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Specs to focus on for a programming intensive notebook?

  1. Jun 23, 2012 #1
    Hello All!

    First of all excuse my query which may seem trivial to some of you, I am about to purchase a laptop for work. I am an ECU programmer (engine control unit) / embedded engineer working for an automotive tuning company and I'm looking to buy a laptop suited for my programming needs.

    I will be running programs like IDA Pro, HexCMP, WinOLS, Matlab, Eclipse, and Visual Studio, very much programming intensive. Would one reccomend a higher clock speed? Or a more advanced processor architecture (i5 vs i7) when programming and compiling/reading large amounts of code what is more beneficial? I personally always chose clock speed, given that the overall performance in my opinion is based on the instruction count of the program, and the "instructions per cycle" (IPC) of the processor

    Again, I apologize for what is a simple question, I just wanted more opinions, My budget is around $1000, Im currently looking at a few notebooks with i5s and from the specs that I have read I feel like that would be sufficient, just want a second opinion!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 23, 2012 #2


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    Hey MrAlt and welcome to the forums.

    In terms of recommendations, it would be wise to factor in any specialist programming that you do. You mentioned that you do embedded programming so I imagine you may have to interface your computer to an embedded device, possibly through a USB or other interface which is important to keep in mind.

    If you want to implement GPU specific code, then you should keep in mind what GPU is used on the computer.

    I would recommend getting a system with multiple cores: you should easily find a notebook within your price range that has multiple cores. This is good for multi-threaded stuff and it's also good for any scientific application (or any application for that matter) that utilizes multi-threaded code as part of its design.

    In terms of running Visual Studio, most modern PC's should be fast enough to do these kinds of things. I don't know the other things you want to do like surf the net, watch movies, listen to music (that sort of thing), but I'd imagine you won't have any problem there.

    I don't think clock-speed is the be all indicator. You need to have a lot of RAM and it should be fast since low and slow memory will make the high clock speed fairly useless.

    The other thing I would look at is the battery and its life as well as issues regarding heat generation and operating life times. If you get something which is prone to heating problems, your notebook won't last long: remember that the laptop is not like a normal desktop PC where you can put more fans or a cooling system willy nilly and it's important to check this out.

    These are my suggestions anyway. I don't know the latest models or anything, but the above principles should hold regardless of what notebook you end up purchasing. I currently have an ASUS notebook and it's really a great machine and have had no problems whatsoever with it.

    On the other hand I've known people to buy cheap Compaq notebooks that don't last that long and end up freezing and crashing on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis before finally losing it and not wanting to startup anymore.
  4. Jun 23, 2012 #3


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    I can only comment on running Visual Studio.

    I have a 3 year old middle-range single-core, 2.4mzh laptop with 4gigs of RAM and up until recently it has done everything I need w/ VS and then some.

    Lately however, my largest program has gone over 20,000 lines of VB.NET code spread out over about 3 dozen modules and VS now takes what I find to be an annoying amount of time to deal with it (20 to 30 seconds to compile). I consider this a very large program, but that's a one-man job, NOT compiling a team-generated application that could have hundreds of modules, so you need to think about the size of your code.

    chiro's advice on memory is spot on --- buy as much as you can fit in the machine and make if FAST. I am not happy w/ my 4gigs of RAM
  5. Jun 25, 2012 #4
    Thanks for all of the information guys! I think I'm going to go with a 2.6Ghz i5 w/ 8g of ram. Found one at a pretty decent price on tiger direct. Im excited to become more active in the forums!
  6. Jun 27, 2012 #5
    So...Which one between these two?



    I will probably be hooking it up to an additional monitor. Not so sure that the graphics card on the HP is worth it, specs seem to be less than desirable and not running in conjunction with an AMD processor...

    Im leaning towards the i7, looks like a better buy to me...
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2012
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