Andy Crouch - Code, Technology & Obfuscation ...

Selecting A New Development Laptop

Vintage Typewriter

Photo: Unsplash

It’s time.

My main day to day laptop is nearing its end of life and I need to find a replacement. For some reason, this brings dread and fear and months of searching for a replacement.

First off, I am not a Mac fan. No offence, they make nice looking hardware but not nice enough to sell a kidney for. Also, they now have no Esc key which for a Vim user is unthinkable. I have long been in awe of their marketing approach, though!

I am a Lenovo Thinkpad fanboy though and have been for many years (long enough that they used to be IBM Thinkpads). They have amazing keyboards and Linux works flawlessly with little issue. There are two main problems with Thinkpads. The first is costs and justifying the cost to a CFO type person. The majority of their line are less that Mac’s but, and here comes the real issue for me, their specs are average. For Windows based development, which we use at Open Energy Market, I need a machine to power Visual Studio. This seems like a humorous comment but our 18 project solution takes about 1 min 30 to open on my current laptop. Building the solution is getting slower by the day even though my current machine is not low end. So getting a decent spec Thinkpad turns out to be a costly affair for my needs.

Ten years ago a friend and colleague recommended a UK based company called PC Specialist. They are now a fair sized custom PC and laptop manufacturer. They provide base spec models with a range of base models and then allow you to configure them as you wish. Way back in the day I was quite dubious as they used OEM cases and parts. I was very impressed with the first laptop I brought with them. I was using it on average 15 hours a day 6 days a week for 4 years and while the “R” key fell off the keyboard it was solid. I have used them ever since and recommended them at the past 3 companies I have worked,

The only issue I have with PC Specialist is the choice, there is too much. Their configuration pages allow you to toy with everything and it becomes overwhelming. The trick I have learnt is to set your budget first and then build to it. The trouble is that it leads to a lack of focus until you finally get your spec right. I have been looking elsewhere to see what other options are about for similar price and spec but I am not finding much. The only other real option is the Dell XPS range which I have read lots of great things about.

So I have narrowed my search to three:

  • Thinkpad - should I find a great deal on a great spec.
  • Dell XPS - If I can find a supplier near my budget.
  • PC Specialist - Likely choice but I will lose days to their configuration screens

I have set my budget to £1000 (inc VAT) and I’ll let you know what I buy.