Best Programming Laptop – 2020 Guide

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Programming is one area where you will benefit from having a good laptop. You will running a lot of programs at once, and when you start working with complicated code it can take quite some time to compile.

One of the best laptops for programming is the Dell Inspiron 7000.

List of Best Programming Laptops

Below are the laptops I think you should consider if you are going to use it for programming. After the list I will go through some general guidelines for what you should look for in a laptop. There are certain things that are important for programming and some that are not. The list below are built from those guidelines.

One of the best laptops for programming is the Dell Inspiron. Powerful parts coupled with a great price makes this a great choice for anyone. If you are looking for something more powerful then you can have a look at the MSI machine.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 – Top Pick

Image of Dell Inspiron
OamaTech Score: 8/10

The Dell Inspiron is my top pick for programming. The reason is that it has one of the best balances between price and power. For not to bad of a price you get some very good parts. Firs off, you get a 9th generation Core i7-9750H. This CPU is a steal at the price of this laptop. Although the 10th generation is coming out, and AMD are putting out some very good CPUs these days, this is still a great CPU. This is actually the same CPU that you will find in many gaming laptops that are a lot more expensive than the Dell Inspiron.

The laptop also comes with a Nvidia GeForec GTX 1050 GPU. This is not the most powerful GPU on the market, but the fact that there is a GPU makes this laptop suitable for more than just programming. A GPU also makes this a good candidate for playing video games or other resource intensive tasks such as modeling or video rendering. If you are interested in machine learning, then a GPU is also a must have on the laptop. A GPU is amazing at computing and AI is one area that is able to make full use of a GPU. The best laptop for programming should have a GPU in it, and luckily there are quite a few options that have it. As with the CPU, the more expensive the laptop the better the GPU you will get. You are also able to rent online computing power if you need to do things that are very resource intensive and long running. You can also build a desktop which would give you bit more power for your money than what a laptop will.

There is 8GB of DDR4 RAM in the laptop. Although 8 GB is not that much any more, the fact that it is DDR4 is great. DDR4 is faster and more power efficient than DDR3, and you will be able to upgrade the amount in the future. When doing your reserach you just have to make sure that it is DDR4 because you cant go from DDR3 to DDR4 as the chips don’t fit in each others slots.

A great CPU, good GPU, and very good RAM makes this laptop a great option for programming. Programming requires a laptop that is at least somewhat capable. You need to be able to run emulators / simulators, and the IDEs and Frameworks you will be working with can be quite resource intensive.

If you want to check out some of the other details about this laptop you can see it on Amazon.

See the Dell Inspiron (#ad) on Amazon.

Acer Aspire 5 – Budget Option

Image of Acer Aspire
OamaTech Score: 7/10

Although this is the budget option, this is not the cheapest laptop you can get your hands on. If you are really strapped for cash then you could go with an even cheaper model than this, but what you get will probably not be optimal. The Acer Aspire 5 is a great line of laptops, and they do give good value for your money. This particular model I think is one of the best options they have for programming. You get a 10th generation core i5-10210U CPU. The 10th generation ones are just coming out so this will certainly last you quite some time. An i7 would be better in terms of performance, but this should be good enough unless you are doing very resource intensive things such as machine learning and AI.

One of the main reasons this laptop made it onto the list is because of the CPU and the fact that it has a GPU. The laptop comes with an Nvidia GeForce MX250. This is not the most powerful GPU but it makes the laptop so much better for a lot of things. Especially in programming you need something that is good a doing a lot of resource intensive tasks. A lot of programmers also enjoy relaxing with a game or two, and a GPU makes the laptop suitable for gaming.

As with more expensive computers, this laptop offers 8 GB of DDR4 RAM. It is becoming more and more important that you have not only enough RAM but also that it is fast enough. 8 GB is the new minimum on mid-range laptops. Some cheaper options will come with less, but they will quickly feel slow and sluggish. Even Chrome uses a lot of RAM and processing power these days. But, with a good CPU, a GPU, and good RAM, this laptop will feel quite good for a long time.

This laptop is actually quite impressive. In addition to the good specs discussed above, it also comes with a 512 GB SSD. Many alternatives that are quite a lot more expensive have smaller SSDs that this. One thing that you should always look for in a laptop is an SSD. Regular had drives are much slower and it can feel like day and night having one vs not having one.

See the Acer Aspire 5 (#ad) on Amazon.

ASUS ROG Strix Scar III

Image of ASUS ROG Strix Scar III
OamaTech Score: 9/10

If you are looking for a programming laptop that has an incredible amount of power, then this laptop is for you. As mentioned before, the more you pay the more you get. The ASUS Scar III is definitely not a cheap laptop, but it packs more power than any other alternatives on this list. In its price category it is one of the best laptops out there. It comes with an Intel Core i7-9750H. This is the same CPU as in the Dell Inspiron, which should tell you what a good deal that laptop is. This CPU is one of the better ones on the market for laptops right now. As the 10th generations start rolling out you might see some better alternatives, but the price is likely to go up as well.

The laptop also comes with a quite powerful GPU. It has the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070. This laptop is suitable for playing video games on quite high settings, as well as other more resource intensive programming tasks such as deep learning. The best laptop for programming should have a GPU in it, and it does currently not get much better than the RTX 2070. It has 8 GB of GDDR6 RAM which is a huge amount for a laptop. That being said, you can get even better performance for machine learning if you rent something online, but then you can’t carry it around with you.

