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Affordable Programming Laptop Buying Guide

Affordable Programming Laptop Buying Guide

Programming is a valuable skill that many people want to learn. It can be intimidating to take on a new skill, but the process can be made easier with the right tools. One of the most important tools for learning programming is a laptop. Laptops are one of the most popular electronics, and they are often purchased by programmers.

In this article, you will know how to buy an affordable programming laptop and what specifications to look for when buying a laptop for programming. I'm going to focus heavily on the specs of a computer and what you should look for in terms of specs and features in any laptop that you're going to buy for programming.

We will start with the bare minimum requirements, the absolute minimum I would recommend for any device that you're going to use for programming. They don't give you kinda my recommended configuration for a decent experience.

I'll talk about some nice to have features, and then we'll get in and talk about some specific exceptions. So if you're working with 3D games or doing iOS apps, what kind of machines you might need for that.

How to buy a programming laptop?

Minimum requirements for a programming laptop

Of course, you could go lower than these if you're really on a budget. But I would personally recommend saving up until you can buy a device that has these kinds of specs just because your experience is going to be much better. And you're going to be using that really cheap device maybe for a year or two before you decide to upgrade. Anyways, when all of the new software can no longer run on it.

1. System memory

RAM, or Random Access Memory, is a vital component of a computer's hardware that determines how quickly it can process information. The more RAM you have, the faster your computer will be able to run programs. For those who are just starting out in their programming career, the best option is to buy a laptop with 4GB RAM. With that amount of RAM, you will be able to run most coding programs. If you are just getting started, you don't need anything too fancy, and this laptop will be perfect for you.

You need to have at least 4 gigabytes of system RAM. This is because a lot of programs require at minimum 4 gigabytes of RAM to run. If you want to run multiple programs at the same time without having them be drastically slower than they usually would be, you're going to want 4 gigs of RAM. Even in today's age, that's a little bit low but for some basic programming tasks, that's totally fine.

2. Processor

You need to get an i3 or i5 quad-core processor. So this is going to bring the price up on the computer that you're going to be purchasing. It's going to push it over a few hundred dollars probably but buying something like a Pentium or Celeron processor which are dual-core processors, they're just going to be very slow. And for programming, it's just not going to be a good experience whatsoever. I'd highly recommend saving up to get a quad-core processor or an i3 equivalent on the AMD side.

3. Disc space

Having 120 gigabytes of disc space is a minimum requirement. You could go with 60 gigs of disk space but there are some quite large packages and applications when you're programming and combined with windows installed or a Linux installer, whatever operating system it is, you're going to be running out of storage quite quickly if you don't have at least 100 gigabytes.

4. Operating system

You have windows, Mac, or Linux. Those are kind of the 3 options you have. Yes, you can use iOS, so you could buy maybe a cheap mobile phone and try to use that for programming or maybe an iPad or a tablet. But you're going to be highly limited to what you can download, what programs you can use, and what code you can run if you don't get one of those 3 mentioned operating systems.

5. Windows S mode

Another thing to be careful with is the lookout for devices that are running windows S mode. That is kind of like the mobile version of windows. It comes with a lot less features than your standard windows and only allows you to download things from the windows store. You can turn off windows S mode and put it to full-fledged windows install, but that uses a lot more system resources and is going to be very slow on that device if it's meant to run windows S mode.

I would recommend going with Linux, if you are comfortable with that operating system, Ubuntu is really easy to get used to if you're not coming from a Linux background and it will be much faster on a device like this.

So these are the bare minimum recommendations for programmers when buying a laptop. Of course, if you can't afford that, you can definitely code simply using any kind of web browser. So whatever device you have, if it has a web browser, you can write code and you can actually start learning and experimenting and that's totally fine. But to start doing anything locally, you're going to want the specs that I mentioned.

Cloud-Based Coding Sites

3 websites that you should consider if you're someone who has a lower-tier machine or just wants to experiment with coding and don't want to worry about installing and downloading anything.

1. Replica

The first one is called a replica. This is a browser-based IDE ''ripl.it'' totally free. You can write and test code in the cloud.

2. Google collaboratory

This is specifically for Python users, but you can actually run a Jupiter notebook and execute that in the cloud with hardware acceleration as well for free. So that's like having access to a GPU to train a machine learning model.

