Best Laptop for Programming in 2020
- Sports a battery life of up to 13.5 hours
- MU-MIMO tech offersmore stable Wi-Fi
- Includes both USB 3.0 and USB C ports
- i5 provides dual core processing power
- Touch fingerprint reader provides easier access
- Comes with a 720p web cam
That’s why we’ve put together this review list. We’ve identified 10 of the top contenders for the top programming laptop in 2020. We’ll also provide you with information on the specs you need to pay attention to and help you properly prioritize them.
- 10 Best Laptops for Programming
- 1. Acer Aspire E 15
- 2. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 14″ FHD Business Ultrabook Laptop
- 3. ASUS Chromebook Flip
- 4. Apple 13.3″ Silver MacBook Air
- 5. HP Pavilion X360 15.6″ Convertible Touschscreen 2-in-1 Laptop
- 6. Lenovo Chromebook Convertible Laptop
- 7. Microsoft Surface Pro 6
- 8. Dell Inspiron 13 5000 13.3″ FHD Touch
- 9. Razer Blade Stealth 13 Ultrabook Laptop
- 10. Google Pixelbook
- Compare the Models
- Laptop For Programming Buyer’s Guide
10 Best Laptops for Programming
1. Acer Aspire E 15
A good programming laptop doesn't have to cost you much, a fact that the Acer Aspire E 15 demonstrates well. The six gigabytes of dual memory is a little lower than we generally recommend for this type of laptop, but it's still capable enough to provide you with the memory you need for most programming projects, and the roughly $300 price tag makes this Acer laptop an especially appealing choice for those still learning the ins and outs of programming.
And while the central processor here is only an Intel i3, it's an eighth generation model, so it will give you significantly better performance than a prior gen. All told, the Acer Aspire E 15 is one of the best and most inexpensive laptops for programming, but if you want a laptop that can double as a gaming rig or perform complicated data analysis, you may want to go bigger.
- Sports a battery life of up to 13.5 hours
- MU-MIMO tech offersmore stable Wi-Fi
- Includes both USB 3.0 and USB C ports
- Acer TrueHarmony delivers crisp audio
2. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 14″ FHD Business Ultrabook Laptop
The ThinkPad by Lenovo has become synonymous with high-quality business laptops. They have a reputation for prioritizing productivity and efficiency rather than just chasing the latest technological trends, so when you decide to drop a grand on a ThinkPad, you can be confident that you'll get a quality machine that outpaces its price in terms of performance. Glancing just at the specs may give you a bit of hesitation. Lenovo has opted to include an outdated sixth generation processor so they could fit in an i5, and this laptop only comes with 8 MB of RAM.
But the features that can't be quantified in raw numbers are where this laptop for programming really excels. The keyboard is one of the best we've found on a laptop in this price range, and the entire frame is very lightweight and thin. It may be boring, but it's a laptop that gets the job done better than most.
- i5 provides dual core processing power
- Touch fingerprint reader provides easier access
- Comes with a 720p web cam
- RAM memory is easy to upgrade
3. ASUS Chromebook Flip
If you need a laptop for programming that just covers the core basics, the ASUS Chromebook will treat you right. Not only is it one of the cheapest laptops for coding on our list with a price tag of barely over $200, but it's also incredibly lightweight and capable of bringing with you anywhere. Just keep in mind that this is a Chromebook through and through, so it comes with the limitations built in there.
This Chromebook is all about filling in the fundamentals. The Celeron processor is capable if not exactly extraordinary, and the 16 GB of flash memory isn't exactly going to impress, but it does get the job done. But this is an incredibly rugged machine. Its waterproof design is also resistant to drops. Combined with the price, that makes it one of the best choices if you need a backup laptop for light programming purposes.
