Can we use a good configuration gaming laptop for programming?

Amar Prakash Pandey on February 26, 2018

Currently, I am using an Intel i3- 3rd generation laptop with 4Gb of Ram. Now I am willing to purchase a new laptop for programming purpose (Machin... [Read Full]
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I personally advocate for development on an underpowered computer rather than an overpowered one. Your users won't be using the latest and greatest that is there. Their computer will be slow and old with limited resources because nobody likes dropping all of the money required to get a fast computer.

Since the users will be running your application with limited computing power, you should be testing with limited computing power.

Instead of buying a new laptop, I would actually recommend looking into renting (or purchasing) a server that you can ssh into. Especially if you use a lot of server-side APIs (once again, test your code on what it'll run on in production) and command line tools.


I got what you are saying. but since I mainly work on open source and web application they are all deployed on cloud and user can access them via a web browser, so there is no need for the user to have a good laptop. I hope you got what I am trying to say. Thanks!


Right, but that also means that you are running your applications on a server, so why not write in on a server. Gives you the added bonus of always being able to access your code.

It was just a suggestion that could save you money, especially if programming is all you plan on doing on your laptop. No point in spending more money than you have to, right?

Well, you can save even more by buying a magnetic needle and flipping bits one by one - you don't need all that fancy crap like RAM or SSD at all!


I had to register an account to comment on this. I want you to know that making software needs more resources than using software, and professional way is to separate the development and the testing. Because you're not a programmer, so you won't understand, so, please do not comment here.


programming isn't very resource intensive (we are just editing text after all) but running your code is an entirely different story. I don't know a ton about ML but I think the more RAM the better, but don't quote me on that haha. On your other point, what kind of application development do you think you'll be doing the most?


I am mainly into server-side APIs, command line tools, web application (Java, Python) and mainly need a laptop for open source contribution.


Personally I wouldn't go for the Inspiron. In my experience few laptops have such a long lifetime as MacBook Pro's. I'm typing this on my late 2013 MacBook and it still feels and looks like a brand new device. Especially with the whole touchbar thing, I feel no need to upgrade. Maybe a 2015 macbook pro would be interesting as it does not have the touchbar, it has more ports and (in my opinion) a way nicer keyboard.


I have a Mid 2012 MBP with 16 GB of RAM and a SSD and it's still not time to think about a change :D

@amarlearning , Arden just reminded me of this post "The best laptop ever made"



Alternatively, it's hard to go wrong with a Lenovo Thinkpad from the T or X series--Built to last.


Very true! My father has had a Thinkpad for ages and the thing just won't die. The only other laptop I had with a 5+ year lifespan was my Sony Vaio!


If by machine learning you mean only neural nets, frameworks like tensorflow or pytorch are built to parallelize operations in NVidia GPUs, and if you want to lower training times (who doesn't, trying different stuff is important), then I recommend the option with the GPU, the Dell option. If you just want to try out machine learning or this is not important, then your back will thank you for the lightest option. Mobility is great!


so which laptop do you suggest MacBook Pro 2016 or Dell Inspiron 15 7567 or any other?


And what about more weight, less battery life, and useless graphics card.


You can write code on literally any machine, so it being a "gaming" laptop shouldn't be a problem, you just get a better graphics card if you want to play games on it. Overall is all about what you like the most, the Dell has a more recent CPU and bigger HDD, but it's definitely a thicker laptop that will never have macbook tier battery life, while the Macbook has a smaller 256gb SSD, so you might need an external HDD if you need many VMs or need to take around many files, but you still get great battery life and some of the best laptop screens and trackpads in the market.


Exactly, Dell is offering me more at less price. But on the other hand, it's MacBook Pro, I have never heard any bad review about that device even after years of usage.


