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Software development laptop workstation recommendation

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September 12, 2012 3:18:15 PM

1. What is your budget?

AU$3000 to AU$4000

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?

14"; though will compromise up to 15.6"

3. What screen resolution do you want?

1600x1000, though would compromise to 1600x900
Expect higher on larger screen, i.e. 1920x1080 on 15.6 (again, would prefer 16:10, but realise this doesn't seem an option).

Lower resolutions limit the effective screen code real-estate, higher resolutions don't seem to give a return.

Must be a matte screen.

I'm not a graphic artist (i.e. not concerned with colour reproduction), but saw a Samsung Series 9 (13.3") and the screen was very nice, and I would be willing to pay a premium for that viewing experience.

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?

More towards the desktop replacement, but preferring a 14" due to portability - both in terms of weight and ease of use on cramped bus seats. Thus bigger screens in smaller footprints are attractive.

My laptop that just died was a 13.3" 1280x800 Asus R1E which felt slightly cramped for desktop real-estate. Prior to that I had a Dell Inspiron 15", which seemed a bit larger than ideal outside the office.

5. How much battery life do you need?

3 hours of real use would be nice.

6. Do you want to play games with your laptop?

No.

7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.)

Software development, including leveraging virtual machines. Seeking performance in build/test and run local app servers and databases to support development activities.

8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?

~120GB SSD (mSATA..?)
500GB+ data drive (I have a hybrid from my existing laptop that I would like to reuse)

9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.

lenovo.com.au; dell.com,au; hp.com (but not exclusively, perhaps obviously given I am posting this appeal for advice/recommendations/options).

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?

4 years.

11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ?

None.

12. Please tell us about the brands that you prefer to buy from them and the brands that you don't like and explain the reasons.

Won't buy an Apple (but not because they aren't beautiful machines with a nice OS).

13. What country do you live in?

Australia (Perth, Western Australia).

14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.

16GB RAM, preferably with slots to upgrade to 32GB in the future.

If possible, I want to be able to drive my two Dell U2711 2560x1440 monitors (via docking station no issue if not actively preferable).
(Yes, I prefer 16:10, but could buy 2x 27" 16:10 for price of 1x 30" 16:10, so compromised).

I'll be running Linux (Fedora based distro), ergo (a) good Linux drivers et al is important, and (b) I would prefer to not pay for an OS licence I won't use (I do have several Window's licenses, just not for this box).

I don't run CAD or otherwise need ISV certifications.

I am keen to get a professional/business class machine for the build quality, and a 3 (prefer 4) year next business day onsite warranty (or at least good local support), preferably with accidental damage coverage. This seems to direct me away from the Eurocom options.

Upgrading to 16GB through the vendor sites seems to vary from exhorbitant to extortion, and yet as the machines have been i7 (not Xeon) based, I assume it is not ECC RAM; is there any reason to get the cheapest option from the vendor and buy 2x 8GB PC3-12800 (Crucial?) RAM to install myself? Are the vendors selling particularly low latency RAM (or something else I am missing) to warrant the premium? Such a post purchase upgrade strategy is another reason 4 DIMM slots would be good, so the vendor RAM can be used to some advantage in short/medium term - but I'm struggling to find 4 DIMMs in the 14" form factor.

Similarly the mSATA options seem expensive (and small capacity) through the configuration wizards, so again considering post purchase upgrade (anything to watch out / be aware of?).

I'm only attracted to mSATA to support multiple drives; but using drive bay for second drive is viable (though it is nice to have the option to use a bay battery), conversely having option to have WLAN has appeal (assuming there isn't space for both WLAN and mSATA).

Where it is an option, the Intel Core i7-3720QM seems a sweet spot in terms of price, but I'm not really sure how much of a sacrifice not stepping up to the i7-3820QM is (but is it usually a steep additional premium). Similarly, I don't have a strong sense of the level of compromise in the lower Core i7 options.

The market spiel for NVIDIA Optimus sounds good, is it all (or most of what it) is advertised up to be? Are there better options or similar alternatives? My key driver in the graphics card selection is the ability to drive the U2711s (if this is an issue in this space), but the vendor sites are light on details on what they will support (my next step is obviously to call the sales lines).

The HP workstation class laptops look appealing (if pushing my budget) when looking at the US site, but on the hp.com.au site the prices leap out of range, and the customise options disappear.

