Things to Consider When Choosing Dev Laptop

August 13, 2018 Hardware

A few months ago I was choosing a new laptop in order to make my life as a developer more comfortable. That time I used to use a pretty old one which came with a slow HDD and 4 GB of RAM. Remember that I had already been into Android development – that was a pain. So I decided to make a change. Now I’m ready to guide you what a decent Android developer’s laptop should look like.

Android developer’s everyday routine

Before making a choice it’s good to determine the requirements to the work environment. I usually have these apps running while developing:

  • Chromium (40+ open tabs)
  • Android Studio
  • Gradle daemon
  • Android emulator (or two of them)
  • Terminal
  • Chat client

They take approximately 12 gigs of RAM.

Parts of a good developer laptop

RAM

Given that most laptops have only two memory slots, it should have at least 16 GB of memory to keep things fluent. I would say this is the bare minimum: what if I have to launch a virtual machine?

Seek a laptop with replaceable memory. If you find a model that suits your needs, but comes with 8 gigs only, then you will be able to buy another 8 gigs later. I strongly discourage buying a laptop with soldered memory, because your requirements can change and a couple of years later you will have to replace it just because you cannot insert another RAM module.

CPU

Another important part is the processor. I don’t think a dual-core CPU can cope with 4 CPU-intensive applications running side by side. Those ones bundled with laptops rarely have clock frequencies high enough to handle such workflows. You need a quad-core CPU if you don’t want to enjoy a lagging OS every time you start a Gradle build. For example, my Intel Core i5 8250U is getting load as high as 95% while running Gradle in parallel.

Disk storage

If you can afford SSD, definitely buy one. That will be a huge improvement over an old-school HDD. Switching to SSD from HDD can be compared to buying a new PC. If you are choosing between two CPUs, one of which is a little bit faster, then buy a slower one and go for SSD. A few GHz will not give you the increase in performance any low-budget SSD can give.

Ports

The more you have, the better. These days there are rarely more than 3 USB ports in most laptops, unfortunately. You should have at least one Type-C port to be able to connect new devices. Be aware, that there are Type-C ports that support USB 2.0 or 3.0 instead of USB 3.1. The best choice would be two USB 3.0 ports plus two USB 3.1 Type-C ports. You are unlikely to find such combination, so you could use an USB concentrator in addition.

Display

A standard TN display will serve you well. But if you have extra money, then go for an IPS one. Just because it can be comfortably viewed from (almost) any angle. Otherwise, it does not really matter. You can code perfectly fine with any screen, that’s just a matter of a preference.

Conclusion

To sum up, in my opinion a well-crafted laptop should have:

  • Quad-core CPU
  • 16 GB of non-soldered memory
  • Solid-state drive of at least 128 GB
  • At least 3 USB ports, one of which is USB 3.1 Type-C
  • IPS screen (optionally)
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