So it has come to my attention that I have too many computers (again). For the first time since college, I have four:
NUC5I3MYHE: Fifth generation Intel NUC with a passively-cooled case. Built in mid-2015, this is still my “main” machine, and still hooked up to the same Samsung SyncMaster 204Bs that I’ve been using since forever.
Samsung ATIV Book 9: One of still very few passively-cooled laptops ever made – maybe one model out of 10 to 20. The np930x2k replaced my trusty ThinkPad Yoga in late 2016, and really my only complaint with it is that it can barely run WoWS.
Pro Kwality Desktop: Built on the cheap in mid-2016 to play WoWS maxed out. Just good enough to do that, and I have had no issues with the machine despite putting the whole thing together with all used parts. Unfortunately it isn’t really portable…
Dell Precision M6600: Since the PK machine isn’t portable I bought this old Dell Precision. I was considering replacing the PKD entirely, but the Dell isn’t quite as powerful and has actually been giving me issues recently. It’s also a little too big and heavy.
At first, I was thinking about combining just the desktop and the M6600: if I could get a slightly smaller laptop that was slightly more powerful, I thought I’d be okay with that. Unfortunately anything that meets those criteria doesn’t seem to be that cheap. Specifically, I was looking at the Dell Inspiron 15 7559 (these new Dell Inspirons have really useless names) with the GTX 960M, which goes for about $500-$600 used on eBay. This isn’t too bad, but then I still have two laptops.
So I want to combine the last three machines: the Samsung, the desktop, and the M6600, but that means I need an ultra-portable laptop like the Samsung that can still run WoWS maxed out. How can that be possible? Well, technology continues to happen – the passive desktop wasn’t practical until it was, and the M6600 wasn’t cheap until it was. There is a technology that is starting to become practical and cheap, and that is external graphics.
Recently I bought a Dell Precision M6600, and it is enormous. This is the first time I’ve bought a machine like this for personal use.
The M6600 is what they call a “mobile workstation”, which is basically a premium high-spec business laptop. What differentiates “business” from “normal” machines? I would say the lines are pretty fuzzy, especially since all the OEMs tend to have different grades of business laptop, but generally it’s stuff like additional durability, serviceable parts, extended warranties, professional graphics, restrained aesthetics, etc.
In many ways “mobile workstation” and “gaming laptop” are a very similar breed: they’re niche market machines with ultimately “soft” features separating them from their more pedestrian counterparts. What sets “gaming” laptops apart other high-end consumer machines? Apart from specs at the very high-end, it’s often just branding and bling. Much the same could be said comparing “mobile workstations” to other high-end enterprise laptops.
Like the Yoga retrospective, this post is very late on account of the events described having taken place after the soft ending of Nonsense Wars, but I would still like to document my experience with this machine.
When I wrote about my original fanless NUC project I mentioned that the mSATA SSD ran into the 70s even after I attached some tiny aftermarket heatsinks. This was really a sign of things to come: in “production” all of the temps on that machine were higher than I would have liked – not dangerously so, but just enough such that I wasn’t comfortable. So I kept my eye out for a replacement.
When I switched to the Yoga in early 2014, NW was winding down, and I didn’t get the chance to post about it. Now that I’m finally switching away from it, I wanted to put down my thoughts.
Really, all I wanted in 2013 was a thinner and lighter convertible tablet: the ThinkPad tablet line had evolved from the lovely X200 Tablet to the horrendous X220 Tablet and X230 Tablet, and it looked like that was the end of it!
The last time I wrote about switching laptops, I was still trying to replace my ThinkPad X220 Tablet. Round one had been the X230 Tablet, which hadn’t provided any sort of benefit for the additional cost. Round two had been the Helix, which had been just too much of a gimmick. In early 2014, around the time Nonsense Wars stopped, I had finally been able to replace the X220 Tablet with the ThinkPad Yoga, which, despite the novel “fold-over” form-factor, was thinner, lighter, faster, and most importantly had a 1080p screen.
The problem I’ve had with convertible tablets is that the digitizer experience has only been getting worse, and in my opinion this has been a trend since the TC4200. These days, even if you get a “real” digitizer (as opposed to some touchscreen crap) it seems like it’s just an afterthought. With the Yoga the pen was tiny, it wasn’t that accurate, the surface had poor feedback, and there were the infamous “black holes“. Mine didn’t black hole too badly, and I was only using the tablet to color so it wasn’t that bad, but still…
Eventually I bought a Cintiq! And these days I really don’t do enough digital drawing to justify either my Cintiq or a convertible tablet, so I decided that my next laptop could be of the traditional form factor. I hadn’t really been looking though: I’m really big on passive cooling and light laptops, and I knew that there were still very few, if any machines on the market that checked both boxes without excessive compromise (I’m talking about you, new MacBook (Air), with your one crappy port).