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Best laptop for programming in 2019: top picks for coders, developers and sysadmins

Best laptop for programming
Image Credit: TechRadar

If you’re looking for the best laptop for programming, you’ve come to the right page. We found all the best laptops for software developers like you, whether you’re trying your hand at HTML, CSS, JavaScript or VB.

Before you go through are list, bear in mind that are a few things you need to think about before you buy the best laptop for programming. 

First, you’re going to need one of the best processors, as that horsepower goes a long way when you’re compiling code. Most modern laptops will feature plenty of cores, threads and high clock speeds, but you should focus on getting the fastest processor you can afford. 

Then there’s the memory. You absolutely need at least 8GB, and it needs to be fast. Think about storage as well: one of the best SSDs is essential, as it will shave minutes off your project with all the files and apps you’ll use. 

You won’t necessarily need the fastest graphics chip on the market, as modern Intel hardware comes with integrated graphics that are more than good enough for anything you’ll encounter while programming. However, if you want to do some gaming in your down time, go for it. 

Oh, and do yourself a favor and make sure you’re getting one of the best keyboards. As programming involves a lot of typing, you need a keyboard with excellent travel and superior comfort. And, a high resolution display will help make sure that it's easy on the eyes, as you’ll be spending a lot of hours and then some staring at it. 

Taking all that in consideration, find the best laptop for programming that suits you best in our list below.

HP Spectre x360 (2019)

Image credit: TechRadar

(Image credit: Future)

1. HP Spectre x360 (2019)

A best 2-in-1 gets better

CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch full HD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) touchscreen | Storage: 256GB – 2TB PCIe SSD

Very well built
Powerful and thin
Expensive

The HP Spectre line has always consisted of stunning devices. So, when we say that the 2019 Spectre x360 takes things to another level, that should mean something. Not only is this one of the most beautiful laptops on the market right now – with its gem cut design and sleek profile, but it’s tough on the inside. HP fitted this with powerful Intel Whiskey Lake processors and long battery life, which means that you’re getting one of the best laptops on the market, hands down. As such, it’s also the best laptop for programming right now.

Read the full review: HP Spectre x360 (2019)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

Image credit: Lenovo

(Image credit: Lenovo)

2. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme laptop

Great power, massive price tag

CPU: up to 8th-generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti with Max-Q design | RAM: up to 64GB | Screen: 15.6” FHD (1920 x 1080) – 15.6” 4K UHD HDR (3840 x 2160) multi-touch | Storage: up to 1TB SSD

So much power
Glorious 4K screen
Great user experience
Heavy
Expensive

If you have the funds for an unstoppable workhorse, then Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme mobile workstation is the best laptop for programming for you. It has several configurations on hand, depending on your needs and budget, but at its most basic, it’s already pretty powerful, packed with a solid graphics card in a robust carbon-fiber and aluminum package that will survive any office or field.

Read the full review: ThinkPad X1 Extreme Mobile Workstation

HP EliteBook x360 1040 G5 2-in-1

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(Image credit: Future)

3. HP EliteBook x360 1040 G5 2-in-1

The best business laptop just got better

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 32GB | Screen: 14-inch diagonal BrightView LED FHD (1920x1080) – UHD (3840x2160) | Storage: 128GB – 2TB SSD

Nifty design and stylus
Great performance
Plenty of ports
Battery life disappointing
Expensive
Uneven anti-glare display

The EliteBook x360 1040 G5 is, without a doubt, the “apex predator of the business world.” It’s not the perfect machine, but it’s got plenty of features that make up for its flaws. It boasts many excellent features in its handsome-looking chassis, as well as plenty of ports, a port that works wonders and impressively audio. Simply put, it’s fit for the professional who demands seamlessness and power at work, making it the best laptop for programming in 2019.

Read the full review: HP EliteBook x360 1040 G5

MacBook Air 13-inch (2018)

(Image credit: Future)

4. MacBook Air 13-inch (2018)

Slimmer, lighter and better looking

CPU: up to 8th-generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 617 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch 2,560 x 1,600 Retina display (backlit LED, IPS) | Storage: up to 1.5TB

Small, lighter design
Beautiful Retina display
Good value for a MacBook
Sometimes feels underpowered
Only two Thunderbolt 3 ports

We’ve been waiting years for a new MacBook Air, and it’s finally here. Now thinner, lighter and with a Retina display for the first time, it’s easily the best MacBook Air we’ve ever used. Thanks to improved hardware for better performance (including 8th-generation processors, more RAM and faster SSDs) and an affordable price, the 2018 MacBook Air is a brilliant laptop for programming on. It keeps that same light and slim design which means it's easy to sling into a bag and carry around with you, but it also has enough oomph to make programming on it a joy. The improved screen and higher resolution makes it far more comfortable to work on as well.

