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 65 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 gives you plenty of room to see more of your codes at once and gets bright enough to combat glare. You get a spacious keyboard, a gigantic and responsive touchpad, and a wide port selection that includes three USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports. Apple's M1 Pro and M1 Max SoCs are incredibly fast, and they include a very capable GPU, which is great for game development or any industry requiring high graphical horsepower. The downside is that you'll be paying for the graphical performance even if you don't need it.
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. One final note about the MacBook Pros: Apple has already released the M2 MacBook Pro 14 and 16. These new models are identical to their M1 predecessors in design; you just get a faster M2 SoC, HDMI 2.1, and increased memory support (up to 96GB). Apple no longer sells the M1 models on their website, so just get the M2 versions. You can likely find a good deal on an M1 model through a third-party seller or marketplace, but they usually only have the base configurations.
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. Like the MacBook Pros, it provides a very premium user experience with a nice display and a comfortable keyboard. You only get three USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, though, so you may need a dock.
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. Framework even provides instructions on how to install a custom OS.
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 to 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 through Framework's website.
If you prefer working on macOS, there are two alternatives: the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022) and its predecessor, the Apple MacBook Air 13 (M1, 2020). The 2022 model gives you a newer, sleeker design, a slightly larger and brighter display, a better webcam, and a tad more processing power than the 2020 model. If you don't need these upgrades, the M1 version is more than adequate. Plus, it starts at a lower price and is often on sale. Unfortunately, both MacBooks are the complete opposite of the Framework Laptop for user-upgradeability, as all of the components are soldered onto the motherboard, so make sure you get the right configuration for your needs.
If you want something more affordable with plenty of processing power, get the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (2021). This gaming laptop is available with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H or Ryzen 7 5800H CPU and various NVIDIA GPU options, from an entry-level GeForce GTX 1650 to a mid-range RTX 3060. You can only get up to 16GB of memory; however, you can add more later as the memory modules are user-replaceable. The display looks reasonably sharp and provides enough room for multitasking, and the keyboard feels great to type on for extended periods.
Unfortunately, you'll have to compromise a little on ports, as all the USB ports only support up to 5Gbps data transfer speed. Also, you can't connect an external display or charge the laptop via USB-C. Another downside is the battery life, as it only lasts around 5 hours of light use. On the upside, there's very little throttling on the CPU under load, and while the fans are loud, they aren't annoying. As for portability, it isn't overly bulky for a 15-inch device, but it's heavy.
Our budget pick is the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020). 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.
Mar 10, 2023: Added the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i 14 (2022) and the ASUS TUF Dash F15 (2022) as Notable Mentions. No change in recommendations.
Feb 10, 2023: Minor text changes to provide more information regarding the M2 MacBook Pros. Removed the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021) because it's very close to the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020) in price but isn't as good. Added the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 15 (2021) as the 'Best Mid-Range' pick.
Dec 19, 2022: Verified accuracy of picks; no change in recommendations.
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.