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The Perfect Developer Laptop

10.10.2013
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I have been struggling with selecting the perfect developer laptop (in my eyes) for a couple of months now as I have been waiting for ultrabooks with the latest Haswell technology. Now I’d like to share what I ended up getting and what I ended up returning back to the store as it was just not good enough.

Requirements

When I initially started looking for a new laptop in the beginning/middle of the summer, I was looking for something that “had it all” these were my requirements at the time. Remember, as developers we are custom to requirements changing and this case was no different.

  1. Intel 4th Generation Haswell I wasn’t about to get an old processor that consumes more power
  2. At least 10 hours of battery as I was imagining myself taking 10 hour+ flights every month and also taking the laptop everywhere without a charger.
  3. Touch screen, we live in 2013 I can’t get something without touch, right?
  4. Kick-ass performance in my daily work which includes coding in Visual Studio, screencasting and rendering in Camtasia
  5. OK Gaming Performance as I want to enjoy myself playing some fun games now and then
  6. At least 512GB of space on my sys-drive
  7. 16GB RAM
  8. 13″ – I don’t want to carry a huge brick with me
  9. No more than 1.5KG!

That’s about it, in no particular order as I wanted it all – I was unwilling to change my mind. When it came to the end of the summer and my new gig at Readify was about to start I had to choose something. However by this time nothing that matched the above existed I could either get something that was really light-weight with long lasting battery or I could get a heavy beast with kick-ass performance.

MacBook Air – Huge mistake

After lots of discussions with friends, family and tweeps I decided to get a MacBook Air as it had most of the above except touch screen. At least this was my impression at the time. The new MacBook Air has one of the latest Intel i7 haswells which has the new Intel HD5000 graphics. This graphics card is supposed to be able to perform really well in games which was a huge bonus and also one of my requirements.

I was mistaken.

Getting the MacBook Air was awesome, I was treated like I was the only person in the Mac store and got tons of help with my decision. I ended up getting the new MacBook Air with a 512GB SSD and 8GB RAM. This setup didn’t have touch, didn’t have 16GB RAM and didn’t have a kick-ass performing CPU. At this time I had no idea that it is a rip-off getting an i7 in one of these as the i5 performs just as good.

So after 7 days of suffering as Windows performs really badly when using BootCamp, sure I could run parallels but hey – I don’t care about OSX at all so it is just in my way, I returned the MacBook. Don’t get me totally wrong though, I did love the feeling of a MacBook, it’s a super solid device with awesome battery life. For me though it didn’t work out as it took 15 minutes to render a 2 minute clip in Camtasia which normally takes much, much less than that.

Metabox – Hello baby!

I browsed around and asked around at my job to see what others had recently gotten and I came across some brand that I had never ever heard about before; Metabox. By this time I had searched around and looked at tons of different models the only one that came close was AlienWare, performance wise that is. The only problem with AlienWare is that it is bulky and heavy and I didn’t want a heavy laptop. That was one of the requirements that I didn’t want to let go of, going over ~2KGs wasn’t an option. Also I didn’t want to go larger than 13″. Basically I let go of the touch and 10 hour+ battery life requirement as the other parts of this laptop would compensate for that as you will see below.

More specifically I came across a laptop with the model number W230ST, this laptop is made by a company called Clevo. However, the special thing about Clevo is that their systems are entirely customizable which means that I can replace every piece in it (almost). It isn’t assembled by Clevo but by their resellers so in my case I bought my laptop from Metabox which is an Australian company in Perth.

What they do is that they brand the laptop box with their logo and assembles it for you and you get total customizability. If I want I can replace the CPU in my machine with some other laptop CPU (with the same socket of course); which is interesting.

The W230ST is a 13″ laptop that weights about 2KG or a bit less and it is extremely nice and feels very light. There are however a couple of things that I didn’t get from my requirements list, which in this case didn’t matter because everything else was so great.