- Available at an incredible budget price
- Exceedingly resistant to shock and water
- Can boot up in a matter of seconds
- Chrome OS provides top notch security
4. Apple 13.3″ Silver MacBook Air
MacBooks aren't particularly cheap, but they do offer some of the best specs around and the solid design sensibilities that Apple is known for. It you want a programming laptop and you love the Apple ecosystem, we recommend this lightweight and modestly sized version of the Apple MacBook Air . It sports decent hardware despite promising an ultra thin 0.68 inch thickness, and the CPU is a meaningful fifth generation Intel Core i5.
The GPU on this Apple, meanwhile, is a respectable Intel HD Graphics 6000 that can even support some light gaming. The 8 gigabytes of RAM and 128 gigabyte SSD are pretty standard for a laptop for programming, but they're certainly welcomed, and Apple boasts a battery life of 12 hours on a single charge. This 13 inch Apple coding laptop with retina display may not be built for development, but it checks off the most important boxes.
- An inexpensive choice for an Apple MacBook
- Battery can run up to a half a day
- Comes with protective case and microfiber cloth
- Supported by a one year Apple warranty
5. HP Pavilion X360 15.6″ Convertible Touschscreen 2-in-1 Laptop
The Pavilion X360 from HP is one of the most interesting programming laptops we've seen in a long time as well as being one of the best. That's thanks to the convertible touchscreen design, a choice made more interesting by the inclusion of a sizable 15.6 inch screen. The flexibility here is really great, and if you've made an investment in a solid external programming keyboard, the ability to position the screen however you want is incredibly convenient in a way a traditional laptop isn't.
Beyond the innovative design, the specs are about where you'd want for a $500 laptop for the most part. This laptop may use an i3, but it's from the eighth generation, and it opts for a large traditional hard drive rather than an SSD. But the biggest appeal comes from the 20 GB of RAM when you account for the Intel Octane memory.
- One of the larger convertible laptops around
- Supplemented with 16 GB Intel Optane memory
- Great full island keyboard is also backlit
- Supports both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections
6. Lenovo Chromebook Convertible Laptop
The Chrome operating system and the convertible laptop are a combination as perfect as peanut butter and jelly, and Lenovo hits the sweet spot with the development of their C330. The 11.6 inch screen is a whole lot more manageable and easy to carry with you than the HP Pavilion laptop above, and that makes it one of the best choices for programming professionals who regularly travel. But if you prefer a more spacious keyboard, you'll definitely want to be sure to invest in a separate wireless model.
And for a budget priced Chromebook, the features and specs here certainly outperform the typical laptop for programming. While you probably won't want to use it for more labor intensive tasks, as a backup machine, a travel laptop, or a way to get in some less intensive front end programming, it can be a great complement to an existing laptop for programming.
- Lots of memory for a Chromebook
- Can boot up in just a few seconds
- Great USB port coverage for better connectivity
- Incredibly lightweight, slim, and portable
7. Microsoft Surface Pro 6
The convertible Microsoft Surface is one of the coolest new designs to come to the laptop market in the past few years, but the Microsoft Surface Pro featured here is more than just a nifty looking convertible. It offers pretty decent specs as well. The Intel Core i5 processor is the eighth generation, offering significantly more processing power than most of the other laptops you'll find on this list, and that's not even accounting for the peppy SSD or the decent and expandable 8 GB of RAM.
But there's no doubt that the convertible touch screen nature is the big selling point here. The Surface Pro 6 weighs in at less than three pounds while still sporting a decent 12.3 inch display, and it can run all day. The battery is rated at up to 13.5 hours of video playback in a single charge which should be enough for even the busiest of coders.
- An incredibly innovative design
- Lightweight and highly compact
- Two button trackpad for easy operation
- Can run a full day on a single battery
8. Dell Inspiron 13 5000 13.3″ FHD Touch
The Dell Inspiron 13 might not look quite as cool as the Microsoft Surface, but it covers most of the same bases and offers comparable specs for less money. All told, it's one of the best values we've found for a programming laptop. A 250 SSD hard drive, eighth gen Intel i5, and 8 GB of RAM are some very strong specs at this price, and they would be even if this convertible laptop didn't come with touchscreen navigation.
