Laptop time?

Tannin

Storage? I am Storage!
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Messages
4,442
Location
Huon Valley, Tasmania
Website
www.redhill.net.au
It might be time I started thinking about a new laptop. The T Series Thinkpad is more than 8 years old now. It's still going fine but it is getting a bit long in the tooth and today, for the first time, I tried to install some software that I actually cared about which it would not run. (DXO Photolab 5 requires Win 10. I run 8.1 because I hate 10. Photoshop wants 10 too but I'm getting rid of all my Adobe products. I could install 10- on this one, of course, but maybe it is time to move on.)

Requirements:
Lots and lots of storage. This one has 1 x 512GB SSD + 2 x 2TB hybrid mechanical drives = 4.5TB and it is only just enough.
Ability to talk to my (very expensive) Dell screens - 2560 x 1600 (Display Port or HDMI)
Discrete graphics
Robust and reliable, like Thinkpads used to be
It will spend more than 90% of its time plugged in with the lid shut, acting as a quasi-desktop, but I do travel with it so a desktop won't do.
That's about it really.

Not going to move fast on this one, but it is time I looked around. Any ideas?

(One reason to move on this is that I don't want to get stuck with Windows bloody 11.)
 

Chewy509

Wotty wot wot.
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
3,210
Location
Gold Coast Hinterland, Australia
Couple of questions and points:
  • A lot of laptops will only come with 1TB max NVMe, so the best option would be to expect to replace the the built in one. Some Dell Precision and Hp ZBooks do have the option for either a second NVMe or an additional SATA 2.5 drive.
  • 32GB RAM is easy.
  • Desired screen res/size? 14" , 15" or 17" ?
  • Windows 10 Pro is easy.
  • Discrete graphics will typically be found only gaming laptops or very high-end workstations (eg HP ZBook's, Dell Precision). Why the need for discrete graphics? eg need for a particular vender, eg nVidia for GPU accelerated rendering/operations?
  • Robustness / Reliability? Don't know enough on current offerings, but from what I have seen there isn't much in the realms of the old Thinkpad in terms of reliability.
  • Other than the traditional HP ZBook, Dell Precision, Lenovo ThinkPad, there is Framework (https://frame.work/), in being a new player to the market is focused on right-to-repair and make it very, very easy to customise/maintain/upgrade your laptop yourself.
  • With the industry wide chip shortages, pricing / availability is sh*t at the moment, so expect options to be limited for the next 1-2 years.
 

Tannin

Storage? I am Storage!
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Messages
4,442
Location
Huon Valley, Tasmania
Website
www.redhill.net.au
Thanks Chewy.

I don't really care much about screen size: it would mostly run shut using external kb & mouse and one of my big photographic monitors. 14 inch is best for me, but whatever is fine.

Discrete graphics because image processing software uses the graphics chip to do its calculations (DxO Photolab, Photoshop, etc.).

Framework sounds very interesting. I'll zip over there and check them out!
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a Fixture
Joined
Feb 1, 2003
Messages
15,358
Location
USA
If you don't like Windows, then why not get the new MAcBook Pro? The performance is far above what you can get in Intel/AMD at laptop power levels.
I expected that you would want a higher power laptop for decent image processing performance. The smaller ones are less likely to offer good cooling and power for CPUs and discrete video, so that usually means 15+ inches and something like an i7-11800H or i7-11850H. The new 12th gen Alder-lake-based laptops should be a substantial improvement, but supposedly need Win 11. Depending on the performance and availability, I may buy one around June. However, I can live with 11 as the laptop will not normally be connected to the internet except rarely for upadtes/activations.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,485
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
Thinkpad W series actually do have discrete graphics and room for multiple internal drives. When I last looked at the T-series, I was extremely disappointed in the lack of flexible internal storage. My T470p DOES have discrete graphics (something just under what a mobile GTX1040 would theoretically be, but still discrete and capable of NVenc) and both 2.5" and m.2, but new ones only have a single nVME port. On the other hand, the W series are absolute boat anchors, weighing around 2.5kg each, with RTX2000/3000 (or Pro-series equivalent) mobile GPUs.

I'm not happy with the direction current-generation Thinkpads have gone. I physically ran over my Thinkpad this summer and wound up putting about $500 into repairing it between the screen, (incredibly hard to source 40-pin WQHD) EDP cable and motherboard, just because I couldn't bring myself to spend money on a newer model. The modularity has been gone since the T440 but losing the space for at least two drives is a deal breaker for me.

