Best Desktops for Programming & Developers 2020 - Buyer's Guide & Reviews

On 1/18/2018

Slow computer sucks! Whether you are a newbie developer or a veteran programmer, you already know the necessity of a powerful computer in your profession. Though laptops are portable and easy to carry on your back, nothing can beat up the productivity of a desktop pc. Setting up a perfect workstation at home or office will bring in more discipline to your work. I agree desktop computers are stationary and take up lot of space but it happens to be more ergonomic than a crammed up laptop.

There is no single best computer suitable for all developers. It just boils down to your programming requirements. The best specs and perfect hardware combination should be able to open up your coding opportunities.

However choosing a perfect desktop for programming is not an easy job. You must know what sort of hardware combination is right for your coding demands. To make your job easier I'm going to show you how to pick up the best computer and what are the things to consider in a programming desktop.

Laptop or Desktop? Which is Best?

This question is asked around a lot when buying a new computer. There are so many factors to decide between a desktop and a laptop. It ultimately depends on your lifestyle. Both laptops and desktops have their share of pros and cons.

Laptops take up less physical space and have the advantage of mobility. If you travel a lot and don't work from home or office setup they are the best. You can lug it anywhere you go. But laptops are expensive and deliver lower performance compared to similar-priced desktop.

Plus most of the laptops have small poor-quality keyboards and you don't get the advantage of working in a bigger screen. Trust me! Large displays matters a lot for a programmer.

On the other hand, Desktops are cheaper, comfortable and have better performance - suitable for dual or triple monitor setup. Having a powerful workstation setup vastly improves your productivity. You can conveniently sit and work for extended hours without feeling fatigue or strain. The only downside to desktop is they are NOT portable and takes up lot of space.

Besides Desktop PCs are easy to upgrade and repair. But laptops come with so many smaller parts that you need professional help to repair and upgrade.

As a developer myself, I own both desktop and a laptop, just like most of the programmers. It's good to have a reliable workstation at home and also get the convenience of carrying work in your backpack wherever you go.

Our Top Picks for Best Desktop for Programming in 2019-2020

Here are our top 5 recommendations for programming desktop computers.

1. Dell XPS x8900-7319BLK - The Best Programming Desktop 2020

best desktop pc for programmers

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Our top pick for the best programming desktop is Dell XPS x8900. Dell brand is reliable and this computer is an ultimate powerhouse. It comes with blazing-fast 6th generation Intel i7 Processor, 24GB of RAM, and huge 2TB of HDD and an additional 256GB of SSD for lightning speed. It's just the right combination to meet up all your programming demands. With ample RAM the desktop handles serious multi-tasking with great ease.

It comes pre-installed with Windows 10 Professional and a discrete NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 memory for superior graphics. So apart from coding you can also use XPS x8900 for game development, video editing and gaming.

The machine has hybrid storage so I suggest you to install all programs and apps on Solid state drive for fast launching and use HDD to store all your files and work. Plus it has got 6 USB 3.0 ports and 4 USB 2.0 ports which is more than enough for your programming needs.

  • Intel Core i7-6700K up to 4 GHz Processor
  • 24GB DDR4 RAM + 64bit Windows 10 Professional
  • 2TB HDD (7200RPM) + 256GB SSD storage
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 with 2GB GDDR5 Memory
  • 802.11 AC Wireless connectivity + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Dell KB216 wired keyboard, mouse combo

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2. Acer Aspire TC-780-AMZKi5 Desktop - Top Budget Desktop for Programming

cheapest desktop for programming

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Acer Aspire is the cheapest programming desktop computer in our recommendation and gives best value for money. Being Amazon's best seller speaks for its credibility. If you are a budding programmer, computer science major or a programming student with budget-constraint then I highly recommend considering this one.

The PC has the right combination of hardware to deliver power and performance. All your coding work goes smoother with this machine as it comes with 7th generation Intel Core i5 Processor, 8GB DDR4 RAM, huge 2TB Storage and pre-loaded Windows 10 Home OS.

Besides it has integrated Intel HD 630 Graphics to handle all basic gaming and graphics. So unless you are into game development, Acer TC-780 is more than enough to handle all your programming needs.

