A computer is now one of the primary needs for most, if not all kinds of work, and as a programmer, having the right PC (or laptop) is definitely a necessity. I bought my main desktop programming rig back in 2015, although it’s still in fairly good shape, obviously, it’s no longer on par with the newest desktop PCs and laptops available in the market, and I’ve decided that I should purchase a new one as I began this 2020 (when the old PC is roughly 5 years old).
However, my journey in finding the best desktops for programming wasn’t as easy as I imagined. The good news is, you don’t really need to purchase the top-end PC with the best graphics card to program like a pro.
With all the available options in the market, the process can be quite confusing, if not overwhelming. So, in this post, I’ll share the fruits of my research and the buying process, with the hope that I can help others who are also looking for the best desktops for programming.
Best Desktops for Programming: Factors To Consider
Unlike building a gaming PC, there isn’t a specific set of features or too restrictive requirements. Ultimately, what kind of desktop PC you’ll need and what kinds of components to look for will depend upon how complex your programming needs are. For example, if you are going to program a video game or graphics-heavy app, then you might need a desktop PC with a decent (or high-end) dedicated GPU.
Here are factors you might need to consider when looking for the best desktops for programming:
CPU (Central Processing Unit)
We can think of CPUs as the brain of the desktop computer. The CPU is most likely going to be one of the most expensive components in your PC (along with your GPU), but at the same time you might not need a high-end CPU if you are only going to perform basic, “lightweight” programming.
In general, you might want to answer the following questions before we discuss the individual components and features:
- What kinds of programming are you going to perform? If, for example, you are mainly writing complex programs, you will need a faster processor.
- Will your programs rely on multi-cores?
- Will you need boosted graphics performances? Fast CPU can help boost the performance of your GPU
Yet, if you do have the budget flexibility, you might want to invest in a high-end CPU so you won’t need to replace it anytime soon.
With CPUs, we generally have two main options: Intel and AMD. In general, AMD offers more affordable CPUs while Intel offers relatively better performance (for two comparable processors). For instance, the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is the direct competitor of Intel I7-9700K. The 3700X is around $50 cheaper while offering 16 threads (the 9700K offers “only” 8 threads). However, the Intel 9700K is around 7% faster at single-core operation, and 16% faster when all 8 cores are used. Check out a benchmark test here.
Comparing between Intel and AMD CPUs, however, can be far more complex than simply discussing price vs performance, and you might want to check this guide for a clearer picture.
GPU (Graphical Processing Unit)
GPUs might not be the essential requirement of a programming PC, except if your programs need to render videos and 3D graphics. GPUs will also help your desktop PC in running certain simulations.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080Ti is widely regarded as the best of the best of GPUs in early 2020, and the smaller the number, the cheaper the price and the worse its performance (i.e. GTX1060 is worse than RTX2060, and RTX2060 is cheaper than RTX2070, etc.). AMD with its Radeon series is the main contender to Nvidia when it comes to GPUs but lately doesn’t have an answer (yet) to Nvidia’s latest Geforce GPUs.
SSD vs HDD
SSD stands for solid-state drive, store information in flash memory, as opposed to HDD (hard disk drive) that stores information on a series of platters that rotate.
The benefit of using SSD is that it is much faster than a regular HDD since it doesn’t involve any physical rotation. An SSD can offer a read speed of 3,500 MBps max and write speed of 2,500 MBps max, while an HDD “only” offers 255MBps read and write speed. So, using an SSD can significantly improve your desktop programming PC speed, especially when it boots up and opens a new program.
RAM (Random Access Memory) is the “temporary” brain of the computer. It is used to store and load various data that can be accessed anytime no matter where the data is located (hence the “random” in its name”. In general, the bigger the RAM the better, and you’d want to choose a desktop PC that allows you to expand/upgrade it in the future.
There are other accessories like CPU Cooler, and case, along with other peripherals like mouse, keyboard, and monitor.
In general, choose a stable power supply that can cater to your component’s wattage need. Your CPU and GPU are the ones taking the most power, so check their specifications carefully. You might need an additional CPU/GPU cooler to replace existing fans, especially if you want to overclock your desktop. The case is mainly for aesthetic purposes, so simply choose one according to your tastes and budget.