When putting together this machine you get to choose the following:

  • What CPU do you want? i7-4700, i7-4702, i7-4800, i7-4900
  • What SSD do you want?
  • Do you want mSATA?
  • Do you want another mSATA?
  • Do you want to RAID any of the drives?
  • What network card do you want?
  • Do you want an OS pre-installed?
  • How much RAM do you want? 4GB, 8GB, 16GB

My Laptop

I went with the following specification:

  • i7-4900
  • nVIDIA GTX 765M
  • 16GB RAM
  • 512GB SSD
  • 240GB mSATA
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 (2×2 AC +BT HMC)

And I ordered the laptop through Affordable Laptops in Australia, I know there are a bunch of resellers in Europe so just google for them.

It has a very nice finish on the lid, feels rubberized however the rest of the casing feels a bit plastic. There’s a backlit keyboard that you can adjust the brightness of and I think it’s extremely nice to type on.

The device do get a bit hot when running stress tests such as Prime95, my CPU reached about 86 degrees and I have under-volted the CPU to be able to reach the turbo frequency faster and for longer periods of time as there is a hardware limit when it gets too hot. If you don’t do too heavy stuff I would recommend going with i7-4800 as it’s supposed to be a bit colder.

Custom built?

It will take a while to build when you order, I got mine within two weeks and the wait was horrible, I really hate waiting for hardware to arrive. I was a bit unlucky as I had 1 dead pixel on my screen, but I got it replace and from the time they picked it up I had it back on my desk within three days – kudos to Metabox!

Here’s some pictures borrowed from Affordable Laptops.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Kick-ass performance in both daily work and in gaming
  • 1080p screen
  • 13″ and ~2KG
  • Extremely configurable

Cons

  • No touch
  • Battery life is only rumored to be 3.5 to 4 hours – haven’t tried it without charging it for that long
  • Normal work drained the battery to 10% in a little over 2 hours. This included having Visual Studio running, 10+ browser tabs, some chat Windows, PowerPoint, PowerShell, Steam downloading stuff, LINQPad

I recommend this to anyone working with development that doesn’t want to feel like their machine is slow. This is my primary device and it seems to be able to beat everything there is. I played Crysis 2 on Ultra settings and I didn’t feel the FPS drop at all. I might have forgotten to add something, just let me know if you have any questions.

I was obviously not going to go on so long trips that the battery would be that important, as long as it doesn’t die within 3 hours I am more than happy. It still would have been awesome if it lasted for 10+ hours, but I doubt I am going to need that so often. My requirements changed along the way as I let go of the touch and battery and focused on something powerful yet portable. The device is not as nice and slim as a MacBook but everything else with this device compensates for the lack of design, battery life and touch.

This is the perfect machine for me at the time being this doesn’t mean it is the perfect machine for you.

Additional Information & benchmkars

Here’s a screenshot of me installing two virtual machines at the same time and doing some other work in the background see the temperatures, CPU usage and other:

BeastOfALaptop

Here are some ATTO disk benchmarks, the first one is the OS drive which is a Samsung 840 PRO 512GB the second one is an Intel 525 240GB mSATA:

atto-1

atto-2

Here’s the complete specification spectrum for the device, as you can see it is also called SAGER:

Specs

Some images borrowed from the W230ST Owners Lounge.

Published at DZone with permission of Filip Ekberg, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

M Leslie replied on Thu, 2013/10/10 - 5:22am

For developers based out of the UK, novatech does offer similar tools. Although now I own a MBP 15 RD, I was more than happy with the service and products of novatech. 

Dash Riproch replied on Thu, 2013/10/10 - 10:39am

So you traded in a MacBook Air because you weren't interested in a Unix-based OS, so you could instead purchase an Australian, locally branded, mail-order laptop  (warranty repairs should be fun), that drains the battery to 10% after two hours of usage? And you did this partly because Windows performs poorly? And you knew that you were going to run Windows and Visual Studio? So you purchased a Mac in the first place? And in an article titled "The Perfect Developer Laptop," you were concerned in a primary way about game performance? And based on these criteria you feel that the Mac is "just not good enough?" But you feel a strong selling point for the Metabox is that, if you want, you can swap out CPUs? Do you do this frequently?