And unlike the Surface, the Inspiron 13 sports a full 13 inch display. It's not the biggest two in one on our list, but it offers a respectable amount of real estate for sure. The situation with ports here is also very generation. In addition to offering connections for USB 3.1 and 3.0, this laptop also comes with a dedicated SD card reader slot and an HDMI slot.
- Great specs for a reasonable price
- Can fold into multiple forms
- Huge assortment of ports
- Responsive and durable keyboard
9. Razer Blade Stealth 13 Ultrabook Laptop
The name alone should inform you that the Razer Blade Stealth is a laptop designed for gaming, but the same performance specs that make this a great machine for playing Call of Duty also makes it an ideal choice for higher level programming. This is arguably the best model we've found for high end programming like game development thanks to the inclusion of the latest generation Intel Core i7 and the impressive 16GB of RAM that comes right out of the box.And despite the spacious screen and strong internals on this laptop, it still comes in surprisingly slim and lightweight. The thin bezel helps you really feel the size of the screen here, and you get great image quality thanks to the inclusion of an elite GeForce MX150 graphics card. And despite all that, the Razer Blade Stealth boasts a battery life of up to 13 hours.
- Some of the best internals around
- Tons of different connectivity options
- Keyboard offers 16.8 million backlighting options
- Can run 13 hours on a single charge
10. Google Pixelbook
The Google Pixelbook is trying to prove that the Chromebook design can be used to achieve powerful results, and it mostly manages to succeed on that front. A seventh gen i5 processor, 128GB SSD and 8 GB of RAM serve as the core for a pretty strong package at a pretty great price. Chrome OS may not be the most practical choice for programming, but Google is making a great argument that it can actually be a viable alternative to more traditional operating systems.
And this laptop sports a design that manages to both be compact and durable. The aluminum body is incredibly sturdy, while the display itself is protected by hardy Corning Gorilla Glass. There's also customizable backlighting on the keyboard. And although it comes with significant safety features, the Pixelbook will never be a pain to lug around. It weighs in at less than two and a half pounds.
- Aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass screen
- Google Assistant built right in
- Very thin and lightweight design
- Can boot up in less than 10 seconds
Compare the Models
|Picture||Model||Display||Central Processor||Memory||Storage||Dimensions||Operating System|
|+ Acer Aspire E||15.6" FHD||8th generation Intel Core i3-8130U||6 GB||1 TB HDD||15.02 x 10.2 x 1.19 inches||Windows 10 Home|
|+ Lenovo ThinkPad X1||14" FHD||8th generation Intel Core i3-8130U||8 GB||1 TB SSD||12.7 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches||Windows 10 Home|
|+ ASUS Chromebook Flip||11.6" FHD||Intel Celeron N3060||4 GB||16 GB flash memory||11.6 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches||Chrome OS|
|+ Apple 13.3″ Silver||13,3" 1440 x 900||5th generation Intel Core i5||8 GB||128 GB SSD||12.8 x 8.9 x 0.07 inches||macOS|
|+ HP Pavilion X360||15.6" FHD||8th generation Intel Core i3-8130U||20 GB (4GB DDR4 RAM, 16GB Intel Octane)||1 TB HDD||9.57 x 14.09 x 0.75 inches||Windows 10 Home|
|+ Lenovo Chromebook Convertible||15.6" FHD||MediaTek MT8173C||4 GB||64 GB eMMC||11.5 x 0.77 x 8.48 inches||Chrome OS|
|+ Microsoft Surface Pro||12.3" 2736 x 1824||8th generation Intel Core i5||8 GB||128 GB SSD||2.68 x 12.8 x 9.21 inches||Windows 10 Home|
|+ Dell Inspiron 13||13.3" FHD||8th generation Intel Core i5||8 GB||256 GB SSD||8.85 x 12.76 x 0.79 inches||Windows 10 Home|
|+ Razer Blade Stealth||13.3" FHD||8th generation Intel Core i7||16 GB||256 GB SSD||8.27 x 11.9 x 0.58 inches||Windows 10 Home|
|+ Google Pixelbook||12.3" 2400 x 1600||7th generation Intel Core i5||8 GB||128 GB SSD||11.43 x 8.69 x 0.44 inches||Chrome OS|
Laptop For Programming Buyer’s Guide
We’ve worked on a lot of review and buying guides for laptops here at HotRate, but the best laptops for programming fill something of a unique niche. They don’t require the beefy specs that we emphasized in our guide to the best gaming laptops of 2020, but the core shopping principles from there apply. The fundamentals are pretty similar to what you’d find in our best laptops for writers in 2020, but there are some unique wrinkles that you have to keep in mind when programming in 2020.
