If you want to tackle coding and programming tasks then you need a good laptop to get the job done.
It’s no good buying without doing your research, though, because you’ll probably spend too much on a laptop that just isn’t suitable – some of the fantastic devices in our best laptops for students or laptops for photo editing guides will be rubbish for coding, and vice versa.
There’s plenty to consider if you want a top-tier coding or programming laptop: it needs a powerful processor, plenty of memory, reliable connectivity and a great screen. It’s also worth thinking about battery life and portability if you’re going to work on the road – and you need to ensure that any new coding laptop has a comfortable keyboard.
It’s undoubtedly a lot to think about, which is why we’ve picked out ten of the best laptops for coding and programming. The rigs we’ve chosen can satisfy every budget and every programming task.
We’ve got plenty of other coding content, too, including an explanation of the difference between coding vs programming, a beginner’s guide on how to learn to code, and a guide to the best online coding courses.
Best laptops for coding & programming
Professionals have long favored Apple’s machines, and that remains true with the MacBook Pro 16 – it ticks every box required for high-end programming.
Apple’s 10-core M1 Pro processor is a powerhouse. Combine that with the 32GB of memory and the 16-core graphics chip and you’ve got a machine that will handle any programming situation, from complex coding and compiling to running virtual machines. The battery easily lasts a full day, too.
The Liquid Retina XDR is sensational. Its 3456 x 2234 native resolution and 1000-nit brightness level means everything looks gorgeous, and you’ve got the width and on-screen space to spread work around.
The keyboard is crisp and comfortable, so it’s well-suited for all-day typing, and this machine has an SD card slot, three Thunderbolt ports and Magsafe power connectivity. It looks superb, and it’s got rock-solid build quality.
Downsides are minimal. Some people won’t like the camera notch, and the MacBook is a little heavier than many other productivity portables. There’s no HDMI 2.1. It’s expensive, too: the model we reviewed costs $2,899/£2,799. Pricing starts at $2,499/£2,399, and the cost can easily soar beyond $3,000/ £3,000.
This is the sort of laptop that will last for years, though, and it’s an unbeatable programming machine.
Dell’s XPS machines are the firm’s answer to Apple’s MacBook Pro, so it’s no surprise that the Dell XPS 15 is impressive. It looks fantastic, with a robust aluminum body, and its keyboard is comfortable and fast – ideal for long days of typing.
On the inside, the XPS is available with Intel Core i7 and Core i9 processors. Both are excellent: the Core i7 chip can easily tackle most mainstream programming situations, while the Core i9 part is well-suited to running virtual machines and emulated environments too.
It’s easy enough to upgrade this machine with more memory and storage, and you even get a modest Nvidia GPU for extra graphical grunt in content-creation tools. And while the Dell XPS 15 is not cheap, prices start at £1,999 / $2,299 for a notebook with a high-resolution screen, so it’s more affordable than a MacBook.
The XPS is available with three screens: two IPS models and one OLED panel. For programming, we’d recommend the higher-resolution IPS or OLED displays, which are both excellent. They’ve got 16:10 aspect ratios, which deliver extra vertical space, and the slightly wayward color accuracy doesn’t impact on programming.
Elsewhere, the XPS 15 has enough battery life to make it through your working day. And while it does have a couple of Thunderbolt ports and an SD card slot, there’s no HDMI output and no full-size USB connectivity.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is a great laptop for programming if you want a stylish, lightweight device with great battery life and a touchscreen.
The 15-inch version is our preferred choice, and there’s lots to like: the 3:2 display has a high resolution, impressive quality, and top-notch compatibility with Microsoft’s excellent Surface Pen.
The soft keyboard is comfortable, and the exterior is robust enough to handle life on the road. The Surface’s body is only 14.7mm thick and it only weighs 1.54kg, so it’s lighter than most 15-inch productivity laptops, and its battery life stretches beyond twelve hours. The only downside is a lack of ports.
On the inside, the 15-inch model comes with AMD Ryzen 7 and Intel Core i7 processors. They’re low-power chips, but they can still handle mainstream processing. The AMD chip is better than the Intel part, so stick with that, and bear in mind that there’s no dedicated graphics.
