The Great Laptop Search of 2013

It’s time for a new laptop. I don’t think it’s time, as I love the Macbook Air I bought a couple years ago. Rather some requirements for work, mainly Hyper-V, have come up and I can’t meet them with the Macbook Air. Even a 2013 summer refresh of this platform likely won’t get me what I need and I’m back to Wintel. I have a sad face, but since my daughter will likely inherit the Air, she’s smiling ear to ear.

However that means I have work to do. Grant Fritchey went with a Lenovo W530, just getting a powerful machine. I had that form factor with a W510, and I had issues with the suspend/hibernate. However I also didn’t love the size of the machine. It was heavy and cumbersome and as much as I travel, I’d prefer something lighter.

Ultrabooks are tempting, though I seem to only find them with 8GB of ram. The bare minimum I need. The IT group as Red Gate told me that I needed:

  • Windows 8 or Win 2012 for the Hyper-V images
  • Core i7
  • 8GB of RAM at a minimum, being prepared to give 6GB to our complex VM system.
  • 100GB of disk space
  • SSD preferred.

That doesn’t’ give me a lot of choices in the sub 4lb range, 13” display range.

If I was going to get a new laptop, a touch screen with Windows 8 is something that came to mind first. With that in mind, I started looking at the Lenovo X series, since I’ve had a few friends that liked those models. The X1 Carbon Touch got my first look. It’s a nice looking machine, but I’ve seen a number of complaints from people about order fulfillment for this model. That concerns me, since I would guess some of these issues are problems with the hardware. A few people I know have gotten the W530 in the same timeframes and there haven’t been issues. Besides, this machine tops out at 8GB, which is the base minimum I need.

There were a few other machines I looked at, all in the touch screen, convertible form factor, which were interesting, but unfortunately these topped out at 8GB. That’s plenty for an ultra book or convertible that runs one operating system, even a couple virtual machines. However I don’t have control over my demo image, which others have noted really needs 6GB to run smoothly. The list I considered and rejected was:

I suspect 8GB could work, but I don’t want to be limited if it doesn’t. We have a complex set of VMs to work with, and I think I need more RAM to be safe. After my post on the Surface Pro last week, I had a few other recommendations.

I decided to examine each of those over the weekend and make a decision.

I first looked at the ASUS. I’ve seen a few developers that liked this model, and it looks interesting. I can upgrade it to 10GB, which gives me a little breathing room. It’s small and thin, lightweight, and looks good. However I decided to skip this because the 10GB makes me only slightly less nervous than 8GB. I decided to check other options.

The Toshiba is a nice machine. I used to have a 15" Qosmio, and I liked the machine. I ditched it when Toshiba wasn’t very helpful with Windows 7 drivers for my model. My son had it for about 6 months before the motherboard died, but during the 3 years it was my main machine, it worked well. The R930 looks nice, and has most of what I need. Worth considering further.

The Sony was interesting. I’ve never had a Sony, but I’ve heard good things from people about the laptops. The Duo would have been a choice for me if it held more than 8GB. The S Series is interesting, and it goes up to 12GB of RAM. That’s likely enough for me. The display is 1600×900 and it’s under 4 lbs. It seems to meet all the criteria. A few reviews didn’t love the keyboard, and they mention going to 12GB of RAM means single channel access. I’m not sure how big a deal this is, but it’s one item.

The Lenovo T-430 meets my criteria as well. A nice 1600×900 screen, 16GB of RAM, and it has the eraser head mouse movement. I have liked that format since IBM introduced it in the 90s. This one is a touch heaver, but it gets good reviews, and it’s a format I’m familiar with. It also has the advantage of the switching out the optical drive for a second SSD. That is what I did in my W510, and it’s what I’d likely do here as well. The T431 looks better, but since it’s not yet out, I can’t consider it.

In weighing all the options I finally decided to get the Lenovo T431. The Toshiba was close, but I know the Lenovo product and the ultra bay that would let me stick in two drives was appealing. The Sony worries me slightly with 12GB with mismatched memory. Not a lot, but all things being equal, the T431 seems like a good fit for me.

It’s ordered, and on the way. As soon as it comes, I suspect I’ll be looking for a new laptop bag as well, but we’ll see how this one fits in my existing bag.

Now to learn a bit more about Hyper-V.

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to The Great Laptop Search of 2013

  1. gullsved says:

    How about the Samsung Chronos?

    • way0utwest says:

      That would have been a possibility, but the same as the 32 series, worried slightly about mismatched RAM for performance and it’s only 8 or 12GB.

  2. dd says:

    Laptops are passe. They are heavy to carry around. I hate their keyboards. I love tablets. I just bought one for my sister. I would go for a windows 8 (not surface but regular windows) tablet with 14″ or 15″ screen with a normal external USB keyboard with built in sim card and a touch screen and a stand when working at a desk.

