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Back in late 2007 I went way outside my comfort zone and bought an Apple MacBook Pro. I loved that machine... fantastic form factor, great screen, fast... you name it... it was a great laptop. I did have some issues with it unfortunately, like this nasty issue where the keyboard and trackpad would die, but thanks to some great support (and three tries), they replaced it with a brand new machine.

However recently I've been hitting my head against two hard barriers that I just couldn't get over. Both involve the fact I do a lot of virtualization work being a SharePoint junkie. When working from home, that's not a big deal as I use my big virtualization rig. But when on the road, which I've done quite a bit, I've run into challenges. I wanted 8GB of RAM... seems excessive I know, but it isn't. I have been doing a lot with HyperV and I need to be able to run a VM with 4GB (no, anything less wouldn't work for this project). Even though I was setup with triple boot, i couldn't have a VM with 4GB dedicated to it. The other problem was with external disks; I'm sick of having to run a VM off an external USB/FireWire disk. It isn't the speed problem (so spare me the eSATA comments), its the challenge of having this disk always around. You can't do decent work on a plane or in an airport on a VM with an additional disk and many presentation podiums are short on space. Those are the big things... there were little things that got under my skin, but they weren't deciding factors.

So over the last few months I've been eyeing a few machines. The new MacBook Pros are nice and can support 8GB, but their video drivers are still such crap that you absolutely must run MacOS natively rather than Vista/Windows 2008. I'm not a MacOS guy... I liked my MBP purely for the hardware.

After much research and recommendations I settled on the Lenovo ThinkPad w500. Bit the bullet too in order to make this a blazing machine:

  • Core 2 Duo 2.8Ghz (T9600)
  • 8GB RAM (aftermarket via Crucial)
  • 128GB SSD (these disks ROCK... blazing fast and silent!)
  • Modular UltraBay so I can have a DVD drive OR SATA drive (hot swappable baby!)
  • ATI Mobility FireGL V5700 w/ 512MB

This thing is BLAZING fast (Vista index of 5.3... everything is 5.9 except the gaming graphics at 5.3). Right now I've got 3 OS' installed: Vista x64 (my primary OS), Windows Server 2008 x64 (primarily for HyperV) and Windows 7 (for play). The first two are on my SSD, the other is installed on the 2nd modular SATA disk. All my VMs are on the modular SATA disk (7200RPM 320GB). This setup is perfect... last night I tried running just off the big 9 cell battery with no wireless, in the Balanced power mode with the 2nd modular drive in... I got nearly 4hrs of charge!

There will be things I miss with my MBP. A beautiful LCD screen (although I like the Lenovo's 1920x1200 res vs. my MBP's 1440x900), backlit keyboard and huge trackpad.

As far as form factor, the w500 is nearly the same size as the MBP (yes, it really is). Weight-wise it's a bit heavier, but I'm also running with the bigger 9 cell battery. Got a few issues though... after the rebuild, I can't get the fingerprint sensor working in Vista. :( Also can't get the integrated camera working... not show stoppers and I might just wait until the RC for Win7 comes out to try them.

So there you have it... no longer a MBP guy... I'm now a Lenovo guy! Maybe Joe will lay off now... :)

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