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Advice for a laptop to fit my needs

JROC

Aluminum
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Hello fellow tool makers. I am in the market for a laptop to fit two different needs. I was hoping to get some good, honest advice on what I need so that I don't spend for more than I have too.

The first role it needs to file is it needs to be able to run the software for my HPTuner. The minimum requirements for this are:
-Windows 7 and newer OS for PC. (Will not work with MAC or Chromebook)
-4GB RAM
-2GHz x86 (ARM processors are not supported)
-Microsoft.net framework 4.6.1

Second I want to get invest in some good CAD software. I'm pretty efficient at 2D programs like AutoCAD and DraftSight, and have spent many hours on these 2D programs at jobs I used to havs, but I'm interested in learning some 3D programming. The only 3D programming I have personal experience using is MasterCAM, but I never found it to be the best for drawing, but mainly used it for programming and editing, and drawing some simple parts. There are some nice workstations out there, but a new laptop with your nicer, dedicated GPU's, and bigger SSD's, 32+ GB of RAM, etc are not cheap. I'm looking at refurbished units on Ebay and others and am wondering if some of your older systems are still relivant and worth their lower price points for supporting software like SolidWorks, Catia, and other 3D programming? I've really been looking at models like your older Dell Precision 7520, 7530, 5540, etc. Are these units outfitted with their higherup but older GPU's still capable of running newer CAD programs efficiently? The internet will try and tell you that you need to invest in the latest and greatest stuff. I've also looked at some more gaming or higherend home focused PC laptops like a Dell XPS or MSI Stealth M15. Is a gaming PC good for running CAD or is a good workstation the smart way to go? I like the idea of running a GPU that the CAD creators endorse like the older Nvidia Quadros, etc. As is Xeon worth it over your Core processors like your i7 or i9, or competitive AMD stuff? Obviously there are different generations of all these processors, and they progress with every generation so that's likely a loaded question, but just speaking in general. I've heard that the newer Xeon processors have gotten really fast like your better Core processors? I'm not a huge computer expert though so I'm no big brain on talking computer processors, but I have a general gist of things. Basically I'm wanting to know how much computer do I need to run good CAD software without worrying whether or not my computer can support it.

If y'all could recommend some good CAD programs as well that would be great. This is just a home computer for me that I'd like to be able to design on. This doesn't need to support a business or anything like that, so I'm not needing to spend 4 figures a year on a subscription. Free CAD programs like DraftSight used to be seem to have gone the way of the dodo bird.






 
I use HP Elitebook 8770W with Extreme i7 CPU. With dedicated GPU with 8Gb RAM and 32GB of PC RAM. Currently connected to 3 monitors. One 4K and two monitors, each 2K resolution. If you can find something like that, do not hesitate to buy it.
 
The software vendor should list some requirements for the computer. Workstation class laptops offer some advantages such as CAD oriented graphics cards, improved heat management, more upgrade options. I've had good service from HP Elitebook and Z-book 17" models.
 
The elitebook was a different league than most. My 8770w (i5 w 8gb ram) is bluetaped together and still runs faster than a newer gamer desktop running 1060 ti graphics 32 gb ram and i7 in cad work. It is slow with autocad- amd will write you a driver just for your main cad program if it is not in their download catalog. I am sold on this.
It is old, needs retired to desk duty but sadly can not afford the new g8/g9 replacement.

I was traded a dell precision laptop that I would throw into a trade for a box of oatmeal. Highly do not recommend them.

Screen size matters if you are drawing. The trend of smaller is great for your zoom call at liveworkplay campus- not so great at designing. Bigger phones, smaller laptops... wrong trending direction.
 
For your first requirement, any moderately recent Windows machine will do. For Mastercam, it likes clock speed, and can make good use of multiple cores. Video card must be Nvidia; a decent GeForce is good, but a Quadro is better for larger, more complex work.

Check out these benchmarks for CPU comparison:


If it doesn't have to be a laptop, you will get much better performance per dollar, including upgradability, from a desktop. If it does have to be a laptop, here's this same discussion on eMastercam:

