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Laptop for heavy VMWARE use?

Hi all!!

I know laptops have been talked about quite a lot, and am reading through those threads ATM. But I'm seeing that most people rate the laptops wrt development work (not strange, I'd say, given the people here).

I am looking for a laptop that has some serious punch, and that I don't have to marry the dealer's daughter to pay.

My needs: I am a deployment consultant at my company, so I do _very_ heavy use of VMWARE. It's not uncommon for me to have 3 VMs open at the moment (1 server and 2 clients; 2 servers and 1 client; 3 servers to model an odd AD setup). My PC now is a 1 GB RAM Dell Optiplex 260, where running 3 VMs is no sweat, but as I'm "on site" quite often, I think a laptop would give me greater flexibility.

I know I'll need quite a bit of RAM, and some processor. Other people at my company have Thinkpad T40, but they say it gets sluggish when seriously pounced on. I guess that, to help swapping performance, a fast HD would be a plus....

I'm not very up2date with Laptops specs and the like, so I'd love to hear people's opinions / rant on the matter.

Thank you very much in advance

Javier Jarava
Friday, March 26, 2004

HD''s appear to be the bottleneck with laptops.

The desktop replacement variety normally use desktop CPU's (whcih are cheaper anyway).

The second bottleneck might be RAM. Most laptops only have twio memory slots, which might limit you to 1GB of RAM.

Modern BIOS's can boot off a USB drive, so you might consider taking a bootable USB2 removeable HD to the clients site and running it off their machines, though you will probalby find they are deficient in RAM

Stephen Jones
Friday, March 26, 2004

What is your host OS?  Windows XP, Linux?  That is a big factor in what laptop to consider.  I have had pretty good luck with maxed out dell inspirons (I think the latest ones support 4 gigs of memory and fairly beefy processors) running either Windows XP, SuSE Linux or Gentoo Linux (the gentoo platform is really sweet if you have the time, it's compiled to fit your platform exactly, use all of the processor optimizations, etc.)  I would recommend against Sony Vios, they don't support enough memory to be really useful to a developer, and the latest Compaq laptops have real problems with their windows XP drivers, lots of strange reboots, etc. if you really hammer them.

Brian Niemeyer
Friday, March 26, 2004

The question is whether you have a lot of funds to spend or not.

If you do, then as a previous poster pointed out, one of the new breed of laptops that use desktop chipsets, desktop CPUs, and most importantly desktop RAM, will allow you get a laptop with 2GB of RAM at no more expense than doing it with a desktop PC. Plus you'll get top end CPU performance. The downside is it'll be heavy, hot, and have marginal battery life.

If you don't have a lot of money to spend, then the thing I would focus on is making sure it has a 7200 RPM drive and 1GB of RAM. My laptop is a 1GHz P3 and it performs very well with VMware and Virtual PC, because of the fast hard drive and the 1GB of RAM. All told I spent ~ $1700 when I bought it two years ago. These days, you should expect a P4M or Centrino in a lower end laptop.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Friday, March 26, 2004

You can always use an external drive (Firewire or USB) to jack up drive performance.  A solid Centrino laptop with built-in Firewire support and lots of RAM should work very well with VMWare.  Mine does (Toshiba Tecra M1).

Buffalo Bill
Friday, March 26, 2004

You might want to look into Small Form Factor PC's if you travel to client sites alot. Take alook at the Shuttle cases..  grab one of theses plus a light LCD monitor.. Also check out these hefty notebooks at www.powernotebooks.com Check out the Sagers. They even have ones with P4EE's (but the cost is a killer).

Annon Dude
Friday, March 26, 2004

First of all, thanks for the comments:

As for the clarifications:

OS: As my company develops for windows, and I'd have to (possibly) do some on-site debugging, it'd have to be Windows-family (so I'd guess that means XP right now - most modern Laptops have no drivers for W2K, I fear).

RAM: It's company policy to have (at least) 1 GB on PCs for "techies", including laptops. The other "consultants" have 1 GB and they don't use VMWARE, so I guess I could justify getting 1+ GB (I was thinking of 1.5 - 2 GB to avoid swapping).

Small Form Factor / Shuttle: It'd be a nice idea if I was going to stay on-client, but my mean "visit" is about 4.5 hours long (and not always a laptop is necessary).

COST: I hope that it shouldn't be too much of a problem if I can justify it; the "standard" laptop now is an IBM T 40, and I think they're not too cheap.

Thanks a lot for the pointer to www.powernotebooks.com, looks interesting. Anybody knows of a similar site on Europe (being in Spain, they don't ship here).

Any and all tips are more than welcome.

Javier Jarava
Sunday, March 28, 2004

Win2k runs fine on most laptops. However, give XP Pro a try - you won't miss Win2k at all. I was a dyed-in-the-wool Win2k zealot until I started my current job, where obviously the default install is XP. But seriously - I don't have any problems with it. In fact, when I go back to Win2k machines I occasionally miss XP features.

If you can get it, go for 2GB RAM. I think that's the major deciding factor in VM usability.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, March 28, 2004

I agree with Philo that WinXp pro is marginallly better than win 2K (and it boots a hell of a lot faster).

Not quite as stable though.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

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