Laptop for machine learning
To work with code, a programmer needs a quality tool, which is often a laptop. But how to choose the right model if you have just entered the industry and do not fully understand what challenges you will face? Let's try to give general recommendations that will simplify the choice of laptop for machine learning.
What to look out for
Display and keyboard
Every day a developer writes hundreds of lines of small code, so the screen and keyboard are the most important factors when choosing. A display with a diagonal of 13 inches will not be enough. The aspect ratio is also important: laptops with 16:10 or 3:2 screens can fit more lines.
The backlight, large key size, and at least 1.3 mm of travel will come in handy for extended use of the keyboard. However, the question of convenience is always subjective, so it is worth typing a couple of paragraphs of text on a laptop before buying.
In addition, it is important to avoid atypical layouts. For example, on Razer laptops released before 2020, the right shift is small and located behind the arrow block, which makes it difficult to print quickly.
Some development environments like PhpStorm and IntelliJ often use the F1-F12 buttons. In modern laptops, they are also used as hotkeys for adjusting brightness, volume, and other settings. It is important that they can be switched to functional mode for use in development.
Dimensions and weight
Choosing a laptop, the programmer is guided by issues of convenience and portability. And while a large screen and keyboard are essential, don't forget that you will probably have to carry all this with you.
Notebooks weighing more than 2 kg are inconvenient for constant carrying. It is also worth looking at models charged via USB Type‑C. Chargers of this type are found everywhere, which will allow you not to carry a bulky adapter with you.
If you need an iOS programming tool, the MacBook is the right choice. Apple products are also suitable for developing for Linux servers, since macOS is based on the Unix kernel. This means that the code running on the laptop will run on the server without any problems.
In addition, a huge number of programs aimed at web development have been made for macOS, which is also an important plus. Finally, optimized fonts allow MacBooks to display more lines of code than Windows laptops of the same screen height.
However, sometimes Apple devices do not provide the desired level of performance, and work tasks do not require the use of a specific OS. Then it makes sense to choose among Windows laptops: some of them are not only more powerful than the MacBook, but also equipped with a better keyboard and a rich set of ports.
Processor and Memory
For a programmer, the speed of code compilation is important, and this determines the requirements for the processor. It should provide high performance in Turbo Boost mode, that is, a short-term increase in frequencies. The performance of a single core is also important, since many tasks in development do not involve multithreading.
Compiling code stresses the CPU for short periods of time, between which the laptop works at a lower intensity. Therefore, the cooling system and constant power are not as important here as in video processing and 3D modeling. Also, many developers do not need a powerful graphics card, although in some areas, such as machine learning, things are different.
But it takes a lot of memory for programming. This is especially true of RAM, which is spent on development environments and running written code. 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of permanent memory is the absolute minimum, below which you should not fall.
Moreover, in a number of tasks, the developer needs a huge amount of RAM and ROM, for example, to analyze big data. And although these are special cases, it is better to choose models with sufficient memory.
Battery and Charging
Battery life is one of the most important parameters in laptops. When choosing, many look at the capacity of the battery and, based on it, estimate how long the device will last before discharging. But this is not quite the right approach.
The autonomy of a laptop depends not only on the capacity of the battery, but also on the consumption of resources by internal components. Ultrabooks use energy-efficient processors and video adapters. That's why a MacBook Air with a 50Wh battery lasts up to 12 hours of active screen time, while a MacBook Pro 13 with a 58Wh only lasts about 9 hours.
As we have said, laptops with USB Type-C charging are the best solution in terms of versatility and mobility. However, the USB Power Delivery standard has its drawbacks, such as the inability to transfer more than 100 watts of power, which limits performance.
If your tasks require large computing resources, you will have to choose among models with bulky adapters and an inconvenient charging connector. It is also worth considering that the performance of Windows laptops drops when running on battery, while MacBooks give out similar power both from the mains and from the battery.