So you’re about to start your programming career and you need the best laptop for programming to keep it going strong. Well, programmers need to be very careful when choosing a laptop. There are many factors to think about that one typically wouldn’t while choosing a portable computer. As a programmer, you’re going to be sitting in front of that screen for 12 hours a day at times, typing like your life depends on it. You’ll be using a variety of programs for your coding, based on what type of work you’ll be using the laptop for.
While laptops are perfect for on-the-go coding, you might also want to look into a proper home workstation with an ergonomic chair, multiple displays and all the other trappings that could make your coding far less tedious. Since we don’t want you to take hours out of your precious time trying to figure out how to choose a good programming laptop, we did the legwork for you. Here are some of the top picks for programming laptops on the market right now, starting with our number one choice: the ASUS ROG GL752VW.
What Makes the ASUS Our Top Pick?
The ASUS ROG GL752VW was our obvious top pick for a range of different reasons. Our first was that it looked spectacular. While this wasn’t a programming thing, it had a very sleek appearance on the outside. On to the specifications that made this our favorite laptop, the RAM was the most powerful that we had seen on a laptop in this price range. 16 gigabytes of DDR4 memory made every application that we tried running work like a charm with no freezing, slowness or anything negative that we could see.
It was also one of the most versatile laptops that we had tried out – programmers who are coding on the go can use the glare-resistant matte screen in the daylight, and take advantage of the backlit keyboard at night. This keyboard was one of the firmest and most responsive that we have reviewed, making this one of the best laptops for programming.
To wrap up the system, the 17.3” screen, while a little on the heavier side, made for easier viewing for longer periods of time, which was paramount since programmers spend hours staring at the screen. With a 128GB SSD as well as an NVIDIA GTX 960M graphics card, this was the best programming laptop out there in our opinion.
The Best Laptops for Programming 2017
Quick Guide to Buying a Programming Laptop
If you’re looking for the ultimate programming laptop, you’re going to need a combination of a few different qualities. From sheer power to performance and execution, all the way to mobility, you need to consider many things when buying. As a programmer, you will need to be willing to spend a little more than anyone else, except perhaps gamers. Most programming laptops for sale are the same specs as their gaming compatriots. This is because the sheer amount of power you need to code large programs causes you to need more hardware. If you’re on a budget, finding a laptop isn’t impossible, but it is definitely more difficult. Here are some of the main features you need to look for in the coolest programming laptops out there.
An SSD or a High Capacity Hard Drive is Crucial
Back in the day, a programmer couldn’t have dreamed of getting an SSD or the speed offered by one. Today, SSDs are very common in gaming setups as well as business computers. If you want speed, power and reliability packed into a single drive, an SSD must be included in your laptop. If you can’t get one, try to have a 1TB or bigger mechanical hard drive in your setup.
A standard 128GB SSD doesn’t cost all that much anymore though, unless your budget is extremely tight. There are many great budget laptops for programming out there (and we might even show you one right here!). Instead of trying to find a laptop that has only an SSD or a standard drive, you could try to get a hybrid.
Our top pick for the best programming laptop has a 1TB hard drive as well as a 128GB SSD in the specs. You can use the SSD to load up your programming applications and high-performance tasks. The HDD can be used for daily activities, so your work and home computers don’t have to be separated.
You Need a Fast Processor
In the modern day, a high-end CPU isn’t essential to your programming setup, but you do need something that will serve you well over time. The best CPU for programming laptops depend on what kind of coding you will be doing. As you probably know by now (as a programmer, you probably should), a CPU is the brain of your computer.
Since you’re going to be running some pretty hungry programs, you’ll need a powerful processor. This is the only way in which you can code and then test your code out without experiencing crashes. While an Intel Core i5 processor should suffice, we recommend better.
A Core i5 is fine for novices and even college students. For game devs and graphics designers something bigger and more powerful is necessary. Intel’s Core i7 (preferably a quad core in the current generation) line of CPU chips is one of the best in the market right now. Try to ensure your laptop has an i5 at the very least and an i7 if at all possible.