Further complicating a search for the best laptop for programming in 2020 is the fact that every coder’s needs is going to be different. The languages you use, the nature of your projects, and your experience level are all going to have a different effect on what qualify as the best laptops for programming for specific users. With that in mind, there are some universal features and specs to take into consideration when coding, and we can help you understand them so you can find a laptop for programming that suits your needs today and is prepared to grow with you in the future.
If you find yourself confused by the specs in our review list or you just want to know more about what the best laptops for programming in 2020 look like, keep reading for the advice you need. After we cover the key specs and features, we’ll address answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we hear from users.
The central processor does all the computations for your computer. And while good processing power is arguably the most important consideration for most laptops, it’s especially important when seeking out the best laptop for programming. For most coding related purposes, we consider the Intel Core i5 the middle of the road. This quad core processor is going to be powerful enough to provide decent performance for most programming tasks.
If you’re mostly doing web design or looking for an entry level laptop for programming, an i3 will probably be fine, and we recommend an Intel Core i7 processor (preferably an eighth gen Intel Core i7), if you’re using your programming skills for serious game development. The CPU you pick will have a major effect on your speed and performance, and it’s not usually viable to replace, so it’s the spec you should pay the most attention to when seeking out a laptop for coding, regardless of the languages you write in.
The generation of a central processor also matters. The eighth generation of Intel chips constitute a pretty seismic iteration over the generations that came before, so investing in an eighth generation quad core processor from Intel can provide you with lightning fast performance in all of your programming and coding applications.
Our main goal when seeking out the best laptop for programming is to maximize the speed and performance of both your laptop itself and the applications you’re most likely to use. That’s why the memory or RAM of a laptop is so critical for programming. When applications need to store data that needs to be easily accessed or record rules that ill frequently be references, they use the memory. And good RAM performance can have a massive effect on the speed of your machine.
We recommend that the sweet spot for memory coverage for programming or development is about 8GB of RAM. 4GB of RAM is a decent amount of coverage for light coding and for those still learning the fundamentals of programming, but you’ll want to scale that up sooner rather than later. 16GB of RAM is going to be the best if you find yourself juggling multiple programs at once or work in resource heavy software like a game development engine. Fortunately, RAM is usually pretty easy to replace or upgrade, and many laptops comes with easy access compartments that allow for plug and play memory upgrades.
The operating system a laptop runs on is actually going to be one of the most important factors you need to consider when looking for a machine for programming. After all, the operating system is going to be where you spend most of your development time. An interface that feels comfortable to you is going to be incredibly important, but so is the software and features that are built into any given OS. They can vary significantly, so it’s important to take a hard look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.
That said, it’s just important that you take the time to get to know the software that each platform supports so you can find one that suits your sensibilities. As a programmer, chances are that you’re going to spend significantly more time designing your code and performing bug fixes than you will actually writing code, so having interfaces you’re comfortable with is crucial when shopping for the best laptop for programming.
And as one final consideration, if you plan on your development targeting a specific operating system rather than being cross platform, you’re best off developing using a laptop that uses that operating system. If your development is instead intended to be ported to multiple different formats, you’re best off picking the OS you’re most comfortable with.
