Our Picks

Best Powerful Laptop for Programming   
Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch    

Best Portable Laptop for Programming   
Huawei MateBook X Pro   

Best Budget Laptop for Programming   
ASUS VivoBook 15   

Programmers can spend all day (and sometimes all night) at their computers. For that reason, many prefer the flexibility that a laptop or notebook computer provides.

But which laptop is ideal for programmers? The computer you choose will depend on what type of programming you do, your budget, and your priorities. At the very least, you’ll need a keyboard that’s kind to your fingers and a monitor that’s kind to your eyes. We’ve chosen three winning laptops to meet your various needs and preferences.

If you’re looking for the very best, take a serious look at Apple’s MacBook Pro 16-inch. It has all the power you need as well as a large Retina display and the best keyboard available on an Apple laptop. They’re indisputably the best option for Mac and iOS development, and can also run Windows and Linux.

The Huawei MateBook X Pro is portable and runs Windows by default. It’s a little cheaper, too. Although its 13.9-inch screen is significantly smaller, the Huawei offers even more pixels than the larger MacBook. While it’s not suitable for Mac and iOS development, it will do everything else, including graphics-intensive game development.

Finally, the ASUS VivoBook 15 is perfect for those on a tighter budget. It costs around one-quarter the price of our other winners, is quite capable, and is available in many configurations. It offers a quality keyboard with a number pad as well as a large 15-inch display with 1080p resolution.

But those are not your only options. We narrowed our selection down to twelve high-rated laptops that meet the needs of a wide variety of developers. Read on to discover which notebook is best for you.

Quick Navigation

// Why Trust Us?
// What Are the Computing Needs of a Programmer?
// How We Tested
// The Winners
// The Competition

 

Why Trust Us?


I’ve advised people about the best computer for their needs since the 80s. I’ve used tons of them over that time, and my primary operating system has switched from Windows to Linux to Mac.

Although I have a reasonable understanding of coding, I’ve never worked full-time as a developer. So I got recommendations from real coders and referenced them where relevant throughout this review. I also sought out detailed user reviews of each laptop to get beyond the spec sheet and see what it’s like to “live” with each of them.

What Are the Computing Needs of a Programmer?

Programmers’ hardware needs can vary significantly. In most cases, a programmer doesn’t need a ‘top-of-the-line’ computer, but there are exceptions. Let’s look at some specs that many programmers look for in a laptop computer.

High Quality and Durability

A laptop’s spec sheet can look good, but there are some things you don’t find out about a computer until you’ve been using it for a while. Consumer reviews record the experiences users have with notebooks in real life. They tend to be honest about the good and the bad; long-term user reviews are a great way to gauge durability.

In this roundup, we’ve prioritized laptops with a consumer rating of four stars and above. Ideally, they were reviewed by hundreds or thousands of users. Here are the ratings of those we recommend:

  • Lenovo ThinkPad T470S: 4.9 stars, 21 reviews
  • Apple MacBook Pro: 4.7 stars, 204 reviews
  • Apple MacBook Air: 4.6 stars, 2,859 reviews
  • LG Gram: 4.6 stars, 165 reviews
  • Acer Aspire 5: 4.5 stars, 2,987 reviews
  • ASUS VivoBook: 4.4 stars, 306 ratings
  • Huawei MateBook X Pro: 4.3 stars, 359 reviews
  • Acer Nitro 5: 4.3 stars, 203 reviews
  • Microsoft Surface Pro: 4.3 stars, 137 reviews
  • HP Spectre X360: 4.3 stars, 36 reviews
  • ASUS TUF: 4.2 stars, 646 reviews
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop: 4.1 stars, 158 reviews

Able to Run Development Apps

Developers tend to be opinionated about the best software tools for their job. Many prefer the simplicity of their favorite text editor, while others enjoy the power and integration of an IDE or Integrated Development Environment.

Three of the most popular IDEs are:

The system requirements for Xcode 11 give us the most basic requirements for a non-game developer:

  • Operating system: macOS Mojave 10.14.4 or later.

But that’s unfortunately too easy compared to many IDEs. For instance, here’re Microsoft’s requirements for Visual Studio Code 2019’s system requirements:

  • Operating system: macOS High Sierra 10.13 or later,
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz or faster, dual-core or better recommended,
  • RAM: 4 GB, 8 GB recommended,
  • Storage: 5.6 GB of free disk space.

