How to Find the Best Laptops as a Software Engineer

How to choose the right laptop for your professional needs.

Software engineers don’t need a lot of equipment or setup to do their jobs effectively, but the quality of their equipment can have a massive impact on their overall productivity. These days, many software engineers prefer laptops over desktops for their mobility and versatility.

But how can you choose the right laptop for your professional needs?

Performance Specs

You need a laptop that’s advanced enough to handle the work you do on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it’s practically impossible to recommend minimum performance specs for a general software engineer. That’s because different types of projects have different demands, and software engineers may approach their work differently.

For example, if you’re working with AI or other resource-intensive types of projects, you’re going to need much more processing power and more advanced GPUs than someone who’s simply working on basic mobile applications. Also, if you plan on multitasking regularly, you’ll need far more RAM and potentially more processing power and hard drive space as well.

No matter what, you should consider these performance specs when evaluating laptops for your professional needs:

·       Processor. The processor, or CPU, of your laptop is going to be responsible for its primary performance capabilities. There is some variability in terms of processors on the market, but if you buy anything made in the last few years, it should probably be sufficient for your programming needs. Even going back a generation shouldn’t hold you back too much, unless you have niche needs that require extra processing power.

·       RAM. Random Access Memory (RAM) is easiest to conceptualize if you consider it the short-term memory center of your laptop’s brain. It temporarily stores information, so the more RAM you have, the more complex tasks you can tackle at once. For most software engineers, 8 GB should be sufficient, but if you plan on multitasking extensively, or if you have demanding projects, you might need more.

·       GPU. Not every software engineer is going to need a dedicated graphics card, but many types of projects, including video games, blockchain projects, and anything related to AI, are going to need one. Nvidia and AMD are the most popular brands for GPUs, and they have very different naming conventions that make it tricky to make a minimum recommendation. However, any modern GPU (released in the last few years) should be sufficient for all your needs.

·       Hard drive. SSD hard drives boot much faster and are in many ways more reliable than HDD hard drives, making them preferable; however, they also cost more money, so keep that in mind. How much storage space depends on how much local storage you need. If you mostly rely on cloud storage, it’s a secondary consideration. Most software engineers that store things locally benefit from having at least 1 TB of storage available.

·       Screen resolution. Standard screen resolution should be fine for most software engineers, but you may prefer heightened resolution for a better visual experience.

·       OS. Ubuntu and Windows are common choices for software engineers, but you may also prefer macOS – or something more obscure.

Physical Aspects

You’ll also need to consider the physical aspects of your laptop.

·       Physical dimensions and screen size. Depending on your preferences, you may want a small laptop that’s easily portable, or you may want a big laptop with a large screen. This is largely a subjective decision.

·       Weight. Take a look at the weight of your laptop as well, especially if you plan on traveling with this frequently. Many advanced technical components add a surprising amount of weight to the finished laptop.

·       Ports. Don’t forget to evaluate available ports! You’ll need the right kinds and number of ports for accessories, monitors, and other peripherals.

Price

As we’ve already seen, there’s a push and pull between quality and price. Generally, the more you spend, the more advanced the laptop will be. However, the average software engineer doesn’t need something top of the line. If you’re on a tight budget, you can likely find a variety of options that will serve your needs well; of course, you shouldn’t be afraid to splurge if it means getting access to a machine that can better support your profession.

Aesthetics

As a final, superficial note, you may want to consider the aesthetics of your laptop. How your laptop looks shouldn’t affect your software engineering or productivity, but it might make you feel better about logging on to start your day – or brighten up your home office.

Choosing a laptop as a software engineer can be stressful, especially with so many options available on the modern market. However, with some proactive consideration and careful due diligence, you should be able to find something that works for your professional needs and is squarely within your budget.

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