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Need a Windows laptop recommendation (for demo development)

category: offtopic [glöplog]

I haven't been looking at hardware stuff lately at all and I'm kind of lost. Assuming I was to develop somewhat modern demos on a PC, which laptop would you recommend for the purpose? I was waiting for the Macbook Pro refresh in a funny hope of actually having something decent from Apple, but apparently not. My use case is pretty much this:

- Desktop replacement (aka. "my only computer")
- Build quality needs to be good (aka. "no heavy crappy 17" AlienWare shit because I'm going to be travelling with this")
- 15" is already too big, portability > screen estate although I wouldn't mind a retina screen resolution (aka. "needs to fit in a bag and be comfy on the couch")
- I wouldn't mind it being aesthetically modern and good-looking, but I can skimp a bit on this. (aka. "please be pretty like a 13" macbook pro")
- Discrete GPU. Needs to run an average demo, as well as an average game (aka. "still haven't had my XCOM 2 fix")
- Enough of each relevant number like SSD, GHZ, RAM, ROM, USB, SD etc to not be a pain in the ass (aka. "I don't want to wait two minutes for Facebook to open like it does on my current Macbook Air and I want to also attach a peripheral occasionally")
- A decent keyboard that I won't end up hating (aka. "I like it clicky")
- I'd rather pay a bit more than save on essential things, but enough is enough (aka. "If I wanted to put 3000€ in a laptop, I would've already bought a new MBP")

Thanks in advance. It's going to be interesting getting back into the Windows world :)
added on the 2016-11-08 16:37:38 by Preacher Preacher
When I bought a laptop in 2010, the situation was basically that you had to choose between "can do decent 3D stuff" and "can travel with it". I was lucky enough to find a small and lightweight laptop that still included an NVidia low-end GPU, but this clearly was the minority.

Often, non Intel GPU moves you directly to the bulky 17" 4kg gamer's gear looking product line, with a pair of hovercraft turbo fans and a ridiculous 1kg power adapter.
added on the 2016-11-08 16:48:27 by Zavie Zavie
I got an ASUS laptop in 2012 that was 13" and had a discrete GPU, but that thing is past repair now and sucked in many other ways anyway :(
added on the 2016-11-08 16:52:44 by Preacher Preacher
Good to know. Mine was an HP and was good in many ways *except for the locked down GPU drivers*. That said, I wouldn't expect them to have kept improving on their products. Those companies are capable of the best to the worst one year to the other. :-/

Adding to Preacher's questions: anyone would name a laptop maker that has shown steady attention to making good products?
added on the 2016-11-08 17:00:31 by Zavie Zavie
ThinkPad laptops were always good.
added on the 2016-11-08 17:09:00 by xTr1m xTr1m
The new NVidia pascal chips for notebooks offer almost the same power than their desktop versions, so if you go for a notebook with a 1060 gpu (for instance) you wont pay your ass off and still get desirable power that should enable you to watch and play all the recent stuff and whats to come. That probably means to settle for a 14" or 15" fullhd-ish display, tho.
added on the 2016-11-08 17:10:37 by wysiwtf wysiwtf
The Lenovo Thinkpad T460p is a 14" machine witn an NVidia GPU.

No more comments from me as my machines are much older so I don't know anything about this one. I'm generally happy with the Thinkpad T series, however. It may not fit your definition of "modern looking", however.
i, and by now a number of my friends, are on the dell xps 15 - its very small and lightweight for a 15 inch (more like a 14) and it has a 960m. not that cheap tho.
added on the 2016-11-08 17:21:49 by smash smash
i, and by now a number of my friends, are on the dell xps 15 - its very small and lightweight for a 15 inch (more like a 14) and it has a 960m. not that cheap tho.

I have the XPS 13, which is significantly smaller than my former Asus 13" ultrabook (which I'm assuming is the one OP had). It's also better built and both keyboard, trackpad and screen piss on what the Asus had.

No fancy gpu in mine since I bought it for music, but except for that it should fit all your criteria. I've had it since February, still nothing but happy. So if they have a model with a gpu you can use I'd enthusiastically recommend you get one.
added on the 2016-11-08 19:12:00 by lug00ber lug00ber
The new Razer Blade Stealth seems to be getting good reviews. It doesn't have a discrete GPU but you can buy an external one that can connect to it.
added on the 2016-11-08 19:32:37 by exocet exocet
Also, they're rather pricey but the top of the range Surface Books come with a GeForce GTX 940M and seem to match what you're after overall.
added on the 2016-11-08 19:37:59 by exocet exocet
curious to see some recommendations aswell.

