Ayende @ Rahien

It's a girl

An end to the Mac era

Well, it is about time that I get myself a new machine. My laptop is 1.5 years old, and it is starting to creak around the edges, not to mention my envy when I see what new systems can do.

But the most important decision I made was that I don’t intend to get a Mac as my new laptop. I own two Macs, and I am a very happy user of them, but after using them for so long, I can no longer really justify the Mac tax in comparison to the feature set that I am getting from it. This is particularly important when I consider the next laptop that I want to have.

This time, I am going to play the spoiled child and get myself a real monster:

  • Quad Core CPU
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 256 SSD HD

I am still considering whatever to get a 17” or a 15” screen. I am leaning both ways at the moment, but I’ll probably end up with the 15”.

One thing that I would really like to have is a mousepad that is similar to the Mac’s. I find that this is about the most natural way of working with the mouse now, and trying to use other mousepads, especially without having the two finger scrolling is just painful.

Anyone can put in a good recommendation?

Comments

zvolkov
06/27/2009 01:21 PM by
zvolkov

I have an iMac and I second you decision. +1 for 15".

Brendan Erwin
06/27/2009 01:28 PM by
Brendan Erwin

My boss just got an Alienware with similar specs. (less RAM) It's MASSIVE. The power brick is as large or larger than the one for the XBox 360...

He's already talking about getting a Mac now... This new one is powerful but a laptop needs to be well designed all around, not just in performance specs.

Phil Scott
06/27/2009 01:59 PM by
Phil Scott

Be careful with what you buy with the SSD. There are a bunch of drives that would get out performed by your average drives, and then there is the IBM X-25M. I've got this sucker in my desktop and it screams.

Be sure to read this article on it:

http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle.aspx?i=3403

If I was going laptop nowadays I'd grab the cheapest drive they can put it in it and swap it out for an IBM in a heart beat.

From Bios to Visual Studio 2008 starting is about 22 seconds on my machine. Most impressive upgrade I've ever put in a PC behind the Voodoo2 card to play Quake2 in OpenGL.

Tigraine
06/27/2009 02:55 PM by
Tigraine

I'd suggest a 15". Although 17" may be a tad more confortable on the eyes, a good 15" 1920x1200 can do the same thing for less size.

Although, when buying such a monster I'm not sure if you are really at all concerned with weight/size.

If Size/Weight/Battery Life isn't an issue go with the 17" on a 1920x1200 res.

greetings Daniel

Alan
06/27/2009 03:14 PM by
Alan

I've got a unibody 17" Macbook Pro and you're right, it's hard to beat the trackpad and multi touch gestures. Unfortunately I was never happy with either boot camp or virtual machines on it.

So for windows work I got an HP Elitebook 17" (dreamcolor) and put the Samsung 256GB SSD in it. So far, pretty pleased. It has a scroll area on the right side of the track pad which works ok but it still not in the same league as the MBP trackpad.

Size is decent, performance is very good, no stability problems. Recommended.

Gauthier
06/27/2009 03:46 PM by
Gauthier

thinkpad, you won't miss the touchpad (however you can scroll with it) with it's trackpoint, and best in class keyboard.

you also have good options for screen resolution and other bits

unfortunately, only model for quad core is W700 which is heavy beast

Chris Patterson
06/27/2009 03:54 PM by
Chris Patterson

Have fun getting any decent battery life on something like that.

Why not just get an i7 desktop for the heavy lifting and keep the laptop for the road. It's not like the Mac is getting slow. A simple SSD in the MacBook Pro may be all you need to get that speedy thrill back in the game.

And the other commented was right. Nehalem cores are just around the corner and they seriously smoke the current Penryn architecture.

Any quad core laptop is going to be hot, huge, and heavy.

Ayende Rahien
06/27/2009 03:58 PM by
Ayende Rahien

Gauthier,

I hate trackpoints

Ben Monro
06/27/2009 05:12 PM by
Ben Monro

if you find a PC lappy with a mouse pad as nice as the mac's, please let me know! i've never seen once as big w/ the multi touch support...

