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'd want a good port selection so you don't need to go through the hassle of getting 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 60 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.
The best laptop for programming we've tested is the Apple MacBook Pro 16 (2021). This premium model feels incredibly well-built and provides a fantastic user experience. Its 16-inch display looks sharp, gives you plenty of room to work with, and gets bright enough to combat glare in well-lit settings. It has a spacious keyboard that's comfortable to type on all day, a gigantic and arguably one of the best touchpads on the market, and a wide port selection that includes three USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI, and a 3.5mm headphone jack with plenty of power to drive high-impedance headphones.
As for its performance, the M1 Pro and M1 Max SoCs are incredibly fast and powerful. They don't throttle under load, and the laptop never gets overly hot or loud. These chips also include a very capable GPU, which is great for game development or any industry requiring high graphical horsepower. For everything else, though, it's overkill, which means you'll be paying for GPU performance that you might never use. You can get up to 64GB of memory; remember that you can't upgrade it later on, so it's best to get enough to suit your needs upfront.
If you prefer portability over large screen size, go with the smaller Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2021). It performs almost identically as its 16-inch sibling but has a slightly shorter battery life. For Windows users, we recommend the Dell Precision 5570 (2022), a 15.6-inch mobile workstation available with Intel 12th Gen. processors. Depending on your workload, you can get it with integrated graphics only or with a discrete NVIDIA GPU. The drawback is that its battery only lasts six hours of light use or less than an hour of intensive tasks.
If you don't want to spend too much on an ultra-premium laptop like the Apple MacBook Pro 16 (2021), get the Framework Laptop (2022) instead, an ultraportable available with Intel 12th Gen. P-Series processors. It has a sturdy aluminum chassis, a sharp QHD display, and a comfortable keyboard that you can type on all day. It's highly configurable, as Framework allows you to choose each component individually, and you can easily upgrade it yourself later on. It's also a great choice for those working on Linux, as you can get it without an operating system installed, and Framework even provides instructions on how to install a custom OS.
Performance-wise, the Intel 12th Gen. CPUs perform exceptionally well. There's very little throttling under load, and while the keyboard gets a bit hot, the fans are relatively quiet. The biggest downside of this laptop is its short battery life, which lasts less than seven hours of light use or a little over an hour of intensive tasks. Framework promised an update that'll address the battery life issue, though there's no word on the update yet. Nonetheless, it's still a great laptop overall and one of the best laptops for developers we've tested. The Framework Laptop is only available on Framework's website.
A macOS alternative would be the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022). This new model has a fresh new design and a fast M2 SoC that can handle nearly everything you throw at it. Unfortunately, it only supports one external display, which might be an issue if you like working on multiple screens. It's also impossible to upgrade since all the components are soldered onto the motherboard. You get longer battery life, though, as it lasts almost 11 hours of light productivity.
The Acer Swift 3 14 (2020) is our pick in the more affordable mid-range category. This 14-inch Windows ultraportable feels well-built, is easy to carry around, and has amazing battery life. Its 1080p display looks sharp and provides just enough room for light multitasking, and if you need more space, you can easily connect external monitors, as it has a Thunderbolt 4 and an HDMI port. The keyboard feels slightly cramped but decent to type on, and the touchpad is small but reasonably responsive. You can configure it with an Intel 11th Gen. Core i5 or i7 and up to 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage. Our main gripe with this laptop is the screen brightness. It's fine for most indoor settings but isn't bright enough for very well-lit or sunny environments. It has a fingerprint sensor, so you can log in quickly and get to work.
If you're shopping on a tight budget, get the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021), a 15.6-inch Windows laptop. It feels sturdily built despite its low price, and it's portable, thanks to its thin and light design. It's available with AMD Ryzen 5000-series CPUs, which aren't as fast as the CPUs in the laptops we recommend above but are still very capable. It has a 1080p display that gets bright enough for use in most indoor settings and a decent port selection that includes three USBs and an HDMI port. The keyboard feels spacious; however, it can be slightly tiring to type on for extended periods as the keys require a fair amount of force to actuate. The battery life sits around nine hours of light use or a little over an hour when performing demanding tasks. Unfortunately, you can't charge the laptop via USB-C, so you'll have to carry the barrel plug power adapter.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best laptops for coding 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.