The best affordable laptop for learning to code

CYF Developers discussing project work

This article will help you decide what is the best affordable laptop for learning to code. 

It’s important know that you don’t need a new computer for coding. You can even start learning to code on a mobile phone. However, you will need a laptop or computer early on to advance your coding learning.  

With even more remote working than ever, you’ll probably use your laptop for communicating and coding, which impacts the type of computer you will need. 

Let’s look at the specs that you need for the best affordable laptop for learning to code.

The minimum specs for learning to code

These are the recommended specs for laptops needed to complete our Fundamentals and Full Stack Coding Courses.

  • Processor: 2.5 GHz Intel i5 or Intel i7 or better processor, or AMD equivalent
  • Hard Drive: 120GB HDD or SSD (with at least 40GB free)
  • Screen size: 15″ 
  • Screen resolution: 1920 x 1080 or greater
  • Memory: 8 GB of RAM or more
What are these specs for?

Below are summaries of the elements of a computer to help you understand why you need these specs. If you’re interested in finding out more about these elements, you can find many articles online that will explain them in more detail.  

Processor: this is the computer’s ‘brain’ – and determines how fast your computer runs. If your processor is too small, you may find programs take a long time to open and close. Saving files may take too long. You may spend more time waiting than working! 

Hard Drive: your computer’s storage. You need enough storage for all the programs you need to learn to code and work remotely – along with some space for personal items, like photos.

What do SSD and HDD mean? These are types of hard drives. Solid State Drives (SSD) are newer technology – more stable but more expensive. HDD is a traditional hard drive. The measurement for computer storage is called ‘bits’. A ‘bit’ is the smaller unit of data. 8 bits = 1 ‘byte’. And a 120GB hard drive is 120 Gigabytes. That’s a lot of bits!

Screen size: Screen size is a physical measurement of the screen in inches. We suggest 15″ (fifteen inches), so you get a good view of your code and the browsers when testing your work. 13″ is the minimum screen size for learning to code.  

Screen resolution: is related to the screen size. While you measure screen size in inches, you measure screen resolution in pixels, a type of digital measurement. 

Don’t worry too much about screen resolution. If you have a 15″ screen, you should get a nearly 1920 x 1080 or greater display. 

Memory: if the processor determines the speed at which your computer runs, your computer memory (RAM) determines how many tasks your computer can perform at one time. For example, browsing the internet while switching between different programs. 

Because you can learn or work remotely, we often need to run several different software programs simultaneously. 

For example, you may have some coding software running at the same time as video conferencing software. It would help if you had enough computer memory for this – and 8GB RAM is our recommendation.  

What about the operating system?

The operating system is the software that runs the computer. The operating system, or OS, manages the computer’s memory processes and all of its software and associated services. 

You can use Windows or macOS to learn to code. However, we recommend Linux as the best operating system for learning to code to become a software engineer. Linux is an open-source operating system. That means that it’s free, and people from all over the world maintain it. 

In particular, Ubuntu LTS is what we recommend – you can find how-to videos on installing Ubuntu on YouTube.  

Internet access

You do need internet access to be a programmer. Besides accessing information when learning, you will need to upload and download code when working on projects. Ideally, it would help if you had 6Mbps up and down. What does Mbps mean? Megabits (1000 bits of data) per second 🙂 

Additional suggestions

These additional elements are not required for you to learn to code but will help for support while learning or working on projects with other people.   

  • A Webcam with 720p resolution or higher (can be included in laptop) – for video calls. If your laptop does not come with a built-in webcam, you can purchase an external one. 
  • A headset including a microphone (can either be USB or plug into the microphone and headphones socket(s)) – so you can speak to someone online while you code.

We also suggest your laptop has two or more working USB ports – for charging or connecting external devices, like your mobile phone or a headset. 

Where can you buy the best laptop for coding?

You don’t have to buy a new laptop. You can get a second laptop too. But as we said above, it needs the right specs. We recommend you buy a laptop with a warranty. It might be slightly more expensive, but you will have peace of mind if something goes wrong. 

You can find laptops like we recommend by searching or on eBay. Even if you buy on eBay or another auction site, we recommend purchasing a laptop with a warranty. A laptop with a warranty is often sold by a dealer, rather than a person. 

If you can’t afford a laptop and are eligible for a CodeYourFuture course, we will loan you a laptop if you complete the first step in our Intro to Coding course (which you can complete on a mobile phone). 

You can learn more about our courses and apply on our Study page.