High performance laptop while maintaining a small form factor(read: good portability)?

garrettg84

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Nov 3, 2013
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Is it impossible to find a laptop with a small form factor yet still a decent performer? I want something that performs well, but maintains a small form factor. I don't need something that out performs the ridiculous 'gaming laptops', I want portability and good speed. (why not just get a desktop if your laptop weighs nearly 15lbs?) I do lots of VM work for my job so ram size and more cpu cores is important. The NVIDIA gfx is necessary for some of the number crunching on the go. I am also a casual gamer, no need for 300fps or something like that though.

Small form factor: At 13-15" screen, less than 1" thick, under 6lbs

Performer: i7 Haswell with ALL VM acceleration features and turbo clock at or above 3ghz with quad core preferred, 16GB ram, NVIDIA GeForce 750 1gb or higher, internal cd/dvd burner, resolution of 1080p or higher, prefer to avoid the Optimius crap for gfx, but would settle for one with it.

I can find laptops that have a mix of all of these specs, but I can never find one that has all of the specs. I refuse to settle for something less. Am I destined to wait another year? Will I ever find something that beats every aspect of my current laptop? I really have a hard time thinking about moving backwards in specs that are important to me.

Current laptop is a Dell XPS 14z with an I7 2540M (dual core 2.8ghz - all vm extensions), 8GB Ram (major factor making me want to upgrade, 8gb is max), NVIDIA GeForce 520m w/1gb (fewer CUDA cores than more current gen), internal cd/dvd burner, and 1366x768 (not so easy to view multiple windows on) resolution. Form factor is good at .9" tall @ 4.4lbs. It is running up on 3 years old and has seen better days with a cracking case and a battery that is beginning to lose its charge too quickly.
 

Jim90

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"I can find laptops that have a mix of all of these specs, but I can never find one that has all of the specs. I refuse to settle for something less."

- if there is nothing 'off-the-shelf' that fits your needs then your only option is with a custom build. Give a few sites a try...if you don't need a high end gfx card (always the expensive part) then you might be surprised at what is available. Simply enter your chosen components and check out the cost. Yes, this will very likely be a higher cost than the shelf 'equivalent', however, in refusing to settle for anything less you're limiting your options.

Of course, you could also adjust your list.
 

garrettg84

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Nov 3, 2013
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It is kind of pointless to adjust the list or I'd be backing up in specs as compared to my current laptop. I might also add, I never said price was an issue. I can't even find something that meets my requirements. In reality, I won't likely be interested in spending more than $2500. I only spent about $1600 on my current machine several years ago and nothing, regardless of price can beat all elements of my current laptop.

Any suggestions on sites that actually do custom laptops? I've been through dell, hp, asus, samsung, acer, and various other computer manufacturers. None of the big guys do custom anything anymore. That seems to be a trick of the past.

The closest I could get was at Sager Notebook Computer, but they kind of flopped on the thickness requirement. I can't see how these manufacturers can't seem to stick new technology into the same size (or smaller??) case. Most of the newer tech operates at a lower wattage TDP, especially in respect to performance/watt. It just doesn't make sense that they can't seem to beat all the specs of an older technology without sacrificing somewhere.
 

PinchedNerve

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Oct 26, 2013
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Clevo W230ST is as close as you are going to get. I almost got one. Here is a review of a stock W230ST http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-One-K33-3E-Clevo-W230ST-Barebones-Notebook.99914.0.html

If you are in the US, you can build one at Cyberpower PC & max that puppy out if you like. http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/system/Xplorer_X3-9100_Gaming_Notebook .

You will not find one with a disk drive for the specs you want at the size you want. I suggest a LaCie Slim Blu-Ray 6x USB 3.0 External Optical Drive. I did buy one of these & they are very nice. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009LJM6HG/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

P.S. I don't think you'll find another LT this small with the upgrade/configurations options available for anything lower then CyberPower PC offers.

P.S.S. If you want to know what I did buy, I bought the Clevo W740SU (14") that I configured at CyberPower PC.
120 Gb SSD.
1 TB 7200 RPM HDD.
Intel iris Pro 5200
I7 4750 HQ.
16 Gigs Mem.
Intel 802.11 AC wireless.
Win 8.1 Pro.
Total = $1,354.00

Should be perfect for what I need, as well as potential resale in the future when I want to upgrade again.



 

mc962

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Jul 18, 2013
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Maybe look at the lenovo y410p?
You said that you were looking at under 13-15", so did you mean to keep it in that range or did you want something less than 13"?
I don't know if the cpu has all the "vm acceleration features" that you were talking about, but it is a 4th gen i7: the 4700mq
As far as ram, it comes with 8 gb but i believe it supports up to 16 gb

Base specs are:
cpu: 4700mq (quad core, starts at 2.4 ghz but can turbo to 3.2 ghz (maybe 3.4 i forget, check the specs for the cpu here))
gpu: nvidia gt750m (i believe they are starting to put in the 755m just recently, and it's 2 gb i believe for both versions)
ram: 8 gb (although i believe it supports up to 16 gb
hard drive: standard 5400 rpm hdd, although there are sshd options
14" screen, goes up to 1600x900 i think
standard optical drive, which is also able to be removed with lenovo's ultrabay design

weight is somewhere around 5 lbs

Give it a look:
http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/ideapad/y-series/y410p/
 

garrettg84

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Nov 3, 2013
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Yes, I modified my original post. I did originally want to say under 15 inches but noticed that some manufacturers are doing laptops under 13 and I think that would be too small. You are correct, the range from 13-15" is where I'd like to stay.

