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Upgradeable Laptops for Developers at Work

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
So I was given the opportunity to be the one who picks out the next round of laptops for the developers at my work. My idea is to find a top of the line laptop in its base-model form so that I can upgrade them to 64gb of memory and an NVMe SSD myself, with better parts, for a lot cheaper. The idea is to get something with thunderbolt or new USB standards so I can use the new docking stations that support this interface.

So... Recommendations? Will there be some new 6core laptops coming soon with the recent push towards more cores in the mainstream realm? Timeline?
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xenkw0n-x99
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post #2 of 18
Wait.........what?

Your goal as IT should be to reduce cost and labor, not increase it.

The moment you upgrade those laptops, you loose warranty. I don't care if there are only two developers that you need to support, you do NOT want to be spending time or company money fixing a laptop that could have been sent in to the manufacturer.


Also, what developer on planet earth needs 64GB of ram? Unless you are working at a company that makes video editing or cad software, there is no way on earth they are using that much ram. And if they are, then something is seriously wrong and you need to look into it.

16GB is what you should be aiming for. They will have plenty of ram for what ever developing they need to do and plenty left over for virtual machines.


If your developers use ssh at all, just get apple laptops. You can ssh straight from the apple terminal without messing around with putty or some other app. Less headaches for you, and you can get the 2015 macbook pro 15 inch models for cheap-ish with a business account.

If your developers don't use ssh, then just get a decently specced xps15.

Don't get a lenovo unless it is one of their ibm style laptops. Forget HP. Forget Asus (asus makes great consumer stuff, but their warranty program sucks for business use).

If you need really cheap machines, I have heard that acer has some pretty decent business support.
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post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Since when does replacing the hard drive and memory void the warranty on a laptop? They're specifically made so you can easily replace them without unscrewing the entire frame of the case apart. There are 4 developers. The company does not upgrade our machines often so I'm looking for a few things here, mainly future-proofing but the developers also work with audio + video conversion and keep full versions of builds on their machines so when doing backups (databases, etc), conversion work, or massive builds, having an NVMe SSD + a lot of ram will actually be beneficial.

My thought is, we've been given the green light, I haven't been given a price limit per laptop, and I've never heard of replacing the hard drive or memory voiding the warranty except for maybe the hard drive or memory itself. I would probably stick with DELL, I know ASUS support is garbage, Lenovo is cheap, ACER seems alright, but we already have contracts with DELL anyways.
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post #4 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by xenkw0n View Post

Since when does replacing the hard drive and memory void the warranty on a laptop? They're specifically made so you can easily replace them without unscrewing the entire frame of the case apart. There are 4 developers. The company does not upgrade our machines often so I'm looking for a few things here, mainly future-proofing but the developers also work with audio + video conversion and keep full versions of builds on their machines so when doing backups (databases, etc), conversion work, or massive builds, having an NVMe SSD + a lot of ram will actually be beneficial.

My thought is, we've been given the green light, I haven't been given a price limit per laptop, and I've never heard of replacing the hard drive or memory voiding the warranty except for maybe the hard drive or memory itself. I would probably stick with DELL, I know ASUS support is garbage, Lenovo is cheap, ACER seems alright, but we already have contracts with DELL anyways.

Kay.

Generally speaking even opening up your laptop at all will void your warranty. I know it seems counter intuitive, but yeah, laptop manufacturers are shmucks.

Dell and Asus are generally pretty liberal when it comes to upgrading your laptop. But Lenovo and especially HP are real pricks when it comes to laptop warranty.



Even with all of that, you would still only need 16GB of ram. None of what you listed really scales with ram size past 16GB. What you actually probably want is faster ram (DDR4 vs DDR3). You would be better served saving the money on ram and using it for something else.

NVME should not make a bit of difference to you. I hope you are doing backups over the network, and considering that your network is using wireless AC or below, there is no way on earth that you will even saturate a sata 2 ssd let alone a NVME drive. Soooooooo yeah. And I am not saying that you shouldn't get an NVME. They make the laptop smaller, and they might have some nice benefits for your developers, but don't fool yourself into thinking they will do much more than that.

You also need to tell your idiot bosses to force these developers to use bitbucket or github for the code. There is 0 reason to have their projects on their laptops. Not only is it a mater of data integrity, but its also a matter of security. What happens if some janitor swiped one of these laptops and sold it on ebay? Some jack off could end up with a crap ton of proprietary information.

