5 Best Laptops for Programming in 2018

The best laptop for programming is the ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW.

Thanks to today’s mobile technology, more and more programmers are able to work on the go, from almost anywhere in the world. If you use a laptop for programming, whether it’s for occasional projects or as an integral part of your work, you need a device that will meet your needs without slowing you down.

Programming requires both smarts and creativity, and the best laptops for programming support both of these. We’ve narrowed down the field to bring you our top 5 picks from among the many laptops available on the market today.

The five best laptops for programming

Here’s a list of the best laptops for programming;

The best laptop for programming

Asus Zenbook Pro UX501VW - Best Laptop for ProgrammingWe compared many laptops across these criteria to find the Top 5. Amongst those five, the winner for #1 Pick is the ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW.

The ZenBook Pro came in first due to its combination of great display, fast hard drive, and excellent graphics.

This laptop offers a brilliant 3820 x 2160 display. At this resolution you can expect a highly improved visual experience with less headaches. You’ll also be able to enjoy superior cross-device functionality if you plug this laptop into an external monitor.

Complete with a 512 GB SSD, this laptop offers greatly improved read/write speeds over the hard disk drives common in many laptops. Combined with an i7 CPU and 16 GB of RAM, the ZenBook more than delivers in terms of processing power.

Asus Zenbook PRo UX501VW - Best Laptop for Programming

The laptop comes with a NVIDIA GeForce 940 graphics card with 2 GB of dedicated RAM, enough to keep up with most programming needs.

The one downside of our Top Pick is its battery life, with the laptop offering up to 6 hours of battery life. This is two hours more than our recommended minimum but less than some of the other laptops on our list.

Nevertheless, the ASUS ZenBook Pro’s powerful combination of features took it to the top as the overall best laptop for programmers.

ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW-US71 15.6-Inch 4K...
  • 15.6" Touch IPS 4K Ultra­-HD display, 3840 x 2160 resolution
  • Powerful Intel Skylake Core i7­-6700HQ 2.6 GHz Quad­core CPU (turbo to...
  • 512GB SSD with transfer speeds of 1400MB/s and 16GB DDR4 RAM

The four other laptops for programming we tested

Apple MacBook Pro

Apple Macbook ProComing in at a close second is the MacBook Pro. The Pro is another excellent laptop for programmers.

This laptop has a beautiful 2880 x 1800 Retina display for better viewing, although some users report that you may need to adjust the screen to your specific viewing needs. Like the ASUS ZenBook Pro, the MacBook Pro packs a powerful punch with a 512 GB SSD, an i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM.

In terms of graphics, you’ll have use of an AMD Radeon GPU with 2 GB of dedicated RAM for a better graphics experience.

The battery life on the MacBook is excellent at 9 hours. You’ll have to find a bathroom before you have to find a plug.

Ultimately, the MacBook Pro came in second because of the ASUS ZenBook Pro’s superior graphics and display. Even so, the MacBook Pro comes well recommended by industry professionals and is a great pick for programmers.

Apple Macbook Pro MJLT2LL/A 15-inch Laptop (2.5...
  • 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 3.7GHz
  • 16GB 1600MHz memory and 512GB PCIe-based flash storage1
  • Intel Iris Pro Graphics

Dell Inspiron i7559-2512BLK

Dell Inspiron i7559Third on our list is the Dell Inspiron i7559-2512BLK.

The Dell Inspiron i7559 is a great device for those who need a lot of storage space. This laptop comes with a 1 TB HDD as well as 8 GB of SSD for improved performance. Performance is further enhanced by an i7 processor and 8GB of RAM.

The display is a HD 1920 x 1080 with anti-glare IPS panels, wide-angle. However, the graphics card is where this laptop really shines. With a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 GPU and 4 GB of dedicated RAM, the Dell Inspiron will easily match stride with the needs of most programmers.

In addition to great graphics, the Dell has an excellent battery life of up to ten hours.

Overall, the Inspiron is a fantastic choice for programmers. However, this laptop placed third on our list because of its lower (but still HD) screen resolution and hard disk drive. Even so, you may find that this excellent laptop is a better match for your needs than even our top two picks.

Dell Inspiron i7559-2512BLK 15.6 Inch FHD Laptop...
  • Intel Quad Core i7-6700HQ 2.6 GHz Processor; NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB GDDR5
  • 8 GB DDR3L SDRAM
  • 1 TB HDD + 8 GB SSD Hybrid Drive Storage; Optical Drive Not included

Dell XPS 9350-8008SLV

Dell XPS 13 Front ShotDell’s reputation as an industry leader in the world of laptops is well earned. Although they’ve had some bumps along the way, they still make great laptops. Dell hit twice on our list this time, with the Dell XPS 9350-8008SLV coming in fourth.

The Dell XPS 9350 has a lot to offer with a 512 GB SDD, 3200 x 1800 pixels of screen resolution, and an i7 CPU with 16 GB of Ram. It doesn’t offer dedicated graphics processing, but it does come with a nicely-performing integrated Intel Iris Graphics 540 GPU.

Although the Dell XPS laptop is truly an excellent pick for most programmers, it came in fourth on our list because users reported inconsistencies in how long the battery life lasts. Some users were able to run their machines for up to eleven hours on a single charge while others only managed four.

You’ll want to keep your power cord handy while using this laptop for an extended period, but otherwise it’s an excellent choice for programmers.

