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The 4 Best Laptops For Programming - Spring 2024 Reviews

Best Laptops For Programming

If you're looking to get a laptop for programming and don't know where to start, we can help you with that, but first, let's go through what we're looking for in a coding laptop. Preferably, you'd want a good amount of RAM—16GB to start—and a competent CPU that'll allow you to compile and test your code faster. Plenty of screen space is never bad, and a comfortable keyboard is almost a must, as you'll likely be typing for extended periods. If you want to work on multiple displays, you'll want a good port selection, so you don't need to get a dongle or dock. For working on the go, build, portability, and battery life will also be major factors. This article has a few picks to get you started, and hopefully, you can narrow your search and get the best laptop for your needs. The list is a little short for now, but it'll grow as we review more models.

We've bought and tested over 110 laptops. Below, you'll find our recommendations for the best laptops for coding you can buy. You can also see our recommendations for the best laptops, the best business laptops, and the best Windows laptops.

  1. Best Laptop For Programming

    The best laptop for coding we've tested is the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M3, 2023). This premium workstation has a sturdy all-aluminum build, a compact design, and all-day battery life. You can get this model with a base M3, M3 Pro, or M3 Max SoC, so you can choose depending on your budget and how demanding your workload is. The Pro and Max chips have a very capable GPU, which is great for game development or anyone requiring high graphical horsepower. The downside is that you'll pay for the GPU performance even if you don't need it.

    In addition to its amazing performance, this laptop provides a great user experience with its sharp Mini LED display, spacious keyboard, and gigantic, easy-to-use haptic touchpad. Its port selection is excellent, allowing you to connect peripherals and external displays easily. If you prefer more screen space over portability, get the Apple MacBook Pro 16 (M3, 2023) instead. It's essentially the same device, just bigger and with better-sounding speakers. The only difference is that the base M3 chip isn't available on the 16-inch. Also, it's more expensive.

    The Dell XPS 15 (2023) is an excellent alternative if you need or prefer Windows. It's also a premium model that provides a great user experience. Spec-wise, you can get up to an Intel 13th Gen H-series Core i9 and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070 discrete GPU. These CPUs and GPUs can easily handle demanding workloads. Memory and storage max out at 64GB and 8TB, respectively, and they're user-replaceable. There are a few tradeoffs: it has a bad 720p webcam and fewer ports, and its keyboard gets uncomfortably hot under load. A quick FYI: Dell has discontinued the XPS 15 and replaced it with a 14-inch model sporting the same design as the Dell XPS 13 Plus (2022); however, you can still get the XPS 15 through Dell. Plus, it's often on sale.

    See our review

  2. Best Upper Mid-Range Laptop For Programming

    If you don't need the processing power of a workstation like the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M3, 2023) and prefer something more portable, check out the HP Spectre x360 14 (2024). This ultraportable feels very well built and provides a greater user experience with its 120Hz 2.8k OLED display, spacious keyboard, and large haptic touchpad. It also has an excellent 4k webcam, Wi-Fi 7, and a decent port selection that includes two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4s. Plus, since this is a 2-in-1 convertible, you can flip the screen around and use it as a tablet. The display supports pen input if you want to take handwritten notes, though you may have to buy the pen separately, depending on the retailer. You can configure it with an Intel Core Ultra 5 or Ultra 7 CPU; both perform well with minimal throttling under load. Battery life is excellent at around 11 hours of light use. You can get this laptop from HP if you have trouble finding it elsewhere.

    The Apple MacBook Air 15 (2023) is also a great option if you prefer macOS. Before we get into the details, know that Apple has discontinued this M2-equipped model and replaced it with an M3 version, so you can only get the M2 through marketplaces, third-party sellers, and Apple's refurbished section. Regardless of which you choose, the design is exactly the same, so you get the same sleek design, as the differences are mainly internal. Upgrades on the M3 model include a slightly faster M3 SoC, hardware-accelerated ray tracing, AV1 decoding, Wi-Fi 6E, and support for two external displays (with the laptop closed). Oh, there's also a new, more smudge-resistant coating on the M3 Midnight model. Unfortunately, the RAM and storage aren't user-replaceable, and while its external display support has improved, the port selection remains the same, with only two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports and a MagSafe charging port.