These are minimum requirements, so a laptop with these specs is likely to struggle, especially when compiling. I recommend a faster CPU and more RAM. Take Microsoft’s recommendation of 8 GB of RAM seriously, and choose 16 GB if you can afford it. Here’s the amount of RAM that each laptop in our review comes with:

  • Apple MacBook Pro: 16 GB (64 GB maximum)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T470S: 16 GB (configurable to 24 GB)
  • LG Gram: 16 GB
  • HP Spectre X360: 16 GB
  • ASUS TUF: 16 GB
  • Huawei MateBook X Pro: 16 GB
  • Acer Nitro 5: 8 GB, configurable to 32 GB
  • Microsoft Surface Pro: 16 GB
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop: 16 GB
  • Apple MacBook Air: 8 GB (configurable to 16 GB)
  • ASUS VivoBook: 8 GB (configurable to 16 GB)
  • Acer Aspire 5: 8 GB

We recommend a minimum of 256 GB of storage. An SSD if preferred. Here is the storage that comes with our recommended laptops:

  • Apple MacBook Pro: 1 TB SSD (configurable to 8 TB SSD)
  • LG Gram: 1 TB SSD
  • Acer Aspire 5: 512 GB SSD, configurable to 1 TB SSD
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T470S: 512 GB SSD (configurable to 1 TB SSD)
  • ASUS TUF: 512 GB SSD
  • HP Spectre X360: 512 GB SSD
  • Huawei MateBook X Pro: 512 GB SSD
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop: 512 GB SSD
  • Apple MacBook Air: 256 GB SSD (configurable to 1 TB)
  • Acer Nitro 5: 256 GB SSD, configurable to 1 TB SSD
  • ASUS VivoBook: 256 GB SSD (configurable to 512 GB)
  • Microsoft Surface Pro: 256 GB SSD

Game Developers Need a Discrete Graphics Card

Most developers do not need discrete graphics cards, and you can save money by buying a laptop without one. The integrated graphics cards included with Intel hardware should be enough for anything you’ll encounter while programming.

Once you get into game development, though, a GPU with plenty of graphics memory becomes a necessity. And you may need one for other things you use your computer for, whether that’s editing video or playing games during your downtime.

Portability

A programmer can work just about anywhere: home, the office, a coffee shop, even while traveling. That makes portable computers especially tempting. Because of that, weight was a consideration for each of the notebooks we considered. Here is how much each notebook weighed:

  • Microsoft Surface Pro: 1.70 lb (775 g) not including keyboard
  • Apple MacBook Air: 2.7 lb (1.25 kg)
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop: 2.8 lb (1.27 kg)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T470S: 2.91 lb (1.32 kg)
  • HP Spectre X360: – Weight: 2.91 lb (1.32 kg)
  • Huawei MateBook X Pro: 2.93 lb (1.33 kg)
  • LG Gram: 2.95 lb, 1.34 kg
  • ASUS VivoBook: 4.3 lb (1.95 kg)
  • Apple MacBook Pro: 4.3 lb (2.0 kg)
  • Acer Aspire 5: 4.85 lb (2.2 kg)
  • ASUS TUF: 4.85 lb (2.2 kg)
  • Acer Nitro 5: 5.95 lb (2.7 kg)

Battery life is another consideration. To get a decent amount of work done outside of the office, you’ll need at least six hours of battery life. Be aware that application software can be processor-intensive, which eats up battery life. Here is the claimed battery life for each laptop:

  • LG Gram: 19.5 hours
  • HP Spectre X360: 17.5 hours
  • Apple MacBook Air: 13 hours
  • Huawei MateBook X Pro: 12 hours
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop: 11.5 hours
  • Apple MacBook Pro: 11 hours
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T470S: 10.5 hours
  • Microsoft Surface Pro: 10.5 hours
  • ASUS VivoBook: 7 hours
  • Acer Nitro 5: 5.5 hours
  • Acer Aspire 5: 5 hours
  • ASUS TUF: 2 hours

A Large, Clear Screen

You’ll be looking at your screen all day, so make it a good one. A large monitor can be helpful, but even more helpful is its resolution. Here are the screen size and resolutions for each laptop sorted from largest to smallest. I’ve bolded models with a significantly denser pixel count.

