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The 4 Best Laptops For Programming - Fall 2023 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 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 85 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 programming we've tested is the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2023). This high-end mobile workstation has a sturdy all-aluminum build, a portable, compact design, and incredible all-day battery life. You can get the newest model with an M2 Pro or Max SoC, which have enough processing power to handle even the most challenging workloads. These chips also include a very capable GPU, which is great for game development or any industry requiring high graphical horsepower. The downside is that you'll pay for the graphical performance even if you don't need it.

    The overall user experience is excellent. You get a sharp Mini LED display, a spacious and tactile keyboard, and a gigantic, easy-to-use haptic touchpad. Ports include three USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports and an HDMI, so you can easily connect external monitors and peripherals. If you want more screen space and don't mind paying more, you can get the Apple MacBook Pro 16 (2023). It's the same device but with better-sounding speakers and a slightly longer battery life.

    A Windows alternative to the MacBook Pro would be the Dell Precision 5570 (2022), a 15.6-inch mobile workstation with Intel 12th Gen processors. Like the MacBook Pros, it provides a premium user experience with a nice display and a comfortable keyboard. You only get three USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, though, and its battery life is much shorter at only six to seven hours of light use. Lastly, this laptop is hard to find through third-party sellers and marketplaces, so it's best to get it directly through Dell.

    See our review

  2. Best Upper Mid-Range Laptop For Programming

    If you don't need the processing power of a mobile workstation like the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2023) and would rather go with an ultraportable, get the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022) instead. It's incredibly thin and light, and its battery lasts easily through a full workday. It has a nice, sharp display—not Mini LED like the MacBook Pro, unfortunately—and a great keyboard. Additionally, its M2 SoC is more than fast enough for most programmers. The main drawback is its limited port selection, as it's still limited to two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports with support for one external display.

    A larger alternative would be the Apple MacBook Air 15 (2023). It's the same laptop as the 13-inch MacBook Air but with a 15.3-inch display and better speakers. It's $200 USD more expensive than the 13-inch model, though, and once you start upgrading the RAM and SSD, the price gets very close to that of the MacBook Pro 14 we recommend above.

    For Windows users, get the LG gram 14 (2023). Weighing only 2.1 lbs, it's even lighter than the Apple MacBook Air 13. It provides a great user experience, and its battery life is about the same at around eleven hours of light use. It has two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, connecting up to two 4k displays at 60Hz with a single cable. However, the display doesn't get as bright to combat glare, and its magnesium alloy chassis just doesn't feel as solid and premium as the MacBook Air's all-aluminum build.

    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. It feels surprisingly well-built for a laptop in its class and isn't too cumbersome for a 16-inch model. 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. The memory isn't user-upgradeable, so getting the maximum 16GB upfront is best. 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, but sadly, 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 up to 16GB of RAM if you're willing to pay more; just remember that the memory isn't user-upgradeable.

    Its 1080p IPS display looks sharp and provides just enough room for light multitasking; however, it doesn't get very bright, so it isn't ideal for well-lit rooms or outdoors in broad daylight. 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. Ports include two USB-As, one USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, a full-size HDMI, and a headphone jack.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Lenovo Slim Pro 7 14 (2023): The Lenovo Slim Pro 7 14 (2023) is a good alternative to the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2023) if you want a Windows device but find the Dell Precision 5570 (2022) too expensive. It has a more compact design and longer battery life than the Dell; however, its display doesn't get as bright, and it lacks Thunderbolt 4 support. Also, its AMD Ryzen CPU and NVIDIA RTX 3050 GPU don't perform as well as the Dell's Intel 12th Gen CPU and NVIDIA RTX A2000 GPU. See our review
  • Acer Swift 14 (2023): The Acer Swift 14 (2023) is a good Windows alternative to the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022). It's available with faster Intel 13th Gen H-series CPUs, and unlike the MacBook Air, it supports more than one external display. However, its battery life is slightly shorter, and its keyboard and touchpad aren't as good. See our review
  • ASUS Zenbook 14 Flip OLED (2023): The ASUS Zenbook 14 Flip OLED (2023) is a great alternative to the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022). It's a high-end model that provides a similarly premium user experience as the MacBook Air. It has a gorgeous 90Hz OLED display, and it supports Thunderbolt 4. However, its battery life is slightly shorter, 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 great alternative to the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022). It's also a well-built premium ultraportable but with a more function-over-form, all-business look. Its touchpad isn't as good as Apple's haptic one, but it has a TrackPoint nub as a secondary method of controlling the mouse cursor, which some people may prefer, as it lets you keep your hand closer to the keyboard. However, its battery life is slightly shorter, and the laptop is more expensive. See our review
  • Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021): The Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021) is a good alternative to the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020). It has a slightly larger 15-inch screen and a much better webcam, but its battery life is shorter, and its USB-C port doesn't support charging or video output. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Sep 01, 2023: Replaced the Apple MacBook Pro 16 (2021) with the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2023) because the M1 MacBook Pro 16 is no longer available. Added the Lenovo Slim Pro 7 14 (2023) as a Notable Mention.

  2. Jul 06, 2023: Minor structure change to add an 'Upper Mid-Range' category. Added the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022) as the 'Best Upper Mid-Range' pick. Replaced the Framework Laptop (2022) with the Dell Inspiron 16 2-in-1 (2023) because the Dell has longer battery life and a bigger screen. Replaced the HP Victus 15 (2022) with the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020) because the Acer is cheaper, more portable, and has longer battery life.

  3. May 11, 2023: Added the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020) as the 'Best Cheap' pick. Added the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022) and the Acer Swift 14 (2023) as Notable Mentions.

  4. Apr 13, 2023: Minor structure change. replaced the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (2021) with the HP Victus 15 (2022) because the HP performs better and doesn't get as hot or loud under load. Removed the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020) since it's almost the same price as the HP Victus 15.

  5. 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.

All Reviews

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.