Tag: laptop

Revenge of the Software Developer Laptops

Intel i7 CPU

Intel i7 CPU

As a software developer looking mainly for performance when building a new tower system or buying a new laptop, I am not a big fan of the very popular ultrabooks that have taken a lot of market shares in the past few years. I don’t want to sacrifice power over extreme portability or 10 hours of battery life: I’ll be working at a desk with power plugged-in most the time.

To learn more about my previous laptop list software developers and personal requirements, please read my other post on this topic. Thanks!

My spec preferences for a great laptop

First, let me make a little wrap-up of what I am looking for in terms of specs for a new laptop (I went a bit deeper into details in my previous post):

  • Quadcore CPU
  • 15″ display (can’t be smaller if you want to go quadcore, see why here)
  • 16 GB of RAM
  • Discrete GPU
  • Solid state drive (SSD)

Don’t forget about the WiFi adapter!

One thing I had previously forgotten to keep in mind is the WiFi adapter. We tend to forget about those, but they are not all created equal! My first advice (and it is even more true if you plan to install Linux on your machine) is to go with an Intel WiFi adapter. Its hardware and drivers are rock solid, and so will be your wireless connection. I also read here and there that Killer™ WiFi adapters are very great.

A crucial point worth checking is the number of antennas, indicated 1×1, 2×2, etc. This shows the number of sending and receiving antennas. Rule of thumb here: the more antennas, the more bandwidth, the better. Obviously, you’ll be wanting an adapter that supports the 801.11ac standard.

My new favorite laptop

Please note: like I did in my previous article, some of the links in this page point to Amazon products. By following them (and actually buying something from Amazon), you may be helping me make a little bit of money to pay for my family’s needs without paying a dime of your own. So thanks!

GIGABYTE P55Wv5-SL3

GIGABYTE P55Wv5-SL3

GIGABYTE P55Wv5-SL3

To be honest, I am at the point where this laptop, the GIGABYTE P55Wv5-SL3, has become my only option. I have went through dozens of lists and reviews looking for a single notebook that met my requirements, and also did it under $2000 CAD (just under $1600 USD as of today). This is the only one I could find.

Technical specs

  • 6th generation Intel Core i7-6700HQ
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M 3GB GDDR5
  • 16GB DDR4 2133 RAM memory
  • 128 GB M.2 SSD
  • 1TB HDD
  • Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 8260 (2×2)
  • 15.6″ Full HD 1920×1080 Wide viewing angle(IPS) anti-glare display LCD

I must admit I haven’t tried this model yet, but on paper, I really like it. Being pretty recent, there aren’t a lot of online reviews available, the ones you can find are all very positive, especially for a computer in this price range.

If you are interested in full technical specs and a partial (but kinda complete) review of the P55Wv5 (but it’s a preview version with only 8GB of RAM), I suggest you to visit Tom’s Hardware for their review.

Discarded contenders

Here are laptop models very similar to the P55Wv5-SL3 in terms of core specs that I couldn’t keep on my list, both because of the weakness of their WiFi adapter. But they might be a good fit for you, who knows?!

ASUS ROG GL552VW-DH74

ASUS ROG GL552VW-DH74

ASUS ROG GL552VW-DH74

The ASUS ROG GL552VW-DH74 (and other ASUS Republic of Gamers variants) are on many gamer laptop lists. It really is a great computer for its price, but it has a major problem: its WiFi adapter is probably the one adapter Intel has totally screwed up, the Wireless AC Intel 7265. You’ll find hundreds of complaints about it, on every geek forum out there. I have experienced it myself in another laptop, and ended up replacing it. Before I forget: it is strongly recommended to go for the metal construction version if you plan on buying this one.

MSI GE62 6QD Apache Pro

MSI GE62 2QD Apache Pro

MSI GE62 2QD Apache Pro

Another great contender, the MSI GE62 6QD Apache Pro, has similar core specs. Its main problem, for me, is again its WiFi adapter. It’s not that bad, but it’s a 1×1, meaning its bandwidth is limited to a theoretical 433 Mb/sec. When you have to transfer, for example, virtual machine images over WiFi, a 2×2 adapter (866 Mb/sec) is always appreciated. Other than that, it seems to be an excellent laptop choice for both software developers and gamers. If you don’t mind it’s very average WiFi adapter, this is a great choice.