I generally point to Asus Zenbook Pros as a good option for most people, but they have almost no expansion other than a single DIMMs slot and the m.2 and most of them top out a something pathetic like 24GB RAM. They're well constructed, have great displays and at least the option of better GPUs. The new ones have a lot of weird gimmicks with extra display or touchpad features.

I haven't gotten to see any high end HP or Dell options from the last few years but I've always found them to be a step down from whatever Thinkpads are doing.
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a Fixture
Joined
Feb 1, 2003
Messages
15,358
Location
USA
You can get a 15.6" HP ZBook laptop with Xeon W-11955M CPU, 128GB ECC DDR4 RAM, 4x 2TB NVme SSDs, RTX A5000 graphics, etc. if you have over $10K to spend. Are Thinkpads really a step above that?
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,485
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
You can get a 15.6" HP ZBook laptop with Xeon W-11955M CPU, 128GB ECC DDR4 RAM, 4x 2TB NVme SSDs, RTX A5000 graphics, etc. if you have over $10K to spend. Are Thinkpads really a step above that?

You can get a similarly equipped Thinkpad W series. One of my co-workers has a Thinkpad T480 with a Xeon and 64GB RAM. The battery life on that machine is abysmal.

Historically, they're all using the same chipsets, so they'll all be roughly as capable. Lenovo's main selling point was sturdy construction combined with easy service and some degree of modularity. I've found that new Thinkpads are slowly becoming less sturdy (I strongly suspect a T420 in a padded laptop bag would have survived the accident that killed my old T470 with at most a broken screen) and have lost all pretense of modularity.

Thinkpads were at one time overengineered beyond reason. I remember the Thinkpads I bought in the late 90s being able to boot off USB hard drives, something that really didn't become a mainstream feature otherwise for another decade.
 

Handruin

Administrator
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Messages
13,396
Location
USA
My old Lenovo T500 needed a refresher and chose to go down the path of the new MacBook pro 14" this time around for whatever that's worth. Going Mac is quite a deviation from my normal preference but I feel it offers a lot that I want. Their hardware has finally impressed me this time around.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,485
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
Are you finding your choice of RAM amount to be at all limiting? The graphics guy in my office has a 16GB Macbook and M1 iMac and has told me that there are some projects he prefers to do on his Windows PC has four times the memory.
 

Handruin

Administrator
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Messages
13,396
Location
USA
I haven't received it yet, it's expected mid December. I chose the 32GB RAM model just to play it safe for most that i want to use it for and hopefully give it a little longer run time as software updates come out. I did the 14" M1 Max (32core GPU), 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD.
 
Last edited:

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,485
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
After looking through pretty much all of Lenovo's current offerings, I think the most viable current Thinkpad is probably the X1 Extreme gen 4. If you elect to buy "only" an RTX 3050Ti, you have 2xnVME and two DIMM slots. It has a 16:10 WQHD 16" screen and weighs under 2kg. Battery life is said to be fairly poor but this is apparently not a priority in your case regardless. The $1900 base configuration has an 11th generation i7, 8GB RAM and a 250GB SSD, but who among us doesn't know how to swap in DIMMs and drives?

I have my qualms about it, but it's looking like the current best-case option for anything in a Thinkpad.

I think the newest Dell XPS 15 might fit the bill. It's a full $2000 to get a 16GB system with 250GB drive and 3050Ti, but it's supposed to have an open nVME and DIMM slot in that configuration. Down side is the FHD screen instead of WQHD.

There's the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED KD, which is SHOCKINGLY affordable for a laptop with a 15" 4k OLED panel, RTX 3060, and 2kg weight. We're talking about the same i7-11800, 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD with an empty nVME. It's $1400 on Amazon USA right now. Reviews say the keyboard lights are annoying and battery is awful, and I personally hate seeing a numpad on a laptop (I like my hands to be centered on the screen), but it's hard to complain about the price.

There are probably some offerings in the Asus ROG lineup that would work, but Asus is AWFULLY proud of those systems. The Zephyrus G15s have two nVME slots and one DIMM and use AMD 5900s rather than Intel, but they also have 166 or 300Hz screens for gaming silliness and are priced to make Dell and Lenovo look reasonable. I thought the GA503QE-HQ092T looked comparable to the other systems I've mentioned here but I can't find anyone actually selling one in the US. I suspect it's in the $2100 or $2200 range.
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a Fixture
Joined
Feb 1, 2003
Messages
15,358
Location
USA
I haven't received it yet, it's expected mid December. I chose the 32GB RAM model just to play it safe for most that i want to use it for and hopefully give it a little longer run time as software updates come out. I did the 14" M1 Max (32core GPU), 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD.
Can you run Windows on it in some way or is that not possible?
 

