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The best laptops for programming in 2022

Included in this guide:

Best laptops for programming: laptop on desk with coding on screen
(Image credit: Clément Hélardot on Unsplash)

The best laptops for programming are armed with plenty of plenty of power, allowing you to create, compile and test out your code quickly and easily. So the top devices will come with a modern processor either from Intel or AMD, or if you're buying a new MacBook for programming on, Apple.

Apple has been using its own M1 chips to power its MacBooks since 2020, and it has proved to be an excellent bit of hardware for programmers. Apple has also improved on the M1 chip with the more powerful M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, which can be found in the new MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) and MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) models which have recently launched. These chips are even better for coding with, making these new MacBooks some of the best laptops for programming we've ever tested.

As well as a modern CPU, you want a laptop with plenty of RAM to help you multitask. While coding itself in an integrated development environment (IDE) application doesn't require that much computing power, the more powerful the laptop you use, better it will be at compiling complex projects. By speeding up your workflow, you can spend more time programming (or taking on more projects) and less time waiting around.

The best laptops for programming should also have large high resolution screens that are comfortable to work on for long periods of time. The higher the resolution, the more code you can see at once, which cuts down on scrolling.

A great laptop for coding will also come with a brilliant keyboard that's comfortable and responsive, as you're going to be typing out a lot of code on it. Also, if you're doing game development, then you'll want a laptop that can play your game while you test it, so a laptop with a graphics card is worth considering.

Also, it's a good idea to complement your laptop with some top accessories too. Check out our guides to the best keyboard, the best mouse and best monitor.

The best laptops for programming available now

Best laptops for programming: MacBook Pro 16-Inch (2021) against a white backgroundcb badge

(Image credit: Apple)

The best laptop for programming in 2022

Specifications
CPU: Apple M1 Pro 10-core – M1 Max 10-core
Graphics: Integrated 16-core – 32-core GPU
RAM: Up to 64GB
Screen: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
Storage: Up to 8TB
Reasons to buy
+Extremely long battery life+Powerful
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Apple's large MacBook Pro 16-inch is the best laptop for programming money can buy right now. Replacing the Intel-powered model from 2019, the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) comes with a choice of Apple's powerful M1 Pro or M1 Max chips, and these make short work of compiling and running even the most complex code.

Not only does the MacBook Pro 16-inch compile code quickly, it's powerful enough to run you code in test environments, including emulated devices that allow you to see how your game or program works on a variety of products. We were incredibly impressed with how xCode performed on the MacBook Pro 16-inch, so if you're a developer who specialises in Mac or iOS apps, then this is a brilliant choice. 

The large 16-inch screen is gorgeous, and makes looking at pages of code comfortable, and the ProMotion adaptive refresh rate means scrolling through code is smooth and responsive. The improved keyboard is another massive boost to this laptop's coding ability, as it's the incredible battery life that will allow you to keep coding throughout the day without needing to plug it in.

Want to know more? Read our in-depth MacBook Pro 16-inch review.

Two Dell XPS 15 laptops back to back with their screens openCB endorsed

(Image credit: Dell)

02. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

The best Windows laptop for programming overall

Specifications
CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics - Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti
RAM: 8GB – 64GB
Screen: 15.6" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS - UHD+ (3840 x 2400)
Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Fast performance+Eye-catching design
Reasons to avoid
-GTX 1650 Ti is a little weak-15-inch screen might be too large for some

The Dell XPS 15 (2020) is in our view the best laptop for programming right now for people who want a Windows 10 (or Windows 11) laptop. As with previous XPS laptops, this 15-inch beauty combines a stunning design, excellent build quality and some of the most powerful mobile components you'll find in a laptop.

It's thin and light, which not only means this looks and feels like a premium laptop for programming on, but it's also comfortable to carry around with you as well. It's high resolution 15.6-inch display is great for working on, and with high-end processors (and even graphics cards in some configurations), the Dell XPS 15 can compile code incredibly fast – making it ideal for programmers. Plus, if you go for a model with a GPU by Nvidia, you can test out your games while coding them.

