Best Laptop for Software Engineers

Best Laptop for Software Engineers – Choosing a laptop for programming can be a tedious process. Sure on the screen, you’re typing in lines of colorful code, but having a laptop with the right combination of features and specs can make every coding session a much easier process.

We hope that our list of the Best Laptops for Programming, Coding & Development has given you some idea of the options that are out there for you to choose from. Do you have a programming laptop that you swear by, but don’t see it on our list?

OVERVIEW

You can always attach external storage via USB but you won’t be able to add more RAM on any new Macbook model!

if you don’t need iOS development and you work on Windows mostly then please consider these:

Lenovo Thinkpad and Dell XPS. Thinkpad is a famous brand and was used by programmers as a portable, powerful, durable, and upgradeable(!) machine. Lenovo Thinkpad is also Unix friendly and you can even run Mac OS X on it using Hackintosh.

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ROUND UP

To help, we created a checklist of the things you should consider when you decide to buy a laptop for programming / coding. While they may not apply to everyone, we feel that it gives a good overview so you can be sure you’re getting the best laptop for your money.

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1.Dell XPS

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2.HP Spectre

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3.Lenovo ThinkPad

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4.Dell Inspiron

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5.Apple MacBook

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6.Huawei Mateboo

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7.MacBook Air

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8.HP Envy

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9.Google Pixelbook

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10.LG Gram

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Best Laptop for Software Engineers – BUYER’S GUIDE

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Hard Drive

For programming, you’ll need to consider getting at least 256GB SSD. However, if you are a pro developer then you will get more value from a 1TB drive. Speed is supercritical for compiling and testing, especially large programming projects. You can also save money but buying a smaller hard drive option and then use USB hard drives. Surprisingly, you can even run virtual machines from external hard drives. The negative thing is that you should plug and unplug an external hard drive every time.
If you have to select between a smaller SSD (new technology) drive or a larger HDD (old technology) then go with the first option: SSD (Solid State Drives). SSD drives are much faster and you can also expand storage with an external drive later. 

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RAM

For developers, operative memory (RAM) is like water! The standard RAM included with laptops is around 4GB but you should look for at least 8 GB of RAM pre-installed (as a minimum for programming) that is adequate for basic programming. If you work on a serious project then look for at least 16 GB or even 32 GB of RAM to make sure it will be enough for the next 2-3 years. Anyway, for software engineers, it is “prescribed” to purchase the best laptops for programming with no less than 8GB of RAM. In a perfect world, you ought to run for a laptop with at least 16GB of RAM or more. That would cost more, however, this amount of memory will be very useful when you will be developing software.

If you have to select between large RAM but less hard drive storage then you must go for a larger RAM! With a smaller hardrive you can always use external HDD or SSD storage via USB. But you won’t be able to expand RAM in most cases because there are a lot of laptops with non-expandable soldered RAM. And the only way to upgrade RAM, in this case, is to buy another laptop only.

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CPU (processor) and Processing Speed

The main thing you spare with processing power is the compilation speed. However, this is an issue if your project is huge. In any case, you ought to have a machine that intently coordinates your objective however much as could be expected. Laptops that have an  i7 or i9 multi-core processor are best for programming in 2021. If you are selecting between having more RAM or a faster CPU, select more RAM.

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Repairability and Upgradability

What if you need to add RAM or replace Hard Drive with a larger one? Repairability is an important factor if you understand that you will need to add more power to your laptop in the next year or two. Not all laptops allow doing this. Some of them (like Apple Macbook and many others) are made the way that it is almost impossible to replace hard drive or RAM. Apple Macbooks are expensive to repair outside the warranty: for example, replacing a single key on a keyboard could cost from $500 to $700 because you will need to replace half of a laptop. Meanwhile, with some Lenovo Thinkpad models, it will cost around $100 for the whole keyboard.

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Screen Size and Screen Resolution

If you don’t have supervision then only look for at least 13.3″ screen. The larger the better. 14″ to 16″ are good for programming while 17″ may be overkill because the size and the weight can be an issue. Go with screens at least of 1920×1080 (full HD) or higher resolution as possible because you will need a screen estate to work with the code, read documentation, run virtual machines, and so on. Be aware of 3K or 4K screens (except Apple laptops) because of high speed flickering on some screens, also 4K screens require more juice so battery is running out faster with these screens.

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Screen Quality

Working with laptop screens based on FN technology can be stressful because colors are changing when you change the angle you look at a screen. Go with IPS or similar technology (e.g. Retina on Macbooks) when possible.

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Keyboard

The keyboard is actually super important and more important than non-programmers may think! We strongly advise you to have a chance to look at the laptop and try to type on its keyboard somewhere in the offline store (just look for the nearest Apple Store,  BestBuy, Microsoft Store, or another computer store)  before ordering it online. Look for a specific model that is similar to the one that you are going to order online because some models may have slightly different configurations keyboard.

Also, select a US-English layout when possible because it is much easier to work on it with some widely used shortcuts. For example, if you use Markdown formatting then having the”`” key right under the Escape key is much easier than having it somewhere at the bottom in non-US layouts.

Warning about Apple Macbook laptops with the “butterfly” keyboard released before the 2020 year: The Apple homegrown keyboard model was used in Macbooks produced from 2015 throughout 2019. These “new” “butterfly” keyboards are having serious issues, breaking quickly and literally unrepairable at all (if one single key fails you must replace the whole keyboard with the top case). Though Apple offers free replacement for these keyboards (that involves replacing the top case that otherwise would cost $500+), see this page for details. Because of that if you are buying a used Macbook, be careful and in general, you would want to avoid used Macbook laptops with “butterfly” keyboards unless you make sure they will be replaced by Apple for free. Macbooks released after 2020 switched back to “scissor” keyboards that are used by other vendors and are proven to be reliable and stable for years, though there are still reports about minor issues with this keyboard too.

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Weight

Based on the experience of many developers, up to 4.5 pounds (about 2 kg) is comfortable for traveling. Any additional weight on top of it should be carefully considered.

So, please check the list of the best laptops for programming in 2021 along with the detailed descriptions of each laptop.

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Frequently Asked Questions

So.. which one is the best for coding?

TL;DR: Apple Macbook Pro 16, Dell XPSApple Macbook Pro 13, Lenovo Thinkpad.  Consider Macbook if you also do iOS, Android, or Unix coding or Web development. But be aware that almost all top laptops nowadays don’t provide the ability to easily expand RAM or HDD. In most cases, you can’t do it even through a service center. So you should get a configuration that will serve you for the next few years.

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WRAP UP

While the best laptops for programming don’t necessarily have to be hugely powerful machines, you’ll need something that has a decent amount of power – after all, you’ll be compiling code, test out apps and games you working on, and more, and all of that requires a decent processor and plenty of RAM

 

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