Programming Laptop Specs

Looking to purchase a set of new laptops for our programming team. We use Java and might end up using these laptops to edit a Chairman’s video with editing software. I don’t really know anything about computer specs and need to know what to tell the people who are going to buy them. Here’s what I’ve got so far.
The laptops must have:
Bluetooth capability
2+ USB ports
Ethernet port
Windows 10
Internet Capability

Bonus:
HDMI port

I saw a previous post asking the same question but it was from four years ago and didn’t know if times have changed. I wouldn’t be opposed to a specific laptop recommendation either.

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Personally, I would go with the following:

i7 / i9 7th gen
16gb RAM 3600
Nvidia 1660Ti
500gb SSD storage

If there is a specific editing software you want to run, you can also try visiting their website and looking for the recommended or minimum specs for running that software and go from that.

You can buy the laptops from Amazon, BestBuy, Dell, etc.

I’m gonna disagree with a couple things here:

  • CPU: Get a Ryzen 5 or 7, they’re generally cheaper but are far more capable than the intel equivalent especially for multicore workloads (video editing/compiling code)
  • 16gb ram yeah, but 3200mhz is perfectly fine and significantly cheaper (ddr4, idk about ddr5)
  • For a gpu, anything works. Honestly, you’re probably fine with an AMD integrated graphics card, those things are flipping nuts for what they are - unless you need a decent amount of vram, you’re good with those almost for sure.
  • Go with 500gb ssd storage, but make sure the laptop has at least an extra SATA slot in case you want to add in a cheap spinner for capacity if you’re doing a lot of video editing.

With regards to the requirements posted in OP:

  • Bluetooth capability: Any decent modern laptop will have this, especially one with the specs I just mentioned.
  • 2+ USB ports: This is getting harder to find, you do NOT want an ultrathin or 2 in 1 cause these laptops usually have few to no ports except charging.
  • Ethernet port: See above
  • Windows 10: If you’re buying the laptop now, you will most likely have to upgrade to 10 from 11, Microsoft is forcing manufacturers to move to 11 (which is worse in every way I’ve found)
  • Internet Capability: See bluetooth. If you can, an Intel wireless card is great, but it doesn’t really matter. Mediatek is just somewhat less reliable particularly with bluetooth.
  • HDMI port: See ethernet/USB port point.

On the topic of manufacturers:

  • Dell/HP/Lenovo I don’t generally recommend, particularly Dell, since their laptops are already a pain to deal with in terms of software, but these laptops (less so with Lenovo) are also among the least repairable
  • Apple is good, but overpriced and cannot be repaired. There’s also the slight disadvantage that MacOS is installed and Windows is a pain to get working on the new Macs, which are the only ones I would ever recommend - Any post 2014 Intel Mac is a joke.
  • Asus/Acer is in my experience really quite good - Asus’s casing is, in my experience, quite fragile though so you have to be careful. I’m currently writing this post on my Acer Nitro 5 (a budget gaming laptop) which I love.

As a side note, “Business”, “Professional”, and “Workstation” are labels that just mean the laptop is overpriced - I’ve seen these laptops cost around $2000 with significantly worse specs than my $1300 Acer, but used business laptops are flipping amazing - If you can get a 2018-era Dell Latitude or something, you’re set - I’d recommend the Dell Latitude e6540 if you can get them. Same goes for Thinkpads.
Personal laptops imo are rarely worth it unless you need the thin and light or 2 in 1, which are things I feel can be better replaced with an iPad anyway.
In general, if you’re not going used, get a budget gaming laptop from Asus or Acer, they pack a stupid amount of power, particularly the Ryzen editions, in a somewhat large form but also are really easy to work with and have cool flashy lights (Cool flashy lights is all that the label “gaming” ever means anyway, don’t let that throw you off - I’ve seen gaming laptops that can game about as effectively as a microwave on low power)

TL:DR;

  • Get a Ryzen based laptop if you can
  • If you can get a used business laptop, particularly a Dell Latitude or Lenovo Thinkpad, you’re set, you just need a storage and maybe RAM upgrade and you’re good
  • Don’t get a personal laptop, get a budget gaming laptop for significantly more power at a similar price

Source: Worked as a PC repair tech, was on FRC team

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MAGNAtech 3468’s programming team now has 12 laptops, 6x are Thinkpad T440p, and the other 6x are Thinkpad T460. All have the following specs:

Intel i5 CPU (4th Gen-T440p or 6th gen-T460)
8GB RAM
128GB+ SSD
Windows 10

This is still plenty for programming, though you may want more grunt for video editing, maybe up it to i7 (or equivalent AMD Ryzen 7), 16GB of RAM, and a discrete GPU. Though the i5/8GB would likely still be enough to get it done, just not be a nice experience.

