Buying a PC Laptop?

I’m a Mac

I’ve been a Mac for a few years now. When I was working at Pelco a few years back I had a 17″ MacBook Pro and I loved it. We bought our daughters Macs when they graduated from high school and I bought my lovely wife a Mac. We have more than a few iPod’s laying around the house and four iPhones between us. We’re definitely an Apple loving family.

Three years ago, with the help of my brother, we released our first iOS application, RxCalc. It’s been all Apple, all the time since then. I finally got my first Mac for Christmas, December 2011. Up to that point I developed iOS software on my wife’s Mac.

I was finally able to venture out on my own in May, 2012. My primary goal was to find enough freelance work to allow me to work on my own software from time to time. I’d love to ship some iOS and Mac software this year, or early next year. So far things have been great. I’m just rolling off a great project and trying to wrap up another, both iOS. But, being a freelancer is difficult. Work is work, right?

To Windows, or not to Windows?

Most of my 20 plus hears has been spent writing software for Windows, so it’s something I know, and I’m comfortable writing software on that platform. I’ve been in discussions with a company to work on some Windows based software, so I may need a PC once again.

I have a decent MacBook Pro so I wonder if VMWare would do the trick, but the software I’d be working on requires hardware accelerated graphics. Have the VM folks solved that problem? Will Direct3D work? I don’t know the answer to that. These are questions I need to solve so I can decide if spending the cash, and carrying around two laptops, is worth it.

PC Laptops

On Saturday I walked into our local Best Buy to see if I could find a decent 15″ laptop for under $1000. All the laptops were under $1000! That was a big surprise. The thing I quickly discovered is I don’t pay attention to hardware any longer. Since I became a Mac user our choices are limited to a few very high end pieces of hardware, so all you have to decide is how much RAM you’d like and how big the hard drive should be. In the PC laptop world is wild and varied. The one thing I did notice is every laptop I looked at had about 4GB of RAM. That would need to be bumped right away to 8GB and I figure I’d need at least a 500GB drive, but what processor should I get? It’s not like I’m going to use this laptop for anything but coding on Windows.

So, the big question. What sub $1000 laptop is decent enough to install Windows 7/8 and run Visual Studio? It doesn’t have to be the best ever, just good enough.

Comments welcome.

By Rob Fahrni

Husband / Father / Developer

2 replies on “Buying a PC Laptop?”

I’d want a Sandy- or Ivy-bridge Core i5 or i7, and definitely more than 4GB RAM – 6-8GB is great for Windows 7, more if you regularly run lots of VMs.

I don’t know if this matters to you, but some manufacturers disable Intel VT in the BIOS with no way to re-enable short of reflashing the BIOS, even though the processor does in fact support VT. You don’t need VT to virtualize 32-bit OSes but virtualizing 64-bit OSes needs VT support. A lot of “consumer” laptops seem to have this problem here.

You might also want fast I/O – USB3 or Thunderbolt (available on Ivy Bridge motherboards).


Thanks for leaving a comment. This will definitely help!

I think I may go for a PC the size of a Mac Mini, if I can find one that fits the bill. I already have a keyboard, monitor, and mouse from an older PC that work just fine, and it’s fairly portable if I ever need to move it somewhere.

Thanks again.

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