Laptops for Programmers

I want to upgrade from my 10 year old Lenovo T400 laptop. I have money to spend, but I can't find a single laptop that meets my requirements.

Why upgrade?

4GB of memory isn't enough. I'm currently writing games, and 4GB is not enough when I have 3 IntelliJ project windows open, plus Gimp and Inkscape for graphics work, plus two browsers (I always have both Firefox and Chromimum open at the same time) I'd also like a higher res screen, and a speed boost would be nice too.

It's proving very hard to find something suitable.


  • Processor : Don't really care as long as it's as good or better than my crusty 10 year old T400 Lenovo.
  • Memory : 8Gb
  • HDD : Don't care.
  • Screen : At least 1024 pixels in the y axis. I don't care about width; height is what matters! A 4:3 or even a square monitor would be much better than widescreen, but it doesn't bug me that I'll be wasting pixels designed for watching movies!
  • Graphics card : Don't care
  • Operating system : Don't care, I'm going to wipe it and install Debian Linux anyway.
  • Keyboard : Not stupidly laid out.
  • Mouse : Track pad with 3 buttons.

It seems those last two are real stumbling blocks. So many laptops have missing keys, or keys in the wrong place. e.g. Is it so hard to put the Page Up above Page Down? Laying them out horizontally makes no sense. Grr.

Keyboard Layout

Some laptops don't have Home and End keys, some have no F keys (you have to use the Fn key), so Alt+F4 becomes a three key combo. Useless. I can't fathom why some laptops have moved the backslash key and/or the back-tick ` key from the far left to the right. I use these keys very infrequently though, so I don't care about them. But why break such an old standard?

The T400's keyboard is perfect. I've grown to love the F keys being split into 3 blocks of 4, which makes so much sense. Also, it has two extra keys near the arrow keys, designated as "Back" and "Forward", which I use for switching workspaces. Lovely.

Mouse Buttons

I've been using 3 button mice for more than 25 years, I don't want to downgrade now! Some high end laptops don't even have 2 buttons! I use the middle button a lot when browsing the web (middle click to open a page in a new tab). It's also really useful for panning in graphical applications. I am aware that you can use multi-touch for panning, but using a real physical button is better IMHO. I'm also aware that ctrl+left click opens links in a new tab, but middle click is so much nicer. I want an upgrade, not a downgrade!

Unhelpful Reviews

After failing to find something suitable via amazon, ebay, PC World etc, I changed tack, and searched for "Laptop for programming".

I didn't find a single review that mentioned keyboard layout. But they did say "You need a large hard drive". WTF? No I don't! I'm currently using 33GB. And that includes bloat that I could easily get rid of if space was tight. I never used half of the applications that are installed, and that's not hyperbole.


I may just upgrade the memory in my 10 year old T400 instead. 8GB will cost about the same as the T400 itself! I would have liked a speed boost and better screen though.

The muggles have dictated the design of every laptop, and left this geek with no suitable solution.

Oh well, money to burn and nothing to spend it on.