Developing software and programming requires powerful, versatile laptops that can handle intensive workloads. With the right laptop, programmers can be more efficient in writing, testing, and debugging code, working with complex datasets, deploying machine learning models, managing virtual machines, as well as performing other demanding tasks. Here are the best laptops for programming, from high-end mobile workstations to versatile 2-in-1 convertibles.
- 1. Asus ROG Flow Z13 – Best Laptop for Programming
- 2. Dell XPS 15 – Perfect for Programming
- 3. Apple MacBook Pro – For iOS and macOS Developers
- 4. Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio – Design for Versatile Programming
- 5. Alienware m17 R5 – Laptop for Engineering Students
- 6. Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 5 – Lightweight Programming Laptop
- 7. HP ZBook Studio G9 – Suitable for Developers
The most important factors to consider when choosing the best laptop for programming include things such as the processor speed, the amount and speed of memory, the size and speed of storage, the display and graphics capabilities, the battery life, the portability, and the price.
1. Asus ROG Flow Z13 – Best Laptop for Programming
The latest ASUS ROG Flow Z13 2-in-1 laptop stands out with its combination of power and versatility. Packing an Intel Core i9 processor and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060 graphics into a svelte 2.6-pound convertible body is impressive. The 13.4-inch touch display is of high quality too at 16:10 aspect with 500 nits brightness.
Gaming and content creation on this machine must provide phenomenal experiences. The 165Hz refresh rate ensures smooth visuals while users work or play. And 16GB of fast LPDDR5 RAM means multi-tasking is effective whether used as a laptop or tablet.
However, the higher performance does come at a cost, with starting price being viewed as prohibitive by some consumers seeking affordable options. The 16GB RAM ceiling could also potentially cause issues for those fond of running multiple virtual machines or memory-intensive tasks. No LAN port is another limitation.
But for those prioritizing power, slim portability, and an excellent screen, this machine succeeds. Coders, creators, and gamers desiring elite performance in a versatile 2-in-1 will find much to appreciate in the ROG Flow Z13, in spite of constraints. For the right user, it remains a compelling high-end hybrid laptop prospect.
- Extremely powerful
- Convertible 2-in-1 design
- Brilliant 120Hz touch display
- Hyper-Threading enables multitasking
- Portable at 2.4 pounds
- Expensive starting price
- Limited to 16GB RAM
- No LAN port
Overall, the Asus ROG Flow Z13 stands out as one of the top options for coders who need a seriously powerful performance in an ultraportable 2-in-1 form factor. It starts at $1,799 making it a premium high-end choice. But you get what you pay for – the best laptop for coding with desktop-caliber specs weighing just 2.4 pounds.
2. Dell XPS 15 – Perfect for Programming
The Dell XPS 15 continues to be one of the best standard clamshell laptops for programming thanks to its sleek, lightweight chassis, beautiful nearly borderless display, and consistently great performance from Intel and Nvidia components.
Configuration options include 12th generation Intel Core i5, i7, and i9 processors, up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti dedicated graphics, up to 64GB DDR5 RAM, and up to 2TB PCIe NVMe SSD storage. Our recommended mid-tier configuration includes the Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, 16GB DDR5 RAM, and 512GB SSD which delivers excellent performance for most coding needs.
The 15.6-inch display has a 16:10 aspect ratio with tiny 2.5mm bezels, providing more vertical space for lines of code along with a 91.5% screen-to-body ratio. The base model includes a vivid Full HD+ resolution display but can be upgraded to a sharper 3K OLED touch panel.
At just 3.5 pounds and 0.71 inches thick, the aluminum and carbon fiber chassis is lightweight and portable. Dell also engineered an improved thermal design allowing the powerful components to sustain higher performance before throttling kicks in. The backlit keyboard feels snappy and responsive for typing out code all day.
- Great performance
- Gorgeous 16:10 display
- Lightweight premium build
- Comfortable backlit keyboard
- Up to 64GB RAM, 2TB SSD
- Webcam poorly placed
- Base screen merely Full HD
- Less versatile than 2-in-1
The Dell XPS 15 continues to earn our recommendation as one of the best traditional clamshell laptops for programming work. It starts at $2,119 making it more affordable than some alternatives with similar specs. Overall, the XPS 15 combines a premium design, vivid 16:10 displays, excellent performance hardware, and competitive pricing.