Perhaps best of all, its battery life is excellent, which means you don't have to be tethered to a desk if you want to use this powerful laptop.

MacBook Pro 14 against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)

The best laptop for programming with a smaller screen

Specifications
CPU: Apple M1 Pro 8-core – M1 Max 10-core
Graphics: Integrated 14-core – 32-core GPU
RAM: Up to 64GB
Screen: 14-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
Storage: Up to 8TB
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant performance+Best screen on a laptop
Reasons to avoid
-Screen may be a bit small for some

While some coders may find having a larger 16-inch or 17-inch screen on their laptop makes programming more comfortable, other people may find those laptops too big and bulky to easily carry around. So, the new 14-inch MacBook Pro is a great choice for anyone who wants a powerful laptop for programming on that's also more easily portable.

It's powered by a choice of either the new M1 Pro or M1 Max Apple chips, which are the same that come with the 16-inch model, and that means it offers a similar level of performance to the bigger laptop. So, if you want an incredibly powerful laptop for programming, but want something that's easily portable, then you can pick this laptop without sacrificing performance.

The smaller size doesn't mean it misses out on the new design elements Apple added to the 16-inch model, as it comes with the same amount of ports, including an SD card slot, an HDMI port, and three Thunderbolt 4 ports.

Also read: MacBook Pro 14-inch review

Macbook Air with the M1 chip, facing forwards with the screen open and a colourful desktop showingcb badge

(Image credit: Apple)

A renewed laptop for programming

Specifications
CPU: Apple M1 (8-core)
Graphics: Integrated 7-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 Retina True Tone display (backlit LED, IPS)
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Super fast and responsive+Good price
Reasons to avoid
-Same design as previous model-Fanless

After a much-needed refresh, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) brought a number of great updates that make it one of the best laptops for programming.

While the 14-inch MacBook Pro (also on this list) is more powerful, the thinner and lighter (and more affordable) MacBook Air now comes with the same Apple-made M1 chip as the the Pro, which means it's no slouch when it comes to programming.

Best of all, the new MacBook Air is the same price as the previous model, so you're getting a noticeable boost in performance and battery life for no extra money!

The power of the M1 chip speeds up the time it takes to compile code – which will have a big impact on your workflow. The new MacBook Air is also as portable as ever, with a seriously lightweight design that makes it easy to carry around with you - and perfect for programmers who do a lot of travelling. 

The M1 chip isn't just powerful – it's also efficient – which means the new MacBook Air has a brilliant battery life as well. Find out more in our full MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review

LG Gram 17 (2021) thin and light laptop with the screen open, showing Windows 10 interface

(Image credit: LG)

05. LG Gram 17 (2021)

The best large-screen laptop for programming

Specifications
CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i7
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 Series
RAM: Up to 64GB
Storage: 1TB SSD
Size: 381 x 261 x 17.78mm
Weight: 1.35 g
OS: Windows 10
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly light+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Not the best touchpad

If you're after a large-screen laptop to do your coding on, then the LG Gram 17 (2021) is the perfect choice. It has a gorgeous screen that's high resolution and large, giving you plenty of workspace. However, this is a laptop that proves you don't have to sacrifice portability and comfort for screen size, as it's impressively light. This means you can comfortably carry it around with you – perfect for anyone who travels a lot.

It's also got one of the best battery lives we've seen in a Windows 10 laptop, mainly thanks to the new Intel 11th generation hardware that's powering this new laptop for 2021. So, you can work anywhere you like, safe in the knowledge that the battery will easily last you a whole work day – and longer.

MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) with the screen open showing a colourful macOS background

(Image credit: Apple)

A brilliantly powerful laptop for programming on

Specifications
CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory
Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 LED-backlit Retina display
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Dimensions (H x W x D): 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56 cm
Reasons to buy
+Huge battery life+Great performance
Reasons to avoid
-Still lacks ports

The this MacBook Pro from last year remains a brilliant laptop for programming on. It features Apple's own M1 chip, like the new MacBook Air, and this allows it to run apps with ease, and compile code quickly.