If you happen to be on a budget that is very tight, you could theoretically make do with an i3 processor, but you should try instead for a Core i5, as it will get you past that bare minimum for your programming needs and have you on the threshold of a decent programming laptop.
Have a Dedicated GPU
This is especially important if you’re looking for the absolute best laptops for programmers and developers. Even if you aren’t a game developer, the world is evolving to a point where nearly every application out there demands something in the way of 3D graphics.
Why take the chance and not be prepared if an opportunity should come around? Get yourself a good dedicated graphics card so that you will be ready for the most demanding applications. That being said, a dedicated GPU isn’t essential for your version of the best laptop for coding. It’s a nice addition, but it won’t make or break your setup.
However, since most programmers like playing games in their spare time, it might be a good choice to get at least 2GB of dedicated graphics, unless you’re in game development, where you will need a more powerful rig for your work. Remember that you will probably be given a worthy machine by your employer in most cases, and the laptop will be mainly for mobile workspaces.
Pick the Right Operating System
There are tons of OS’ out there. Choosing the best OS for coding is important. Think about the work you’re doing and where it will be utilized in the end. The most popular programming systems run either Windows or OS X. Windows is by far the more recommended one, simply because it is versatile beyond compare. Most programming languages run perfectly fine on a Windows operating environment.
In addition to this, MacBook tend to be pretty expensive! However, there are instances where you might need a Mac OS instead. If you’re a novice trying to learn either Objective C or Swift, which are Apple’s programming languages, you will need the Xcode platform to work on. This is only available on the App Store for Apple PCs and devices.
While you might argue that Linux is also a solid choice because of Python and Ruby on Rails, the truth is that Windows supports all these languages easily enough. When getting yourself a programming laptop, make sure you get a Windows PC, unless you plan on working with Mac extensively.
Have a Good, Ergonomic Keyboard
This is a requirement you wouldn’t see on gaming laptops and other business laptops. It is important for programming because of the sheer amount of typing you have to do. Sitting in front of a computer for hours and typing away leads to dangerous conditions like RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) and possibly carpal tunnel syndrome. These can be avoided by getting a laptop for programming that has a well-designed keyboard.
The ASUS ROG gaming laptop features a 6th generation Intel Core i7 processor with 2.6GHz, which can run nearly all modern programming applications with ease. The processor is exactly what is recommended for programmers requiring high-end applications to run. This is paired with 16GB of DDR4 RAM for faster application switching, running and testing code. The high capacity of flash memory results in much quicker, smoother overall work.
A 128GB M.2 SSD drive is coupled with a 1TB mechanical HDD at 7200RPM, for fast starting of programs and smooth running of the system overall. The SSD has a unique easy access slot in the body of the laptop for easier upgrades.
For graphics and game design, the dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB GPU is present and can handle nearly all graphical requirements. The ROG also uses a 17.3’ matte black FHD display, along with USB type-C ports for fast file transfer. The best laptop for programming in our opinion because of the value for money as well as the ergonomic, backlit keyboard.
- Great hardware
- Looks beautiful
- Dedicated GPU
- High RAM
- Modern processor
- Anti-glare display
- Sound isn’t great
- Heavy to lug around
2.) Alienware AW17R3
The Alienware came in a close second to the ASUS ROG. It has great specs including a 6th gen Intel Core i7 processor with 2.6GHz. This processor was right up the alley for best programming laptop CPUs in 2017. A 16GB DDR4 RAM was also present in the laptop for super fast application switching as well as for running coded programs with ease, instead of having to stare at a load screen. An NVIDIA GeForce 970M graphics card with 3GB on it was also present. This made for some pretty great game development applications as well as graphics design.
It had a very powerful processing capability, although it was a little on the heavy side. The 17.3” FHD screen was very useful for any programmer, and the 1TB mechanical HDD was complemented by a 256GB SATA SSD built in. The SSD drive proved to be very useful in switching applications and ensuring that the rig ran smoothly regardless of what we asked of it. The keyboard was backlit and looked pretty great too. Overall, the Alienware was almost tied for the number 1 spot with the ROG.
