Laptop buying guide 2021: Some tips to consider before buying your next laptop as a developer
Being a developer, if there is one thing with which we spend the most of our time throughout the day is our laptop. An average person switches laptops in around 3–4 years and if you are considering buying one then here are some tips you should know before finding a perfect fit for you.
Before we continue I have one thought to share-
Never compromise on your budget while buying a laptop as a developer. Consider it as an investment. A good laptop for a developer is as important as a good camera & lens for a photographer. To show our creativity we need a great machine which doesn’t act as a blocker to our productivity.
Operating System (Mac OS, Windows, Linux)
This is the first decision you have to take before thinking about specifications. It very much depends on the language, framework, or environment you want to build your app for. For example- iOS development can only be done on macOS. So if you develop apple-only applications then Mac OS is the only choice for you.
I have personally used both Windows and Mac OS. Both are good in their own ways but I prefer Mac OS for its fluidity and lag-free experience. I have never worked on Linux but I have heard that it’s good if you just want to do programming (not recommended for gamers though). If you want to game along with code then Windows is your best pick.
Display (TN, IPS, OLED, Mini LED)
There are various display options available in the market ranging from TN Panel (not good viewing angles), IPS (best price to performance), OLED (very bright and contrasty but costly), or Mini LED (very bright but only available in limited models). For a normal user, a good bright IPS display with around 300+ nits of brightness and a minimum resolution of 1080p (Full HD) is enough. Currently, there are many laptops having higher refresh rates (90Hz, 120Hz, 144Hz, etc.) but 60 Hz one is decent enough if you don’t want to game on it as higher resolution or refresh rate displays consume more power hence lesser battery life.
Also, a screen size ranging 13"-15" is enough as you might be attaching it to a secondary monitor anyway 😛
Keyboard And Trackpad
This is the most underrated area which we often ignore while buying a good laptop, especially for programmers. Those who have a MacBook 2015–2019 can relate to this 😭. A good set of tactile keys along with a big glass trackpad plays a huge role in productivity and also makes your life a little bit easier.
My recommendations for a good keyboard+trackpad laptop would be DELL XPS 13 or any MacBook 2020 model onwards.
An Intel i5 (9th generation or later) or AMD Ryzen 5 is good enough, to begin with. But if you want to buy a MacBook then only buy one with their new in-house M1 processor or wait for the next generation as it’s around the corner.
Investing your money in an i3 or Ryzen 3 is not worth it.
DO NOT buy a windows machine with 8GB RAM in 2021. Optimal RAM for us developers would be 16GB and anything above that is a plus. We need higher RAM to run various tabs on a browser (Google Chrome I am talking about you), run emulators (most emulators require a minimum of 4GB RAM for themselves), or to open multiple IDEs and apps.
Using a laptop with just a hard disk in 2021 is like driving VW Polo in an F1 race. Buying a laptop with an SSD is a must. A 256GB variant would be enough as most of our data is stored on the cloud anyways.
Other important stuff
- Battery Life should be more than 6+ hours which is common in modern-day ultrabooks.
- Don’t skimp on ports. Having an HDMI port along with a thunderbolt port is not less than a blessing.
- Having a good wi-fi card would be helpful for faster surfing and downloads.
- A backlit keyboard can be helpful too.
Did I miss any other spec or feature? Let me know in the comments below. Till then, Happy Coding! 👨💻