Finding the Best Laptops for Programming

Last Edited: September 6, 2018 by

Welcome to our guide to the best laptops for programmers. These laptops have everything both new and experienced developers need to design the perfect apps, create the best websites, or even design the next mega hit video game.

We have searched high and low for the very best laptops that will meet the needs of all users, regardless of their budget. As such, you will find a wide variety of laptops to choose from including premium laptops that come with high price tags, to more budget friendly options that will let you get your coding done at a fraction of the cost. When looking at a laptop for programming, ideally it makes sense to purchase an Apple MacBook or MacBook Pro due to its operating system. Mac OS X offers the best Unix experience as it is based off of a Unix version called BSD Berkeley.

However, if you are not a fan of Apple’s range of laptops, then you can always look at a good Linux distro. While Linux is not a true Unix-based operating system, as it is based off of GNU, it will still offer you a good coding experience which is why we also recommend reviewing our best Linux laptops guide. This is due to the fact that they share similarities and GNU is often referred to as a Unix clone. While Linux based laptops are few and far apart, the good news is that you can take almost any Windows 10 laptop on the market and install your favorite Linux distro. You can also dual boot your Windows-based laptop and have the best of both operating systems. Our laptops under $1000 guide also has some great options for professionals that you may want to browse.

We have compiled a list the best options on currently on the market and if you are on the hunt for a new laptop for all of your programming needs, then look no further as we have you covered.

Top Pick

Dell Precision 15 5510 Workstation 15.6-inch

Dell Precision 15 5510 Workstation

While the Dell Precision 15 5510 may have been originally designed for video and image editors, that doesn’t mean it isn’t the perfect machine for any programmer. With its large, 15.6-inch screen, you will have more than enough screen real estate to see what’s going on with your code. It’s backed by an Intel Core i5-6300HQ with 8GB of RAM that provide more than enough power to run your code at lightning speeds. It comes with a 500GB hard drive, which is more than enough space, but it would be nice if the laptop included an SSD for speedy file access. It comes with an NVIDIA Quadro M1000M made for designers, but can work for gaming or game development as well. If you need a good desktop replacement that will work well for your coding needs, look no further than the Dell Precision 15 5510.

Pros

  • Sharp display
  • NVIDIA Quadro card
  • USB 3.1 Type-C
  • Designed for rendering

Cons

  • Battery life
  • Only 500GB of storage
  • Only 8GB of RAM
  • Intel i5 processor
  • Price

Specs

  • Nvidia Quadro M1000M 2GB GDDR5 [View Framerates]
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM
  • 500GB 7200 RPM HDD
  • 15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels (IPS)
  • 16 hours battery life
  • 3.93 lbs

Summary

The Dell Precision 15 5510 Workstation offers users a Quadro M1000M rendering card, but the RAM and storage space are below average for its price

Dell Precision 15 5510 Workstation 15.6-inch
$1998.57$999.99
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(as of 21-09-2018 14:40 UTC) Details

Premium Laptops

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Apple MacBook Air MMGG2LL/A 13.3-inch

Apple MacBook Air MMGG2LL/A 13.3-inch

While Apple has slipped from the top spot with their latest MacBook Pro and their standard MacBook due to its limited selection of ports, the MacBook Air is still a good option for those who are after the Apple experience. The MacBook Air MMGG2LL/A still retains the same thin and light aluminum unibody design as the original 2010 model and can easily be slipped into a bag while on the go. While it still uses a fifth generation Intel Core i5-5250U processor, the MacBook Air MMGG2LL/A will still run most of your daily processes with ease. And thanks to its 8GB of RAM, you should also be able to use the RAM hungry Google Chrome web browser. Sadly, the RAM is not upgradable. You also get a 256GB solid state drive for super fast boot speeds and application launches. Replacing the SSD for a larger one is slightly more expensive as it requires a specialized SSD compared to Windows-based laptops that use SATA or M.2 SSDs. However, the 256GB of storage space should be enough for your programming needs. One of the drawbacks of the compact MacBook Air is the fact that its smaller display does not support Full-HD and instead Apple has opted for a 1440 x 900 pixel display panel. This will impact your coding and will require some scrolling when writing longer lines of code. However, you will be able to connect a monitor via the Mini DisplayPort (Thunderbolt 2) port. While it might not be the newest or the most powerful Ultrabook on the market, it is still great for programmers due to the simple fact that it runs Mac OS X. This means that it is a full Unix-based operating systems compared to most modern versions of Linux which are GNU-based operating systems. You will also be able to write code for any platform due to the strict Apple licensing restrictions and the fact that you will be able to run Windows and Linux too via either dual boot or virtual machine.

