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Affordable Programming Laptop Buying Guide

Affordable Programming Laptop Buying Guide

Get ready, because I'm going to be walking you through my buying guide for a programming laptop. Now I get asked the question all the time is 4 gigs of RAM enough. It's 8 gigs of RAM enough. Do I need an I five? Do I need I seven? And so in this article, I'm going to focus heavily on the specs of a computer and just kind of what you should look for in terms of specs and features in any laptop that you're going to buy for programming.

So I'm going to 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 say you're working with, you know, 3D games, you're doing iOS apps, what kind of machines you might need for that.


Affordable programming laptop buying guide: what to look for


  • Minimum Requirements

What you should look for in a programming laptop? 
So I'm going to get started by discussing the bare minimum requirements that I would recommend 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

Anyways, let me go through the specs. So starting with system memory, I'm going to recommend you have at least 4 gigabytes of system RAM. This is because a lot of programs require at minimum 4 gigabytes of RAM to run. And 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. And 4 gigs should be fine.


2. Quad-core processor.

Next, I'm going to recommend you get a 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, you know, 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, something like an or an i3 equivalent on the AMD side. I'm not quite sure exactly what that model number would be.


3. Disc space

I would recommend having 120 gigabytes of disc space. Yes, you could go with something like 60 gigs of disk space, but there is some quite large packages and applications when you're programming and combined with say 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

Talking about the operating system. What you're going to want to look for typically is windows, Mac, or Linux. Those are kind of the three options you have. Yes. You use something like iOS, so you could buy maybe a cheap mobile phone and try to use that for programming or maybe an iPad or a tablet or something like that. 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 three mentioned operating systems.


5. Windows S mode

Another thing to be careful with is the lookout for devices that are running, 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 is going to be very slow on that device. If it's meant to run windows S mode.

So personally, I would recommend going with Linux, if you are comfortable with that operating system, something like 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 that's kinda what I'm recommending for the bare minimum essentials. 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 just mentioned.


  • Cloud-Based Coding Sites

So I'm going to quickly list 3 websites here that I think you should consider. If you're someone who has a lower-end 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 or something like that.


3. VS code spaces

I actually don't know how new this is and how accessible it is, but I do know that 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 three things out. If you have a lower-tier machine where you're just looking to kind of get started without needing to download install and set everything up on your own machine.

  • Recommended Specs


1. System memory space

So now time for my recommendation for kind of a decent PC, that's going to give you a good experience. That's not going to be super fast, but it's definitely not going to be slow, and it's gonna be able to achieve kind of all the programming stuff that you want. So I'll start by recommending 8 gigabytes of system memory. You really don't need any more than this. 8 gigabytes is plenty when you're doing programming.

And 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. Now, 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 

Then I would recommend an i5 processor or higher. You also probably could get away with an, but sticking with kind of the last recommendation, just a quad-core processor, something modern and something that's just going to be kind of fast, right? That's what we're looking for. So an i5 equivalent or an i5, I don't know what all the AMD model numbers are. Otherwise, I would list them.


3. Storage

You're going to want to go with probably about 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 I feel like 250 gigs is enough. For most people. You have a ton of different applications. You might want to go up to 500 gigabytes and a nice feature to look for here would be an SSD. So not all computers come with essence. I know 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, moving files around. So on.


4. USB-C port

This is kind of a newer port, I guess, but 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. I always recommend people look out for USB-C.


5. Screen

I'd recommend that you 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 you go 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, if I want to have multiple things open on the screen, it's really nice to have that extra inch or two of screen real estate, especially when you're scrolling through large code files, I find it can actually make you a bit more efficient. And of course, it just nicer to have that extra bit of space. So I always recommend that.


6. Keyboard

Of course, you're going to want to look for a decent keyboard on the laptop. Of course, if you're working at home, you know, 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. I know I've heard that Lenovo has really good keyboards and I've had a Lenovo laptop that I've used. And I can definitely say it's probably the best keyboard I've seen on a laptop.


7. Graphics card

Other than that. that's really all you're looking for, for a laptop for programming. There's nothing special that you need. You don't need a graphics card, just 8 gigs of Ram modern processor, enough storage, a big screen, and a nice keyboard. That's really what you're looking for. You can get all of that for probably under $800. So that is kind of my recommendation for the mid-tier programming laptop. No, you're not going to be able to game a ton on this. you know, it's not going to be the best thing ever, but for programming, that's really all you need.


  • Better to Have Features


➤ Now, the last thing says here, if you're looking for something that's a bit better, kind of some 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, 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. and it just, you know, something to look out for in a nice to have feature.

➤ Looking for some things that have a higher than 1920 by 1080 display. So higher than 10 ADP, 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.

