What are the best laptops to buy for programming purposes

In summary: It'll fill up eventually. I don't think an SSD will make a big difference in early programming stages.
  • #1
Faith Ntundi
Hello, I am looking to purchase a new laptop for my CS studies. From what I have learned thus far is that I need something with a lot of RAM and a fast processor. I was advised to stay away from any I3s. I think I might have found something that will work, but I'm not sure. I was looking for some feedback on these specs:

Brand and Model: Dell Latitude E6520
Built in Camera: N/A
Display Resolutions: 1280 x 800
Display Screen Size: 15.6 in.
Display Type: WXGA
Hard drive: 320GB HDD
Laptop Battery : 4-cell Lithium ion
Laptop Dimensions: 1.2 in. H X 13.2 in. W X 9.4 in. D
Memory: 4096MB DDR3 Memory
Networking devices: 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)
Optical drive: DVDRW DRIVE
Package contents: Laptop and AC Adapter
Ports: Network connector (RJ-45), Optional Modem connector (RJ-11), USB 2.0 (4) 1 USB/eSATA combo, Microphone jack, Headphone/speaker out, IEEE 1394, Docking Connector, VGA, DisplayPort, SmartCard Reader and optional Contactless SmartCard Reader
Processor: Intel Core i7 Quad 2.2GHz
Recovery CD: No. Recovery Partition Only
Slots: 6-in-1 card reader; PCMCIA or ExpressCard 54
Sound: Integrated High Definition Audio
Video card: NVIDIA NVS 3100M / Intel HD Graphics
Warranty: 1 year Distributor
Weight: 6 lbs.
Wi-Fi: Yes
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  • #2
I would bump the RAM to at least 8GB and the hard drive to 500 GB if you can. 16 GB on the RAM will be useful if you start running VMs. Otherwise it looks good.
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  • #3
Thank you Borg! Should it concern me that the hard drive is HDD as opposed to an SSD hard drive? I read that SSDs are significantly faster than HDD hard drives. Or is that something that isn't going to make a big difference in the early stages of programming (given the complexity, or lack there of, of the coding/programs/etc)?
  • #4
They're also significantly more expensive. I haven't had a machine with them but I do hear good things about them. They do load faster, but in the end they're loading into your RAM. It's a lot more cost-efficient to increase that.
  • #5
You will be typing (#1 priority) and looking at the screen for hours so a great keyboard and high-res screen are must haves. If you actually have to use it on your lap make sure it runs cool. :smile:
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  • #6
nsaspook said:
You will be typing (#1 priority) and looking at the screen for hours so a great keyboard and high-res screen are must haves. If you actually have to use it on your lap make sure it runs cool. :smile:
So true. It's good to think about how and where you are going to use it. When I bought my current laptop, I even went so far as to think about what side the power plug was on. I knew that the outlet was on the left where I was going to use it and it's nice to not have the power cord over my legs (like my last one). I also get up very early and don't turn on the lights so a backlit keyboard was a must.
  • #7
Borg said:
I also get up very early and don't turn on the lights so a backlit keyboard was a must.

Looking at the keyboard! ?:) Back to typing school. We were taught (Radioman A School) to type on a machine with nothing on the keys (little bumps on F&J) so looking only slowed you down and caused errors.

At 10:00 NSFW Language. :biggrin: Went to the same class in the 70's.
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  • #8
nsaspook said:
Looking at the keyboard! ?:) Back to typing school.
Yes, I know how to type but I still like to see the board. :biggrin:
  • #9
Borg said:
Yes, I know how to type but I still like to see the board. :biggrin:

