What’s the Best Laptop for Qlik Developers – an obvious question that’s rarely asked.

Brexit, Donald Trump, a new post on QVDesign – WTF is going on with 2016!?

This is going to be a simple post – it should be it’s my first in over 18mths so I’m easing myself back in – it’s going to cover something that most of the people reading this will have come across at some point, namely; what’s the best laptop for me as a Qlik Developer.

old_laptop

Before you shout ‘the one with the largest RAM’ let’s just stop and think; of course, that’s important but it’s by no means the only game in town and it wasn’t the only thing I ended up considering when I made my recent laptop purchase.

Obvious point but this is somewhat a matter of opinion and a choice to fit my current circumstances.

My situation and requirements:

I’m coming to the end of a long-term contract with a client who as many do supplied me with a company machine for all the usual IT security reasons and as I used it 99% of the time I’ve had no need up to now to replace my 15in 2010 Mac Book Pro even though it’s spent the last year running like it’s filled with glue. So, in short: work laptop being handed back and Macbook needs replacing.

In terms of what I’m looking for; I need something that meets the obvious RAM requirement so 16gb is a minimum, I also need something smallish and portable to use as a true ‘laptop’ so sub 14in screen and crucially I need something that looks good for when I visit a client site. In terms of budget I’m a true Yorkshire-man, ergo there is no budget if it does the job and is value for money.

The Runners & Riders

I won’t go through every laptop I assessed as that would be boring (HP – you bring the more ‘boring’ to this party than any other brand) so I’ll keep it to the top 3.

‘New Macbook Pro 13in – it’s the obvious solution’ – er, no.

I thought this was going to be an easy choice and even more so when the update of the Macbook Pro’s seemed to line up perfectly with me needing a new machine…but then I considered it and thought about it a bit more and the Apple reality distortion bubble suddenly went ‘pop’, here’s why…

I must say I wasn’t blown away by the latest updates; slightly faster, slightly thinner and a Touchbar…that I’ll never use as I’ll run Windows on it 99.9% of the time, so not a great start. Then there’s the price which was already expensive and now even more so thanks to the fall in UK Sterling in recent months. Then more importantly there’s the lack of power…it has 6th Gen i5 and i7 processors when other laptops in the segment (see below) that came out before it are running 7th generation processors and are much cheaper to boot. When you factor in that I’ll run Windows on it, it will be even slower than the benchmarks suggest due to OS X being the nimbler of the two OS’s. (The 6th Gen chip in the Mac is faster than the versions in Windows machines also due to the Mac version being able to draw more power when it’s under heavy loads)  Everyone seems to think Macbook Pro = Powerful but it doesn’t, looking at the Geekbench scores bears this out. Added to this I’d never realised but the 13in version is much slower than the 15in (Dual Core vs Quad Core) so effectively the one I’d want (the 13in) would be akin to a 12mth old ultra-book once I’d swapped the OS via Bootcamp (Parallels never seems like a great way to do things from a Dev’s point of view).

mac_13in_touchbar

Call that colour on a keyboard…we’ll get to that.

Then there’s the lack of port variety…’FFS!’, that’s all I’ll say on that.

Pros:

  • Looks – undeniably the most desirable and well-built laptop out there.

Cons:

  • Relatively under powered, previous generation processor
  • Very expensive
  • Lack of IO
  • Touchbar totally redundant
  • Every wannabe-coder-hipster has one to look at Facebook with.

Total fail from Apple for what I need. The gorgeous looks and build quality are no longer enough to sway it – the world’s caught up and passed Apple by since my original purchase in 2010, sorry Apple, I love my iPhone but I’m going elsewhere for my laptop this time.

I’m hearing and reading lots of similar things from people in my situation, they’ve been waiting for ages to see what Apple had up their sleeve only to be tempted to go elsewhere thanks to the higher price and the lack of worthwhile improvement from Apple. There doesn’t seem to be the vision that there once was.

So, what else could the independent Dev in need turn to…

Microsoft Surface Book – Innovation Central

Looking at what else fits the brief I looked at many bland, workaday laptops that weren’t terrible but all failed on one or more of the criteria (usually build / design quality) so it was great to road test the Surface Book, it really does do things differently and matches the MacBook for design and build quality…this could be interesting.

‘Sorry, how much?’…’Two Thousand Four Hundred Pounds Sir’…’For an ultra-book-tablet-thingy??’ Yes, that is a lot but when you compare it to the MacBook it’s no more expensive…and it does a whole lot more. The thing that really drew me to the Surface Book was the detachable screen. I had visions of being in a client pitch developing a Sense app on the fly, artfully detaching the screen and demoing the app I’d just created whilst walking round the room, then finally annotating the charts with the Surface Pen and sending an email of it out via OneNote…a brave new world I thought. However, when I thought about it I realised that’s not something that I’m going to be doing everyday so considering a) the cost and b) the relative lack of processing power (6th Gen i7 again at best) it’s wonderful innovation wasn’t enough to sway me. Even with the ‘Power Base’ which is due for release it still wouldn’t be enough as that only increases the battery life and graphics capability so sorry Microsoft, until the Surface Book 2 it’s a ‘no’.

surface_book

I think however that the Surface Book would be a massive benefit to anyone involved in Pre-Sales; if you can’t sign someone up to Sense using one then you should change jobs.