Handruin

Administrator
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Messages
13,396
Location
USA
Can you run Windows on it in some way or is that not possible?
Unlikely right now, at least as a native install, maybe there will be a hypervisor and VM possibility down the road if one doesn't exist already. The CPU is an arm-based silicone specific to apples needs. I don't need windows for this specific system anyway, I'm more interested in it's unix roots.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,485
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
Handy's Mac is ALSO a $2000ish computer.
There is an ARM native version of Windows but it's pretty awful given the lack of available binaries made to run on it. I think it's the same old story where you can run Office and store apps
 

Handruin

Administrator
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Messages
13,396
Location
USA
Going Mac is a big change for me on a personal system. I actually liked my 2014 MBP but I have to give it back now that my company was acquired and need a newer machine for personal stuff.
 

Tannin

Storage? I am Storage!
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Messages
4,442
Location
Huon Valley, Tasmania
Website
www.redhill.net.au
Some very interesting answers here people. I'm learning a good deal. (Half of this new stuff I have to look up because I have made no attempt whatever to stay current since I retired.) I'll look at all of those. No hurry though, I'm just casting an eye over the water at this stage. Time enough to dive in next year.
 

Tannin

Storage? I am Storage!
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Messages
4,442
Location
Huon Valley, Tasmania
Website
www.redhill.net.au
At the moment I'm on the track of a used Thinkpad T430, essentially the same thing as my current one but a 14 inch screen. (Which I prefer.) I'd need to add an mSATA drive (if I can still find one - they are a bit scarce) and max out the RAM, possibly replace the battery, but I'd end up with a system no slower than this one (which is OK, not great but OK) which has 5TB of on-board storage (1TB, say, of mSATA, and 2 x 2TB physical drives).

Obviously, that would be a short-term solution - a couple of years maybe, but it would save a lot of headscratching and I already have all the extra bits - hard drive trays, power supplies, 12V power supplies, docking stations.

(I don't want to simply use this one, I want to keep this Windows install intact until I have migrated everything.)
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,485
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
As far as I know mSATA drives from reputable vendors topped out at 500GB.
I punted after my Thinkpad needed extensive repairs, too. The current offerings just aren't worth the money if I can't have storage in the same package.

I'm currently playing with a Gigabyte Aero 15 but now that I have it, the keyboard and even the screen size are dealbreakers. I can't stand typing off-center from the screen, and I really think 15" is more screen than I want. I'm sure it edits videos pretty nicely for a laptop, but I have a real computer when I want to do that stuff. It's just not comfortable to use at all.
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a Fixture
Joined
Feb 1, 2003
Messages
15,358
Location
USA
Sansdisk made a 1TB mSATA SSD that may still be available.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,485
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
... and on the other side of the spectrum, a Acer/Gateway (but really Tongfang) Ryzen r5 3450U, 8GB, 250GB nVME, 15" FHD IPS system that is selling at Walmart for $360. Got it my It's-complicated as a holiday gift, mostly because it's purple, her signature color. This is the worst keyboard and pointing device I've seen on a laptop in my life (this is not hyperbole. I don't know how this thing can be both over and under sensitive. It is. It registers a lot of drags as clicks and scrolls as drags), but it does have an open DIMM slot and a legitimately nice screen. It's really a lot of computer for the money.

My friend has been using a Huion Kamvas tablet on my old T420 but wants to work in Illustrator and Photoshop, and the screen and CPU will be a big upgrade for her. I don't think she's going to bang it around at all, and the crummy inputs won't be a big deal, so as weird as it is to say, this vomit class PC is going to meet her needs just fine.

The Huion Kamvas 16 tablet cost about $220 and is a nice, bright full HD touch panel with 8k levels of pressure and apparently really good line registration. I don't have any other reason to talk about it but if you know somebody who draws on a computer screen, it's really cool.
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a Fixture
Joined
Feb 1, 2003
Messages
15,358
Location
USA
I almost ordered a discontinued 11th century intel laptop today, but naturally I'm flying to the American Northeast next week and would not be home as recipient. :(
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a Fixture
Joined
Feb 1, 2003
Messages
15,358
Location
USA
(DXO Photolab 5 requires Win 10. I run 8.1 because I hate 10. Photoshop wants 10 too but I'm getting rid of all my Adobe products. I could install 10- on this one, of course, but maybe it is time to move on.)
I recently purchased PL 5 Elite with the AI Denoise and Gigapixel bundle on BF sale for $99. I don't know if they have similar sales in your region. PL 5 is definitely worthwhile in general, but DxO is delinquent in updating the lens profiles. For example there is none for the 600/4 RF and it is the same optically as the EF 600/4 IS III from 2018. :( Fortunately that lens only needs a little CA reduction with the 1.4x TC and lacks for nothing by itself.
 
