Best laptop for programming in 2020: top picks for coders, developers and sysadmins
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The best laptop for programming needs to tick a few things. After all, more than just about having enough sheer power, coding on your portable requires things like speed, storage, and even a comfortable keyboard to type on.
So, don’t get too caught up in finding one with one of the best processors. Cores, threads, and clock speeds may be important, but as are memory and storage, since they can also be potential bottlenecks. You have to make sure you’re getting a fast memory as well as the best SSD for your needs when choosing the best laptop for programming. These two things will save you time when loading and running the projects, massively improving your workflow.
And, as you’ll be typing for hours on end, you’ll also want to pick one with the best keyboard as well as a display that’s easy on your eyes. You wouldn’t want a crappy keyboard or a display that’ll hurt your eyes hampering your work.
While that sounds like a lot of things to check off the list, don’t stress. We rounded up our picks for the best laptop for programming to make it easier for you to find the right candidate. From the best Windows 10 and macOS laptops to some of the best Chromebooks, here are our top picks.
Best laptops for programming on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Some of the best laptops for programming are expected to receive deep discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So, you might be able to find a laptop on this list for much less, saving you more money to use for something else.
Whether you’re buying one of the best laptops for programming for yourself or gifting it to a loved one for Christmas, it would be wise to wait until the major deal event of the year. Luckily, Black Friday and Cyber Monday rolls around at the end of November, so you won’t have to wait for long.
Best laptops for programming – at a glance
- HP Spectre x360
- Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme laptop
- HP EliteBook x360 1040 G5 2-in-1
- MacBook Air (2020)
- MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
- Microsoft Surface Pro 7
- Google Pixelbook
- Asus Chromebook Flip C436F/C436FA
- Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)
The HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 laptop has had a big refresh for 2020, and the boost in specs, with 10th-generation Intel Core processors and Intel Iris Plus graphics, along with the impeccable 2-in-1 design and pristine gem-cut chassis, means that the new version has shot straight to the top of our best laptops for programmers list.
The HP Spectre line has always consisted of stunning devices. So, when we say that the Spectre x360 takes things to another level, that should mean something. Not only is this one of the most beautiful laptops on the market right now – with its gem cut design and sleek profile, but it’s tough on the inside. HP fitted this with impressively long battery life, which means that you’re getting one of the best laptops on the market, hands down. As such, it’s also the best laptop for programming right now.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x360 (2020)
If you have the funds for an unstoppable workhorse, then Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme mobile workstation is the best laptop for programming for you. This gets our vote as one of the best Lenovo laptops for many reasons. It has several configurations on hand, depending on your needs and budget, but at its most basic, it’s already pretty powerful, packed with a solid graphics card in a robust carbon-fiber and aluminum package that will survive any office or field.
Read the full review: ThinkPad X1 Extreme Mobile Workstation
The EliteBook x360 1040 G5 is, without a doubt, the “apex predator of the business world.” It’s not the perfect machine, but it’s got plenty of features that make up for its flaws. It boasts many excellent features in its handsome-looking chassis, as well as plenty of ports, a port that works wonders and impressively audio. Simply put, it’s fit for the professional who demands seamlessness and power at work, making it the best laptop for programming.
Read the full review: HP EliteBook x360 1040 G5
Apple’s thinnest and lightest MacBook is back in 2020 with a vengeance. Not only has it fixed a lot of the complaints with its predecessors – namely, that problematic keyboard is now gone, replaced by a drastically improved keyboard. Thanks to improved hardware for better performance and an affordable price, the 2020 MacBook Air is a brilliant laptop for programming on. It keeps that same light and slim design which means it’s easy to sling into a bag and carry around with you, but it also has enough oomph to make programming on it a joy.
Read the full review: MacBook Air (2020)
When you’re looking for the best laptop for programming, especially if you’re developing software for macOS, you’re eventually going to find yourself looking at the MacBook Pro. And, the new MacBook Pro, with its powerful processor and heaps of RAM, is the fastest MacBook that the Cupertino tech behemoth has ever birthed. As thin, light and sleek as ever, this doesn’t feel like a 16-inch behemoth. If you’re worried that this was going to be bulky and awkward to use, don’t be. Yet, despite its svelte frame, you’re still getting that extra real estate on that stunning display, as well as the latest and greatest components behind it. Apple then rounds those out with amazing (and loud) speakers and a much, much better keyboard. This is truly the best MacBook for content creators, designers and other creative professionals.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
The seventh iteration of Microsoft’s award-winning product may not be the generational leap many Microsoft tablets have been waiting for, but it offers some improvements from its predecessor. This 2-in-1 tablet aimed at pros has received impressive gains in power, making it more capable than ever as a laptop alternative. Also, it now boasts a USB-C port and Wifi 6 connectivity. With its quad-core processors and plenty of RAM, you’ll be able to compile code quickly and efficiently, even when you’re on the move. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to pay extra for the Type Cover – you’re not going to want to get any coding done on a touch screen, trust us.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro 7
Yes, a Chromebook (or two) has made our best laptop for programming list. That’s because Google Pixelbook is powerful (and beautiful) enough to contend with the Surfaces and MacBooks of the world. Admittedly, the ChromeOS is not as good a place to program as Windows or macOS. However, the Pixelbook’s support of Android makes it a must-own laptop for any Android developer. The fact that this laptop succeeds the now discontinued Google Chromebook Pixel, which was designed by and for Google’s own developers, should give it some street cred in the eyes of coders.
Read the full review: Google Pixelbook
- This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Surface Pro.
Premium Chromebooks occupy their own space in the laptop market, bridging that gap between powerful traditional laptops and super lightweight Chromebooks. And, the Asus Chromebook Flip C436F is perhaps one of the very few examples of these out there, with its combination of superb power, terrific feature set, premium build and a price tag that’s cheaper than its rivals. That makes this portable perfect for web developers who need a powerful machine.
Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip C436F
The Surface Book 2 is an excellent choice for any coders out there, as Microsoft has crafted one of the most powerful 2-in-1 laptops on the planet. After all, it boasts components powerful enough to handle pretty much everything you could throw at it – including some light gaming in your down time. If you’re looking for a larger display, there’s a 15-inch model, which also features beefier components – albeit at a higher price tag.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch)
The MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)’s entry-level model may miss out on some of the lineup’s new toys. However, going for the higher-end configurations will get you new (and powerful) Intel processors and improved RAM speeds for better performance, all packed in the 13-inch incredibly svelte body. Apple rounds it all out with that incredible Magic Keyboard from the new 16-inch, finally getting rid of that problematic keyboard, making it a worthy and comfortable to use adversary in the best laptop for programming category. Even if you don’t go for the 10th-generation Intel Core configurations, you might still appreciate the fact that all models come with more storage capacity for the same price as their predecessors.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)
Michelle Rae Uy also contributed to this article.
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