Help Me, LAPTOP: Programmer Needs Notebook With Long Battery Life

  • MORE

Users write to all the time asking for notebook buying advice, and most focus on gaming, student tasks, media consumption, or video editing. However, today reader Oleg asks for a system that's good for programming in Visual Studio. He writes:

I'm in a search for a laptop for myself. I need the laptop to have an i3 or i5 processor, discrete graphics and, the most valuable, over 5 hours of battery life. I've considered buying a Mac but I'm not sure if it's ok, because I'm using Visual Studio. 15 inch screen is preferable, but 14 will also do well.

First off, forget about Mac, because Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 doesn't have an OS X version. You can always run Windows on a Mac using bootcamp, but then you have to buy a copy of Windows to use on your Mac and, if you're going to use Windows-only software a lot, it seems silly to buy a MacBook.

When it comes to 15-inch notebooks that offer plenty of performance and battery life for professionals, we like Dell's Latitude E6510 for its high-res screen, 5 hours and 41 minutes  of endurance, and powerful processor. Though our review unit cost close to $2,000 at the time, you can now get an E6510 for a starting price of $749, with a decked out version around $1,000. We recommend configuring it with a full HD screen ($129) so you can see more code while you work and you'll want the Nvidia graphics as well. If you want it to look good too, spring an extra $30 for the gorgeous Regatta Blue color.

A 14-inch notebook is likely to offer more battery life and portability than a 15-incher. Amongst 14-inchers, we really like the Lenovo ThinkPad T410, which has one of the world's best keyboards, blazing fast speeds, and  over 6 hours of battery life with the 9-cell battery. When configuring the T410, make sure you go with the Nvidia graphics chip, the higher-resolution 1440 x 900 screen,  and that extended battery.

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
Add a comment
  • kosta Says:

    some hp, compaq and acer laptop environments offer triple-pack battery modules for up to six houres or so usage. the smaller the screen the better, so a fourteen inch will do. l am not a mac person or customer simply because l beleive on free software period. evrything is outside on/in the net. double-trple battery modules run from $120.oo to $150.oo dollars. some times they are on sale. microcenter, compusa and fry's are my top stores, good luck.

  • AC Says:

    "I need the laptop to have an i3 or i5 processor, discrete graphics and, the most valuable, over 5 hours of battery life." Why the i3/i5 requirement? If you are not married to the i3/i5 idea, you may have better luck - but even so, you are not going to see 5 hours while compiling, no matter what the spec sheet says (you'll be lucky to get 25% of the stated battery life if you are compiling).

    I would like to find a 17.3-inch LED 1600x900 16:9 LCD laptop with a 64 bit processor, 4GB RAM, a 500GB hard drive, a DVD+-RW drive, and 12 hours of battery life (don't care about the processor) - but as far as I know, there is no such thing.

    You might be better off buying a cheap laptop, and a desktop with the fastest processor you can afford - use some sort of remote desktop software to compile on the desktop.

  • Mircea C Says:

    Not sure how much you want to spend but the best laptop would be Sony Vaio Z with a 1920 x 1080 resolution with core i7 processor
    It runs circles around Dell, Lenovo or HP but it probably is $2500+. Battery life is around 5 hours and it weighs 3 lb. Perfect. It is 13.3" though which may be a deal breaker for you.

  • CS Student... Says:

    I actually disagree about the MacBook - I think it would be the prime choice as a programmer's notebook (notably a 13" MBP). For a college student, Windows can be inexpensive. Almost every college/university has an insane deal with Microsoft for their OSes, so you can pick up any version of Windows 7 for mere dollars (our school offers a 64-bit version of Win7 Ultimate for $5, you should check with your school). If you sign up for an ACM student membership or if your school has an MSDN agreement, you can also get a full of Visual Studio 2010 for free (btw, 2010 is still pretty buggy, 2008 is offered for free as well)! Also, iOS dev work is on the rise and you can only work in Xcode via OSX; mobile app development is on the rise and it'd be something good to look into.

    A 13" MacBook Pro combines a reliable and sturdy form factor that's easy to transport. Wonderful battery life. And, you have a reliable UNIX distro to boot in OSX. Good luck on your search!

Back to top