Pros

  • SSD
  • Apple ecosystem
  • Good for programming
  • Small and light

Cons

  • No optical drive
  • Non-upgradable RAM
  • No Full-HD display
  • Older hardware

Specs

  • Intel HD Graphics 6000 Shared [View Framerates]
  • 8GB LPDDR3 1600MHz RAM
  • 256GB SSD
  • 13.3 inch, 1440 x 900 pixels (IPS)
  • Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan
  • 12 hours battery life
  • 2.96 lbs

Summary

The Apple MacBook Air MMGG2LL/A is a light and compact Ultrabook for those looking for great battery life and Apple’s legendary ecosystem. However, the last update to the Air range was in 2015 and its competitors have already moved on with the latest hardware.

Apple MacBook Air MMGG2LL/A 13.3-inch
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(as of 01-09-2018 23:17 UTC) Details

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar MLW82LL/A 15.4-inch

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar MLW82LL/A 15.4-inch

The new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has been criticized by even the most hardcore Apple fans. The problem is that previous generation of MacBook Pros featured a good selection of ports and the world famous MagSafe charging port, however, the new version only features USB 3.1 Type-C ports. This will mean purchasing an adapter to use something as simple as a USB mouse. If you really want the MagSafe feel, you can always purchase a magnetic USB 3.1 Type-C adapter that will give you a similar experience. However, this will never be the same as the MagSafe charger as you will have the adapter sticking out of the side of the MacBook. The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar MLW82LL/A shares the same stylish aluminum unibody design of its predecessor, however Apple have made it almost 40% thinner than the previous model. The new Touch Bar will display shortcuts depending on what applications you are working in and promises to speed up your workflow. Powered by an Intel Core i7-6820HQ processor and 16GB of RAM (which is not upgradable), the Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar MLW82LL/A will easily run all of your day-to-day tasks. The powerful hardware will also come in handy when you need to test your code. Apple have also given the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar MLW82LL/A a beefier AMD Radeon Pro 455 GPU with 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 video memory. It also features automatic graphics switching to switch to the Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU to conserve battery life when using less demanding applications or while coding. The benefit of the MacBook range is that they run Mac OS X which is based off of Unix. This will allow for the best coding experience and is the choice of many of the top developers and programmers across the globe. While the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar MLW82LL/A is quite expensive, it does offer the user the ability to use it for more than just writing lines of code.

Pros

  • Touch Bar with Touch ID
  • Powerful CPU
  • Dedicated AMD graphics
  • Large SSD
  • Brilliant Retina display
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • No standard ports
  • No MagSafe port
  • Non-upgradable RAM
  • Price
  • No SD card slot

Specs

  • AMD Radeon Pro 455 2GB GDDR5 [View Framerates]
  • 16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz RAM
  • 512GB SSD
  • 15.4 inch, 2880 x 1800 pixels (IPS)
  • Mac OS X 10.12 Sierra
  • 10 hours battery life
  • 4.02 lbs

Summary

The Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar MLW82LL/A is a powerful MacBook Pro for the power user, however with a hefty price tag and no legacy ports it might not be the MacBook that we hoped for as everyday users.

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar MLW82LL/A 15.4-inch
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(as of 16-09-2018 05:38 UTC) Details

Dell XPS9360-7336SLV

Dell XPS9360-7336SLV 13.3-inch laptop

Flat out this laptop is one of the most powerful on the market today, and it’s this reason why this laptop make the perfect programming computer. Powered by a seventh generation Intel Core i7U 2.7Ghz processor and 16GB of RAM, you will have more power than you ever need for developing even high end applications. It’s 13.3-inch QHD+ Infinityedge touch Display running a resolution of 3200×1800 will give you more than enough space to see what you are doing while you’re writing your code. However, the screen is only 13 inches, meaning it will be a touch smaller than some of the larger screen laptops and that could cause problems if you have vision issues as the text will be smaller. Still, you will be hard pressed to find a more impressive laptop with the power to be the perfect coding machine.

