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How to Pick a Laptop for Programming 


Do different laptops serve different needs? The answer is yes. Indeed, there are many laptop options available today, but not all of them are built for the same purpose. Some are good for basic office use, while others are good for design work and yet others are ideal for programming and development. If you belong to the latter category and are looking for a laptop for coding and creating, it will help you if you are more discerning about your device.


Especially in light of the plethora of options available today, the one-size-fits-all argument does not work now. If anything, the confusion can be overwhelming. Shared below are some key criteria one ought to keep in mind before getting a laptop for programming:

a) Processing Power (CPU)

A laptop’s processing power refers to its ability to manipulate data. Easily among the most important criteria to watch out for. In effect, a laptop’s CPU indicates the performance it is capable of offering you so there’s no way you should compromise on this. Don’t ignore the detailed specifications and consider it a wise investment of your time to look at these closely. Cache size, number of cores, frequency, and thermal design power are some of the specs you absolutely need to examine before making your purchase. Usually, an Intel core i5 or i7 processor with a frequency of 3GHz or more works well for most web developers.


b) Memory (RAM)
Random-access memory or RAM is a form of computer memory that can be read and changed in any order and is typically used to store working data and machine code. For web developers, a minimum of 4GB of RAM is needed today and even that is a conservative estimate. Ideally, it should be 8GB RAM or even better is 16 GB RAM which will be perfect for when you work with high RAM consuming electron apps.

c) Screen / Display
Yet another prominent feature, especially for programmers. Building websites and applications entails looking at the screen for long periods and this is why screen becomes a key criterion. Budget laptops usually have a 1366 x 768 display, but these are not the ideal dimensions web developers seek. The display doesn’t have enough screen space for multitasking and the text isn’t big enough to make it an easy read either.That said, a 4k display is too much for a laptop, not to mention the extra cost and the battery drain that it will cause.

This means that a good laptop must have, at the very least, a Full HD 1920 x 1080 (1080p) display.


d) Keyboard
Just like your screen, this is a component that you’ll depend on all through. If possible, try out a laptop’s keyboard before you buy it so you get an idea if the keys are comfortable to type code on for long hours. Additionally, a back-lit keyboard is a good idea for those working in a low-light setup.


e) Battery
Even if you spend most of your time near a power outlet, a laptop should have at least 6 hours of battery life. It is recommended to read third party reviews from known experts to get an idea about the laptop’s actual battery life and not just what’s claimed by the makers.

g) Portability
Portability or mobility is a key factor for those who are often on the move. If you don’t need to carry your laptop around, a 15-inch laptop is something you must consider. Typically, these have better specifications and their bigger screen size means you have more screen estate for multitasking. However, if your work takes you to different places rather often, a 13 or 14-inch laptop is a better option for you since they are lighter and usually have longer battery life. And a touchscreen may seem quite useful at the outset but from a programming POV, it is more of an unnecessary expense.


h) Storage type and capacity

An SSD will deliver a performance much better than a standard hard drive.
From starting the OS and compiling code to launching apps and loading projects, any task can be done much faster with an SSD (Solid State Drive). This is why getting one is a priority for any developer/ programmer. Do not go for anything less than a 256GB SSD; of course, the more GB the better it is. So a 512GB or 1TB SSD is obviously way better. But if cost is a deterrent, you could get a smaller SSD for storing your Operating System (OS), apps and key documents and you could store the remaining stuff on a larger external hard drive.

You can buy a decent laptop for gaming and other uses for a fraction of the price when you choose to get a refurbished computer. Fully functional refurbished Macbook Pros are available for a lower price tag online. The caveat is that you must find a reliable supplier that offers a money-back guarantee and warranty in case something is wrong with the device. The good news is that you can easily find such suppliers online.

In addition to the above criteria, one can opt for an integrated graphics card for one’s laptop since programmers do not really need a dedicated graphics card.

And what about programming aspirants or students? Suchin Ravi, lead instructor at YoungWonks,  a leading online coding program for kids aged 8-18, says that students should look to strike a good balance when looking for a laptop for learning programming.  “I would recommend a minimum of 8GB of RAM, an i5 or equivalent (or better) processor. An SSD would greatly speed things up. In terms of OS, for most things you can work with Windows, Mac or Linux. Web development by itself is not a very resource intensive area of work so the above configuration should suffice,” he says. However, he adds that at YoungWonks as students go to the higher levels and get into heavier things like mobile app development and ML/AI, they will greatly benefit from having more RAM and a good GPU (minimum 2GB). “They would almost be necessary to have reasonable compile and runtimes,” he emphasises.

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