Mile High Performance Computing
November 27, 2015 12:54 PM   Subscribe

The servers won't fit in the carry-on space. Help me find a Lappy that can?

Dear lovely, Turkey-sated people of MeFi,

I'm about to embark on approximately 2 months of travelling (for job-ish interviews), which requires taking leave of my dear servers. But I need to keep working while I'm on the road. I know it's impossible for a laptop to mimic the processing power of a server, but how close can I get?

Components I'd like:
A Skylake i7 processor
A solid state drive
802.11ac wireless

Elements that are not important:
Optical drives
Screen size
Touch screen, other fanciness

Things that would be nice:
Pre-installed with Linux (Windows would be okay)
Relatively lightweight
Not terrible battery life
Can be ordered online, maybe even on sale for Black Friday?

The closest thing I've found are the premier performance laptops at Los Alamos Computers.

Dear people of MetaFilter, can you help?
posted by MrBobinski to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can't you just ssh into your servers from a remote location that has Internet and carry on as you have before?
posted by rockindata at 12:58 PM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yep! I can do that when I have internet access. What I'd like, though, is to use those long hours on the airplane to get some work done. So far none of the flights I've booked have WiFi (and it can be very slow when it is available).

I'm also unsure of what computing resources I'll have in my next position (probably very little). I'd like something that could hold me over until I have my own servers, hopefully in a year or two.
posted by MrBobinski at 1:07 PM on November 27, 2015

I'd look for a thinkpad that has an UltraBay slot, that let's you add two SDD for as much fast storage, max out memory. Try to get a one with an Nvidia card. Oh and a couple of the largest batteries available.
posted by sammyo at 1:36 PM on November 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Are you looking mostly for CPU performance and Memory/Disk/Network are not important? Generally when trying to do small form-factor server replacement, I find that getting above 16G RAM is hardest in a laptop. If all you care about is CPU, then I'd recommend looking at the Skylake i7 gaming laptops that are starting to come out. If you want something more like a server, look for the E3-1500 laptops. More DIMM channels, ECC RAM, etc.

One example using E3-1500 is the Leonovo Thinkpad p50 or p70, but as far as I can tell they aren't shipping yet.

Have you considered one or two small-form-factor servers to be a portable server farm? They can generally fit more RAM and more powerful CPUs than even the most powerful laptops, and they're still portable enough to fit in carryon luggage. It's true you can't use them while in the air, but you get much more bang for your buck. This gives you 32G RAM in a small package, or if you need more power, something like the SuperMicro X10SDV-TLN4F gives you a a small form factor, with low TDP Xeon, up to 128GB ECC RAM and 2x10GE network interfaces - much closer to a server.

(Note that even though Intel calls the E3-1500 v5 a Xeon, the true Skylake Xeons don't arrive until 2017).
posted by dttocs at 2:02 PM on November 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the great advice dttocs. CPU performance is most important for the project I'm working on now. In other projects, I've run up against memory limitations, but was able to work around those.

The Lenovo P50 and P70 are exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for! It's a shame they aren't available yet (at least in the US). They seem perfect. But it looks like the Yoga line is the closest thing to the P50.

Thanks for the suggestion on small form factor servers. The prices are attractive. That might be something to look into for the next 1-2 years.
posted by MrBobinski at 2:42 PM on November 27, 2015

Thinkpad T450S has an i7-5600U, SSD, and double-size battery available.
posted by rhizome at 6:23 PM on November 27, 2015

The 15-inch MacBook Pros have amazing battery life, SSDs, will run Linux/Windows/OS X directly. You'd go from an i7 Skylake to an i7 Broadwell, but the tradeoff for the extended battery life in MBPs might be a useful travel consideration. Broadwell MBPs are at the end of their current cycle, so Skylake MBPs should be coming online in early 2016, in any case.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:06 PM on November 27, 2015

Came here to say do not buy a gaming laptop. The physically very high quality ones(like the aorus and razer) are both EXTREMELY expensive and not super high on CPU power for that, and the cheaper ones with solid CPU specs are very junky. The cases always crack and they just don't really handle being hauled around well. They're also needlessly bulky because of the cooling systems for the big GPUs.

I would look in to something like the cheapest dell precision with a quad i7, or the cheapest W series thinkpad.

The problem is most of those haven't refreshed with skylake yet.

For what it's worth, i bought the 15in macbook pro entirely for CPU-bound work and have no real complaints. It gets loud, and it can get hot, but when it's not loaded down it has superior battery life to almost anything out there and is very easy to transport. The mobile quad i7's are very close to the(non overclocked) desktop i7s at this point and have been since 2011. Unless you need absolute peak performance, i'd just get the cheapest pro-grade machine that had a quad i7 onboard.
posted by emptythought at 5:59 PM on November 29, 2015

Response by poster: I ended up with Lenovo Yoga 900 (i7 Skylake, 512 GB SSD, 16 GB RAM). It's been great, even though it's a Windows machine. I can run the same code on this machine that I can on a server. It's slower, but within the same order of magnitude. Thanks Ask MeFi!
posted by MrBobinski at 10:00 AM on December 29, 2015

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