Linux is our favorite operating system for coding, but we can recognize that getting comfortably with Linux can involve a pretty steep learning curve, particularly for users who are still getting used to their laptop. But Linux is arguably the most highly flexible operating system you’ll find. Linux comes with countless distributions, each with their own unique quirks and characteristics, and the open source nature gives you the leverage to tweak the interface to suit your needs.
Linux is also the most lightweight operating system around, so it’s great if you’re looking for a portable solution. You can simply download a Linux installation to a flash hard drive and slot it in as necessary, a great choice if you want to run Linux for programming but keep your day to day software and profiles accessible through a Windows or MacOS distribution directly on your laptop.
Windows 10 Home is the version of Windows that’s going to appear in practically any modern laptop for programming, and it’s a pretty great choice for programming and development. For one, the wide adoption and open development systems of Windows means that any software you develop for them is going to have a broader audience than if you developed in Linux or Windows. So for programming and coding across platforms, it’s often smart to use a Windows laptop and port it to the other operating systems as necessary.
That said, iOS is one of the hottest platforms for app and game development, so it makes sense to have a MacBook if that’s the market you’re going after. But the notably closed source standards of Apple means that they aren’t always the best choice for development. Metaprogramming is prohibited on the Apple operating system.
That said, a lot of programmers cite MacOS as their favorite. For one, Macs offer exceptional security against viruses and other malicious threats. But the growing love that developers have for MacOS largely comes down to two issues: the quality of Apple hardware and the presence of the UNIX command line makes them arguably the best choice if you’re working across multiple languages. UNIX can work with practically any language you can imagine and you can expect testing to work as it will in the wild. It’s an advantage that can really only otherwise be duplicated with a dual boot Windows and Linux machine.
There’s still a lot of skepticism at how well ChromeOS works as a coding platform, but there’s no skepticism that these are lightning fast, highly secure, and incredibly portable and inexpensive machines that are great for light coding. But ChromeOS is also one of the most limiting platforms around thanks to the fact that it’s running essentially off of an adapted Chrome browser.
That said, the ChromeOS has become increasingly more feasible for coding in the past few years. That’s thanks to a combination of browser-capable online tools that replicate many of the features of an IDE as well as the recently added ability to run Linux directly through the user interface of your Chromebook.
When shopping for the best laptop, one of the big decisions to make is what hard drive you need. A traditional hard drive is inexpensive and can offer you a lot of storage for your dollar. A solid state drive (SSD) costs more and has less capacity, but the single piece design and smooth performance means you get great loading and processing speed as well as the best durability. Even if you drop your laptop, chances are that you won’t damage an SSD.
For most programmers, the decision for a hard drive will almost always be an SSD. It may cost you a little more, but the ability to process information at fast speed is crucial for programming, and storage capacity is going to be much less important, particularly with the variety of cloud storage solutions available. If you’re also looking to use yor programming laptop for gaming, you may want to look at a traditional hard drive, but an SSD is otherwise going to probably be your best option.
Screen Size and Resolution
The average laptop screen is about 15.6 inches, and that’s usually a good choice for programming or any other productivity driven task. And while you need an easy to read screen, resolution isn’t going to be that big of a deal. While we recommend a 1920 x 1080 FHD panel for programmers, you don’t need to make the upgrade to 4K. And if your screen is smaller than about 15 inches, you can go with a lower resolution than 1920 x 1080.
More important than the resolution is the sort of features that make a display easy to work with. A retina display offers some of the best and crispest performance for your display, but you’ll only find a retina display in Apple model laptops. No matter what display you decide to focus on, you should make sure that it uses anti glare coating. Anti glare is especially useful if you find yourself regularly traveling or working outdoors.