I get the feeling that there are some massive inefficiencies in your dept. You may want to go do some research on how IT usually handles/supports developers. You may be able to bring some stuff to your bosses attention and move up in the company. thumb.gif
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post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
I haven't talked about anything specific concerning the full operation of our department so how you inferred that much is pretty wild. I'm just looking for a little help in recommendations for a laptop. I'll have to verify the warranty limits before I buy one if I intend on upgrading it. The whole idea behind this is that when looking at the price differences for laptop upgrades from the manufacturers compared to what the actual parts cost separately, means I could get a more powerful laptop in it's base model form, upgrade it, and still pay less than what the equivalent version would have cost from, say, DELL. If you can find a laptop in a price point that proves this theory wrong, please recommend it.

Anyway, there are benefits from an NVMe drive aside from the actual backups transferring across the network. We do not work off of wi-fi but you are still correct the transfers themselves would be network bottlenecked and not limited by the hard drive. There's still enough of a reason for me to recommend going down the path of an NVMe drive, so, why not? As far as the memory is concerned, I initially recommended 16gb and got scoffed at. After doing a little more research into different laptops it looks like most cap out around 32gb right now unless you go for an actual workstation laptop, which would probably push them out of an acceptable price range. Will probably just meet at 32gb and call it a day, since even the DELL XPS 15 models seem to accept that much. Laptop physical size is also not an issue.
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post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by xenkw0n View Post

I haven't talked about anything specific concerning the full operation of our department so how you inferred that much is pretty wild. I'm just looking for a little help in recommendations for a laptop. I'll have to verify the warranty limits before I buy one if I intend on upgrading it. The whole idea behind this is that when looking at the price differences for laptop upgrades from the manufacturers compared to what the actual parts cost separately, means I could get a more powerful laptop in it's base model form, upgrade it, and still pay less than what the equivalent version would have cost from, say, DELL. If you can find a laptop in a price point that proves this theory wrong, please recommend it.

Anyway, there are benefits from an NVMe drive aside from the actual backups transferring across the network. We do not work off of wi-fi but you are still correct the transfers themselves would be network bottlenecked and not limited by the hard drive. There's still enough of a reason for me to recommend going down the path of an NVMe drive, so, why not? As far as the memory is concerned, I initially recommended 16gb and got scoffed at. After doing a little more research into different laptops it looks like most cap out around 32gb right now unless you go for an actual workstation laptop, which would probably push them out of an acceptable price range. Will probably just meet at 32gb and call it a day, since even the DELL XPS 15 models seem to accept that much. Laptop physical size is also not an issue.

Its not wild, its just experience. I used to run my own IT consulting business, so I have seen god knows how many IT departments and how they work.

This is also why I know that upgrading anything in the IT field is about the worst thing you can do.

I get where you are coming from. Believe me, I love building my own stuff and saving money. Its very noble of you to want to save the company a little money and give your devs a more powerful machine. If we lived in a perfect world, I would agree with everything you are saying, and that would be the end of the conversation.

But unfortunately we live in a really messed up world. 99 times out of 100 if something goes wrong with a computer you have modified, you will be blamed. The issue could be completely unrelated to what you did to the laptop, but you will still get blamed. They will say that the laptop probably would have worked fine if you hadn't touched it. I promise you it will happen and your bosses will be less than thrilled with you.

This is one of those lessons that every IT person has to learn, and I am willing to bet that your company is letting you choose the laptops to see if you will make the rookie mistake of opening them up and messing around with the internals.


As far as NVME goes, I should be more clear. Its not that you shouldn't get a laptop that has one. However they tend to jack up the price. My only concern is that you could be limiting your options for a feature that probably won't help as much as you think.

You should get an NVME ssd if you can, it just shouldn't be a make or break feature IMO.


Who scoffed at you? Your IT boss or the devs?

In either case, they are probably full of crap.

I will make this real simple. Tomorrow or when ever, go up to a dev and have them show you their most intensive tasks that they do on their machines. Open up the system monitor and look at how much ram its actually utilizing.

Id bet you that they are using laptop withs 8GB of ram and are only using 85% or less with a bunch of chrome tabs open.

If the devs can max out 8GB of ram, something is very wrong or they are working on something way more resource intensive and will require a workstation laptop.



Do some research and try to get under the hood of the devs current computers. That will shed some light on what specs you should aim for.

I am leaning towards the dell xps15. The only real downside is that it is a bit pricey. Business pricing should be good enough to let you squeeze by.

