If you’re starting out as a new coder or building your career, you’ll need a proper programming laptop at some point. Programming covers different types of development, and you’ll need different tools for each. For this reason, you need criteria to help you choose a device that fits your unique requirements. This guide will help you choose the best laptop for programming.
Why Is It Essential to Buy a Laptop Suitable for Programming?
While you can use almost any laptop for programming, not all laptops will serve that purpose. You’ll get the job done, but you won’t be as productive as you’d like. If you’re already a coder (or are planning to become one), you’ll want to choose your new device with care.
Each programmer has different needs. Pick a device that suits all your needs and supports all your tools.
Why You Shouldn’t Use a General Laptop for Programming
You might argue this by saying equipment isn’t always everything, and you can write code on just about any device. Even a general laptop will do if you want to get work done right away, right? If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re absolutely right.
Make no mistake: getting your ideal laptop is no substitute for being productive. You could have the world’s best laptop and still not get anything done. Although it’s preferable for you to have the right machine for the job, it isn’t a rigid requirement.
With that said, you still shouldn’t use a general laptop for programming. At least not on a long-term basis.
Most manufacturers in the market build general laptops with bare minimum features. A home PC will perform all your essential office work and still serve as an auxiliary entertainment center.
You can use it to code as well, but you’ll struggle with slower performance. Any serious programmer knows that building web apps, games and software is a demanding task. Low device memory, poor processing speeds and lackluster display quality only make a challenging coding session even harder.
It’s common for many manufacturers to use lower-quality materials and components on general PCs, which could lead to frustration for you. You’ll deal with too many lags, glitches, hangups and abrupt shutdowns.
What’s worse, you could lose months’ worth of work if your systems crashes. Nobody wants that.
For these reasons, wouldn’t you rather be using a programming laptop?
Why a Gaming Laptop Isn’t Suitable for Programming
If you’re on a budget, you probably can’t afford one. All gaming rigs use premium components, and you can’t have these without burning through some of your savings.
Unless you’re a game developer or programmer who loves gaming, such a laptop would be overkill. It’s like driving a Ferrari within city limits – you can’t really push its limits with just bare coding.
Beyond that, gaming laptops have innovations you’ll probably never need or use. For example, for bare coding, why would you need RGB keyboard lighting? How about several fans and heat sinks?
Of course, these features have their use in certain occasions, but you’ll find them a bit annoying and somewhat distracting otherwise.
Gaming laptops also consume massive amounts of power, and you’ll need to recharge yours frequently. If you care about being carbon neutral, using plenty of power isn’t a good idea.
Owning one won’t help much if you’re a digital nomad, since many gaming laptops are bulky anyway.
So what exactly should you look for in a new programming laptop? Let’s break it down feature by feature.
To code properly, you need a laptop with excellent screen quality. After all, you’ll spend hours in front of it, so you have to get it right. It also has to be the right size, or you may experience strain while writing code.
Avoid any laptop that ships with a 1366 x 768 screen resolution for two reasons. First, this display has a lower pixel count. That means you have less screen real estate than similar screen sizes with more pixels per inch. Secondly, your images won’t be as clear or as crisp, and you won’t read or write code well.
Instead, aim for at least FHD (or 1080p) resolution, or its better cousin, FHD+, like the one on this Dell XPS 13 9310. You’ll fork out a few more dollars for it, but it will be worth every cent.
If your laptop comes standard with a 4K UHD screen, excellent! While it will cost you significantly more and contribute to reduced battery life, it’s an amazing trade-off if you’re always next to a power outlet.
You won’t need a touchscreen for most of your tasks, but it’s nice to have.
To get a glitch-free experience when programming, pick a laptop with a robust CPU. This component is just as essential as anything else. A fast processor will handle all your massive compiling projects with ease. Besides, it will enable you to multitask and switch between programs seamlessly.
If you’re a game developer, don’t hold back. Get a PC with a powerful Intel Core i7 processor or better. Here’s a Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition Laptop to get you started.
An Intel Core i5 processor or AMD A8 should be enough. Anything with a clock speed of 3GHz or higher is ideal as well, so look out for such.
Apple’s M1 Chip is nothing short of spectacular, especially for Web development. It doubles up as a graphics card, which means you’ll enjoy amazing visual quality when coding with a 2021 Apple MacBook Pro.
Just as essential to your experience is sufficient memory. In case you need to run a heavy IDE or virtual environment, you’ll need all the memory you can get. Even for web developers, your browser environment will use plenty of memory. You can’t have anything less than 4GB RAM.
8GB RAM is ideal for web and app development. If you’re a game developer, you’ll need at least 16GB or more. Where possible, pick a laptop with expandable memory so that you can add more RAM modules when you need to.
As far as hard drives go, it isn’t so much about storage capacity. Read-and-write speeds make all the difference to a developer. Faster speeds are always better, no matter the task you’re running.
In this case, choose a Solid-State Drive (SSD) or flash over a standard Hard Disk Drive (HDD). SSDs will give you exponential speeds, which means your laptop will boot in seconds where a HDD would boot in minutes.
Since SSDs have no moving parts, you won’t deal with mechanical failure if you accidentally drop your laptop. Also, they won’t consume much power, which translates to better battery life.
Most modern laptops have excellent battery life, so you won’t have to worry much here. Most of the time you’ll always be next to a power outlet anyway. But if you ever move away from your desk or are a digital nomad, get a laptop with a long-lasting battery. A good example is the 2-in-1 Dell Latitude 9510 laptop.
It’s easy to tell how long a laptop battery lasts. Customer reviews on websites like Amazon will tell you much about a laptop’s battery performance. Don’t rely on manufacturer estimates.
You’ll type out plenty of code, so you need a comfortable keyboard. When choosing your next laptop, feel the keyboard and test it out. How’s the key travel? Are the keys soft to the touch? Does it have a numeric keypad? All these features ultimately play into your programming experience.
Also, ensure you’re comfortable with the keyboard layout. If keys are interchanged or placed in awkward positions, it may take time to get used to. Ensure the Fn, Ctrl, Shift and Enter keys are positioned properly. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is an excellent example of this.
If you work in dimly lit environments, a backlight may be a nifty feature to look for. Also, ensure the laptop has high-quality key caps that won’t wear off after years of use. But do know that if you always have access to power, you can do without a few hours of extra battery life.
Programming will take you across different locations. Sometimes, you’ll have to carry your device with you, making weight essential. Is your laptop convenient to carry around?
If you’re mostly behind your desk, a 15- or 17-inch laptop is a superb choice. You won’t have to move it around much, so you’ll enjoy a larger screen for multitasking and other extended features. Unfortunately, it may be bulky to carry around if you ever need to.
If you’re a freelancer or develop programs while on the go, a 13- or 14-inch laptop will serve you well. They’re more portable and consume less power.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is a Core i3 processor sufficient for programming?
Yes, an Intel Core i3 processor is more than enough for programming. Unless you’re developing games or 3D environments, this processor is more than enough for the task.
2. Is 256GB enough storage for programming?
A 256GB SSD storage drive is more than enough for your programming needs. It boots faster and has better read-and-write speeds. This means your code editing programs will load and run faster as you code.
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