This post is fucking stupid.

Java Guy replied on Thu, 2013/10/10 - 11:17am

if you are developing for windoze, you might as well look at the surface pro 2 which has the i5...i've seen a number of comments saying they are doing VS dev on the Surface Pro 1.

Also I've heard good things about the dell xps 13 developer edition.

mbp 15" retina full osx all the way for me!  no bootcamp, no parallels, no more windows! =D

Filip Ekberg replied on Thu, 2013/10/10 - 4:51pm in response to: Dash Riproch

Clevo makes the laptop and Metabox assembles it and puts their logo on it. Clevo delivers this machine everywhere in the world to lots of different shops that puts it together. Did you even read the thing?

MacBooks are extremely common for developers using only Windows and Visual Studio, but the Air just didn't perform as well as I wanted. The fact that you couldn't remove the default OS partition and use the entire disk for another OS was just irritating so I didn't really see a point in trying the Retina instead. Also, as the post says I wanted Haswell and the MBP Retina didn't have that.

I had lots of different things that I wanted to perform good and most of them didn't on the MacBook Air. For instance, it took 15 minutes to render a 2 minute video in Camtasia while it takes me less than 30 seconds to do that on my Metabox. Again, the MBP Retina would most likely perform better than the Air, but again I wanted haswell and not buy last generation stuff.

This is the perfect developer laptop for me, doesn't mean that it is the perfect developer laptop for you.

Oh and warranty repairs, as it turns out I was extremely unlucky. First I had a dead pixel and Metabox picked it up, flew it to the other side of the country and return it so I had it 2 days after I sent it. Then I actually had an issue with the mSATA controller so I might need to get that replaced to, they will do the same procedure again, and again if needed. They have much better warranty policies than what I've seen when buying other brands from stores.

It's not really a strong selling point that you can swap the CPU, it's just really cool that you could do so if you wanted and  points to the fact that if you buy a MacBook you really can't change anything at all if you need to.

In regards of battery, I really thought that I would be using it without the power cord much, much more but the fact is that it's been plugged into the wall for weeks now with some rare occasions being moved, still not even one hour before I had it back to my desk. Point is that it turns out battery is not important for me so I can focus on having a great performing laptop instead.

And I can run my VMs with Linux/Windows/Unix whenever I need.

As I said, perfect for me, maybe not perfect for you.

Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Thu, 2013/10/10 - 5:30pm

I agree with Dash that this post is stupid front to back.

But for what it's worth here is what I'd be looking for:

Fast compile time
No harddrive lag
Full HD resolution, but where I don't have squint too much
Not too heavy
Not too fragile
Cheap

Screw windows, screw visual studio. This is all about Java development and a pile of tools and scripts and tricks. This mean Eclipse and Linux command line for me.

So, to keep the price low, I'd say minimum:

120GB SSD
15" screen, possibly 14"
4 cores @ 2.8 GHz
8GB memory
4 hour battery

Or better.... Anything like that for around $600 these days?


Filip Ekberg replied on Thu, 2013/10/10 - 5:42pm

Mike P, so you are saying the post is stupid because you don't agree or because you have another definition for "perfect"?

You can't really compare a machine for $600 with a machine for $2800, they don't even play in the same league. I was looking for something similar to your first pointsa, fast, no lag, full hd, not heavy but I didn't want price to come before quality and performance.

Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Thu, 2013/10/10 - 8:04pm in response to: Filip Ekberg

Filip, as Dash outlined, it just didn't make sense.

A bit scaled down, but price is too important. I simply don't have $2800 to dispose of right now. http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-CA/product/asus-asus-vivobook-14-1-touchscreen-ultrabook-intel-core-i5-3317u-6gb-ram-24gb-ssd-500gb-hdd-windows-8-s400ca-rs51-cb/10256774.aspx?path=1dfaea2f42db699e516509dba76d9f29en02&SearchPageIndex=1

6GB only. Only partial SSD. Speed is slower, resolution is lower. It *is* workable however.