Pros:

  • Great design, quality and innovation
  • Detachable screen a definite benefit for Sense demo’s

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Relatively under powered

Back to the drawing board…

So; how to get a reasonably small, reasonably powerful good looking laptop…think outside the box…get a gaming laptop.

Yes, yes, I know – that sounds like a ridiculous idea; who in their right mind would turn up to a client site with an Alienware gaming machine, and don’t they all come with huge graphics cards that Qlik doesn’t need you say – you’d be right about most out there but hear me out as I may have found the (almost) perfect solution and it’s all thanks to USB-C.

Razer Blade Stealth – Like Pheasant; Not Too Gamey

What would you say if I could offer you a laptop that was more powerful than a Macbook Pro yet was the size of a Macbook Air, had the same build quality as Apple products, had great IO AND was half the price? – sounds good doesn’t it? Basically, that’s what the Razer Blade Stealth is, oh and it also does this:

keyboard

And another thing the USB ports are Qlik Green – those things are worth the price on its own!

usg_green

Basically, the Stealth is a high end ultra-book that isn’t too ‘gamey’ and that’s a good thing. How can you have a ultra-book gaming laptop when there’s no room for a graphics card to power that copy of Snake HD at 1,000FPS? Simple answer there isn’t one. Razer have removed the graphics card and created a USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 add on called the Razer Core that holds your choice of card to power the games you play…in my case none whatsoever as I haven’t played games since I realised I’d spent 15 minutes of precious free time virtually ‘commuting’ in GTA V…life really is too short for that.

There are however 2 downsides:

  • The screen whilst great could be an inch or so larger and still fit in the same form factor if it were like the Dell XPS 13. The screen bezels are very deep here which I understand is for cooling…you can get this thing with a 4k display after all.
  • The gamey-ness. Whilst it’s massively toned down compared to other gaming laptops the logo on the lid is frankly ridiculous – 3 illuminated green snakes…what does that say in a business meeting!? (‘I’m a member of a cult’!?)…I’ve already ordered some large Dev Group stickers to cover it up.

Pros:

  • Almost Apple levels of build quality
  • 7th Generation i7 processor
  • Much cheaper than rivals
  • Smaller form factor

Cons:

  • Large Screen bezels
  • Still a whiff of ‘gaming’

Those ‘Cons’ are small compared to the other 2 machines’ faults.

Conclusion:

So far so good with the Stealth – it’s handled this blog post with no trouble and I’ve customized the keyboard to highlight the keys that are important in Qlik…again worth the cost on its own I’m sure you’ll agree?! If they bin the logo on the lid for the Stealth 2 and increase the screen size by slimming the bezels, then it really will be the best of all worlds in my opinion…for my specific circumstances…unless something better comes along in the meantime…

…which could well be the Surface Book 2…but I doubt it will be the next MacBook Pro.

I’d love to know what other people’s thoughts are as of course I’m meeting my current needs and of course as we move to a Cloud based Sense world what’s important is changing all the time.

This process also got me thinking; why isn’t there a Windows laptop that’s aimed at developers both of products like Qlik but also database, CAD and web? – there must be enough of a market out there?

Quick note on Qlik Dev Group which I’m still running; we’re now in nearly 40 locations around the world putting on really great free events for Qlik Developers, so head over to QlikDevGroup.com and find an event near you.

As always; all the best,

Matt

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Comments
3 Responses to “What’s the Best Laptop for Qlik Developers – an obvious question that’s rarely asked.”
  1. Aaron says:

    Love this post! I am in the market once I can clear some room on my credit card. I am leaning towards the surface book because the idea of turning it into a tablet is just too sexy for me to pass up, not only for in-person client demos, but also for sitting on the couch not having to unplug the base from my monitors and peripherals. But you are right…pricey for the options we require for Qlik.

  2. qvdesign says:

    I was very nearly with you on the Surface Book Aaron, if they can get some extra power in there for the Surface Book 2 then it would be difficult to say ‘no’.

    I’ve just come across a good comparison guide that might be of use (all 3 of these laptops are included): http://newatlas.com/2016-laptop-comparison-guide/46980/

    All the best,

    Matt

  3. Whitaker says:

    Thanks for the writeup! I’ve been looking for a new laptop and was very disappointed with the new MacBook Pro. But the Razer Blade Stealth has some of the same constraints as the MBP. I’ve been looking at the Razer Blade Pro. Very similar but with a quad core 7th gen i7, a full Nvidia GTX1080, and 32GB RAM. For about the same price as a 15″ MBP with 6th gen i7 and 16GB RAM.

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