Prices start at a reasonable $899/£799 for the 13.5-inch base model, though we’d recommend you go for the 15-inch AMD Ryzen 7 configuration which will set you back a bit more at $1,699/£1,649, so the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is cheaper than its beefier rivals. It’s great if you need programming power away from the house.
The HP Envy x360 13 is the cheapest machine in this round-up, with prices that almost always duck under $1,000/£1,000. For that money you can pick from a wide array of AMD and Intel processors, but we’d always recommend AMD Ryzen 7 chips with 16GB of memory – those are superb choices for programming, even if full-power laptop chips offer a bit more pace.
The HP is the only convertible in this group, too, adding another dimension to this notebook. Swing its 360-degree hinge around and use the included stylus and you can deploy this machine as a tablet.
The HP’s lightweight body and 13.3-inch display means it’s easy to carry this machine around, and it has a reasonable port selection and a fast, comfortable keyboard. You’ll get between nine and eleven hours of battery life, so it’ll last through most working days.
Bear in mind, though, that the lower price does mean some compromises. You can’t go beyond 16GB of memory or 512GB of SSD space, and there’s no discrete graphics. And while the 1080p display is fine for everyday programming, it’s easily bettered elsewhere.
Despite that, there’s loads to like: the Envy is affordable, well-built, and fast enough for mainstream programming, so it’s a great mid-range choice.
The Apple MacBook Pro’s 16-inch model might be our favorite programming portable, but its smaller stablemate is fantastic too – especially if you need to code on the road.
The MacBook Pro 13 only weighs 1.4kg and it’s slim, so you’ll barely notice it in your bag. On the inside, Apple’s smallest MacBook Pro has an M1 chip with eight cores, and it’s an excellent bit of silicon with ample power for mainstream programming workloads. It compiles quickly, it’s a capable multi-tasker, and it’s especially good for Mac OS and iOS developers.
Apple’s 13.3-inch display has a 2560 x 1600 resolution, which means crisp imagery for programming tasks, and it’s got bright, bold colors. Fifteen-hour battery life means you can program for your working day and both commutes. This machine has a comfortable keyboard, and the customizable Touch Bar adds another layer of usefulness.
This smaller MacBook Pro isn’t available with more than 16GB of memory, so high-end programmers may look elsewhere. Connectivity is limited, too – this notebook only a headphone jack and a couple of Thunderbolt ports.
Those issues and the MacBook’s size mean it won’t work as a main machine for most programmers, but it can tackle programming on the road – so it’s an ideal secondary option. If you want the 16GB model, prepare to pay at least $1,499/£1,499.
There’s always a more extreme choice if you want a lightweight laptop for programming on the move: The Apple MacBook Air. This notebook only weighs 1.29kg and it’s barely half an inch thick, so it’s never going to weigh you down.
Remarkably, Apple has still found room inside the Air for an M1 processor. That’s impressive – combine that with 16GB of memory and you’ve got the power to handle any mainstream programming task, even if the fanless design here means that the MacBook Pro 13 maintains high-end speeds for longer.
The reliably quick internals are paired with a responsive keyboard and a typically great screen. The 13.3-inch diagonal might not deliver loads of space, but the 2560 x 1600 resolution means everything is crisp. Expect eleven hours of battery life from this machine.
Apple’s slimmest machine is tiny, powerful, and robust. For a 16GB model you’ll have to pay £1,199 / $1,199, so it’s not ruinously expensive either. Negatively, you can’t make big memory upgrades, and the Air only has two Thunderbolt ports.
Still, the Air is a top choice if you want a powerful programming laptop that’s as light as possible. Be aware, though, that the MacBook Pro 13 has better battery life and more storage upgrade options, and is only slightly larger
The Alienware x14 is a gaming laptop, but don’t let that put you off if you need a small notebook for coding – it’s sturdy and enormously powerful.
It’s equipped with impressive Intel Core i5-12500H or i7-12700H processors – the former is well-suited for mainstream coding while the latter handles tougher jobs – and can be configured with large SSDs and either 16 GB or 32 GB of memory.