Laptop Choices for Software Developers

Asus ZenBookPro UX501

Asus ZenBookPro UX501

I recently found myself looking for a good developer laptop. Depending on the stack that is running on your development machine (Web server like Nginx, Apache or IIS, DBMS like PostgreSQL, MySQL, Oracle or MS SQL Server, an IDE or advanced text editor, etc.), but also other softwares like a Web browser with 12 active tabs, tools like Adobe Photoshop, a music player, several command line consoles with ssh sessions or Gulp running, a virtual machine, etc., etc., you might find today’s trendy ultrabooks not so powerful as they are usually limited to low-power CPUs with only two cores, and most often rely on integrated graphics. (sorry for this really long sentence)

This is the conclusion of my own little quest to find what I like to call a good developer laptop. There is nothing exhaustive here. I am simply talking about the models that I think are interesting right now, and why I think they are.

Going quad-core… and 15 inches

First thing you need to know is that sub-15-inch laptops equiped of a quad-core CPU are almost impossible to find. Intel’s CULV specification for ultrabooks limits power for CPUs to 17 watts. This isn’t enough at all for, let’s say, a Core i7 6700HQ which has a TDP (thermal design power) of 45 watts. You can make your own research here, but long story short, if like me, you decide to go quad-core, you’ll most likely have to accept to buy a laptop with a 15-inch screen, at least.

My three favorite options (right now)

First, I want to clearly state that some links in this article point to Amazon products. By following them, you may be helping me pay for groceries, diapers, cat food or coffee. So thanks!

Dell New XPS 15 Laptop

 

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Dell has really hit something last year with the New XPS 13. It has a great screen with a very thin bezel called InfinityEdge (from a distance, it really looks like an 11-inch laptop), an acclaimed keyboard, very good performances for an ultrabook, good built quality, and a nice look. The camera’s position (below the screen) might be a problem for you though.

For 2016, Dell just arrived with the New XPS 15: something very similar to the XPS 13. As you have probably guessed already, this new model is built around a 15-inch screen, which means it’s got room for a quad-core CPU (yay!), and a discrete graphics adapter. Dell offers many configuration options: touch-screen or not (with PPI from 141 to 282),  i7, i5 or i3 CPU, 500GB old-school HDD to 1TB SSD, integrated GPU or Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M, etc.

Working around several people owning the XPS 13, I must say that I am tempted by Dell’s very slim design (the thin bezel helps a lot). I love the keyboard, and the mousepad is kinda great too, but I would have preferred a numpad on the 15-inch version. For obvious reasons, my next laptop will be equiped of an SSD. The way Dell has done things though, that would force me to invest in a multi-touch 4K Ultra HD screen. I’m know that I don’t want to go there. But the more I read, the more it becomes a standard in high-end laptops. So in the end, I might actually “go there”.

Here’s a great article about the New XPS 15 made by the guys at Ars Technica.

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW-DS71T

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW-DS71T

Let’s stay in high-end models a little more. Kind of new Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 offers something very similar in terms of performance. With this model, you have no configuration options, so you’ll have to pay for the multi-touch (10 points, really?!) 4K Ultra HD screen. You’ll get the same i7 6700HQ and Nvidia GeForce 960M the XPS 15 has. A not-so-small difference (for me at least) would be the numpad that is present on the Asus’ keyboard.

Living in Canada, it’s relatively hard for me to compare MSRPs, mostly because electronics are always more expensive in the Great North, but also because right now, 1 US Dollar equals 1.39 Canadian Dollar. But for what I see, for a comparable configuration the XPS 15 might cost about $350 US more than the ZenBook.

Acer Aspire V15 Nitro

Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition

Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition

As you might have noticed by now, what I really want is performance without paying for features mostly gamers will want. Also, I’m still not a huge fan of touch-screens on laptops. So my last option could be to go with something cheaper, but with very comparable “core performances”:

  • Intel Core i7-6700HQ
  • Nvidia GeForce 960M
  • Only 8 GB of RAM
  • An old-school 1TB HDD (that I would immediately replace with a 256 GB SSD)

I would lose the Thunderbolt port (which I really don’t mind right now), and save maybe $300 when compared to the Asus, and even more when compared to the Dell.

Anything to add?

I am still thinking about all this, and like I said, I’ll have to compare Canadian prices before making a final decision. If you would like to share your opinion on the subject, please do so! That might help me a lot. I usually keep my laptops for at least 5 years, so I want something that is going to last.

Thanks a lot for reading!

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