Work laptop $2-4k


My job is going to buy me a new laptop. I would like something that is relatively portable (13"-15" screen) as I travel a lot. I do a lot of simulation development in modern game engines (UE4, Havok, etc) and therefore need dedicated graphics. This rules out most "workstation" grade laptops as those all have either Quadro or Firepro GPUs which run like balls in modern game engines.

My work wanted to buy me a surface book but I don't think that will be nearly powerful enough GPU or CPU wise. Therefore I can basically get anything between $2000-$4500. Most laptops in this range use SSDs of some kind, so I will need at least 1 TB of storage in total. I also do a lot of native C++ robotics development so I often run dual boots with Windows/Linux. Therefore Linux support is crucial, but this seems much easier to find now a days.

The options I have been looking at are below:
Surface Book
Razer Blade
XPS 15
Gigabyte Aero

BTW I am coming from an old Thinkpad so I am sure anything will be better than this old clunker.

This would be more than badass for what you need

and for a tad thinner but similar spec:

Them customization options though.

I definitely prefer the MSI option for the portability. I will have to take a look at the rest of their offerings now.

Thanks for the recommendation.

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They did update the lineup with Kaby Lake.
New Egg link to the Kaby Lake version of the option that Cavemanth0ne posted.

The new alienware r3 15 inch is pretty darn solid.

They shrunk it a bit, but it is still pretty heavy.

It has a 99 watt hour battery, and all the specs you could possible want.

System 76 I now you need windows but I'm pretty sure buying a laptop from system76 and paying $150 for a fresh clean Windows Pro Install(Always use Windex) would be perfect. I suggest the Oryx Pro, the Serval WS, or the Bonobo Ws. Oh plus all of them have 1080p webcams not 720p like virtually every other laptop out there.

Here I built one

Serval WS


Base Price $1,949
Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS (64-bit)
15.6″ Matte 1080p IPS LED-backlit Display
8 GB GTX 1070 with 2048 CUDA Cores $269
4.2 GHz i7-6700K (4.0 up to 4.2 GHz – 8MB Cache – 4 Cores – 8 Threads) $60
64 GB Dual Channel DDR4 at 2400MHz (4× 16GB) $449
256 GB NVMe PCle M.2 SSD $155
256 GB NVMe PCle M.2 SSD $245
2 TB 2.5″ SSD $819
2 TB 2.5″ 5400 RPM Drive $169
External USB DVD-RW Drive $39
17″ Messenger Bag by Timbuk2 $16
3 Year Limited Parts and Labor Warranty $169
Product total: $4,339

Enough left for a Windows Pro license, Enjoy!!!

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Just remember it's not really feasible to ask for a workhorse that can fit in a pocket... performance requires cooling so personally for a 'portable' system i'd look at 17 inchers while having basically any netbook for just basic tasks.

That is a beast and I really want one! Would definitely get the job done. However, you forgot this maybe =)

Dimensions: 15.2″ × 10.3″ × 1.4″ (38.61 × 26.21 × 3.58 cm)
Weight: 7.5 lbs. (3.40 kg.)

Everything is "relative" of course, I know!

The newest Gigabyte Aero only has the one m.2 slot.

If you don't mind the slightly aggressive styling, the Aorus X3 V7 has the 1060 and an overclockable 7820HK, as well as two m.2 slots.

@thegai02, Xotic PC would probably be a better Clevo reseller to use in this case, as System76 add more cost on because of the work they do optimising the firmware for Linux.

@Zumps: You are absolutely correct. It is rather larger than I initially thought.

@Tjj226_Angel: The Alienware you mentioned seems like a really stellar machine. But at 7.5 lbs I might as well be carrying around a 17". Granted it is intended to be built like a tank, so I can see that as being valuable to some. Actually I now have the 13" Alienware on my list since that is somewhat more portable and has "similar" specs. It also has a supposedly nice QHD OLED display (with touch) which is neat.

@thegai02: I don't really care what is on the machine OS wise, because I can just have our IT department install windows 10 pro on it regardless. Then I can get it back and put Ubuntu/Debian on it either in a VM or dual booted.

@Baz: I suppose I am looking for something that does not really exist. Really what I am looking for are recommendations for machines that give you the best performance per size/weight. This way I can avoid carrying around two laptops as you alluded to.

I think I am still leaning towards the Razor Blade with the 1060 in it. While it is not the smallest 14" in dimensions, it is relatively light at around 4 lbs. The dimensions don't bother me really either as long as it fits in my backpack. With that said I will be carrying it around almost everyday so cutting back on weight is always nice (I carry a lot of equipment with me).

Thanks again everyone for your recommendations!

I was in a similar situation before summer but my use was more weighted towards productivity (Adobe video and photo software) while games were more of an extra so I opted for the Lenovo P50. I could have gone with apple but their lineup was way outdated at the time. Mostly I can't stand gaming laptop aesthetics and build quality (maybe there's an exception or two).

I wouldn't say the Quadro M2000M runs games like balls but it depends on what you throw at it I suppose and obviously you get more fps/$ with GeForce cards.

@caprica: That is interesting insight, especially now that the mac line has been refreshed and it is "competitive" in the marketplace again. My workflow prevents me from using OSX (or whatever they're on now) so macbooks are basically out of the question. I refuse to use them with windows (parallels or otherwise) as it defeats the purpose. I also do almost all of my development in Visual Studio so most of the time I am in Windows.

Geforce consumer cards are definitely what I am going for. Hell the Havok game engine doesn't even detect my Quadro card 9/10 times. Whenever I have to run that project I have to manually switch my current laptop over to using the quadro in the geforce control panel so that it doesn't try running with the intel gpu. I thought this was just my machine, but it appears others on the project have similar issues with their much newer quadro machines. Granted this is the Havok game engine which is absolutely terrible, but I am not paid to make those decisions unfortunately (I just get stuck with them).

I don't have any issues with shipped titles including stuff that uses Havoc (e.g. Fallout 4) but I haven't really used any game engines for development which I guess might be less streamlined with regard to GPU selection. Thought that deserves a mention...

With regard to current MacBook Pro models I'd still hold off until next gen as the current ones have some first gen issues unless an upgrade and a Mac is an immediate necessity.

Gigabyte aero is going to be your best bet then.

Followed by the razer blade

So I figured I might as well do an update now that I finally got the laptop earlier this week (typing this post with the laptop).

I ended up going with the top spec Alienware 13 R3 (OLED, 1TB SSD, 32GB RAM). Our purchasing department placed the order almost two months ago and it just arrived earlier this week (thanks to shitty best buy).

The laptop is very nice, and has everything I needed and then some.

I suppose I will provide my brief review of the unit below for whatever it's worth:

  • The OLED panel looks a lot better than I expected also.
  • Battery life seems ok so far and is about what I expected.
  • The keyboard/trackpad are very nice and are very easy to use. Probably one of the best laptop keyboards I have ever used. The backlit trackpad is a nice feature.

There is a minimal amount of bloatware on the machine and basically everything has worked as expected. I have only had two issues with the machine:

  1. The audio driver was out of date when I received it. When I first played a video with audio on youtube I got some terrible popping sound. I went to the support page for the laptop on the dell website and the first FAQ posted was related to this issue. Apparently it was a bug in the driver and had already been patched. I simply updated the driver and I have had no issues at all. Actually the speakers on this laptop are pretty great.

  2. The color control through the alienware fx (RGB) software is limited in color selection. I wanted to simply set everything to while, but the color wheel in the application only has like 20 or so predefined colors. I actually figured out that the profiles get saved out to XML and contain color HEX codes for the RGB. I was able to edit this XML file to set all the LED's to "white".

In terms of actual performance I can say that compile times for my various C++ projects in visual studio are about the same as my desktop which is fantastic. I am also getting decent frame rates in unreal engine (4.15). Havok being dx11 runs without any hiccups also.

Watching youtube videos and stuff on this laptop is very nice. The screen is far superior to any other screen that I have owned. I didn't think the OLED would be this good. I will probably end up selling my personal laptop while it is still worth something as this can serve me perfectly well.

If anyone has a question about the machine I am sure I could answer it. Otherwise I would like to thank everyone for their input.


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You are right that a lot of games and various developers do license from Havok. However most of those licenses from my understanding are actually just for their Physics libraries. They actually do not license their full suite that often. Plus the projects that I am working on that use it are all Army and DOD related. The Havok company (before Microsoft acquired them) actually had different licenses for government contractors then for the games developers. This separation from their games division inevitably led to lots of code fragmentation internally with their libraries and has often been a source of great frustration for me. Thankfully the Havok company no longer exists and they are no longer licensing to folks from what I know (probably Microsoft's doing). That and with the new licensing schemes from Epic Games and the like (open source) means we have been switching our code to work with other game engines (namely UE4). However UE4 has its own downfalls (namely documentation is TERRIBLE, their online docs don't even mention which version of the engine they are for!!!)