Alienware’s rig has a fast, crisp keyboard and its sturdy chassis has Thunderbolt 4 ports, full-size USB connectors and a microSD card slot. Its webcam has Windows Hello facial recognition, and the entire device weighs just 3.94 lbs (1.79 kg) and is 0.57 in (14.5 mm) thick – so it won’t take up much space.
The 1080 p display isn’t large, but it has ample quality for indoor and outdoor work and a 144 Hz refresh rate for gaming – a fine partner for an Nvidia GeForce GPU.
The Alienware’s gaming pedigree does mean you get middling battery life – expect five hours. The trackpad isn’t very big. And the x14 isn’t cheap, either: the entry-level models cost $1,499 / £1,549, but you’ll have to pay at least $1,599 / £1,905 for a Core i7 processor.
There’s always a price on compact design, though, and if you’ve got the cash then the Alienware x14 delivers great programming performance in a small, sturdy design.
The Spectre is one of the best-looking laptops we’ve seen for ages, and it’s got a specification to match its stunning alloy exterior.
The good-looking, robust chassis contains a 16 in OLED touchscreen that delivers incredible quality alongside a 4K-busting resolution. The convertible design means this rig can work as a laptop, tented screen or tablet – and the HP comes with a top-notch stylus.
Those features add versatility, and there’s plenty to like elsewhere. The keyboard is fantastic, the rig has Thunderbolt ports, a microSD slot and an HDMI 2.1 output, and its excellent 5 mp webcam ensures video call clarity. The HP has a fingerprint reader, a battery that lasts all day and a chassis that weighs 2 kg, which is a good figure for a 16 in notebook.
On the inside, the combination of Intel’s Core i7-1260P processor and A370M GPU is ideal for most coding tasks, although it won’t cope with the toughest programming situations.
That’s a reasonable compromise when this rig costs around $1,500 / £1,500, though – that’s a tremendous price for a 16-inch OLED convertible with so many upsides. If you want a programming portable with a slice of creative versatility, you’re in luck.
Gaming laptops are often the best choices for portable programming, and with good reason – as the Lenovo demonstrates. Intel’s Core i7-12700H is one of the best mobile workhorses around and it’ll pound through any coding task.
Every version of the Legion includes Nvidia graphics, at least 16 GB of memory and a fast SSD, so you’ve got enough power for after-hours gaming, content creation and anything else. It’s never particularly hot or loud, and its subtle exterior means it’s comfortable in offices and LAN parties.
There are other areas where this rig makes sense for coders. The 16in display is a large, high-quality unit with a high resolution, so you’ve got plenty of space for spreading windows around, and you get a solid keyboard, plenty of ports and both wired and wireless connectivity.
The Legion isn’t perfect. There are no biometric sign-in options, and it weighs 5.4 lbs (2.49 kg) so it’s pretty heavy. Push the battery and the Lenovo only lasts for a couple of hours – at best, you’ll get through until lunchtime.
The Core i7 CPU, big screen and decent design deliver impressive coding power, though, and the Lenovo Legion 5i Pro Gen 7 doesn’t break the bank – it starts at $1,329 / £1,699. Core an i7-12700H notebook, that’s a great price.
You might not consider the CrowPi-L for coding, but if you want to start programming (and electronic tinkering in general), there are few better options.
Open the box and you’ll see loads of parts – but the build process is pretty easy. When the rig is assembled, you’ll have an 11.6 in laptop that’s reminiscent of a netbook. Despite the tiny size you get a decent slate of features: there are several full-size USB ports, a USB-C charging port, a GPIO adapter socket and a microSD card slot. The keyboard is superb and you’ll get about six hours of usage from the battery.
There are negatives. The 11.6 in display is tiny and has a low resolution, and the speakers, camera and microphone are all poor.
The pricing situation needs explaining, too. The basic CrowPi-L costs just $239 and it’s $299 if you include the Crowtail kit, which contains 22 extra modules. Neither includes the actual Raspberry Pi, though – adding that costs $131. In the UK, the basic kit is just £229, but it costs £409 if you want the Crowtail kit and Raspberry Pi included. And, because it’s a Raspberry Pi, don’t expect benchmark-breaking speed.
The low-power Raspberry Pi, build-your-own design and compact size mean the CrowPi isn’t suitable for everyone. But if you (or your kids) want to learn about electronics and coding, this is a great buy.