Don't be afraid to argue the price either. Companies are usually comfortable with spending more money on their devs. If you say to them that you found a laptop that fits everyone's needs and its a couple hundred more than budget, they will probably go for it.
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post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Well the one good thing about this is I did make it known what I planned to do. As you pointed out it really depends on the warranty. The reason this is even coming up is because the last round of laptops they bought were generic office laptops they got everyone, regardless of job title, and 8GB of RAM + a spinning disk hard drive really shows off its limits (I specifically opted out of upgrading as it would have been a literal side-grade... and for a laptop 5 yrs newer). I actually report to our CEO and have gotten the nod on at least spending extra for more powerful machines but you're also correct in that this is really going to end up being my responsibility, issues and all, which is why I am posting here to begin with. I would even say it's borderline just a gift for the developers since they've done some incredible work for us recently.

thumb.gif

16GB would probably be just fine but if the price range is still acceptable at 32GB, why not? It's the fact that I've already been given the green light to get laptops that are more expensive than normal that I'm even going down this path. Prices really start to skyrocket once you reach certain specs if buying the upgrades directly through the laptop manufacturer. Pretty much everyone in the office has already cannibalized any extra laptops they could find to get more memory in their current machines - I know this doesnt void our current warranties since there's no 'seal' to be broken to change memory and we can always just put the original sticks back in if it really became a concern.
Edited by xenkw0n - 10/18/17 at 6:08am
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post #8 of 18
Dang, our engineering desktops for CAD, rendering, Adobe suite only have 32GB of ram and hdds. 6 core Xeon's and quadro graphics though. Our engineering laptops are i7's with 16GB of ram and quadro graphics. Both are Dell Precision series, I'd recommend both based on build quality and Dell's excellent service on business class hardware.

And your people are lucky, it's light pulling teeth trying to get our IT to send a 15 dollar skype headset if ours break let alone buying some top end hardware.
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post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the feedback - I'm most likely going to stick with DELL at this point. And trust me, this was years of pulling teeth in the making. Most of the developer laptops before the last year 'upgrades' were executive hand-me-down machines (mine is from one of our ex-VP's). I bought a mechanical keyboard, mouse and 3 new monitors for my setup at work. The company didn't buy it & they weren't necessary, but wow does it improve my day-to-day experience at work. A new laptop with any SSD and 16gb of RAM would be plenty but I'm going for gold here since the opportunity is there.

There are certain benefits to keeping local copies of some of our builds and where we are in our current development cycle means any changes to how we operate today are not going to be made. Everything is source controlled through SourceSafe right now and we're moving towards TFS.
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post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by xenkw0n View Post

Well the one good thing about this is I did make it known what I planned to do. As you pointed out it really depends on the warranty. The reason this is even coming up is because the last round of laptops they bought were generic office laptops they got everyone, regardless of job title, and 8GB of RAM + a spinning disk hard drive really shows off its limits (I specifically opted out of upgrading as it would have been a literal side-grade... and for a laptop 5 yrs newer). I actually report to our CEO and have gotten the nod on at least spending extra for more powerful machines but you're also correct in that this is really going to end up being my responsibility, issues and all, which is why I am posting here to begin with. I would even say it's borderline just a gift for the developers since they've done some incredible work for us recently.

thumb.gif

16GB would probably be just fine but if the price range is still acceptable at 32GB, why not? It's the fact that I've already been given the green light to get laptops that are more expensive than normal that I'm even going down this path. Prices really start to skyrocket once you reach certain specs if buying the upgrades directly through the laptop manufacturer. Pretty much everyone in the office has already cannibalized any extra laptops they could find to get more memory in their current machines - I know this doesnt void our current warranties since there's no 'seal' to be broken to change memory and we can always just put the original sticks back in if it really became a concern.

Well here is what it comes down to. Most laptops have a laundry list of upgrades that would be way more beneficial than the ram.

For instance the dell xps 15 can be upgraded to have a 4K screen which would make text nice and crisp and reduce eye strain on your developers. Hard drive size can go from 256gb up to 512. And heck you can even get one with a finger print reader which would be an extra layer of security if someone tries to steal the laptop.

Now if you can get a fully specced xps 15 and still afford the ram afterwards, then go for it. But you would be looking at a laptop that would probably cost ~2K. And at that price, I would just say screw it and get macbook pros. I know everyone likes to hate on apple, but having a 16x10 screen for software development is invaluable.
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