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Any advice on a good budget laptop for programming ?

silverman42 profile image Sylvester Nkeze ・1 min read

My current laptop has served its purpose for over 5 years (right from my first hello world in php) and it is time for me to bid it farewell after persistent over-heating issues. Now, i am really indecisive about which good laptop to currently go for due to my budget constraint (any device south of $540) and desire for a laptop with a good battery backup (power supply is a big issue in my country). Please fellow devs, which affordable laptop would you advice i go for ?

Discussion

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First, determine exactly what kind of programming you intend to do on your laptop. That determines how much RAM you need. If you don't need any of the below features, I think any "run of the mill" Dell/Lenovo laptops with about 2-4 GB of RAM should fit the bill for you.

  1. Do you need virtualization support (Simultaneously running another OS in Virtualbox or something)? If yes, add another 2 GB.
  2. Do you intend to run docker? If yes, add another 2 GB.
  3. Are you into android programming and want to run an android emulator on your laptop? If yes, add another 2 GB.
  4. Are you one of those who runs several apps like browser with multiple tabs, desktop email client, etc. while simultaneously doing one or more of the above activities? If yes, add another 2 GB.

Finally, if your total went above 8 GB, add a few more to round it to 16/32/64 as we mostly get laptops in that range only!

Now that you've determined the RAM, decide the processor type. There are several ranging from Intel Atom (slowest) to all the way to Intel i9 (fastest). In between, there are core-duo, quad core, i3, i5, etc. There are some good AMD processors too. In general, the higher the RAM you need, the better should be the CPU because they both act in co-ordination.

Once you determine the CPU and RAM, ask yourself whether you need a dedicated graphic processor. Unless you are into hard-core gaming, you usually don't. The built-in integrated card of Intel is usually sufficient to watch youtube in HD resolution.

Finally, you need to determine some basic things like screen size (usually, 12-14 " is the optimum for most coders), touch-screen (you don't need it if you are a keyboard/touchpad pro), etc.

After that, you can simply go to electronics section of Amazon, Flipkart, etc. and filter it based on the conditions you've determined. Then choose the one which has good reviews and ratings. Research this part thoroughly for any compatibility issues, especially if you intend to run Linux on your laptop. An important thing to note is that the more power you indulge in (CPU/RAM), the lesser will be your laptop's battery life in general. Still, you may research the final options before short listing and choose the one with better battery life if that's important for you.

Best luck in choosing a good laptop!

 

The general consensus of most developers I've spoke with seems to be that 8gb of RAM should be the minimum amount considered if you're looking to future proof.

Most developers will quickly hit a wall with just 4gb.

 

Thanks Prahad. 1,2 and 4 are top considerations for me. I found some good laptops that best these needs in terms of RAM, processor, hard drive (SSD) but they all fail in the aspect of battery backup based on the reviews i watch/read about them on amazon and YouTube. Currently i have my eye on the Lenovo ideapad 530s (AMD ryzen version) but i am just sceptical about its battery.

 

I found an Thinkpad x260 on eBay for around $350 and you can find excellent Thinkpads used in your price range (maybe some new too). I really like them for development.

 

Big thanks Clay, i will make further findings on this.

 

Are you sure its new and not refurbished? What's the configuration? Because that price sounds too low for a Thinkpad!

 

Yeah, the one i found was refurbished. Here is the ideapad i found, amazon.com/Lenovo-Ideapad-530S-14-...

 

Oh it's refurbished.