Last edited:

Tannin

Storage? I am Storage!
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Messages
4,442
Location
Huon Valley, Tasmania
Website
www.redhill.net.au
Well I just spat the dummy and ordered a new Thinkpad. It is a T15g, a current but outgoing model.

  • Intel i7 10750 (a lower-end i7 from the Gen 10 family, which ought to be plenty fast enough for me)
  • 16GB RAM. 3 empty slots, can take up to 4 x 32GB for 256GB, which I won't need.
  • 1 x 512GB SSD
  • 1 spare m2 slot.
  • Gforce RTX 2080 8GB (whatever that is - means nothing to me other than that it's not a cruddy integrated Intel thing.
  • 15.6" screen, probably pretty cruddy just like every other Thinkpad screen I've ever seen. But good enough for occasional use, which is all it will get.

Price today was $2999 AUD including 10% GST and free delivery. They say that is a $2800 Black Friday discount, which is hokum. More like $800 off than $2800 off, but I'll take that. It's a lot of computer for the money.

I'll be interested to see how much Lenovo have cruddified the one-mighty T-Series line. Mercutio started me buying Thinkpads back in IBM days, oh, not far short of 20 years ago. First something I can't quite remember, then an R, since then a series of T Series models. They have been excellent servants. I think this will be my 4th T, and it might be my last one, but we will see.

Lenovo say the max storage is 2 x 2TB but I'm hopeful that I'll be able to use a 4TB SSD. I'll probably order a 2TB one now (about $350 odd in AUD) and then, next year maybe, throw away the 512, swap the 2TB into the #1 slot, and pop a 4TB SSD in the second slot.

I might take the 16GB RAM up to 48GB to start with. Does all that RAM actually make much difference these days with SSDs so fast?

I'm also investigating wireless external drives. One of those in, say, 4TB would make my need for lots on on-board storage redundant. But they seem strangely uncommon. I note that WD has discontinued several models without replacement and Seagate doesn't seem keen on them either.

PS: special mention for Seagate's web site, which was apparently designed by a very, very clever man determined not to let you find out what their actual products are. I think the same chap might have done some work on the Western Digital site too.
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a Fixture
Joined
Feb 1, 2003
Messages
15,358
Location
USA
Can we assume that is an H series CPU, i.e., 10750H? That is a pretty decent CPU (45W, 6-cores, and 18 months old) though it is good you have a video card since the UHD 630 is basically crap video. SSDs these days are not so great, mainly relying on the SLC cache for perfomance so you don't want to skimp too much on RAM. 16GB is sufficient RAM for most users, but I'd opt for 32GB. I'm not convinced that more than 32GB makes much difference other than buffering some data. Maybe you have a bunch of VMs running or have higher needs than most.
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a Fixture
Joined
Feb 1, 2003
Messages
15,358
Location
USA
I have no idea why you want a wireless drive, at least to use with a computer.
 

fb

Storage is cool
Joined
Jan 31, 2003
Messages
691
Location
Östersund, Sweden
I wouldn't mind 48 GB of RAM, then you will not have to worry about buying more RAM for a few years.
256 GB would be great for hosting a VM with SQL Server. :)
 

Tannin

Storage? I am Storage!
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Messages
4,442
Location
Huon Valley, Tasmania
Website
www.redhill.net.au
Cheers lads.
I've never really found much use for VMs, and none at all since I discovered DOSbox a few years back. But I'm an old OS/2 user and consequently developed the habit of having lots and lots of things open, a habit which endures to this day. RAM doesn't seem to be so much of an issue as CPU cycles. Yes, I'm running an 8-year-old i7 (3520M: dual-core, 3.60 GHz, 4MB L3, 1600MHz FSB) which is no doubt sluggish by modern standards, but I tend to keep opening things until the system gets sluggish, then back off a tad. Chances are, I'll max out the new one too.

Good to know it's a decent CPU LM. I know absolutely nothing about current CPUs, I haven't even tried to keep up. As for the wireless drive, that's because I need access to some archived stuff. Working at my desk, USB drives or a NAS box work fine (speed is not important for this - old USB 2 drives are perfectly OK) but in the field, it is a right PITA messing about with external drives and cables. A wireless connection to (say) a 4TB drive is all I'll need. (Currently, I achieve that only better by having three physical drives in the T530 - 2 x 2TB Seagate hybrid drives, plus a 512GB mSATA boot drive. That is enough space, but only just.)