  • LG Gram: 17-inch (2560 x 1600)
  • Apple MacBook Pro: 16-inch (3072 x 1920)
  • HP Spectre X360: 15.6-inch (3840 x 2160)
  • ASUS TUF: 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080)
  • Acer Aspire 5: 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080)
  • Acer Nitro 5: 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080)
  • ASUS VivoBook: 15.6-inch (1920×1080)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T470S: 14-inch (1920 x 1080)
  • Huawei MateBook X Pro: 13.9-inches (3000 x 2000)
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop: 13.5-inch (1280 x 800)
  • Apple MacBook Air: 13.3-inch (2560 x 1600)
  • Microsoft Surface Pro: 12.3-inch (2736 x 1824)

While the LG Gram has the largest screen, it has fewer pixels than the Apple MacBook Pro and HP Spectre. In fact, the HP Spectre has significantly more pixels than the MacBook. The MateBook Pro is also impressive, outclassing the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s resolution with its much smaller 13.9-inch screen. Finally, the MacBook Air and Surface Pros both have tiny screens with impressive resolutions.

A Quality Keyboard

As a programmer, you also spend the day typing, which makes a quality keyboard a priority. To type without frustration and fatigue, you’ll need one that’s comfortable, functional, tactile, and accurate. If possible, spend some time typing on the laptop you intend to buy before pulling the trigger on it.

A backlight is helpful when working at night or in dim locations. Nine of the twelve laptops in this roundup feature backlit keyboards:

  • Apple MacBook Pro
  • Huawei MateBook X Pro
  • ASUS VivoBook 15 (optional)
  • Acer Aspire 5
  • Acer Nitro 5
  • Apple MacBook Air
  • ASUS TUF FX505DV 2019
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T470S
  • LG Gram 17”

If you need to enter a lot of numbers, you may save time choosing a laptop with a numeric keypad. Half of the laptops on our list have one:

  • ASUS VivoBook 15
  • Acer Aspire 5
  • Acer Nitro 5
  • ASUS TUF FX505DV 2019
  • HP Spectre X360
  • LG Gram 17”

Many programmers use an external keyboard when working at their desks. Ergonomic and mechanical keyboards are popular choices. We’ll leave some recommendations under “Other Gear” at the end of this review.

Ports for Connecting Peripherals

If you plan to plug peripherals into your computer, make sure it has the number and types of ports that you need. For example, if you want to connect an external monitor, you’ll need a laptop with a Thunderbolt 3, USB-C 3.1, or HDMI port. Alternatively, you can attach a variety of hubs and adaptors to your laptop to achieve the same thing.

How We Tested

I started by consulting dozens of reviews and roundups that listed some of the best laptops for developers. They contained a lot of variety, and I ended up with a long list of 57 options. I then considered consumer reviews and removed all laptops with a rating lower than four stars. From there, I selected a shortlist of the most suitable twelve laptops. Finally, I chose our three winners.

Based on our research, here are the specs that programmers should look for in a laptop:

Recommended specs for most developers:

  • CPU: 1.8 GHz dual-core i5 or better
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Storage: 256 GB SSD

Recommended specs for game developers:

  • CPU: Intel i7 processor (eight-core preferred)
  • RAM: 8 GB (16 GB preferred)
  • Storage: 2-4 TB SSD
  • Graphics card: discrete GPU

The main difference between the two lists is the need for discrete graphics when doing game development. From here, you can narrow down your choices by asking a few questions:

  • What’s my budget?
  • Does the operating system matter?
  • Which is more valuable–portability or power?
  • How much battery life do I need?
  • How important is the screen size?

Read on for our top picks.

The Winners

Best Powerful Laptop for Programming: Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch


The MacBook Pro 16-inch is almost perfect for developers. It’s portable and offers a large display with plenty of pixels. It has plenty of RAM and storage and enough CPU and GPU power for game developers. It has a long battery life, too, though developers can’t expect to enjoy the full 11 hours.