 
Thanks y'all. Yesterday I splurged on Dells website and specs a 2021 model Precision 7560 with highest 11th GEN Xeon processor, 64GB RAM, 1 TB SSD, Nvidia GTX A3000, etc. It ended up being a little over $2100 after taxes on a PC that used to MSRP for over $7K. It was to be delivered in about a month. Got approve for Dells 12 month 0% interest financing for $4500. Got up this morning thinking this machine is plenty capable for what I need, but I'd really like to step up to the Precision 7760 (17" model where the 7560 is the 15" model) as the 7760 allows for a workstation with 144 FPS, with the GTX A4000(a GeForce 3070 equivalent Quadro, where the A3000 is a GeForce 3060 Quadro. The A basically denotes a Quadro GPU) and 4K display. So I I cancelled the 7560 order, and spec'd out a 7760 with the best 11th GEN Xeon, the A4000 GPU, 64 GB, 2TB SSD, all the Microsoft Suite programs, fingerprint reader, etc and after taxes it was $3,100 for a computer that MSRP'd over $8K in 21. I went buy it, and it said the delivery date would be mid-May. So I'm like no, and I got to thinking that I'm not really a laptop guy, but I need the mobility for the HPTuner to tune and datalog my vehicles.My wifes old Dell Latitude 6320 stuggled at it, but it did meet HPT's requirements and would get the job done. My and wifey are now seperated and I need a laptop. Really why do I want to get into debt on something I likely won't use enough or approach it's limits to justify that cost even though they are a lot of computer for that price.?.?

Anyways I ended up buying a refurbished Dell Precision 7530. It was $570, but is a higher spec'd 7530 unite. The 7x30's were the higherend Precisions from 2018. This one has Intel Xeon, a Quadro P3200, (which has 6GB) 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD, etc. These are easy to add more RAM and SSD if I feel the need, but I think this system will more than meet my wants/needs. I thought about trying to get into PC gaming, but if I decide to get into that I'd likely just buy/build a more capable desktop. Really this laptop will probably allow for some moderate gaming as is, but IDK as I'm not a gamer or huge computer expert.
 
The CPU is the most important spec to compare because the more powerful the laptop is, the faster and more accurate (up to milliseconds) your tasks or commands in AutoCAD will be. A processor with a speed of 2.5 to 2.9 GHz will operate with AutoCAD, but anything with a speed of 3 GHz or greater is advised
 
Thanks y'all. Yesterday I splurged on Dells website and specs a 2021 model Precision 7560 with highest 11th GEN Xeon processor, 64GB RAM, 1 TB SSD, Nvidia GTX A3000, etc. It ended up being a little over $2100 after taxes on a PC that used to MSRP for over $7K. It was to be delivered in about a month. Got approve for Dells 12 month 0% interest financing for $4500. Got up this morning thinking this machine is plenty capable for what I need, but I'd really like to step up to the Precision 7760 (17" model where the 7560 is the 15" model) as the 7760 allows for a workstation with 144 FPS, with the GTX A4000(a GeForce 3070 equivalent Quadro, where the A3000 is a GeForce 3060 Quadro. The A basically denotes a Quadro GPU) and 4K display. So I I cancelled the 7560 order, and spec'd out a 7760 with the best 11th GEN Xeon, the A4000 GPU, 64 GB, 2TB SSD, all the Microsoft Suite programs, fingerprint reader, etc and after taxes it was $3,100 for a computer that MSRP'd over $8K in 21. I went buy it, and it said the delivery date would be mid-May. So I'm like no, and I got to thinking that I'm not really a laptop guy, but I need the mobility for the HPTuner to tune and datalog my vehicles.My wifes old Dell Latitude 6320 stuggled at it, but it did meet HPT's requirements and would get the job done. My and wifey are now seperated and I need a laptop. Really why do I want to get into debt on something I likely won't use enough or approach it's limits to justify that cost even though they are a lot of computer for that price.?.?

Anyways I ended up buying a refurbished Dell Precision 7530. It was $570, but is a higher spec'd 7530 unite. The 7x30's were the higherend Precisions from 2018. This one has Intel Xeon, a Quadro P3200, (which has 6GB) 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD, etc. These are easy to add more RAM and SSD if I feel the need, but I think this system will more than meet my wants/needs. I thought about trying to get into PC gaming, but if I decide to get into that I'd likely just buy/build a more capable desktop. Really this laptop will probably allow for some moderate gaming as is, but IDK as I'm not a gamer or huge computer expert.
Why are you going with Xeon?
 
Why are you going with Xeon?
Why not? Is there a good reason not to get a Xeon unless you're budgeting? Xeon is Intels top line of processors. It's possibly the most reliable processor on the market, and is why it's so supported by large businesses and software manufacturers. Compared to I9 it's more expensive, and doesn't have built-in graphics, but otherwise I don't know of any real disadvantage it has to the counterpart version of I9. The older Xeon processors were considered a little slower than your top I7 or I9 processors, but since 19-20 that seems to have flipped. Xeon has more cores than either. Even on this older 2018 model I bought its Xeon E-2176M is rated at a base 2.7 GHZ, and a max 4.4 GHz. That's not class leading in 2023, but it's still pretty good, but was really pretty good for a 2018 laptop. Again I don't see an issue with going with the top processor for a PC workstation.?.?

