If you are about to start a programming career or join a TripleTen program, you probably wondering if your “common” laptop can handle the hustle and bustle of everyday coding tasks. Read along to get some clarity around those thoughts and determine if your laptop will withstand the tests of your coding journey.
To code or not to code (on a common laptop)? That is the question
In short― yes, you can start with a laptop you have. Whether you bought it yourself a few years ago or were given it at work, you’re all set. If you just broke ground in coding, you don’t really have to spend much on a supercomputer. But just like in gaming, a powerful system will let you enjoy speed and quality that will drive you to your goal faster.
To understand whether a computer is suitable for your tasks, it’s worth at least a basic understanding of its characteristics:
- RAM ― Random Access Memory, i.e. short-term computer memory. It makes work with applications smoother. It’s measured in GB and there is such a volume: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.
- HDD ― Hard (magnetic) Disk Drive. Storage for data and files. It’s measured in GB and TB and there is such a volume: 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB, etc.
- SSD ― Solid-State Drive. More compact and faster storage than HDD. It’s measured in GB and TB and there is such a volume: 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 2TB, etc.
- CPU ― Central Processing Unit. The heart of a computer makes it alive and runs all programs. The key metrics are the number of cores (1, 2, 4, 8, etc.) and the frequency, which is measured in GHz, ranging from around 1.0 GHz to 5.0 GHz.
For all cases, the higher these values, the better.
If you plan to start with a vintage heritage from the early 2000s, some challenges may appear along the way. Specs like 4 GB of RAM, 100 GB HDD, and an old Intel Pentium processor with low frequency (for example, 0,533 GHz) or similar are not best for today's coding tasks.
They are likely to fail to save your deliverables because of a lack of memory and waste much of your time until they complete testing or compiling the code. So if your laptop has similar specifications, consider upgrading to a newer model to make your life easier and more productive.
To see if your laptop can handle the coding tasks, check its specifications in the system info. For this, go to Settings > System > About (or Apple menu > About This Mac).
Many IT students feel like their old laptop detracts a great deal from the pleasure they could have. We have gathered key takeaways to make it easier for you to decide if you should spend cash on a new laptop or stick to “Ol’ Reliable”. Read further to find out what specs are best for programming and why.
What about a desktop?
To get off to a running start, here’s a tip: if you work from home, consider buying a desktop computer. You can usually get a pretty decent desktop computer for the same amount of cash you'd pay for a mid-level laptop. Besides, desktops are easier to upgrade ― you can add RAM (Random Access Memory) or another hard drive at your discretion or buy a large monitor. And no worries about the battery life!
Still, you can’t deny the portability of laptops. You can work from home, the beach, or in the school stadium watching how your kid kicks a goal. According to Statista, since 2020, there are on average three laptops bought against one desktop, with this gap between the number of purchased devices growing yearly. With this in mind, we’ll discuss what laptop specifications you need for good coding.
Laptop specifications to rely on
Note that there isn't a separate category of “programming laptops”. You simply choose the best option for your job from common machines. Just follow the general rule: the higher and faster ― the better it is for coding.
With a powerful machine, you will spend less time waiting for resource-demanding operations to complete. Your laptop won’t hang, so you won’t have to reboot it every time, and overall, you will enjoy the process. There are several things that impact it.
CPU, RAM, SSD
Choose a laptop with a multicore processor (CPU — Central Processing Unit). Knowing what a processor core is isn’t really important. Just remember, more cores and higher frequency will make your work faster and more comfortable. Pick laptops with 3 GHz Intel Core i5 or i7 or AMD Ryzen processors with similar characteristics.
To check what processor you have in your Windows laptop, go to Settings > System > About. The name and speed of the processor are in the Device specifications against the Processor item.
If you are among users of Apple laptops, the M1 8-core CPU, the M2 line will handle coding tasks decently. M1 Pro or M1 Max 10-core processors, M2 Pro, and Max models will ensure a really enjoyable and smooth programming experience. The older models have Intel processors, so the same rule applies there — the higher the value, the better.