- High end processor
- High capacity RAM
- Hard drive was large
- Large SSD
- Backlit keyboard
- Larger screen
- Rather heavy
The MSI GE62 is a gaming laptop that has a very powerful 6th generation Intel Core i7 processor that has up to 3.5GHz possible on it. It also makes use of a dual channel DDR4 RAM system with 2133MHz. The RAM alone was enough to keep our programs up and running for ages without freezing. The 128GB SSD was icing on the cake, providing really fast startup and load times, and high storage too because of the 1TB 7200RPM SATA HDD. While it isn’t easy access, it is definitely awesome enough to run most of our programs with ease.
We also noticed an optical disc drive on it, perfect for burning applications onto blank discs for backup, as well as a great graphics card – the NVIDIA GeForce GTX970M with 3GB of memory. The one issue was that the 15.6” screen felt a little small for extended viewing, although it had an FHD display. The keyboard was SteelSeries model with a multi-color backlight, which was pretty fun to use while typing out those long lines of code. However, it did tend to get a little garish at times, though we don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to just switch the backlight off.
- Optical drive
- High ram
- High HDD capacity
- Good SSD
- Good GPU
- Nice keyboard
- Far more mobile
- Keyboard can be a little weird
- Smaller screen size
The Dell Inspiron has always been a very reliable laptop, and it features a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 processor, of the 6th generation. It was more than capable of standing up to the power-hungry applications we ran on the laptop. The RAM capacity was 16GB, although it was DDR3L which wasn’t as great as the higher-end technology out there. The RAM was dual channel and completely upgradeable which we liked. It made us able to perform some pretty demanding operations without problems.
The hard drive of this laptop was completely up to par, with a 1TB HDD as well as a 128GB SSD. The SSD allowed us to experience some pretty great boot times and load times for applications. In addition to this, the GPU was one of the better that we have seen – an NVIDIA GTX 960M with 4GB of GDDR5 memory for really good processing of graphics intensive programs and coding. We did have an issue with the 15” screen, because even though it boosted the mobility of the laptop, it made extended coding rather tedious.
- Good processor
- High RAM capacity
- 128GB SSD
- 1TB HDD
- GTX 960M 4GB
- Smaller screen
- Keyboard wasn’t that great
5.) Lenovo Z70
The Lenovo Z70 is a great laptop for developers on a budget. It isn’t on the expensive side of things, but the specs are still pretty good. It has an Intel Core i7 5th generation processor. It may not be the most modern, but it serves its purpose well as long as you don’t demand too much of it. This is run in conjunction with 8GB of DDR3L RAM, which is enough for most high-end coding save for the most demanding of the bunch.
An 8GB SSD is present, which might not be huge but still has some pretty great options for coding and load times of applications. This is paired with a 1TB HDD that runs at 5400RPM instead of 7200RPM. There is a dedicated graphics card too, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 840M 2GB, which is pretty great for basic graphics design but isn’t going to cut it for game design. Overall, this is a great budget programming laptop which will serve most beginners well.
- Great value for money
- Dedicated GPU
- SSD and HDD together
- Large screen
- Older processor
- Lower RAM than needed for some applications
- Small capacity SSD
So, there you have it. That is how you can enter the world of programming with a laptop capable of handling the stresses of the job. It isn’t easy to find the right laptop. There are bound to be others out there that aren’t even on this list. Some of them might even beat out our top pick. What matters is that you focus on value-for-money and raw performance based on hardware specifications. This is the only way in which you can be sure of getting the best possible experience out of your new laptop.
Again, try and get yourself an actual desktop workstation to do most of your coding. You are going to be sitting there for hours on end, and a larger set of displays will do wonders for your eyes, muscles and other parts of your body.
Also, if your keyboard isn’t serving you well on your current laptop, try and pick an external keyboard out. There are tons of great wireless programming keyboards out there that have been designed specifically for people who will be coding all day long. If you can get your hands on one of these for a lower price, you should definitely go for it. Happy hunting, coder!