Workstation grade Laptops

I have a very good desktop it has a 5900x cpu it has 64gb of ecc ram (yes you can do that, my motherboard supports it), I have nvme pcie gen 4 ssd I have an rtx a4000 gpu. It is a great entry level workstation.

My dilemma is my only laptop is a 2018 MacBook Pro which is great for what it is.

My dilemma is to get a laptop equivalent of what I have rivals what my desktop cost.

What options do I have? Do I buy a workstation laptop at all, should I just get anything and remote into my desktop when I’m not at my desk?

I’d love some input.

To disclose what I do. Ignoring the gaming that I do I am 33 years old and work in the mechanical engineering field. That’s what made me build my workstation. Now I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. I’ll be studying computer science this year while working full time.

I am also wanting to learn to code and am fascinated by the future of artificial intelligence, machine learning and AI.

My desktop will be an evolving machine as new things come out.

My next computer build is going to be in a server and will be the start of my goal to have a (within reason) personal supercomputer.

My apologies I somehow might have put this in the wrong section.

I don’t think you’ll see and AMD desktop CPU in anything portable short of custom built very expensive “transportable” system, like a mini desktop PC with a battery powered monitor.

Best bet is a Xeon powered laptop … HP, Dell, Panasonic, General Dynamics, a few others… Prices from $2000 to $25000 US.

For this at least, you can get a pretty powerful GPU in a laptop now, and GPU compute is where AI lives, not in the CPU.

I have a Dell Precision 7550 with 64gb of ram, RTX quadro 4000, and a i9-10885H.

I have a love hate relationship with it. Its heavy, it spins up the fans the second you start actually using it, and I fear ever being far from a power source.

That said, what I am not complaining about is performance. For applications that take advantage of multi-threaded workloads, this thing is only beat by my 5900x. Some single threaded applications take longer than I would like because the CPU is thermally constrained even with all the cooling in this sucker. And the price is not justified even by the performance IMO, but it was the best option available to me through work.

I am a solution architect and while I am not doing auto-cad all day its not unusual for me to have 3-4 projects worth of drawings being adjusted and sitting in memory all day long as I often have to shift from one to another through out the day as we finish the designs and submit proposals.

Along with multiple Excel docs, Teams, Slack, web pages, 1000 page construction books and anything else going on I can eat through 32gb fast and 16 would leave me swapping constantly.

For that the Precision does exactly what I need, it keeps everything in RAM and ready so I can jump right in and not waste time waiting on the computer.

Stay far away from the current HP Z-Books. They are quick to overheat and shutdown, even when doing nothing.

The Bloatware situation on HP machines running Windows is also INSANE. Clean install is definitely recommended.


Panasonic makes some rugged feeling machines, not sure how they are on the software front. From memory, prices where on the high end compared to the competition.

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My[quote=“MazeFrame, post:5, topic:180301, full:true”]

The Bloatware situation on HP machines running Windows is also INSANE. Clean install is definitely recommended.

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My old HP laptop was bad for that. HP install so much extra crap.

Yeah it would have to be a xeon cpu.

Have not seen this myself, but I only buy Elitebooks and Zbook workstations. I imagine it’s a different story in the consumer line. You want bloatware, Lenovo cheap-o laptops, OMG.

I am glad I read this as I have looked at Lenovo.

I don’t know about Lenovo business class machines … the Org I work for isn’t allowed to buy anything Lenovo. The only ones I’ve had experience with are the ones for a few hundred USD.

The one I was looking at was the P1 Gen 4. The other Xeon P series ones were in astronomical price tag territory.

I may hold off until I find myself really needing something.

I am definitely a matt screen guy though. I have 2 32" 4k screens both matt on my desktop and it is really nice to have that matt screen.

The consumer line is worse, the business-series is not much better though.

The Lenovo bloat ware was shocking to me. Bought an idea pad 3 for my in-laws and learned the hard way.

Maybe I’ll just consider the new MacBooks. I really like my current one as a laptop. Love apple or hate them they know how to build a laptop.

If you’re only considering this for your computer science learning,… don’t … save your money for now.

If anything, focus on display/keyboard/portability/ergonomics, by the time you actually need something more powerful than a MacBook Air + paper notebook, whatever you buy today will be obsolete.

Instead, keep your existing hardware (MacBook + workstation) and invest in things that help you be relaxed, help your brain focus and be smart (tea, coffee, figdet spinners and other toys, low maintenance small green plants, $400 noise cancelling headphones, $1200 desk chairs are a reasonable thing, soft plush onesies that and hoodies you can put over the headphones for additional focus and concentration and a collection of angry sounding industrial metal music to drown out the campus coffee shop noises… or early 90s grunge if you’re not a metal fan).

Reason is, that most computer scientists and software engineers spend most of their professional career:

  • looking at whiteboards (computers barely help with that… there’s fancy whiteboards with horrible software, and there’s phones to take snapshots)
  • using a pen and a scrap paper notebook next to their keyboard (drawing and diagraming software sucks, and nobody likes fingerprints or line marks on their display).
  • scrolling through text, and when typing code, 90% of the time staring around the existing text around the sometimes blinking cursor and 10% of the time actually typing into a plain text, maybe syntax highlighting editor.
  • eventually they start programming humans instead of computers using design docs and slide decks.

…and you’re studying to become one of those people, and your brain will almost, always do more work than your computer.

Once you need more hardware you’ll know.


Eventually, in in a few years, when studying around year 3/4 usually, you may want to try your hand at distributed computing and ML. Even the most powerful workstations (not just laptops), while really good at compiling basic student written code and software, are crap at most distributed and ML; except toy/playground examples for this type of software today. (e.g. 10 VM k8s setups without storage etc…).

To do anything of practical value you need a thick fiber (it’s actually thin; just high bandwidth) into the internet and lots of storage for random stuff, and for practical ML research you need access to a rack full of GPU machines on top.

You can play and study on threadrippers (e.g. k8s VMs) and single/dual 3090 cards for example for ML stuff, but if you want to actually train ML models to do something other people haven’t done already, you need access to lots of data and lots of hardware to chew on that data… Usually you’d get a university or a company to sponsor your research or work, because of the costs.


-signed: a 20y professional formally trained software engineer

also, if you don’t mind spending $5k usd every 2 years on a laptop, m1 pro/32G or m1max 64G is a reasonable machine for software development, supports plenty of external displays and can even build and run a bit of code locally in a pinch.

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You may want to take a look at Maingear. I bought their MicroCenter tailored 17" laptop. It has a i7-10850, 2070 super, 1tb M.2 PCIe and 32 gb ram. I added a 2nd M.2 and upped the ram to 64gb. System was under $2k. It has a TB3 port that I am running 3x4k/60 through a DP-MST hub with a 4th 4k over HDMI, and it doesn’t even flinch. I run Civil 3D processing LIDAR data with multiple GIS sites and Google Earth with settings cranked up all day long.

How very HP.