3. VS code spaces

This is visual studio code in the cloud and that essentially means you can use a full-fledged code editor on the cloud on another device totally for free. So check those 3 sites if you have a lower-tier machine
where you just want to get started without needing to download, install and set everything on your own machine.

Recommended Specs for a programming laptop

My recommendation for kind of a decent PC, that's going to give you a good experience. It's not going to be very fast but it certainly isn't going to be slow and it will be able to do all the programming stuff you want.

1. System memory space

I recommend 8 gigabytes of system memory. You really don't need any more than this. 8 gigabytes is plenty when you're doing programming.

I personally can't think of many situations where I've been doing some kind of programming stuff and needed more than 8 gigabytes of memory. Of course, if you're doing something with machine learning, loading large data sets, or you want just a ton of different things open at once, maybe you're running like three instances of Android studio, then you might want some more system memory, but 8 gigabytes is enough. You definitely do not need more.

2. Processor

i5 processor or higher. You can probably get away with i3, but sticking with the last recommendation, just a quad-core processor, something modern and something that's just going to be faster, right?. So i5 or i5 equivalent AMD model.

3. Storage

Go with 250 gigabytes of storage or more. Again, really depends on what you're going to be using this for and how much you're going to be downloading. But 250 gigs is enough for most people. You have a ton of different applications. You might want to go up to 512 gigabytes and a nice feature to look for here would be an SSD.

So not all computers come with SSDs. It's much more common now but looking for some kind of SSD just means your storage is going to be a little bit faster. And that's just going to make for a better experience, especially kind of in your day-to-day use on the operating system, loading things up, and moving files around.

4. ports

USB-C port. This is kind of a newer port and this is pretty important. If you want to think about future-proofing your device, a lot of the accessories that are coming out now are USB-C, of course, you could dongle stuff, but it's just nice to have a really fast port on the computer. When you're presenting in meetings having an HDMI collection will be great. A lot of officers still today are using HDMI, they haven't fully switched a DisplayPort over USB-C so having that can be quite useful too.

5. Screen

Look for something that has a large screen. If this is going to be the only device you use. So if you don't have a desktop at home, if you're not planning on plugging in an external monitor, I'd really recommend going with something that's 14 inches or larger.

Yes, you can go with the 12-inch screens or the 11-inch screens but I find programming at least for myself, It would be really nice to have an extra inch or two of screen real estate if you want to have multiple things or tabs open on the screen, especially when you're scrolling through large code files, so it can actually make you a little more efficient. So, it's just nicer to have that extra bit of space.

6. Keyboard

Look for a decent keyboard on the laptop. If you're working at home, you can plug into a monitor, you can buy an external keyboard and mouse and you can just use the laptop. But if this is going to be something where you're on the go all the time, you're actually using the laptop keyboard. Look for something that you're going to enjoy typing on.

Lenovo has really good keyboards based on my experience and I can definitely say it's probably the best keyboard I've seen on a laptop.

7. Graphics card

Other than that, there's nothing special that you need. You don't need a graphics card. Get 8 gigs of RAM, a modern processor, enough storage, a big screen, and a nice keyboard. That's really what you're looking for.

So these are my recommendation for the mid-tier programming laptop. No, you're not going to be able to game a ton on this. It's not going to be the best thing ever, but for programming, that's really all you need.

Better to Have Features for programming PC

  • If you're looking for something that's a bit better, kind of nice to have features. Maybe you've got an extra few hundred bucks in the budget looking for something that has a lower-end graphics card, maybe with 2 gigabytes of video memory or 4 gigabytes will definitely be great.

  • If you want to do something like a little bit of video editing, or content creation, maybe you want to play a few video games or whatever it may be. Having some kind of dedicated graphics card is going to be a great investment.

  • Looking for some things that have a higher than 1920 by 1080 display. So higher than 1080P, like a 2K display or 4K display, it's just going to make the screen that much nicer to look at. And again, it a nice to have, if you have the extra bit of budget.

  • You can go up to 16 gigabytes of RAM. Definitely not necessary, but if you have the money 16GB is probably worth it and you will notice that there is a slight increase in speed. So these are my recommendation for mid-tier PCs.

Special Exceptions for a programming laptop

You might want to consider some exceptions and things if you're doing some specific programming-related tasks. So if you're a specific type of developer, we'll quickly list a few exceptions here to keep in mind.