Get It on Amazon

At a glance:

  • Current rating: 4.7 stars, 204 reviews
  • Operating system: macOS
  • Memory: 16 GB (64 GB maximum)
  • Storage: 1 TB SSD (configurable to 8 TB SSD)
  • Processor: 2.3 GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9
  • Graphics Card: AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4 GB of GDDR6 (configurable to 8 GB)
  • Screen size: 16-inch (3072 x 1920)
  • Backlit keyboard: Yes
  • Numeric keypad: No
  • Weight: 4.3 lb (2.0 kg)
  • Ports: Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Battery: 11 hours

The 16-inch model offers the best keyboard out of any current MacBook, offering more travel and a physical Escape key. It comes with 1 TB of SSD storage, which should be more than enough for most developers. If you need more space, you can configure it up to a huge 8 TB SSD.

The provided 16 GB of RAM should also be sufficient, but it can be configured up to 64 GB. It’s best to purchase your preferred configuration because upgrading afterward is difficult.

The MacBook Pro 13-inch falls short for game developers because it lacks a discrete GPU— however, that can be remedied by adding an external GPU. We list some options for that under “Other Gear” below.

Not everyone who needs a powerful laptop will want to run macOS. The MacBook Pro can run Windows too, or you can choose one of these powerful Windows laptops that are suitable for game development:

  • ASUS TUF
  • HP Spectre
  • Acer Nitro 5

Best Portable Laptop for Programming: Huawei MateBook X Pro


The Huawei MateBook X Pro isn’t the tiniest laptop we cover, but it does offer an excellent balance between usability and portability. It weighs less than three pounds, its 14-inch display offers almost as many pixels as the MacBook Pro’s 16-inch, and the 512 GB SSD and 16 GB of RAM are more than enough for most developers. The powerful quad-core i7 processor and GeForce video card make it an excellent laptop for game developers who require more portability.

Get It on Amazon

At a glance:

  • Current rating: 4.3 stars, 359 reviews
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Memory: 16 GB
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7
  • Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce MX150, 2 GB
  • Screen size: 13.9-inches (3000 x 2000)
  • Backlit keyboard: Yes
  • Numeric keypad: No
  • Weight: 2.93 lb, 1.33 kg
  • Ports: one USB-A, two USB-C (one Thunderbolt 3)
  • Battery: 12 hours

The MateBook X Pro is an ultrabook. It has a strong resemblance to the very portable MacBook Air while being much more capable. The MateBook X Pro has an amazing display. Despite the screen’s small size, it boasts an astounding number of pixels, outclassing every other laptop in our review except the HP Spectre X360.

It’s not as small as some of our other portable recommendations. However, the quality screen combined with its low weight, thin body (0.57 inches), one-touch power button, and long battery life makes it an excellent choice for developers who carry their laptop with them everywhere.

If you need an even more portable laptop, consider these alternatives:

  • Microsoft Surface Pro
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop
  • Apple MacBook Air
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T470S

Best Budget Laptop for Programming: ASUS VivoBook 15


The Asus VivoBook 15 isn’t just a budget notebook; it’s a workhorse with enough computing power for game developers. Its keyboard is comfortable and offers a numeric keypad. However, the VivoBook is large and has a relatively short battery life, so it’s not the best choice if portability is your thing. The monitor is its weakest feature: users report it looks washed out and is difficult to view from an angle.

Get It on Amazon

At a glance:

  • Current rating: 4.4 stars, 306 ratings
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Memory: 8 GB (configurable to 16 GB)
  • Storage: 256 GB SSD (configurable to 512 GB)
  • Processor: 3.6 GHz Quad-core AMD Ryzen 5
  • Graphics Card: AMD Radeon RX Vega 8, 8 GB
  • Screen size: 15.6-inch (1920×1080)
  • Backlit keyboard: optional
  • Numeric keypad: Yes
  • Weight: 4.3 lb (1.95 kg)
  • Ports: one USB-C, USB-A (two USB 2.0, one USB 3.1 Gen 1), one HDMI
  • Battery: not stated (it lasted 7 hours 5 minutes in a Laptop Mag test)

The Acer VivoBook offers a good balance between power and affordability. It’s available in a wide range of configurations so you can choose the specs you’re willing to pay for. Its larger size will make life easier for your eyes and wrists. The backlit keyboard is optional and is included with the model linked above.

User reviews are positive. Purchasers find the laptop an outstanding value for the money and point out which components are of lower quality than more expensive laptops. In particular, ASUS seems to have saved a lot of money by using a lower-quality display and sound system. Users are happy with its performance, storage, and keyboard.