  • 7th Generation Intel Core i5 CPU
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM + 2TB SATA3 Hard Drive
  • Intel HD Graphics 630
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Windows 10 Home OS + 8X DVD Writer
  • USB Keyboard and Optical Mouse

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3. HP Pavilion All-in-One Desktop - Best Touchscreen Coding PC

best developer desktop pc

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If you don't like desktops taking up too much space then you can go for clutter-free All-in-One computers. All-in-Ones are attractive, touch screen enabled, easy to setup and need less room. HP Pavilion All-in-One Desktop is a powerful combination of latest Intel Core i7 CPU with turbo boost up to 3.6 GHz, 8 GB DDR4 SDRAM which you can expand up to 16GB and Intel HD 530 GPU for handling graphics.

If you feel 8GB Memory is not enough you can always upgrade it to 16GB at any time. And the best part is the big 23.8 inch widescreen Full HD IPS Panel display which is touch enabled. The thin almost bezel-less display makes the desktop very attractive.

It also has built-in Bluetooth 4.0 support which is the latest technology and has HP TrueVision Web Camera, Ultra Slim SuperMulti DVD Burner, wireless keyboard and mouse. Overall it's a complete package that is efficient to meet up every coding demands of a programmer.

  • Intel Corei7-6700T up to 3.6 GHz Processor
  • 23.8-inch IPS FHD Touchscreen Display
  • 8GB DDR4 SDRAM + 1TB SATA Hard Disk
  • Intel HD 530 Graphics Card
  • HD Webcam + Microphone + DVD Writer
  • Wireless Keyboard + Optical Mouse
  • Windows 10 64-bit

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4. Lenovo IdeaCentre 700-25ISH Desktop - Mid-Range Programming + Game Development Desktop

best desktop for programming and gaming

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Lenovo IdeaCentre 700 is another good pc computer for developers. It comes with the configuration suitable for heavy duty processing and gaming. It comes pre-loaded with Windows 10 OS and is powered with Skylake Intel Core i7 3.4 GHz Processor coupled with 8GB RAM and deliver smooth performance and effortless multi-tasking.

There is huge 1TB HDD storage plus additional 120GB of Solid State drive. The best part of this desktop is that Operating system is installed in SSD so literally it takes up only few seconds for booting Windows 10.

The desktop comes with a really good dedicated graphics card with 2GB video RAM. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 Graphics is more than enough to run latest graphics softwares and game engines without hassle. Overall Lenovo IdeaCentre has all the power and elegance to meet up the demands of a programmer & game developer with more room for upgrades and expansion.

  • 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7 6700 Processor
  • 8GB DDR4-SDRAM + Windows 10 OS
  • 1TB HDD + 120GB Solid State Drive
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 (2GB) Graphics Card
  • DVD Read/Write Optical Drive

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5. Alienware AUR5-12571SLV Desktop - Best Game Development Computer

best computer for game development

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Alienware AUR5-12571SLV is a high-end VR Ready desktop with lightening fast performance. The machine is powered with 6th generation Intel Core i7 3.4GHz Processor teamed up with 16GB DDR4 RAM with more room for expansion up to 64GB RAM.

It comes pre-installed with Windows 10 OS and got 2TB of hard disk space to store all your files and projects. Plus there is also another 256GB SSD storage for fast loading OS and Programs.

As for GPU, Alienware AUR5 has the excellent NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 with 8GB GDDR5 Memory which makes it the best desktop for Virtual Reality and Game Developers. Hard-core gamers are going to have great time with this beast.

Overall it's a great pc and little expensive but worth every penny you spend. Highly suitable for Professional developers and programmers.

  • Intel Core i7-6700 3.4GHz Processor
  • 16GB DDR4 RAM, Expandable up to 64GB
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 with 8GB GDDR5 vRAM
  • 2TB 7200RPM HDD + 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD
  • Dual layer DVD Burner + Windows 10 Home

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How to Choose the Best Desktop for Programming?

Should You Get SSD or HDD Storage?

If you don't have patience to sit and watch your computer taking up ages to open up a file or program then do you yourself favor and get SSD. You won't regret it.

