If you need to get a new laptop for programming or coding purposes and aren’t sure where to start, this short guide will help you find the perfect setup for your needs.
For web developers, there are actually two main paths they need to go through. If you’re doing front-end web development, you’ll need a basic hardware that can run a text editor and a browser to check your progress. For backend developers, things get a bit more complicated. You will need a laptop that can handle multiple tasks simultaneously such as running a browser, a local server, and a code editor. This may not sound like much, but it does require a lot of system resources, so make sure you choose a laptop that’s right for the task.
You will need a high-performance laptop for developing games, 3D applications, or mobile applications that can display everything in real time. Consider getting a gaming laptop if you are going to do this type of work. Mobile app developers often need to run an emulator of their app running in the mobile operating system, which can take up a lot of system resources.
Let’s look at some of the recommended specifications for each of these types of development work.
The processor is the heart of your computer and by the number of cores and threads it boasts, it determines how many processes you can run well in parallel.
For front-end development work, you should be able to move away from a laptop that uses a Core i3 or Core i5 dual-core processor. Mobile and back-end app developers should at least aim for a Core i5 quad-core processor, with Core i7 being the best option.
RAM or system memory helps the CPU to process everything smoothly. The more portable the laptop is, the better. Front-end work implies about 4-8 GB of system memory installed, where you will likely use a code editor such as Sublime Text and one or more browsers to check your work.
Mobile, game, and backend developers should opt for something a bit more. The minimum amount of RAM should be in the range of 12-16 GB. This is to make sure that all of your apps run smoothly together.
Hard disk or SSD?
Every laptop needs to store and retrieve information. This is done by the installed storage device. Here you have two options: either get a laptop with a regular hard drive, which will usually cost much less, or get a laptop with an SSD hard drive. SSD is the newer type of storage option that does not rely on spinning disks to store information and can be about 10-12 times faster than a regular hard drive.
For front-end development work, a regular hard drive should suffice, but you can always look for hybrid drives that include a bit of SSD technology in your regular hard drive. These are a bit faster than regular hard drives and don’t cost much compared to hard drives.
For any type of programming above front-end development, it is recommended to get a laptop that carries an SSD. This will speed up boot times and everything you run on your computer.
This is another thing you should think about. Although Windows is perhaps the most popular operating system today, it is not exactly the best choice when it comes to all areas of development.
For web development, you should try coding in a Linux based operating system, such as Ubuntu. Mac OS also works with Windows being last on this list. This is because you need to install different third party software like XAMPP on Windows if you are going to do background work. You will have to install some of them as well on Ubuntu, but the process is much simpler.
Laptop screen is another important factor to take into consideration. With so many resolutions available today, it is difficult to choose a laptop that is well suited for programming.
Front-end developers will need a laptop with a screen with an above-average resolution, as they will need to test whether their websites respond to many resolutions. For backend developers, this is less important. But what applies to these two categories is the need for a secondary monitor. This can greatly speed up development time, since you don’t need to constantly switch between applications when coding and checking output.
While most developers sit at their desks when programming with the connected computer, if you feel the need to program on the go, make sure you get a laptop with great battery life.
Macs are usually great at battery life, with their Air series having a battery life of up to 12 hours on a single charge.
The thing is, the more powerful the hardware your laptop carries, the more battery life will be sacrificed. This is because powerful devices consume a lot of electricity. Most computers nowadays have devised ways to counter this by dimming the screen, throttling the processor when the computer is not in use etc.
If you’re sure you need a laptop with great battery life that’s also powerful but don’t want to pay for a MacBook, you should invest in a secondary battery that you can take with you when you’re on the move.
In conclusion, if you go through all these aspects, you should have a very clear picture in your head of what your next laptop should be.