Read the full review: MacBook Air 13-inch

MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018)

Image credit: Matt Hanson

(Image credit: Matt Hanson)

5. MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid-2018)

Same body, big leap in power

CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i9 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 555X – Radeon Pro Vega 20 | RAM: 16GB – 32GB | Screen: 15.4-inch 2,880 x 1,800 Retina display | Storage: 512GB – 4TB

Fantastic design
True Tone works well when you want it
Very good performance
Expensive
Lack of ports

When you’re looking for the best laptop for programming, especially if you’re developing software for macOS, you’re eventually going to find yourself looking at the MacBook Pro. And, the new MacBook Pro, with its hexa-core processor and heaps of RAM, is the most powerful MacBook that the Cupertino tech behemoth has ever birthed. No matter how extraneous your workload is, no matter what you’re trying to develop, you’re going to be able to get it done on the new 15-inch MacBook Pro, and we’d recommend it to any software developer – as long as they had the budget for it.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid-2018)

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Image Credit: Microsoft

6. Microsoft Surface Pro 6

The best Windows tablet, but better

CPU: 5th-Generation Intel Core i5-i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8-16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB-1TB SSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.1 | Camera: 8MP rear-facing, 5MP front-facing | Weight: 1.73 pounds | Size: 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.33 inches (W x D x H)

Quad-core processor
Insanely portable
No USB-C

Sometimes you just have to work on the go, and in those situations, you’ll be thankful for the Microsoft Surface Pro 6. With its quad-core processors and plentitude of RAM, you’ll be able to compile code quickly and efficiently, even when you’re on the move. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to pay extra for the Type Cover – you’re not going to want to get any coding done on a touch screen, trust us.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Google Pixelbook

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7. Google Pixelbook

The best Chromebook for Programming

CPU: 7th-generation Intel Core i5-i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 8-16GB | Screen: 12.3" LCD 2400x1600 (235 ppi) | Storage: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB SSD

 Beautiful design 
 Awesome keyboard 
 Chrome OS not as refined as other operating systems 

Yes, a Chromebook (or two) has made our best laptop for programming list. That’s because Google Pixelbook is powerful (and beautiful) enough to contend with the Surfaces and MacBooks of the world. Admittedly, the ChromeOS is not as good a place to program as Windows or macOS. However, the Pixelbook’s support of Android makes it a must-own laptop for any Android developer. The fact that this laptop succeeds the now discontinued Google Chromebook Pixel, which was designed by and for Google’s own developers, should give it some street cred in the eyes of coders.

Read the full review: Google Pixelbook 

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Surface Pro. 

Asus Chromebook Flip

Image Credit: Asus

8. Asus Chromebook Flip

A premium but affordable Chromebook

CPU: Intel Pentium 4405Y – Intel Core m3-6Y30 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit anti-glare | Storage: 32GB – 64GB eMMC

Gorgeous screen
Elegant tablet mode
Tactile keyboard
ChromeOS isn't as developed as Windows or macOS

Another Chromebook that’s made our best laptop for programming list? The Asus Chromebook Flip, which is one of the best Chromebooks out there, solely because it offers a premium build, a great touchscreen and reasonably powerful components for the price. And, while Chrome OS doesn’t feature many robust programming tools, the Asus Chromebook Flip is one of the best Asus laptops for programming if you’re deep into web development.

Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip C302

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch)

Image Credit: Microsoft

9. Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch)

The most powerful 2-in-1 laptop in the world

CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch 3,000 x 2,000 PixelSense Display with touchscreen | Storage: 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB PCIe SSD

Very good battery life
Powerful
Pricey
No Surface Pen included

The Surface Book 2 is an excellent choice for any coders out there, as Microsoft has crafted one of the most powerful 2-in-1 laptops on the planet. After all, it boasts components powerful enough to handle pretty much everything you could throw at it – including some light gaming in your down time. If you’re looking for a larger display, there’s a 15-inch model, which also features beefier components – albeit at a higher price tag.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch)

Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2018)

Image Credit: TechRadar

10. Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2018)

Thinner, lighter, more productive

CPU: 7th-generation Intel Core i5 – 8th-generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 – 655 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch 2,560 x 1,600 pixels Retina Display | Storage: 512GB – 2TB

 Small, lighter design
 Beautiful Retina display  
 A bit underpowered 

If you need a macOS device that’s fast, but also light enough to carry around with you wherever you go, you’re going to love the MacBook Pro 13-inch. This isn’t just a best laptop for programming; this is one of the best Macs that we’ve ever used. If you need to code on the go, the quad-core processors and up to 16GB of RAM mean you’ll work fast, while the thin and light design means you won’t be held back. We can’t recommend it enough.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2018)

Check out our laptop buying guide video below.

  • Here's our list of the best laptop: Our pick of the 15 best laptops you can buy this year