There is 16 GB of DDR4 RAM in this laptop. It is the kind that is 2666 MHz which is very good. I think that for the price of this laptop it should come with 32 GB, but RAM is something you can upgrade yourself without too much trouble, as long as you know what you are doing of course.

A great CPU, a great GPU, and great RAM makes this the overall best programming laptop. The only drawback of this laptop is its price, but this is what a great laptop goes for these days. If you are looking for something in this price range then it is a good value for your money option.

See the ASUS ROG Strix Scar III (#ad) on Amazon.

MSI GS65 Stealth-430

Image of MSI GS65 Stealth-430
OamaTech Score: 10/10

Although not cheap, the MSI GS65 Stealth-430 is one of my favorite laptops. MSI is the brand I use for my daily laptop and it is such a great programming laptop. The keyboards that they use are amazing to type on and they deliver a lot of power. The laptop comes with the Intel Core i7-9750H. This is a staple CPU on high end laptops and you would expect nothing less from this laptop.

The laptop also has a really good laptop GPU. It comes with the RTX2080 which makes this laptop suitable for things such as machine learning and playing video games on pretty decent settings.

There is 32GB of DDR4 RAM which is very good. As a programmer you want at least 16 GB, but 32 GB is definitely better and you can make use of it. Running multiple IDEs, various browsers, and comping software can quickly take a lot of RAM, especially once you get out of the school project realm. If you are still in school then this is probably a bit more than what you need unless you are doing some data science or machine learning projects. The same goes for the GPU.

There is 1 TB SSD on this laptop which is great when if you are doing AI or machine learning. The data sets can quickly get quite large. You also probably want to get some extra storage to keep your data sets long term if that is what you will be using the laptop for.

The MSI GS65 Stealth-430 offers a lot of other great features as well.

See the MSI GS65 Stealth-430 (#ad) on Amazon.

What to look for in the best programming laptop

No post would be complete without actually going over what you should be looking for in the best programming laptop. Some things are more important than others and I would like to give you my option on what those things are. I am a full time software engineer so I have some idea about what you should get.

Battery life

The first thing I want to try to convince you about is that battery life is not that important. If you are looking for a powerful computer then you will most likely not get amazing battery life. Just carry a charger around, it is not so difficult. It is very easy to be blinded by battery life, but try to look beyond it. More power equals more power consumption. Laptops have OK battery life for the most part.

CPU

A more important part, perhaps the most important part is the CPU. For laptops you will mostly have Intel as an option. You should be looking for a very new i5, or an i7 model. The CPU is the brain of the computer, which naturally makes it very important. I would also try to stick with Intel if you are programming. Depending on what sort of programming you do, where you compile your code matters. If you want to do something like c or C++ programming, then you will have more options when compiling for an Intel CPU. Cross-compiling can be difficult and you could save yourself a headache or two.

GPU

As expressed earlier, a GPU is important in the best programming laptop. The GPU makes the laptop more suitable for a lot of things, including playing video games. If you are looking into learning anything about artificial intelligence then you have to have a GPU on the laptop. You can use a laptop that does not have one, but the difference will be quite significant.

Storage

Try to get at least a 256 GB SSD. Space matters, especially as IDEs and other software can quickly take up a large chunk of your drive. There is always external storage and online storage for files. 256 should be the smallest you go for.

RAM

RAM is another important part of the laptop. Try to get at least 8 GB of DDR4 RAM. DDR3 is both slower and it uses more power. When compiling and running emulators you will be using a lot of RAM. You will also need to have your browser open for looking up things, and probably a few other things.  8 GB is the minimum, 16 GB is better. 32 GB is not needed unless you are looking into machine learning.

Additional Programming Laptop Guides


There are a lot of areas in software engineering, and we have covered the best laptops for some of those areas where it makes sense.

Machine Learning

Machine learning is one area where you can really take advantage of a great laptop. Because of that the laptops tend to be a bit on the expensive side. Because of that we go over what we think are the best machine learning laptops and what you should look for.

Web Development

Web development is another area in programming that can make use of a specialized laptop. You don’t need the most powerful option around, but a good CPU and fast storage is important. We go over everything you need to know in our guide on best laptops for web development.

Data Science

Data science is a popular field that a lot of people want to get into. We help you find the laptop that will give you the best performance and still fit inside your budget constraints. Check out our guide on the best laptops for data science.

Virtualization

Sometimes you need to create virtual instances of operating systems in order to get access to them from your machine. That could be because you are running Windows but you need to access Ubuntu, or because other developers need a host machine to run their software on. You can check out our guide on the best laptops for virtualization.

Final comments on the best programming laptop

The best laptop for programming kind of depends on what sort of programming you will be doing. If you are just doing light web development then you should be OK with a low end machine. If you want to do something more complicated and use various frameworks and powerful IDEs such as Visual Studio that can run all sorts of debug modes, then you want something more in the mid-range. If you want to to things such as machine learning then you need a good laptop, most likely something towards the higher end spectrum.

Keep the points from this article in mind when doing your research, and use the laptops I have recommended above as a guide. I think they are the best laptops for programming and they will serve you well if you chose one of those.