Lapop for Engineering (Postgrad Uni)

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The Handle
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Lapop for Engineering (Postgrad Uni)

Postby The Handle » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:08 pm UTC

Hello,

I'm going to enter a two-year Master's in Electrical Power Engineering this summer, in Sweden. My computer is obsolete. I need a new laptop. I'm going to need a lot of processing power, mostly. For simulations, matlab, and so on. Ideally, I would like to get as much bang for my buck as possible.

But it most definitely does not need to be something that's useful for gaming: I plan to make a moratorium on gaming for the duration of the degree. That's right, no Fallout 4 for me. [sulks]

It would be nice if it were a Linux laptop, because I don't want to pay the Windows tax: the University provides me with Windows licenses if I ever need them.

The cherry on top would be if it could have a blank keyboard.

Where do y'all think I should look? So far, I've looked up these brands:
[*] System 76
[*] ZaReason
[*] LinuxCertified
[*] Dell (but, much to my frustration, they don't actually sell in Europe!)

Yours sincerely,

Old Sport

P.S. I saw one or two similar threads on this subforum, from a year or two ago, but I wasn't sure whether it was appropriate for me to necro them for my purposes. Please let me know if that's what I should have done.

KnightExemplar
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Re: Lapop for Engineering (Postgrad Uni)

Postby KnightExemplar » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:51 pm UTC

If you truly want the best CPU power in a laptop, be sure to look for a "QM" (Quad-core Mobile) Intel chip (some of them are labeled "MQ" or "MX"). Broadwell (5th Generation) "HQ" chips are going to be released imminently (Estimated release June 2015), which are the upgrade to the previous generation's "QM" chips. Actual laptop designs should be available soon.

If you see a 4th Generation chip (4000-series), expect a decent discount ($50 to $100 discount). Otherwise, you might want to research the availability of 5th Generation "Broadwell" chips.

Your typical laptop today is designed to draw up to 18 Watts (U-Class chips), at which point the CPU throttles itself to conserve electricity and reduce heat. The highest performing chips (such as QM, MQ, MX, or HQ series) from Intel will draw up to 47 Watts before throttling itself. As such, these chips require larger batteries and heavier cooling systems. Nonetheless, I typically prefer these tradeoffs in a high-power laptop.

For example: "i7-4600U" is a 4th generation U-Class (18 Watt) chip. "i7-5700HQ" is a 5th Generation HQ-class (47 Watt) chip.

I typically recommend Sager / Clevo brand laptops. They are completely barebones and typically are equipped with these bigger, heavier 47 Watt chips (but as always, double-check). But Sager / Clevo's branding is strange... they are rarely sold under their actual name. For example, in the US, Sager / Clevo laptops are sold under the name "XoticPCs". In Australia, it was "Metabox". In your country, it will likely be a different name still. A search for "Clevo" or "Sager" and your country's name might be enough to find one of these high-powered laptops.

Sager / Clevo laptops are typically sold without an operating system... although your local distributor may put Windows on it themselves. Hopefully, you can find one in a blank state to save on the Windows tax.

This page might be useful: http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads ... v1.652403/
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Zamfir
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Re: Lapop for Engineering (Postgrad Uni)

Postby Zamfir » Thu Jul 02, 2015 12:51 pm UTC

If your cpu-intensive tasks are simulations under Linux, I would seriously consider to run them on a desktop (headless perhaps), and use some remote desktop tool to control it from your laptop. Might even be your current laptop.

Odds are, you'll have a more portable laptop plus a more powerful CPu for less money combined, and your calculation results get stored more safely than on a laptop you're hauling around. You can even get a desktop CPu from 1 or 2 generations back - those are still fast, just more power hungry.

This won't work well for CAD programs, but for MATLAB and many simulation tools it works almost seemless. At some times, I have even used my phone to check on long running calculations while I am away. Ooo, calculation 4 in the batch has crashed the framework. Let's restart and continue from 5

KnightExemplar
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Re: Lapop for Engineering (Postgrad Uni)

Postby KnightExemplar » Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:01 pm UTC

I've done what Zamfir suggested back in college. It is easier to do than you expect, and basically only involves setting up either SSH -X or VNC (two different routes, both of which are relatively easy and have their own pros / cons). I'd suggest it if you are comfortable with installing and working with Linux configs.

I'm not quite sure if it'd be "cheaper" though, since you would have to buy two machines. And having two machines definitely means twice the maintenance effort. It certainly be faster, as you can then get a i7 hex-core extreme processor (which isn't as expensive as you think it is)... especially since these "extreme" desktop chips can draw up to 140W of power.

