Monster Linux Laptops For High-End Content Creators.
Are you looking for the next state-of-the-art workstation class laptop to run your beloved Linux on? I am. Here is what I have found.
I am currently considering which graphics power house will best suite DiggnDeeper and my media/ content creation business. I want a laptop for portability, even though I know that the kind of laptop might stretch the definition of “portable”. I’m fine with that. I want performance.
I need a machine that can easily handle editing 10 bit 4k at 60 fps video from my Panasonic GH5 in Blender and also render some nice motion graphics on a regular basis. To be sure, that requires a monster machine. It will likely be a gaming laptop or a workstation laptop.
What kind of specs do I need for heavy video editing and solid 3d capabilities in a laptop that can run Linux?
Although we can go out and buy an i9 with a GTX 1080 or two, there is a lot of evidence that performance is heavily throttled by thermals in a laptop with those specs.
At least for now, cooling systems are not capable of getting all that heat out and test after test shows throttling. The price of some of these machines is about double that of an i7 with a GTX 1070 or 1080, which is close enough in performance that it seems like substantially diminished returns.
After what feels like fairly exhaustive research on forums and YouTube, these are the requirements I’m looking for (see box to the right).
- 8th gen i7 8750
- Quadro P3200 or GTX 1070
- NVMe drive
- 32 gigs ram although 64 seems wise for use with Blender.
- FHD @60hz and 300 nits
- Accepts crypto-currency or is available on Amazon so I can use Purse.io to pay with bitcoin.
My first choice was a System 76. This company specializes in Linux hardware and I have been wanting to try their machines out for a long time.
Their Bonobo is a true monster – with a price tag to match. They offer up to dual 1080Ti cards and a compliment of other top shelf components.
The slightly lesser configured Serval is a very capable machine as well and more in line with the specs I discussed above.
Sadly, System 76 does not take bitcoin payments and they don’t appear to have any offerings on Amazon. I did contact them about using bitcoin, but they did not offer a solution. That is a bummer. For that kind of price, I would be looking into how to make the deal.
Dell tends to have great Linux compatibility, as it has for quite some time now.
The G series gaming machines are just a tad underpowered with the highest graphics card available being a GTX 1060 card. Still, these are super nice and I can’t help wondering if I would be happy enough with one as it is easily the least expensive machine in this list.
The Precision series however, seems to have some really interesting options. These are very premium looking machines with some real power in a relatively thin design. They pack the Quadro P series NVidia cards, which are designed more for rendering (which is what I need it for) than gaming. The monitor is also color corrected and accurate. This is a machine looking for me – but hold on, there are Lenovos that are begging for me…
Although I am not the biggest fan of the brand aesthetics matching my own brand, I would be really tempted to try the i9 version with the 1080 and UHD screen. Unfortunately, there are just too many tests that seem to show it throttling due to thermals.
Sadly, Dell does not accept bitcoin anymore, (they stopped when the fees went crazy last year), but most of these systems are on Amazon so I can buy it using bitcoin through Purse.io.
These seem to be a slightly more budget friendly option for the power you can get from them. I do like the styling, though not as much as some others on this list. They also have a 4k screen option which reviews are often surprised by the quality and IPS feature. I see no signs of color depth or accuracy anywhere, though.
The WS63 workstation is a nice looking machine with 8 gen processor and the lighter Quadro cards.
The WT75 workstation is the beefier option which offers the Quadro P5200 card.
Turn off secure boot
Set boot to UEFI (DO NOT USE CSM)
Set TPM to 2.0 with 1.x compatibility
It appears that System 76 uses Sager chassis to build their laptops. There does seem to be a (legitimate) premium on the Sytem 76 builds, so I think we could get a bit more bang for the buck here.
Reviews are overwhelmingly positive about the reliability and performance of these machines, though points for style are often docked. I like them. Again, they aren’t as nice looking as the Dell or Lenovo machines, but I do like these.
The NP9877 has the best processor available, the i7 8086k with a GTX 1080 card or even two in SLI.
The NP9175 also offers the i7 8086, but with an overclocked GTX 1070. To be fair, an overclocked 1070 is very comparable to the 1080 in performance.
Now this is what I like to look at when I think of a content creation masterpiece. Yes, I’m biased, but these are great looking, high performance and mil-spec tough.
The ThinkPad line in particular have a cult following in the Linux community.
The problem is that the processors on the available workstations are not 8th generation. It looks like they are coming out with a new line soon, but not yet.
The ThinkPad P72 is the new, not yet available perfect laptop for my needs right down to the 10 bit color depth display that my Panasonic GH5 produces.
Time to think for a bit.
Sitting at my desk this morning, having spent a few days doing research and writing this little article, I’m willing to pull the trigger on the MSI WT75. I found a fully speced build on Amazon and all I have to do is fund it through Purse.io and wait for it.
But, I am going to wait. It is always a good idea to wait when I feel like emotions might be driving my decision. The reason I want the MSI right now is that it is the most speced out machine I found. The truth is that the ThinkPad P72 is the best machine for me. It is all the things I want plus.
I’ll maybe wait a couple of weeks until the P72 is on Amazon and hopefully bitcoin will be up again.
Once I finally do get my machine, I’ll do a write up about it, of course.