Silent, reliable powerhouse

Discussion in 'What Notebook Should I Buy?' started by mcvos, Aug 15, 2019.

  1. mcvos

    mcvos Newbie

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    My old 17" Macbook Pro (2011) is dying, and I need a replacement. I'm a software developer and need something powerful enough to run various development tools simultaneously, compile, run virtual machines and docker containers, etc. And I'd like it to last as least as long as my old Macbook. At the same time, I'm not a big fan of Apple's direction over the past years, with less access to my own machine, and more limited to what Apple wants to allow, so I'm looking in other directions.

    The questions below don't cover everything, so here's my own summary of what I want:

    I want a laptop that is powerful, has a big, high quality screen, is very reliable, has a great keyboard, and is not as loud as my old Macbook; I even replaced its fans hoping that would fix the noise, but it didn't. It's too noisy once the fans kick in. I realise that airflow is always going to be a problem in a laptop, but I think laptops should be able to sound a bit less like a jet engine at take-off.

    Less noise probably means requires less heat, and yet I also need power. The most obvious thing to give up is a discrete GPU, because I won't be gaming on it. Other than that, I notice that the ROG Zephyrus opens some extra space for more airflow and moved the keyboard to an awkward location for more efficient cooling. But: awkward keyboard. And it's a gaming laptop. Surely I can't be the only professional who cares about noise?

    Other than that, it needs to be able to handle at least 32 GB, CPU should be powerful, but not so hot it can't be cooled without a lot of noise. It doesn't have to be the highest-numbered i7.

    General Questions

    1) What is your budget?

    €1000 - €5000.

    My demands are high and I will pay whatever it takes to get it. Of course I don't want to pay more than necessary, but if it's necessary, I'll pay it. The old Macbook probably cost a bit over €3000 with all the upgrades.

    2) What size notebook would you prefer?

    e. Desktop Replacement; 17"+ screen

    I want to see what I'm working on. With a small screen, I feel like I'm trying to look at my code through a key hole. It's possible that a sufficiently bright and high res screen might make 15.6" workable, but if at all possible, I'd prefer 17". I'd get a 20" laptop if they existed.
    3) Which country will you buying this notebook?


    4) Are there any brands that you prefer or any you really don't like?

    a. Like: Lenovo Thinkpad
    b. Dislike: HP, as well as anything that's too cheap, unreliable, or focuses more on garish LED lighting

    I like Thinkpads for their reputation for sturdiness, reliability, and their excellent, comfortable and spill-resistant keyboards. It's possible that some other brands are just as good in those areas, but I have no idea which they are. I do hear some good things about Dell XPS and about some HP machines, but I don't quite trust HP (perhaps due to their printer ink policies). That might be irrational, though. Feel free to convince me.

    Had a 17" version of the Thinkpad X1 Extreme existed, I probably would have bought it already. The P72 is heavy and has an expensive useless GPU I don't need. Thinkpad doesn't seem to make anything that meets my requirements.

    Although I'm looking to move away from Apple, the rumours about a new 16.5" Macbook sound tempting. But it's not clear when it will be available.
    5) Would you consider laptops that are refurbished/redistributed?

    No. I'm not looking to save money, I'm looking to buy the best I can get.

    6) What are the primary tasks will you be performing with this notebook?

    Programming and web browsing. I have a totally deserved reputation for having 100 tabs open in my browser, I may have multiple software projects open, run VMs and docker containers, etc. Clearly memory and CPU power are important. GPU power not so much.

    7) Will you be taking the notebook with you to different places, leaving it on your desk or both?


    My old Macbook weights about 3 kg (6.6 lbs), and it would be really nice if its replacement is lighter, but it's not a dealbreaker if it's not.

    8) Will you be playing games on your notebook? (If so, please state which games or types of games?)


    I do want to be able to hook external screens to the laptop. One at the very least, but more than one would be really nice.

    9) How many hours of battery life do you need?

    Some. 4 would be nice, more even better, but most of the time, it will be connected to external power.

    10) Would you prefer to see the notebooks you're considering before purchasing it or buying a notebook on-line without seeing it is OK?

    Seeing it would be really nice, so I can try how the keyboard feels and feel how sturdy it is. I'm not sure how much of an option that is, though; selection in physical shops seems to be very limited. I have no problem buying Thinkpads unseen, but for others I need some assurance that they're really that good.

    11) What OS do you prefer? Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Chrome OS, etc.

    Linux, but Mac OS will do, and running Linux on WSL on Windows 10 seems like an attractive option.

    Screen Specifics

    12) What screen resolution(s) would you prefer? (See further below for explanations.)

