This also applies to picking programming laptops as well.
You’re going to need at least an i5 CPU or its AMD equivalent, the AMD Ryzen 5 to run programming apps like Netbeans, Eclipse, Turbo C, and other compilers that you use. It takes a lot of power to run programming languages especially if you’re dealing with extremely long code.
There’s also the possibility of crashes. Remember those “Infinite loop” errors that most beginner programmers make? Well an i3 processor will most likely crash your system if it can’t handle the complicated calculations.
Lastly, we know we’ve recommended an i5 but the higher and newer the processors the better. If you can get an i7 or even an i9 processor, then great! You’ll be able to handle resource intensive compilers and programming tools easily and you can prevent crashes in the very likely case that you create an infinite loop.
Random Access Memory or RAM for short, is the available amount of memory your computer can allocate to run multiple programs. The higher your RAM, the more programs your computer can run at once.
The opposite is true as well. The lower your Computer’s RAM is, the fewer programs it can run simultaneously. And if your computer’s RAM is really low, I’m talking about 2 GB of RAM low, then expect a very sluggish and unresponsive computer.
This is because the computer can barely run the necessary processes, so how do you expect it to run with other programs?
Knowing this fact, you should look for laptops with high RAM. This is very helpful in programming especially if you’re running multiple programming tools, and applications in the background. The more RAM you have, the easier your laptop will be able to handle all of the programs and apps you’re running.
We advise using at least 8 GB of RAM into your laptop if you want to program smoothly and easily. Most modern day applications take up a lot of RAM and sometimes a 4GB computer won’t cut it anymore. Especially because one of the most popular apps that people use worldwide, “Google Chrome” takes up a lot of RAM even if you’re not doing anything resource intensive with it!
With that being said, get the highest amount of RAM possible in your budget.The more RAM you have, the better!
You don’t really need a lot of storage files for programming. There are exceptions to this of course. A good example would be if you’re programming as well as handling graphical assets as well. Which is often used by a lot of people who make video games.
With that being said, we advise getting a storage space as large or greater than 256 GB. 128 GB might be too small and you might need more space for other projects and personal files as well.
What really matters when it comes to storage is the type of storage drive your laptop uses. HDDs might have abundant storage sizes but they tend to load things very slow. They also deteriorate really badly so don’t expect your HDD to last very long.
SSDs on the other hand are the opposite. They’re’ expensive but they are fast as well. You’ll be able to load files hundreds of times faster than if you had an SSD. If you ever experience slow loading times in your compilers and programming tools, then it might be time to get an SSD.
Lastly, SSDs are a little bit future proof since they are compact and more durable than their HDD counterparts. This means they’re good investments for your laptop and you should get an SSD if you plan to use your laptop for a very long time.
Your computer’s graphics card determines how the laptop displays media. A bad graphics card might render color wrong or show a pixelated display. A good graphics card on the other hand ensures you handle the most demanding computer science projects with ease.
A good GPU is also useful for testing out programs that have graphical interfaces as well. If you’re programming a game, then you should have a laptop that can play that game smoothly on the highest settings.
Most games in early development aren’t optimized which means that you’re going to need powerful specs to run them smoothly. You simply cannot make a game without testing it out for yourself.
Screen Size & Resolution
Coding is a very meticulous task. Looking at a giant pile of code in a small display and low resolution is a surefire way to get eye strain. We advise using a laptop with a screen size of at least 15 inches or bigger for coding.
However you can opt out for a smaller display if you’re looking for a more portable laptop and if you don’t mind straining and squinting your eyes from time to time.
As for resolution, we really recommend an FHD (1920 x 1080) or better resolution. Looking at stretched out displays because of low resolution can cause eye strain and even headaches as well.
Computer scientists’ core tasks involve reading and creating code. A combination of high resolution and good screen size alleviates eye strain when working for long hours.
Battery life is an essential feature in a computer science laptop. And while you may have power outlets in your classroom or office, it comes in handy when working away from a power outlet.
It’s also a good way to help choose a comfortable location to type in or to move to a better working environment. Some programmers prefer working outdoors or in coffee shops. It would be hard to do those things if the laptop they’re using dies out after a couple of hours of use.
Frequently asked Questions
Is 8GB Ram Enough For Programming?
You can save yourself a bundle by going with 8GB of RAM, and in most cases, it won’t even slow you down.
Programming is a memory-intensive task, but you probably only need 16GB – 32GB if you are coding something more heavy duty than an Android app or web page.
There’s another reason to go with 8GB instead, and it has nothing to do with sticking to a budget. Don’t forget that you also have to test your programs after they are coded!
Testing applications on the highest end laptops available isn’t very helpful for discovering bugs and figuring out how a program will run on the average computer.
Most users today have 8GB (or less) of RAM in their home machines, so it’s not a bad idea to test your code on a computer similar to the end user’s.
Are Chromebooks Or Macs Good For Coding?
In most cases, the answer to the first half of this question is a simple and resounding “no way.” chromebooks are designed for web browsing and using apps, not for running heavy duty programming tools.
You generally want an operating system with more versatility for programming, whether that’s Windows, Mac OS, or Linux. Chromebooks also tend to have lower end specs, with very small hard drives and slower processor.
There is one big exception to that rule. If you want to use a Chromebook for coding now that they have Android support, your best option will be the Google Pixelbook.
The Pixelbook has a fast enough processor, enough RAM, and a large enough storage capacity to be usable as a programming laptop.
In a similar vein, you may be wondering if you should go with a Mac vs a PC for programming. That depends entirely on what sort of apps you are making.
If you intend to make iOS apps over any other type of program, you should absolutely consider going with an Apple machine instead. Your best bets will be the MacBook Pro if you want a high end device, or the 13” MacBook Air if you want a more portable option.
Should I Go With I5 Vs I7 For Programming?
At the moment, this more a matter of cost than of necessity. In most cases, an Intel Core i5 processor is all you need, although you may get slower speeds when running large builds.
If you have the money to spend, bumping up to an i7 means faster build speeds. If you are working in a Microsoft environment, you will also go through Windows updates much faster.,
That means more productivity since you will have less downtime waiting for updates to finish installing.
No matter which way you go, be on the lookout for more cores and a higher cache, as these will be crucial in attaining smoother performance while coding.
Finding A Developer Laptop For Any User
There you have it — these are the five best laptops for programming currently available in 2020. Whether you are a web developer, game designer, or app programmer, one of these models will be your best pick.
What did you think of our choices, and what features are most attractive to you as a developer? Sound off in the comment section below!