  3. robt says:

    You should consider the Dell Latitude series and Precision series. These models have options not available on Inspiron & XPS computer series at any price, like 16gb memory, docking stations, 2nd hard drive, 9-cell battery, video cards, multiple monitors. If you go to the Dell page you need to select SMB / Business rather than Personal/Home to make these products visible, but anybody can buy them. The Precision series is touted as a serious desktop replacement for the graphics arts and engineering industries, but much of these specs would equally apply to SQL Server. In my experience, their support is much better, too.

    • way0utwest says:

      I like Dell, and really liked the XPS, but they didn’t have enough RAM. The Precision and Lattitudes are nice, but they are heavier and I was trying to shed weight.

  4. James Fogel says:

    Lenovo ThinkPads are the way to go. They seem to be the only company that gets the need for expandability. I have an X Series convertible tablet with the Ultrabase docking station. Between that and my PC Express card I have four hard drives (more if I want as the card supports multiplexing), seven USB ports and on and on. It is a light tablet when I need it to be and a desktop replacement when that is needed.

  5. rsterbal says:

    What did it cost?

  6. nportelli says:

    Your criteria for a laptop sound almost like mine, except I want a 1080p display minimum. Why can I get a 13in ultrabook with that display but not a 14in? So far nothing even comes close to what I want. OEM’s blame Windows 8, no it’s your crap hardware.

    • way0utwest says:

      Not sure if anyone has full 1080p. I tried to get as high and bright as I could without seeing the screen. I wanted an IPS display. The T430 has 1600×900. Not quite IPS but close.

  7. rsterbal says:

    I’m assuming you have some solution for external storage. Do you plan on directly connecting the (1-3) TB drive, or are you going to do that wirelessly?

    • way0utwest says:

      1-3TB? I have 256GB on my MBA now. I got a 256GB in the Lenovo with a 500GB spare for misc stuff. I have a couple 256GB SSDs in USB3 carriages that I will use for VMs/backup if needed.

  8. michael_v says:

    I agree with wayoutwest about shedding weight. But a Precision m4700 w/ 32GB is too tempting. It’s on my Christmas list. It will be a huge upgrade from my Latitude E6500.

  9. PaulK says:

    I was agreeing with every point on this article until you got to the “eraser head mouse movement”. Ignoring that I have to say I have had the best luck with Lenovo (T410). Other experiences: Sony – battery problems and BSODs when it was just sitting there, Dell – warped from the heat, Toshiba – not sturdy, HP – runs hot even after replacing disk with SSD, Lenovo – tight fan clearance means it might stick during startup forcing a reboot while holding it sideways.

  10. If you only considered the Lenovo X1, I am not sure you did a good job evaluating the Lenovo X series. You missed the X230 which also exists as a convertible tablet. Up to 16 GB of RAM, I put my own Samsung 840 Pro SSD in it (up to 512 GB), Core i7 3rd gen, USB 3, multi-touch, DisplayPort (not mini!) and VGA out, and a range of other hardware. Still light (lighter than the T430 I think).

    No optical drive to swap out for a second SSD… but I’ve found that a second SSD connected to USB 3 is just as good for running VMs. (I do have a second HDD in the media bay of the dock for backups, but that’s a bit heavy to travel with.)

    I have used and enjoyed the Lenovo X series Tablet PCs for a number of years now and even though some other tablets are lighter and very attractive, they just don’t have the power that’s available on the traditional Tablet PC form factor.

    • James Fogel says:

      Exactly. I’m on my second X series and 4th ThinkPad overall. I used to be a Toshiba only buyer but no more.

    • way0utwest says:

      I didn’t look too closely at the X230. The front page says up to 8GB, but the specs say 16GB. I’d like to try the touch screen, but I’m not sure how important that is for me. It’s not quite as strong a display, so maybe that was my thought there?

      It’s not about a good or bad job evaluating. That’s up to the buyer. We have different requirements, and there certainly isn’t a best or worst machine. I just presented what I looked at to help others get an idea of what I thought. They’ve have to make their own evaluation.

      Ultimately as someone that travels a bit and needs this to work for presentations, I like having 2 drives plus a spare external. Just in case.

  11. John Chertudi says:

    You may not need a pure SSD drive, we get Lenovo T430 laptops with a 32GB Crucial mSATA chip. The Express Cache software keeps most accessed data cached on mSATA SSD, I like this approach better. Gives an SSD feel without the full SSD price and 500GB storage.

    • way0utwest says:

      We’ll see how it goes with the SSDs. Since the VMs can be large and I’m not sure how SQL will do with access, I went with an internal SSD for the main drive, a 500GB secondary and a 256GB external SSD.

Comments are closed.