If you think of code as the painter’s masterpiece, then the tools with which it is written are the brushes and canvas. Choosing the right system by which you can comfortably and reliably produce great websites is important.
Like an artist’s tools, your choice of hardware is a personal one. What works for you may not work for the next person, even if you are doing essentially the same job.
In this article, we will examine some of the factors you should consider when choosing a laptop for Web development and design.
It’s easy to forget all of the little things that matter when you are using a laptop. What appears to be a great fit at the store can quickly become a hassle when you try to use it at the local coffee shop.
Having a laptop die on you in the middle of your work sucks. Unless you know you will have an outlet nearby every time you need to open it up and start working, you should make sure that there is at least enough battery life to get you through the day.
An exchangeable battery is a great thing to have if you have a power hungry laptop and work long days without the promise of an outlet.
A good battery life for a laptop is between 5 and 9 real-world hours. There are some outstanding exceptions such as the ThinkPad X240 which boasts a whopping 15 hours of battery life. The MacBook Air received high praise in reviews for its exceptional battery life of 9-12 hours.
Make sure that the laptop you choose has enough screen real estate to display the apps you use. Having enough pixels to display your browser and potentially even have your text editor of choice side-by-side is useful.
A touch screen might not be the most important feature for Web development, but it can come in handy during the design phase.
The Microsoft Surface Pro has an excellent screen resolution of 2160 x 1440 and the Surface Pen which makes freehand mockups easy.
The MacBook Pro with Retina has a remarkable resolution of between 2560 x 1600 (13-inch) and 2880 x 1800 (15-inch). Its screen is among the best rated in the industry.
Every inch of your laptop makes it that much harder to throw in a bag and lug around town. That 17.3-inch desktop replacement, gaming monster might blow away the competition in terms of performance, but lugging it around town is no easy task. This doesn’t even take into account the difficulty of finding a good bag to put it in.
If you don’t plan on going anywhere, and just want something you can work on from the home office and occasionally on the couch, this might be less of a concern for you.
Ultrabooks are a big draw due to their compact design and light weight. The Dell XPS 13 receives top marks for not only being seriously portable, but also being one of the highest rated Ultrabooks on the market.
Not every keyboard is created equal. Web development and design means a lot of keystrokes. Those keystrokes take a toll not only on your keyboard, but on your fingers.
Find a laptop with a keyboard that has a good feel to you, doesn’t have a whole lot of flex, and has enough “bite back” to it to make each key stroke feel great.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge and MacBook line have remarkably good keyboards. The best rule of thumb before making the purchase is to visit a store with them on display, open a text editor, and start typing.
Experience trumps specs, always. That said, you don’t want to cut corners to the point where your ability to work suffers. If you prefer to work with a giant external monitor connected, and fifty apps open, then you are going to need a laptop that is up to the task.
This is one area where reading online reviews can tell you more than the spec sheet. You might be surprised at just how zippy a budget-friendly laptop can be.
These days, 4GB of RAM is a bare minimum for an essential Windows or OS X system. 8GB would be recommended, especially if you use programs like Photoshop or Illustrator on a regular basis.
Storage is also an important consideration. A solid-state drive (SSD) can offer exceptional performance compared to the often slow standard spinning drives. However, this performance boost comes at the cost of capacity.
Deciding between integrated and dedicated graphics is another matter. An integrated graphics solution, such as the Intel HD 5000 can work just fine for standard use, but when you factor in large monitors and graphics-intensive programs, you may want to get something with a bit more power.
NotebookCheck.net is a great resource for checking hardware performance benchmarks.
Do you have a dozen USB accessories to plug in? Hate adapter cables for external monitors? Need an analog microphone jack for your overpriced gaming headset? Do you work with SD cards and don’t want to carry an external reader with you?
Make sure that the laptop you choose has what you need in terms of connectivity. Ultra thin laptops are great, but if you really need those extras, you may have to compromise a little portability.
Not every laptop works perfectly with every operating system. If you prefer working with OS X, your options are really limited to either a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.
Most laptops, even MacBooks, will run both Windows and Linux with ease. Certain Linux distros may behave better on some systems than others, but with a little help from Google, you can generally find something that works for your platform of choice.
Ubuntu even has a hardware database that helps users find certified hardware.
Then, of course, there is ChromeOS. This lightweight operating system can run excellently on 2GB of RAM and minimal processing power, and can be an excellent choice if you are able to work almost entirely with browser-based tools.
Chromebooks, which are largely low-powered machines by themselves, can be an excellent choice for a professional that just wants the tools they need to get the job done. If you have a desktop or a primary laptop at the office, a Chromebook makes an excellent secondary system. They’re incredibly portable, and losing one won’t break the bank ( unless you bought a Pixel ).
It's important to note here that Chromebooks are not an ideal choice for a primary laptop or desktop. They are very limited as to which software they can run, and are often underpowered for any serious work.
The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is a highly recommended model. It has the option of a full HD (1080p) 13.3-inch display, and a whopping 9 hours of battery life. The 802.11 AC wi-fi isn’t a bad perk for a largely Web-dependent system, either.
Cloud9 is one such tool that can make development in the cloud a breeze. Likewise, Nitrous.io is a popular choice for developers that prefer to do what they do from a browser rather than a dedicated application.
Whatever your choice, just remember that this is a tool to get the job done. Take time to find a laptop that meets as many of your needs as possible. After a few long, grueling days of development, you’ll thank yourself for having done your research.