Best Laptops for Web Development and Programming

There is a lot of competition out there for developer laptops. So let’s break down our needs then we can analyze why I have chosen each laptop.

Power – Web developers and web designers tend not to need a super powerful computer. A couple of exceptions to this is for the developers who rely on virtual machines where you will need more ram or people dealing with video, where the extra threads of an i7 would be required. These developers are the minority though. Typically we are only using a browser and a text editor, so based on this we will prioritize things like battery life and portability over raw power.

Some web designers could also benefit from a laptop with up to 16gb of ram, however generally a laptop with 8gb of ram will be enough for most.

Keyboard – Possibly the most important thing for programming on this list will be the keyboard. The laptops in this list will all have to have best in class keyboards.

Screen – This will matter more to some web developers and will depend on your needs. Typically though web developers and web designers require accurate colors so we will be looking for laptops with decent IPS displays. Another thing that may matter to some will be viewing angles. The reason why this may be important is if you are doing any pair programming or if you are showing off your work to potential clients/bosses.

Battery life – Battery life is another important factor for anyone looking for portability. Most modern laptops have enough battery life to last you a whole day. Gone are the days of 2-4 hour batteries.

Best 13 inch Laptop for Programming – Dell XPS 13

If portability is important then the 13 inch laptop is going to be the best for usability and portability. There are a few contenders in here but the XPS 13 commonly comes up as the best and for good reason.

Visually the XPS 13 is a stunning laptop with the best in class screen and keyboard is great for programming and typing in general.

The screen on this laptop is vibrant and the colors are accurate, this will be great for web designers and anyone doing graphical work.

The XPS 13 can be specced with anything from an i5 with 4gb of ram to an i7 with 16gb of ram. The price also varies drastically though!

The web developers among us will usually get away with an i5 and 8gb of ram. The designers among us will want to go with the QHD screen option. If you are going to be doing heavy image or video processing then the i7 and 16gb of ram will have you covered.

The screen on this laptop is really where it shines though. Both the 1080p and QHD screen options are bright and color accurate which is important for us web developers and designers.


Laptop Key Strengths

  • 1080p – QHD Bezel-less IPS Touchscreen.
  • Sleek Design
  • 13 Hour battery life (video playback)
  • 15mm at thickest point.
  • 1.2kg total weight

Which one?

The non touch version is slightly cheaper. However, for just a little bit more money you can get the touch version. Both of these laptops have an i5 and 8gb of ram which is plenty for 90% of developers. The choice here is between the 1080p screen and the QHD display. If you have the money then the QHD display is the best and well worth the extra $.

Best 15 inch Laptop for Programming – Dell XPS 15

Dell takes the crown again here with the XPS 15. Again the beautiful bezel-less, best in class screen and responsive keyboard make this ideal for developers.

This laptop obviously isn’t quite as portable as the 13 inch model but at only 2kg and 17mm at its thickest point, it is certainly portable enough for most.

Again the screen on this laptop is vibrant and the colors are accurate and will be great for web designers and anyone doing graphical work.

Along with the larger screen size you get a more powerful GPU than what you get on the XPS 13. You can spec the XPS 15 with a GTX 1060ti which will be great for designers who are doing heavy image and video processing. It also means if you want to do some light gaming on your lunch break then this laptop will have you covered.

Overall this laptop combines the best of power, portability and overall build quality which makes it the best 15 inch laptop for web developers and designers.

Laptop Key Strengths

  • 4k Bezel-less IPS touchscreen.
  • Sleek design
  • 13 Hour battery life  (video playback)
  • 17mm at thickest point.
  • 2kg total weight

Which One

Best Convertible Laptop for Programming – Microsoft Surface Book 2

If you need something that can double up as a tablet then the Surface Book 2 is a fantastic option. the detachable screen puts it ahead of other laptops that only have 360 degree hinges.

The keyboard section adds to the battery life, so with both the screen and keyboard, you can expect to get a solid 11 hours of battery life.

The screen is an odd size at 3000×2000 pixel resolution. But the display on this laptop is absolutely beautiful in the flesh and has a responsive touchscreen with accurate colors, which is important for any web designers and anyone dealing with graphics.

The extra height on the screen is really nice for us web developers though because it allows you to see more of a web page on the screen. It also means it doesnt feel odd when being used as a tablet.

The runner-up to the Microsoft Surface Book 2 might be the Microsoft Surface Pro which comes with the Alcantara leather detachable keyboard instead of the base station that you get on the Surface Book 2. The Surface Pro is cheaper, however, it is less powerful, has less battery life and us web developers need a real keyboard for work and although the detachable keyboard is good, it’s not quite as good as the solid keyboard that comes on the Surface Book 2.


Laptop Key Strengths

  • Detachable screen
  • 3000×2000 pixel resolution
  • Fantastic track pad
  • Responsive touch screen

Which One

Best Budget Laptop for Programming – Acer Swift 3

The Acer Swift 3 redefines what a budget laptop looks like. It is thin and light while using premium materials which would put much more expensive laptops to shame. It essentially has everything the Dell XPS 13 has but at a cheaper price point.

The Acer Swift 3 comes with the latest generation of Intel i5 processors which bumps up the cores from 2 to 4 from the last generation and increases battery life by a large margin. You should be expecting 10+ hours at least on this, unless you are doing intensive video rendering of course.

The keyboard has more travel than most keyboards in the thin and light segement and feels clicky and responsive.

The screen is a gorgeous 1080p IPS panel which rivals much more expensive laptops. An IPS display on a laptop of this price is pretty much unheard of until now.

Bang for buck this laptop is about as good as it gets.


Laptop Key Strengths

  • Fantastic keyboard
  • 10 hour battery life
  • Just as powerful as more expensive laptops
  • Gorgeous construction

Which One

What Next?

So these are the current laptops to go for if you are a web developer or designer. But what about future laptops coming soon?

Thin and light laptops are getting more and more powerful while also getting thinner and lighter.  We are seeing less and less pressure on the need to increase performance though and more of a need to increase battery life.

Intel have been progressively been getting better in recent years but we are still at a point where you can’t go to work for a full day without having to take a charger with you. This won’t be an issue for most web developers and designers who sit at a desk, but is you are the type of developer who is on the move a lot or end up at client meetings all day then battery life may be important to you.

Snapdragon Laptops

Microsoft has been looking to add support for the ARM architecture which Snapdragon is taking advantage of.

We now have 2 Laptops running the Snapdragon 835 SoC which have 20+ hour battery lives and Always on LTE support.

The Asus NovaGo and HP Envy X2 are going to be perfect laptops for web developers our there who don’t need a power house of a workhorse and need an all-day battery life for when they are on the go.

We are only expecting 2 laptops to exist with the Snapdragon 835 chip because the Snapdragon 845 chip is coming out later this year. This will give a boost in performance and battery life of up to 30% which will bring these laptops into the realm of usability for us web developers and designers who need portable machines which are capable enough.

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6 Responses

  1. Josh says:

    very nice knee computers

  2. Josh says:

    what you suggest for man with no knees?

  3. Kriegar says:

    Awesome list. Just received my XPS 13 and it is gorgeous.

  4. Jonathan Duncan says:

    Check out the Acer Aspire R7, I have bought 2 of them. perfect transition from work, play and study.

    • Jack says:

      The R7 is a bit dated now. They are also a tad on the bulky side. Thanks for the suggestion though! 🙂

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