If I can get a 4TB M.2 into the T15g as second drive, I'll have 6TB total, and the wireless drive won't be needed. That remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, I have ordered a 2TB M.2 I looked at all the usual suspects and wound up getting a Kingston KC2500: NVMe PCIe Gen 3.0 x 4 controller ; 96-layer 3D triple cell. read/write at 3,500/2,900MB/s 1 3D triple cell 5 year warranty, 1.2PB TBW. That's a lot of drive for $285 AUD. The specs are similar to what I'd expect in the $500-$600 class (having spent most of yesterday shopping around and making notes), so either Kingston are lying (I doubt that) or it's a bargain. At first I had the urge to go with a "trusted name" like Intel, Seagate, Samsung, Crucial, or Sandisk, but on reflection, I have used any amount of Kingston RAM over the years and it was always fine.
 

Chewy509

Wotty wot wot.
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
3,210
Location
Gold Coast Hinterland, Australia
Kingston have had a lot of decent price/performance/size devices recently, and the KC2500 appears to have continued that trend. The A2000 before it was the go-to for cheap/fast/decent size drive... (They tend to hit the sweet spot in balancing between all 3 areas).

Just when you get the drive, ensure do a firmware update on it immediately, as the shipped firmware has a few compatibility issues with some chipsets. (You'll get random IO errors show up in event logs, and the latest firmware fixes all those issues).
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a Fixture
Joined
Feb 1, 2003
Messages
15,358
Location
USA
Cheers lads.

Good to know it's a decent CPU LM. I know absolutely nothing about current CPUs, I haven't even tried to keep up. As for the wireless drive, that's because I need access to some archived stuff. Working at my desk, USB drives or a NAS box work fine (speed is not important for this - old USB 2 drives are perfectly OK) but in the field, it is a right PITA messing about with external drives and cables. A wireless connection to (say) a 4TB drive is all I'll need. (Currently, I achieve that only better by having three physical drives in the T530 - 2 x 2TB Seagate hybrid drives, plus a 512GB mSATA boot drive. That is enough space, but only just.)

If I can get a 4TB M.2 into the T15g as second drive, I'll have 6TB total, and the wireless drive won't be needed. That remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, I have ordered a 2TB M.2 I looked at all the usual suspects and wound up getting a Kingston KC2500: NVMe PCIe Gen 3.0 x 4 controller ; 96-layer 3D triple cell. read/write at 3,500/2,900MB/s 1 3D triple cell 5 year warranty, 1.2PB TBW. That's a lot of drive for $285 AUD. The specs are similar to what I'd expect in the $500-$600 class (having spent most of yesterday shopping around and making notes), so either Kingston are lying (I doubt that) or it's a bargain. At first I had the urge to go with a "trusted name" like Intel, Seagate, Samsung, Crucial, or Sandisk, but on reflection, I have used any amount of Kingston RAM over the years and it was always fine.
Seagate and WD made the usual suspects - mobile drives in small enclosures with Wi-Fi, but I think they are EOL. Maybe set up a NAS with Wi-Fi?
 

Tannin

Storage? I am Storage!
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Messages
4,442
Location
Huon Valley, Tasmania
Website
www.redhill.net.au
Why they have made them EOL I have no idea, Lunar. Such an obviously useful thing. But the WD ones at least (which are still available if you look hard enough) are very expensive. The very first thing I thought of was a portable NAS, but I have not been able to find anything in that line. Every NAS my searching has led to is a desktop one running off mains power - i.e., even less suitable to my application than an ordinary USB drive.

But it turns out that you can buy inexpensive wireless caddies - say $50 USD, give or take - which accept any standard 2.5 inch drive (be that mechanical or SSD). One of these will be the answer, I reckon.

Thanks Chewy! Good tip!
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,485
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
256 GB would be great for hosting a VM with SQL Server. :)

During the pandemic I had to explain to my co-workers, who have actually all been using VMs for years on their individual laptops, that we don't in fact actually have 22 different physical computers sitting at the datacenter. It turned in to an all day meeting because they didn't know that's how everything worked and thought I was "testing unproven technology." They'd just literally never asked how anything on the operations side of things happens. I had to make a bunch of graphics to show the relationship between the database VMs and the web server VMs vs the management systems, testing VMs and virtual desktops. They're used to me being able to pull an instance down for 90 seconds, up the RAM and then restart, but never questioned how that worked when the servers are 100 miles away and I barely leave my house.

Anyway, yeah, my host systems have 512GB RAM apiece now. I can't believe we use all of it but we do.
 
Top