The Competition

1. Acer Aspire 5


The Acer Aspire is a popular and highly-rated laptop suitable for programmers. It’ll even meet the basic needs of game developers. The Aspire 5 scores low on portability—it’s the second heaviest laptop in the review and has relatively short battery life. But it’s reasonably thin, includes a large display and full-size keyboard, and has a powerful processor and discrete graphics.

At a glance:

  • Current rating: 4.5 stars, 2,987 reviews
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Memory: 8 GB
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD, configurable to 1 TB SSD
  • Processor: 2.5 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5
  • Graphics Card: AMD Radeon Vega 3 Mobile, 4 GB
  • Screen size: 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080)
  • Backlit keyboard: Yes
  • Numeric keypad: Yes
  • Weight: 4.85 lb (2.2 kg)
  • Ports: two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, one USB-C, one HDMI
  • Battery: 5 hours

The Aspire is quite affordable and should be able to handle almost anything you throw at it, from coding to basic video editing to gaming. Even less expensive configurations are available, and it has a better quality screen than the VivoBook.

Its keyboard is backlit and has a numeric keypad. Users comment that it is easy to type on. However, there are no lights on the Caps Lock and Num Lock keys to indicate when they are activated.

2. Acer Nitro 5


The Acer Nitro 5 is an affordable gaming computer offering everything you need for programming, including game development. Like the Aspire, it has a relatively short battery life and is pretty heavy, so it’s not a great pick for those who need portability. It is, in fact, the heaviest laptop in our review.

At a glance:

  • Current rating: 4.3 stars, 203 reviews
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Memory: 8 GB, configurable to 32 GB
  • Storage: 256 GB SSD, configurable to 1 TB SSD
  • Processor: 2.3 GHz Quad-core 8th Gen Intel Core i5
  • Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, 4 GB
  • Screen size: 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080)
  • Backlit keyboard: Yes
  • Numeric keypad: Yes
  • Weight: 5.95 lb, 2.7 kg
  • Ports: two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, one USB-C, Ethernet, HDMI
  • Battery: 5.5 hours

User reviews describe this laptop perfect for gaming, which also means it will handle most programming duties with ease. One user enjoys the large screen and thin bezel but finds the monitor a little dim. She found that the keyboard took a little while to get used to and describes the battery life as “horrible.”

Another user found that the backlit keyboard timed out too quickly, and warns the setting isn’t configurable. However, most users say the Nitro 5 as good value for money.

3. Apple MacBook Air


The MacBook Air is the most affordable and portable laptop you can buy from Apple. However, from a spec standpoint, it’s quite limited and impossible to upgrade. That makes it suitable for only basic coding. It’s a reasonable budget alternative for anyone developing apps for Mac and iOS. For everything else, you’ll find better value elsewhere.

At a glance:

  • Current rating: 4.6 stars, 2,859 reviews
  • Operating system: macOS
  • Memory: 8 GB (configurable to 16 GB)
  • Storage: 256 GB SSD (configurable to 1 TB)
  • Processor: 1.6 GHz Dual-core 8th Gen Intel Core i5
  • Graphics Card: Intel UHD Graphics 617 (with support for eGPUs)
  • Screen size: 13.3-inch (2560 x 1600)
  • Backlit keyboard: Yes
  • Numeric keypad: No
  • Weight: 2.7 lb (1.25 kg)
  • Ports: Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
  • Battery: 13 hours

This slim laptop is highly portable, but not the best choice for programmers. For those in the Apple ecosystem, the MacBook Pro is a much better choice, albeit more expensive. Many affordable Windows laptops make a better choice for most types of development.

The MacBook Air is unsuited to game development because of its lack of a discrete GPU. You can add an external one, but the machine’s other specs still hold it back.

4. ASUS TUF FX505DV 2019


This powerful computer is perfectly suited for game development and more—as long as you don’t need to work on the go. It has a powerful CPU and GPU, a magnificent display, and a quality backlit keyboard with a numeric keypad. But it’s the second heaviest laptop in our review and has a battery that barely lasts two hours.

At a glance:

  • Current rating: 4.2 stars, 646 reviews
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Memory: 16 GB
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD
  • Processor: 4 GHz Quad-core AMD Ryzen 7 R7-3750H
  • Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 6 GB
  • Screen size: 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080)
  • Backlit keyboard: Yes, RGB
  • Numeric keypad: Yes
  • Weight: 4.85 lb, 2.2 kg
  • Ports: USB-A (one USB 2.0, two USB 3.1 Gen 1)
  • Battery: Not specified (expect less than 2 hours based on user reviews)

Given the comments above, it’s better to think of the ASUS TUF as a moveable desktop computer than a laptop. It’s a hot rod, powerful enough to meet the demands of developers and gamers alike.

