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Need advice on choosing a mobile workstation

Question asked by Toomas Kurk on Jul 2, 2015
Latest reply on Jul 4, 2015 by Jamil Snead

Hello to's a long first post but I prefer to be thorough rather than just ask silly questions. Also sorry my English if it hard to interpret at some point.


It has been over a year when I last used SW. Before that I started learning the software on my own will next to university and spent 3 years of learning all the basic modelling skills, some extra environments, rendering and had some try of simulations. I really enjoyed working with SW and I did it cause it was fun. It all came to the end when my laptop was not up to the task anymore as I was running multimedia laptop based on Celeron2. Now I really wan’t to get back to the business and take my SW skills to the next level and start working with it daily basis. That of course means I need a suitable working platform that doesn’t break my bank account too much.


There is a reason why I am asking some help - my knowledge of modern . computers is next to nothingI thought just picking a modern multimedia laptop would do but I have done my googleing and am now I am aware that buying a good multimedia laptop or gaming laptop is not the best choice of action if You want a serious tool for a task. The overall the sconclusion of researching ubject refers for a Dell Precision series laptops if You really want something that is up to the task out of the box. But things get more complicated when it comes to budget and actual needs of the performance. That’s why I have decided to put down my thoughts on my needs, budget and options to get some advice from more experienced users to avoid stupid mistakes (like buying a laptop with gaming graphics card that do well on regular tests but are actually worthless on CAD applications).

So let’s start off what I am planning to do within SW. For first first year I am planning to work with:


  1. Recovering all the fundamentals and learn advanced modelling and assembly features.
  2. Working with assemblies no larger than few hundred parts.
  3. Doing lots of rendering.
  4. Start learning SW Simulation.
  5. Discover the possibilities of the software.


On second and third year I am planning to:


  1. Work with different configurations and assemblies no larger than 1000 parts.
  2. Using different environments as I need (mostly working in mechanical engineering, interior and product design field as well some special projects but nothing too specific)
  3. Perform simple to intermediate strength analysis as well probably other simulation studies.
  4. Do lots of rendering.


Type of platform:


Initially I was thinking of stationary working station as it is cheaper and more comfortable to work with as You can set up a really nice working environment for Yourself. The fact that I want and need to relocate I am forced to look for laptop though. It is more expensive but I would regret my choice if I were stuck at home or office just cause of the box.




I am a working student and earning my humble average salary in Estonia which means budget is sensitive subject. I could spend for around 1000 euros (ca 1100 USD) but that’s eventually very tight budget. In other case I could spend up to 2500 euros (ca 2800 USD) if paying by instalments which means I have to buy from local dealer. Paying above that probably is not rational in my case as I am looking for platform to improve my skills and start with hobby projects as well not too big jobs.


Second hand vs Refurbished vs New


There are some really good prices on refurbished laptops on Dell site and Ebay but they are U.S. located and will not ship outside. That’s why I have to put this option aside as I live in Estonia.

Second-hand laptops really cut down initial investment and can probably perform the tasks fine but as I have understand if You want work within short working times and without stressing too much, being up to the latest processor technology, proper graphics card and solid state drive is the way to go. Additionally new laptops should be much nicer to work with rather than used ones and they come with proper manufacturer warranty.


Other uses:


My main use for this laptop is going to be of course SW but I am probably going to use other pieces of softwares as well like Photoshop, maybe some additional rendering applications, some CAM softwares, maybe even try out Autodesk Inventor and do some simpler photo and videoediting. What concerns SW then I am going to probably run 2014 or 2015 version.


Here are just some secondhand laptops I found locally. Prices are negotiable:


Dell Precision M4600, 15.6" HD (1368x768) Touchscreen, i7-2720QM 2900 MHz, 4GB DDR3 RAM, nVidia Quadro 2000M + Intel HD, 128GB SSD, 1 year warranty, in good condition - 649.00 €


Dell Precision M6500 Covet, 17" WUXGA (1920x1200) 100% RGB-LED, Intel i7-840QM 2260 MHz, 16GB DDR3 RAM, nVidia Quadro FX3800 1GB, 120GB SSD + 500GB HDD, 1 year warranty, ex-demo product - 899.00 €


Dell Precision M6500, 17" RGBLED 100% AdobeRGB, Intel Core i7-610E Processor, 8GB DDR3, 750GB HDD, NVIDIA® Quadro FX 2800M, in good condition - 900.00 €


Dell Precision M6500, 17"1920x1200 FHD, i7-Q840 (8CORE) 1,87GHz, 32GB DDR3, 2x1TB HDD RAID, NVIDIA QUADRO 2800FX, warranty still remaining, in very good condition - 750.00 €


And then there is a better solution - buying brand new unit from local dealer and pay for it as instalments. I have decided towards M6800 over M4800 as I like to work with larger screen (as well larger keyboard) and are willing to sacrifice some weight and battery life for it.

The initial (budget wise) configuration I was thinking of is following includes:


17,3" FullHD 1920x1080

I7-4700 QM


AMD FirePro M6100 2GB


WiFi + Bluetooth

Backlit keyboard


The price of setup above - 2055,00 euros (2283 USD

Upgrades available:


i7-4800MQ                                                 + 50 eur

i7-4900MQ                                                  + 150 eur

i7-4930MX                                                 + 400 eur

Quadro K3100M 2GB                                     + 150 eur

Quadro K4100M 4GB                                     + 400 eur

Quadro K5100M 8GB                                + 800 eur

512GB SSD                                                    + 120 eur

1TB SSD                                                          + 290 eur

32GB DDR3                                                   + 160 eur

WiFi + Bluetooth + 3G WWAN                      + 55 eur


I could go up from this spec and pay extra if it is worth it but it has to be justified and from this point it is really hard for me to make any good decision cause of my lack of knowledge. I assume that CPU is the most important thing to keep in mind when talking about overall performance but I am still in research stage of performance comparison of given models above.

I am going to deal with rendering so GPU performance going to be important for me. M6100 seems to be good value but I can’t really make any justified comparison between that and given Quadros. I must say though that I am not running race with deadlines with my work for first year but I want it to be capable of running with tolerable performance for next 3 years.

I was thinking of going for 1TB HDD as it should be able to fit all my work files as well personal stuff and act as a “library”. I was thinking of 256GB SDD for operating system, SW and other often used softwares plus work files i am working often. I assume that 256GB should be doing the job even if I am going to top around ¾ of it. Though there is a chance to upgrade 512GB but i am not sure If i need it (I can relocate solidworks files between HDD and SDD depending which one I am working on).


RAM - based on my research in Solidworks forum threads I believe that 16GB of RAM is enough in my case.


Additionally there are some HP options from same dealer as well, but in some reason I believe that Dell is the way to go. Prove me right or wrong:


HP ZBOOK 17,17,3" FHD 1920x1080,  i7-4800MQ, Quadro K4100M 4GB GDDR5, 16GB DDR3, 500GB HDD, Thunderbolt, Windows 7 - 2 472,00 €


HP ZBOOK 17, 17,3" FHD 1920x1080,, i7-4800MQ, Quadro K5100M 8GB GDDR5, 16GB DDR3, 500GB HDD, Thunderbolt, Windows 7 - 2 599,00 €


HP ZBOOK 17 G2, i7-4910MQ, 17.3" Full-HD (1920x1080) IPS LED DreamColor UWVA (Anti-glare) Quadro K5100M 8GB GDDR5, 32GB DDR3, 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD + 1TB HDD, Thunderbolt, Windows 7 Pro - 3 120,00 €


So this is the concept of my problem if you may. I am looking for any recommendations or suggestions on it. Thank You.