When buying a laptop, generally there's a trade-off between the following characteristics:
- Computing Power (Performance)
- Battery Life
The good news is that no matter which characteristics are important to you, there's an option that will be great for coding. Here are some recommendations based on these varying priorities:
Best All-Around Pick - Acer Swift 3 - $650
At only $650, the Acer Swift 3 boasts decent performance, size/weight, durability, and battery life. It isn't the best in any of those categories, but it's good enough at all of them. It won't play any games on maximum settings, but it'll be capable of running programs like Minecraft.
Best at Everything (But Price) - Razer Blade - starting at $1500
While no doubt a bit of an investment, getting a Razer Blade will mean not needing to upgrade any time soon. Razer's Blade line always has superb build quality, amazing performance, and surprisingly good battery life. This computer will handle any game or application your coder throws at it, though under heavy load it'll run a little hot.
Best Performance at a Great Price - Acer Nitro 5 - around $700
It may not be as sleek as other options, but for the price and performance, the Acer Nitro 5 is an excellent pick. The large 17-inch screen will provide additional viewing space for kids when both gaming and coding. However, due to it's size, this computer is not very portable. Consider this option if your coder will use the computer mainly at home and the performance/price combo appeals to you.
Best Portability & Battery Life - Dell New XPS 13 - starting at $1000
The Dell New XPS 13 is a light, thin, durable laptop with excellent build quality and battery life. This machine can handle light modeling or video editing (consider upgrading to the Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics as they will add a nice boost to graphics performance), but only expect modest gaming performance. It'll run most games (including Minecraft), but on lower settings.
Best Budget Option - Acer Aspire 5 - $500
If price is your primary concern, the Acer Aspire 5 will be an excellent choice. While it is a little big and not as powerful as the options above, it'll be sufficient for coding and should be able to run most games at the lowest settings. Though less expensive than most on this list, it's still quite a capable machine. Take care of it, and it'll take care of you.
Best Apple Option - M1 Macbook Air 2020 - starting at $1000
While Apple computers come with a price premium, for some people, the design, software, build quality, and support are worth it. Though Apple does not offer the range of options that are available elsewhere, their quality is consistent. The new M1 Macbook Air is an excellent computer and the perfect choice for a coder who'd prefer MacOS.
Best Chromebook Option - Samsung Chromebook 3 - $300
A Chromebook does not have access to the same applications or the flexibility of a Windows or MacOS computer, but if your child will be just browsing the web, writing documents, and coding, a Chromebook might be enough for them. This Samsung model is an excellent value and quite portable, but lags behind in performance.