17" software developer power user laptop

Ron_2

Estimable
Sep 12, 2015
5
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4,510
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Hi all, does anyone have any guidance here? I appreciate any feedback... thanks!

I'm a software developer looking for a $600-$1000 17" laptop that's portable enough in battery and weight to work an hour commute on bus, each way, but mainly extremely powerful/speedy for code compiles with servers running, etc. So, I think we're talking ssd (maybe even 2-3 small ones in a Raid 0; maybe even m2sata) and i7 QUAD core (instead of the relatively weak ultra low voltage stuff Dell and HP 17"s seem to have in the i7-5500u). When not on battery, which will be most of the time, I'll have it at home on a desk near a plug (with a 2nd monitor) where I want near-instant startup of os/programs and compiles. I've absorbed tons of info, but am still unsure even what category I'm looking for - my guess is http://www.notebookcheck.net/Notebookcheck-s-Top-10-Workstation-Notebooks.65537.0.html is the closest, since this won't be primarily for gaming and I don't need a dedicated GPU (I'm a casual gamer, so I suppose good graphics performance would be bonus but figure onboard intel stuff is enough to run games fine for me - my current 8-yr-old Gateway P6831FX runs old Battlefield 2 and Steam's Quake Live, though barely and buying Titanfall might happen in the future ;) ).

At this point, my approach is to find an alternative to what several of my developer buddies have - the MacBook Pro below - since they do similar tasks... and their machines perform lickety-split:

MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Early 2013)
2.4 GHz Intel Core i7
8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 1024 MB
250GB SSD

Processor Name: Intel Core i7
Processor Speed: 2.4 GHz
Number of Processors: 1
Total Number of Cores: 4
L2 Cache (per Core): 256 KB
L3 Cache: 6 MB
Memory: 8 GB

Also please note:
* I want speed not storage - my P6831FX has 256GB and I've been fine... and I've got extra HDD's laying around; so a 1TB HDD doesn't excite me
* Quite important on bus that the touchpad work well (most gamers' reviews understandably don't value this much) - and, I want a touch pad with buttons, NOT a clickpad (which behave poorly in my experience).
* I think I need 802.11ac, since both my work-issued Dell Latitude and my Gateway P6831FX really struggle with the wifi in my home, especially from my basement desk. (Somehow my wife's HP does just fine though, without 802.11ac, so it's confusing.)

I've been looking at dell, hp, lenovo, msi, asus, sager, etc... and I guess the closest right now from the notebookcheck.net list above is http://www.notebookcheck.net/MSI-GT70-20Li716121B-Workstation-Review.116332.0.html, but I'm not sure about weight and battery, plus price is over budget BEFORE I add ssd even on this great deal: https://www.dealscube.com/index.php?module=listings&controller=listing&action=details&id=4408&gclid=CPCK2bPP8McCFQ86gQod0OYMGw

Thanks again.
 

naturesninja

Honorable
Dec 15, 2013
389
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naturesninja

Honorable
Dec 15, 2013
389
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I honestly don't think you're going to get a better deal over that MSi you linked. A 17.3" with a 950m is going to start at $900 and $1k for a 960m of which both will have slightly less powerful quad i7's, but none will be equipped with an SSD. You may find something around $1k if you get a 15.6" with a 950m/960m and add the ssd and m2.sata yourself maybe with enough left over to throw in another 8GB of RAM. SSD's pre-equipped in laptops are overpriced you may find one laptop that has a 1TB HDD and another that is exactly the same with a 250GB SSD and that SSD model is $200+ more. Where you can just buy the SSD for half or less of the cost difference, and put it in yourself, throw some more RAM or another SSD into it and still have paid less.
 

Ron_2

Estimable
Sep 12, 2015
5
0
4,510
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@naturesninja Thanks very much for the response. I agree it seems better to do the SSD myself, though I'll need to research more about the "super raid 2" type setup (like from http://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/laptops/msi-gs70-stealth-pro, and http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1149345-REG/msi_gs70_stealth_608_i7_5700hq_16gb_1tb_128ssd_windows_8_1_965m17_3.html) vs. the "better course" regarding super-fast single-SSD (PCI Express x4) solution as stated by http://www.notebookcheck.net/Asus-G751JY-G-Sync-Notebook-Review.146086.0.html.

Overall, I was hoping to tradeoff the latest GPU's or have no dedicated GPU at all. Also, I care only about screen size of 17.3" but not really its quality. In other words, I was looking just for quad-core CPU 4700HQ or better + 8GB RAM, and that is pretty much it (then I can add SSD).