I agree fully on @gellnick’s take here, new Business Machines are overpriced, but used ones are amazing! I buy slightly older (~2016-2018 currently) used/refurbished Thinkpads on E-bay for all the 3468’s needs as they are cheaper to acquire($100-150ea is usually my target for programming and general purpose), repair parts are generally easy to source (had to replace a Keyboard last year for a T440p, was very easy), they get the job done, and if something does happen to destroy a machine, the financial loss is minimal.

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I’d have to disagree on the Dell… There is a world of difference between a latitude and Inspiron.

Latitudes are usually a lot more serviceable. They are meant to be deployed for years at a time.

For video editing… If you want encoding acceleration get something with a Nvidia GPU or an later Intel chip. Their hardware encoders are top notch.

Edit:

There are a series of “gaming” laptops in the $700-1000 that seem fairly decent from Lenovo/HP/Dell that are better than their regular laptops. They usually have better screens, better keyboards and GPUs. They tend to be a bit chunkier though.

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Seconding the nvidia GPU recommendation, but I would personally argue if you go with that to get a Ryzen, they’re generally cheaper and have better multicore performance.

Also, I would not recommend a non business laptop from any major OEM, and even then only used ones. OEMs main business is for businesses, and their personal machines are honestly a joke in my opinion - they’re impossible to work with in a lot of cases, particularly the thin and light ones, and repair bills are astronomical compared to business machines or particularly older gaming machines.
However I have not seen a good “gaming” laptop from any of the major OEMs lately - the closest would be Lenovo’s Legion 5 Line but I’d still recommend an Asus or Acer particularly due to ease of repairability.

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I got a low end HP gaming laptop with an i5 and 1650 a couples years back.

You have to take the whole bottom plate off but once you do it’s simple to upgrade RAM and storage.

Fans are easy to clean and replace once in there too.

Worst ones I’ve worked on personally were the lowest end of any manufacturer.

Ryzen based ones without an Nvidia GPU don’t have QSV like Intel iGPUs. Sure, they might have some integrated encoding but it’s not supported as well and quality isn’t as good.

For code editing you want a nice screen with low glare (schools have horrible lighting).

An interesting note: once you have a project in GitHub you can use the browser based VSCode GitHub has integrated. I’ve also used the cloud development environment.

Nice in a pinch, no wpi integration, but you can use Gradle itself to build I think.

I would focus on the features you already mentioned, intel or amd it should not really matter, atleast 16GB of RAM and a good 1080p screen. Ethernet port is a good one, you could make use of a Type C dongle but I have seen these come unplug before and that is rough if it is during a match.

Almost any laptop is going to perform well enough so I would focus on the features that make it comfortable to use, heck if you have a local store like microcenter just go there and feel laptops in person, sometimes something as small as a weird mousepad or awkward keyboard can make things rough.

It is possible some video rendering software will benefit from intel quicksync or nvidias encoding capabilities. AMD makes good integrated graphics but the GPU hardware encoding is still generations behind Nvidia’s latest one. I would just do some research here, probably spending extra on a dedicated GPU is not worth it.

If every laptop needs to be able to edit a video, all the previously listed advice is good. However, running Java and doing basic computer stuff is all you need for most programming laptops. We have found that grabbing used laptops and putting Linux on them or getting used Windows laptops works perfectly fine for most programming tasks. Many local companies (and schools) often replace their laptops but don’t get rid of the old ones so that is a potential source.

For editing videos you will need a more performant computer though.

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Hi, sorry to hijack this thread a bit but wondering if these specs look okay? I am Considering a renewed refurbished but I’m a mom with no knowledge of what’s required for cad or solidworks software. I think Based on what I’ve read here this might work but hoping to get a confirmation from some folks in this wonderful group.

The laptop in question:

Dell Latitude 7490 14 HD ANTI-Glare, Intel Core i5-835OU, 16GB DDR4, 256 GB Solid State Drive, Webcam, Bluetooth, Windows 10 Pro.

Iideally he can use this for regular school stuff but also his high school robotics team that uses Solidworks. Would be thrilled if this lasted him the rest of 3.5 years of high school.

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