But to be more specific when buying a refurbished laptop you often have to go with what's available. Generally you more well equipped Dell Precision 7xxx series laptops have been optioned with Xeon processors. Not always, but often so. When looking for my older model I prioritized the GPU. The only Precisions with less than a I7 is the very base models that sometimes get an I5. (which is often a good processor in and of itself) I wanted the top GPU for that year, and I wanted something better than 16GB RAM/256GB SSD and in finding that I found a computer with a Xeon processor which makes me happy.
 
Thanks y'all. Yesterday I splurged on Dells website and specs a 2021 model Precision 7560 with highest 11th GEN Xeon processor, 64GB RAM, 1 TB SSD, Nvidia GTX A3000, etc. It ended up being a little over $2100 after taxes on a PC that used to MSRP for over $7K. It was to be delivered in about a month. Got approve for Dells 12 month 0% interest financing for $4500. Got up this morning thinking this machine is plenty capable for what I need, but I'd really like to step up to the Precision 7760 (17" model where the 7560 is the 15" model) as the 7760 allows for a workstation with 144 FPS, with the GTX A4000(a GeForce 3070 equivalent Quadro, where the A3000 is a GeForce 3060 Quadro. The A basically denotes a Quadro GPU) and 4K display. So I I cancelled the 7560 order, and spec'd out a 7760 with the best 11th GEN Xeon, the A4000 GPU, 64 GB, 2TB SSD, all the Microsoft Suite programs, fingerprint reader, etc and after taxes it was $3,100 for a computer that MSRP'd over $8K in 21. I went buy it, and it said the delivery date would be mid-May. So I'm like no, and I got to thinking that I'm not really a laptop guy, but I need the mobility for the HPTuner to tune and datalog my vehicles.My wifes old Dell Latitude 6320 stuggled at it, but it did meet HPT's requirements and would get the job done. My and wifey are now seperated and I need a laptop. Really why do I want to get into debt on something I likely won't use enough or approach it's limits to justify that cost even though they are a lot of computer for that price.?.?

Anyways I ended up buying a refurbished Dell Precision 7530. It was $570, but is a higher spec'd 7530 unite. The 7x30's were the higherend Precisions from 2018. This one has Intel Xeon, a Quadro P3200, (which has 6GB) 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD, etc. These are easy to add more RAM and SSD if I feel the need, but I think this system will more than meet my wants/needs. I thought about trying to get into PC gaming, but if I decide to get into that I'd likely just buy/build a more capable desktop. Really this laptop will probably allow for some moderate gaming as is, but IDK as I'm not a gamer or huge computer expert.

Sounds like you know more than I do. I just checked the eBay price on a 7730 I was looking at a few years ago. Referbs are like $750!

It sounds like a steal compared to what they were 2 years ago. Is it a big gamble buying used? Or are they usually just fine?

I want to hear about this HP machine others are talking about too, I have not heard of it.
 
Sounds like you know more than I do. I just checked the eBay price on a 7730 I was looking at a few years ago. Referbs are like $750!

It sounds like a steal compared to what they were 2 years ago. Is it a big gamble buying used? Or are they usually just fine?

I want to hear about this HP machine others are talking about too, I have not heard of it.
Yeah, you may want to check out the 75X0 models. The 15" Precisions seem to command noticeably less than the 17" Precisions on the used/refurbished market. I was seeing some decently spec'd 7530's in the $450-$500 range. I paid $570 for mine, but it was spec'd with the best video card, biggest SSD, and as much RAM as any other 7530 I had seen, so I paid a little extra. A year older Precision 7x20 seems about $100 cheaper than a Precision 7x30. The newer the machine, the more it will cost if spec'd similarly, but generally you get a superior GPU, and CPU, and a few other updates.

Here's what I bought even though I got mine for a little less. According to the seller the RAM description is wrong and it's supposed to have 1TB SSD hard drive. We shall see.
Dell Precision M7530 Intel Xeon E-2176M X6 2.7GHz 64GB 512GB SSD, Black (Renewed) https://a.co/d/dq5uSXa

Here's a 7530 for less, but also less RAM,(easily upgradable in this machine BTW. Some upgrade it to 128GB of RAM for around $150) smaller harddrive, Quadro P1000 GPU vs Quadro P3200 GPU, etc.
Dell Precision 7530 Vr Ready 15.6in LCD Mobile Workstation with Intel Core i7-8850H Hexa-core 2.6 GHz, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD (Renewed) https://a.co/d/dwqlZTE
Not necessarily a bad deal or weak machine though, but like with most things cheaper computers are generally lesser computers in some way. There's a reason that new or used machines command more $ than other competitive computers.