Pros

  • Solid Build
  • Lightning Fast
  • Beautiful Design
  • Impressive Touchscreen

Cons

  • Webcam placement awkward
  • Difficult to open
  • Premium Price

Specs

  • 13.3 inch, 3200 x 1800 pixels (IPS)
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 11 hours battery life
  • 2.7 lbs

Summary

The Dell XPS9360-7336SLV 13.3-inch is one of the most beautiful and powerful laptops you can find today, but be ready to pay for it.

Dell XPS9360-7336SLV 13.3-inch
$1435.35$1399.49
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(as of 21-09-2018 15:16 UTC) Details

Razer Blade RZ09-01953E72-R3U1 14-inch

Razer Blade RZ09-01953E72-R3U1 14-inch

Gaming laptops don’t always make the best coding machines, but if you are trying to create a new game, then it may be useful to create your new game on an actual gaming machine. It’s powered by an Intel i7-7700HQ running at 2.8Ghz with 16GB of RAM. This will give you more than enough power to run any coding application and multitask with ease. For storage, you get an M.2 SSD with 512GB of storage. While not the largest storage option, it’s still more than enough space for all your files. One downside is the battery life. Because of the high end specs, the battery life will only last a few hours. So make sure you don’t start a big coding project when you don’t have an AC outlet close by. Also, the laptop does tend to get a bit hot when running high end apps, this may or may not impact your usage depending on the types of development you plan on doing.

Pros

  • Kaby Lake i7 processor
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
  • Thin and light
  • USB Type-C
  • 512GB M.2 SSD

Cons

  • Heats up under load
  • Expensive
  • No Ethernet
  • No optical drive

Specs

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GDDR5 [View Framerates]
  • 16GB DDR4 2133MHz RAM
  • 512GB SSD
  • 14 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels (IPS)
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 4.5 hours battery life
  • 4.10 lbs

Summary

The Razer Blade RZ09-01953E72-R3U1 is a new an improved version of the Razer Blade which offers a powerful NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card and a 512GB SSD.

Razer Blade RZ09-01953E72-R3U1 14-inch
$2099.99
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(as of 21-09-2018 14:36 UTC) Details

Microsoft Surface Book SX3-00001 13.5-inch

Microsoft Surface Book SX3-00001 13.5-inch

When the Microsoft Surface Book was first released, critics everywhere were impressed. This 2 in 1 device is truly a sight to behold. It’s sleek and stylish, and the detachable screen makes it perfect for use in all situations, from coding to watching movies. Under the hood you will find an Intel Core i5-6300U running at 2.4Ghz, which is more than enough power for even the most complex coding projects. If you need to multitask, no problem, as the Surface Book comes with 8GB of RAM so you can run whatever you need to run with ease. One thing that this device doesn’t have is USB-C and HDMI, meaning that newer monitors or devices won’t be compatible with this device, at least not at their native speeds and without the use of an adapter. Still, if you need a device for programming that can be useful both at home and on the road, this is one of the best choices available to you.

Pros

  • Exceptional battery life
  • Powerful hardware
  • Thin and light
  • Pin point accurate touchscreen
  • NVIDIA graphics

Cons

  • No Ethernet
  • No USB Type-C
  • 3:2 aspect ratio
  • No HDMI
  • Price

Specs

  • 13.5 inch, 3000 x 2000 pixels (IPS)
  • Windows 10 Pro
  • 12 hours battery life
  • 3.34 lbs

Summary

The Surface Book SX3-00001 is a purpose built business laptop that offers great performance, an NVIDIA GPU and excellent battery life that will get you through the day.

Microsoft Surface Book SX3-00001 13.5-inch
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(as of 19-08-2018 08:50 UTC) Details

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 CR5-00001 12.3-inch

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 CR5-00001 12.3-inch

The perfect machine for coding on the go, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is the one of the best 2 in 1 devices available today. It’s thin and light and the keyboard, though extra, feels great and is easy to type on for those coding projects. It’s backed by an Intel Core i5-6300U processor. While not the fastest, it’s more than enough for programming. It only has 4GB of RAM, which will suffice in most circumstances, but if you are running a lot of apps at once or you are processing heavy coding projects, you may have to wait a bit. The display is also small, at only 12.3 inches, but that’s to be expected in a portable tablet/laptop hybrid. If you need to code while you are on the road and don’t want to lug around a big, bulky laptop, then look no further than the Microsoft Surface Pro. It’s the perfect tool for the job.

