Best laptops for programming 2018 (jan. 2018) – hob gear

If there is one best laptop for programming, then it must be the Apple Macbook Pro. The Apple Macbook Pro comes with two version: 13 inches and 15 inches. For those who prefer working on a large workspace, always choose the 15 inches version. But if you prefer to carry your laptop around, I suggest you to get the 13 inches version, because it’s much lighter: 3.4 lbs compare to 4.8 lbs of the 15 inches version, and that’s not including the charger and other accessories.

Talking about specs, the Apple Macbook Pro offer highend specs that suits almost all needs: Intel Core i5 or i7, 8GB or 16GB RAM 1866 MHz LPDDR3 RAM, high speed SSD from 128GB upto 512GB, Intel Iris Graphics 6100, latest OS X El Capitan. The 13 inches Apple Macbook Pro offers a display with 2560×1600 pixels resolution, meanwhile the 15 inches version offers 2880×1800 pixels resolution, and both of them are Retina display.

For those who don’t know much about computer, with those specs, you can do anything, from high level programming to 3D rendering without any problem.

Apple designs their products carefully to the tiniest details. Apple Macbook’s case is a full body aluminum case. It’s smooth, a little rough. The laptop is incredibly well balanced: you can open the lid with just one hand. For your information, most laptops won’t open if you use just one hand. The Apple Macbook Pro features a chiclet keyboard and one of the largest touchpad on the market. But don’t worry, even with that large touchpad, if you accidentally touch the touchpad with your palms, the Apple Macbook Pro is smart enough to recognize that. The Apple Macbook’s touchpad also offers multi gestures to utilize the large surface.

Hard drives are where computers store permanent data, in contract with RAM (Random Access Memory) are used to store temporary data (eg. data you use when opening a program). Operating systems are stored in hard drive, so are you programs and files. The faster the hard drive, the faster your computer boot up. That also applies to your programs and other files.

There are 2 basic types of hard drives at the moment: Hard Disk Drive (HDD), and Solid State Drive (SSD). SSDs are much faster at both writing and reading compare HDDs but at the cost of price: SSD is much more expensive than HDD, and have less storage when compares to HDD at the same price. We did some tests to compare: the machine is a Macbook Pro 2015, the HHD is Fujitsu 120GB 5400RPM, and the SSD is OCZ Vertex 120GB.

There is also Hybrid SSD (HSSD): combination between HDD and SSD. HSSD uses a conventional HDD for main storage with a integrated SSD, usually at the size of 8 to 24GB of storage to cache frequently used files for faster access. This results in faster loading time (but not as fast as normal SSD) and large room for storage. The price of HSSD is not much more expensive than a normal SSD.

In my personal experience, always get a laptop with SSD, it’s worth the price. If you can’t afford SSD, get laptop with HSSD. You can always buy external storage device or use cloud storage to compensate the lack of storage on SSDs. The price of external storage devices and cloud storage services has been declining in recent years, that makes those devices and services affordable.

RAM stands for Random Access Memory. RAM is a fastest storage device in you computer, and it’s used to store data that require very fast access speed. Normally, RAM is used to store data when you open an application, and RAM is freed up when you close that application. Operating Systems also cache frequently accessed files into RAM for quicker access.

Depend on what your requirements for work or study, but in my personal experience, 8GB is the minimum amount of RAM you should get. But you should get more than 8GB of RAM if you can. Even when you’re low on budget, always get the laptop with the highest amount of RAM, trust me, you won’t regret later. 8GB of RAM is enough for both daily activities and studying or coding: you can open several tabs on Chrome or Firefox; you can open your favourite IDE or text editor; you can even run 1 or 2 virtual machines.

Some laptops won’t allow you to upgrade RAM because RAM are soldered to mainboard. Normally slim laptops have this kind of RAM to achieve its slimness, such as Apple Macbook Air, Apple Macbook Pro (latest generation), Lenovo Thinkpad X1, etc. Meanwhile, large form laptops will allow you to upgrade, you just need to purchase the right kind of RAM (usually comes in smaller form than desktop’s RAM) and plug into your laptop. You may need to read manual or specs of a laptop to find out whether RAM is up-gradable or not.

Nowadays, CPUs have multiple cores inside, usually 2 or 4 cores. Again, slim laptops usually have only 2 cores, while larger laptops may have 4 cores. More cores do not mean more power, it means your computer can process more streams of data at the same time (the number streams of data equal to number of cores). Most modern programs can utilize multiple cores to speed up.

There are also differences between cheap and expensive CPUs. Let’s take Intel Core i3 and Intel Core i5 for example. Intel Core i3 usually has up to 2 cores, while Intel Core i5 may have up to 4 cores have much higher speed. Intel Core i5 also have higher L1, L2 & L3 cache, which you don’t need to know, and result will be faster processing time.

To conclude, get fastest CPU you can get. An Intel Core i5 is ideal, but Intel Core i3 will do the job just fine. Unless you require serious processing power, don’t get Intel Core i7, because this CPU requires much more power and hotter than Intel Core i5 and Intel Core i3. AMD’s CPUs, in my opinion, are not worth buying (at least for laptops).