First thing you need to know is your needs. There’s no general set of standards for choosing the best desktop computers for programming. The complexity of your project will determine what you need to look for a desktop computer.
Thus, unlike gaming, there’s a wide spectrum of desktop computers for programming or coding. An average computer can get the simple coding done, while millions of lines of code require a powerful system. A web developer won’t likely need a powerful computer as much as a game developer.
Here’s some pointers to help you with what kind of desktop computer can help you with your project:
1. CPU (Processor)
One of the foremost important components in a desktop computer. A CPU is like the “brain” of the machine. It tells other components what to do through electric signals. Unlike other parts, the CPU is less likely to be upgraded for a few years. For that reason, I always advise you choose the best CPU your money can buy.
A faster processor helps you handle projects as well as juggle between multiple programs quicker. I recommend getting an Intel Core i5 or Ryzen 5, you don’t need to update these processors anytime soon. For game developers, you may need something better. Specifically, you need to choose a rig with at least an Intel Core i7 or Ryzen 7. For instance, iBUYPOWER Desktop 1000iV2 and Skytech Chronos Desktop - AMD Ryzen 7 fit the bill with their latest generation Intel and AMD processors.
RAM temporarily stores the data while you’re running programs. The bigger RAM a desktop computer has the better it is at multitasking. As the wise saying goes: you can never have too much RAM.
The base minimum for most developers is 8GB RAM. For game developers, it is advisable to get at least 16GB RAM to get the job done. 32GB RAM or more is even better and you don’t have to worry about upgrading them for a while. Another thing you need to look out for is the DDR type. Most RAMs nowadays come in DDR4, which is faster than the DDR3.
In short, you should aim for desktop computers for programming with at least 8GB RAM DDR4 such as Acer Aspire TC-895-UA91 Desktop.
3. GPU (Graphic Card)
For most web or common developers, you don’t need a GPU. An on-board graphics will help you do the job just fine. You need to pay more attention to the CPU and RAM.
As for game developers or those who perform graphics-intensive tasks, it’s a different story. A high-performance GPU is a must-have for 3D rendering and complex graphics. For the high-end option, choose a desktop computer with Nvidia RTX series or AMD RX 5000 series such as CUK Legion Lenovo Tower or Alienware Aurora R10. For the best desktop computers for programming on a tight budget, you can go with Nvidia 10 series and AMD RX 500 series.
There are two types of hard drives at the moment: SSD and HDD. The former is newer and swifter than any of the latter. The processing speed will be improved significantly as well as when booting up and open new apps. Furthermore, HDDs are delicate and can lose data from shocks and vibrations, while SSDs don’t. Therefore, the best desktop computers for programming always come with SSDs.
The downside is that for the same storage capacity, SSDs will always be more expensive than traditional HDDs. The second problem is that due to their design, SSDs have a much more limited cycle life than HDDs.
For the best of both worlds, you can use a hybrid storage solution. This means that you put both types of hard drive into one desktop computer. You should get an SSD for operating systems and an HDD to keep personal files and projects.
Programmers and coders spend a lot of time in front of the desktop computer. For that reason, choosing a screen with as little eye strain as possible is important. A 27-32 inches screen size is ideal as it is neither too small nor too big. Another thing you need to keep in mind is the tilting feature. You want to go for monitors that can switch between vertical or horizon mode with ease.
For resolution, there’s a reason why programming courses require the students to have at least a Full HD screen. You will feel frustrated with the blurry texts and lack of screen space in resolutions lower than 1080p. 1440p is the sweet spot for coding. 4K maybe a bit too much since you won’t likely be doing graphic-intensive tasks. A 27-inch 1440p monitor is an ideal monitor for programming, you can fit 3x code Windows side by side.
If you don’t want to spend time and effort to pick a separate monitor, go for All-in-one desktop computers. These computers integrate the internal components and a display into one single unit. You can choose something like Apple iMac or Acer Aspire C27. Some AIO PCs with the right features can be the best desktop computer for programming.