HDD drives are cheaper and you get so much of space at lower price. But the problem is they are slow. The more data you store the more slower it is. The entire process is mechanical. It has this small moving head that spins and sorts through several millions of bits of data stored in the disk every time you try to access a file, folder or program.

But SSD or Solid State Drive is super fast since it has no mechanical parts. It literally boots up a computer within seconds and loads up mega files and heavy programs at lightning speed. They are expensive but well-worth the price. Together with Powerful Processor, Good RAM and SSD your system will chew up any task you throw at it.

These days' computers happen to have hybrid storage that is with both HDD and SSD drives. I highly recommend going for this type of storage if you can afford it. By this way you can get to store all static files and Medias in HDD and install Operating system and Programs on SSDs for faster performance.

Processor: How Many Cores Do You Need?

The Processor or CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the brain of your computer and the driving force behind every task your system performs.

Your desktop/laptop performance relies on CPU. The two most important things you must consider about a processor are speed and number of cores.

Most of the latest processors are tuned out for faster performance. So if you go for Intel chipset you don't have to worry much about speed. They will be at best. But the number of cores is a different story. Most of the time number of cores is related to speedy performance. This is not entirely true. Their main purpose lies on the level of multi-tasking they accomplish.

We programmers are used to open up multiple applications, browser windows, several files and tabs during work. This increases work load on CPU. A CPU like Intel i7 with four-cores will meet up all your coding demands without trouble.

Unless you are on tight-budget I suggest you to go with i7 or i5 processor. On any case if you have to settle for Processor with two cores, just make sure it is capable of hyper threading which will be OK for multi-tasking.

How Much RAM is Optimal?

RAM is another one important factor to consider. RAM or Random Access Memory keeps tab of all opened applications, files etc and data related to them for easy access. So having a good amount of RAM is a must if you don't want a lagging pc. Just a bloated IDE and 8 to 10 Chrome tabs are enough to slow-down a computer. So I would recommend going for at least 8GB RAM - NEVER settle for anything less than that.

RAM is relatively cheap so going for 16GB or even 32GB won't hurt. This helps in case you work on GPU intensive tasks such as game development. Game engines do need more power.

Generally there is a misconception about 'More RAM' equals 'More Speed'. This is not completely true. Just keep in mind, doubling RAM won't double the speed. Having 32GB RAM with low-end processor doesn't boost up performance of a computer. At the same time a 4-core high-end processor with 16GB RAM will do wonders.

Do You Need A Graphics Card?

Gone are the times when we programmers sit and do only coding. Now everyone has to do everything. I know several developers who do designing stuffs too. For some it's a hobby, some its passion and others simply work.

A Graphics Card or GPU takes care of rendering images to screen and comes with separate video RAM for processing data into signals. Modern Processors like Intel i5, i7 has built-in integrated graphics which is efficient to some level. This type of graphics card doesn't have separate memory so they'll make use of system RAM for handling games and graphics. As a coder you can get away with this and don't need a dedicated GPU.

But if you are into desktop gaming or occasionally work with graphics softwares like Photoshop then you'll need a discrete GPU on your desktop.

As for Game Developers you MUST have a high-end Graphics card for rendering images. Just an integrated graphics won't cut it. The better your graphics card the better and smoother the rendering is. This is very important for game developers, graphics artists, gamers and video editors.

NVIDIA is the most popular graphics card with AMD cards lining next. If at all you have to choose a dedicated graphics card, I recommend you to go for NVIDIA card with at least 2GB vRAM.

What about Display & Keyboard?

Computer Display and Keyboard is what you call as comfort feature. I like large screen monitor and mechanical keyboard. Since this is what you are going to do all day as a programmer, sit and look into the monitor and type into the keyboard.

Big display is the luxury you get with Desktops. You can't expect such thing with a laptop. A wide monitor can accommodate so much screen elements in one go and you don't have to squint your eyes to read through tiny texts. A well-spaced super responsive keyboard will prevent strain on your wrist and fingers. I must say mechanical keyboards are the BEST in this context.

Over To You:

That concludes our buying guide on best desktop computers for programmers and developers. The desktops reviewed here are very good for programming and coding needs and suitable for everyone's budget. I hope now you have better understanding of what to look for and already found a great desktop for coding purpose. If you have any good suggestions please leave it in the comment section.

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