The screen is large and has a thin bezel, but other laptops offer far more pixels. Battery life is not officially stated, but one user found it went from 100% down to 5% in just one hour and 15 minutes. He found it was using 130 watts while idling. This power issue frustrated many users. The Asus Tuf simply isn’t the laptop to choose if you do any amount of work away from a power outlet.

5. HP Spectre X360


HP’s Spectre X350 is lightweight yet powerful. It’s a convertible two-in-one laptop with a touch screen that transforms into a tablet. It’s also a laptop with a powerful CPU and GPU capable of game development. The Spectre’s gorgeous screen has the highest resolution in this review.

At a glance:

  • Current rating: 4.3 stars, 36 reviews
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Memory: 16 GB
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz Quad-core 8th Gen Intel Core i7
  • Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce MX150, 2 GB
  • Screen size: 15.6-inch (3840 x 2160)
  • Backlit keyboard: No
  • Numeric keypad: Yes
  • Weight: 2.91 lb (1.32 kg)
  • Ports: one USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, one USB-A, one HDMI
  • Battery: 17.5 hours (but one user only gets 5 hours)

If you’re trying to balance power with portability, this notebook is a good option. It’s light, very sleek, and converts to a tablet. But it does have some flaws. One user points out that the fan was loud even when just browsing the web, and the rubber feet fell off within six months.

The Spectre is advertised as having a 4.6 GHz processor, but that’s inaccurate. It’s a 1.8 GHz processor that can be run up to 4.6 GHz using Turbo Boost. That, along with the GeForce graphics card, still gives you a very powerful computer.

The estimated battery life is one of the longest of any laptop in this roundup: an incredible 17.5 hours (only the LG Gram claims more). That figure may not be accurate, however. One user claims to only get five hours, though another is happy with the “great battery life.” I wish there were more user comments on the issue.

6. Lenovo ThinkPad T470S


This powerful and somewhat expensive laptop is lightweight and suitable for a wide variety of programming tasks—but not game development. It has an excellent keyboard, is not much heavier than a MacBook Air, and battery life is very good.

At a glance:

  • Current rating: 4.9 stars, 21 reviews
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Pro
  • Memory: 16 GB (configurable to 24 GB)
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD (configurable to 1 TB SSD)
  • Processor: 2.40 GHz Dual-Core Intel i5
  • Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics 520
  • Screen size: 14-inch (1920 x 1080)
  • Backlit keyboard: Yes
  • Numeric keypad: No
  • Weight: 2.91 lb (1.32 kg)
  • Ports: one Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), one USB 3.1, one HDMI, one Ethernet
  • Battery: 10.5 hours

If a quality keyboard is important to you, consider the ThinkPad T470S. Makeuseof named it “Best Laptop Keyboard for Programmers.” It has spacious keys and responsive feedback when typing.

The computer is quite powerful but lacks a discrete graphics card, making it unsuitable for game development. However, the Thinkpad 470S is relatively affordable, and several configurations are available, potentially making it even cheaper.

7. LG Gram 17”


Although the LG Gram 17” has the largest monitor in our roundup, four other laptops offer superior resolution. Despite its large screen, the laptop is quite light and claims a spectacular battery life—the longest of any laptop in our roundup. The Gram has a backlit keyboard with a numeric keyboard and plenty of ports for your peripherals. However, it lacks a discrete graphics card, so it’s not the best choice for game development.

At a glance:

  • Current rating: 4.6 stars, 165 reviews
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Memory: 16 GB
  • Storage: 1 TB SSD
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz Quad-core 8th Gen Intel Core i7
  • Graphics Card: Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • Screen size: 17-inch (2560 x 1600)
  • Backlit keyboard: Yes
  • Numeric keypad: Yes
  • Weight: 2.95 lb, 1.34 kg
  • Ports: three USB 3.1, one USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), HDMI
  • Battery: 19.5 hours

The name “LG Gram” advertises the lightweight of this laptop—only three pounds. It’s made from a magnesium-carbon alloy, so it’s strong as well as light. The 17” display looks great, but other laptops have much higher pixel density. In fact, the MacBook Air’s tiny 13.3-inch display has the same resolution.