Two weeks of living hell but the best typing school ever. They had an old mechanical Metronome ticking for 6-8 hours a day was we worked up the alphabet and numbers. I heard that damn thing in my sleep.
I've got a old IBM ThinkPad with the best feeling keyboard ever. When running Debian Linux it's pretty responsive for typing tasks. Is there anything close to that quality keyboard today?
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  • #10
I really recommend an NVidia CUDA capable GPU too, which that laptop has. http://www.nvidia.com/object/nvs_techspecs.html Parallel programming is becoming a bigger and bigger thing, but in my experience the support for programming on AMD gpus isn't where Nvidia is yet.
  • #11
I am reading this thread on a Dell Latitude E6400 laptop (several years old, and now running Windows 8.1). It has been a reliable workhorse. The should be a fine computer.
  • #12
I recently got the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 2 13, and it's working great so far! Best things about it are its HD screen, battery life and build quality. It's lightweight and I've used it for programming. I'm doing a CS course too.
  • #13
As The Borg have said, memory is the key. Personally, I'd go for 16 gigs. Hard drive space is secondary and it's easy to add a very fast external drive if you need more later.
  • #14
A little off the subject, but:

The power and speed of the computer is more important when it is being used in real life applications. For learning CS concepts, it is much less important. Buy your laptop, but save a little money for something like a Raspberry Pi and a companion kit. That will allow you to experiment with different operating systems, hardware interfaces, programming languages, etc. at very little cost. If you burn it up, you have only lost about $45.
  • #15
Check out the Asus Zenbook series. I went with the UX31A and couldn't be happier, especially after Asus finally released the ATK driver package.
  • #16
You need to consider not only the hardware, but which set of developer software tools are the most appropriate for you.
  • #17
Personally I would never use a laptop as my "main" computer for programming. The problem is not the computer as such (just about any modern computer will be good enough) but the ergonomics. You really should have a good keyboard (and what is "good" has to do with personal preference) that can be positioned at a good distance from one (I prefer two) reasonably large screens.Any laptop that is "good enough" will end up being too large and too heavy to be portable anyway and battery life tends to be poor(I've made that mistake, I used to have a Dell XPS). Moreover, laptops are always much more expensive that desktop computers.
If you really need your computer to be portable I would consider buying a somewhat cheaper model and then spend some money on a separate monitor(two is even better is you have the space, alternatively you can use the laptop screen as a second screen) , keyboard and mouse that you can use when you are at home.
It is convenient to have a docking station, but they tend to be quite expensive and are not really needed.

At work I (and just about everyone else) uses Dell laptops in docking stations with two, 17" screens which works well (this is what I am typing this on). My laptop is semi-portable, useful when traveling but not something I would like to carry around all day.

My wife has a small Sony Vaio computer at work (I think it has has a 13" screen) which she has connected to a good 21" monitor and a separate keyboard and mouse. This she uses for things like web-design and Photoshop.

Related to What are the best laptops to buy for programming purposes

1. What are the minimum system requirements for a laptop to be suitable for programming?

The minimum system requirements for a laptop to be suitable for programming include a processor with at least four cores, 8GB of RAM, and a solid state drive (SSD) with at least 256GB of storage. It is also recommended to have a dedicated graphics card for more demanding programming tasks.

2. Which operating system is better for programming, Windows or Mac?

This is a matter of personal preference, as both Windows and Mac have their own advantages and disadvantages for programming. Windows is the more commonly used operating system for programming, while Mac is known for its user-friendly interface and compatibility with Apple’s development tools. Ultimately, it depends on the individual's needs and familiarity with the operating system.

3. Is it necessary to have a high-resolution display for programming?

Having a high-resolution display is not necessary for programming, but it can greatly improve the overall experience. A higher resolution allows for more screen real estate, making it easier to view and work on multiple lines of code at once. It also improves the visual clarity of text, reducing eye strain.

4. Should I prioritize a lightweight laptop for programming?

It is not necessary to prioritize a lightweight laptop for programming, but it can be beneficial for those who need to travel frequently or work on-the-go. A lightweight laptop can also be more comfortable to use for extended periods of time. However, it is important to prioritize performance and system requirements over weight when choosing a laptop for programming purposes.

5. Are there any specific brands or models that are recommended for programming?

There is no one specific brand or model that is universally recommended for programming. It ultimately depends on the individual's needs and budget. However, some popular brands among developers include Dell, Lenovo, HP, and Apple. It is important to research and compare different models to find the best fit for your specific programming needs.

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