I would say Dell, HP, and Lenovo seem to be your most popular serious/business oriented machines from what I've seen. Refurbished is great, just make sure that it comes with a warranty, and that they accept returns without charging you a fee. This is the first time I've bought a refurbished computer, but my mom buys them for her work every so often, and endorses buying refurbished computers. BTW I have a Lenovo desktop, and it's been okay, but I wouldn't buy another Lenovo. I bought it in 2012, and their customer service was lousy, and Lenovo is owned/ran by the PRC. Lenovo bought out IBM, or at least some parts of it. For example it's no longer IBM Thinkpad, but Lenovo Thinkpad. They're supposed to be pretty capable machines with a lot of features for the $, but there's long been speculation that the ChiComs monitor the activities that Lenovo users do, but IDK. I didn't really look at HP's much so I don't want to advice on them, but growing up my parents seemed partial to them, and I have nothing against HP. Other than Dell the main brands I looked at were ASUS and MSI, but I glanced at what most brand offerings were on the market. Most brands offer competitive computers compared to any other brand for similar $.

The reason I looked at Dell mostly is I've had good experiences with them. I think of Dell like people think of Toyota. They have a reputation for being very well built, sturdy, durable, reliable, and well supported computers, but maybe also kind of boring at the same time. Like Toyota this reputation also kind of gives them a somewhat poor bang for your buck, compared to the competition. Generally I find that Dells ask for a little more $ for an equally spec'd machine from another brand. That's how it's always seemed to me anyway.
 
Xeon is Intels top line of processors.
No, it's Intel's server oriented line of processors. Common mistake. Yes, they're a bit more reliable, at the expense of top end performance; they leave more safety margin and do more error checking. They put them in laptops because purchasing people at large companies ask for them by name. Did you check out the benchmark site I linked?


You have to scroll down quite a ways to find a Xeon.

On eMastercam we've been comparing computer specs and Mastercam benchmarks for decades, and we know pretty darned well what makes a fast computer for Mastercam. I've never seen a Xeon take the top spot, and they're usually disappointingly slow compared to the enthusiast i7 / i9 line of CPUs.

Unfortunately for that specific machine, your CPU choices are very limited, and of the four choices they give you, the top Xeon is ever so slightly faster than the top i9. Any of these should be about 50% faster than what you ordered:
 
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No, it's Intel's server oriented line of processors. Common mistake. Yes, they're a bit more reliable, at the expense of top end performance; they leave more safety margin and do more error checking. They put them in laptops because purchasing people at large companies ask for them by name. Did you check out the benchmark site I linked?
Huge tangent comment ahead...
Not sure how Intel positions the Xeon these days, to be honest I lost interest in benchmarking, but Xeon was indeed a workstation and server processor line; there were models specifically designed for each purpose. Lots of low power cores were server chips for things like handling large databases where core count is king and the harder working, smaller core count processors are for workstations. The main draw with all the Xeons is they supported ECC ram, although that's not an exclusive club anymore. Currently the biggest, and perhaps the only serious advantage of Xeon is the architecture supports multiple sockets. Servers love this and it wasn't not uncommon to have 2 or 4 cpu sockets. Not that long ago, companies who could afford it would purchase multiple socket Xeon workstations in an effort to get as many cores as they could for CAM and CAE. Nowadays that's just history because you can buy a large number of cores on a single CPU for workstation and servers, albeit there are cpu models targeting each purpose. I haven't been following Intel much lately but I really like the later generation 12 and 16 core Ryzens. AMD also makes the Threadripper line with way more cores but the clock speeds are so-so on those and a lot of cam software still relies on a balance between processing power and core count.
 
Are HP computers better than HP printers that suck big time?

My last HP printer crapped out after 6 months. Local seller tried to help, but their warranty was only for 3 months. Went through the online diagnostics from HP.

The online checkout didn't find the problem. So I was faced with having to talk with a real live tech person. Of course HP's tech people were "experiencing unusually high call volume". After hours on hold I was never able to get through to anyone at tech support. So that HP printer was money and time wasted. On other forums I've read my experience was fairly typical of HP these days.
 