Sadly, this cpu lacks the "Intel® Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d)" per http://ark.intel.com/products/75117 and that is not something I can do without as I spend a good amount of time in virtual machines.

Intel got all screwy with their processor extensions and it seems that they've randomly throughout the lines of processors dumped random processor extensions from their line up at random levels. all i7 4800+ models seem to have the proper virtualization extensions, but below that it is a crap shoot. Strange enough, some of the i5s also have the virtualization extensions as well, but then they end up lacking in other features. I've not found a way to figure out what processor does what features based on model numbers and I have to look it up for each and every CPU to ensure they aren't going to chop off something my work performance requires.


 

garrettg84

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This laptop does look promising. Again, as most of them do though, this one adds too much chunk and most manufacturers seem to not be able to do discrete graphics cards in a smaller form factor laptop anymore. I don't know what happened to them. Mobile CPUs and mobile GFX chips are both able to use less power than previous generations, but they don't want to put them in a small and portable laptop again.

I've heard theories from some people I work with that it has to do with battery life. It seems that newer generation laptops are not 'ok' unless they have 6 or 8 hours of battery life at a minimum. To provide the additional amp hours, even at a slower draw rate, requires a slightly bigger battery. I'm ALWAYS plugged into a wall, on my couch, in my bedroom, at the office, at a coffee shop. Battery life is irrelevant in my use, but it seems someone like myself is no longer being catered to. :(
 

mc962

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There are some U processors I've seen that have what you want i think.
It might not be what you were hoping for, but the new retina display macbook pro laptops seem to have a 4th gen processor (4285U or 4288U, the 4288U was the one I looked up) with that feature that you want enabled. It also comes with HD 5000 graphics, so you might be able to forgo the nvidia gpu unless you have a specific need for it.
The 15 in version weighs around 5 lbs, and can get up to 16 gb ram.

That being said, it's a mac, so it is of course overpriced. Did you ever list a budget?

I can keep looking, but this seems like the most promising one i've found at the moment
 

garrettg84

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The issue with the U processors is that they are only dual core and not quad core. Without going quad core, I'm not gaining nearly anything (that I find useful) over my second generation i7.

I have looked at the Macs, but they don't include CD/DVD(/blueray) drives. They are the optimum system for my preferences, minus the fact that they don't have any optical drives. I work for the federal government where USB anything (thumb, hdd, cd) drives are all but entirely banned. I MUST have a cd burner integrated in my system. It makes no sense for internal vs external to matter in respect to a CD drive, but to the federal government, it does.

I am not willing to forgo the NVIDIA gpu either. I need the CUDA cores for number crunching (as well as the once in a while game).

I do really appreciate your willingness to help look into this. I've just been searching on and off for about a year now to find a replacement for my current laptop. I keep finding stuff about current generation laptops that are outright downgrades from my current system. I just don't see how this is possible. While I don't have a budget, I'm not really willing to spend much more than $2500 on the laptop as I have (in the past) done a new laptop every year.
 

mc962

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You might have more luck waiting a few months for some new stuff to come out. While a fair amount of haswell stuff has come out recently, there are still quite a few models that arent out yet. You might be better off waiting a few months (maybe even just christmas) until new models come out.

For example, when I was looking for haswell laptops around september, the only one out that I liked was this y410p. Now, there is stuff like the thinkpad t series coming out with haswell stuff

And speaking of (just found it a minute ago) if you are willing to go down to an nvidia gt 730m 1 gb then the thinkpad t440p model might work out.
You can get up to i7 4900mq, gt730 gpu, 16 gb ram, optical drive is there, starts at 4.5 lbs

Aside from the gpu it is a bit chunky from what I know of, as it's made to take a hit and walk off without a scratch from what I remember (1.29"). So in the end you could get more cpu power than your current laptop in this case, but less slightly less gpu than you are looking for and it's a bit chunky.

*But as said before, there is definitely a possibility of new things being revealed in the following months
 

jaguarskx

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Moderator
Yeah, overall ThinkPads are nice, I'm considering buying the 15.6" T540p sometime next year for personal use. A 1920x1080 IPS panel is definitely a welcome change from crappy TN panels. I might include the GT 730m in the build, but spending $125 - $150 for it is pretty steep considering it's performance. Playing games with it would nice, it is not a priority.

ThinkPads are a bit "chunky" because they are built to be sturdy like the magnesium chassis / "roll cage". Last I heard magnesium is heavier than aluminium and provides much better protection as well. Considering there have been test videos of ThinkPad T series laptops capable of surviving a 35MPH direct impact and still be able to turn on to retrieve vital data is pretty impressive. I have also seen a trade show video of Lenovo demoing the ThinkPad T laptop being dropped 15 feet and it still functioned fine. The floor was carpeted though. I don't expect any other ThinkPad series to be able to take such punishment other than the ThinkPad W series.

From a number crunching perspective, I would think the the Quadro K1100m / K2100m would by far outperform a GT 730m.
 
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