    Ultra Resolution: 3K/4K (3200x1800, 3840x2160, etc)

    I want to be able to see as much code and data as possible, so higher resolution is better. I used to have 1080p on my Mac, but that's starting to feel a bit limited these days.

    13) Do you want a glossy/reflective screen or a matte/non-glossy screen? (See further below for explanations.)

    I'm not sure. They each have their advantages and disadvantages. Glossy if it's not too reflective, or matte if it's not too grainy.

    Build Quality and Design

    14) Are the notebook's looks and stylishness important to you?

    Not terribly. I'd like it to look simple, no-nonsense and professional without any garish coloured LED logos, but if the perfect laptop looks garish, then so be it.

    Notebook Components

    15) How much hard drive space do you need?

    1 TB. But I'm fine upgrading that myself. I've upgraded my Macbook several times from HDD to SSD to larger SSD (also with more RAM).

    Timing, Warranty and Longevity

    16) When are you buying this laptop?

    As soon as I know which one. My old Macbook is unusable so I need a replacement now. If the absolutely perfect laptop is really just around the corner, I might be tempted to wait a bit.

    17) How long do you expect to use this laptop?

    I'm hoping to beat the 7.5 years that my old Macbook served me. It should be reliable and easy to repair or upgrade.

    18) How long could you afford to do without your laptop if it were to fail?

    Not. My work depends on it. Failing at the wrong moment could cost me thousands in lost income. (Fortunately not a problem at the moment, because I'm working on my client's laptop, but that situation will eventually change.) So reliability and easy repairability are very important.

    19) Would you be willing to pay significantly extra for on-site warranty, or would it be acceptable to you to have to ship the laptop to the vendor for repair with perhaps a week or more outage?

    I generally don't, but reading answer #18, maybe I should. I'd prefer to pay extra for a laptop that won't break down in the first place, but if it does, I'd like it to be repaired as quickly as possible. By me, by a little repair shop at the corner, or by the manufacturer, if need be.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019
  2. otezs

    otezs Notebook Enthusiast

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    To my knowledge of 17"+ I think MSI GS 75 fits your bill, I was going to suggest the GT titans but those are meant to be desktop replacement and would be considerably heavier than your current setup. If you aren't in a rush then Gigabyte Aero 17 is supposedly floating around. I have seen it on Gigabyte site but no retailers. Correction, just googlged and found a bunch so I guess they are available now. Hope this helps.
  3. ZaZ

    ZaZ Super Model Super Moderator

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    I think the Dell Precision 7740 might be worth a look. You can get it with a 4k LCD, top CPUs, boatloads of memory, an Intel GPU and it weighs around the same as your Mac.

    It's been my experience that if you push your machine and it has a fan, you're going to hear noise.

    If you need it to be bulletproof, I'd suggest getting on-site service if available. Then they'll come fix it wherever you are.
    rlk likes this.
  4. rlk

    rlk Notebook Evangelist

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    No brainer: Lenovo ThinkPad P73. It comes with a dGPU but you can get the T2000 and not use it. It's heavy, but no heavier than any other solid 17" laptop. I have a P70 running Linux; it's usually very quiet unless I'm really hammering on it.

    Dell 7740, HP Z-book G5 are the other similar machines in that regard. And I can tell you from personal experience that I've run 4-node OpenShift clusters (using both -- at different times, of course -- CRI-O and Docker as my container runtime) on my (work) P50, with 64GB. This involved 4 VMs. Oh, and I was building the kubelet to test while doing all of this. Running Fedora on the P50.

    It's a bit of a hassle if you want to use external monitors, although it very definitely can be done. If you're just going to use the internal display, use the intel/modesetting driver with either X11 or Wayland and all should be good. The 17" UHD display is very good.

    If you like the simple, no-nonsense classic professional look -- well, you know what a ThinkPad is.

    I did, by the way, read what you said about weight and noise. Fact is that a thicker chassis allows (everything else being equal) more airflow for the same air velocity (or lower velocity for the same airflow), which makes for less noise.
  5. rlk

    rlk Notebook Evangelist

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    As @ZaZ suggested, the Dell Precision 7740 is offered without a discrete GPU. The price (US, at any rate) isn't bad; it comes out to $2000 with an i7-9750H, Ubuntu 18.04, no dGPU, UHD screen, and the cheapest storage that's compatible (the UHD screen requires the 97Wh battery, but then that's not compatible with a 2.5" drive). I left it with the base memory and disk because you can do a lot cheaper aftermarket, and those components are intended to be user-replaceable. You could go up to an i9-9880H for another $320, and you can go as high as 128GB RAM. That gives you 3 years of on-site hardware service.

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