Best Laptops For Web Designers and Developers

One of our Twitter followers — @glwebdesign aka Mike Greenleaf — asked us to find him the best laptop for web designers and developers. We love challenges like this, so we combed through our recent reviews to find notebooks that fit Mike’s wish list for the perfect machine:

  1. Good Bang for the Buck
  2. Speed/Power
  3. Long Battery Life
  4. Good Screen Size/Resolution
  5. Portability

From these requirements we compiled a list of 8 laptops in sizes ranging from 13 to 17 inches that get high marks in many of the areas listed above. All received ratings of 4 stars and several are Editor’s Choice picks. Web designers should be able to find at least one notebook in this crop that will serve all of their needs.

Samsung R780

Qualifications: Bang for Your Buck, Speed/Power, Screen Size/Resolution

This is my top pick as a web designer myself. The R780 is powerful and speedy and has plenty of screen real estate (1600 x 900 res) so you can easily work in and see multiple windows at once. Though it’s not ultraportable, this 6.4 pound system isn’t very heavy for its size. If you need to tote it for a business trip or just across town to show your client the newest designs, you won’t end the day with back pains. Plus, it’s only $899 via BestBuy.com. At the moment it’s listed as Sold Out on the site, but both Samsung and Best Buy assured us that it will return to the online storefront this week.

Quick Specs:

  • CPU: 2.26-GHz Intel Core i5-430
  • RAM/Expandable to: 4GB/8GB
  • Hard Drive: 500GB
  • Display Size/Resolution: 17.3-inches/1600 x 900
  • Weight: 6.4 pounds

Read Our Full Review

15-inch Apple MacBook Pro

Qualifications: Speed/Power, Long Battery Life, Screen Size/Resolution

Creative professionals are a big slice of the MacBook market for a reason. And this slick, aluminum laptop is more than capable of handling and web design or development tasks you throw at it. The 15-inch screen is capable of a pretty high resolution — 1440 x 900 — so keeping an eye on multiple windows shouldn’t be a problem. With a battery that will last you over 8 hours on a charge, you can spend the day coding in a cafe without having to bring along the power brick. However, this notebook is on the pricey side at $2,199.

Quick Specs:

  • CPU: 2.66-GHz Intel Core i7-620M
  • RAM/Upgradable to: 4GB/8GB
  • Hard Drive: 320GB
  • Display/Resolution: 15.4 inches/1440 x 900
  • Weight: 5.4 pounds

Read Our Full Review

Gateway NV7915u

Qualifications: Bang for Your Buck, Speed/Power, Screen Size/Resolution

This Core i3 system isn’t quite as powerful as the similarly-sized R780, but delivers impressive overall performance scores for a notebook that currently costs just $600. The graphics performance on the Gateway NV isn’t the best, though if you’re more of a coder than a designer you may not need the extra oomph in that area, anyway.The best part is the nice, big 17.3-inch screen and the roomy 1600 x 900 pixel resolution. At almost 7 pounds the NV will likely spend more time on your desk than in your bag, though.

Quick Specs:

  • CPU: 2.13-GHz Intel Core i3-330M
  • RAM/Expandable to: 4GB/8GB
  • Hard Drive: 500GB
  • Display Size/Resolution: 17.3 inches/1600 x 900
  • Weight: 6.8 pounds

Read Our Full Review

Lenovo ThinkPad T410

Qualifications: Speed/Power, Screen Size/Resolution, Portability

Though the ThinkPad is traditionally labeled an executive’s notebook, don’t overlook it even if you’re a freewheeling creative-type. The T410 is available with both integrated and discrete graphics, so if you do a lot of work with video or spend half of your time in Photoshop, we definitely recommend this upgrade. Even without the discrete GPU the T410 is one of the best performers in its class. Though the screen is just 14.1 inches, the optional 1440 x 900 resolution offers plenty of space. Though the two configs we reviewed had MSRPs of $1,269 and $1,485, you can get a T410 for as low as $829 right now on Lenovo.com.

Quick Specs:

  • CPU: 2.53-GHz Intel Core i5-520M
  • RAM/Expandable to: 4GB/8GB
  • Hard Drive Size/Speed: 320GB 7,200rpm
  • Display Size/Resolution: 14.1-inches / 1280×800 or 1440×900
  • Weight: 5.2 pounds

Read Our Full Review

Sony VAIO Z

Qualifications: Speed/Power, Screen Size/Resolution, Portability

The VAIO Z series is a serious machine for users who need serious power. We’re talking dual SSDs, a Core i5 CPU, plus an Nvidia GPU. You want blazing fast performance? This laptop delivers. You want a feather-light ultraportable? The VAIO Z weighs just 3 pounds (just 0.2 more than a netbook). And for a display that’s only 13.1 inches, you get a high resolution: 1600 x 900. None of this awesomeness is cheap, though, as the VAIO Z will run you around $2,099.

