Computer Recommendations Please

It’s finally time for me to get a new computer. Getting a decent paying job is pretty difficult for anyone so I’m not into the idea of getting a computer that will be obsolete in a couple of years. I want something that will be a good value and I’m willing to spend a little extra to insure that my computer will last a long time. I like some of the new tablet computers that have come out because of their intuitiveness but since they’re all so new, I’m not sure if I can practically use one to handle all the design processing I’ll need. Right now, I’m kind of settled on the Lenovo Thinkpad. Any comments?

I think we’d need to know a little more about what your needs are and what you’ll be doing on your computer before we can give recommendations. (Yes, the Thinkpad is a good computer.)

Expecting a computer to last a “long time” these days is difficult. In reality any computer that you buy these days will probably be good enough for 5+ years, but purchasing wise you are usually better off going “middle of the road”. These days that’s probably around $1000 for a laptop if you don’t need workstation class hardware - and then upgrading in a few years, rather than spending $2k+ on a high end laptop that will be obsolete in the same amount of time. This way if you need to upgrade in 2-3 years you can save that extra $1k.

The reality is - you need to understand how much PC you actually need. If you spend most of your time in 2D or simple 3D, you can get away with a basic Core i5 machine with a few gigs of ram and a consumer video card. If you pump production CAD databases of cruise ships - then that won’t be the case.

Lenovo machines are good, but personally I can’t stand the fact that they still look straight out of 1994. I don’t need Macbook sweetness all the time, but that black brick ID just drains my soul. Tablet PC’s are still a flaky area. The new Asus EE Slate is a nice buy if you don’t do 3D, but only in that situation.

Give us how much you want to spend, what you plan on doing (apps, type of work, complexity) and we can provide better feedback.

I guess my budget can go all the way up to the $1500 for the perfect computer. I also agree that Lenovo’s design could use some updating but I’m also have decided against the Thinkpad because I feel that a computer of that cost should really have a disc drive. Another tablet computer I’ve been interested in is the Fujitsu slate pc. It would need to handle Adobe CS including flash and dreamweaver and CAD software like Rhino, Alias, and SolidWorks. I almost bought a standard MAC but I thought if I got a tablet pc I wouldn’t have to eventually buy a Wacom tablet or cintiq. I understand they’re so new and unestablished but it would be really sweet to find something all inclusive.

Thanks for your input! It’s very helpful.

There must be some reason you are shopping a laptop, but the $20,000 worth of software listed above is going to run much better on a desktop. Also, a desktop box will allow some upgrades where laptops typically will not -

Try building your own PC so you can pick the best components & upgrade yourself. Don’t forget Linux OS (free & free software). :sunglasses:


I used to read this forum but I want share +15 years in experience computer wise.

Look for a middle class processor (not need for higher-last-model take the middle price).

But the real deal is MEMORY!
If you wish to keep you computer for more than 3 years, you should put the most memory possible.
When you do have a lot of data to process (movie, BIG files, BIG photos) memory is everything.
the RAM memory is 100x times faster than the HardDIsk memory.
If the computer does not have enough memory, it saves some parts unsed of the process in disk, flush data, read the parts from disk again that need to be processed, puts on ram memory, process, and again flush it to the hard Disk.
If you have a LOT of memory, a good program, will load ALL your file on memory, and do the processing there.

You have to imagine the computer as a workflow, if you have everything fast, but the computers has low memory and has to load and unload all from your harddisk, your speed of production will have the hard disk as bottleneck.
If you have very large ram the bottleneck will be 100x faster.

In 2006 I bought my macbook (white plastic one)… I checked and the maximum memory was 4GB.
(the normal at that time was 1GB)
I bought with 1GB, after 2 weeks bought 4 GB and replace my memory cards.
(apple was very expensive so I bought from another good supplier )
I am using this notebook until today and it has gone, from OSX tiger → to Snow leopard → to OSX lion and no problems.

Summing up:

1- Go to the middle price processor;
2- Choose most ram, and if it is too expensive buy more ram from crucial or other reputated brand;
3- If the 3 years warranty is less than 100us$ buy it if more stick with original 1 year.