Dell XPS9350-8008SLV 13.3" 3200x1800 Laptop (Intel...
  • Intel Core i7-6560U, up to 2.2 GHz Processor with Intel Iris Graphics 540 (GT3e)
  • 16 GB LPDDR3 Included; 16 GB Maximum
  • 512 GB SSD Storage; No Optical Drive

Acer Aspire E 15

Acer Aspire E 15Our #5 Pick is the Acer Aspire E 15. This laptop offers a nice balance between excellent functionality and at a cheaper price.

The Acer Aspire comes with less disk space than others on our list at 256 SSD. This meets our minimum requirements for speed and space. A fast i7 processor and 8 GB of RAM increase speed and efficiency. An HD screen and dedicated NVIDIA GeForce 940mx with 2 GB of RAM provide a great viewing experience.

Where the Aspire really shines is in battery life, with up to 12 hours of battery time depending on use. Need an even longer-lasting battery? Have a look at this article on 20 ways to extend your battery life.

The Acer Aspire came in last on our list because it has a smaller hard drive and less RAM. However, this nicely priced laptop is still quite powerful in its own right and beat out many other laptops to make our Top 5 list.

Did you know that gaming laptops also make great programming laptops? Check out our list of top gaming laptops under $800 for even more budget options.

Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575G-76YK 15.6-inch Full HD...
  • 6th Generation Intel Core i7-6500U Processor (Up to 3.1GHz)
  • 15.6-inch Full HD Display, NVIDIA GeForce 940MX with 2GB DDR5 VRAM
  • 8GB DDR4 Memory, 256GB SSD;Memory Speed - 2133 MHz

How we chose the best laptop for programming

In order to choose the best laptop for programming we gathered feedback from a number of sources including programmers and tech experts. Based on this feedback we identified a number of important considerations for programmers when choosing their laptops. We narrowed these considerations down to the following five features:

  • Display
  • Hard Drive
  • CPU/Memory
  • Graphics Card
  • Battery Life
  • We determined this final list by analysing which features were most often listed as vital or important by working programmers.

    One feature that didn’t make it onto this list is docking. As a programmer you will probably want to connect your laptop to at least one external monitor at some point, if not regularly. We won’t be discussing this feature as most laptops can be made more dockable if desired, but it is something to keep in mind.

    The most important consideration when choosing the best laptop for programming

    Programmers spend many hours on their laptops, staring at small details on the screen as they read and re-read lines of text. Headaches and eye fatigue are a common complaint. Based on the feedback we gathered, avoiding or minimizing these problems are a top concern amongst programmers when choosing a good laptop for programming.

    In order to reduce headaches and eye fatigue, we recommend choosing a laptop with at least an HD display. Other factors to consider include whether the screen is anti-glare, if it uses IPS panels, and how good the resolution is.

    Other considerations when choosing the best laptop for programming

    Hard Drive

    A second important factor to consider is how fast the hard drive is. Poor read/write speeds can slow you down and interfere with the programming process. For some programmers a slow hard drive is simply a minor annoyance, while for others it’s deal breaker.

    We recommend using a SSD for faster performance, with a minimum of 256 GB. If you prefer to stick with a traditional HDD, go for one with 500 GB or more. Not sure about the difference between SSD and HDD? Click here to find out.

    CPU/Memory

    Your CPU and your available memory both play an integral role in how much processing power you have. Skimp on these, and you may suffer slow processing speeds and unnecessary lag.

    Even if you don’t need a high-end CPU or oodles of memory just now, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a machine which can handle your needs as they grow.

    For programming, we recommend choosing a processor from the Intel i7 series. These CPUs are at the top of the field and will support programmers through a variety of use scenarios. Get the most from your processor by choosing a laptop with a minimum of 8 GB RAM.

    Graphics Card

    Another important feature to consider is the graphics card. A good graphics card can make a big difference for a programmer, particularly if you work with graphics programs or 3D modelling.

    Depending on your needs, a high-quality integrated graphics card may be sufficient. For those who use their devices to run graphics-heavy applications, it’s better to consider a dedicated graphics card with at least 2GB of memory.

    Battery Life

    The ability to take your laptop where you need to go is the defining feature of laptops in general. If you’re looking for a good programming laptop, chances are high that portability is important to you.

    The battery life of your laptop has a direct effect on its portability. The longer your laptop can perform without having to stop and relocate for a power source, the better. Running out of power at the wrong moment can be highly frustrating. It interrupts productivity and workflow and can even lead to data loss in the wrong circumstances.

    We recommend choosing a laptop that will give you a minimum of four hours of battery life under most programming scenarios.

    The bottom line

    The ASUS ZenBook Pro is the clear choice for Best Laptop for Programming based on its winning combination of display and speed. Combined with an excellent graphics card and decent amount of battery life, this laptop is an all-around asset.

    The ZenBook Pro beat out the other four laptops on our list, but each is an excellent device capable of supporting the needs of most programmers. The MacBook Pro, Dell Inspiron, and Dell XPS each offer a highly useful combination of high-resolution display, speed, processing power, superior graphics, and great battery life when compared to other laptops on the market. The Acer Aspire has plenty to offer in these departments as well, at a lower price for those on a budget.

    Finding a good laptop for programming can be a daunting task when you think about how many hours you will spend with it and how important it is to your professional and personal endeavours. We’ve helped you narrow that list down by applying criteria based on feedback gathered from programmers, reviewers and tech experts.

    ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW-US71 15.6-Inch 4K...
    • 15.6" Touch IPS 4K Ultra­-HD display, 3840 x 2160 resolution
    • Powerful Intel Skylake Core i7­-6700HQ 2.6 GHz Quad­core CPU (turbo to...
    • 512GB SSD with transfer speeds of 1400MB/s and 16GB DDR4 RAM

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