It'll run your programming tools without any issues, and it comes with the Touch Bar across the top of the keyboard, giving you quick access to tools and shortcuts, and can dramatically speed up your workflow.

Perhaps best of all, it comes with an improved keyboard that's not just more reliable than the previous model's keyboard, but is also much more comfortable to work on.

The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) also boasts an incredibly long battery life. We've tested it ourselves and it's seriously impressive, allowing you to work all day and still have battery life left. It's not as powerful as the newer MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch models, but it's more affordable, making it a great purchase for many programmers.

Also read: MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) review

Surface Laptop 4 with desktop wallpaper and white background

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows programming on Microsoft’s own hardware

Specifications
CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 /AMD Ryzen 5 - 7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe / AMD Radeon
RAM: 8GB – 32GB
Screen: 13.5-inch PixelSense (2,256 x 1,504) touch
Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable keyboard+Beautiful screen
Reasons to avoid
-Not enough ports-Alcantara fabric might get gross over time

If you're a programmer working on Windows 10 apps in particular, then the Surface Laptop 4 could be the best laptop for you. As it's made by Microsoft, this is a brilliant showcase for Windows 10, so you can be sure your Windows apps run perfectly on the operating system. With Windows 11 now out, you can upgrade for free, and as you'd expect from a Microsoft device, the new operating system works brilliantly on it.

This recent model comes with a choice of new 11th generation Intel Core processors, or AMD's finest mobile CPUs, as well as up to 32 GB and a speedy SSD, which makes this an excellent laptop for even most intense of programming tasks.

Best of all, it has one of the longest battery lives we've seen in a laptop, which allows you to work out and about without worrying about being plugged into a wall socket.

(Image credit: HP)

08. HP Spectre x360 (2021)

The best 2-in-1 laptop for programming

Specifications
CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3" FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS BrightView micro-edge WLED-backlit multitouch – 13.3" diagonal 4K (3840 x 2160) UWVA BrightView micro-edge AMOLED multitouch
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Powerful Intel Whiskey Lake processors+12-hour battery life
Reasons to avoid
-More powerful than some users will need

The HP Spectre x360 (2021) 2-in-1 laptop had a big refresh for 2021, and now packs some of the most impressive mobile hardware money can buy right now. This means new 11th-generation Intel Core processors, along with Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, which makes the HP Spectre x360 an absolute beast when it comes to programming.

It's not just a powerful programming laptop, it's gorgeous as well, with a 2-in-1 design and gem-cut body that's thin, light and easily portable.

It's got a great battery life, so you can comfortably work on it all day without worrying about having to plug it in. The 2-in-1 design means you can use it like a traditional laptop, but you can then fold the screen back and use it as a tablet as well. It offers a level of versatility that many of the other devices on this list lack.

Two Dell Inspiron 14 5000 laptops, one with the screen open showing a photo of the beach, the other one is closed

09. Dell Inspiron 14 5000

A great laptop for programming if you're on a budget

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5-8265U (quad core, 3.9GHz Max Turbo Boost)
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForceR MX150 2GB GDDR5
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD
Size: 32.4x23.2x1.9cm
Weight: 1.48kg
OS: Windows 10
Reasons to buy
+Well specced and well priced+Excellent screen
Reasons to avoid
-Upgrade to Core i7 and SSD shrinks to 128GB-Not particularly powerful for 3D

The Dell Inspiron 14 5000 is a great all-round laptop for programming, and it costs a lot less than many of the laptops on this list, but without skimping on features or performance.

So, it's got a high resolution Full HD display, a quad-core processor and fast SSD storage, all of which means this is a dependable laptop that will keep up with any of your demands while you're programming.

