Best Computer for Programming Laptop & Desktop Guide 2018

Your computer is the lifeblood of your work, and you’d be surprised how choosing the best laptop or desktop for programming can open up your coding opportunities.

Buying a new computer is a complicated process, but it’s important that you make an informed decision about such an important piece of hardware.  In this guide, we’ll teach you how to easily find the perfect coding computer for your needs.

We’ll break down the 3 most important components that every coding computer should have, including a fast hard drive, enough system memory, and a powerful processor.  Keep reading to learn more about how why chose them, and how you can apply this knowledge when buying your next computer.

In This Article:

Don’t have time to read the whole guide?  If you think it’s time to upgrade your computer, here are a few quick suggestions that we think will suit all of your programming needs.

Our Best Programming Computer Picks:Price:Rating:
Editors Choice Desktop: Dell XPS 8900
Best Computer for Programming Dell 8900 PC
Editor's Choice Laptop: Dell XPS 13
The Best laptop for programming dell xps 13
Game Dev Laptop: MSI GT72 Dominator G-831
Best laptop for developers

How to Decide Between a Laptop or a Desktop Computer

One of the first things that get’s asked when buying a new computer for coding is whether to get a laptop or a desktop PC.  We recommend that you take a minute and think about how you currently use your computer. What features are most important to you?  Ultimately your choice should reflect your lifestyle and needs.

Here are a few quick pros and cons to help you decide.

The Best laptop for programming dell xps 13

Coding Laptop Pro:

  • Portable and Light
  • Great for Travelling
  • No Wires and Clutter

Coding Laptop Con:

  • Difficult to Upgrade
  • Harder to Repair
  • Smaller Screen
  • Unreliable keyboard quality

Best Computer for Programming Dell 8900 PC

Desktop for Programming Pro:

Desktop for Programming Con:

  • Stationary
  • Takes Up Space

A laptop is a lifesaver when you need to take your work on the run, something that’s impossible with a desktop.  If you find that your always on the move or don’t use an office setting a laptop might be for you.  However, it’s important to note that laptops have smaller parts that are harder to upgrade or repair.  They are also limited by a built in keyboard which could be made of lower quality materials.

Having a powerful desktop computer for coding and programming works great for overall use.  Not only can you setup the perfect work station to improve productivity but it’s overall more ergonomic on your body.  Desktop computers have a downside in that they are stationary in nature and often take up a large amount of space.

Bonus Tip: Many find that they benefit from having a powerful work station at home which they can rely on for performance, while also having a laptop they can take with them when needed. If you can’t decide whether a desktop or laptop is right for you, you might consider combining your budget and getting the best of both worlds.

#1  The Hard Drive:  The Most Important Component of Any Coding Computer

You know that feeling you get when you open up a folder or browser and have to wait what seems like ages before anything happens?  Slow computers suck.

Sometimes people assume that’s just the way computers are, they take time to perform actions and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Often times though, all it takes is a simple upgrade to drastically improve the performance and speed of a computer.

solid state driveThe tray that stores your computers operating system and saved files is called the Hard Drive.  It’s a small spinning device that has to sort through millions of bits of data to find that folder you’re trying to open, or launch a browser.

Here’s the deal; you can throw out this spinning headache and upgrade to a super fast Solid State Drive.

This simple and relatively cheap upgrade is the single most important thing you can do improve your computers speed and performance.  It allows you to boot up Windows in literally seconds, never have to wait for anything, and you can load gigantic files in a fraction of the time.  It’s especially great to not have to wait when coding large files or working with memory intensive media like photos or video.

If you get absolutely nothing out of this guide, remember to buy a Solid State Drive when deciding on the best computer for programming.  You will not regret it.

Bonus Tip: You can run a standard Hard Drive in tandem with a Solid State Drive, allocating your important system files to the faster drive.  This allows more free space and a backup drive if things ever go south.

2#  System Memory:  How Much RAM Do You Need for Programming?

Basically an extension of the hard drive, Random Access Memory controls the current actions that are happening on your computer.   As you open programs and execute commands the RAM temporarily stores the data for easier access.  This also means that the more files, tabs, and programs you have open simultaneously the slower your computer is going to be.

While having more RAM space does allow for faster operation, it’s often over advertised to make a cheaper computer seem more appealing.  In truth, RAM is relatively inexpensive and it’s effectiveness has a plateau that yields diminishing results.


So what’s a good starting range when deciding how much RAM you’ll need?  We think that 8 Gigabytes is the sweet spot, but up to 16  or 32 GB won’t hurt.  Anything more than that is simply overkill.  Just remember, doubling the RAM doesn’t always double the speed of your computer.

Why RAM Specs Aren’t So Important

You might be easily confused when you start reading about DDR, memory speed, overclocking, configurations and trying to decipher what all the different numbers mean.