This one is interesting:

http://www.factorydirect.ca/Canada-Ontario-/Computers_Notebooks/Notebooks/Amd/HP2392/G6-2392NR__D1C07UAR_ABA__Hp_G6-2392Nr_A8-4500M_1_9__8Gb_1Tb_Dvdrw_15_6__W8_887758256084/0

8GB, 1.9GHz bursting to 2.8GHz (really though?), mammoth harddrive (probably replace with 120GB SSD @ around $80..., and getting $10 drive enclosure for the 1TB drive...), 8 cores (hello), lower resolution again. But pretty damn good deal, and IMO making $2k+ laptops looks like flat out bad deals to me. It's just way over the top those prices. Yes, it's spec'ed higher, but THAT much though? A bit of memory like 8GB plus reasonably fast CPU is the core requirement for development I'd say!

I would prefer NVidia over ATI for video though, because ATI (AMD) has let down the Linux community one too many times IMO.

The 8GB ones on this page, some of which are interesting: http://www.factorydirect.ca/Categories/7/Computers___Laptops/Notebooks_Laptops/Intel

Years ago, I used to order from Dell. My old 5400 1920x1200 Core Duo still works. I think Dell makes excellent laptops. Slightly higher cost than those ultra budget ones like I quoted, but durable, and with better features. Surely one could find something there at half that $2800 price mark that is pretty damn good?

Just spotted this on that refurb store... http://www.factorydirect.ca/Canada-Ontario-/Computers_Notebooks/Notebooks/Intel/DE5520/INSP_5520_Dell_Insp_5520_Ci7_8Gb_1Tb_Dvdrw_15_6__W8hp/0

Not fully spec'ed again, but are not pieces of crap either!

Budget "gaming" laptop: http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=7358164&CatId=7669

12GB DDR3, room for two drives, full HD, blu ray (reader). Not bad.


Filip Ekberg replied on Thu, 2013/10/10 - 8:40pm in response to: Mike P(Okidoky)

How does it not make sense? I listened to a lot of friends advices, looked around for a long time for something  that would suite my everyday needs and I gave the MacBook Air a fair chance.

I am starting to think that you think it is stupid just because I didn't like the MacBook, because everyone just gotta love them right? Well I didn't.

6GB RAM is way to little, at least for the work I am doing. And my job paid for the laptop since it is primarily used for work. But I don't have a secondary machine so I wanted something that would suite me all the time.

For me 6GB, or even 8GB is not enough specially not when running Windows, Visual Studio and maybe 1-2 Virtual Machines. Now if I were using Linux I might be able to work with 8GB, but still if I need a couple of Virtual Machine that will just not be enough.

Now 8GB and 2.8GHz turbo speed sounds decent, but I much prefer my 16GB and 3.8GHz turbo speeds. Going over 4 cores (8 with HT) doesn't really matter that much. When compiling/encoding you want fast clock speeds as most of the processing isn't divided over all cores. So in most cases for me, speed has a greater impact than scalability.

I considered Dell, I actually went out and tried the AlienWare since that was in the same performance area as I was looking to get. If I recall correctly they are a bit cheaper but way much heavier and heavy wasn't an option for me, I did want something that doesn't hurt my back when I need to have it in a backpack. Don't get me wrong though, AlienWare is a crazy solid and nice machine; just not perfect for me.

If you are on a budget, this is not the laptop for you. I say this is the perfect developer machine (for me) because I use it primarily for work and doing so I don't have to think about getting the cheaper ones because they will just get in my way when they're slow.

So again, I don't see how my story about finding the perfect developer laptop (for me) is either stupid or doesn't make sense? I made some bad decisions in the start, my requirements changed along the way and I ended up getting something completely different than I thought from the start and as it turns out this was a really good choice for me. Doesn't mean it would be the perfect choice for you.

Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Thu, 2013/10/10 - 9:06pm in response to: Filip Ekberg

I offered examples that come close, and shows that to bridge the gap to what *you* want, should not have to bring the cost up to $2800.

As for multiple cores, when building Java projects, one can use the parallel ant command to load up the cores. I load up 6 cores on my desktop all the time that way. Also, JBoss and GlassFish start quicker with more core. As for virtualization, I much prefer operating system level virtualization like OpenVZ, VServer, lxc, and such, because it's way faster, and it shares resources. This might not work for you, I realize that. I'm just glad I don't have to put up with windows.

Filip Ekberg replied on Thu, 2013/10/10 - 10:06pm in response to: Mike P(Okidoky)

Yeah I get that you showed other examples, just to give you another example. At my previous gig I used a HP EliteBook, the price on that one when it was new was about $5000 and overall it had less good hardware than compared to what you get for $5000 today. \

To be honest, $2800 for a laptop that is 13", works for all my work applications flawlessly and runs Battlefield 4 on Ultra settings without lag is just perfect for me and totally worth $2800, even if I paid it out of my own pocket. The budget laptops you linked doesn't really come close to how this machine performs so to me the price difference is not a huge deal.

One good thing about the i7-4900MQ CPU that I choose is that it has some extended support for hardware virtualization. I run virtual machines in VirtualBox for the most part as then I can just move my virtual machines to other machines without really bothering about the underlying OS.

I love Windows, have always loved Windows and I missed it a lot when I ran Gentoo as my primary OS back in the day.

Not sure I would have bought the same laptop if I only did Java development in a *nix environment, I might have gone with the MacBook Pro Retina.

So as a .NET developer, only using Windows, doing screen casting and video rendering and occasionally games, this is a perfect laptop.

I'm happy for you that you are happy without Windows, no reason telling people that don't have the same point of view stupid though.

Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Fri, 2013/10/11 - 9:22am in response to: Filip Ekberg

I'm not up to speed on the latest hardware assisted virtualization features, if there are any. But is hardware based virtualization not been supported by both every AMD plus almost every Intel for many years now? I know that Intel tried to pull a fast one by leaving this feature out of some of their cpus, while other cpus at pretty much the same price and speed would have it. But are there *any* laptops on the market, still, with cpus that don't support this?

Also, have you looked at operating system level virtualization? According to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operating_system-level_virtualization there at least a few options for Windows as well. It's a really cool way of sharing resources. The frustrating thing about virtualization is that often you end up having a guest that could well have been the same OS as the host one. So why have multiple instances, if a kernel could be shared. So long as the process space, network, etc, are all properly separated, you wouldn't tell the difference between this style of virtualization and full VMs like Virtual Box or VMWare offers. Memory would be shared, so that each VM doesn't have to reserve a large chunk for its own. You could easily run like 10+ VMs this way and not get into trouble. I haven't tried this on Windows, but on Linux its way more efficient than full VMing.

Ionel Condor replied on Wed, 2013/10/16 - 7:33am

if you do not spend half of your life in an airplane or somewhere where you do not have a decent internet connection then I think there is no point in investing in such a powerful machine that will be deprecated by the end of 2014 :). 

I think a MacBook Pro 13" retina, full SSD is more than enough. 
For all my development hacks I use EC2 or another public IaaS cloud, I trigger Linux or Win machines for as long as I need them to test my apps that i cannot test on the laptop and decommission them at the end. 

Ionel.

Lucas Brito Arruda replied on Wed, 2013/10/16 - 8:08am

Never heard of this Metabox laptop, but seems like a nice one. It's probably a good workhorse laptop.

But the thing here is that with notebooks, you always have to make a tradeoff. For me, if you can afford, the best one would be price.

So, you won't get great performance + huge fast storage + touchscreen (I didn't really get why you want this, but ok) + lightweight (1.5kg) + low price + small size.

For me, the tradeoff was basically money with good form factor size and very good performance (more than I need), and I choose a Macbook Pro Retina 15". I think I don't really need more than 8GB, but I wanted a good graphics card and good processor and 512Gb SSD.