Best Desktops for Programming: Our Reviews
Processor: Intel Core i9-9900K Coffee Lake 8-Core, 16-Thread 3.6 GHz (5.0 GHz Turbo) processor
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z390 UD Motherboard with 10+2 Phase Digital VRM Designed for Intel Core i9 Processor
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB Graphic Card (Brand may vary)
Cooling: 360mm RGB AIO Liquid Cooler Designed for Intel 9900K Ultimate Cooling
Memory: 16GB DDR4 3000 Gaming Memory with Heat Spreader
Power Supply: 750 Watt 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Power Supply
SSD: 1TB SSD – Up to 30x Faster Than Traditional HDD
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit (should upgrade to Pro)
Case: In Win 303 Tempered Glass White Case
With this top-of-the-line specification, SkyTech Omega is definitely one of the best contenders of the best programming PC in 2020. The key highlight here is obviously the GeForce 2080 Ti GPU (the top-end GPU we have in the market today), 16GB RAM, and the 9th-gen Intel i9 9900K. It includes a very decent 1TB SSD and you can add another 2.5 and 3.5 SATA drives,
- Great CPU performance
- 1TB SSD for great storage space and speed
- Amazing visuals and graphics
- Top-end GeForce 2080 TI Graphics card
- Excellent build quality
- High performance
- Comes with Wi-Fi, keyboard, and mouse
- Relatively small RAM
For me, the best of the best option you can get in today’s market that is below $2,500. Top-notch performance for any type of programming needs, this desktop PC is a great long-term investment.
The only “weakness” here is its price tag, which might not be for everyone.
- Hyper-realistic graphics: NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) RTX 2080 SUPER (8 GB GDDR6 dedicated memory).
- Ultra-fast processor: 9th Generation Intel Core i9-9900K Processor, 8-core, 3.60 GHz
- Solid-state drive and memory: 1 TB PCIe(R) NVMe(TM) M.2 Solid State Drive
- RAM: HyperX(R) 32 GB DDR4-2666 SDRAM (upgradable to 64 GB)
- Special Features: VR ready | Tempered glass side panel
- Keyboard and mouse: Comes with the HP black wired keyboard with volume control and wired optical mouse
- Ports: Headphone/Microphone Combo, Microphone jack, 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 (top), 4 USB 3.1 Gen 1 (rear), 1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 (rear), 1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C(TM) (rear), HDMI, 3 DisplayPort(TM), and 10/100/1000 Base-T Network
- Operating system and warranty: Windows 10 Pro and one-year limited warranty
HP (Hewlett-Packard) is obviously one of the most prominent names in computer manufacturing, and OMEN is HP’s brand of high-end gaming PCs and laptops.
The OMEN Obelisk is a comparable desktop PC to the Skytech Omega, which we have discussed above. Both offer the top-of-the-line Intel I9 9900K, but the Obelisk offers a slightly weaker GPU with the 2080 SUPER instead of the more powerful 2080Ti offered by the Skytech.
The OMEN Obelisk, however, offers a bigger RAM at 32GB (expandable to 64GB). It’s also worth noting that the OMEN by HP Obelisk is quite significantly more affordable than the Skytech Omega.
- HP brand, reliable with extended warranty
- 1TB SSD
- Great price for its components and features
- Excellent GPU (RTX 2080 SUPER)
- A good amount of RAM memory 32 GB expandable to 64 GB
- Ultra-fast Intel 9900K CPU
- GPU cooling could be better
- Weak upgradeability
More affordable than the Skytech Omega with better RAM (and expandable to 64GB). However, the Obelisk features worse (but still decent) GPU with RTX 2080 Super. The GPU and CPU are insufficiently cooled so they tend to run hot, and you can’t upgrade too many components.
Yet, the OMEN Obelisk is a very good, more affordable investment for programmers that don’t really need the top-end GPU performance from the 2080Ti. The Hewlett Packard brand also means more reliable customer support and warranty.