Andrew
06/27/2009 05:16 PM by
Andrew

So your only complaint is the Mac Tax?

I assume you own your own company, therefore you can just write off the purchase price...if you are in a jurisdiction where they require you to list the new laptop as an Assett, you can generally write off about 50% up front then 25% a year after that. Assuming you keep the thing for three full years (not that you need to use it), eventually you can write off the entire value.

Granted, the first part about you owning a company is an assumption, and the second part is guesswork since I have no idea what jurisdiction/region/country you'd be incorporated in, but there are always ways to get things done.

Rafal
06/27/2009 06:10 PM by
Rafal

I won't be recommending any particular model, but

  • I would consider Dell for it's good tech support and decent build quality, at a reasonable price

  • get the biggest possible screen resolution, for example a 15' screen with 1680x1050

  • you do travel a lot, choose a laptop with CD-rom replaceable with an additional battery

Ryan Roberts
06/27/2009 07:41 PM by
Ryan Roberts

Is the SSD really worth it? Performance is still pretty bad with the small writes that happen during compilation. Shame there's not many reasonably sized lappies that can do RAID. I think alienware do it, but their machines don't exactly scream 'professional' :)

(Disclaimer: I own Alienware after my macbook cooked)

Rik Hemsley
06/28/2009 12:10 AM by
Rik Hemsley

You might hate trackpoints, but I hated touchpads before I got used to the Macbook's. Give the trackpoint time. After spending much time with various devices, Macbook touchpad > trackpoint > normal touchpad.

Ayende Rahien
06/28/2009 05:32 AM by
Ayende Rahien

Andrew,

The issue isn't the price per such, it is that I just can't get the performance that I need out of the Macs that they sell.

Neville Burnell
06/28/2009 08:09 AM by
Neville Burnell

I'm facing the same dilemma ...

The only notebook I'm aware of that matches your criterion is the Alienware m17x. But its a large, heavy machine by comparison to Macbook.

Rik Hemsley
06/28/2009 09:41 AM by
Rik Hemsley

Perhaps have a look at the Thinkpad W700.

It takes up to 8GB, takes two hard drives (or SSDs of course), has a 1920x1200 17" screen, has a touchpad, and can be configured with a core 2 quad extreme.

The ds model has a second, pull-out, 10.6" screen. Not sure what res it is, but seems handy for dumping IM windows, or toolbars.

Ayende Rahien
06/28/2009 10:04 AM by
Ayende Rahien

The W700 looks like the nearest match to what I want.

Does it have a smaller brother with 15" ?

Rik Hemsley
06/28/2009 10:13 AM by
Rik Hemsley

Yes, the W500, but it doesn't do quad core, nor does it have two drives, or the optional extra screen.

Jay McCaw
06/28/2009 10:22 AM by
Jay McCaw

A few points regarding SSDs:

The drive Phil mentioned is actually an Intel X-25M and not an IBM X-25M, everything else he mentioned is right on.

All current generation SSDs(any built on the Intel, Indilinx, or newest Samsung controllers) have no problems with small writes. This was only an issue with any drives built on the JMicron JMF612 controller.

If you want maximum performance, in a notebook or otherwise, an SSD is a requirement.

Ayende Rahien
06/28/2009 10:25 AM by
Ayende Rahien

Rik,

Just specced the system that I wanted, it came to over 6,000$

Wow

Steve Wagner
06/28/2009 10:33 AM by
Steve Wagner

@Ayende i also hated trackpoints before i started using this one of my T60p, which is a lot better the the ones from Dell. I am faster now with it.

Arne Claassen
06/29/2009 05:35 AM by
Arne Claassen

My MPB 15" is just a bit older than yours and has been my VS workhorse (via vmware fusion). I'm starting to feel the desire for a horsepower upgrade as well, but Apple's just isn't selling anything with the oomph i want. I priced out a 17" quad core thinkpad and it came in about the same price as a unibody 17" MBP (dual core only).

For now, i'm just gonna keep going with the 15", but if Apple doesn't release a quadcore in the next 6-9months, i'll have to consider a non-Mac laptop for the first time in a long while.

