November 27, 2011 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Choose-my-laptop-filter. This is, in broad strokes, what I'm considering: 15" Lenovo W520 with the 1080p screen, 16Gb RAM and dual SSDs in RAID 0. Questions inside.

(a) Is there anything else out there that I should be looking at? The panel's the most important bit, but "weighs less" would be awfully nice.

(b) Is it possible to set a pair of SSDs up in RAID 0, and dual-boot Win/Lin on them? Am I setting myself up for a lot of pain, and not much performance increase? (Assume backups are taken care of)

The machine's going to be a workstation, running multiple VMs (with the Windows partition for games), but I'll be carrying it to client sites daily (public transport). If there's anything you think I've missed, please feel free to weigh in.
posted by Leon to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a W520 as my work laptop that's configured like you have (16GB of RAM, single 160GB SSD, upgraded screen, discrete video card). We bought my wife a similar system (8GB of RAM, 750GB spinning disk, upgraded screen). Both of us really like our systems for what we do with them. My primary use is Outlook, internal tools, remote desktop, test virtual machines (a few on the SSD, others on an external SSD connected with eSATA). Hers is Photoshop, e-mail, heavy web browsing--we're talking 50 tabs here--and DVD work. She likes hers enough that we bought the 4 year warranty on it. Several of my coworkers have done the SSD in RAID 0 and are quite emphatic about how awesome it is. My group would only buy me a single SSD but I didn't need the extra space so I didn't push. Outlook and VMs fly on my computer.

It's not too heavy but you are looking at a laptop on the heavier side of life. If you're looking for a roughly equivalent machine and don't absolutely need the 15", try the T420 which has similar specs and is smaller. My personal T410 is lighter but I bought it a few months before the Sandy Bridge Lenovos came out.
posted by fireoyster at 5:36 PM on November 27, 2011

Rather than dual SSDs in RAID0, consider one really fast SSD for boot and applications, and a 750GB 2.5" SATA spinning drive for storage of mp3s, videos, archived VMs, other large things.
posted by thewalrus at 8:07 PM on November 27, 2011

Fireoyster, are any of your workmates dualbooting RAID 0?
posted by Leon at 12:56 AM on November 28, 2011

Know that if you want to use a built-in RAID 0 setup, then you need to get it from lenovo configured that way. On non-raid w520s, the raid chip is entirely unpopulated and the menu is missing from the bios.

The thinkwiki page has some good info about Linux on the thing; I have yet to get it to work with an external monitor over either the display port or the VGA connector, but admittedly, I haven't tried very hard because I opted for the 1080p display for a reason. I single boot Linux, so I have no idea what windows is like on this thing.

I too, opted for the 1080p display, it looks wonderful, but IMO, I get more mileage out of the 24" 1080p display on my desktop over the 15.6" display on my w520. 'Course, the one on my desk isn't portable.

The power brick/charger is fairly monstrous, and is a new/different design, so older thinkpad chargers won't work properly with it except for the one from the w510.

As far as my requirements go, the only other laptops in the same class were the Mac Book Pro and the Dell XPS 15z and I ended up with the w520 for a reason. (No number pad so the keyboard is probably the weirdest of my requirements; RAID0 support for windows was not a requirement.) I'm running ssd + spinning disk combo on mine.
posted by fragmede at 3:15 AM on November 28, 2011

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