With no need for anything like a 950m/960m GPU nor snazzy display, I expected to find a much lower price point but really find nothing cheaper with just quad-core CPU 4700HQ or better + 8GB RAM. In fact, my non-Mac fellow developer paid $1000 for http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Toshiba-Qosmio-X70-A-11R-Notebook.102010.0.html in 2013, so I don't think much has changed in the past couple of years.

In truth what I really love the idea of is something like the thin and light MSI G7* Stealth to tote around yet have power at home - plus I like having the extra efficient 5th gen, seeing as how 6th gen skylakes may not be ALL that much better), and may just need to wait for it or the Asus G751* to come down in price (both are linked above). That means for now I'd be trudging on with 8-yr-old Gateway P6831FX cpu scoring 906 at cpubenchmark.net, while waiting on the Stealth whose i7-5700HQ scores 8,588. (Unfortunately my Gateway also doesn't sleep, has no battery left, and doesn't really hold a connection to wifi any longer ;) ).

But holding out hope to find something 17" that compares to speed and portability of fellow developer macbooks, and really that just has quad-core CPU 4700HQ or better + 8GB RAM, I found two more potentials though both are slightly over budget and both have that darn clickpad thing again, argh:

1) $979 http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1087115-REG/hp_f9m13ua_aba_envy_17_i7_4710mq_12gb_1tb_8gb_17_3.html
* doesn't have dedicated GPU, which I'd be okay sacrificing; don't need the touch screen though; needs an SSD though; has clickpad though

2) $999 http://www.microcenter.com/product/447537/ROG_GL771JM-DH71_173_Laptop_Computer_-_Black_Aluminum
* needs an SSD though; has clickpad though; it seems 1/3-1/5th of reviewers get defective Asus laptops though; and battery life is looking pretty questionable though

If anyone read and has more feedback, it's much appreciated. Thanks for your time!
 

naturesninja

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Dec 15, 2013
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Ron_2

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Sep 12, 2015
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Thanks for the responses, and those are good leads.

For a moment, my search has detoured as I've discovered how fitting a MacBook Pro (I've never looked into Mac before) seems, besides price, and how difficult it is to find a comparable non-Mac. For example, the base 2015 15" MBP (granted, it doesn't come in 17" currently) has great CPU with no dedicated GPU, and out of the box is cutting edge with not only SSD but the much faster 2000MBps PCIe 3.0 x 4 256GB. Via my non-mac search, I've only just discovered even the idea of PCIe 3.0 x 4 SSD (from boutique shops like XoticPc), and find them only on Sager's and not even MSI.

So here is an example of how the MBP specs seem to trounce one of the best Sager deals I can find. If my calculations are correct this Sager isn’t even close… starting with MBP's better CPU and twice the RAM, all the way through MBP having a great touchpad and being way slimmer and lighter and somehow having ~4x the battery life! I thought Apple was just overpriced... but I'm struggling to find a non-Mac comparable (granted, there is a $700 large difference here).

$1172-ish: i7-4720HQ(8137)/960M(1566-157)/8GB/1.12" 5.51 lbs./256GB PCIe SSD support (PCIe 3.0 x 4)/buttons&smoothTP with fingerprint/non-IPS/2.5 hrs./mini-displayPort/15"
Sager N7155/Clevo N155SD from https://www.pro-star.com/index.php?r=product/detail&model=N155SD&sub=spec#gotop

$1879 (EPP): i7-4770HQ(9018)/Iris Pro 5200(1180-213)/16GB/0.71" 4.49 lbs./256GB PCIe SSD support (PCIe 3.0 x 4)/new advanced "Force Touch" trackpad/IPS 2880x1800 (220 ppi) "Retina"/up to 9 Hours/two "Thunderbolt 2" ports/15"
15-inch MacBook Pro from http://www.apple.com/shop/buy-mac/macbook-pro?product=MJLQ2LL/A&step=config#

* Legend - grand total price assuming 256GB SSD added: cpu(score)/gpu(score-rank)/RAM/thickness & weight/mSata options/TouchPad type/screen IPS yes or no/battery/mini displayPort yes or no/screen size

For now, I plan to continue looking for a non-Mac comparable then, under $1000, and hopefully 17" (I don't think screen should technically cost much more, like MSI 7* vs MSI 6* is just $50 more).
 
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