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Ask HN: What's the best laptop for developers?
10 points by tejbirwason on Mar 20, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments



This question is posted just about weekly. The most recent was 3 days ago at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7415884

Use the search at the bottom of this page ("ask laptop") and read all the previous submissions. You get quicker answers and HN gets fewer duplicate discussions.


Lenovo ThinkPad - one of the full sized models with a good keyboard and matte screen. Max out the RAM, install a large SSD, and replace Windows with Linux (in my case, Linux Mint). I'm currently running an L520 as my personal machine and an L530 at work.

Oh - and buy a cheap netbook for when you're traveling somewhere you might have your main machine lost, stolen, or destroyed.

And encrypt the disk on all your laptops.


Rather than mess with disk encryption, just host your own server or get a VPS and connect to it from your laptop/netbook.

This makes your laptop disposable and you can get the cheapest hardware and be fine...You'll never lose work due to your laptop failing on you and you don't have to worry about people accessing your data.


Assuming that everywhere you work, you have a fast reliable Internet connection. That's certainly not true for me, or most people who live in Melbourne (no Wi-Fi on trains here, for starters).


My approach is to buy a Lenovo with a decent processor and screen size and the lowest memory and storage I can find, then upgrade to 16GB and a SSD, since it's much cheaper to upgrade these parts than to buy pre-assembled with the specs you want.


For Linux, the Lenovo X or T series are the way to go. I've had ~5 of them over the last ten years and they're great. They're built like tanks, are very well supported by Linux, and are modular and easy to upgrade.


Are Lenovos still built like tanks? Comments on their product pages are mixed. Plus they are switching towards some wonky (for me at least) keyboards. I have a W500 that I love but fear I won't be able get something as solid in the future as Lenovo becomes Dell.


My X220 is now 3+ years old and has a crack below the trackpad area which is too thin and obviously not strong enough. It still works and there isn't any other damage but I wouldn't say the newer sleeker versions are built like tanks.


13" Retina MBP is my preferred platform, but also doing development on a Surface Pro 2.

If/when a retina MacBook Air comes out, that will likely replace the 13" MBP.


I just upgraded from my 2010 MBP to the most recent Macbook Air 13" and I am so happy I did. The screen isn't that bad because they stepped up the resolution to 1440x900. It gives the effect of a much larger screen.


Depends on what you want from it. Personally the only thing I need out of a laptop is SSH, so my requirements are: SSD for fast bootup, small size/weight good keyboard, runs Arch Linux.

I have a second-generation Lenovo X100e (so the dual-core processor) and I couldn't be happier. A $45 upgrade to an SSD and $10 for an AGN wireless card saved me from having to spend ~$2-3k on an MBP.

Pretty awesome for what was basically a (high-end) netbook.


I have one of those. Finally keeled over from overheating. Do you have heat issues?


It ran hot with Windows installed. Like super hot.

Cool as a cucumber in the console and with Fluxbox running and browsers & Sumatra open.


I'm between my current 2013 macbook pro and a ThinkPad - both are great machines. Make sure you have an SSD and decent memory (8GB+ RAM) - most developers need little more. The main advice; if you're getting a laptop to travel with, get one which is quite light and has excellent build quality, it's absolutely worth the extra money.


Dell XPS13 "Sputnik". One of the few Linux laptops from a major maker. I have the pre Haswell (but with a 1080p screen) and it's light and fast. The only downside, for me, is the wider screen compared to the squarer screen of the Airs. But having neither Windows nor OSX come with it is important to me as a developer.


Don't forget that if you also want to do any serious work for iOS or OS/X, you need a Mac.

For portability, get a MacBook Air 11", for a powerhouse get a Retina MacBook Pro 15". If you want something in between get the Retina MacBook Pro 13".


If you have detailed requirements the people at http://www.reddit.com/r/suggestalaptop can provide you with some suitable laptops.


I tried that and got no responses. Maybe because I specified Canada? I should have just gone with the US. It's close enough!


I've been very happy with my Lemur Ultra from System76, though needs may differ. "Can comfortably use it on public transit through my commute" was the most important consideration for me.


Why buy a laptop? A desktop is usually faster and/or cheaper, has a bigger screen, and has much better ergonomics.


I am planning on building a Haswell-E machine when it comes out. The new procs are supposed to have 8 cores (16 threads). The chipset also supports 64 GB over 8 DIMMS (8GB sticks) and 10 SATA III 6.0 Gb/s connections. I plan on just adding 256gb or 128gb SSDs in raid zero. You could even throw in a Titan Black for CUDA and gaming and still get it for cheaper than a loaded Macbook Pro Retina.

I currently have a 2012 MBPR with 16gb and 512gb of ram that has served me extremely well. It drives my 20 30 20 PLP monitor setup just fine. I work at home now so I just need a desktop. I plan on picking up MBA 11 to use as a netbook when I am on the go. I want to get it setup so I can run Android emulators etc on my desktop over the network when I am out on my MBA.


I have trouble using my desktop on BART.


True, but I doubt that BART is where developers do most of their real work.


I wouldn't want to do without a desktop, but I also like having the option of going to a coffee shop or park to work, especially when I'm having trouble staying on task at home.


Agreed - Desktop with a nice multi-monitor setup is great, but getting out and working somewhere different really does help refresh things and gets you back in focus.

The only problem with laptop is the small screen and it's harder (/more expensive) to do a multi-monitor setup. I don't know how people are listing an 11" laptop to do any dev work. I guess if its just a straight editor and not an IDE that works.


I use PyCharm and WebStorm om my 11" MBA without much problem. Just hide all the panels when you're editing and open/close them with the hot keys as and when you need to use them. Sure it's not as nice as working on my nice desktop setup at home or in the office, but it's not really difficult.


There's people that code on their phones, so...(not me , but there is)


I didn't see Asus listed here. Their laptops are great. I personally like the X202 series (netbooks).


mac book pro 15" screen retina display. No compromises. You want to make great stuff, but good stuff.


2011 release mbp 13 with replaced SSD and full 8gb, I run three virtual machines (xp, win7, and win8), android os, used to run VM for Blackberry - but no more, and Snow leopard with Xcode and ios simulators running all over. not a single sec delay and works awesome! light weight, extended screen, work and personal both goes together ;)


lenovo t series, you can use it as a tray.


thinkpad t, x or w series; macbook pro




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