Dirty Alpaca

Buying a new W520, how does this look?

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Hi everyone!

I'm about to pull the trigger on a new ThinkPad W520 and it seemed like this would be a good place to get some feedback on my configuration before I go ahead with it. Here's what I would have coming from the factory:

Processor: 2860QM

Screen: 15.6" FHD LED

Graphics: Quadro 1000M

Memory: 4GB (1 DIMM)

Storage Configuration: RAID0

Hard Drive: 2x 320GB

For the memory, I planned on getting 2x G.SKILL 8GB (2x 4GB). One thing I've noticed mentioned though is that there are configurations of the W520 that do not come with 4 DIMM slots? If so, I'm not sure if it would be more cost-effective to purchase it from the factory with 8GB via 4x 2GB DIMMs so that I can ensure that I'll have four DIMM slots, or if I should still just go with the 1 4GB from the factory and purchase 2x 8GB DIMMs.

As for the drives, I'll be taking out those right away and putting two 128GB Crucial M4s in on RAID0.

I plan on installing some sort of *nix or BSD right away, and from what I've researched there don't appear to be any unresolvable hardware issues with the popular distros out there.

So, just wanted to get feedback on this setup from the community here (especially about the memory). Thanks!

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The thinkwiki says this about the DIMMs:

2GB, 4GB or 8GB DIMMS PC3-10600 memory standard

2 DIMM slots on dual-core models (up to 16GB)

4 DIMM slots on quad-core models (up to 32GB)

Samsung M471B5273DH0-CH9 4 GB DDR3-1333 SDRAM (8-8-8-22 @ 609 MHz) (7-7-7-20 @ 533 MHz) (6-6-6-17 @ 457 MHz) (5-5-5-14 @ 380 MHz)

http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:W520

Lenovo link also confirms

Since you selected the quad-core model, you should be fine getting 1 DIMM filed and buying memory somewhere else.

As for BSD/unix/linux, you should be fine as long as you have a good community to back you up. I don't see any issues there, but nowadays, my "linux adventures" are mainly done in virtual machines.

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The thinkwiki says this about the DIMMs:

http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:W520

Lenovo link also confirms

Since you selected the quad-core model, you should be fine getting 1 DIMM filed and buying memory somewhere else.

As for BSD/unix/linux, you should be fine as long as you have a good community to back you up. I don't see any issues there, but nowadays, my "linux adventures" are mainly done in virtual machines.

Thanks! I must've missed that when I was reading through all the ThinkWiki pages this weekend. That definitely puts my mind at ease.

Did you buy the SSDs yet? There are probably some other options to consider depending on budget.

I haven't actually purchased anything yet, still iterating over my configuration until I get it just right. Did you have any specific alternatives in mind? Purchasing either a single 256GB M4 or two 128GB M4s does fall within my budget. I had decided on the M4 based on the reviews here and other research I had done.

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If you want the performance, I'd look more toward the Samsung 830 or some of the better SandForce drives. The m4 is a good little drive, when it's priced aggressively, which it is from time to time. If you like Marvell, the Plextor M3S performs better.

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If you want the performance, I'd look more toward the Samsung 830 or some of the better SandForce drives. The m4 is a good little drive, when it's priced aggressively, which it is from time to time. If you like Marvell, the Plextor M3S performs better.

I've actually not bought an SSD before :) I've been using the MacBook Pros my work has given me the last couple years, so I'm totally out of date on the market for these (they were all still way out of price range for me the last time I bought a laptop in 2010). I would certainly like to get the most performance I can in my price range for the SSD (<= $400). The 256GB M4 is $350 on NewEgg right now, and the 830 is $400. I will definitely be doing a lot of intensive write operations for my day to day work (mostly from reloading test databases). From the benchmarks I see in your review for the 830 it looks to me like there is an appreciable difference between the M4 and the 830. Do you think it's worth the extra $50 for my use case, as that still falls within my budget for the drive?

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Thanks for all the help! Here's the revised configuration I'm currently looking at:

* i7-2760QM (decided it wasn't worth the extra ~$200 for the 2860)

* RAID0 configured for 2x 320 GB drives (I'll be disabling the RAID as soon as I get it and replacing the primary drive with an 830, with the prospects of getting another 830 soon to put on RAID1)

* 4GB memory (to be replaced with Corsair 16GB (2 x 8G), with the prospects of doubling that soon)

Now that I have all that down, I have room in the budget for an mSATA. Any recommendations there? I've read the review here for the OCZ Nocti and the 60GB looks pretty good to me.

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Depends on what you're after. I like the Nocti because it's easy to find and support should be easy to come by. There are faster drives but then support becomes a question. You can see a pretty wide scope of options here -

http://www.asiatechtrade.com/

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Just an update, I've had my new W520 for about a week now and I absolutely love it. I did go for the 830, and I'm on the verge of buying another one now to put in RAID1. It was a battle to get Linux installed unfortunately, the most stable setup I've found so far is Ubuntu 12.04 beta (32-bit with PAE). I think I'll do a full writeup soon over on ThinkWiki though on installing 32-bit PAE Arch Linux on the machine. Thanks for the help before I purchased!

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Glad it's working out for you, the 830 is a very good drive, I'm sure the boot drive would love to have a companion 830 :)

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Another update, looking to get my final set of upgrades now for the machine. Unfortunately I still haven't quite gotten Ubuntu 12.04 64-bit to work with the nvidia binary drivers. I'm looking now at replacing the 16GB of Corsair Value RAM I initially put into it with 32GB of Corsair Vengeance, a 60GB OCZ Nocti in the mSATA, and another 256GB Samsung 830 in the UltraBay in RAID0 with the 830 I currently have in it. All in all I think that should make this a truly magnificent machine and then some for the work that I do (and lots of virtual machines to support it!). Any feedback before I buy?

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Oh also, what would be your recommendations for a partitioning scheme here? Say if I were to follow the old rule of thumb for swap space, and I also need to have pretty much everything except for /boot encrypted. /var could end up getting pretty large with all the local development databases I use for work. Since I'll be using a lot of virtual machines, would it be wise to allocate a separate partition just for virtual disks? I'll have a total of 512GB to work with, plus either a 30GB or a 60GB mSATA (haven't decided on that yet).

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