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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.

Filed under: Blog Tagged: hardware, syndicated

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Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


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