Mobile Workstation (Laptop)

Anybody care to share their exeriences of moblile workstations / laptops?

I’m thinking of upgrading from my Dell M6400 mobile workstation. It’s been great, but 32 bit Vista doesn’t allow enough RAM and the Nvidea FX3700M only has 1GB of memory. It’s got a 2.8GHz dual core processor, and a 256 SSD hard drive, both of which seem okay. In fact the computer is fine until a model becomes too large when it slows to a crawl (understandable). I’m loath to chuck more money and time (if I reinstall Windows with 64 bit) at a 3 or 4 year old computer.

This is the second Dell Precision I’ve had, and the fourth Dell I’ve used for CAD. I’ve had no problem with Dell computers so I’m thinking of a Dell M6800. Anybody using one of these?

Which is the prefered video card now, AMD or Nvidea?

Any other laptop suggestions? The main use is Rhino 5.



what’s your budget?

Well it looks like I can get a Dell M6800 for less than £2000 ($3300). This was more than I was hoping top spend, but if it’s the bee’s knees I’d go for it.


hey John,
I think I’ve finally learned that if I’m making money with my computer, even a couple thousand $ difference is not worth haggling over if it buys you something you will like using all of the time.
I bought a Sager 17" workstation last year that has done the job well but has enough annoying little foibles going on that the next time around I will find a machine with a smoother user experience.
My advice is spend the extra cash (if you earn a living with it!!) if it gets you what you like. Sounds like the Dell experience has treated you well so far.

I think John would like to hear from any users of Rhino5 on the Dell M6800. I would too.

I think the consensus is that the Nvidia chips are better in general and that the Quadro Kxxx video cards work best. I’d be interested in hearing comments on this as well.

I think your right. Compared to the equipment costs of the people I’m designing for it’s inexpensive. If I use ir for three years and 1000 hours per year it works out at about $1/hr - a fraction of what I’m getting paid per hour.

But I don’t really know what alternatives are available. I’d never even heard of Sager. I’m not sure they’re even available in the UK.

I’m also interested to hear what video card is considered best now.

On the topic of brands, you could spend months researching all of the options available. By the time you were ready to buy, the next round of new hardware might be out, then you’d have to start over.
I made the mistake of doing tons of internet research and buying something based on lots of reviews, but never once actually being able to try out a machine in person. This would’ve made such a big difference to me. If you can, try someone else’s machine for more than just a few minutes (trying out laptops in a store doesn’t really help you find the foibles in a design).
For me, the fact that you have good experience with your Dell machine ranks more importantly than anything else.
You could get all kinds of feedback on here about what people like, get it for yourself and still land up unhappy with it!

Good luck with the search! Remember time is money! Don’t take forever to choose or you might kick yourself for waiting. :smile:

I use Rhino everyday,so i look for a small laptop to work up to 6h on batteries and lightweight.To be easy mobile solution for cad and rendering too.I’m happy with my lenovo helix,works like sharm!And the bonus is the stylus so i can make scetches and notes…

Hi John,

I have had a M4600 (2.5 Quad i7, 16GB, Nvidia 2000M 2GB) for the last 2 years or so. Think this is still the same chassis as the current 4800/6800 series.

I really like it, has been a great laptop and would certainly buy another - if it wasn’t for Dell’s current appalling choice of customization options! I don’t think I can spec a 4800 as high as the 4600 I bought over 2 years ago at the moment. This is in the UK, not sure if it is the same else where? Possibly more options talking to the them over the phone?

In any case, I wish I had of not held back on maxing out this machine, but it was my budget at the time and except for getting fed-up waiting for the occasional rendering to finish it’s still no slouch for modelling.

Perhaps one of these will be next (wildest dreams!):



Komoko, very appealing idea that you can use such a portable machine. I would imagine such a machine would have limitations (apart from screen size - can you plug a screen in?), and I’d have to weigh this against my need for portability - I’m generally carrying it short distances.

David, reassuring to hear that you’ve got on well with your machine. Which video card are you using, and are you using Rhino 5?

It’s true that there are surprisingly few uprgrade options for the mobile Precision models, but I guess that helps keeps costs down. Sure it’d be good to buy extra performance, but this usually comes at a disproportionate price. Bells and whistles are fun too, but I can live without them and actually prefer simplicity (less to go wrong).