With that said, I think the "typical" choice is a workstation-class laptop. It'd be slower and more expensive than a desktop for sure, but its definitely the route most people take. If you need a fast laptop (space concerns? Portability?) , then IMO, you should get the heaviest, fattest laptop you're comfortable with lugging around.
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The Handle
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Re: Lapop for Engineering (Postgrad Uni)

Postby The Handle » Fri Jul 03, 2015 4:14 pm UTC

The option of having a light laptop and a desktop at home doing the heavy lifting hadn't occurred to me. I need to give it some thought.

Certainly, it seems more comfortable: I'd be much happier if I could carry as light a laptop as possible. I used to have a very cheap Chromebook that, despite its limitations, I loved very much, because it allowed me to write and take notes to my heart's content, had very enduring batteries, and was very light.

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Zamfir
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Re: Lapop for Engineering (Postgrad Uni)

Postby Zamfir » Fri Jul 03, 2015 8:20 pm UTC

A bit of googling says a W540 or Precision 2800 weigh about 2.6 kg with a small battery, and they last for several hours on that battery if you avoid heavy duty work. That's not so bad, axtualy, even if it's still backpack work.

Trouble starts when you do need the cpu power, which can drain the battery in less than an hour. Then you have to carry the massive chargers and you can't work away from a power outlet.

Alwayes a good starting question for a laptop: what's your ideal screen size? If you want to use the machine daily without external monitor, you probably want a 15.6 screen or larger anyway. At that point, the weight penalty towards a CPU powerhouse won't be too much.

On the other hand, if your ideal is a 13 machine to be carried everywhere, with an external monitor at your workplace (s). Then a heavier machine will cause you a constant regret, and you might well end up buying a cheap light machine later on, while the heavyweight ends up on a desk as inferior and overpriced desktop.

KnightExemplar
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Re: Lapop for Engineering (Postgrad Uni)

Postby KnightExemplar » Mon Jul 06, 2015 1:41 am UTC

Alwayes a good starting question for a laptop: what's your ideal screen size? If you want to use the machine daily without external monitor, you probably want a 15.6 screen or larger anyway. At that point, the weight penalty towards a CPU powerhouse won't be too much.


Yall use inches even over there in Europe? I figured it'd be in cm.

In any case, there are huge differences between a 11-inch netbook and a 17-inch workstation. Again, I personally have a preference for the larger stuff. A 15-inch from a quality brand will often get you 1080p, and if you're careful about selecting a HQ CPU then it'd be somewhere around 5.6 lbs (2.5 kg).

The Sager NP2650 is a 15-inch with 1080p screen that comes with 5.6lbs (2.5 kg).

My personal laptop is a 17-inch 6lb computer. It isn't workstation-class, but just a lower-end AMD that has decent gaming specs (720p-level integrated graphics). I don't really mind the size at all, in fact... the larger screen seems a lot easier to work with.
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mycomputershop
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Re: Lapop for Engineering (Postgrad Uni)

Postby mycomputershop » Thu Jul 16, 2015 11:13 am UTC

I'm not quite sure if it'd be "cheaper" though, since you would have to buy two machines. And having two machines definitely means twice the maintenance effort.

AndyG314
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Re: Lapop for Engineering (Postgrad Uni)

Postby AndyG314 » Tue Dec 01, 2015 6:58 pm UTC

I'm an electrical engineer, and developer. I'm running a few year old 17.3 inch Aser gaming laptop and loving it. I recomend a gaming laptop for anyone who wants a powerful laptop. I paid less than 1000 bucks for it. The reason I bought it was essentially cost, a quad core workstation from Lenovo cost 50% more, and didn't have the dedicated video card. It's a great way to go as long as you are willing to put up with the weight (it weights 9 pounds) and the battery life (If I have full power savings mode enabled I get 3 hours of battery life, about 15 minutes better than advertised, but If it's really cranking and running the nvidia video card, drop that to 45 minutes).

There are some nice things about a 17.3 aside from the big screen. It comes with two hard drive bays, and the dedicated GPU is pritty much included in the price if you get the quad core. Also it's got 4 memory slots. If your doing simulations, memory is often the limiting factor.

It would be nice if it were a Linux laptop, because I don't want to pay the Windows tax

I have found that you will pay less for an off the shelf windows computer than you will for anything that ships with linux pre-installed. You'll also have a much broader selection available to you.
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roflwaffle
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Re: Lapop for Engineering (Postgrad Uni)

Postby roflwaffle » Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:17 am UTC

I'd also go with an inexpensive laptop with good battery life+a good at home workstation. You can get some pretty beefy used Xeon chips/boards that have good support (40 pcie lanes) for GPU computing and have fairly decent processing power themselves for a lot less than you'll pay for any mobile workstation. The same goes on the laptop side, and I think the best bang for the buck is with refurbed chromebooks. I wouldn't go for a Sandy Bridge soc, but the Ivy Bridge systems are pretty good and still let you upgrade the ram (up to 32gb IIRC). With Haswell you're stuck at whatever ram the system has unfortunately, although you can (sometimes) still upgrade the SSD.


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