If you’re a student or professional working in the tech industry, you’ve probably heard that you need a laptop that costs at least $1,000, and maybe even $2,000. But is that really necessary? I’ve been programming full-time since my sophomore year of college and I’ve never felt like my budget laptop was holding me back. I’ve been programming for almost 3 years and I use a $500 laptop. So here are the pros and cons of programming on a budget laptop.
- 1 Pros and Cons of Programming on a Budget Laptop
- 2 The Pros:
- 3 The Cons:
- 4 Conclusion
Pros and Cons of Programming on a Budget Laptop
The first con of programming on a budget laptop is simply the lack of power. I use Macbook Air (12-” Retina) at work. It’s a lightweight, dual-core laptop that only has a 128GB solid-state drive, meaning it’s got no local storage and only 1GB of RAM. And it’s as slow as I’ve ever seen a Macbook Air be. I can program full-time in LibreOffice and it will still take me a long time to type up a 1000 word document.
And of course, the point of having a laptop is so you can work offline, but the Macbook Air (and a lot of the other budget laptops) aren’t that great at that either. Like I said though, a budget laptop doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy the cheapest model that you can find. And as long as you’re prepared for the trade-offs, they can be worth it. Recently, Geekyslug curated a list of best laptops under $600 with SSD, and all of them are programming friendly. Laptops under this range are generally considered as budget laptops but with SSDs and good enough to install any distro of Linux, or just windows if you do programming on Windows.
Really versatile. If I’m programming on a browser, there’s no reason to lug around an external keyboard and external monitor. I just pull my computer out of my backpack and keep working. If I’m programming on a browser, there’s no reason to lug around an external keyboard and external monitor. I just pull my computer out of my backpack and keep working. Great for traveling. The only reason I’ve ever had a laptop for more than a couple of months is that I was working on a long-term project on the road. If I’m traveling for a week, I bring my backpack full of essentials — laptop, a jacket, charger, headphones, paper & pen — and save the laptop for longer trips. I can even type on the plane using my fingers and the ambient lighting.
Pros: Small and portable Cheap cases $500 laptop Cons: Hard to upgrade: remember to buy RAM, USB-C adapters, and anything else you need to upgrade If you want more RAM than your laptop can provide If you want a touchscreen Pricey Pros: Cheap cases Can upgrade RAM High-quality external screens CONS: No upgrade options Not as cheap as a Chromebook Expensive Pros: Cheapest option Lots of upgrade options Has touchscreen Cons: Can be very expensive High maintenance 3 Reasons I choose a Chromebook instead of a Laptop Chromebooks are often hailed as the next best thing. They’re cheap, easy to upgrade, and highly customizable. Chromebooks provide all the technical perks that a standard laptop does, with none of the headaches.
Almost every machine on the market is portable. Most come with 12-18 hours of battery life. The portable one I use is around 10-12 hours. Plus, you can often take a bigger laptop on the go with you, like when you’re traveling to conferences or when you need to take a work project with you. You can definitely see how that could become a big advantage if you work for a company that travels frequently. Note that if you plan to work on your laptop from any other location, make sure that your WiFi network is robust enough to support all of your programs, and have enough ports to connect your peripherals. This is easy to do with MacBooks because they have a USB port for every major peripheral. However, I have found that almost every Windows machine on the market has USB 2.0 ports.
Losing Storage Space A cheap laptop can be great for programming if you need a work laptop. However, it has the most storage space for programs. You may need to switch programs to store more programs, and even so, the maximum space for programs in a file is 256. Here’s how much space your programs will take up on my 8GB SSD drive: The Pros: Compact Design A cheap laptop is much more compact and has a smaller profile than a bigger computer like a MacBook. This small size also helps you store programs in memory, so you don’t need large storage. These laptops also have better processor performance (compare my MacBook to a comparable laptop). My laptop has an Intel Celeron processor and that’s okay.
Stuck with an integrated graphics card
The major problem is a lack of gaming-worthy graphics. My laptop has an Intel G4560 processor with an Intel HD Graphics 4600 graphics card. The Intel HD 4000 graphics engine is outdated and limits me from playing modern games like Overwatch. Other than that, my laptop has 4GB of RAM, a 64GB SSD, and a 120GB hard drive. In comparison, most computers on the market these days have an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti GPU, which offers similar performance as a dedicated graphics card at an even cheaper price. Many of these laptops are available for $500 or less, and even some Chromebooks offer decent gaming performance. What I recommend for budget programming laptops is a desktop, since that offers the best portability and room to grow as your career progresses.
Low Disk Space
Budget laptops usually have less than 4 GB of usable space and some even have just 512 MB. This may sound like a lot, but it’s really not. You won’t run out of space in a month. A high-end machine like my Lenovo will have 16 GB of usable space, and I’m still managing to have almost 10 GB of free space on it! Speaking of free space, when it comes to formatting your hard drive, a budget laptop is just as good as a high-end one. The only reason why a budget laptop comes with a small amount of free space is that the OS is running at the same time. This is a simple problem you can fix by installing a third-party operating system. This isn’t a dealbreaker because you can use a tool like Disk Drill and easily increase your disk space. It’s easy, it works, and it’s free!
If you want to be a part of the tech industry, you need a laptop. Whether you’re a student or a professional, you need to be able to write code on a machine that’s capable of handling the workload you need to throw at it. Your budget laptop should be able to handle simple project tasks, but if you want to write advanced code, you’ll need to use a more expensive machine. Even if you have to get by on a budget laptop for a year or two, you’ll still be able to take the first step into the world of programming. You’ll be able to learn a little bit about the tools you need and gain some practical experience by building projects on a budget machine. Do you have a budget laptop? What pros and cons do you find yourself using?