Are HP computers better than HP printers that suck big time?
HP doesn't manufacture any computer components afaik so it's a good bet they are decent quality. Like Dell, they probably have proprietary deals in place with motherboard manufacturers, ram mfg's, etc.. to give them certain spec parts. Hence why you won't see a brand name power supply, ram, motherboard and whatnot on those computers.
One other thing that Dell and HP used to do was to make it so that people were basically unable to customize the interior parts or add more parts. You weren't able to add another HDD because the power supply didn't have an extra plug.

Building your own is, and always will be cheaper and better.
 
Hp has a person on site in 48 hour for free to fix your laptop. Benefits of the workstation class computers. I know Hp has 3 year onsite warranty w optional accident (cheap insurance for shop floor computer). Not sure about dell, likely competitive.
 
No, it's Intel's server oriented line of processors. Common mistake. Yes, they're a bit more reliable, at the expense of top end performance; they leave more safety margin and do more error checking. They put them in laptops because purchasing people at large companies ask for them by name. Did you check out the benchmark site I linked?


You have to scroll down quite a ways to find a Xeon.

On eMastercam we've been comparing computer specs and Mastercam benchmarks for decades, and we know pretty darned well what makes a fast computer for Mastercam. I've never seen a Xeon take the top spot, and they're usually disappointingly slow compared to the enthusiast i7 / i9 line of CPUs.

Unfortunately for that specific machine, your CPU choices are very limited, and of the four choices they give you, the top Xeon is ever so slightly faster than the top i9. Any of these should be about 50% faster than what you ordered:
But what are you trying to get at? I don't care so much as I would of taken a workstation with a I7 or I9 CPU, but I happened to get one with a Xeon processor. If given the choice for the same $ and performance I'd pick a Xeon. There are Xeon processors that run at over 5.0 GHz. The CPU in the computer I bought is rated to run up to 4.4 GHz. That's not necessarily slow even by 2023 standards, and this generation of Dell Precision dates back to 2018. But I'm not looking to build a drag racing computer. I want a reliable computer that can manage 3D CAD. This should work fine.

The Newegg link you posted is to a bunch of brand new, 12 Generation I7 and I9 equipped machines, (some of which are only rated to run at 1.8 GHz) that cost many more money's that what I ordered. We should established that it's been well publicized that 12th GEN was a big leap forward for Intel vs their previous GENs, and 11th GEN was pretty good. I think Xeon E-2176M is 8th GEN.?.? Of course most computers costing 4 figures, running 12th Intel CPU's will be faster, but good they should. From what I've heard is that I9 is one of those things you want to step carefully to as it can cause a lot of issues if you don't have a powerhouse of a computer build for the task of handling it. Unless I really had a highend machine I think I'd rather go I7. This leads me to my next point. You posted a link comparing different CPU's. At the top was a I9 variant with 24 cores, costing nearly $800. I'm assuming this is mainly pushed to highend gamers, or people that require the most capable processors available. At the very bottom of that list is a I5 variant, and right above it are two different variants of I9. This is to say that just because you have a I5/I7/I9/Xeon/Ryzen/etc doesn't necessarily mean that you've git the bomb processor. There are many variants of each of these.

If you're a big corporation (NASA, Boeing, John Deere, the government, etc) looking for new computers, and want the best support and reliability for your business then Xeon is likely the processor that you'll lean towards if you're buying computers with Intel CPU's. Not always, but that's who Intel's is looking to cater to with Xeon. Kind of like most businesses that are big into engineering are going to pony up for Quadro (or the modern equivalent) if they're investing in computers with Nvidia GPU's. Sure there are GeForce models based off the same GPU that are as capable as any given Quadro model, but for way less money, but Quadro is supposed to be the most reliable, and it's backed, and supported by SolidWorks, AutoCAD, etc where GeForce is not. For this reason companies are often times willing to pony up for the Quadro series of GPU's to get the support that comes with them. I look at going with Xeon for the same basic reasons to choose a Quadro. It's supposed to be the most reliable, and the one that gets the most support/backing if something goes wrong. Many companies won't back you if something goes wrong with I7 or I9, but they will with Xeon. That's how I've understood the point of Intel Xeon. I certainly don't see having a Xeon processor as a bad thing even if your a home user, but I know it's more focused towards businesses.
 
But what are you trying to get at?
You came here asking advice on something I know quite a bit about. I offered my advice. You ignored my advice.

You paid about $2100 for a suboptimal laptop. The cheapest laptop in the Newegg link is bout $2200, with an i9-12900HX CPU, which has 8 efficiency cores and 8 performance cores, and benchmarks at a full 150% of what your Xeon will do. For about $2400, you can get the same thing with 32GB RAM and 1TB storage. That's a little more money, but certainly not what I would call "many more moneys".

But hey, it's your money, not mine. You do you.
 








 
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