Laptop or Desktop: Which is the best for programming?

Kenny Trinh Updated on August 29, 2020
desktop or laptop for programming

Desktops and laptops come in many specs and features but which is better for programming? To answer this question let us know what you value the most, is its flexibility or the power? And since you are here I would assume 2 things:

  • You are a programmer and weighing what’s best for you, a laptop or desktop.
  • You have either of those and want to switch your gear.

A desktop seems to be the choice for its power and bigger multi-screens, desktops can be upgraded specs by specs, but really, you won’t need monstrous specs to code, of course, if you use RAM eater applications then you should consider having a desktop. By the way, read this if you are unsure between macOS or Windows for programming

The obvious advantage of a laptop – its portability. Unless you’re fine with being limited to doing all your work in one place at your desk, always. Consider how nice it is to be able to move around the house and change positions with the convenience of a laptop. Consider being able to bring it with you to a pair programming session, or just going to a coffee shop for a change of scenery. After a while, being confined to a desktop just because you wanted better specs might be a bummer. In the past getting a laptop was a huge compromise in terms of memory, power, features, etc… Laptops today are amazingly cheap and powerful.

Watch this video as to why a laptop is a good choice:

Pros and cons of laptop vs. desktop for programming 

Pros of using a laptop

  1. Highly portable: Laptops are highly portable which means they can easily be carried from one place to another and can be used anywhere. This makes it easier for the user to work from literally anywhere.
  2. Gets more work done: Laptops are designed in such a way that they have no limitation on what can be achieved. One can easily work from anywhere which ensures that a lot of work gets done with a laptop.
  3. Instant use: Laptops are designed to be plug and play devices. This means that it can easily be used anywhere as long as there is power in the batteries. One does not need to connect any additional unit to work with a laptop.
  4. Lower power consumption: Laptops are designed to consume less power than desktops. Once a laptop has been powered and charged, it can operate with the battery charge for up to 6 hours. This ensures that the power is consumed at measured intervals and this makes it power-friendly.
  5. Long battery life: Laptops come with a battery that can store power for a long time. This ensures that the laptop can be used anywhere at any given time. In addition to that, the laptop battery stores power for a long time which means it can be used even in places where there is no power.
  6. Very flexible: Laptops are designed to be very flexible both operational wise and also functionality wise. They can not only be used anywhere but can also be carried and moved easily from one place to another.
  7. More additional features: Laptops offer more additional features that may not be available when using a desktop. These include an inbuilt CPU and an attached mouse.
  8. Less space: Laptops are smaller in size compared to desktops. This means that it occupies relatively less space as compared to a desktop.
  9. Single cord: Laptops come with a single cord that is used to power the laptop. There is no need for additional cords that may be cumbersome.

Cons of using a laptop

  1. Higher purchase price: Laptops are by design more expensive than desktops. This is because of their portability and ease of use. The initial purchase price of a laptop is higher hence more restrictive.
  2. Small working screen: Laptops have very small working displays that may not be ideal for use especially by people with impaired eyesight. Desktops have a bigger display that works to their advantage.
  3. Smaller keyboard: Laptops come installed with smaller keyboards that require attention and caution when using. This makes typing quite difficult when using a laptop.
  4. Difficulty in customization: It is sometimes difficult to customize a laptop to suit an individual’s requirements. This is because of the complexities associated with the design and features of the laptop as compared to desktops.

Pros of using desktop

  1. Highly customizable: Yes, desktops are highly customizable, you can do whatever you like to a desktop.
  2. High performance: The hardware components installed in a desktop can have as much higher specifications as you need or desire.
  3. Comfort: The desktop can be fitted with multiple screens, customizable keyboards, USB hubs, etc that you feel more comfortable with.

Cons of using desktop

  1. No portability: The desktop chassis can be rather heavy and it is connected generally via various kinds of cable with all the peripherals.
  2. Power dependent. Too dependent on Mains power supply and very powerful (as in wattage:: Typical Desktop power: ~100-250W!)
  3. UPS may be required.
  4. Connectivity: No inbuilt WiFi/Bluetooth (External PCMCIA/USB dongles can do the job but you have to explicitly buy them right…?)
  5. Space: Occupies more physical space.
  6. Sound: External Speakers and an external microphone may be required.
  7. Video Calling/Camera: External webcam may be required.

Well, we have dived the oceans of reasons as to why choose a desktop or laptop for programming, a laptop is clearly for you if you’re on the go type of person, and desktop suits for you, if you like, mean machine for programming but on these days, laptops are as powerful as desktops in terms of specs.

So, now the decision is yours, choosing your gear is up to your hands just weigh in the information you got on this topic and choose what’s best for you. Console.WriteLine(“Happy coding!”);

Kenny Trinh
Article by:
Building his first desktop at the age of 10, start coding at 14 years old, Kenny knows a thing or two when it comes to finding a good laptop and he aims to share everything he knows. Current go-to laptop: Apple Macbook Air 2019.

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