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 8-Core 16-Thread 3.6GHz (4.4 GHz Max Boost) CPU |
- HDD: 500GB SSD – Up to 30x faster than traditional HDD |
- Motherboard: B450 Motherboard
- Graphics: GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER 8GB GDDR5 Graphics Card |
- RAM: 16GB DDR4 3000MHz Gaming Memory with Heat Spreaders |
- OS: Windows 10 Home 64-bit |
- CPU Cooler: Skytech High-Performance 120mm AIO Cooler
- ACC: 802.11AC Wi-Fi | No Bloatware | Free Gaming Keyboard and Mouse |
- Ports: 3 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI | HD Audio and Mic | 1 x HDMI, 2 Front + 4 Rear USB 3.1 Gen 1, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2, and 2 x USB 2.0
- Fan: RGB RING Fans for Maximum Air Flow |
- Power Supply: Powered by 80 Plus Certified 800 Watt Gold Power Supply |
- Case: InWin 905 Gaming Case
Another one by Skytech, the Skytech Legacy is much more affordable than the Skytech Omega (discussed above). Very decent overall performance for its price tag, which is made possible with its 3rd-generation AMD Ryzen 7 (3700X) , which in some programming applications might provide better iteration and overall performance than Intel processors while being (significantly ) cheaper. Unfortunately, only features 500 GB of SSD.
- Affordable price
- An attractive yet simple case design
- AMD Ryzen processor, fast and affordable
- Decent GPU with RTX 2070 SUPER
- Decent 16GB RAM
- No USB Type-C port
- Runs hot at times
- Noisy fan
- Small SSD
The Skytech Legacy provides convenience, finance-wise due to its very attractive price tag, especially when compared to the other two desktop computers we have previously discussed above. The key to its affordable price is the AMD Ryzen 3700X, which is indeed far cheaper than the I9 9900K featured in the Skytech Omega and OMEN Obelisk.
That said, the 3700X is a pretty decent processor by itself, and as I’ve mentioned, some of you might prefer AMD as your preferred CPU since its thread technology can provide enhanced performance for programming.
- Case: Mid-tower Micro ATX Motherboard |
- Operating System: Windows 10 Home (recommend upgrade to Pro)
- Processor: Intel Core i7-9700k Processor 8 Cores 3.6-4.9 GHz 12M Cache |
- Motherboard: Z390
- Graphics Card: GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G GDDR6
- RAM: 16GB DDR4 2666Mhz (16GB x 1), 4 slots, Max 64GB |
- SSD+HDD: 256GB (256GB x 1) M.2 SSD + 2TB 7200Rpm (3.5″)
- Special Features: VR Ready | Proprietary thermal Kit Included | Nahimic Sound System
MSI is also one of the biggest computer manufacturers in the world today, and I decided to feature this Infinite X Plus 9SD-273US for its affordability that is comparable to the Skytech Legacy above. Yet, The Infinite X utilizes an Intel processor, the 9th-gen I7 9700K (the direct competitor of the Ryxen 3700x featured on the Skytech Legacy).
The MSI Infinite X Plus also features the GeForce RTX2070 ARMOR GPU, a very powerful graphics card for its price. Another selling point from this PC is the huge storage (2TB HDD), which is combined with a decent 256GB SSD to enhance its boot speed.
Best Desktops for Programming – Conclusion
Here, I have discussed four of the best desktops for coding and programming in 2020, two with really high-end specifications (and price tags), and two relatively affordable ones that are still pretty powerful, performance-wise.
Again, however, the type of desktop computers you need will depend upon the complexity of the coding or programming activities you do, and whether you actually need high GPU and CPU performance in your coding activities (i.e. if your programming involves 3D rendering).
These four should be more than enough for any programming needs, and most importantly, should be great long-term investments. These desktop computers should be future-proof enough to last at least until three or even five years into the future.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my article the “Best Desktops for Programming”. If you did, you may be interested in some of these articles as well. Check them out today!
- Best Monitors For Programming Under $500
- Best Laptops For PLC Programming
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- 10 Tips to Better PLC Programs
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