I purchased a new Dell XPS M1530 laptop at the end of 2008. I've grown to prefer desktops for the preferred improvements in reliability, cost, and performance, not to mention I use a 22" LCD monitor. I really didn't want a laptop. Nevertheless, I was working on a contract that was going to require quite a bit of traveling and using the desktop on the road wasn't an option and the old Toshiba laptop I had was on it's last CPU cycles.
After putting together several desktops and laptops over the years I knew I wanted several key things in the new system:
- A fast disk
- A graphics processor separate from the main processor
- A fast dual core processor
I did some research some time ago in compiling ASP.NET projects (Visual Studio .net 2003). After some careful measurements on servers, and multiple workstations, I found two factors were important for developers compiling hefty ASP.NET solutions and projects that utilized database access. First, multiple CPU's, hyper-threading, or dual core or quad core systems were critical for improved compiler performance. Second, the fastest possible hard disk was a very important if not primary factor in compile times. Celeron processors just won't cut it (never give a developer that you hope to achieve any actual compiling a celeron processor).
SCSI disks seem expensive, but if you compare the cost over the course of the 3-5 year period a system will be used for compiling code, it's actually a great savings. You'll get more compiles from the same developer, find more bug fixes, and run more tests over the course of time. At software developer rates, fast SCIS disks are a bargain. SCSI 15K, or 10K RPM disks with the fasted R/W IO speeds are preferred. Over the last year or two, I've seen some 10K RPM SATA disks that can provide acceptable results as well. They don't quite match the SCSI speeds, but they are a good improvement over the 7200 RPM disks. The next desktop system I build will likely include one of these 10K RPM SATA disks.
Scott Guthrie mentions some of the same finding that disk IO speed is critical for ASP.NET compilation in his tip Hard Dive Speed And Visual Studio Performance. If your an ASP.NET software developer you may also want to see Optimizing Web Project Build Performance.
Dell XPS M1530 Specifications
I opted for a Dell XPS M1530. It had the following specifications:
- Intel T9300 2.5 Ghz Core 2 Duo processor (800 Mhz FSB, 6M L2 Cache)
- 4 GB 667 Mhz DDR2 memory
- 250 GB 7200 RPM SATA 9.5mm Fujitsu Hard Disk with Free Fall Sensor
- NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT 256 MB Graphics adapater
- Wireless N
- 15.4" 1440x900 LCD glossy monitor
- Vista Home Premium (I upgraded to Ultimate)
System 1- Dell 370 Workstation
- Intel Pentium HT 3.0 Ghz CPU
- Seagate 3146707 SCSI 167 MB 10K RPM Hard Disk
- Seagate 373453 SCSI 67 MB 15K RPM Hard Disk
- NVIDIA Quatro 64 MB Dual Display Adapter
- 2 GB Memory
- Windows XP Professional
- 22" LG 1680 x 1050 W226WTQ LCD Monitor
System 2 - Intel Motherboard
- Intel Pentium HT 3.2 Ghz CPU
- NVIDIA GE Force 7300 GS s128 MB Dual Display Adapter
- Seagate 3146707L SCSI 167 MB 10K RPM Hard Disk
- Seagate 340810 32MB 10K RPM Hard Disk
- 2 GB Memory
- Windows XP Professional
- 22" LG 1680 x 1050 LCD W2252TQ Monitor
The Laptop Experience
The desktops I had were somewhat old, but no slouch. With the dual monitors and the fast disks, I was never lacking for anything. The net of the laptop experience has been very positive. I've event switched to using it as my primary desktop for most circumstances. The notes below aren't an exact side by side scientific comparison, but there are notable differences between the two systems.
- On CPU intensive task comparisons of the laptop with the older systems, the laptop wins.
- On DISK intensive task comparisons (side by side compiles), the desktop with SCSI disks are about 20% faster.
I don't fancy carrying the laptop back and forth to work much, but it's light and it is handy to have wireless. I like wireless much more than I thought and if I plug in an external keyboard, mouse, and my 22" monitor, I have everything I had before and then some.
The Vista Experience
Everything with Vista has not been rosy. I've had numerous network issues, a Blue Screen Of Death on multiple occasions and some problems getting connected to network printers. My overall recommendation for Vista; pass on it if you can - go with Windows XP Professional and wait for Windows 7. If you have to get Vista in a corporate environment, you'll want Business, Enterprise or Ultimate. Vista needlessly cripples some of the networking capabilities (like blocking DNS name lookups) even on Home Premium.
- Disk Backup is worse (I even upgraded to Ultimate), see File Level Backups for Vista
- UAC is annoying (I turned UAC off, see Disable Annoying Need Your Permission To Continue Prompts
- I've had to upgrade several applications like Symantec Endpoint, Snagit, and Checkpoint
- Networking access to shares, printers, and drivers is worse (much worse, okay, unacceptable)
- Switching between wireless connections (home, office, hotel, coffee shop, etc.) is better on Vista than XP
- Vista SCSI support for my disk controllers doesn't exist, so I couldn't upgrade the desktops to Vista even if I wanted to
I know a lot of new features went into Vista. It could have been a much better experience. The driver issues, BSOD and network connectivity issues put things back to the WFW 1995 era (or before) and are plainly just unacceptable.
Following the post from Mads Kristensen on his configuration and Vista score, I thought I'd post my information on the Vista Windows Experience Index.