    See our review

  3. Best Mid-Range Laptop For Programming

    The best laptop for developers we've tested in the mid-range tier is the Dell Inspiron 16 2-in-1 (2023). It sports a large 16-inch display, so you get plenty of room to see your codes, and since it's a 2-in-1, you can flip the screen around and use it as a tablet. Sporting a full-aluminum chassis, it feels surprisingly well-built for a laptop in its class, and it isn't overly bulky for a 16-inch model, making it easy to carry around. The battery lasts around 10 hours of light use and charges over USB-C.

    You can get this laptop with an AMD Ryzen 5 7530U or Ryzen 7 7730U CPU; both perform well and are suitable for programming. We recommend getting a model with 16GB of RAM since the memory isn't user-upgradeable. The keyboard feels a little mushy but is still comfortable to type on for extended periods, and the touchpad is large and responsive. The port selection is excellent, though there's no Thunderbolt 4 support since it's an AMD system.

    See our review

  4. Best Budget Laptop For Programming

    Our best budget pick is the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020). This 14-inch ultraportable is easy to carry, and its battery lasts nearly 14 hours of light use. For under $600, you can get a model with an Intel 11th Gen Core i7 CPU, 8GB of memory, and 512GB of storage. You can get a model with more RAM (up to 16GB) if you're willing to pay more; just remember that the memory isn't user-upgradeable. Performance-wise, the Intel 11th Gen Core i7 is a few years old now, but it still performs well and can handle light coding. Thermal throttling is minimal under load, and the laptop doesn't get overly hot or loud.

    This laptop provides a good user experience. Its 1080p IPS display looks sharp and provides just enough room for light multitasking. It doesn't get very bright, so visibility can be an issue in well-lit settings. As for the keyboard and touchpad, the former feels a little cramped but decent to type on, and the latter is small but reasonably responsive. There's a fingerprint sensor built into the power button for quick logins. Its USB-C port supports Thunderbolt 4, allowing you to transfer files quickly and connect two 4k @ 60Hz displays with a single cable.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • ASUS Zenbook 14 Flip OLED (2023): The ASUS Zenbook 14 Flip OLED (2023) is another good alternative to the HP Spectre x360 14 (2024). It's also a 2-in-1 convertible that provides a great user experience; however, its battery life is shorter at around eight hours of light use, and its CPU throttles significantly more under load. See our review
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 (2023): The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 (2023) is a good alternative to the HP Spectre x360 14 (2024). It has a better keyboard and a wider port selection, but its battery life is a tad shorter at around 10 hours of light use. Also, it isn't a 2-in-1 convertible, so you can't use it as a tablet. See our review
  • Lenovo Yoga 7i 16 (2023): The Lenovo Yoga 7i 16 (2023) is a good alternative to the Dell Inspiron 16 2-in-1 (2023). It's available with a sharper and brighter QHD+ display and supports Thunderbolt 4. Its Intel 13th Gen CPUs perform better in short bursts but throttle more under load, which isn't ideal for heavier, sustained workloads. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Apr 25, 2024: Replaced the Framework Laptop 13 (2023) with the HP Spectre x360 14 (2024) because the HP provides a better user experience overall and supports Thunderbolt 4. Small text changes to add information about the M3 Apple MacBook Air 15 (2024). Removed the Lenovo Slim Pro 7 14 (2023) from the Notable Mentions because it's discontinued.

  2. Feb 28, 2024: Minor text edits for clarity. No changes in product picks.

  3. Feb 01, 2024: Replaced the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M2, 2023) with the M3 model. Replaced the Apple MacBook Air 15 (2023) with the Framework Laptop 13 (2023) because the Framework has better performance, port selection, battery life, and serviceability.

  4. Jan 04, 2024: Small text changes to improve readability and clarity. No change in recommendations.

  5. Nov 24, 2023: Minor text changes to add information about the new M3 MacBook Pros. No change in recommendations.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best laptops for programming to buy. We factor in the price (a cheaper laptop wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no laptops that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

If you prefer to make your own decision, here's the list of all of our laptop reviews. Keep in mind that most laptops are available in various configurations, and the table only shows the results of the model we tested, so it's best to see the full review for information about other variants.