Developer Laptop Contenders, 2019

I had thought that my days of picking laptops were behind me when the Macbook Pro Retina won as The Best Polyglot Platform for the Money. It really wasn’t a contest. The only deficiency the Mac had was multiple monitor support; and that’s gotten a lot better over the years.

The reign of the MacBook Pro has ended with the advent of the Fourth Generation MacBook Pro line. Between the issues with the Keyboard, the lack of ports and requiring dongles for the most basic attachments (like connecting a USB keyboard to the USB-C port), and the fact that the power connector is no longer magnetic, the laptop is almost unusable from a developer’s perspective.

This is not easy news for me to take, as I’d really want to be able to use a Macbook now that I’m on my own, but I can’t in good conscience drop $5,000+ on a laptop that has these issues. And so, I’m in the market for a new laptop. I have my eye on three choices:

Dell XPS 15 (9570)

The Dell XPS 15 9570 is a solid Laptop. It even has the Stack Overflow seal of approval. One strange thing about it is its webcam placement. The webcam is located at the *bottom* of the monitor, not its top. It is the most economical of the choices; with the only downside that if I want an UHD display, I have to give up 16 GB of RAM. When I tried to customize it with UHD and 32GB of RAM, it wouldn’t work. That’s a bummer, as I think 32GB is a safe minimum for development.

Cost: $2389.99
Processor: Intel Core i7-8750H 6 Core (2.20 GHz up to 4.10GHz with Turbo Boost, 9MB Cache)
Memory: 32GB DDR4 2666 MHz
SSD: 512 GB SSD, M.2 PCIe-NVMe
Display: 15.6 FHD (1920×1080)
Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti 4GB GDDR5

Alienware M15

Alienware is owned by Dell, and it is primarily a gaming laptop. As a developer, I’m OK with a gaming laptop, as they are generally better made than their business counterparts. I’m also OK with an advanced graphics card — not because I necessarily *need* one (though I would like to drive 4K displays); but because if I’m going to spend the money I might as well get a good value for my money. Some of the cons on the PC Mag review make me pause, especially around the touchpad. Overall, this laptop has a good monitor resolution, good sized ram, and isn’t too expensive for the option.

Cost: $4249.99
Processor: Intel Core i7-8750H 6 Core (2.20 GHz up to 4.10GHz with Turbo Boost, 9MB Cache)
Memory: 32GB DDR4 2666 MHz
Display: 15.6 UHD (3840×2160), 60Hhz Anti-Glare IPS
Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q 8GB

Legion Y740

The Lenovo Legion rounds out the top three contenders with its rather inexpensive (and yet strangely well packed) offering. In fact, it’s so well packed and so cheap that I’m a bit worried about buying it. The only difference between this and the Alienware is the Alienware has a bigger SSD and has a 4K display. Otherwise, they’re identical, spec-wise. The biggest concern is the battery is only 57Wh, which limits the amount of non-plugged in time I can have.

Cost: $2469.19
Processor: Intel Core i7-8750H 6 Core (2.20 GHz up to 4.10GHz with Turbo Boost, 9MB Cache)
Memory: 32GB DDR4 2666 MHz
SSD: 512 GB SSD, M.2 PCIe-NVMe
Display: 15.6 FHD (1920×1080)
Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q 8GB

Macbook Pro Retina (2018)

I’m including this because I feel like I have to. I’m not jazzed about spending this amount of money on a system with keyboard issues that only has Thunderbolt ports, and doesn’t have any of the things that really sold me on the original Macbook Pro Retina series. It’s still a contender, but it’s at the bottom of the list.

Cost: $4628.00
Processor: 2.9GHz 6‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i9 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz
Memory: 32GB DDR4 2400 MHz
Display: Retina Display (UHD)
Graphics Card: Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of HBM2 memory

What do you think? Which laptop should I choose? Do you have any experience with these laptops? What was your experience? Share your thoughts on these contenders and your thoughts on a good developer laptop in 2019.

7 thoughts on “Developer Laptop Contenders, 2019”

  1. I’ve been absolutely loving my Dell XPS 15 so much that I think it’s going to be my go-to default going forward. Great touch screen, 32 GB RAM, etc.

    I think the thing I like most about it is that it *feels* solidly constructed. The keyboard is phenomenal (and I tend to be a little tough on them). It handles anything I throw at it, and after a year the battery life and overall experience are really something special.

    The webcam placement is the only downside; it definitely makes me feel weird / self-conscious when on any kind of video chat. For the amount I use that though, it’s by no means a deal-breaker.

    I don’t have experience for the others but can vouch for the XPS 15 as a delight to work with.

    1. I’ve heard good things about the XPS 15 too. Except for the “nose cam” as I’ve heard it described. Dell is supposed to be coming out with a new model soon – maybe June – and is supposed to have the cam moved to the top same as was done with the latest XPS 13. I’d recommend waiting for the new XPS 15.

      1. I am also a huge fan of the XPS 15. The nose cam doesn’t really bother me because laptop webcams are usually garbage and even the placement at the top of the screen isn’t the best angle. If you are doing a lot of video conferences or making videos then it’s better to buy a separate camera.

  2. Owning both a MacBook Pro with 16Gb and a Asus with 16Gb all specs about equal, I would know what to choose. The Mac works really nice when developing projects with 20+ docker containers. No issues at all. The Asus with Windows though, has almost be thrown out of the window for so many times. I won’t mind the 30 eur USB-c dingle.

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