7 Replies Latest reply on Sep 7, 2012 12:55 PM by Jamie Bowerbank

    New laptop/mini workstation advice

    Jamie Bowerbank

      Hi everyone,


      I'm looking to buy a new laptop/mini workstation.  I've priced a Lenovo T430, which I am close to buying, but have a couple of questions and am interested in your thoughts about the spec...


      Laptop Spec - Lenovo Thinkpad T430

      - Intel Core i7-3520M Processor (4M Cache, up to 3.60 GHz)

      - Windows 7 Professional 64

      - 14.0 HD+ (1600 x 900) LED Backlit Anti-Glare Display, Mobile Broadband Ready

      - NVIDIA Optimus Graphics (NVS 5400M, 2GB)

      - 8 GB DDR3 - 1600MHz (2 DIMM)



      I'm in my final year of university, looking to invest in a quality laptop that will last a few years.  My main requirement is portability, but it must have a good level of performance and must be able to take two storage drives (SSD for programs/HDD for general storage).  The 2 storage bays rules most laptops out since I don't want a 17" and am reluctant (but could) go for a 15", its done on the 14" Lenovo using the "ultrabay".  I don't need a full workstation since I have a desktop workstation running i7 3770k.  The idea was is to use the desktop for CPU heavy applications, and the laptop for general use and model creation in solidworks/catia/simulaton/everything else.  As I understand higher clock speed is more important than multiple cores for solidworks.  Which is why I've chosen the i7 3520m processor with 2 cores and a respectable 3.6GHz clock speed.



      1. Am I better off going for a high clock speed dual core processor (like the i7 3520m), than I am going for a quad core processor with a slower clock speed (like the i7 3610qm - 6mb cache/3.3GHz)?
      2. There is the option of choosing an i5 3360m (dual core/3mb cache/3.5GHz) processor which is £82 less.  Is it worth spending the extra £82 for the i7?
      3. I can't figure out if the graphics card is good, or crap.  I'm not too worried as anything with heavy graphics requirements will be done on the desktop, but is this 5400m card suitable for solidworks?
      4. There is an option for a 1Gb 5400m graphics card for £10 less.  Is it worth spending £10 for the 2Gb version - will it make any difference on solidworks/catia applications?
      5. What do you think/any reccomendations?


      Any help is much appreciated!


          • Re: New laptop/mini workstation advice
            Keith Parker

            Hi Jamie


            I haven't a chance at the moment to look at the Lenovo website to look at specs, etc but two people I work with have been happy with their Lenovo notebooks for SW use.  However, the choice of graphics card is very important  - I've got two expensive Dell Precision laptops at home, idle & useless (except for the kids' iPlayer use!) because SW-upgrading requirements forced me to abandon them because their once-wonderful Nvidia cards became useless.  Support for slightly-out-of-date notebooks/laptop cards by ATI & Nvidia is next to useless so beware.  So go for an absolutely bang-up-to-date graphics card if you can to mitigate against this and, as Kelvin says, go for absolute clock speed.  My notebook's 2.3GHz i7-2820  (from early 2011) outpaces my desktop's 1st-gen 2.7GHz i5-750, but not by that much and the extra processors only get used by SW for file open/save and simulation work.


            I may be going over the top with the graphics-card scare but it really p*sses me off that you can't replace/upgrade DELL notebook graphics cards when the time comes.  Same goes for all makes I expect, except my current notebook made by WS that I'm assured can be upgraded...





          • Re: New laptop/mini workstation advice
            Kelvin Lamport

            1) Unless you will be doing FEA or multi-tasking, go for the highest core speed.


            2) Not sure how or why, but even if both CPU's are the same clock speed, apparently an i7 will be faster than an i5. I believe the i5 has hyperthreading disabled.


            3) The graphics card is crap (for SW). The NVS series are not suitable for SW nor 3D CAD in general. It is mainly for 2D graphics apps. Like the GeForce and Radeon cards, some people have few or no problems, but others have nothing but problems.


            4) See 3)


            5) Look for a laptop with an approved card. To keep cost down, maybe look at the refurbished models from the Dell, HP or Lenovo outlets.

              • Re: New laptop/mini workstation advice
                Jamie Bowerbank

                Thanks guys, appreciate the advice.  I had a feeling the graphics card was crap!  Well, back to searching again...

                  • Re: New laptop/mini workstation advice
                    Jerry Steiger


                    I agree completely with Kelvin and Keith, but I'm on a business trip and running SW2010 on a Dell notebook with a Quadro NVS 160M and, amazingly enough, haven't had any video issues. Still, it is a bit of a crap shoot when you aren't running an approved card and driver. If you can get your money back if it doesn't work out, you might want to give it a try. Of course, that won't help if it stops working on the next version of SolidWorks.


                    SolidWorks won't care whether you have 1 or 2 GB of RAM in your graphics adapter. My desktop ran just fine with a Quadro FX 580 and 512 MB. I'm pretty sure it runs OK with the FX 550 with a honking 128 MB, since there is an approved driver for that card.


                    Jerry Steiger