Sure, it doesn't boast the premium style of its more expensive competitors, but if you're on a tight budget, and you want a laptop that will do everything that you need it to, and you don't care about visual flair or features that you're never going to use in your day-to-day programming, then this is definitely a laptop worth considering.

Lenovo ThinkPad P1 laptop open with the desktop showing

(Image credit: Lenovo)

10. Lenovo ThinkPad P1 (Gen 2)

Professional-grade premium performance

Specifications
CPU: Six Core Intel Core i7 / Xeon
Graphics: Nvidia Quadro T1000-T2000
RAM: 8-64GB
Storage: 256GB-4TB
Size: 36.2x24.6x17mm
Weight: From 1.7kg
OS: Windows 10 Home / Pro
Reasons to buy
+Incredible performance in a slim chassis+One of the best displays on a laptop
Reasons to avoid
-Wired ethernet has shifted to a new ‘mini’ standard-Not vastly cheaper than Apple’s premium models

If you're after a laptop to take your programming to another level, then the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 is worth considering.

This seriously powerful workstation laptop offers professional-grade Xeon processors, with up to six cores, an Nvidia Quadro T2000 graphics card and up to 64GB of memory.

You can stuff it with up to 4TB of nVME SSD storage, and opt for a 15.6-inch 4K display that’s not only touch-sensitive but colour-accurate too. It’s a great general-purpose workstation, capable of all kinds of visual design work and heavy lifting processor-intensive tasks. 

Of course, it works great for coding as well. That’s partly thanks to Lenovo’s excellent keyboard design, but in general, the ThinkPad P1 is superbly built, including a semi-rugged chassis that can survive light knocks, and a very healthy selection of ports.

Best laptops for programming: What to look for

Programming can be done on many different types of machines but many programmers want something more than just a basic laptop. While you don't necessarily need a powerhouse of a laptop to code on, if you need to compile your code, and test out the games you're working on, for example, then you'll want a laptop with plenty of RAM and a modern multi-core processor. They are able to compile code much more quickly. And, the less time you have to spend waiting for your laptop to complete complex tasks, the more time you have to do other things – such as take on more projects.

Screen size is really important when selecting one of the best laptops for programming. You'll get more on a 15-inch screen than a smaller one, for example, so it's easier to read through code and make GUI adjustments. Of course, with a bigger display you sacrifice portability. 

Also consider getting an Intel Core i5 processor as a minimum – that level of power isn't exceptional but it will guarantee you enough performance, especially if you're doing things like working with complex website layouts that have a lot of background code. Large, complex programs compile faster with a faster processor.

Graphics can also be key depending on the development work you're doing. If you're working with game development in an environment such as Unreal Engine or Unity then you need to consider the graphical requirements of those apps. Don't miss our round up of the best graphics cards if this is something you might need. 

And remember it's a good idea to use an operating system that's aligned with your goals. Want to develop in Xcode for the iPhone, iPad and Mac? Then you're going to need a Mac.

Plus, the faster your laptop can compile code, the less time you'll be spending waiting around, and that can mean you're more productive, and are able to take on more projects.

The best laptops for programming are essential tools for any developer that wants a powerful machine to work on, while also being portable enough that they can take it out and about with them, and work almost anywhere.

Meanwhile, you may also want to see our guide to the best laptops for Photoshop and best laptops for graphic design.

How much RAM do I need for coding?

If you're looking for a laptop for coding on, then you'll want to make sure it comes with plenty of RAM. The more RAM a laptop has, the better it is at multitasking, so you can have multiple apps running at once.

It'll also help you compile your code quickly, while also letting you test and run your apps and games. The faster you can do this, the more productive you'll be.

So, we recommend at least 8GB of RAM for coding on a laptop, but ideally you should go for 16GB, or if your budget can stretch to it, 32GB. That's only necessary for seriously heavy workloads, however.

Read more:

A veteran from the days of the 8-bit ZX Spectrum, Orestis is always interested in the fastest, slickest way to make computers do new and exciting things.