The Best Laptops for Programmers in 2022

Any laptop on the market can be used for coding in some form. Heck, you could bang out a quick “HELLO, WORLD” in Basic on any of the oldest systems PCMag has reviewed. That said, if your livelihood relies on turning plans into reality via programming, you won’t want to settle for a machine that’s underpowered or out-of-date.

Whether you’re a hobbyist coder or a seasoned software engineer, you need a developer laptop that enables you to do your best work—fast. You want something powerful enough to compile code while you continue to work without getting bogged down by slow components. You also need a laptop for coding with features that support longer code sessions, with better displays, comfortable keyboards and touchpads, and long battery life for working on the go.

In short, you need a great laptop, and one that’s well-suited to today’s programming needs. So, we’ve handpicked the best laptops from among some the most esteemed models we’ve reviewed. We’ve laid them out below in detail, followed by a guide to how to choose the right coding laptop for you.

More About Our Picks

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 (2022)

Best Laptop for Programming Overall

Bottom Line:

A 12th Gen Intel CPU, a sharper webcam, and more display options cement the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon’s place as the finest laptop for business—and likely the finest laptop, period.


  • Sleek, sturdy, and ultralight
  • USB-A and HDMI as well as Thunderbolt 4 ports
  • Unbeatable keyboard
  • Top-quality screen choices including OLED and 4K
  • Solid productivity performance and battery life


  • Business-class price
  • No SD or microSD card slot
  • 5G option not yet available

Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2022)

Best Budget Choice for Programming

Bottom Line:

It’s pricey for a Chromebook, but Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713 remains a world-class alternative to Windows convertibles.


  • Tall, high-res touch screen
  • Snappy performance
  • HDMI, Thunderbolt 4, and USB-A ports
  • Roomy 256GB SSD instead of eMMC flash storage


  • Rather costly for a Chromebook
  • Half a pound overweight
  • No stylus or fingerprint reader

Apple MacBook Air (2022, M2)

Best Ultraportable for Programmers

Bottom Line:

The 2022 version of Apple’s MacBook Air gets a fresh look and the more powerful M2 processor, making it Apple’s best ultraportable laptop yet.


  • Stunning, slim design
  • Larger, more vibrant 13.6-inch display
  • Multiple color options
  • M2 chip delivers excellent performance


  • Shorter battery life than 2020 M1 MacBook Air
  • Camera notch encroaches on display panel
  • Limited to two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports (though mitigated, in part, by MagSafe connector)

Best 17-Inch Laptop for Programmers

Bottom Line:

The updated 2022 Dell XPS 17 adds Intel’s latest 12th Gen “Alder Lake” CPUs to its winning design, amping up this already impressive laptop. It remains one of our top picks among 17-inchers.


  • Maintains earlier version’s slim, classy design
  • Beautiful 4K touch-display option
  • Strong overall performance with new 12th Gen Intel CPU
  • Graphics options up to GeForce RTX 3060
  • Four Thunderbolt 4 ports


  • Pricey as configured
  • No OLED screen option
  • Subpar 720p webcam is disappointing for the price
  • USB-C ports only

Best Laptop for Game Developers

Bottom Line:

The Alienware m17 R5 is a powerhouse gaming laptop with the latest and greatest components and configuration options, keeping the brand’s unique aesthetic while hitting new performance highs.


  • Standout style
  • Sky-high frame rates from our all-AMD test unit
  • Display options include 480Hz full HD and 120Hz 4K panels
  • Many configuration choices including Nvidia GPUs and satisfying Cherry MX mechanical keyboard
  • Impressive battery life


  • Bulky and heavy
  • Intel 12th Gen CPUs outpace our Ryzen chip in processing tasks
  • Full Speed mode is awfully loud with little performance gain

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (2022, M2)

Best Mac for Apple Developers

Bottom Line:

The 2022 reboot of Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro gets points for its peppy new M2 processor, which delivers a raw-performance uptick, and remains an iconic design. But we’d have liked to see more daring innovation on the rest of the laptop.