Nicolas Mulard
06/29/2009 07:05 AM by
Nicolas Mulard

Did you look at the gaming market ? For speed and customization i suggest you to look at the Clevo M860TU, this is a configurable laptop where you can put a QX9300, 8Gb DD3, choose a non-glare screen, ...

Rafal
06/29/2009 07:50 AM by
Rafal

6K bucks for a laptop? Uh-oh, think about deprecation of its value in the year following. Maybe buy a hosted quad-core xeon server and some fancy super-light laptop as a terminal?

Ayende Rahien
06/29/2009 08:34 AM by
Ayende Rahien

Rafal,

You need to consider latency as well

Imran
06/29/2009 10:35 AM by
Imran

6k Wow that’s a hefty price tag. I spent a fare bit on my previous laptop because I wanted performance but later regretted it as the equivalent desktop is much more powerful and a lot cheaper. In future I will consider a netbook for mobile computing (ASUS eee pc with windows 7 is looking quite tempting) and a desktop at home for heavy lifting. Depends how much power you need on the go I suppose, but I personally favour the netbooks portability and battery life (reportedly up to 9 hrs) and am willing to sacrifice a little speed.

Tobin Harris
06/29/2009 12:21 PM by
Tobin Harris

You could create your own mobile cluster by walking around with two mac-minis in your pockets and then using XGrid on the laptop to distribute computational tasks in parallel across the nodes :) Or maybe not...

Paul Hatcher
06/29/2009 12:27 PM by
Paul Hatcher

Have a look at the Dell Precision laptop - M6400 takes a quad core and up to 16Gb of RAM.

One trick in the UK is to use the Dell second-source suppliers, stell get the onsite warranty but 30-50% off list. Also buy any extra RAM from Crucial rather than Dell, e.g. for 4Gb extra from Dell you can buy 12Gb from Crucial.

Phil H
06/29/2009 01:50 PM by
Phil H

Take a look at the Dell Precision workstations. The M4400 is 15" and the M6400 is 17". Both can be fitted out with a quad core.

BTW - I have a Intel X25-M SSD and love it. Rumor on Engadget today is that Intel are going to release a 320GB model in a couple of weeks, so it might be worth hanging out for that.

Peter
06/29/2009 03:52 PM by
Peter

I use a toshiba qosmio x300 it's a great laptop, it is a bit on the heavy side but when hooked up with solid state drives it would be awesome.

My recommendation: pick a laptop you can purchase in a store, they may be more expensive but being able to take it back with ease is essential.

On trying to purchase a laptop which would be good to code on I bought

1 Dell Gaming laptop (M70 i think) It got delivered to somewhere else, when it finally arrived it had dead pixels and was sluggish.

1 Asus Gaming laptop. I got it home, got it setup on the first run, then discovered the network adapter driver wasn't fully compatible with the windows vista ultimate it shipped with, and therefore kept cutting off after every send / receive.

The toshiba, setup first time, runs visual studio with ease, and also does have the power to play games etc on it.

dual core P7350 2.0ghz

4gb ram

Nvidia geforce 9700m gts graphics card

Win vista ultimate 64bit

harmon kardon speakers

(it's bright shiny red)

www.toshiba.ca/.../product.grp

Scott White
06/29/2009 08:06 PM by
Scott White

I think a year from now you will miss your Mac, on average people keep their Macs longer than other manufacturers. If buy a laptop and your not happy with it in 10 mo then how much have you saved?

That being said I've had a company issued Dell for many generations and all Dells suck IMHO.

Scott White
06/29/2009 08:12 PM by
Scott White

I'm curious why you think you need that much power really? I mean before I would get something like that I'd get a few Mac Minis for the house and remote into them, etc.

If you really need a lot of power I'd go desktop, check out the Mac Pros: http://www.apple.com/macpro/

Peter
06/29/2009 08:32 PM by
Peter

Macs for windows development for me are overpriced and not worthwhile.

The bang for the buck factor just isn't there.

Macs are and always will remain for me multimedia machines.