The secret is, the average user will never have to worry about sorting through the various specs and technical jargon when deciding which RAM to buy.  While there are changes in speed and power between various models the differences are often unnoticeable unless video editing or developing games.

Unless you really know what you’re doing, the average user should focus on whether they have enough ram, and not the tech specs.

Bonus Tip:  If you plan on adding extra RAM onto your computer you would be wise to check the max capacity that the system can hold.  Most computers have a limit which can change depending on the motherboard and whether it’s a laptop or desktop.

#3  CPU:  Understanding Processing Power

The Central Processing Unit or CPU is at the heart of your computer and is responsible for the countless operations constantly taking place.

Like an engine driving a car, processors are the driving force behind every action your computer performs.  The more powerful the engine, the faster speed at which actions can be performed.


CPU’s come in various sizes and models, but understanding the differences doesn’t have to be hard.  The main specs to consider are the CPU speed (measured in Gigahertz) and the number of cores.

The CPU speed will affect how fast actions can be performed.  Unless you are on a serious budget, most good computers will have a relatively fast processor and you won’t have to worry about speed.  It’s good to remember though that unlike some computer parts you get what you pay for with a CPU.  You will definitely notice a difference between a cheap and expensive chip set.

The next thing to consider are the number of cores.  A common misconception with processors is that more cores means more power, but this is only partly true.  While multiple cores do increase speed and power, the true benefit is they allow for multitasking.

This becomes especially important as you increase the workload on your computer, allowing you to maintain high quality performance while coding and programming.  Choosing the right processor will depend on your needs (i.e. coding or game development), but a processor with 4 cores will handle all of your needs.  If you choose to go with a more budget CPU with 2 cores, we recommend looking for a fast processor speed that has hyper threading capabilities.

Overall, we recommend you choose a laptop or PC with at least an Intel i5 or i7 processor and 4 cores for maximum power and speed.  If you want to learn more about the different units and specs we highly encourage you read this great cpu guide.

Our Top Picks for the Best Computer for Programming

Hopefully this guide has helped you in getting a better understanding of some of the important components and specs that programming computers need.  Here’s our top 3 recommendations for laptops and desktop computers.

Editors Choice PC:

Dell XPS 8900

Best Computer for Programming Dell 8900 PC

The Dell XPS 8900 mini tower is a dream machine perfect for programming, video and web editing and high definition game development.  The 6th gen quad core i7 Processor and 256 GB SSD allow for  super fast speed while the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 provides superior gaming graphics.

Click Here to See Pricing and Reviews on Amazon

Processor:Intel Core i7-6700K 4 GHz
Storage:2 TB HDD + 256 GB SSD
Graphics:NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 2GB GDDR5

Editor’s Choice Laptop:

Dell XPS 13 9350

Best Computer for Programming Dell XPS 13

The Dell XPS 13 9350 Ultrabook provides a simple yet durable design with machined aluminum that showcases a brilliant high definition (1920 x 1080) IPS screen.  The Infinity Edge Display allows this ultrabook to be 23% smaller than it’s Macbook competitor while maintaining the same screen size due to it’s ultra thin edges.  Inside is an Intel Core i5 processor and 8 GB DDR3 RAM that provides great performance at an optimal price point which makes writing and editing code is a breeze with the included 128 GB Solid State Drive.

Click Here to See Pricing and Reviews on Amazon

Processor:Intel Core i5-6200U 2.30 GHz
Storage:128GB Solid State Drive
Graphics:Intel HD Graphics 520

 Game Development:

MSI GT72 Dominator G-831

MSI Dominator

Developers know that they need a top of the line machine to deal with the high definition power drain of todays modern games, and the MSI GT72 Dominator delivers on all counts.

With the latest Skylake Intel Core i7-6700 CPU, 16 GB DDR4 RAM and dedicated NVIDIA Geforce GTX970M 3G GDDR5 graphics card this laptop can dish out some serious power.  Other notable features of the MSI GT72 Dominator are it’s 128GB Solid State Drive plus 1TB Hard Disk Drive, 1920×1080 IPS wide angle screen and fully backlit anti-ghost keyboard.

Click Here to See Pricing and Reviews on Amazon

Processor:Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.6 GHz
Storage:1024 GB HHD, 128 GB SSD
Graphics:NVIDIA Geforce GTX970M

Final Thoughts for Buyers

That concludes our guide on buying the best laptop or desktop for programmers and coders.  Hopefully you now have an idea of what to look for and have found a great computer for your work.  If you have any good recommendations be sure to submit then in the comments below, we would love to hear them!


Choosing the right gear for programming takes time and planning.  Be sure to subscribe for tips and ideas to create the perfect coding setup.

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