[remark] On modern laptop requirements

by Ciprian Dorin Craciun (https://volution.ro/ciprian) on 

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There was a recent discussion on https://lobste.rs/ regarding the laptop hardware used by the community members (most of which I guess are IT professionals or at least work in a technical position).

Out of the 91 comments, as of 2nd of April, 48 of them mentioned Apple, 32 mentioned ThinkPad, and only a few mentioned Dell, HP, or Framework. (These figures are based on the number of posts which contain certain words connected with these brands, like for example Apple, Mac, or OSX, thus are not quite accurate, but it does convey a general trend.)

However, I was astonished how many people were mentioning Apple... For me, these newer Apple laptops are, as one commenter put it, "tablets with a keyboard" because everything is soldered-on, not serviceable by the user, and feature almost no ports except the "insert universal broken dongle here" port... (Granted, in a few recent models Apple started re-introducing HDMI, so perhaps there is hope...)

Anyway, I've also made a comment about my ThinkPad T450, but went further and listed a few requirements that a laptop should meet, especially for an IT professional.

So, I would like to expand a bit upon that comment and explore some more requirements, and perhaps include more details about why I consider them important.


I'll start with the non-negotiable requirements.

I can't see any reason why a professional wouldn't want any of these in his laptop, especially one that he'll use for development or operations tasks.

Self-serviceable SSD
Dedicated video connector (HDMI/DP)
Dedicated Ethernet connector (RJ45)
Self-serviceable RAM
Internal SATA connector
No NVIDIA GPU!
Linux compatibility out-of-the-box

Next I'll present some very important requirements, at least for me and the way I use laptops. These are not necessarily deal-breakers, but they could serve as product differentiators.

Ability to run with the lid closed
Airflow exhaust to the side
All important ports on one side
Proper SD card slot
BIOS boot (instead of UEFI)

Next are some "nice to have" features, but certainly don't influence my decision:


Next are some things I don't care about:


Finally, it shouldn't cost me an arm and a leg!

A laptop is a tool, it's not a fashion statement, it's not a piece of jewelry, it's not a long term investment!

I could see a laptop costing ~15% more than the equivalent desktop + monitor, but by my assessment, currently it's something like +100% or more.


So what laptop am I using today?

A refurbished Lenovo ThinkPad T450 (PN 20BUS1D71G). It meets most of my requirements.

I'll replace it in a few years with another refurbished Lenovo ThinkPad T460 or T470, but not T480 and above because these have started lacking a proper SATA drive and having (at least one DIMM of) RAM soldered-on.

Previously I've used a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 (first generation, PN 12912ZG), and a BenQ Joybook S32.

I've heard good things about Dell XPS, but everything is soldered on, so pass. I've heard good things about Mac's, but besides the fact that everything is soldered on, Apple seems to drop support for them after 8 or so years, thus they become useless. (And running Linux on them is just more hassle than it's worth).


Here is what others have to say about the topic: