Which laptops still have a drive activity indicator light?
October 14, 2018 12:57 AM   Subscribe

I need some help looking for a 14-15.6" Windows laptop with some specific requirements, which include: Easy-to-replace storage and RAM, can hold a second drive, has a number pad or dedicated Home/End/Page Up/Page Down keys, and -- maybe the most challenging aspect -- has a drive activity status light. I've found a couple of candidates; can you help me find others? More details/criteria:

Must-have aspects:
- OS: Win 7 Pro or Win 10 Pro
- At least 14" or 15.6"
- An actual, physical indicator light that monitors drive activity. This seems to be fairly rare on laptops now. (I know about software versions, like a tray icon, but that doesn't help during bootup, or if Windows is hanging)
- Allows a second storage drive.
- Has maintenance hatch(es) for ease of upgrading / swapping out storage and RAM components. For instance I don't want to pry off the entire case to replace a drive! I love how easy it is to swap out the primary and secondary drives on my old Thinkpad T420.
- Dedicated Home/End/Page Up/Page Down keys, or at least a number pad.

Important / negotiable:
- Processor: minimum Intel core i5, Coffee Lake or Kaby Lake. Heaviest usage: hundreds of open browser tabs + screen sharing, Photoshop, and Excel processing. No gaming.
- Decent screen/display with above average color gamut. I know "decent" is subjective, but one thing I know for sure is I want to avoid TN panels. I'm open on resolution and matte vs glossy. (Don't need 4K or touchscreen.)
- Ethernet port, but I guess if it doesn't have one, I can get a USB adapter.
- Battery charging and num lock indicator lights
- Backlit keyboard
- At least 1 USB-C port
- No overheating problems

Totally optional:
- Discrete graphics
- Being light in weight (I'd say up to ~5 pounds is acceptable)
- Long battery life (average batt life is fine)
- Touchscreen
- Trackpoint
- Dockable

Budget: Leaving it open. This is for a work machine and will be expensed through my job. If it's too expensive new, I'm willing to look at manufacturer refurbs. I'm in the US.

Currently considering the following:
- Thinkpad P52 - seems to be one of the few Thinkpad models that still has the drive activity indicator, but I've seen some mentions online of issues with overheating)
- Dell Precision 7520 (the newer 7530 no longer has the drive activity indicator)
- Any others?

Thanks for your help!
posted by rangefinder 1.4 to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have an MSI Apache Pro, and I believe it fits most of your criteria, with the possible exception of weight. (My 17.3” is 6 lbs, but the 15.6” would probably be lighter.) It’s a gaming laptop, and I would suggest expanding your search to include gaming laptops, even though you won’t be using it for gaming, since they tend to include the specifications you’re looking for more than your typical business laptop. The down side is that it will look like a gaming laptop.
posted by Autumnheart at 2:12 AM on October 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Typing this on a Precision 7520 - I don't have any complaints, it hits all your requirements. It has a seperate numpad with all the normal keys, but you have to use Fn+Left or Fn+Right for home and end on the small cursor keys. Oh and there's no Pause/Break key but you can use Fn+B.
posted by samj at 1:08 AM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to both of you - samj, I was actually about to order a new Precision 7520 from Dell, but the delivery estimate for it was about a month and I needed a computer a lot quicker; at the time I also checked the Dell Outlet and there weren't any of those models available.

Autumnheart, thanks to your tip I did look at MSI and other gaming laptops via NotebookCheck and The Wirecutter. Ultimately the laptops that looked promising didn't have the Pro edition of Windows, and/or there was some issue with the keyboard layout, and/or looked too much of a gaming laptop (as you did warn me about). I'll definitely keep this category in mind whenever it's time to replace my non-work laptop.

I ended up getting a refurb Thinkpad P51 from the Lenovo Outlet. It's on the heavier side (about 6 lbs) but the build / non-4k screen / keyboard are pretty nice.

There were also some refurb P52 laptops available, but I ended up going with the P51 because the keyboard is slightly different on the P52 -- some of the P52 keys are actually smaller than the rest, as warned by a few posts online (e.g. this NotebookCheck review).

The HP Elitebook 840 G5 sounded really good but (A) it wasn't obviously clear to me from the HP specs whether it could support a second drive and (B) even so, the delivery estimate was about 3-4 weeks.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 2:25 AM on November 5, 2018

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