Macbook Pro has always been a great device to hangout with.. A whole power packed machine.. But in recent years, especially after 2016 apple has tried to put style statement before usage, the thing is just for the new minimalistic unibody designs which looks great of course makes the laptops thinner and more premium looking, but they killed the whole user work experience with butterfly keys..that are just worst to type on and even after all these years in 2019 they're still stuck to it, the newer models of pro 15' are having thermal throttling issues with 9th gen powerful processors with hexa and octa cores, and that's all coz of the old 2016 chassis which still hasn't been changed or modified in a bit, probably by the end of year apple might release their new line up.. So just hoping for the best.. But if you are really ready to spend for a macbook Pro.. As an Windows alternative I'd suggest thinkpad x1 carbon.. You can go with highest specs.. The best part is its lighter than macbook Pro and its the best business machine you could get in market.. Moreover it has the best typing experience.. Especially when you're in development you need a laptop which feels good to type on and it's the best in class.. Looking at specs it has superfast ssd, if you need more ram you can upgrade at the time of purchase, they have latest processors, and you can opt for high end 4k display variant if needed.. And if you're not looking to spend much any older thinkpad model which is upgradeable would do.. They all have great value for money and best keyboards


Well, i am using MacBook Pro myself for programming, but i only do frontend and light iOS app development, so i never run short on resources (even though Xcode sometimes may be hungry!).

You said that machine learning will be your primary direction. As far as i know, it is pretty hungry for CPU and GPU, so in that case buying Mac solely for that won't justify the price. For something as heavy as ML people usually build powerful PCs or rent servers.

But these are your money, i think you should buy the one you like for whatever reason. Going for Mac is a good option.


Of course the kind programming you seem to do doesn't use a lot of resources from your laptop, but getting one with good components(at least a quad core cpu, 8GB of Ram, a discrete GPU) would be a nice choice, considering future-proofing. I'd recommend you to consider this one: <-- I would avoid the other 15.6" model because it has a worse looking screen

Probably you wouldn't need a 17.3" screen laptop, but once I got one, i never looked back. This model has an almost all-metal construction, a great latest gen 4 cores/8 threads CPU, 16 GB of RAM which is plenty, a GTX 1050 as a nice addition, a good IPS 1080p screen ,backlit keyboard, and other features. It's only "downside" is that you won't get a long battery life (~ 5 to 6 hours of use).

If battery life is something you can't neglect, you can check out these other models(if you're considering to buy a 2k+$ laptop, maybe price won't be an issue for you):

Remember: Nice laptops like these would last you for a lot of years (even if some of these are branded as "gaming laptops")

And of course:


It really depends on what you do. If you are doing end-user apps that are intended to run on what your users have, having a computer that's too fast may give you the wrong idea of how it performs for your users - it may happen it's perfectly good on your laptop, but that it sucks on their memory constrained i3's. If you are doing that, someone else pointed out you'd probably be better served with a more spartan machine.

If, OTOH, your apps are intended to run on beefy servers, by all means get the best machine your money can buy. In my case, I opted for a light laptop (i3) and a beefy server (Xeon E7, lots of memory, sits under my desk at home). When I'm out of the house, the laptop does everything and doesn't break my back, but when I'm within the house (as in couch or backyard), the server does all the heavy lifting. When I'm on my desk, the laptop is attached to a large screen and a wonderful buckling spring PC-122 keyboard by Unicomp (recommended). If latency is not a big issue for you, a cloud server you spin up and down may be a good option for the heavy lifting. With some automation, you can make it come up with fresh copies of all your tools without having to pay for persistent storage.

The downsides of a gaming laptop are usually the crappy battery life, the horrendous looks and the spotty support for any OS that's not Windows.


Thanks Ricardo for your advice, but as said I will be mainly working on Open source projects, web application development and machine learning and considering the future scenario I am planning to buy Macbook because of its awesome battery life, good keyboard, excellent performance.


I have a gaming laptop I use for dev, and my wife's office, a software company default to gaming laptops.

The great thing about gaming laptops is that they balance power and price well, especially if you don't go for crazy high spec. I use a MacBook Pro in work and that's nice too. It and my ASUS RoG laptop both do everything I ask in good time, the only thing that would make you miss a Mac is developing for Apple stuff. Also, I dual boot with Win10 and Ubuntu, prefer Ubuntu for dev.

Two downsides to gaming laptops:

  • weight, they tend to be a bit heavy for running around with
  • battery life, if the graphics card gets involved, it can be short.

