The right gear makes all the difference. When you spend entire days writing code and crafting programs, you need a capable laptop to support your work. A speedy machine with enough RAM and sufficient computing power to compile your programs will make your days a breeze.

Getting the right laptop becomes even more important when you also spend time pursuing a higher degree in computer science. You will be running simulations, playing with data, and completing complex course assignments alongside writing great apps.

So, which laptops should you get if you are an advanced programmer? In this article, we are going to take a look at a few options that can handle it all. Let’s get started, shall we?

MacBook Air M1

We really cannot talk about top-performing laptops for programming without talking about the new Apple MacBook Air M1. Apple’s attempt at making its own chip turned out to be a surprise for everyone. The M1 chip performs significantly better than any Intel or AMD offerings in the same price bracket.

The MacBook Air M1 offers the best balance between performance, features, and price. The laptop itself is very compact and easy to carry. The keyboard is a lot better than last generation MacBook Pros and Airs. The screen is also vibrant and pleasant to use.

The real highlight of the MacBook Air M1 is its performance when used as a daily driver. You can use applications like Termius or Nova to write complex code, perform compiles and debugging routines, and even run your own LAMP stack locally without the laptop ever running out of juice.

If you are not afraid about voiding your warranty, you can also mod the MacBook Air M1 to get a performance that matches the MacBook Pro M1. You only need to add two layers of thermal pads to the chipset area to unlock extra performance; it’s a very cheap upgrade that is worth doing.

Dell XPS 17

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Dell XPS 17. This is a laptop that can be used as a desktop replacement thanks to its large screen size. It also offers plenty of headroom in terms of performance, plus it is still relatively compact enough to travel with.

In fact, the Dell XPS 17 looks more like a 15-inch laptop than a traditional 17-inch machine. The slim bezel and compact form factor make this laptop a lot smaller than you might expect. Dell pairs the 10th Generation Intel Core i9-10885H with NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6 with Max-Q.

What does that mean? The combination translates to a laptop that can run compilers as smoothly as it can run AAA games. You can switch between writing code and playing MMO games with a simple CTRL+Tab, all while keeping multiple Chrome tabs and other productivity apps open.

Power is never an issue with the Dell XPS 17. The real challenge is battery life. Under normal load, the laptop has a 12-hour battery life. If you play games or use graphic-intensive software, however, that battery life gets cut in half.

Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen-2

The next laptop on our list is a heavy hitter. An Intel XEON processor and an Nvidia Quadro T-series GPU power this laptop; that combination alone sets the laptop apart from its competition. Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen-2 is also very slim but with incredible cooling performance.

Despite the multi-core enterprise processor and capable 3D graphics, ThinkPad P1 is still very portable. You will certainly admire the 15.6-inch 4k screen on this device. It is a touchscreen, so you have multiple input options when coding.

The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 is classified as a workstation rather than a productivity laptop. And just with other ThinkPad laptops, you get Lenovo’s excellent keyboard and an accurate trackpad. For longer coding sessions, the crisp keyboard is a huge plus.

One last defining feature of this laptop is its storage. You can have up to 4TB of ultra-fast nVME SSD for all your files. You can also upgrade the RAM on this machine to 64GB, and you get Windows 10 Pro taking advantage of the laptop’s superb hardware.

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo

Last but certainly not least, we have the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo. This is a rather unique laptop because it incorporates two screens. The top screen is a 15.6-inch beauty. The lower screen doubles as a touch input, but it is smaller than the main screen.

If you are pursuing a top Computer Science masters degree such as the one from Baylor University, you will appreciate the dual-screen setup. You can have one screen showing your programming references and a set of code editors on the lower screen.

The dual-screen setup is also very handy because Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo packs an incredible punch. It has the Intel Core i9-10980HK CPU and a capable NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 GPU. You can throw any software at this laptop and the Zephyrus Duo will run it with ease.

The only drawback is the keyboard and trackpad layout. The keyboard layout is slightly different, so you will need some time adjusting to it. The trackpad is positioned on the right side of the keyboard rather than on the bottom, but you can always pick up a Bluetooth mouse for better comfort.

Which One to Get?

So, which of these laptops are the best for programming? Whether you are a professional or a programming student, you cannot go wrong with any of them. The MacBook Air M1 is best for those seeking portability, while the Zephyrus Duo offers the best overall performance.

The two in the middle, the XPS 17 and the ThinkPad P1, are geared towards different user segments. The Dell XPS 17 offers a good balance between performance and portability, while the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 focuses more on the performance side of things.

Either way, you will end up with a laptop that gives you a superb coding experience every time. Once you choose a laptop, you can expand your setup by adding a Bluetooth mouse, a set of external SSDs for your data, and software that will make coding as easy as it gets.


Sumit is a Tech and Gadget freak and loves writing about Android and iOS, his favourite past time is playing video games.

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