  • Performance tops M1 predecessor and Intel competitors
  • Tried-and-true design
  • Fantastic 22-hour battery life


  • Dated physical design
  • Lackluster 720p webcam and 2,560-by-1,600-pixel display
  • Supports just one external display
  • Touch Bar has its proponents, but feels like a design throwback

Apple MacBook Pro 16-Inch (2021)

The Most Powerful Mac for Apple Developers

Bottom Line:

The new ultimate Mac laptop, the 2021 Apple MacBook Pro 16-Inch is a finely engineered, high-octane workstation that will thrill content creators. The pumped-up M1 Max silicon in our tester, though, is beyond mere bragging rights—it’s reserved for creative pros with specialized needs.


  • Seriously powerful components
  • Exceptional battery life
  • Impressive audio performance
  • HDMI output and SD card reader
  • High-quality 1080p webcam
  • Gorgeous Mini-LED display
  • High-quality keyboard, huge touchpad


  • M1 Max CPU option, as tested, represents poor value for most workloads
  • Configuration upticks are expensive
  • Obtrusive camera notch
  • Weighs nearly 5 pounds

Lenovo Yoga 7i 14 Gen 7 (2022)

Best 2-in-1 Laptop for Programming

Bottom Line:

Lenovo’s 14-inch Yoga 7i Gen 7 is the most polished in a long line of successful 2-in-1 laptops, with a stellar design and superb battery life.


  • Superb, sturdy design with elegant features
  • Bright, colorful 2.2K touch screen
  • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
  • Robust port selection
  • Solid performance and battery life


  • Integrated graphics limit gaming and media creation potential
  • Active pen is supported but not included

Best Tablet PC for Programming

Bottom Line:

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 8 doesn’t revolutionize the iconic 2-in-1, but it delivers the most noteworthy update in years, with a larger display, an attractive chassis redesign, and improved performance.


  • Modern design with thin bezels and larger (13-inch) display
  • Superior 1080p webcam
  • Two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support
  • Well-implemented kickstand
  • User-accessible SSD
  • Perky performance in tested Core i7 configuration


  • Higher starting price diminishes entry-level appeal
  • Accessories and configuration upgrades are pricey
  • Keyboard base still sold separately
  • USB-C ports only

Best Workstation for Programming

Bottom Line:

HP’s slim ZBook Firefly 15 G8 is a compelling mobile workstation for professionals and creators with 2D and mild 3D needs.


  • Sharp 4K screen
  • Thin and light design
  • Impressive battery life
  • ISV certifications
  • Top-notch input devices and speakers
  • Available with 5G WWAN


  • A bit expensive for the performance level
  • Tops out with a quad-core processor

The Most Upgradable Laptop for Programmers

Bottom Line:

A unique notebook PC with admirable goals, the Framework Laptop is built from the ground up to be user-upgradable and sustainable for the long term, letting you swap out almost every part and keep your laptop for years.


  • Most components fully replaceable by end user
  • Sustainable concept and design, including recycled materials
  • Sold pre-configured or in DIY kit form
  • Clever accessibility and QR code instructions


  • Concept is reliant on long-term company support
  • DIY aspect may be intimidating for less-savvy laptop users

A good programming laptop will have the performance to support the unique demands of software development. That means looking closely at every aspect of the laptop: the processor (CPU), the memory (RAM), the storage (solid-state or spinning drive) and the graphics (GPU).

The Apple MacBook Air (M2)

(Credit: Molly Flores)

From the design to the operating system (OS), the right machine has to be a good fit with your work. Here are some of the specifics you need to consider when shopping for your next laptop for coding and development.

Which CPU Type Is Best for Programming?

While all of the advice in our guide to choosing the right processor still applies, there are a few elements to focus on. Core counts and multi-thread processing are a good place to start, along with power ratings and even broader divisions, such as manufacturer.

Multi-core CPUs with multiple processing threads are a must, letting you manage multiple tasks at once. These CPUs also handle complex tools, like virtual machines and compilers, in addition to simple tasks, like an integrated development environment, or IDE.

The insides of a laptop, including the storage, processor, memory, and graphics processor.

(Credit: Molly Flores)

Power ratings are another good indicator of overall performance. While there is more nuance to it, a good rule of thumb is that the higher the wattage—presented as thermal design power (TDP) or “Base Power” on the latest Intel chips—the better the relative performance. Lower-wattage CPUs may not offer the same muscle, but they have the alternative benefit of being more battery efficient. Knowing which you prioritize more between power and efficiency will help you find a good match.