I know you people dont know me, But I am a geeky that admires creative people and that is my advice.


Carlos Henrique Cano

I agree with the Lenovo disses … it’s a dated look and they usually cost more for lower performance than something like a Dell.

Speaking of Dell - You might want to take a look at the Precision laptops like the M4400 and up - not so bad looking, fast, and relatively good prices.

The new M4600 is out from Dell and is very nice, and HP has just redone their 8560W which I’ve switched to for full time duty for the first time in history. Both are very nice machines and worth checking out if you want a worthy desktop replacement.

Hey Cyber - I’ve been on the market for a new PC and the 4600 looks sweet. Can I ask you a question or two, since it seems like you know? Maybe this would help others, and everyone please comment if you have some input. I appreciate it (in advance).

So here goes: what’s the situation with the different flavors of mobile i7 CPUs and graphics cards being better/worse for a designer. (same question would kind of go for Xenon desktops too, which I’m also checking)

I am specifically wondering how Card / Processor / Core / Ram affects ProE / StudioTools / Alias / CS5 / Rendering / Video… and how much it’s going to cost to have a reasonably high performance PC without breaking the bank un-necessarily

Some questions:

there are 2 to 4 cores on a chip (on i7s … 6+ in Xenon desktops). So what’s the “on the ground” difference?

Speeds range from 1.6 quadcores to dual quads to to 3.0+ duo cores etc… what is the point where you don’t need any more cores or speed? (I used to open huge models of tanks and spacecraft (parts of shuttle once just too look), but now it’s just CE assemblies with heavy surfacing.)

1GB graphics cards and the various flavors… any favorites for ProE / StudioTools / Alias / CS5 / Rendering? any dogs? I have a

The numbering on the chips makes a big difference in price. Sometimes you can see that some are C03 i7-2920XM, etc etc … any knowledge on which is better, ordoes it matter that much?

RAM. It seems you can get high spec-ed machines under $2k with 16GB ram. I know generally how it affects performance, but what is the difference between 8 and 16+ if your working on models/files under 100-400mb?

Maybe I should start a new thread, but it seemed to make sense here. Again, thank you in advance!

If you need a laptop for 3D, Dell Precision does not have any competitor.

The only bad side is portability.

I bought an M70 Precision 6 years ago, and I started feeling the need of a new PC 1 year ago… I am going to buy a new one in the next month.

Never had a problem a part from a difect on the screen after the first year. The same screen has been changed in 3 days after the call, directly in my house.

i’m writing this on one of the first dual core laptops which came out in 2006 and i must say, that it is still a quite beefy machine for most tasks… though noisy compared to my mac book pro at work.

anyways, my take on things to generally consider when choosing a laptop:

  1. Screensize and resolution - pick something that is ergonomic and lets you work without external monitor on quite complex tasks (macbook pro at work f.e. is a little low with it’s 1400x900 imho)

  2. laptop chassis maintenance - not easy to judge if good or not, but being able to dust out the fans after a few years makes a HUGE difference. my laptop was shutting down while rendering till i removed the felt like layer of dust inside the fan. and then of course the general sturdiness

  3. maximal ram allowed by the chipset- the more the better. 4 gb is definitively to low nowadays. in terms of sustainability best would be 16gb maybe!?

i am actually looking slowly for a replacement machine to buy in the near future. atm i think that ‘gaming’-laptops are quite interesting. they have overall good performance and gamers are picky folks, so the manufacturer face huge competition to please the customer and seem to go the extra mile to do so. the design of the these machines is actually pretty awkward… though i saw some nice ones recently

I’ll try to give my quick dump:

CPU’s - Cores vs clock speed is one of the key issues - and that really depends on your applications and how often you multi-task. All of the new i7’s have hyperthreading, which effectively allows each core to do 2x the work. That means a quad core i7 like the 27xx will actually run up to 8 threads simultaneously. This is ideal for rendering apps - where more is always better.

If rendering isn’t as big of a priority, you may actually see a bit of a performance boost using a faster clocked dual core CPU, or at least be able to save off some cost, but something like the i7-2720 is a great mobile choice right now. Anything beyond that will either be minor steps in clock speed, or a desktop CPU.