The Origin and Boxx laptops look good, but again, it’s difficult to know how much better than a less expensive Dell.

My earlier budget price of £2000 ($3300) for a Dell was with a 4GB NVIDEA card rather than the 2GB AMD. Something tells me that that money is worth spending.


Hi John,

I have got a Quadro 2000M with 2GB VRAM. It’s fine I guess, no issues with it. I always go for Nvidia Quadro cards and not experienced any compatibility problems. I primarily work with Rhino.

I think you can get the larger cards in the 6xxx series Precision - if you feel you will benefit from graphics performance here. There has been a lot of ongoing talk about Rhino not being able to use the potential of the high-end cards, plenty to find on it in the forum…

Where I find Dell’s set up frustrating a the moment is with the options. I was able to have a 128GB minicard and 750GB hard-drive in my 4600, but that’s not offered now. Everything else is lower spec too on the 15"!
17" is better, but there should be space in there for a mini card and 2 hard drives (no options for these).

I would find this all a bit frustrating, but if you’ve spotted a configuration you are happy with, I am sure you would be pleased with the Dell.


I have a 15.6" HP Elitebook 8570 that I bought in October of last year… I paid about $1800 for it (school deal, don’t know what retail on it was), with a 3rd gen i7, Quadro 2000M, 8GB RAM which I extended to 24 with an additional $100, and a 1TB disc. There was no SSD drive available but it has a 32GB dedicated flash for fast startup. For what I do it runs very well, the only problem I have with it is its weight - about 4 Kg with the power adapter… a real brick.

These days I would have a tendency to go light (that’s what Haswell is for), for example there is a configurable ENVY 15t-j100 Quad Edition for about $1400 and it only weighs about 2.2 Kg. Again, no SSD, but they have a “hybrid” hard drive which combines flash and standard. Also no Quadro, just a 2GB Nvidia GT 740, but at that price and weight, I’m almost ready to trade in my Elitebook…

The current 15" HP Z-book mobile workstation is around $3K configured the way I would like, but it’s also somewhat heavier.


Heh John, it was a real risk for me,all the world complain about this model…but everything work fine!At work i just switch to a dock adapter with two HP 24" and the space is enough)) The real fun is that i can navigate with fingers on the tablet screen like on pad-or space mouse-even it is switched off.AAnd its 1.5kg!

there’s always these things:

$2800 with 2.6 haswell quad… 512GB pcie flash… nvidia 750M
good size/weight, good battery life, great build.


(probably sounds like a rip-off if doing straight spec comparison but just throwing it out there)

Yep, always that…

Personally at twice the price, minus the numeric keypad, and having the ctrl and cmd keys reversed is a deal-breaker for me… but YMMV… :smile:

OTOH, I do notice that lots of people I know do have these things running Windows and Rhino. And if you ever want to try out MacRhino, it’s you’r only alternative…

Cheers, --Mitch

[quote=“Helvetosaur, post:15, topic:5560”] minus the numeric keypad

oh… i didn’t realize there are laptops with numeric keypads (i.e.- i don’t shop around much- if at all)
that sounds good though… especially while drawing as it’s usually the thing i miss most when away from the desk.

there was an article last year saying how the macbooks were the best windows laptops… i don’t know if it was just an apple-centric site giving bad info or if it were legit… i’ll try to find it.

hmm… so they’re talking about the the 13" mbp and the main reason is that the macbook requires a fresh windows installed as opposed to manufacture installs which include lots of ‘crap’…
so i guess this claim hasn’t much to do with pro apps on workhorse laptops.

There are very few left… HP seems to be one of those that continue to make them… At the time I bought, the keypad is what decided me between HP and Lenovo which also had a school deal for about the same price and same specs.

The HP pro line doesn’t come with any consumer crap installed, which is good. If you get a consumer model, you will have to spend some time cleaning that stuff out, for sure.


Wow! Sounds good. What size models in MB are dealing with. I’m sometimes using 100MB+


Thanks for the input guys. I’ll certainly check out the HP range. Although I’m sure they’re superb computers I’m afraid a Mac might be a step too far into the unknown for me.