Powerful Laptop Recommendations?

I'm looking for a replacement for my aging, circa-2000 IBM Thinkpad a20p, pictured at right. I was wondering if you might have any recommendations? I plan to dual-boot Windows XP and FreeBSD 6.0 on this system. It needs to be powerful as I would like to use it for teaching classes as well. Here are the specs I had in mind:

  • Intel® Pentium® M Processor 760 [2.00GHz, 2MB L2 cache, 533MHz FSB]

  • 2 GB RAM

  • 60 GB+ 7200 RPM HDD

  • NVIDIA GeForce video, to take advantage of their FreeBSD drivers and avoid ATI

  • Gigabit NIC

  • 802.11b/g is nice, especially if disabled via external switch

  • Bluetooth -- not sure if I need it?

  • Under 7 lbs -- my current laptop is more like a ThinkBrick

  • At least a 14.1" screen; I don't care about widescreens

I like the features of the Toshiba Tecra M3, but the reviews are terrible. I really like the durability and keyboard of my Thinkpad and I worry what other vendors are going to provide. I appreciate your help.

Update: Thank you for all of your comments. I've decided to wait for the arrival of Windows Vista in Q306. By that time I expect to see Intel Virtualization Technology in 64 bit mobile CPUs like the Intel Merom, which will be very helpful for my classroom setup. There's an outside chance I would get a Mac running on Intel as well, if VMware was supported.


Anonymous said…
Hang in there!
No, seriously, hang in there till Apple release an intel based laptop (yeah, 12 months away or so)
But when they do, I'm getting the best laptop around that can boot Windows, Solaris, Linux, *BSD and, of course, Mac OS X...
Other than that, some of the higher-end IBM laptops are nice. Bland, but still nice. I can't think off the top of my head of any other manufacturers other than IBM and Apple that make laptops in metal cases (and I'm not 100% sure if IBM still do) but my Aluminium PowerBook G4 15" is by far and away the most durable consumer laptop I've used (not including specialised ruggedised machines, such as the Panasonic ToughBooks etc)
arwuah said…

The specs you mentioned above describe that of my ThinkPad T43PH2U, except I have the Intel 770 2.13Ghz processor with a 15" screen and 1G of RAM.

I find this post fascinating because several months ago, when I was searching for laptops I was influenced to get an IBM because I read one of your post about how FreeBSD ran soo nicely on it (it was an A-Series ThinkPad you posted about sometime ago).

My T43P runs smooth, its fast and well built. The only thing I dislike about this beauty is the heat problem when running FBSD. For instance, running buildworld with the machine set to high performance will easily raise the temperature to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. I kid you not! And, yes it still runs after that. Its a ThinkPad!

Apples are nice, but if they are going to release OSX for Intel why wait 12 months or so when you can buy a top of the line ThinkPad that will run OS X? Unless... Apple cuts a deal with Intel to only make specific Intel’s to run their OS.
Anonymous said…
Personally, I have always liked the IBM Thinkpads. They are close to be being the best designed laptops on the market, well at least they were 4 or 5 years ago. I haven't had the luxury of purchasing a new laptop lately, so this may very well have changed by now.

If you don't mind Dell's, then the Precicion line might be of interest. The M70 comes with a nVidia Quadro FX Go1400 256MB OpenGL graphics adapter, as well as the rest of the specs that you listed. I don't know, if there is a FBSD driver for this video adapter or not.

As with any laptop heat is something that you have to live with. FBSD may not be able to communicate well with the hardware that controls ventilation/cooling on the newer laptops.

I have a Dell Latitude D810 that I use at work as my main machine. It was ordered with a docking station, so I could use an external monitor, mouse and keyboard. This is great for me, as using the laptop kvm all the time might be tiring.

I am planning on installing FBSD on it someday soon, but I just haven't had any free time to do so yet, hopefully soon though. I doubt that I will dual boot it, as I would rather leave windows behind. I might run into problems with the ATI video adapter though, but we'll see soon enough.

It has been a decent laptop so far. The only problem so far has been windows. It might not meet your needs, but the other models of the Latitude line come with nVidia graphics.

Enjoy the hunt!

Anonymous said…
If you're going to spend the money...why not go 64bit?
Anonymous said…
I'd really suggest looking at a 15" PowerBook - OS/X is based upon FreeBSD, so you get juicy *NIX goodness along with Microsoft Office for Mac, which is 10x better than it is under Windows. All the traffic analysis and telemetry tools you can think of run just fine on it . . . why not go ahead and make the switch? You'll really thank yourself, if you do.
Anonymous said…
I second the powerbook recommendation. My 15" powerbook 1.5GHZ G4 works like a champ!
Anonymous said…
Hi Richard,
I previously had a Thinkpad A21p and recently bought a T43p. The T43p is a really nice machine, it has has all the features you desire except it comes with an ATI card. The card works like a champ with Xorg though, giving you a resloution of 1400x1050.
Base Gent said…
I would also recommend the T42p over the T43 series. It doesn't seem to have the same heat issues. The last great laptop I had (until I changed jobs 2 weeks ago) was a T42P 2373-P3U with 2gb of ram, 14.1 screen (1400x1050 display that was a very useful) and an atheros wireless chipset that support a/b/g. The T42P is a solidly balanced machine. Get a mactop later.

This pdf will give you a breakdown of current models available with options.

Anonymous said…
Another Thinkpad vote. I've tried just about every brand out there, and the Thinkpad's keyboard and durability just can't be beat.

Anonymous said…
Tecra M3s have lot of trouble. I ve got one....had to get the motherboard changed twice.My colleagues who have the same have also various complaints. I would not recommend Tecra .
ThinkPad from Lenovo is a better option. IBM and HP do provide good after sales service also. Panasonic and Sony seem to lack in the support front.
mich said…
I was really hooked on the T42p, but it was just too damn expensive.. I ended up with Fujitsu-Siemens Lifebook S7010, and I can warmly recommend it.

It's super light, and powerful (2GHz Pentuim-M, 2GB RAM, 80GB drive, Gigabit ethernet, builtin 802.11b/g... and weighing in at less than 2kg)
15,1" screen, however max resolution is only 1024x768.

I haven't tested windows on it, but I run FreeBSD-CURRENT without any problems.
Anonymous said…
Another vote for the Thinkpad ;-) I am using a T43p and it's a very nice machine!
Anonymous said…
And yet another reccomendation on a ThinkPad. I'm dual booting XP and FreeBSD (6.0) on my T42p and have _zero_ issues. I do full time development in both OS's and I love it.
Anonymous said…
Looking through sites and groups, the IBM x40 seems popular with OpenBSD users. Let us know what you choose and why.
Anonymous said…
I have used Linux-based laptops, on x86, in the past, but two years ago I bought an iBook, just to get a feeling for it. I have never turned back to Linux or x86, since, and have just recently purchased a Powerbook 15" 1.67GHZ (Apple released it a few weeks back). With this, in conjunction with fink, I can run absolutely all my previously Linux-based tools, and a virtual PC for the Windows environment, all with the robust MacOSX/*BSD controlling the "assembly". I did not want to wait for the x86 platform for MacOSX simply because I could just not see the advantage of such, for MacOSX, and cannot see all the goodies having been developed in years, to be easily migrated from PPC ... but this may just be me, of course.
Anonymous said…
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* – 128MB ATI RADEON(R) XPRESS 200M w/Hypermemory(TM)
* – 2.0GB DDR SDRAM (2x1024MB)
* – 80 GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive
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Anonymous said…
Asus Z71A. Check it out. It's so cheap and has tons of features, you'll thank me later.
Anonymous said…

I have to also recommend the PowerBook G4. As someone else mentioned when you run Office:mac on it, you have the best of both worlds and don't have to contstantly move back and forth out of VMWare to have the capability use a native *ix environment as well as the functionality of Windows.

I have the 12-inch G4 and use it as my pentest platform and have not come across any of the standard tools I use in that capacity that will not work.

Da Chief.
Anonymous said…
I vote for ThinkPad T43 14.1" screen. The only
problem of T43 is there is
no reliable FreeBSD driver for the ATI X300 in 3D mode.
Anonymous said…
Do people still need serial ports to connect to appliances and swithches.
How do you connect to a Soekris box
w/o a serial port? The PowerBooks and IBM X don't have serial ports?
Anonymous said…
Anonymous: RS232 is so 20th century! Get a USB->RS232 converter cable and you're good to go with a powerbook and your soekris box.
Anonymous said…
Hey Richard,
After reading your req. I would suggest go for:
Dell XPS Gen2
you will love it.
Take care.
Best Regards,
Anonymous said…
I'd go with a Asus Z81SP or any other Ause Laptop.

I now this site is funky but you will get the best price on them: http://geared2play.com/products/laptops/LAPTOPS.htm
Anonymous said…
Dell Precision M70... I think it meets all your requirements. I've been using it for about six months and I'm really happy with it. The main drawback is the lack of a Firewire port (Dell offers an IEEE 1394 CardBus adapter… the good thing about it is that comes with 3 Firewire ports).
Anonymous said…
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