Laptop recommendations for graphics work, similar to MBPro?

Discussion in 'Alternatives to Mac Hardware' started by hevonen, Dec 20, 2018.

  1. hevonen macrumors newbie

    Dec 8, 2018
    Hi all,

    I'm currently using 2014 MBPro 15" (512GB, 16GB, i7) and previously 2009 MBPro 13" and would like to get a new laptop for 2d and 3d work. Recent Apple products have seemed to be slightly disappointing (keyboard, price and quality wise) and I would like to know which PC laptops I should look at as alternatives. Planned use would be at least 3-4 years but probably around 5.

    Alternatively I guess I could just build a desktop PC and combine it with a less performant laptop?

    - 13" or 15" screen, matching MBPro screen quality (full sRGB at least, matte or glossy does not matter)
    - matching or better build quality than MBPro (are there problems with carbon fiber in prolonged use?)
    - 16/32GB RAM, i7 or i9 CPU, GPU good(ish) enough for 3d work (matching Vega 20 in MBPro)
    - similar battery life to MBPro

    - Wacom digitizer screen, are there any with that? Then it could double as Cintiq!

  2. bobbie424242 macrumors regular

    May 16, 2015
  3. idonthatethemac macrumors member

    Nov 19, 2018
    the specifications match a lot of computers. I had a 2014 MBP given to me by my employer with 16gb ram. Absolutely fantastic machine. although it used to get hot during the final years I used.

    Anyway, I got Dell XPS 15 9570 with i7-8750h (same CPU as base MBP 18), 16 GB RAM and 256 GB SSD. the graphics card is GeForce 1050ti. with 4k screen for 1850 (with Tax and delivery). Its a great machine with Windows 10 pro, very responsive. Windows 10 is not as atrocious as Windows 8 or Vista. (I liked Win 10, Win 7 and XP before that). For my work, I prefer to use Ubuntu (bash scripting and all.. ) though so I dual boot now.

    Having said that...
    1) The webcam is at the bottom of the screen, so if you do a lot of video conferencing then it might be difficult with up-the-nose webcam. Although you could always use a "webcam dongle" :p
    2) I bought the base model in that configuration and planning to swap 16GB with 32GB ram (~$250) and 1 TB SSD (~$375) --- just because I can... :cool:
    3) There might be some CPU throttling, but nothing a little repasting (again.. just because we can ;)) and bios updates can't fix.
  4. SDColorado Contributor


    Nov 6, 2011
    Highlands Ranch, CO
    Lenovo X1 Extreme comes to mind as being closely matched to the 2018 MBP as well. The 4K display is nice. Keyboard is fantastic (Lenovo may be the best here), Trackpad very good (Apple has everyone best here), Ram and SSD are upgradable. The computer can be upgraded to 32GB of RAM. 2 SSD slots and they can be configured in RAID 1 or 0. Fast recharge time. Good port selection.

    As for carbon fiber, absolutely no durability issues with it. Car parts, motorcycle helmets, etc. make use of it. But do keep in mind that despite the names of some like X1 Carbon, the entire chassis is not made out of carbon fiber. There is some definitely some “creative license” in marketing going on.

    That said Lenovo laptops do go through some fairly rigorous MIL-SPEC testing and are among the most durable.

    Closest in build if you prefer metal would maybe be the Microsoft Surface Book 2. Glued and non-upgradable like the MBP, but a solid build, good GPU, excellent battery life and a 2-1 design.
  5. hevonen thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 8, 2018
    Excellent, thank you all!

    Shortlist is then:
    HP ZBook Studio x360 (with Wacom pen this looks like a very nice combo..)
    Dell XPS 15 9570
    Lenovo X1 Extreme
    MS Surface Book 2

    All of them look impressive, though X1E and Surface Book 2 seem to be more expensive here compared to similarly specced XPS and ZBook. Is there a meaningful difference in quality between HP/Dell and Lenovo/Microsoft?

    Bonus round questions!
    - Do you find 16:9 displays a bit cramped vertically and does W10 play well with 4k displays?
    - Any experience with Dells 2-in-1 XPS and its pen?
    - I like using command line, how is the Linux subsystem in Windows? Quick googling makes it look finicky (editing files inside home directory with Windows software).

    Also, in case I fail to switch due to Unix+graphics software combo, what Apple laptop has the best bang/buck ratio (in combination with W10 desktop for heavy lifting)?
  6. bobbie424242, Dec 21, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2018

    bobbie424242 macrumors regular

    May 16, 2015
    Have a look at these videos (and comments) for a good idea on what the ZBook is like:

    Generally speaking build quality should be very good between these manufacturers. The advantage of going
    with these (vs smaller manufacturers) is that if you have a problem you can easily return it or get it fixed or a part replaced (including on-site for workstation models), etc.

    - W10 plays well with 4K displays. 16:9 is OK but I use software that makes use of the extra width
    - WSL works fine. If you want to access files with Windows software, you put then in your Windows home directory, not the WSL (unix) home directory. The Windows home directory can be accessed by WSL.
  7. SDColorado Contributor


    Nov 6, 2011
    Highlands Ranch, CO
    Lenovo seems to have discounts for everything from education to military to AARP and also seems to have a constantly rotating coupon. I don't know if you are familiar with the Honey browser extension, but Honey always seems to be able to find a Lenovo discount code. So that one may not be as expensive as you think.

    My personal preference as far as display ratios go is Microsofts 3:2, I like the taller screen and it works great for photo editing. Though I don't really have a problem with 16:9. I am definitely *not* in agreement with Vlad Savov about widescreen laptops being dumb. I actually think they are great for a lot of things. :)
  8. Never mind macrumors 6502

    Never mind

    Oct 25, 2018
    Dunedin, Florida
    Lenovo X1extreme would be my pic and I wish I had picked one up during Black Friday decked out to high specs for about $1800. Now it’s about $2600 for the same specs. I’m gonna wait till they have another good sale. Surface book 2 is always high and I wish they had some good sales. Those are the two I would really consider buying.
  9. AndyMacAndMic, Dec 22, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018

    AndyMacAndMic macrumors 6502a


    May 25, 2017
    Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Bonus round answers!
    • 16:9 displays are better for media consumption (movies etc.). Personally for work I prefer the Surface Line 3:2 screen ratio which gives a better real estate for work, but has the disadvantage of black bars with video's/movies. Windows is the de facto standard for gaming, so yes 4k AAA games play very well with Windows 10 on a 4k display. Other applications are handled well in 4k also of course. Exceptions maybe very old (not recently updated) Windows programs from before the 4k area that do not scale very well, but that has nothing to do with Windows itself.
    • No experience with the Dell pen, sorry.
    • The Linux subsystem may look a bit finicky to setup, but after that it works well. Also Windows has a very powerful command line set of it's own (Google 'powershell').
  10. SDColorado Contributor


    Nov 6, 2011
    Highlands Ranch, CO
    THINKGIFT15 seems to be a currently working coupon that will give a 15% discount, but I have seen Lenovo do 20% coupons as well.

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9 December 20, 2018