As my current laptop, MacBookPro 15″ is approaching retirement I have been looking at possible replacements. I use my laptop for programming / data analysis, but mostly paper writing, paper figure making, and presentations. I have a high-spec Linux workstation and access to Linux CPU/storage nodes, which take care of all my processing (NGS data, RNA/protein structure prediction and RNA motif searching). Although I have an Apple at the moment, I’m not a Mac fan-boy.
My ideal bioinformatics laptop should have:
Software: I use different combinations of document preparation software to align with collaborators, I would probably just use LaTeX/BibTeX if given the choice. I use lots of web/cloud based tools, e.g. Evernote, Google Play, but these should work on any platform.
Programming (Perl, Python, R, C all via Vi with Git etc)
A terminal for SSH and Vi
MS Word (with Papers/Endnote)
LaTex (Texmaker with Git)
Powerpoint (and possibly keynote)
Adobe Illustrator and Inkscape (or just Inkscape at a stretch)
Hardware: My laptop goes everywhere with me including my commute by bike. In the office I hook it up to a large external monitor, but I still need a decent laptop screen (matt, high res) for at home and travelling.
Minimum of 512Gb SSD
Minimum of 8Gb RAM, ideally 16GB
Intel Haswell Chips (i7)
Battery Life, I’m rarely more than 5 hours from a power supply.
Matt screen (glossy screens reflect office lights too much). Unlikely to be an option as I can’t find any laptops with this option.
Light weight. This also includes the power-brick
13″ Screen size (11″ is a little small for programming, 15″ too big for travelling)
Current options: So what is available on the market to (nearly) meet these specifications? There is the option of dual booting to allow OSX/Windows with Linux or a virtual machine (Linux or Windows). Neither of which are ideal.
Apple MacBookAir 13″ [Apple]
Apple MacBookPro 13″ retina display [Apple]
Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition [Dell]
Razer Blade High performance Ultrabook [razer-blade]
A wide selection of Windows 8 Ultrabooks
Conclusion: My ideal laptop is the Razer Blade, but with a matt screen, running Linux, native Word/Powerpoint etc and available in the UK. However this doesn’t exist… yet. So I’m left with either another Apple (probably an Air) or a Dell running a Windows virtual machine. Neither option does everything I want. I hope Dell will continue the Developer Edition laptops but with higher spec hardware (bigger SSD and better screen in particular).