As for Mac Mini's have you ever tried installing win server 2k3 on a mac mini, it's impossible without a third party app like vmware fusion or parrallels.

Then why would you buy a laptop then spend a further $100 on software when you could get windows and dual boot.

Ayende Rahien
06/30/2009 05:31 AM by
Ayende Rahien

Scott,

I can feel, right now, that the laptop is holding me back.

I need that much power because I am developing, and development can chew up through a LOT of power

Robz
06/30/2009 06:31 PM by
Robz

Dude I got a Dell! lol :D

Anyway, I got a Studio XPS 16. It's a 16 inch screen that is lovely to look at (full RGB LED LCD). It's also got the finger pinch zoom. It kind of looks like a Mac knock-off, but it's a pretty solid laptop.

I got mine with SSD and the put in the Samsung PM800 (the 256GB) and it screams!

It meets all of your features except possibly quad core.

www.dell.com/.../pd.aspx

Robz
06/30/2009 06:33 PM by
Robz

I mean Dell put the Samsung PM800 SSD in the laptop when I did the upgrade to 256GB SSD. It only cost $264 (as compared to $699 full price)!

Brian Chavez
06/30/2009 08:07 PM by
Brian Chavez

As Phill suggested, w/ regard to SSDs: the INTEL X-25M SSD is the way to go. +1.

Justin Angel
07/01/2009 02:43 AM by
Justin Angel

custom HP HDX18 from hp.com.

That's the one I'm getting the day Win7 ships.

It's got Quad core 2.53Ghz (Q9300), 16GB Ram, 2 X 320GB 7200RPM drives, 17" screen, and a real number pad :)

I'm not sure about the mouse pad. You can go into any best buy / future shop and play aorund with a the Core 2 Duo version of this model.

-- Justin

zvolkov
07/02/2009 02:18 AM by
zvolkov

I have a ThinkPad W500, don't buy it.

Jeff Brown
07/04/2009 04:43 AM by
Jeff Brown

I wonder how much that monster will weigh and where you'll find the space to use it.

I find my little 11" widescreen Vaio TZ perfectly fine for 95% of my development work even if it means I sometimes have to wait a minute for a compile. It sure beats having a closed laptop in my bag because it's too big to use on the airplane or on the bus. When I need a bigger screen I can go find a desk with a 30" monitor on it flanked by dual 20"s.

I wouldn't use a netbook though: too small.

Form factor matters a lot for me. With my first laptop I learned that innards can be upgraded but you're pretty much stuck with the size, weight and power budget you choose upfront. My first laptop spent most of its time plugged in.

Chris Nicola
07/06/2009 05:25 PM by
Chris Nicola

15" is definitely the smart choice. The larger screen adds a ton of bulk and power consumption.

I went with a Dell XPS 15", and the new Studio XPS look even better , but I will say this. The Dell software is buggy, I still haven't gotten around to doing a clean OS install. The mouse has major glitching but I can't tell if that is the crap software/drivers but the scroll bars (side and bottom of the pad) are enabled at all its pretty FUBAR.

Personally I hate touchpads more than anything else, but if you have to use one multi-touch is king and I don't think anyone is willing to touch Apple's patent on that.

Wade
07/14/2009 03:14 PM by
Wade

What about a rugged case housing a micro atx mother board. You could lug it around in a small suitcase with wheels. Then you could get core i7, dual ssd's etc at a reasonable 2-3k I bet. You could plug in two or three nice monitors where you primarly work and have a small monitor for your travel need.

Fero
07/22/2009 11:05 PM by
Fero

What about a workstation, well you are developer. Laptop should be portable.

I like to work only on workstation, have two screens (LG 22")

My current configuation is. (Custom build) 4500 AUD

2 x 6 core Opterons

Tyan motherboard (2 x CPU)

16 GB Memory

1 SAS Seagate Drive 450 GB

2 SATA Seagate Drive 320 GB ES

System config

  • Windows Server 2008 Standard 64

Systems under Hyper-V

  • Win 2000

  • Win XP

  • Win 2003 Server

  • Win 7 RC

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