➤ Finally, you could go to up to 16 gigabytes of RAM, definitely not necessary, but if you have the money, 16 gigs is probably worth it. And you will see a little bit of a speed increase. So that is kind of my recommendation for the mid-tier PC.

  • Special Exceptions

Now I'm going to talk about some exceptions or sorry, mid-tier laptop. I'm going to talk about some exceptions now and things you might want to consider if you're doing some specific programming-related tasks. So we'll quickly list a few exceptions here to keep in mind if you're a specific type of developer.

First, if you want to develop anything for iOS, so you want to make iOS apps. So you want to make Mac applications. You're going to need a Mac operating system. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is. That's what we have to deal with. And you just need a Mac. If you want to develop anything or actually push it, sorry to the app store for iOS, for iPad, whatever, any, you know, Mac-related operating system.

If you're doing anything related to 3D modeling, 3D graphics, 3D games, you're going to want a graphics card and probably a decent one System. This is simply because You probably will not be able to test the code that you write unless you have something that can actually run it. And depending on how intensive the 3D stuff is that you're doing, you're probably gonna want 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. Now that is simply because if you're loading really large data sets or doing data preprocessing or whatever it may be, it's just helpful to have at least say 16 gigs of RAM or 32 gigs of RAM. although I'm sure you're probably dealing with files much larger than that, just keep that in mind that if you want to be able to load that much into RAM, well, 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 Kuda enabled. So in the video graphics card, that is simply because the major frameworks like PI torch TensorFlow can utilize Kuda and that graphics card to actually accelerate training. And well, 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 in the cloud and renting out computing power. But if you want to avoid that and then keep those few things in mind.

  • Specific Laptop Models

So what I'm going to now is just show you a few laptops that I found on Amazon and just browsing the web, the look to me to be decent value. Now, keep in mind that I have not used any of these laptops, and I'm very hesitant to recommend them simply because I don't have them in front of me and I'm not actually able to test and try them out. But these are just ones that I saw that looked to be decent value.


1. Mac book pro 16 inches

So I figured I'd show you and you can kind of get an idea of the price range of these machines and what I would consider purchasing. had I not already had my own laptop. So first I'll tell you guys, I use a Mac book pro 16 inches. My main laptop is a very expensive laptop for me.

It was just over $3,000. I'm not recommending that to anyone, but I just wanted a very high-end laptop. And that's what I've used. But in the past, I've used laptops that were $200, $300, $500. And honestly, most of them have been perfectly fine for a lot of the stuff that I needed to do related to the program.

2. Lenovo idea pad flex five 14 inch laptop

Anyways, the first machine that I found here on Amazon is coming in at 879 dollars. I think that's probably somewhere around 600, 650 us dollars. And this is the Lenovo idea pad flex five 14 inch laptop. So this is a touch panel as well.

So it actually folds all the way over into a tablet, 8 gigabytes of DDR4 RAM. It has an i5 quad-core processor, 128 gig SSD runs full windows 10. This looks like a great machine. It's got a Lenovo keyboard, which are known to be really good.

And this is something that I would definitely think would be of good value. Just, you know, quickly looking at the ratings here, 5 and 4-star looks to be a fine machine and something that I think would be perfect for people with kind of a mid-range budget.

3. Lenovo Legion Five is a 15.6-inch

This one is Lenovo Legion Five is a 15.6-inch gaming laptop. the main difference here when it says gaming, I believe is that it has a high refresh rate display. You don't need to look for this for programming at all, but the 120 Hertz display just means that the pixels refresh faster. So if you're gaming, it's a better experience.

This has a ryzen7 processor in it, 8 gigabytes of RAM, 512 gigabyte SSD, and a graphics card with 4 gigabytes of V RAM. And this is coming in at 1,029 Canadian dollars, which is probably about 750, 800 US dollars. So again, this looks like a great machine. 

If you had a bit of a bigger budget, this would be something I would recommend has the graphics card. So you could do a little machine learning a little game in content creation. It was a very fast processor, 8 gigs of RAM in that higher refresh rate display of course is nice.

4. HP ENVY x360 2-in-1 laptop

This is the HP envy X three 62 in one laptop. So this is a tablet as well. It comes with 15.6-inch display ryzen5 processors, 8 gigabytes of memory, 256 gigabyte SSD. it has a backlit keyboard and it runs full windows 10 again, good reviews. And these are the kind of laptops that I would be looking for. 

And that I would personally recommend in kind of that mid-tier range. Of course, there are definitely lower-end laptops. I don't know much about the kind of low-end spectrum, so I'm not going to recommend any specific machines in that range.


Last words

But I know that following the recommendations I made earlier, you can probably find about 400, 500 Canadian dollars. So maybe like 300 US, that will be perfectly fine for programming, especially if you're just getting started and not doing anything crazy.

So, what are ways that has been this article? I would love to hear from you guys, 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 below.

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