3. Apple MacBook Pro – For iOS and macOS Developers
The latest 16-inch MacBook Pro now offers even more power with the addition of Apple’s M2 Pro and M2 Max chips. These second-generation Apple silicon chips take the MacBook Pro’s performance to new heights.
The M2 Pro chip configuration includes a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU, while the M2 Max pumps things up even further with a 12-core CPU paired with a massive 38-core GPU. Both chips deliver dramatically improved processing speeds thanks to higher power efficiency from the 5nm process.
You can equip the M2 Pro and M2 Max models with up to 32GB of super-fast unified memory. Storage capacities range from 512GB up to a hefty 1TB of SSD space. The 16-core Neural Engine powers through machine learning tasks and workflows.
Visually, the stunning 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display leverages mini-LED backlighting for exceptional HDR brightness, contrast, and colors. The classic MacBook Pro design remains with three Thunderbolt 4 ports, full-size HDMI, SD card reader, headphone jack, and MagSafe charging.
With the addition of the M2 Pro and M2 Max chip options, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is better equipped than ever to handle intensive coding workloads like compiling massive codebases, running numerous virtual machines, training ML models, and manipulating giant databases effortlessly.
- Extreme CPU and GPU performance
- Up to 32GB fast unified memory
- Up to 1TB SSD capacity
- Brilliant Liquid Retina XDR display
- Superb battery life rating of up to 15 hours
- Very expensive, especially for max specs
- Limited to 32GB unified memory
- Not compatible with Windows via Bootcamp
- Port selection still lacking compared to the competition
The 16-inch MacBook Pro with M2 Pro and M2 Max spans a wide range of price points starting at $1,839 and going over $9000 when fully customized. There are many configuration factors that affect the final price, but expect to pay a premium for these top-of-the-line Apple silicon chips and specs specially designed for professional workflows which also make it the best laptop for engineering students.
4. Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio – Design for Versatile Programming
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio offers a uniquely versatile design for coders who want a laptop-tablet hybrid option. It features a dynamic woven hinge that allows adjusting the 14.4-inch touch display into different modes for productivity and creativity. You can position it like a traditional laptop, pull the screen forward to a stage mode for easier touch and pen input while keeping the keyboard open, or fold it flat like a tablet.
Under the hood, the Surface Laptop Studio is powered by 11th generation Intel Core H35 processors up to an i7-11370H combined with Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti discrete graphics, 32GB LPDDR4x RAM, and a speedy 2TB NVMe SSD. This hardware spec can easily handle demanding programming workflows and multitask-intensive IDEs without lag.
The PixelSense Flow 14.4-inch display has a fluid 120Hz high refresh rate with Dolby Vision support. At just 3.83 pounds and 0.746 inches thick, it is reasonably portable for a creative coding laptop. Developers will appreciate the ability to take handwritten notes and draw diagrams directly on the touch screen using the Surface Pen which comes included.
- Innovative hinge modes
- RTX 3050 Ti graphics performance
- Useful stylus for sketching
- 120Hz high refresh display
- Solid premium build quality
- Fairly heavy at 4 pounds
- 16:9 aspect ratio less ideal
- Pricey for hardware specs
Overall, the uniquely adaptable design combined with capable specs makes the Surface Laptop Studio the best windows laptop for programming for coders who like the freedom of using their device in different modes. It provides an exceptional stylus experience for programming creatively. Just be prepared for the higher cost which starts at $1,639.
5. Alienware m17 R5 – Laptop for Engineering Students
The Alienware m17 R5 AMD Advantage Edition brings top-tier AMD hardware and signature Alienware style to the table for engineers needing powerhouse performance and vivid visuals.
Inside this uniquely designed 17.3-inch gaming laptop lies an 8-core 16-thread AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX processor clocked at up to 4.9GHz paired with AMD’s impressive Radeon RX 6850M XT discrete graphics featuring 12GB of video memory. This AMD Advantage combo delivers desktop-class processing speeds, smooth high-fps gameplay, and the ability to chew through demanding developer workloads.
Configurable with up to 64GB of fast DDR5 RAM and 4TB PCIe NVMe SSD storage, the Alienware m17 R5 has the memory and capacity to handle massive projects and data sets. The 17.3-inch QHD display has an extremely fast 360Hz refresh rate and is rated for 500 nits brightness, providing fluid motion and vivid colors. The RGB backlit keyboard and programmable LED lighting allow customizing the distinctive Alienware aesthetics.