From my perspective, the most important thing to look at on a programming laptop is its battery life, then SSD, RAM and CPU, in that order, depending on what you need.
I've bought a Dell XPS 15 (9560, i7 7700HQ, 16Gb DDR4, SSD NVMe 512Gb, 97Wh battery) 5 months ago mostly for programming and doing school work (word, VMWare and a bit of C#/Visual studio).
But with its 1050 4Gb and the rest of the machine, it's a freaking beast for "light" gaming (read : GTA V at "High graphics" at 1080p60 and decent mid graphics on PUBG at 1080p60) and also light VR stuff (HTC Vive on small games, like SUPERHOT VR). But expect a 1h to 45mins of battery life if you use the dGPU at 100% and the CPU to 70-100%.
Sure thing, "gaming" laptops can be great if you need some kind of discrete GPU with a bit of power and a cool CPU, but most of them are lacking of a "huge" battery. On my XPS, without any energy saving settings enabled and full brightness (CPU stays clocked at ~3.4GHz, dGPU turning on only if used), it last for 4-5 hours on a basic programming load (Atom + Chrome (~50 tabs) + NodeJS app running + Spotify).
Tldr : go for a reasonably equiped laptop with a GTX1050 and a "huge" battery and prefer SSD based laptops. Dell's Inspiron laptops are great if you don't want to spend an extra for a XPS 15.


I bought a gaming laptop for work. I find the extra power is nice when testing and running cpu-intensive tasks. At the time I was looking for a gaming laptop with a crappy gpu but that's hard to find. I ended up getting the Acer V Nitro (great specs, terrible mobo), but as it turns out the graphics card really helps when I need to unwind... I wouldn't recommend Acer ever, but the price was right for my limited budget and time-frame. Turns out the bios craps the bed when you destroy Windows with fire "dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdwin"

Edit: specs for those interested
Aspire VN7-592G
Quad core Intel Core i7-6700HQ
16 GB 2400 DDR4
NVIDIA GM107M [GeForce GTX 960M]
QCA6174 802.11ac
Realtek RTL8111/8168/8411 PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Controller
ST1000LM024_HN 1TB HDD
battery: 3 hours max (terrible)


I have two laptops, the Dell XPS 15 that I own, and a 2013 MBP from work. I like them both, but here is important thing to remember, with the new MBP everything is soldered to the mother board. This means unless you are an expert at using soldereding tools there is no way you can upgrade anything yourself. The good thing is that the new MBP has 4 thunderbolt 3 ports which you can hook fast external storage too but that becomes a huge pain to cary arround with you.

The biggest pain for me is storage. So if you think you can get away with 256gb or 512gb ssd, and you are sure you will never want to upgrade this then get a MBP.

On the other hand if you get this Dell XPS ( it is almost half the price of MBP plus you can upgrade it yourself with more ram or bigger ssd if you run out of space. It also has huge battery and I get great battery life out of it. I don't game much either but it does come with a gpu that you can do light gaming on. I almost forgot to mention that dell also offers support for Linux if you don't want to use Windows.


Can you add more RAM and/or swap the hard drive for a SSD? If your computer is physically in good shape--keyboard, display and hinges--it might be worth your while to squeeze a bit more life from your current hardware...not to mention that it's cheaper than buying a whole new computer.

For example, I'm running a 6 year old Lenovo Thinkpad T520 that started it's life with 4 Gig RAM and a 320 Gig 7200rpm hard drive. Its second-generation i5-2520m processor still has plenty of oomph for an IDE, office suite, LAMP-stack and virtual machines (VirtualBox, Vagrant). Rather than buy a new machine, over the years, I've maxxed out the RAM to 16 Gig, traded the hard drive for a SSD, and most recently added an M2 SSD (so the OS lives there, and my data is on the SSD).

I've been contemplating buying a new machine for the past year, and just can't bring myself to do so when there's technically nothing wrong with mine. :)


Not willing to update my old machine, thanks for the suggestion. :)


I would listen to your brother, unless you absolutely need macOS


why would I buy that dell laptop considering that its battery life is too low compared to the mac, heavy machine (2.8kg), I don't play games so useless 4gb graphics card!


Sorry my bad, I didn't check the specs, I thought it was equivalent :D

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