To find out what processor is installed in your Apple laptop, choose Apple menu > About This Mac. This is where you will see your processor model against the Chip item.
As for RAM (Random Access Memory), 8 GB is the bare minimum for developers. Coding implies a lot of memory-intensive tasks, for example, running emulators or a virtual machine, so the more RAM you can get, the better. 16, 32 GB or more boosts your productivity.
Now, hard drives. First of all, you need SSD (Solid-State Drive), as it greatly improves performance compared with a standard hard drive (HDD). SSD speeds up every operation you do, from compiling the code and loading projects to launching apps. The capacity of 512 GB or 1 TB will be enough for all programming tools, documents, and other stuff.
If you prefer a middle or low-entry laptop, choose the one with a 256 GB SSD. It’s enough to house your operating system, applications, and frequently accessed documents. All non-programming content you can store on the external hard drive.
The operating system totally depends on what applications you plan to create. It makes sense to buy a Windows-run laptop if you want to create applications for Windows OS, or macOS if you think of developing applications for Apple devices. If you want to create a website or web application, you can choose anything you like.
Another alternative for programming is Linux. It is a free, open-source operating system that enjoys great popularity in the developers’ community. It supports all the most common programming languages and has tools that are helpful for coding and server management.
The situation with mobile apps is quite different: you can create Android apps on any device, but for iOS apps you need a computer with macOS.
Comfort at work: battery life and screen
Other specifications are optional and mostly depend on your preferences, such as whether you plan to work from home or outdoors. This choice determines if the battery life is a top priority for your laptop. If you always wanted to code on the sea beach, then choose the laptop with a battery that lasts longer than analogs at the same price. If you plan to work from home, you can sacrifice the longer battery life for, say, the large screen.
The screen specifications ― size and resolution ― have an impact on your workflow. As a programmer, you will be staring at the screen for hours paying close attention to details, so eyes can tear. Screen resolution doesn’t directly affect eye fatigue; however, higher resolution can provide a clearer and sharper image and thus more comfortable viewing experience. Full HD (1920 x 1080, or 1080p) display — golden middle in this case.
In most cases, it is more comfortable to work on the big screen. For office and homework, 15-inch laptops and more can be a good choice. But if you travel a lot, consider a smaller and more portable solution with a 13 or 14-inch display. They are lighter and fit a carrying bag better.
It’s not a hard rule and you can use all tools you hand on or choose which gets your job done best.
Check your computer
The optimal configuration for starting coding has:
- 8 GB of RAM
- 256 GB SSD
- a relatively powerful processor, Apple M1, Intel Core i5, i7 (or similar) with a frequency of 3 GHz.
So check these with your laptop specifications.
- Click the Windows Start button > Settings > System.
- Then scroll down and click About. This screen shows details about the processor, RAM, and so on.
For Apple laptops:
- Сhoose Apple menu > About This Mac.
- A window will appear displaying an overview of your MacBook.
- After that, click System Report.
If they are the same or higher – then no worries, you can start coding with the old good workhorse you have. If you can afford a solution with a larger screen, longer battery life, or a bigger disk size, go for it. But remember: a modest laptop won’t make you a bad coder, as the most important part is your desire to become an IT professional!
Different specifications for different tasks
Before you actually decide, keep in mind that the choice of different laptop specifications depends largely on the tasks you have in mind. For example, you will need more powerful laptops for game development or deployment of machine learning projects. In this case, consider laptop specs with the dedicated graphics processing unit (GPU). Any GPU will perform better than integrated graphics that are pre-built into laptop processors. Such models are better suited to handle really resource-intensive tasks. For simpler tasks choose laptops with integrated graphics (i.e. any one).
Scaring as it seems, a programming laptop doesn’t need to cost a pretty penny. There are options for every budget.
Let’s start coding
Having a laptop with modest parameters or a premium model isn't really as important as your desire to grow professionally in IT. Decide what you want to be and apply to one of TripleTen’s Bootcamps. Whether you opt for software engineering, data science, data analytics, or BI, you can join the bootcamp with its own coding platform.
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