Resistance is apparently futile ‐ need a windows laptop.
April 17, 2017 2:37 AM   Subscribe

Back in the 20th century I used Windows machines a lot. I even bought a few, with mixed results. I jumped ship to mac for my second ever laptop and have been happy with that. Now, for $REASONS I find I shall be returning to the windows-verse, and I need a new laptop within two weeks.

I must have:

the ability to run the SQL Server BI stack, including building largish SSAS cubes.
All of the hardware to work under a debian-derived Linux (probably Debian, maybe Ubuntu or Mint).

I would like:

loads of RAM (presume this is covered under the SQL must have).
loads of storage.
replaceable battery.
decent build quality.

It would be nice to have:

It would be nice if I could also play KSP.
It would be very nice if I could play things like Total War.
Some way to fiddle with the machine before I buy it so I don’t end up with a keyboard or trackpad I hate (I am in Melbourne, Australia).

My questions are:

What even are windows laptop brands (I have looked at the Lenovo site because that was what my last work-supplied laptop was)?

Is there some sort of consolidated review site I could read?

Is there a good site which explains what processors are up to these days? I see Core and I see Xeon and I presume there’s AMD to consider (do I even care about processors these days? Are they not stagnating a bit?).

Will I need to reinstall the OS to remove crapware?

Also, if you could point at a specific model that meets my requirements that'd be great, but I'm mostly after information resources
posted by pompomtom to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's not totally clear from your question:
are you going to run Windows, or a Linux-based OS, or both?
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:26 AM on April 17

Both. I mention linux because I don't want something I get for windowsing that can't also linux, but SQL Server is the priority.
posted by pompomtom at 4:37 AM on April 17

The Notebook Review forums are a great place for info on most any laptop. NotebookCheck also does a good job on reviews.

For processors, CPUBoss is pretty helpful to compare e.g. how a new CPU is going to perform relative to your current one.

Regarding OS crapware, most brands have gotten a bit better. You can also buy a number of models directly from the microsoft store that are supposed to come clean.

But anyway if you are serious about needing to test out the keyboard and trackpad and need it within 2 weeks, you are going to have to limit your selection to something available in retail there, which might be difficult if you're looking for a business-grade laptop.
posted by ropeladder at 5:30 AM on April 17

There are companies that cater to folks wanting linux laptops like System76. Dell also has a line of laptops with linux installed. Linus Torvalds uses a Dell.
posted by gregr at 6:24 AM on April 17

Do you have a sense of the size of the dataset you will be working with? I ask because my almost four year old laptop has no problem running SQL Server.

If you are someone who does a lot of work at the command line the Ubuntu subsystem recently came out of year long preview​. I point it out because it is an easy thing to miss if you are not using Windows.
posted by phil at 6:46 AM on April 17

If a removable battery is a must have for you, then you should use that to narrow down your options first. I don't think this is a common thing any longer.

Anandtech and Tom's Hardware are both good for learning about processors / architecture, but the short story is: don't get AMD mobile processors right now, do get a core i5 or i7, and don't feel like you need to get the newest generation (Kaby Lake). You're right that they make less difference now than they used to.

I think the best laptops going right now are the Dell XPS line, but Lenovo T- and X- series are also very nice.

To avoid crapware, do your shopping via They sell laptops with a clean install of Windows.
posted by dbx at 6:51 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]

I'm also looking into getting a new Windows laptop soon and have similar needs. I really want to avoid the bloatware which comes on most of them so I'm leaning towards one of the "Microsoft Signature Edition" machines. I've yet to try one but they are supposed to be free of junkware or trialware.
posted by fx3000 at 9:26 AM on April 17

Lenovo always used to be the go-to for durable machines that run Linux well, but both my husband's and my new Lenovo machines have all kinds of driver issues that make Linux suck, probably because of fancy hardware. YMMV.
posted by nosila at 11:48 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]

If you're technical enough to run Linux then you are capable of backing up your Windows drivers (search for "double driver") and then using the "reset my PC" option in Windows 10. That'll remove all the crap by performing a full reinstall without you paying a premium to buy from the Microsoft Store.

If Windows cannot find a driver when you are up and running again then it'll happily install the ones you backed up to a USB stick using the program I mentioned.

As for laptops, I love my 16GB core i7 XPS 13 with 1TB SSD but the battery isn't replaceable. That isn't an issue for me, but will be for you.
posted by mr_silver at 12:10 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]

Do you have a sense of the size of the dataset you will be working with? I ask because my almost four year old laptop has no problem running SQL Server.

I don't know at present. I've worked at the place before, on tens of millions of x, who do thousands of y a year, and lots of stupid dimensions. When I had a (IIRC) quadcore xeon desktop with 12gb RAM I would not build the cubes locally. I could, however, build cubes derived from that and that's what I think I'll be dealing with. (sorry I know this makes SFA sense, but privacy and that...)

That machine was a few years old so I thought getting, say, 16gb or 32gb RAM wouldn't be too tricky but it looks hellishly expensive now.
posted by pompomtom at 8:50 AM on April 18

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