i heard good things from alienware and asus laptops. but they are heavier and/or overheat like hell if you want a decent modern graphics card.
added on the 2016-11-08 19:38:24 by psenough psenough
Don't buy the new Lenovo stuff... Everything past the *30 series pretty much sucks. We currently have the *50 series at work: random crashes, dying machines, random ram limit, … over all crap.
added on the 2016-11-08 19:45:01 by moqui moqui
The Asus Zenbook UX303LB is what I've been considering. As far as I've been able to find it's the only 13.3" laptop with a somewhat proper GPU (Nvidia 940M), and even an "ultrabook" on top of that. Other specs are on par as well and the ergonomics seem quite fine too. A mid range model should be somewhere around a grand which is very acceptable to me.

http://www.notebookcheck.net/Asus-Zenbook-UX303LB-940M-Subnotebook-Short-Review. 146312.0.html

I'm kinda waiting for something similar with perhaps a GTX 1050 (1040?) though, since Nvidia's new GPUs of course have quite dazzlingly low power consumption. I'd pay good money for that. On the other hand the new Intel GPUs are supposed to be quite capable as well which expands the options immensely. Of course depends on what you're planning to do exactly but at least a 940M or equivalent would be easily enough for me to do graphics stuff on the go.
added on the 2016-11-08 19:46:38 by noby noby
Preacher if it's supposed to be your only computer then how much storage do you need? Because big SSDs are very expensive, and anything else including laptop hybrid drives are THE performance-bottleneck.
added on the 2016-11-08 19:51:15 by rutra80 rutra80
Our whole institute is on Dell and they are really decent with great keyboards. I like my Latitude and bought one privately as well, but it does come with integrated graphics. So the Precision line might interest you, which has graphics power.
added on the 2016-11-08 20:37:35 by noname noname
aren't all disks sold on computers in 2016 SSD?
added on the 2016-11-08 20:59:58 by psenough psenough
Yoga2 here; somewhat underpowered, but great keyboard (full Enter/cursor keys/page up,down +backlit), good touchscreen display, works well as (heavy-ish) e-book-reader/pdf-viewer; if you like hybrids, some newer yoga with more horsepower and SSD-only option might be something for you. They also look nice, unlike most Think-Pads. :P
added on the 2016-11-08 21:11:47 by tomaes tomaes
ps: nope. Still many HD or HD/SSD hybrids (8 GByte SSD for fast file caching usually)
added on the 2016-11-08 21:13:16 by tomaes tomaes
anyone experience with Aorus lappies? they seem to have nice lightweight but evil specced lappys. I was eyeballing a cheaper model myself for 'on the road graphics', but e.g. the X3 Plus 6 is 13.3" and might fit Preacher's needs.
Note that often the hard disk is super simple to replace. In my ThinkPad I threw out the CD drive because I didn't need it; nowadays I have two SSDs in it with more than enough space.

If "need to be able to move it around" and "need to be able to make decent demos on it" do not necessarily need to be true at the same time, you could also check for external graphics card (via PCIe card for ExpressCard slot); the Mercury people might be able to tell you more about that.
I have a http://www.aorus.com/Product/Features/X3%20Plus%20v5 which I'm totally happy with. Small, and with really great performance. Not much to complain about.
added on the 2016-11-08 23:09:11 by ekoli ekoli
Thanks for the tips, I'll check them out properly asap. The amount of storage is not important for me, I have a 128GB SSD on my Macbook Air and it's plenty of storage for my purposes since music comes from Spotify and photos go on an external drive or the cloud. The external GPU is an interesting proposition, I'll definitely have a look at those.

And I actually have a dell XPS 15 as my work machine, I never thought of that. It's indeed a very good piece of gear, although the price is indeed rather steep and it's not something I'd like to carry around on a daily basis. Plus, the thunderbolt dock that it came with is the single most non-functional, irritating, crash-prone piece of gear I've ever laid my hands on :D
added on the 2016-11-08 23:29:54 by Preacher Preacher
I ditched my external GPU two or three years ago because the drivers stopped supporting it at some point. At least that's what I guessed when it stopped working... because there was no documentation or even any statement about this on any official site. I now have a shoebox-sized PC (a graphics card with stuff built around it) and never looked back. But since you can buy external GPU things from e.g. Alienware instead of some webshop that is only in taiwanese, with a real case and all, and they have four lanes instead of the one I got via the expresscard slot, it might be feasible again. And even supported. And in general Alienware seems less ridiculous than it used to be. From what I heard they are worth considering now for some.

Another thought: High-DPI ("retina") displays might seem tempting, but old or obscure software will probably still cause problems by not scaling up. I have a 15" dell 4K notebook at work which I mostly use for email, browsing, reading, etc. and most things work fine, but sometimes some application is just half the size, which makes it almost unusable. If you expect to use (or write) custom demomaking tools, the smaller pixels might be a downside...
added on the 2016-11-08 23:36:16 by cupe cupe
I've been thoroughly satisfied with my 2014 razer blade. 14", a bit hot, but quite powerful (870m). Newer ones probably also nice.
added on the 2016-11-08 23:45:45 by ferris ferris


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