If I wanted a cheaper but workhorse, I would go with a Lenovo T440/T440s, which starts at $764 (very basic), so I would probably spend $1500. Of course, this time it would be probably 2kg at least, bulky, plastic, but I'm ok with the tradeoff.

Yakov Fain replied on Wed, 2013/10/16 - 8:38am

I don't like this post. In the first place, the requirements were wrong, and in the end, the author ignored many of them.  If the author would simply started with "I need a machine that's fast with Camtasia, runs mainly Windows software, costs around $1K USD,  the battery life doesn't matter, can be heavy, and can look fugly", he'd saved himself some time and wouldn't even tried Apple AIR.


Nigel Mouadib replied on Wed, 2013/10/16 - 8:38am

 Hi,

First, we are talking about "best developer laptop", so we don't care about running 3D games in Full DD res right ?

Well, for my own needs (java dev under eclipse + virtualization for Apache/Posgtres/JBoss, tests loading with jmeter + App profiling ) , here is what i'm seeking:

- Intel Core I7

- Ram 16 GB

- SSD HD 240GB min for OS Host+ Virtualized OS Slaves

- 320 GB SATA 3 for storing Datas

- Screen 15,6 (and that is difficult to find) because honestly , working on a 13 " with so many windows opened is really painfull and in 2K13 you want to check logs/responses time in real time , without the need to switch windows often ...

- weight: 2KG Max (very hard to find with 15,6 Screen) but i'm carrying my laptop everyday on my back => Very important criteria

- Acceptable Autonomy would be : 4 hours for me.

Well that's all, 

Please Santa, make my dreams come true ...

Ps: Sony S Series were closed to that wishes list It may be sold out now , price was pretty correct approx 1800 $ ... If you see anything else, please make me know ... :-)


Lucas Brito Arruda replied on Wed, 2013/10/16 - 9:20am in response to: Yakov Fain

Exactly.

And this Metabox seems to be much more like a brick compared to the air (not it terms of width, but on height or bulky size). It has more than 1.5Kg (he even put an exclamation on the requirement) going up to 2.08kg (almost 40% more).

Like I told above, you can't buy a laptop without tradeoffs. For me, if you want the best, the wanted tradeoff is probably spending more money on it.

Probably, with $2800 you could afford a awesome power desktop ($1000) and a very good mobile laptop ($1500).

Ae Kernel replied on Wed, 2013/10/16 - 9:45am

I agree with many other commenters here that this post is a little strange.  Given your requirements, I'm not sure which is more odd:  that you thought a MB Air would be a good choice, OR that you wound up spending a lot of money on a laptop no one's ever heard of that barely gets 3 hours of battery life.  It seems clear that your gaming needs were a big driver in the decision making process - which is perfectly fine, but probably doesn't reflect what most developers are looking for in a machine intended for work purposes.  I'm glad you found a laptop that works well for you, but I would hardly title this article, "The perfect developer laptop."  If you wanted to go Apple, I think a MB Pro Retina (the new ones coming out next week with Haswell) would have given you a vastly different/better experience than the MB Air.  Expensive yes, but a pretty awesome dev machine nonetheless.  

Open question to the author as well as other devs:  Can you really do software development on a 13" screen?  Believe me I've tried and it's never worked well in my experience.  A 13" screen is just way too small to see much code unless you're using a text editor in full screen mode w/o much chrome around the edges.  

Yakov Fain replied on Wed, 2013/10/16 - 10:15am in response to: Ae Kernel

I don't think any developer should be working on one screen. 13" is fine as long as you have a large monitor connected to it. Some time ago I blogged about the workspace of a modern software developer at  http://yakovfain.com/2013/04/15/three-programmers-three-home-offices/ . 

Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Wed, 2013/10/16 - 10:50am

I'm sure this is possible on Windows and Mac as well: what I do is, first, I map that idiotic Caps-Lock key to become the left Control key. No more having to rotate my left wrist to hit the control key. I then create 4 workspaces. A workspace is a desktop screen. So, 4 desktops. They're arranged as 2 x 2. Then I map Control-Tab as moving to the workspace to the right. It's set to wrap. So, in essence, Control-Tab swaps between workspace 1 and 2. Then I map Control-Alt-Tab to do this vertically. So Control-Alt-Tab swaps between workspace 1 and 3, or 2 and 4. Control-Tab swaps between 1 and 2, or 3 and 4.

This works extremely well. On workspace 1, I run my email reader and browser sessions. On 2, I run my connection to the office, and manage remote servers. On 3 I run my terminal windows running my server software and test cases, and interact with my software. On 4 I run Eclipse and do my programming. It's mostly a quick back and forth flipping using the Control-Tab. Then once in a while Alt-Control-Tab to flip to the other 2 workspaces.

Alt-Tab is normal window cycling as usual. I also set the window focus to follow the mouse. I do not have to click a window to activate it. Whatever the mouse is on top of, that window becomes active. Alt-tab overrides that of course.

Another thing I did is mapped alt-mouse-wheel to run a script that would fold or unfold the current focused window. It also flips between the remembered positions. It's hard to explain this one, but it's useful if you have a ton of windows open. You can kind of iconify them, and cluster them in groups on a spot you'll remember to find them.

Tricks like this make it possible to keep all windows either very large or maximized. Never for instance, would I need to have Eclipse not being maximized. My email reader is also always maximized.

Ae Kernel replied on Wed, 2013/10/16 - 10:52am in response to: Yakov Fain

"13" is fine as long as you have a large monitor connected to it." So in other words, as long as you're not actually developing on the laptop you bought for software development then it works fine...  :)   I completely get your point and also agree with it, but it does seem odd to spend a ton of money on a laptop designed for software development only to be hobbled by a 13" screen - unless you almost never need to solely use the laptop's screen.

Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Wed, 2013/10/16 - 11:31am

Here's another weird idea, but wouldn't be surprised if this is already possible:

How about a head-less PC that's as small as possible, and using a tablet + bluetooth keyboard. They keyboard would be connected to the the tablet. The tablet runs remote desktop software, something like, but better than vnc.

The PC remains in your backpack or briefcase. The tablet would have touch screen of course, and the keyboard you'd only take out when you're coding. On the bus or train for instance, you could be doing research, and scroll through and examine source code. One could make simple changes and even debug without the keyboard still.

While it might seem silly to worry about 3 pieces of hardware, whereas a laptop would only be one, there are some advantages. The PC would act like a full desktop once you get to the office. On your desk you'd be having a big monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Connections would be wireless. Even the charging station might be wireless (place on top of charger).

The tablet can be whatever you currently have. Those things are dirt cheap now. A 10" Nexus 7 is like $250 around that now? Could be $300 not sure. But the resolution is 2560! It's smaller than 13, but it wouldn't be used for full development. More passive staring / researching while on the go.

You could also connect from your cell phone. It gets weirder and weirder. Desktop sharing and remote controls took on a while new level in Android 4.2+ something-something-connect forget what it was called. You walk into a room with a big tv, and you play back a full HD movie now right from your phone, wirelessly.

Actual PCs might get replaced by dirt cheap Android tv type sticks. In theory, all coding could be done on a $40 Android stick, or perhaps soon Google will subsidize the building in of an Android based "smart tv" feature in every monitor and tv sold. Weird things are happening. Those little smart tvs, smart monitors, tablets, whatever, could simply be remote access terminals into a server running in the datacenter of the office building...

Yakov Fain replied on Wed, 2013/10/16 - 12:11pm in response to: Ae Kernel

I would assume that the most part of your development efforts are done at home or in the office that has a large pluggable monitor. If you're a developer who most of the time works in Starbucks, on the train or on the airplane, 13" is not enough. 

We have 4 MacBookPros in our family. My wife and I use 15", and our childrent(non-programmers) use 13" notebooks.

