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small laptop for development?

Mich Robinson
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 28, 2009
Posts: 250
    
    1
Not sure if this is a valid question for this forum but I'm looking for suggestions for a laptop to develop on. I'm going to be wandering back and forth across Europe soon and wanted a smallish laptop that would allow me to work on my personal projects. I'm paying for it so the budget is limited. It will also need to travel on flights and generally keep me entertained.

  • Budget around £500 but happy to pay less
  • I'll use it primarily for development but it will also be used for skype, movies
  • 3D gaming isn't required
  • It needs to be moderately portable.
  • 13" screen is probably ideal but I'd consider 11" to 15"
  • I definitely need a keyboard so a tablet is out
  • Ideally I'd like either a Haswell CPU or one of the new quad core bay trail CPU's mainly for their battery life
  • I'd prefer around 500GB but I could live with 250GB - ideal would be the Seagate SSHD drives
  • I don't particularly a need touch screen or a DVD player
  • 6hr battery life would be ideal
  • Win 7 would be great but I could live with Win 8, I don't think I could cope with Linux.

  • My last laptop was an MSI Wind (netbook) which I liked though it wasn't the fastest of machines (single core atom cpu). Laptops I like the look of are things like the Asus T100, where I could use the tablet on flights to watch movies etc but the storage is too small and possibly the screen too. I love the new ultrabooks but sadly I can't really afford them. The chromebooks also look fine but they won't allow me to develop code and their storage is tiny. Netbooks would be fine but I suspect their screens are too small and I'm a bit worried about performance. Any suggestions?

    Arcade : Alien Swarm
    Board : Chess - Checkers - Connect 4 - Othello
    Tim Cooke
    Bartender

    Joined: Mar 28, 2008
    Posts: 1128
        
      59

    You can pick up some nice 13" MacBook Air's on ebay for about 500 notes. Develop all day long on that.

    I have a 10" Asus Netbook that I bought a couple of years ago for a bit of "on the go" development. Was around £200 new I think. Seemed like a good idea at the time, and I wiped Windows and put some flavour of Linux on there, xUbuntu or something. However with the small screen, mediocre resolution, and generally naff performance it's more of a frustration now to the point where I don't use it much at all. Even swapped out the HDD for an SSD in the hope it'll breath some life into it, but alas, nothing significant.

    I'm going to hazard a guess that as you said £'s you are in the UK? If so then take a trip down to Currys or PC World and have a play with some of the machines they have in there (and try not to leave with a Ultra Awesome Amazing 6D HHHD 2000" TV and an extended warranty). If you can fend of the sales folk then it's a nice way to get some hands on with a bunch of machines. I'm not up on my Windows machines so not in a position to make recommendations I'm afraid.


    Tim Driven Development
    Roger Sterling
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Apr 06, 2012
    Posts: 426

    I'm keen on Asus G75.

    http://www.asus.com/ROG_ROG/G75VW/

    Surely you won't be working all the time ? You'll need something for recreation also.
    Mich Robinson
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jun 28, 2009
    Posts: 250
        
        1
    Thanks for your suggestions Tim and yes, I'm in the UK. The Mac Book Air does look great but I'm put off by having to use yet another OS, plus I'm not sure whether all the freeware I use will work on Macs and (probably most importantly) they're a bit too expensive for me. I'm not really sure about 2nd hand laptops as they seem to age rather quickly in other folks hands. It's a shame that Moore's Law doesn't seem to apply to netbooks - I should be able to buy a modern equivalent of my old MSI Wind that should run 8x quicker and have tonnes more storage but netbook specs look almost unchanged.
    Tim Cooke
    Bartender

    Joined: Mar 28, 2008
    Posts: 1128
        
      59

    Roger Sterling wrote:Asus G75

    Not exactly falling within the £500 budget though is it. I'm seeing prices in excess of a Grand. Although you could keep the person sitting opposite you on the train warm with those rear mounted fans
    Jayesh A Lalwani
    Bartender

    Joined: Jan 17, 2008
    Posts: 2397
        
      28

    I would just buy the cheapest laptop that I can get and spin up a AWS EC2 instance to do real development on. The laptop just acts as a terminal, and as a communication device (email, IM etc). There are advantages to this

    1) You pay for a powerful machine on an hourly basis. Before you go to sleep at night, remember to shutdown your EC2 instance and you stop paying for it.
    2) Linux. Nothing does freeware better than Linux. Plus you get grep/sed/awk. Once you learn these 3, and get a decent IDE, you will rarely need any other tool.
    3) You got a long running job. Don;t shut down the instance. Let the job run. Come back in the morning
    4) Laptop smashed? stolen? No biggie. Your machine is in the cloud
    5) You want to test somehting that needs 3 machines. No biggie. Amazon gives you as many servers as you need
    6) You add a layer of security between hackers and your code. Let's say you got a virus. The virus is going to start doing it;s thing on your laptop, right? No virus author will make a virus that will scan your machine for Cygwin/Putty and getting into a remote Ec2 machine from your machine. (Well, maybe now someone will.. but anyways)
    7) Did I say Linux?
    Mich Robinson
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jun 28, 2009
    Posts: 250
        
        1
    Roger, that's a hell of a machine but I sadly can't afford it and I suspect it's a little too heavy to call mobile too. I appreciate your input though.

    Jayesh, most of the Java dev I do is for games etc(I should of mentioned this) so I don't think the AWS service would work. Oddly enough I'm very comfortable with Unix commands but I've never been able to feel comfortable with the Linux front end. I've tried to convert a couple of ageing laptops to Linux in the past but always hit stumbling blocks (usually in trying to get wifi to work). I don't think I need anything powerful for development and I'm sure an i3 4xxx would be fine but I have seen Haswell i5 based laptops for £440 ($660) so I think there should be something out there for me.

    Roger Sterling
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Apr 06, 2012
    Posts: 426

    Mich Robinson wrote:Roger, that's a hell of a machine but I sadly can't afford it and I suspect it's a little too heavy to call mobile too. I appreciate your input though.


    Sure thing. My friend just bought an X200 to do Linux development on.

    https://www.asus.com/Notebooks_Ultrabooks/X200CA

    He tossed the Windows OS and loaded Ubuntu. He liked it mainly because he could avoid the UEFI run around (he can do a legacy boot). You should be able to acquire that one within your budget, but lacks the graphics capability and space heater of the G75. "Runs kde ubuntu flawless everything works except the wired ether due to driver. I think the chipset is a little new but wireless is fine. I could compile drivers but honestly I don't need it.", says he.
    Paul Clapham
    Bartender

    Joined: Oct 14, 2005
    Posts: 18651
        
        8

    I'd say you're right about the netbook. I have a netbook which has been carried on my back over several mountain ranges and it's been great for connecting to the web and posting to blogs. But I would never, never try to use it for software development. The screen is too small and the CPU doesn't have enough power. (Admittedly it's a 2008 model but I don't recall hearing about big improvements to netbooks after they first came out.)
     
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