What is the best developer laptop on the planet, and why?

HP I’ve been discussing various aspects of the developer world with Andrew Kass lately and as you know I am not short on opinion.  So I thought I would ask you a couple of questions.  I know a lot of you are either developers, used to be developers, or know and have to deal with developers.  Grin.

What is the best laptop for a developer, and why? 

Sounds like a simple enough question but there are a lot of variables.  And if you were going to buy a machine today, what would it be? 

What operating system would you run?  What would the toolset look like?

Comments (19)

  1. Will Craddock says:

    The best developer laptop was a MacBook Pro 17" (dual or tri booted) but the new Dell 6400 with the availble 12 gig of RAM might make it the new bench mark.

  2. Gabriel Lozano-Moran says:

    I would probably go for a desktop replacement notebook with 2GB or 3GB of RAM and run Windows XP Professional (x86) with SP3.

    Probably a Clevo based notebook like the ones sold by Sager or XXODD in the Netherlands. These are high performance beasts with optional wide screens.

  3. Welman says:

    As for my needs as developer, there are three primary things I’m looking for my next laptop: Performance, extensibility, and mobilty.

    Performance.  It’s critical to have high performance laptop in developing enterprise class applications.  The performance must be comparable, or greater than, to the current desktop pc  provided in the office so that I will stay working on my laptop, and avoiding temptation on swithing back-and-forth working between desktop and laptop due to performance reason.

    For the CPU, I would go for what is best available for compiling: Intel Core 2 Duo X9100 Extreme.  I would be tempted for Quad Core.  However,  I don’t believe I would get much benefit unless if I’m doing parallel builds of the source tree.

    For the storage, I would go for SSD drives.  I would need a large capacity as well to store my Vmware images.  Best to have 2 SSD internal drives, and additional eSata port for attaching external HD.   These SSDs will already be good : Mtron, MemoRight, Intel, or OCZ Apex.

    Extensibility.  It is essential  for me to work on at least two monitors when I’m at the office.  I would go for a laptop that can output dual-view, in HDMI or DVI-D, with at least 1920×1200 resolution.

    eSata port would also be important for running vmware images on external HD, or backing up.

    Mobility.  A 15" laptop would be ideal so as not too bulky for me to bring it to and from the office everyday, to the  meetings, and in travel.  I would choose the WUXGA resolution as I’m used to working on high resolution 15", and to give a bit of workspace.

    As for the OS, I would be tempted to run it on Win XP 64 bit.  However, I would want to give Vista 64 a try.   I would be needing 64 bit to run 4GB + of ram.  My primary dev tools are VS2008 and VMWare.

    So far, given the above wishes,  the closes match I can find available is Dell M4400, with ducking station. Next to that is Lenovo W500.  

  4. Keith Combs says:

    Will, the laptop you mentioned has four SoDIMM slots and max memory capacity is 16GB.  Mighty tempting, but who would ever need more than 8?  Sounds like the old 64k question.

  5. Alvin says:

    I’m not a developer, but I have a W500 configured wiht 4GB of RAM and a second 500GB HD. I run virtual machines on this system and the performance is fantastic.

  6. Greg Lambert says:

    I am a tech at my company and I’ve provisioned several Dell M6400 laptops to our in-house developers.  They are running Vista64 on a quad core,  4GB of RAM and RAID’d 256GB solid state drives.  The devs run VMWare, VS2008 and a slew of other apps.  I’ve seen them running several images and VS2008 while using conferencing tools with no noticeable decrease in performance. If you can afford it, go for the M6400 Covet and you won’t have to worry about upgrading for a very long time!

  7. Jim Rainey says:

    ThinkPad.. anything in the W Series and 4GB of RAM.

  8. glen van noy says:

    The lenovo T500, I love the way you can boot to the second drive via the BIOS.  So I have Vista x64 as my main drive, the second drive is either Windows Server 2008 R2 beta running hyper-v or Windows 7.  It has 4 gigs of DDR3 ram and i am almost ashamed of how much I love this machine.  🙂

  9. John Obeto says:

    I will take the HP EliteBook 8730w any day!

    The specs:

    -> Quad core or Intel Core 2 Extreme processor

    ->8gb of RAM

    ->Nvidia Quadro FX3700 w/ 1GB video RAM

    ->17" HP Dreamcolor display offering up to 16 million colors

    ->Upgrade bay allowing replacement of optical drive w/ second 250 or 320GB hard disk

    That is one dev rig I can relate to!

  10. Bryce White says:

    HP EliteBook 8530w with Intel x9100, 8GB…  I run Vista x64, VS2008, Virtual Server 2005 R2 and WSS on Vista from Bamboo Nation to support local MOSS.  The machine is very fast, very solid and very portable.  Docks for dual monitors at home and office, plenty of battery life for the train ride in between, etc…

    The best laptop I have ever used – and I’ve used a lot of ’em.

  11. Rich L says:

    For my development needs the best laptop is anything with 2GB or more of ram and a lot of hard drive space for all my VPC’s

  12. Ben O says:

    A Wyse Thin Terminal running Wyse Thin OS (WTOS) connected to a BEEFY Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server. Beat that!

  13. kalam says:

    Why my message never get posted????

    I said, Thinkpad W500 🙁

  14. Keith Combs says:

    Kashif, I never received a comment until now.  Any particular reason you think the ThinkPad W500 is superior?

  15. John Obeto says:

    @Ben O: how would you get work done in some out-of-way area, or if there isn’t a connection to the ‘beefy Server 2008’ rig?

    Personally, since I tend to travel a lot, being able to run VMs at near native speeds is a must.

    I would probably run R2 and mount VMs natively.

  16. Jon Davis says:

    What’s a developer, really? I’m starting to get irritated by the word "developer", because to the guy who does PHP development on Linux, you only need a $299 cheapie that will let you use vi and Firefox. I for one see myself as a technologist and I love taking advantage of all the wonderful bloatware that Microsoft and the like put out, I play the occasional graphics-heavy games, and I fire up the occasional HD movie. I want it all.

    On the other hand, when I’m given a laptop that’s exclusively for business use, to work with, say, Visual Studio, in a typical business environment, my best experiences with laptops for such uses have been with company-issued Dell Latitude laptops. The current line of Latitudes have batteries that last all day long, and Latitudes have always have notoriously very high resolution and very decent performance and stability–on the other hand, the current selection of mostly 14.1 inches seems small.

    I’ll tell you what, I slobber all over the VERY EXPENSIVE Dell Precision notebooks. The Dell Precision M6400 Covet is quite appropriately named. Expensive, yes. Best workhorse laptop, though, .. yes, yes, YES!! Especially with the option of a whopping 16 GB of RAM?!! HOLY COW.

  17. Keith Combs says:

    Yea, the Dell Covet definitely has the drool factor.  I would like a Quad Core 16GB of RAM machine, too.

  18. LG1815 says:

    I use a Dell M4400 with 8GB and Quad QX9300



    Runs Windows Server 2008

    Allows some major data crunching


    Heat–Never cold using this

    Noise–Varies, but somewhat noisy

    Power/Battery.  Even with Battery Slice only get 5-6 hours of use.

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