Filip Ekberg replied on Wed, 2013/10/16 - 4:42pm

If I had gone with MacBook Pro Retina I would most likely have been just as happy as I am today with the laptop choice.

@Yakov Fain, My requirements weren't "wrong", they simply changed along the way. You say I didn't care about weight, but I do, I certainly didn't want something over 2KG. My old machine was about 4KG and I really avoided taking that with me anywhere.

@Ae Kernel, As I said before, the laptop is built by Clevo and branded/assembled by Metabox in Australia, it is not assembled by Metabox anywhere else. In Europe I think it goes by the same Sager.

@Ionel Condor, Just because there is new hardware coming out all the time doesn't mean it is less powerful 6 months from now.. 

What really made me decide to go for this laptop was"

  • High-end fast CPU (i7-4900) with some extra instructions for virtualization
  • 16GB RAM
  • 1 SSD Slot and 2 mSATA Slots so I could increase this whenever I wanted
  • Not too heavy, 2KG is still OK
  • People have got it running for a little over 4 hours on battery which is OK, it's not the 10 hours that I had pursued from the start though
  • Great screen, the 1080p screen is beautiful on this device. MacBook Pro Retina is probably better though
  • Latest graphics card
I could have bought an AlienWare instead, I wen't and tried one out but man, we talk heavy stuff when it comes to AlienWare. I think the smallest one is still a little over 3KG and that is heavy.. I never really considered  MacBook Pro Retina because I heard Windows 8 didn't handle the screen too well and it had the previous generation hardware. Even though in a couple of months I will have the previous generation hardware, I certainly avoid buying something that is old from the start.Also, I rarely work on the laptop but has it connected to a 27" screen with 2560x1440 resolution, over HDMI as both has HDMI 1.4a support. When I do work on the laptop screen though, it works really well I don't have a hard time reading the text or anything like that.There's lots of others extremely good laptops out there, I just fell in love with this one after hearing stories from co-workers that had the same machine. Doesn't mean it is perfect for anyone else.

Jaime Metcher replied on Thu, 2013/10/17 - 10:28am

I got a Metabox as my travelling machine a couple of years ago.  Brilliant machine - for a while it was the most powerful computer in my office, desktop or laptop.  And it still has the best monitor bar none.  Compute power is important for me because I like to be able to run a full multiserver VM farm.  A couple of fast internal drives plus an eSATA external give me the IO throughput to make it work.  Oh, and it has a 17" screen.  OK, I've got old guy eyes and HD at anything under 17" is just hard work.  Watch this space - the leading edge of Gen Y will need reading glasses within the next five years, and at that point full HD 13" laptops will disappear from the face of the earth.

Much as I like Macs, every time I go to check the range I find that at the top end they simply don't have the grunt you can get from a Clevo, even though you're paying 25% more.

OK, so this machine is heavy with pitiful battery life.  It gets packed in my suitcase, and comes out at the hotel and plugged straight into the wall.  For mobile I use a tablet with a keyboard, which lets me write and read on the plane.  I decided that trying to get one device to do both means I'd just end up with less battery life than I'd like on the plane, and less compute power than I'd like in the hotel.  For me programming means getting into the zone for a good stretch, so I'm not going to fire up Eclipse on the bus or waiting for a meeting.  On the other hand, I've always got email and news to read, and reports and blogs to write.

 

@Mike P

I agree, Linux is the way to go.  So much so I might be running 4 or 5 Linux VMs at any one time.  Add on a SQL Server instance or two and my Windows VM with the MS Office install, and again that means lots of grunt.

As for headless, my take on that is to carry my most used working VMs around on an eSATA drive.  Give me some compute resource, and I can run enough of the environment off that drive to get by.  If I'm settling in for a while, I can start to spread the VMs between available spindles.  When I don't know that there's some CPU waiting for me at the other end, I pack the Metabox, but otherwise I've got my whole setup on a 300g disk enclosure.

 

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