The claimed 19.5 hours of battery life is huge, and I couldn’t find a contradictory user review. Every mention of battery life I found was overwhelmingly positive; one user points out that it comes with software designed to preserve battery life. Its light weight paired with incredible battery life makes this large laptop surprisingly portable.

8. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3


The Surface Laptop 3 is Microsoft’s competitor to the MacBook Pro. It’s a genuine laptop rather than a tablet and is suitable for programming unless you develop games. It has a clear, small display; the battery lasts an impressive 11.5 hours.

At a glance:

  • Current rating: 4.1 stars, 158 reviews
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Memory: 16 GB
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD
  • Processor: 1.3 GHz Quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core I7
  • Graphics Card: Intel Iris Plus
  • Screen size: 13.5-inch (1280 x 800)
  • Backlit keyboard: No
  • Numeric keypad: No
  • Weight: 2.8 lb, 1.27 kg
  • Ports: one USB-C, one USB-A, one Surface Connect
  • Battery: 11.5 hours

If the Surface Laptop is a MacBook Pro competitor, it’s competing with the 13-inch model, not the 16-inch powerhouse. Like the 13-inch MacBook Pro, it lacks a discrete graphics card and can’t be configured as highly as our winner. It offers fewer ports than the MacBook and is a little cheaper than the MacBook Air.

Its keyboard isn’t backlit like the Apple laptops, but you may find it nicer to type on. Users tend to like the way it feels, but one points out that it is a little smaller than usual.

9. Microsoft Surface Pro 7


While the Surface Laptop is an alternative to the MacBook Pro, the Surface Pro competes with both the MacBook Air and the iPad Pro. Like the HP Spectre X360, it can function both as a tablet and a laptop. It’s the most portable laptop in our review, having the smallest screen and lowest weight. The keyboard can be removed for even more portability.

At a glance:

  • Current rating: 4.3 stars, 137 reviews
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Memory: 16 GB
  • Storage: 256 GB SSD
  • Processor: 1.1 GHz Dual-core 10th Gen Intel Core i7
  • Graphics Card: Intel Iris Plus
  • Screen size: 12.3-inch (2736 x 1824)
  • Backlit keyboard: No
  • Numeric keypad: No
  • Weight: 1.70 lb (775 g) not including keyboard
  • Ports: one USB-C, one USB-A, one Surface Connect
  • Battery: 10.5 hours

If you need to program on the go, the Surface Pro is incredibly portable. It’s easy to carry and has enough battery life to get through the day. But like the MacBook Air, unless you need that portability, another laptop will be more suitable.

The keyboard is optional but is included when purchasing using the Amazon link above. The small 12.3-inch screen is gorgeous and boasts even more pixels than the 13.3-inch MacBooks. It’s quite portable, and even with its keyboard cover, it’s a little lighter than the MacBook Air.

Other Gear

Many developers love kitting out their workspace with additional gear. Here are some peripherals and accessories you may like, or even need, to add to your laptop.

External Monitor

Consider connecting a larger monitor when working from your desk. They display more information, are better for your eyes, and a test the University of Utah concludes that larger screens improve productivity (Coding Horror). Here are a few worth considering:

External Keyboard

When working from your desk, you might also opt for a larger, more ergonomic keyboard. We cover their advantages in our review The Best Keyboard for Programming. They are often faster to type on and reduce the risk of injury. Here are a few you might like to consider:

Mechanical keyboards are also popular because they are fast, tactile, and durable. Here are a few we recommend:

A Mouse

A premium mouse, trackball, or trackpad is another consideration for when you are working at your desk. They can help you work more productively while protecting your wrist from strain and pain, as we explain in our review The Best Mouse for Mac. Here are a few worth considering:

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Noise-canceling headphones block the outside world when you’re working productively, whether at your desk, in a coffee shop, or traveling. We cover their benefits in our review, The Best Headphones for Home & Office Workers, and recommend these among others:

External Hard Drive or SSD

An external drive gives you somewhere to archive and back up your projects. Refer to these reviews for our top recommendations:

External GPU (eGPU)

And finally, if your laptop lacks a discrete GPU, you can add an external one. Here are some Thunderbolt eGPUs we recommend: