Laptop Recommendations (For My Use Case)

RandomDSdevel

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 23, 2009
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Kokomo, IN
-----I'm currently stuck running OS X v10.11.6 'El Capitan' (build 15G22010) from a 1-TB external drive via USB 2.0 (for some reason, booting over FireWire 400 or 800 never worked; it's probably a driver or drive controller issue, but I never really looked into it all that deeply) on an ailing quasi–hand-me-down mid-2007 24" iMac ('iMac7,1'/A1225/EMC 2134/MA878LL) with a 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 processor, 4 GB of 667-MHz DDR2 SDRAM, an ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro graphics card with 256 MB of GDDR3 VRAM, and a broken power-supply temperature sensor cable (which causes overheating issues after a while.) I've been saving up for a laptop to replace it for a little while now (painfully slowly and rather belatedly, but that's another story) and, while I'd honestly prefer to stay in the Apple ecosystem with such a purchase, the available Mac laptops have become less and less appealing over the past several years.
-----I'd have been perfectly satisfied to get another Mac if Apple had kept the 17-inch MacBook Pro alive and kept most of its I/O options intact alongside adding new ones, but we all know how that went, now, don't we? (Sigh…) I know that other manufacturers' offerings have been catching up to Apple's over time while both offering the enthusiast configurations I'd be after for major future-proofing and still selling them at prices within a reasonable budget. On the other hand, it seems that Microsoft has lately been collecting rather too much telemetry data for my tastes. It also occurs to me that a non-trivial number of individuals are jumping ship to FLOSS operating systems (and using compatibility emulation shims such as Wine to run platform-dependent software they still need) or doing well with Hackintoshes despite the hassle involved in maintaining one of those. In any case, could somebody help me consider my options more concretely?
 

ChrisA

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Jan 5, 2006
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Redondo Beach, California
The title says "for my use case" But you never say what that is. Could you tell us what it is you DO with the computer?

You did say you wanted legacy I/O ports. What is it you need to connect? You say you need a larger screen but why? Are you writing software or editing video or still images?
 
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thekev

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Aug 5, 2010
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That thing is ancient and you never mention an actual use case. You should be fine with basically anything on the market today, assuming that did all that was required of it. Future proofing is nonsense. If you're looking more than two years ahead, it's not possible to really predict. It often just costs significantly more for little to no time added between upgrades. The only thing that sometimes helps is ram. Even drives die and require replacement, particularly after that many years.
 
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RandomDSdevel

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Original poster
Jul 23, 2009
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Kokomo, IN
The title says "for my use case" But you never say what that is. Could you tell us what it is you DO with the computer?



…You say you need a larger screen but why? Are you writing software or editing video or still images?
-----Yes, sorry; I'm getting more and more into software development. I also do some writing off and on, including digital typesetting using LaTeX (this includes some tentative attempts at literate programming and shelling out to compilers.) (Additionally, I might edit video in the future. Also, I don't tend to play many games on my current machine, as I'm mostly a home/portable console gamer, but it would be nice to have the option.) Another reason I'd prefer a larger screen is that I have low vision (about 20:150- to 20:200-ish,)



You did say you wanted legacy I/O ports. What is it you need to connect? …
-----Barring grabbing a rat's nest of adapters along the way (I haven't yet found a hub that has all of the ports I'd like,) the following would come in quite handily:
  • An RJ-45 Ethernet port (at least 10/100/1000-BaseT; for wired networking and connecting to old hardware we have laying around the house that never had wireless capabilities to grab files off of them)
  • FireWire 400 and 800 ports (for connecting external drive enclosures and old Macs via FireWire Target Disk Mode, again to pull old files off of them)
  • USB Type A (I have several peripherals with this connector lying around)
  • An optical drive (I still watch movies and listen to and/or rip music CDs using this)
Also nice to have would be an SDSC/HC/XC card slot. I know I could also get all of this and more with an external port hub, but nothing I've seen available for sale has quite suited my fancy just yet. I'd rather try to avoid as much of dongle purgatory as possible, anyway.
[doublepost=1542050104][/doublepost]
… Even drives die and require replacement, particularly after that many years.
-----In my experience, external drive enclosures' power supplies die much more often than the drives themselves.
 

sosumi99

macrumors 6502
Oct 27, 2003
348
284
Given your use cases, I don't see why you'd want an Apple laptop at all. Apple does not and will not in the foreseeable future make anything that meets your needs.

Software wise, you'll be much better served with a machine running Windows and Linux, and there are tons of excellent laptops that will do this. But many of the newer non-Apple laptops have also migrated away from legacy ports, so I think you're better off with one of the older machines. The FireWire is going to be the sticking point, as almost no laptop supports these now without dongles and such, so I suggest you put the drive in some other more compatible enclosure.

An older Thinkpad may do the trick for you, and should last you a long time.
 
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mzeb

macrumors regular
Jan 30, 2007
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Hi and a bit of an odd suggestion:

First, my use cases so you know where I'm coming from: Software engineer and light gamer with a bit of system admin thrown in.

Have you considered an e-GPU enclosure plus a laptop? If the RJ45, FW400/800, any heavy video editing and Optical drive don't need to travel this might be a good option.

I use a Mantiz Venus with a Radeon RX 580 and a 13" MacBook Pro as my setup. It has 5 USB A ports (one of which has a BD-R optical drive plugged in for ripping Blu-rays) plus an RJ45. The RX 580 is a desktop class video card and more than I need so I suspect it would handle your video editing well. The nice thing about this setup is it's just one plug to hook everything into the laptop. GPU, optical drive, full keyboard, mouse and gigabit ethernet all just come online when I plug in the TB3 cable to my laptop.

When traveling I do carry apples multi-port adapter for USB-A and HDMI. A little bit of a hassle but not too bad.

You can totally get a Firewire adapter to USB-A but I would encourage you to dump that tech if you can. FW is all but dead with TB at more than 40x as fast and USB at 10x. Unless you're really invested in it I suspect it will cause you more headaches than it's worth.

Let me know if I can help further.
 
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RandomDSdevel

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Original poster
Jul 23, 2009
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Kokomo, IN
Given your use cases, I don't see why you'd want an Apple laptop at all. …
-----It's mostly because I haven't ever used anything other than a Mac at home before and would prefer the consistency and convenience of just having to clone a drive over; plus, I'm slightly dreading having to migrate everything over to a completely different platform manually. I haven't seen a good, cross-platform solution for automated account migration yet. (Might as well grit my teeth, bear it, and get it over with, though…)

…Apple does not and will not in the foreseeable future make anything that meets your needs.

-----I agree, and that's, by and large, the depressing part of all this.



Software wise, you'll be much better served with a machine running Windows and Linux, …
-----Thanks. I may try FreeBSD (since that's where macOS got most of its userland components from) or one of its siblings out, too.

…and there are tons of excellent laptops that will do this. …
-----All right. What brands would you recommend in general (besides Lenovo, which you mention below?)

…But many of the newer non-Apple laptops have also migrated away from legacy ports, so I think you're better off with one of the older machines. …
-----So I've noticed, with similar displeasure. Do you have any models in mind in particular?

…The FireWire is going to be the sticking point, as almost no laptop supports these now without dongles and such, so I suggest you put the drive in some other more compatible enclosure.

-----The enclosure supports USB 2.x; it's just not as fast. FireWire is one port I'd be OK getting an adapter with; I just want to keep the number dongles to a minimum.



An older Thinkpad may do the trick for you, and should last you a long time.
-----Right; I've continually overheard generally positive reviews of Lenovo products over the years, and the ones my old school used to have were rather durable. Thanks for the pointer.

---

Hi and a bit of an odd suggestion:

First, my use cases so you know where I'm coming from: Software engineer and light gamer with a bit of system admin thrown in.

-----No, it's not odd at all; I do a non-trivial amount of system administration on my current machine myself, as well, so what you do with your equipment sounds similar to what I'd be looking to use my future setup for.



Have you considered an e-GPU enclosure plus a laptop? If the RJ45, FW400/800, any heavy video editing and Optical drive don't need to travel this might be a good option.

I use a Mantiz Venus with a Radeon RX 580 and a 13" MacBook Pro as my setup. It has 5 USB A ports (one of which has a BD-R optical drive plugged in for ripping Blu-rays) plus an RJ45. The RX 580 is a desktop class video card and more than I need so I suspect it would handle your video editing well. The nice thing about this setup is it's just one plug to hook everything into the laptop. GPU, optical drive, full keyboard, mouse and gigabit ethernet all just come online when I plug in the TB3 cable to my laptop.

When traveling I do carry apples multi-port adapter for USB-A and HDMI. A little bit of a hassle but not too bad.

You can totally get a Firewire adapter to USB-A but I would encourage you to dump that tech if you can. FW is all but dead with TB at more than 40x as fast and USB at 10x. Unless you're really invested in it I suspect it will cause you more headaches than it's worth.

Let me know if I can help further.
-----Unfortunately, I'd still expect to find Ethernet and the optical drive useful while traveling, but I suppose I wouldn't be entirely averse to having something else sitting on a desk or table somewhere in the house as long as I didn't need to use it away from there too often. I hadn't heard of the Mantis brand before, though; has your Venus generally been reliable for you?
 

sosumi99

macrumors 6502
Oct 27, 2003
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-----It's mostly because I haven't ever used anything other than a Mac at home before and would prefer the consistency and convenience of just having to clone a drive over; plus, I'm slightly dreading having to migrate everything over to a completely different platform manually. I haven't seen a good, cross-platform solution for automated account migration yet. (Might as well grit my teeth, bear it, and get it over with, though…)
You'll probably be pleasantly surprised when you change platforms. There's a lot more power to be had per dollar in non-Apple land. I migrated away from Apple and then back as a software developer, and the adjustment each time took some months, but was not as bad as I had feared. The thing you'll miss the most is probably the touchpad on Apple laptops. There's no PC manufacturer that can match Apple's integration on this.

I don't have specific suggestions for a laptop. I used Dell and Lenovo about five years ago and found the Dells awful and the Levovos great, but I hear that Dell has been getting better. I own a Surface Pro now, but that line is definitely not for you (no support for legacy ports, etc.) You may have better luck asking in a PC user forum for recommendations of older machines that do what you want. I suspect you may have to live with an Ethernet dongle too, as that seems to be the case for everyone at my company now.
 
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