Quick Specs:

  • CPU: 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-520M
  • RAM/Expandable to: 4GB/8GB
  • Hard Drive – Dual SSDs: 64GB, 128GB
  • Display Size/Resolution: 13.1-inches/1600 x 900
  • Weight: 3 pounds

Read Our Full Review

HP EliteBook 8440p

Qualifications: Bang for Your Buck, Portability

Again, don’t let the business focus of this laptop put you off. The EliteBook offers several useful features such as a spill-resistant keyboard, security utilities, and SkyRoom videoconferencing for rich over-the-air meetings with clients. It’s a great business system for under $1,000 and at 14 inches and just over 5 pounds, you can tote it with ease.

Quick Specs:

  • CPU: 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-520M
  • RAM/Expandable to: 2GB/8GB
  • Hard Drive Size/Speed: 250GB/7,200 rpm
  • Display Size/Resolution: 14 inches/1366 x 768
  • Weight: 5.2 pounds

Read Our Full Review

ASUS U30Jc

Qualifications: Battery Life, Portability

This Core i3 system is no slouch, as it delivers good performance scores and has powerful graphics chops. But its real appeal is in the long battery life. Though the system includes discrete graphics, Nvidia’s Optimus technology means that the notebook only accesses the GPU when it’s needed, thus saving power. The result is a laptop that lasts over 7 hours on a charge, matching or beating many ULV ultraportables. The 13.3-inch display only goes up to 1366 x 768 pixels, so you’ll sacrifice some screen real-estate for portability and a price tag under $1,000.

Quick Specs:

  • Processor: 2.26-GHz Intel Core i3 350M
  • RAM/Expandable to: 4GB/8GB
  • Hard drive: 320GB
  • Display size/resolution: 13.3-inches\/ 1366 x 768
  • Weight: 4.8 pounds

Read Our Full Review

HP G62t

Qualifications: Bang for Your Buck, Portability

When we first reviewed this notebook it was possible to get a Core i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 7,200 RPM hard drive and an amazing design for less than $600. At the moment you can’t get a pre-configured model at HP.com for that price, but under $700 is still a good deal for the performance and battery life this system offers. And if you tweak the configuration a little bit, you can save money by dropping the specs you don’t need.

Quick Specs:

  • CPU: 2.13GHz Intel Core i3-330M
  • RAM/Expandable to: 4GB/8GB
  • Hard drive size/speed: 500GB/7,200 rpm
  • Display size/resolution: 15.6 inches/1366 x 768
  • Weight: 5.4 pounds

Read Our Full Review

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  1. Blake B Says:

    WOW…this is awesome. I’m a web designer and I’m currently looking for a machine. This was a GREAT find. I’d also add the Sony Vaio FW or F series in here. I’m looking pretty hard at those or the Vaio Z (maybe I can sell my car ? ) THANKS !

  2. YelloGreen Says:

    It’s remarkable that I don’t see a DELL listed.

    To me (developer using mainly Visual Studio, MSSQL, IIS, VMWare+Win2003+Win2008, etc.) I don’t want any other than the high-end laptops from DELL. In the far past I’ve been using Inspirons, and since about 6 years I’ve been using high-end Latitudes. No other laptop brand (that I know of) offers better displays. Other than exceptional displays DELL also offer powerfull hardware features that you can choose to have with your laptops.

    I recently ordered a DELL XPS Studio 1647 which has the following main features:

    - 16inch 1920×1080 RGBLED HD display. (As far as I know you cann’t get this from any other laptop brands)
    - i7 620M Arrandale CPU
    - 8GB RAM
    - 1GB ATI Radeon HD 565v
    - 256GB SSD

    With this config I’m confident that it will last for another 3 years.

  3. Annamaria Says:

    What I didn’t see was an Intel i7 chipset on any of the PC machines! The new HP mobile workstations (w8740, w8730, w8540), with 2.66 mgz, are way better tools than any of the above-listed ‘besyt laptops for web designers’! Who’s getting paid by which manufacturer to recommend these slower machines? The Intel i7 chipset is the best in show!

  4. Jonidreas Says:

    I was wondering what peoples choice would be if they had to choose between the ASUS UL30 and the HP G62. How feasible is it to do all your webdesign on a 13.3″ screen?

