Ready for 4th Dell Precision...worth the upgrade?

Currently running on a 2.5 year old M4600 that’s pretty pimped out. i7 2.7ghz, 8mb cache, 512GB SSD and 256GB SSD, 2GB Nvidia Quadro 2000M video card and 16MB of RAM. Sucker is a tank at nearly 8lbs.

I run Adobe CS, Solidworks and Rhino. Nothing too crazy.

Thing is, I’d really like something faster. Significantly faster. I do renderings sometimes that will take a full day to complete and basically leave the computer crippled. I’m full-time freelance and need the portability although 95% of the time it’s found docked in my home office with 2 monitors.

Seems like there has been very little advancement in PC technology over the past few years. Am I wrong? About the only thing I see at the moment is 4K monitors coming down in price. I’d sure love to ditch my dual monitors (really nice Dell Ultra-Sharp/SUPER EXPENSIVE monitors) for one gigantic 42" running a 4K resolution. That would be awesome.

And yes, I’ve considered Apple but I have zero experience with them and I’d be running Windows on it anyway, so why bother.

By any chance are you selling your 2.5 yr old M4600? If so, how much?

Why another laptop? You already have a mobile setup that can be used in a pinch for onsite work. I would look at getting a precision tower to park at the office. Spec it out speed up the rendering, and use something like gotomy PC combined with dropbox for remote access when needed.

Processors have gotten faster, but that’s through chip advancement not through raw speed. You’re in a similar boat to me - our HP laptops are nearly identically spec’ed to your machine, and the reality is new machines won’t be leaps and bounds faster.

You’re going to be limited to the same # of cores, which means rendering will be faster, but only incrementally so (whereas jumping to a hex or octacore desktop CPU will give you a 200% rendering boost). Apps that are single threaded (like most CAD programs) will only get a small boost in speed as well, since they can only take use of a single CPU core.

Your best bet is to buy or build a separate desktop and use that as a rendering server. What software do you use to render? A lot of packages offer network rendering. You can even leave the machine completely disconnected from your screens and just remote desktop to it through the laptop when you want to kick off a rendering. We purchased a few years back a 16 core/32 thread HP desktop that we let sit in the closet and when anyone wants to do a Keyshot rendering they shoot it off to the server and it comes back a few minutes later without ever bogging down your machine.

So based on what you said, if rendering is your main concern and your machine is still fast enough for the rest of the work (which it sounds like it is) I would just go desktop. Depending on your budget there are a range of options - you can build a cheap desktop with a standard i7 and a bunch of RAM for under a grand and just let it offload the workload (But it won’t be hugely faster). Or you can start spending more money and jumping to the Xeon CPU’s which are now built up to 12 cores (24 threads) and support dual CPU’s. That’ll get crazy expensive quickly - but if you’ve got the budget that’ll give you exponential speed.

Thanks to everyone for their replies and suggestions. The reason I don’t go with a desktop is because of software. Trying to have everything matched up between two PC’s is nearly impossible. Various licenses, hardware locks, program settings, etc. It would be a logistical nightmare.

I’ve been using V-Ray (for Rhino) as my rendering package for the past few years. Hard to believe it still uses a USB dongle as a hardware lock!! May move over to Keyshot but that just depends on budget. Right now, it seems like my best bet would be to just keep plugging along with my current set-up. And possibly look into contracting out some renderings to computer farms.

It really amazes me how needlessly complex all this stuff has become. One thing that really irks me is stupid Windows updates!! And all the other programs continue to update too and require re-boots. Ugh. Guess I’m just complaining to complain. First world problem.

Little disappointed that things haven’t progressed that awful much. Are there rumors of anything really new and exciting coming down the pipeline for laptops? And no, I don’t mean stupid touchscreens and other Windows 8 crap. What ever happened to making a computer made specifically for WORK and not Facebook?

There are a number of Vray render farms out there. Depending on how much render work you do that could be an option.

As far as anything new and exciting - no not really. CPU’s have progressed as Moore’s law planned, but laptops have been focusing primarily on remaining thin, light, and power efficient. The hardcore 6-12 core CPU’s simply generate too much heat and draw too much power to be viable in laptops right now. It’ll eventually get there, but there’s very little market for it.

The biggest hardware progression I’ve seen recently has been rendering engines’ inclusion of the graphics card’s processing power. I recently made the switch from Vray for Rhino to Bunkspeed Shot partly because of this (though I think the newest Vray can use the GPU), and I haven’t looked back. Software developers are optimizing their engines to work best with the tech being used in gaming GPU’s (notably NVIDIA’s CUDA architecture) so there’s no longer a need to go with the ridiculously overpriced Quadro line. A solid GTX or Titan card will produce far better results for a fraction of the cost, and an SLI system (two bridged cards) will fly.

That being said, I haven’t rendered on a laptop in years. I moved away from it a while back because it was just killing my machines. I would go through a Dell Precision every 1.5-2 years. I’ll second the previous comments to say that, if you can figure out a way it works for you, a desktop really is the way to go. Take a look at some of the custom gaming pc builders out there. You can get some awesome rigs put together pretty cheaply (my personal recommendation is Maingear.)

Hope this helps.