If you DO decide to go desktop - the 2600K is an insane performer if you build your own machine and overclock it. The amount of work involved is almost nothing unlike the old days where you had to fiddle with clock speeds, all kinds of voltages, etc. These days with the right CPU and a good cooler you can easily spend $100 extra and take the CPU from 2.xghz to 4+ghz which is a huge performance boost.

Video: I personally avoid ATI consumer cards (Radeons) for anything other than gaming. Nvidia Geforce cards will do most of what you need to do at a professional level with pretty good stability. The first # is the series (right now they are at 500), the second # is the performance level (higher here is what you want) and the last # is usually just the revision. So something like a 550 series would be the middle of the road. For the Quadros, the 1000 and 2000 are the most recent chips, the 1000 would be a good buy. The low end Fire GL’s I haven’t used, but they should also be a viable option.

Ram: I would just get the minimum and upgrade this yourself. Ram is much cheaper when you buy it yourself and all of it should be pretty easily replaceable. Some workstations are a little bit of a pain since they put memory under the keyboard, but if youre handy with a screw driver the manuals are all available online and you can save hundreds. 8GB is a good point to be at these days and that will run you under $100.

If you have any specific configs I could give you more feedback.


cisperow, sergio, and especially Cyberdemon - thanks for the info. It gets confusing, especially when you start getting into multi thousand dollar computers which you want to handle everything you need

Hey Cyber, Since you mention it, do you have any opinion on the pros/cons of a Laptop like this… what you wrote before really helpful and I’ve kept on it. Seen one of these for a good price, but the turbo vs normal speeds are a little confusing

Dell Precision M4500 ISV Laptop i7-840QM
Launch Date Q3’10
Processor Number i7-840QM

of Cores 4

of Threads 8

Clock Speed 1.86 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency 3.2 GHz

Hey Cyber, Since you mention it, do you have any opinion on the pros/cons of a Laptop like this… what you wrote before really helpful and I’ve kept on it. Seen one of these for a good price, but the turbo vs normal speeds are a little confusing

Dell Precision M4500 ISV Laptop i7-840QM
Launch Date Q3’10
Processor Number i7-840QM

of Cores 4

of Threads 8

Clock Speed 1.86 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency 3.2 GHz

There are a ton of other options to buy, but another option is that I have an amazing chassis and have always wanted to build my own box.

Not sure about mounting details though (how does that work - are workstation MB planars all about the same mounting points/plug-area sizes?) I see ATX below, but don’t remember the other board sizes… the chassis is an Intellistation MPro (one of the early ones that Sapper was really pleased with)

found this trolling boards and it looks pretty badass (and probably cheaper in USD too). Any thoughts?

Intel Core i7 2600 ~ £228

Intel BOXDH67CLB3 ~ £80

16GB 1600MHZ DDR3 ~ £167…-9-24-xmp-150v

MSI GTX570 ~ £262…-dvi-mini-hdmi

Seasonic 750KM X-Series 750W Modular Power Supply ~ £120

Samsung F3 500GB ~ £29…-cache-8ms-oem

Western Digital RE4 Enterprise 1.5TB Hard Drive ~ £96

ThermalTake Dokker ~ £43

The total comes to around £1025 excluding an optical drive and an OS.

And THANK YOU!!! in advance!

That 870qm i7 is one of the lower power versions. Should get better battery but a bit slower then the 2720m

On the machine build only a couple of comments.

Reusing your IBM case will probably not be worth the hassle. Most companies use some form of proprietary something or other to make it a pain or impossible to swap “standard” components in. If you have a machine I’d just sell it for whatever you can get and start fresh.

Go for the i7 2600k if you can swing it. The K designates it is unlocked and overclockable - and with a little extra money in the right spot you can get a lot of horsepower out of it.

The GTX 570 is probably overkill. A GTX 460 will be half as much and should give you as good of a performance as you’ll get out of a Geforce card before jumping up to a Quadro.

Shot you a PM also.