The Best Laptop for Programming. A Guide for Developers


One of the questions I’m frequently asked is: “What is the best laptop for programming?”

Well, I understand why because it’s not an easy choice! The market offers a plethora of different possibilities, and often it’s a significant investment, so we want to choose a product that will last for years.

In this article, I’ll share my perspective and attempt to answer the age-old question:

What is the best notebook for developers???

Budget

The very first thing to consider in your choice is the available budget. Here, we can start by making two broad distinctions: above 1,000 euros or below.

If you are thinking of spending less than a thousand euros, then the obvious choice is to go for a Windows PC.

My recommendation is to choose at least a PC with a Core i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM (I don’t have direct experience with AMD Ryzen, but they are highly praised).

You can find something decent that can handle its job well without big demands. For basic web development, simple WordPress sites, or Core PHP running on XAMPP or LocalWP, these specifications should be good enough.

However, if you can approach the 1,000 euro threshold, know that you can also get the new MacBook Air with M1 for about 900 euros if you find the right deal!

And here opens up another big discussion:

Windows or Mac???

The eternal endless feud between the two operating systems! Which one is better??? The answer is that IT DEPENDS

Certainly, this complicates things, but life is never just black or white; things are always more complicated than that…

Windows

With Windows, you have, in my opinion, a lot of advantages and few disadvantages (Spoiler alert!!! I use a Mac).

Personally, I worked on Windows for many years, and I always felt comfortable. The devices have acceptable prices, you can install thousands and thousands of programs, and you can even play games!

If I had to choose to have only one machine, then I believe I would go for a high-end gaming laptop. It’s true that the battery is not great on those devices, but they have everything that really matters: a powerful processor, ample RAM, SSD, and a large and performant graphics card. I would set up a dual boot with Ubuntu, and voilà, I would have everything. Work, games, leisure… I could do practically everything I need.

The only impractical thing is developing iOS apps, but personally, I don’t deal with that.

In short, Windows is the right compromise for everything. It’s not the best for programming, but I can install a Linux distro on it, and that solves everything!

Oh, if you program with simple languages and frameworks, then don’t worry, you can do everything on Windows. However, if you start getting into more complex frameworks (like Symfony, for example) or want to learn about web servers, then I recommend diving into the Linux world and joining the penguin’s club. But beware, once you enter, it becomes almost like a drug that is hard to quit ???.

Mac

As mentioned earlier, I chose to use a Mac. But why, since Windows is not that bad after all?

Well, because I believe Mac is better! Especially from a productivity standpoint.

If I only dealt with programming and wrote code full-time, then I would definitely go for Linux (Pop!_OS has been catching my attention lately), but I’m building up my business, and I have to do a bit of everything, from managing clients to accounting to some design work. Also, I have a great passion for music and writing, and many software tools I use are not available for Linux, and some are not even available for Windows (Logic Pro)…

Furthermore, while Windows PCs focus on the power of components, Mac has a different approach, aiming for the overall user experience with the laptop. My MacBook Pro is beautiful! Just picking it up makes me happy to start working, which is no small feat.

But it doesn't end here!

It’s silent, the trackpad is amazing (it has no rivals among competitors), the screen is marvelous, the keyboard works great, and it’s really smooth and snappy. Oh, I almost forgot, it doesn’t restart whenever it wants to install updates I knew nothing about; even on this point, Mac is a whole different experience.

Some might argue that there are Windows laptops with equally beautiful screens, capacious batteries, fantastic keyboards, and high speeds, which is true! But, in my opinion, the trackpad is absolutely unbeatable and makes me very productive. Also, these competing Windows devices end up having the same prices as the Mac, so in the end, I would always go for a Mac. A top-of-the-line Toyota can cost as much as a Porsche, but between the two, I would always choose the Porsche! We are humans, and the heart wants its share!

Conclusion

So??? Let’s make it brief:

  • Budget 600-900 euros: Windows Laptop
  • Budget 900-1,200: MacBook M1
  • Budget Over 1,500: MacBook Pro or Top-of-the-line Windows Laptop

Voilà, any more concise than this and you’d die!

One more small thing, on Windows, it’s difficult to choose due to the enormous number of brands. In terms of build quality, I would recommend Lenovo or Dell, they are definitely the best. I’ve also heard good things about some HP models lately, but I haven’t laid hands on them yet… If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something like “low cost, high performance,” then you can go for ASUS, but you shouldn’t pay too much attention to build quality.

Well, I hope this article can help you! If you want some additional advice, feel free to write in the comments; I’ll try to respond as soon as possible.