  • If you want to develop anything for iOS, you want to make iOS apps or Mac applications then you need a Mac operating system. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is. That's what we have to deal with. All you need is a Mac if you want to develop anything or really push it to the App Store for iOS, for the iPad, whatever, any Mac-related operating system.

  • If you're doing anything related to 3D modeling, 3D graphics, or 3D games, you're going to want a graphics card and probably a decent one in your system. It's simply because you probably won't be able to test the code you write unless you have something that can actually run it and depending on how intensive the 3D stuff you're doing is, you'll probably need a graphics card.

  • If you are a data scientist or someone is dealing with extremely large data sets and you don't want to deal with having to batch everything out, you probably want more RAM in your system. That's simply because if you're loading really large datasets or doing data preprocessing or whatever, it's helpful to have at least 16 gigs or 32 gigs of RAM. Although, I'm sure you're probably dealing with files much larger than that, just keep in mind that if you want to be able to load that much into RAM, you're going to need that much RAM.

  • If you're doing machine learning and you want to do model training locally on your machine, you're going to want a graphics card in there that's Cuda enabled. So in the video graphics card, that is simply because the major frameworks like PyTorch and TensorFlow can utilize Cuda and that graphics card to actually accelerate training. And, if you want to do it locally, you should have a graphics card.

Of course, you can mitigate a lot of these things by just running virtual machines or going into the cloud and renting out computing power. But if you want to avoid that and then keep those few things in mind.

Last words

So, what are the ways that has been this article? I would love to hear from you what you would recommend, any specific models, what machine you started to learn programming on, and if you found any mistakes in this article, of course, leave them down in the comment section below.


Q. What specifications to look for when buying a laptop for beginners in coding, programming classes, and web/app development?

A. If you are looking for a laptop for basic programming, coding, classes, and web/app development here are some things to look for.

Processor: Generally, intel i3 or i5 is enough for beginner programming.
RAM: Generally, 4 GB of RAM is enough for basic programming, classes, or web development, but it is always better to have more.
Display: Programming requires a lot of detail and an appropriate display can make the process easier. Generally, laptops with screens that are at least 14 inches in size are best for programming.
Disk space: Get at least 120 to 250 GB of disk space if you have just started out.

Q. Do you need a powerful computer for Programming?

A. It depends on your programming purpose. If you run programs that don't need any powerful hardware to run then you don't need a powerful computer for Programming.

Q. Do programmers need a graphics card?

A. Graphics cards are used to improve the quality of the display on your computer. If you are working on games development, video editing, 3D rendering, or working rendering software, 3D modeling, 3D graphics, or 3D games then you need a graphics card.

Q. Is gaming PC good for programming?

A. The gaming PC is equipped with a high-performance processor, plenty of RAM, a high-end graphics card, and a high-end keyboard. But it's overkill for programming.

Q. How much RAM do you need for programming?

4GB - For basic programming, classes, and beginners.
8GB - For machine learning, virtual machines, emulators, and IDEs to compile massive projects, loading large data sets, Android studio, or want a ton of different things open at once.
16GB or 32GB - For specialized software development, loading really large data sets or doing data preprocessing.

Q. Which processor is best for python programming?

A. There are many different processors that are capable of running python programming. One of the more popular processors is the Intel i5 or i7. This processor is one of the more affordable options for a computer that is capable of running python programming. 

Q. Which is better for coding i3 or i5?

A. It depends on your programming purpose and budget. The i3 8th gen processor is a great option for budget-conscious shoppers. The i3 processor is not as powerful as the i5 8th gen, but for basic coding and web browsing, it's more than enough. It's great for students and those who don't need a powerful processor.

Q. Is i3 sufficient for programming?

A. The i3 processor is an Intel dual-core processor that has a speed of 1.30 GHz up to 3.50 GHz. This processor is not meant for any heavy work or anything that requires a lot of computing power. It is meant for basic use such as surfing the internet, word processing, and some basic programming. If you are planning on doing something more complex, then i5 or i7 processor may work better.

Q. Which is better for programming, a Mac or Windows laptop?

A. Depends on your budget and programming purpose. If you want to develop iOS apps or Mac applications then you need a Mac operating system. Mac is a popular choice among programmers because it has a lot of features that make it easier to program, such as a Unix-based terminal. Windows is budget-friendly and popular among programmers because it is widely used and the tools are easier to find.

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