The other question is manufacturer. Intel is the biggest name in processors, but AMD chips can provide an affordable alternative, and Mac users will be getting Apple Silicon by default.

Is 16GB RAM Enough for Programming in 2022?

The rule of thumb for RAM is always the same: More is better. But this is especially true for programmers, because you’ll need enough to support memory-intensive tasks, like running a virtual machine or emulators.

Ask yourself: How much data are you loading into memory? In a professional environment, we recommend choosing a minimum of 16GB, but more is always better.

Which Storage Type Is Best for Programming?

For most users, we recommend solid-state drives (SSDs) simply for the snappier performance. But for programming, where you may be calling up several files at once, or storing a huge number of support files and programming tools, the speed is essential. An SSD is a must—a traditional spinning hard drive will only slow you down.

Some of the ports found on the HP ZBook Firefly15 G8 laptop

(Credit: Molly Flores)

Capacity is another question. When you need to store a lot of data locally, more storage is also a plus. While budget machines may only offer 256GB or 512GB drives, you’ll probably need more than that, so we recommend a minimum of 1TB.

Is a GPU Necessary for Programming?

Trying to decide between a laptop with integrated graphics or something with an additional graphics processor? It’s a common enough question for the average computer shopper, but programmers have a different set of needs.

If you need to leverage machine learning for your projects, a GPU-equipped system is a must. Nvidia’s GPUs contain dozens of its proprietary CUDA cores, which can be harnessed for all sorts of extra processing. Plus, if you’re like most programmers, you love computers, and you want to use your machine for play as much as work. If that’s you, you’ll want a laptop that can play games when you’re done debugging.

Apple’s integrated graphics in its M1 and M2 processors are also a great option for machine learning, but without a discrete GPU. That’s not to say that it’s less capable. In fact, the machine learning capability built into the latest Mac processors is surprisingly powerful.

What Is the Most Important Part of a Computer for Programming?

Speedy performance may give you a boost in productivity, shaving off time when you’re compiling code, but those minutes saved will only help you out over weeks and months. The display, on the other hand, will impact your comfort and capability immediately.

A larger screen will let you see more information at once, while a brighter, more vivid display will give you better readability as you parse lines and lines of code. Similarly, a taller screen, with a 16:10 or 3:2 aspect ratio, will be helpful because it will provide more vertical space to work with than the more common 16:9 panels most laptops use.

The Dell XPS 17's keyboard and touchpad

(Credit: Molly Flores)

Other features to watch for include anti-glare panels, blue light mitigation, and touch screens. Touch capability may not be a must for every programmer, but if you’re developing apps for touch-screen devices, you’ll want to be able to test the touch input when needed.

The keyboard is another big one. While no laptop keyboard will provide the comfort and durability of something like one of the best desktop mechanical keyboards, you’ll still benefit from a good set of keys.

The same holds true for the touchpad. It may not beat navigation with a mouse, but you want to maximize both capability and comfort, so check out the relevant portions of our in-depth reviews.

Which OS Is Better for Programming?

Finally, deciding which OS you need will sort out a lot of systems very quickly. Our guide to operating systems provides a great overview of features and interface differences, but for programmers, it’s more than your favorite flavor of computer. If you’re developing software for iPhone and iPad, then it’s a safe bet that you’ll want to work on macOS, and that means buying one of the Apple laptops on our list. Conversely, if you need Windows, you’ll want to stick to laptops running Windows 11.

The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 in its tent position

(Credit: Molly Flores)

Aside from those two major players, a few programmers may want to do things differently. If you’re a Chromebook diehard, you can still work with Microsoft Visual Studio code, Python, and any number of web-based applications. You can also work in Linux on a Chromebook, or buy some of the laptops on our list with a Linux package instead of Windows. The important thing here is to know what sort of work you’re going to be doing on your system, and what OS is needed to support it.

So, What Is the Best Laptop to Buy for Programming?

We’ve chosen our top candidates among the more than 120 laptops we’ve tested and reviewed over the last year. Checked out our detailed summaries of each laptop above? Roll down the page to the spec breakdown below for much more on our picks.

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