1. Should I choose laptops or desktop computers for programming?
You can code on both laptops and desktop computers. The biggest difference between these two options is of course portability. With a laptop you can code or program on-the-go while with a desktop computer you are stuck at a desk. Some people focus best if they can change location frequently while others prefer the consistency of being stationary. It really depends on how you work.
Anyhow, below are some pros and cons of each option. It’s up to you to decide whether a laptop or desktop computer is better.
Laptops for programming
Desktop computers for programming
Don’t take up much space
More computing power
Limited battery life
Prone to overheat
Hard to upgrade
2. Is Mac or Windows desktop computer better for programming?
Both of these operating systems are great for programming. However, in fact, most developers would prefer Mac over Windows. The main benefits of Apple machines are compatibility, ease of use, UI and great apps.
In the past, Windows was not considered to be the best choices for programming. Since Windows now has its own native bash shell that’s no longer the case. There’s not much difference between the two of them anymore. My advice is just pick whatever you prefer.
There are also other wonderful choices such as Unix or Linux. Linux is free, highly customizable and open-source. Therefore, it’s also one of the most popular OS for developers.
3. Do I need expensive desktop computers for programming?
No, not necessarily. It all boils down to what you are programming. Unless you’re a game developer, you don’t need a powerful rig. For an intermediate level programmer, you can pick a laptop with at least 4GB of RAM and an Intel Core i3. For beginners or those who start coding as a hobby, a computer with 2GB RAM such as Raspberry Pi 4 is a perfect starter.
On the other hand, if you are serious, your desktop computers for programming need to pack considerable power. For a safe bet, choose a desktop with at least an i5 or Ryzen 5 and 8GB RAM.
4. Can I use desktop computers for programming to play games or do office work?
Of course, you can. A desktop computer for programming is just like any regular desktop. You can run office apps such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, etc. just as good.
In terms of gaming, however, you’ll most likely be stuck with low-end games, some 2D or indie titles. For coding, the emphasis is put on the CPU and RAM more than the GPU. Therefore, unless you’re a game developer, it’s most likely that your desktop computers for programming will lack a discrete GPU.
On the other hand, you could buy a gaming pc for programming. By definition a gaming desktop computer is powerful and thus more than enough to handle programming.
5. Beside a desktop computer for programming, should I get anything else?
Beside the main tool for programming – the desktop computer, there’re various additional equipment you need to keep an eye out for:
- Keyboard: A good mechanical keyboard will make a big difference, your wrist and hands won’t feel as strain and hurt anymore
- Additional monitors: Sometimes just one monitor is not enough! With a dual (or even triple) screen setup, you have more screen space to work with and better multitasking capability
- UPS: You need one of these in case of a power failure. If something went wrong, your work can be saved
- Chair: An ergonomic chair will keep your body in great shape and improve back health. You can choose either a gaming chair or an office chair
- Blue light glasses: Since you’re staring at the screen for hours on end, your eyes will get hurt, dried and strained. I recommend you buying computer glasses to protect yours in the long term.
As always, Apple iMac earned its top spot among the best desktop computers for programming. This Apple machine features 5K display and very good specs for developers. The only downside is its high price which may put some people off. Nevertheless, MacOS-based devices remain the best choices for beginner and experienced programmers alike.
The CyberpowerPC Intel i5-10400F GTX 1660 Super is a no-brainer for game development and non-hardware intense programming. Featuring a medium powerful 10th gen i5 combined with 8GB RAM, 512GB of SSD is quite enough for your OS and few projects. The GTX 1660 super GPU is strong enough for light gaming and graphics design.
If you are programing some hardware intense applications, you might want to go for CUK Aegis RS Intel Core i9 64GB DDR4 RAM, 1TB NVMe SSD GeForce RTX 3070, or even CUK ASUS TUF GT301 Liquid Cooled Intel Core i9 K-Series, 64GB RAM GeForce RTX 3090
And that’s what we have to say about choosing the best desktop computers for programming. There's a wide range of desktop computers out there for every programmer and coder. I hope this guide helps you know what factors to look out for and have found a great desktop computer for your needs.