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Laptop suitable for light programming?

I have an adequate desktop PC with an SSD, 16gb of DDR5 RAM, an i5 6600k that overclocks around 4.1ghz. I built it for gaming about 9 months ago.

I recently decided to go back to school for programming and​ I'm considering getting a laptop to do some light programming between classes, at the coffee shop, etc...

I don't want to spend too much on a laptop (but if I need to I can use some grant money to pay for something more powerful.)

Here's the question; will a cheap $3-400 laptop with an i3 be enough, if I use my desktop to do the heavy lifting when I'm at home?
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  1. Best answer
    "Programming" is a pretty generic term. On some languages, all you need is Notepad (plus plus) and command-line compiler, while for other you will need multi-gigabytes IDEs, frameworks, and VMs to run your servers.

    As a generic rule: I would go i5 with 8GB ram, and the best screen you can afford. Fast HDD would be nice (SSD will limit your storage capabilities).

    Last but not least: All cheap laptops have mediocre screens. Have a look over business-class refurbs from Dell / IBM (Lenovo). Non-glare screen is worth every dollar you'll pay for it.
  2. Based on my college experiences, it depends on what you're doing. If you're using programs like Eclipse or Visual Studio, or even Notepad++, and you're not writing over 1000 (approximate) lines of code, then any cheap laptop will do (I would go with Alabalcho's suggestion). If you, however, want to use software like VMware, then you would need more than 8GB of RAM and perhaps a cheap i7.
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