    Has anybody out there tried it?

  5. Laraine Says:

    I have to chuckle. $899 is NZ$1,185.511 at today’s rate of exchange and you certainly can’t buy a decent laptop for that in New Zealand!

  6. ascetiic Says:

    @YelloGreen,

    Specs are really good but unfortunately thinkpads offers same configuration.
    And fortunately thinkpads are much better then DELL in terms of reliability.

    Asus is a smart choice. Perfect motherboards.
    On BENCHMARK performance testing, Lenovo T510 with i7 was on top of any other laptop with same specs.

    I prefer ASUS and Lenovo.

    Lenovo T510 (i7 – 64 Bit – 4 GB – 512 vRAM) one of the best for developers. – “Super Solid Build”

    As for ASUS, rarely something can go wrong with it. – “Super Fine Technology”

  7. MAK Says:

    ..I’m a web developer as well as a desktop app developer. I work with .NET, and Java IDE’s, MS SQL Servers, DB2 and various other apps for development purposes. I’m thinking of going the Toshiba or Gigabyte route.. Any thoughts on these brands?

  8. Richard Giles Says:

    Is it feasible to buy a 13.3″ laptop for web design?

  9. K. T. Bradford Says:

    Feasible? Yes. Recommended? Not personally. I’ve done design on everything down to 10-inches, but I don’t enjoy it. I need enough space to see multiple windows.

  10. Nick Says:

    I don’t see why people are all about large screen size… its resolution that matters. I have the Vaio Z with 1600×900 and I love it. great resolution for the screen size and everything looks very crisp. At least in my opinion, 1366×768 just doesnt cut it. Before I got my Z, I bought an HP envy14 (without the nice 1600×900 radiance display), and I returned it because I can’t stand that low of resolution. Anyway, I have my Z hooked up to dual 1080p LED monitors from HP and it works great. But as far as screen size and resolution, it’s the same as TV’s, the larger the screen, the worse the picture quality. So let’s say I could have a 16in screen with 1600×900 res or 13in display with 1600×900 res, I will def go with the smaller one because of portability reasons, but either way you can still fit the same amount on the screen. In terms of screens, its quantity (of pixels) that matters… not size

  11. BaseKit Says:

    A well compiled list here. Well done!

  12. Isha Says:

    I was considering getting the Macbook Pro. Either the 15 or 17 inch. Is is really worth the money?

  13. Daniel Says:

    Hi

    I own a R780 i3 (1440 by 900 res) which I bought over 2 years ago and it is still a good laptop. I think now I am ready for a faster beast so I am scanning the market for a decent laptop with some of more of the following:

    - Windows 8 compatible; both native or under VMWare Desktop
    - really nice keyboard… ;-)
    - 5.6 – 17.3″ screen
    - i7 …
    - SSD disk to boot up from e.sp from hiberation.
    - 750 GB and more 7600 rpm hard disk for those virtual machines.
    - 8-12 GB memory

    So far Samsung’s Series 7 looks good but will be interesting to see what is out there.

    Daniel

  14. BelgianQueenWD Says:

    Hey guys,

    Is there an updated version of this Article ;2012? I am in the market for a new Laptop. I have never used a Mac book and have always loved DELL. However, all of my cell phones and most electronics (TV, Blue ray player, etc…) are made by Samsung which last forever.

    I own a Dell Inspiron 9300 (I know stone age, but it was meant to be used as a home LT) and is still going stong after about seven years of use. I am a Web Designer who uses DW, Adobe suite, and recently started testing CMS’s such as: Drupal, Silverstripe, and gearing towards locally hosted Word Press to move a dynamic site I’ve been working on (My project) to. I usually run two browsers; Firefox and Chrome with (up to 10 tabs each), Dreamweaver, Adobe Suite, & MS office all at the same time. What do you guys recommend today?

    Thanks in advance

  15. kathy Says:

    +1 for belgianqueenWD. can you guys update this list for 2012? i’m a wordpress developer who spends a lot of time in browsers with a gazillion tabs and IDEs and runs a local server for testing.. and watches a lot of tv in off time.

    another note: have always been a desktop-replacement type of user, but am on a 15″ right now and it doesn’t seem uncomfortably small. wondering if the new 1080p res on a 15″ will be just as effective… and if the portability gained is worth the decrease in size.

  16. pahoedna Says:

    HP envy17 for the win!
    With the coreI7, 8gig of ram, and an SSD. For maximum power
    HD screen for great web development

    overall build quality is great, typing on it is a real pleasure

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