Appreciate your time, expertise and advice.
September 12, 2012 3:41:59 PM

Thats a big budget. I am not a developer but in my view a lot of your requirements were met by the Sony VAIO Z series. Check it out.

- With its media dock, you can connect up to 4 monitors.
- 1080 p resolution
- matt screen (i think..)
- light so very portable and when you want to get some real processing done you can connect the media dock (although its not necessary)
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Best solution

a c 200 D Laptop
September 12, 2012 4:30:45 PM

Get a Dell Precision Mobile system. Go here (or the AU site preferably) and spec out as desired. These are great systems for your stated uses:

http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=b...
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September 15, 2012 1:54:36 PM

buckpalace said:
Thats a big budget

Less so than it is in the US; even though our dollar is strong against the US, we page a huge premium to buy "locally".

buckpalace said:
I am not a developer but in my view a lot of your requirements were met by the Sony VAIO Z series. Check it out.

Thanks for the pointer to the Vaio Z, I hadn't stumbed across that one yet.

Interestingly the Aus site lists that Vaio Z as "Archived".

I really like to concept of using the intel graphics while portable, and the dock adding a dedicated graphics card. And at that resolution, even a 13.1" screen probably meets my non-docked real-estate needs.

This statement worried me with regards to Linux support:
Quote:
Power Media Dock accessory is designed for use with Windows® 7 and will not function properly when used with Windows 8.
but this article seems to imply it wasn't an issue.

However, as far as I can tell from the US site, the memory is fixed at 8GB, and the warranty doesn't include out of US support (at least I'd be hit for shipping to/from the US, which is typically horrendous). The four monitors seems to be by way of the HDMI and VGA ports, so I don't think I would get a satisfactory result on the 2x 2560x1440 Dell U2711 monitors.

If not for this, I would be very tempted.
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September 15, 2012 2:40:21 PM

COLGeek said:
Get a Dell Precision Mobile system. Go here (or the AU site preferably) and spec out as desired. These are great systems for your stated uses
I appreciate the recommendation, a Dell Precision was one of my top runners.

There is an unbelievable difference in price between the Dell US and AU sites, I speced up the same M4700 on both and it was US$2,667.00 (including dock) versus AU$4,187.50 (without the dock) (currency indicates site, bear in mind an AU$ is worth very slightly more than a US$)!

Another anomoly is that the M4600 (which you linked to) is available on the US site, but not the AU site, and for some reason a "PremierColor IPS RGB" is an option on the M4600 (which uses Sandy Bridge processors) but not on the Ivy Bridge based M4700.

Is there a reason for this, given they can both be configured with a Quadro?

Based on Australian pricing and availability, the Lenovo W530 is hard to go past, as a similar config to the M4700 above is AU$2900.70, and $847.00 of this is the upgrade to 16GB RAM, so I was thinking of going after market for the RAM to bring the price down further.

But (based on experience rather than any need for colour reproduction fidelity) I would prefer an non-TA panel, so if I could get the IPS option on the M4700, this would change the equation (I don't believe the W530 has an IPS option?).

Any thoughts on the Lenovo ThinkPad W530?
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September 15, 2012 2:44:46 PM

This article indicates that IPS should be an option on the M4700, but I can't locate it on the Dell site, and have noted other commentary bemoaning its disappearance.
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a c 200 D Laptop
September 15, 2012 9:17:03 PM

The Lenovo is a nice system and will do just fime
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September 24, 2012 1:20:03 PM

Best answer selected by seanare.
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September 24, 2012 1:45:03 PM

I ended up purchasing the Lenovo W530 after spending quite a bit of back and forth with Dell trying to get them to come down to a similar price for the M4700 for a similar configuration as a W530.

The M4700 1920x1080 15.6" is apparently an IPS panel.

Just after I placed the order, Dell came back with an new offer of AU$3000 (~$1600 off the base for the config); it felt a lot like negotiating with a used car salesman. Turns out the Lenovo deal was a lot less time limited than the site and Lenovo salesman suggested - the sale/coupon was still valid as I write this more than a week after the advertised end date.

With the benefit of hindsight, especially on the maturity of Linux support (discovered by subsequent googling), I wish I had held off placing my order for a little longer, as it turned Dell could do better than they indicated.

Hopefully the Lenovo proves to be a Linux powerhouse.
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a c 200 D Laptop
September 24, 2012 2:57:02 PM

I am sure the Lenovo will serve you well. Don't feel too bad about the tech sales price shuffle, it gets us all from time to time.

Good luck!!!
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