Pros

  • Intel Skylake processor
  • Good battery life
  • Crisp and responsive touchscreen
  • Comes with Windows 10 Pro

Cons

  • Only 4GB of RAM
  • No physical keyboard included
  • Only one USB 3.0 port
  • Underpowered for designers

Specs

  • Intel HD Graphics 520 Shared [View Framerates]
  • 4GB SDRAM DDR3 RAM
  • 128GB SSD
  • 12.3 inch, 2736 x 1824 pixels (IPS)
  • Windows 10 Pro
  • 9 hours battery life
  • 1.73 lbs

Summary

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 CR5-00001 offers a great performance for its compact size, but you will have to purchase the keyboard separately and the 4GB of RAM hurt its overall performance with heavy multitasking.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 CR5-00001 12.3-inch
$808.00
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(as of 21-09-2018 14:39 UTC) Details

Apple Macbook Pro MPTT2LL/A 15.4-inch

Apple Macbook Pro MPTT2LL/A

You may not think coding machine when you think Apple, but since macOS is based on UNIX, you really can’t go wrong. The Apple Macbook Pro MPTT2LL/A is no different. It’s 15.4-inch Retina display is a true thing of beauty, and images and text have never appeared clearer than they will on the Apple display. It comes with a 2.9Ghz Intel Quad Core i7 and 16GB of RAM which provide more than enough speed to execute even the most complex coding projects. It’s unibody aluminum design is sleek and stylish so you will look great while you write your next programming project. If there is one downside to this machine, it’s the lack of ports. It comes with multiple USB type C ports, but Apple has failed to include anything else. If you need classic USB, you will need an adapter, and the same goes for everything else including ethernet. This makes it less than ideal for the office. Still, you will be hard pressed to find a more powerful machine and with it’s open source roots it’s a great choice for any programmer.

Pros

  • Touch Bar with Touch ID
  • Powerful CPU
  • Dedicated AMD graphics
  • Large SSD
  • Brilliant Retina display
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • No standard ports
  • No MagSafe port
  • Non-upgradable RAM
  • Price
  • No SD card slot

Specs

  • 15.4 inch, 2880 x 1800 pixels
  • Mac OS X 10.12 Sierra
  • 10 hours battery life
  • 2.9 lbs

Summary

The Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar MPTT2LL/A is a powerful MacBook Pro for the power user, however the price is steep and the lack of legacy ports will inconvenience even some of the most diehard Apple fans.

Apple Macbook Pro MPTT2LL/A 15.4-inch
$2799.00$2099.00
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(as of 21-09-2018 15:16 UTC) Details

Mid-Range Laptops

HP ENVY 13-ab016nr 13.3-inch

HP ENVY 13-ab016nr 13.3-inch laptop

The HP ENVY 13-ab016nr is an amazingly designed laptop that is thin, light and stylish. It features a high quality aluminum design that is very thin and highly portable. It is backed by an Intel i5-7200U clocking in at 2.5Ghz and 8GB of RAM. This is more than enough power for all your coding projects. However, the memory is soldered to the board and isn’t upgradable. It also comes with a lot of bloatware, meaning you will have to spend some time removing the software or reformatting your hard drive just to get rid of it. Still, the HP ENVY is a great mid-range laptop that provides you with a good balance of features and price so you can finish all those coding projects with ease.

Pros

  • Excellent battery life
  • Thin and light
  • Bang and Olufsen audio
  • USB 3.1 and USB Type-C ports
  • Fast Charge technology

Cons

  • RAM soldered to the board
  • Possible hinge issues in the future
  • Lots of bloatware
  • Glossy display is reflective

Specs

  • 13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels (IPS)
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 14 hours battery life
  • 3.3 lbs

Summary

The HP ENVY 13-ab016nr offers great hardware in a tiny package and if you are after a good MacBook alternative then this laptop is well worth considering.

HP ENVY 13-ab016nr 13.3-inch
$799.99
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(as of 21-09-2018 15:09 UTC) Details

ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360CA-UBM1T 13.3-inch

ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360CA-UBM1T 13.3-inch

The ASUS Zenbook Flip is another great budget laptop perfect for coding. It’s built using a thin metal design that is both sturdy and stylish. It is backed by an Intel Core m3, which isn’t as fast as the i series processors, but you still still be able to code and process your projects relatively quickly. But, don’t expect it to perform as quickly as some of the other laptops on this list. Still, it does come with an SSD, so processing and loading times will still be fast. There were some reports that the trackpad is rather poor, and the lack of an HDMI port will limit what types of monitors you can connect, but overall it’s a solid budget option that will work for any coder shopping on a budget.