Despite its gaming DNA, this Alienware laptop provides excellent performance for professional developers needing to compile code quickly, run multiple virtual machines, train machine learning models, or work with 3D engines and huge assets.
- Powerful AMD Ryzen and Radeon hardware
- Colorful and fun Alienware aesthetic
- Fast 360Hz QHD display
- Great performance for gaming and coding
- Bulky and heavy
- Very expensive pricing
- Loud fans underload
The AMD Ryzen and Radeon hardware competes with top-tier Intel and Nvidia configurations. If you want a powerful, eye-catching Windows laptop capable of both gaming and serious coding workloads, the m17 R5 AMD Advantage Edition delivers. Just be prepared for the higher price tag starting around $1,799.
6. Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 5 – Lightweight Programming Laptop
The latest Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 5 brings impressive power in an ultraportable 3.99-pound package making it the best programming laptop for people who are frequently on the go. This model can now be configured with up to 12th-generation Intel Core i9 processors for optimal single and multi-threaded performance in compiling code or running intensive developer workflows.
GPU options include the NVIDIA RTX A1000 laptop graphics which provide plenty of muscle for 3D rendering, CAD software, game engines, and ML training workloads. With the ability to equip up to 64GB of DDR5 RAM and 2TB of speedy PCIe NVMe solid-state storage, the ThinkPad P1 Gen 5 has headroom for massive programs and data sets.
The 16-inch display retains the handy 16:10 aspect ratio and offers a 2560×1600 resolution providing additional vertical real estate for lines of code. Despite its slim size, Lenovo still incorporates the comfortable ThinkPad keyboard, durable carbon fiber construction, E-CAM security features, and MIL-SPEC testing that makes these laptops enterprise favorites.
- Impressively thin and light
- Latest 12th-gen Intel and RTX graphics
- Signature ThinkPad keyboard and durability
- Expensive configuration pricing
- 16:10 display still limited to 2560×1600 resolution
- Battery life is capped at around 6 hours
With excellent configurations now powered by 12th gen Intel and RTX graphics, while weighing under 4 pounds, the latest ThinkPad P1 Gen 5 hits a sweet spot for coders who want productivity on the go without compromising performance. Just be prepared to pay the premium ThinkPad pricing starting at around $3,000.
7. HP ZBook Studio G9 – Suitable for Developers
The brand new HP ZBook Studio G9 takes the customizable high-end performance of previous ZBook models to the next level with the latest 12th Gen Intel and NVIDIA RTX hardware specifications specially geared for professional power users.
Inside the redesigned chassis, you can equip a 12th Gen Intel Core or Xeon processor with up to 14 cores and 20 threads enabling blazing fast single and multi-threaded compute speeds for chewing through intensive workloads.
NVIDIA RTX graphics options include the A1000, A2000, A3000, A4000, up to the top-tier A5500. With up to 64GB ECC memory and 4TB PCIe NVMe SSD storage capacity, this machine has room for massive datasets.
The 17.3-inch 4K display impresses with an ultra-bright 600 nit rating and a buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate. OLED technology enables incredible 1,000,000:1 contrast for vivid images and deep blacks. At 3.79 pounds, the aluminum chassis provides durability while maintaining reasonable portability. For coders with high demands, few laptops can compete with the raw firepower and customization potential of the ZBook Studio G9.
- Massive configuration options
- Vibrant 120Hz 4K OLED display
- Excellent expansion & ports
- Extremely expensive fully loaded
- Large and heavy chassis
- Overkill for many coders
Whether you need to train enormous machine learning models, run complex simulations and analyses, or build cutting-edge AAA video games, this mobile workstation has the performance to handle it. Its starting price is around $2,800. But for those who need the best, the ZBook Studio G9 delivers.
There are many excellent laptop options programmers can choose from in 2023 based on their specific needs and budget. The laptops discussed here provide great performance, displays, battery life, and versatility for coding workloads. Consider factors like portability, power, memory capacity, graphics capabilities, and OS to select the best laptops for programming needs.
Models like the Asus ROG Flow Z13 or Dell XPS 15 offer great all-around choices, while top-tier workstations like the HP ZBook Studio G9 deliver desktop-level performance for those who need it. With the ideal programming laptop that fits your requirements, you can boost your productivity and take your code to the next level.