What’s the point of getting a laptop instead of a tower if you can’t take it with you everywhere? That’s where the dimensions come in. While convertibles that can shrink down to the size of a tablet are obviously the most portable options around, they aren’t the only choice to pick from. You can find even larger display laptops that weigh in at less than a couple pounds, and manufacturers have gotten good about shrinking down the profile of their laptops. How much you travel with your laptop will obviously have a role to play in what the best laptop size for you is.
But a smaller frame can be an inconvenience as well. Smaller dimensions usually mean a smaller display and a smaller keyboard. Considering that a legible screen and a responsive keyboard are some important factors, that should definitely have an impact on what size you should be looking for.
Coding is a precise craft, one where a single missed keystroke can render an otherwise meaningful block of code illegible and lead to a lot of wasted time. That’s why it’s important to find a laptop with the best keyboard for your needs. That said, it’s not the biggest priority to take into consideration.
Why? Because you can always invest in an external keyboard. While a detached keyboard will take up more space in your travel bag (and maybe add one or two pounds), they generally allow you to get better performance than you would out of a shoddily built keyboard attached to your laptop. If you’re looking for a great model, be sure to check out our guide to the best keyboards for programming in 2020.
A good graphics card is one of the most important things to look for when looking for a gaming laptop, but it’s practically inessential when seeking out the best laptop for programming. You’re going to spend most of your time in a text editor or IDE, and so the speed and quality with which your graphics card can process images is going to not matter in the slightest. If you’re going to deprecate any spec, the graphics card should be the first to go. You don’t need something like the graphics NVIDIA GeForce. Instead, you should be fine with an integrated graphics card like the Intel UHD Graphics 620.
If you’re looking for an entry level or mid-range laptop for coding, that shouldn’t be a concern. Most laptops with an Intel Core i5, i7, or i3 processor (at least those in Intel’s eighth generation) use the Intel UHD Graphics 620. If you’re using coding to for the development of a modern and graphics heavy game in Unity, you may want to look for something more sophisticated, but an integrated graphics card will be a more than reasonable choice for most programmers and coders.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need a Powerful Laptop for Programming?
No. If you’re serious about programming and coding, you’ll definitely want something that goes beyond the specs of an entry level laptop. Processing power is important, as is RAM. But the vast majority of programmers can get by with a fairly middle of the road laptop. Our review list for the best laptops programming includes a wide variety of prices ranging from budget friendly models to more expensive laptops. If you read our guide carefully and identify the features and specs that are most important to programming, (and pay less attention to the features that don’t matter) you can get a best quality model for a very reasonable price.
Is XPS 13 good for programming?
Well Dell’s XPS 13 didn’t quite make the cut for our review list, it came very close. From the eighth gen Intel Core i5 processor to the respectable amount of SSD storage to the 8GB of RAM built in, it checks off all the boxes as one of the best laptops for programming. While we opted instead to include the Inspiron from Dell due to its more innovative design, the 13 inch Dell XPS could serve as a suitable substitute for other laptops on our list and one of your best options if you want a reliable workhorse.
Is Mac Better for Programming?
While there are a lot of great reasons to own a Mac, we generally would caution against using a Mac for coding. They offer significant specs, but the proprietary nature of Macs mean that the OS is a lot more limited for programming than other operating systems. We’ve included a great MacBook Air on our list for those that just prefer the Mac operating system, but it’s certainly not our first choice when picking out a coding laptop. You can check the guide above for more information on the advantages and disadvantages of each operating system.
Which Lenovo laptop is best for programming?
We like the Lenovo ThinkPad. Unlike the Lenovo brand Chromebook that shows up in our list, it’s a no frills and by the books computer, but it’s also one of the best deals around. The specs offered are great for their price and offer a level of consistency in performance that most laptops have a hard time replicating.
If you’re looking for the best programming laptop in 2020, you can consider this guide your crash course. Whether you’re an experienced coder or someone who can’t distinguish an i7 from a retina display, there should be something for you here. And we’re confident in the quality of every model we’ve highlighted on this list.