Pros

  • Thin and light
  • Fast SSD
  • Good amount of memory
  • USB 3.1 Type-C port
  • Battery life
  • Compact design

Cons

  • Micro HDMI port
  • Buggy trackpad
  • Slight keyboard flex
  • Average audio

Specs

  • 13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 10 hours battery life
  • 2.9 lbs

Summary

The ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360CA-UBM1T is a compact and light Ultrabook that is great for the user who is constantly on the go. However, the trackpad has much to be desired and might annoy some users.

ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360CA-UBM1T 13.3-inch
$706.00
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(as of 21-09-2018 14:36 UTC) Details

Budget Laptops

Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM 15.6-inch

Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM 15.6-inch

The Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM is a newer budget friendly laptop that comes with everything you need for your programming tasks. While it’s not the most powerful on this list, it’s seventh generation Intel i3 processor will provide you more than enough power for your coding projects. It comes with a 1TB hard drive that will give you more than enough storage for all your coding projects, although a faster SSD would be a better option. However, because of its budget price tag, some sacrifices must be made. The features a Full-HD display, a rarity at this price point, and it even includes a USB Type-C port and AC Wi-Fi for faster networking. If you are shopping on a budget, you will be hard pressed to find a laptop that packs as many features into an attractive price.

Pros

  • Full-HD display
  • 7th Gen Intel processor
  • USB 3.1 Type-C
  • Battery life
  • Price to performance ratio

Cons

  • No dedicated graphics card
  • Only 4GB of RAM
  • Slower 5400rpm HDD

Specs

  • Intel HD Graphics 620 Shared [View Framerates]
  • 4GB DDR4 RAM
  • 1024GB 5400 RPM HDD
  • 15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 12 hours battery life
  • 5.27 lbs

Summary

The Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM offers a lot of great hardware for its sub $400 price tag. But you only get 4GB of RAM and we recommend upgrading to increase the laptop’s day-to-day performance.

Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM 15.6-inch
$359.99
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(as of 21-09-2018 14:39 UTC) Details

ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6-inch

ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6-inch

When you think development, you may not consider a Chromebook, and while it’s not suited for heavy development because of the limits of Chrome OS, it’s still a great budget option for any web developer out there. With its 4GB of RAM and amazing battery life, you will have more than enough power and juice to code all day on your battery alone. It features a 180-degree hinge on its display so it will convert to a tablet, if needed, so you can sit and write your favorite web application from the comfort of your couch. Unfortunately, it only comes with 16GB of storage, like many Chromebooks, so you will have to rely on the cloud for your storage or add more with a microSD card if you need to store a lot of information to create your favorite web applications. If you specialize in web development and are on a tight budget, give the ASUS Chromebook a closer look, I think you will find it will be a perfect match for your needs.

Pros

  • Rugged design
  • MicroSD slot
  • Spill-resistant keyboard
  • Price

Cons

  • Limited storage space
  • No optical drive
  • Non-upgradable
  • Limited amount of apps
  • Linux not supported

Specs

  • Intel HD Graphics 400 (Braswell) Shared [View Framerates]
  • 4GB DDR3L RAM
  • 16GB SSD
  • 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixels (TN)
  • Chrome OS
  • 10 hours battery life
  • 2.2 lbs

Summary

The ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 is a rugged Chromebook that has been designed for the classroom and features double the RAM as many of its competitors.

ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6-inch
$229.00$218.99
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(as of 21-09-2018 14:36 UTC) Details

Conclusion

There you have it. These laptops represent some of the best we can find that will be perfect for your coding needs. Now, the fact is that almost any laptop can be used for programming. All you need is the right tools installed and you are ready to go. However, in our opinion, these laptops will give you all the features you need along with the power and performance required to develop your next great app with ease.

If you are looking for a laptop for other uses, we recommend you check out our Best Laptops of 2016/2017 or, if you are on a budget, our Best Cheap Laptops of 2016/2017. We are confident you will find the perfect laptop for your needs. Until then, happy coding and we hope one of these laptops becomes your ideal coding machine while you are developing your next app.

About the author

Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing for LaptopNinja where he enjoys talking about everything tech.


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