More Power is on the way

P50For the past several months, I’ve been debating about what to do for the next iteration of my Hyper-V network.  I rely on it heavily for my writing, course-ware development, and training.  For awhile now I’ve been traveling with a Yoga 2 Pro which runs a few virtual machines, and a Gigabyte Brix unit with 16GB of RAM and an i7 CPU for everything else.  Because of the two units I also tend to travel with a small 4 port switch plus all the necessary power  supplies and cabling. Even though the Yoga 2 is really light, by the time I pack everything up, as they say, “not so much.”

I also have realized that there are a few more virtual machines I’d like to add to my running network which meant I needed to expand my Hyper-V setup. I was torn between building a mini-ITX solution with this motherboard which could have supported up to 128GB of RAM. I thought that if I needed to travel with it, a mini-ITX wouldn’t be that much of a burden.

Or, I could stick with a laptop. I knew that Lenovo was coming out with a new line of ThinkPad workstations.  So I kept waiting. And waiting. The ThinkPad P50 and the ThinkPad P70 promised to be beasts. At least the specs I wanted. For my purposes, what was most tantalizing was the ability to get a Xeon CPU in a laptop that would support up to 64GB of RAM. Yeah, the unit would be a bit bigger than what I had now at 5.6 lbs but if I maxed out the memory (and why wouldn’t you!), I would only have to deal with a single item at conferences and classes. So I did.

I put in an order for a P50 (the P70 is a 17″ version which was bigger than I really needed).  Even though Lenovo, like most vendors, offers plenty of upgrades, I opted to keep this unit as base as possible. I did get the Xeon CPU and upgraded to Windows 10 Pro (even though I eventually plan to run Windows Server 2016 on it). I also opted for a 2 year warranty with accidental damage  to hedge my bets. Not that I’m expecting any issues but I travel and things happen.  I decided to do my own memory and drive upgrades so save a little money. Right now I’ve invested about $2100 including tax.  I think the memory will be about another $400.  I have a spare drive I’m hoping will work in the P50.

My plan is to set it up as a Hyper-V server in my test domain. When I need to go to a conference, I’ll replicate the VMs I need and go.  The schedule is tight, but I’m hoping to bring it with me to Techmentor so if you will be in Las Vegas and want a P50 tour, be sure to find me.  If nothing else, it should be joining me at the PowerShell Summit.

I’ll be posting pictures, impressions and notes on upgrades as they happen. Much more to come.

The Ultrabook Quest Continues

I’ve been continuing my research and deliberations over a new laptop, and am still leaning towards the ultrabook form factor. As to be expected there is no perfect, no-brainer solution, at least for me. What I have been able to do is prioritize the features I need.

Since my primary need is for a presentation machine I can use in conjunction with my Brix Hyper-V server, 8GB or RAM is sufficient. I still plan on running a VM or two on the laptop so I know I want the most horsepower I can get which for me means an SSD drive and most likely a 4th generation i7. That’s the easy part.

Since I only purchase equipment like this every 3-4 years I try to future proof as much as I can. Looking forward I would say USB3 and 802.11AC should be important considerations.

Here is a table I’ve been using to organize my research. At this point I’d say these are the front runners.

Model: ASUS Zenbook UX301LA-XH72T
RAM: 8
HDD: 2×256 RAID 0
Display: 13.3? Quad HD IPS Display (2560 x 1440)
USB 3 Ports: 2
Mini Display: yes
HDMI: yes
WiFi: 802.11AC
Weight: 2.60
Comments: great accessories
Price: $2,200.00

Model: HP Spectre 13t-3000
RAM: 8
HDD: 256
Display: 13.3-inch diagonal Vivid QHD Infinity LED-backlit Display (2560×1440) Touchscreen
USB 3 Ports: 2
Mini Display: yes
HDMI: yes
WiFi: 802.11AC
Weight: 3.30
Comments: inlcudes adapters. Beats Audio. Box 50GB lifetime
Price: $1,500.00

Model: X1 Carbon
RAM: 8
HDD: 256
Display: 14.0″ QHD (2560×1440) IPS
USB 3 Ports: 2
Mini Display: yes
HDMI: yes
WiFi: Intel Dual Band Wireless 7260AC with Bluetooth 4.0
Weight: 2.83
Comments: 512GB SSD is an option. Fast recharge. Battery could be an issue
Price: $2,029.00

Model: Yoga 2 Pro
RAM: 8
HDD: 512
Display: 13.3″ QHD+ LED Glossy Multi-touch with integrated camera (3200×1800)
USB 3 Ports: 1
Mini Display: no
HDMI: micro
WiFi: Intel Wireless-N 7260 (802.11bgn) single band
Weight: 3.10
Comments: 1 USB 2 powered. Orange. Wifi could be replaced.
Price: $1,600.00

Model: Thinkpad Yoga
RAM: 8
HDD: 256
Display: Touch & Pen, FHD (1920 x 1080)12.5″ display
USB 3 Ports: 2
Mini Display: no
HDMI: mini
WiFi: Intel Dual Band Wireless 7260A
Weight: 3.50
Comments: one USB3 powered
Price: $1,900.00

Model: Macbook Air 13″
RAM: 8
HDD: 256
Display: 13″ 1440×900
USB 3 Ports: 2
Mini Display: yes
HDMI: no
WiFi: 802.11AC
Weight: 3.00
Comments: 512GB add $300. Adapters extra.
Price: $1,549.00

Model: Macbook Pro with Retina 13″
RAM: 16
HDD: 512
Display: 13″ 2560×1600
USB 3 Ports: 2
Mini Display: yes
HDMI: yes
WiFi: 802.11AC
Weight: 3.50
Comments: adapters extra
Price: $2,200.00

I love the SSD RAID0 option on the Zenbook. If the Yoga 2 had 2 USB3 ports that would have been a game changer for me. But it is still in the running. I’ve even considered going the MacBook route and running Windows 8 either in BootCamp or natively, although I suspect the process is more complicated than I want to get into. Still, you can’t deny the appeal of the hardware. Overall, it would seem the HP Spectre has a slight edge for my money.

Is there anything missing you think I should seriously consider? Anything here you think I should run away from?

My Ultrabook Quest

computereyeWorking for myself, I try to keep major expenses to a minimum. Computer equipment falls into that category. But the time has come to refresh my laptop. And since many of you buy and support hardware I thought I’d turn to you for suggestions. I have some requirements and something of a short list but am open to suggestions.

Right now, I use a Toshiba Qosmio when I speak at conferences or train. I originally bought it for the horsepower to run all of the virtual machines I typically need. But it is a beast to travel with. I also have an old Lenovo Netbook which I originally loved. But it was never designed for Windows 8 and is beginning to feel underpowered. Since I’ve started using a Brix for my Hyper-V server I think I can travel much lighter now.

So I am looking for something in the Ultrabook form factor with a 4th generation i7, a decent size SSD and at least 8GB of RAM so that I can also run a few VMs. I need something with a physical keyboard. I tried a Surface and other tablets. Those devices are perfectly fine for consuming content, but I need something to create content. I’m trying to stay in the 13″ screen size with the best resolution I can get. I never used to care about that but this laptop will also need to serve as my traveling entertainment option as well. On top of all of that decent battery life would be a great asset. Something that could get me through a 5 hour cross country flight.

I’ve been looking at the new X1 Carbon, some of the ASUS Zenbooks, a Toshiba Portege and the one of the Lenovo Yoga models. So what would you suggest? What tales of woe or wonder do you have to share? I have a feeling I’m going to have to spend around $2000 to get what I need but naturally would love to save some money if I can.