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ThinkPad P70 or Surface Book?


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#1 Cynthia Moore

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Posted 27 April 2017 - 06:12 PM

It looks like the high end Surface Book can compete pretty well with the high end ThinkPad P70 and it's quite a bit cheaper. I will use it mainly for business applications (Word Excel, Access) and some software development.I will not be playing any games or doing any high demand graphics.

 

Is there any reason that I should not go with the Surface Book?

 

It does have one fairly serious flaw: The rep at the store told me that the battery is soldered in and not replaceable. I called their "support" line and got the run-around. 

 

Does anyone know if that is true.

 

The other problem is that it only has a 13" screen, whereas the ThinkPad has a 17", but I can live with that one.


Edited by Cynthia Moore, 27 April 2017 - 06:12 PM.

Running Win 10 & Office 365.


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#2 smax013

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 05:07 PM

Keep in mind that the Surface Book will actually have two batteries to potentially deal with...one in the tablet/screen part (i.e. used when the screen is detached to operate in tablet mode) and one in the keyboard part (i.e. for when used as an actual laptop).

If you want, here is iFixit's "teardown" of the Surface Book. It should give you an idea how accessible the batteries are, which looks to be "not very" (i.e. requiring major "surgery"):

https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Microsoft+Surface+Book+Teardown/51972

Note: This is NOT a repair guide, but a "teardown" that has the sole purpose of complete disassembly to see what parts are included, but also get an idea of how repairable it might be.

Step 30 of the teardown does say this under one of the bullet points:

After the difficult opening procedure, the SSD can be replaced. So too the glued battery in the display. However, the base battery is very heavily glued.


So, it appears that the battery in the keyboard base (i.e. the main battery) is not soldered down, but it is heavily glued down. And then there is the challenge in just cracking open the keyboard based (and the display) just to get to the battery. So, it appears that you could replace the battery yourself if you really wanted, it is NOT a task for the faint of heart. It appears that iFixit does give the Surface Book a "repairability score" of 1 out of 10.

As to a comparison between the two, they are kind of two different animals unless you equip them similarly.

The Lenovo P70 is a mobile workstation that is aimed at people who need serious power, especially for business related graphically intensive tasks (i.e. thing like CAD and 3D modeling) and where weight is less of an issue (it weighs at least 7.5 lbs). As such, even its cheapest "base" option comes with an i7 Quad core processor and a Quadro workstation oriented dedicated graphics card.

The Surfacebook is more of a business/prosumer level 2-in-1 laptop that is meant to rather light (about 3.5 lbs)and portable, yet still be able to pack a punch if needed. As a result, its based model (which is still only about $300 cheaper than the Lenovo P70's base model) comes with an i5 processor and only integrated graphics.

Now, you can spec them similarly (i.e. both with i7 processors, although I cannot fully tell from Microsoft's page which i7 it is and I am too lazy at the moment to look elsewhere for that info; and both with a 256 GB SSD) and their price gets pretty close (both around $2100 assuming no other changes other than switching the Surfacebook to an i7, which also gets you a discrete graphics card, and the P70 from a 500 GB hard drive to a 256 GB SSD). But, even then, they are still dramatically different. The Surfacebook will still be way lighter and more portable while the P70 will have a larger screen and a workstation graphics system that is more aimed to things like CAD and 3D modeling than gaming.

So, to me, you need to first determine what you really need and/or are after. From your description, you likely can live with a Surfacebook with an i5 processor and only integrated graphics (although what kind of software development could effect this). If so, that means you can go with the base Surfacebook model and thus get the lower cost. Then the question is whether or not you can live with a 13" screen as opposed to a 17" screen, which from your post sounds like you can. The last question is whether or not you need or want an easily removable battery. The Surfacebook's definitely does not meet that criteria, while the P70's apparently does.

So, to me, the question boils down to if you are just deciding between the two...do you want a light, highly portable 2-in-1 one with a 13" screen and a hard to replace battery and that can be bought for a lower price but with no discrete graphics or a heavy mobile workstation with a 17" screen, an easy to remove and replace battery that will definitely come with a discrete graphics system, but will have a 500 GB hard drive rather than an SSD in the base model (thus requiring spending more if you want an SSD)? After you answer that question, you can then decide if there are any upgrades that you want to do beyond the base model.

Even for me personally, it is not a clear cut choice. It depends on what need I would be filling. Since I don't really travel these days and thus don't need portability, I would personally would likely pick the P70 of the two. But, then I am not in the market for a Window laptop, or even a laptop in general, so I don't really have a need.

#3 Cynthia Moore

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 12:58 AM

Keep in mind that the Surface Book will actually have two batteries to potentially deal with...one in the tablet/screen part (i.e. used when the screen is detached to operate in tablet mode) and one in the keyboard part (i.e. for when used as an actual laptop).

I visited the local Microsoft store and was told exactly that. I asked them why they would build a machine with the part most likely to fail be not replaceable. They said that it was necessary to get it as compact as it is. I then asked what I do if the battery fails or gets very weak. I was told that if it's in warranty, they will give me a new machine. If it's out of warranty, they will give me a new machine for $700 (this was a machine with most of the upgrades).
 

As to a comparison between the two, they are kind of two different animals unless you equip them similarly.

The Lenovo P70 is a mobile workstation that is aimed at people who need serious power, especially for business related graphically intensive tasks (i.e. thing like CAD and 3D modeling) and where weight is less of an issue (it weighs at least 7.5 lbs). As such, even its cheapest "base" option comes with an i7 Quad core processor and a Quadro workstation oriented dedicated graphics card.

The Surfacebook is more of a business/prosumer level 2-in-1 laptop that is meant to rather light (about 3.5 lbs)and portable, yet still be able to pack a punch if needed. As a result, its based model (which is still only about $300 cheaper than the Lenovo P70's base model) comes with an i5 processor and only integrated graphics.

Now, you can spec them similarly (i.e. both with i7 processors, although I cannot fully tell from Microsoft's page which i7 it is and I am too lazy at the moment to look elsewhere for that info; and both with a 256 GB SSD) and their price gets pretty close (both around $2100 assuming no other changes other than switching the Surfacebook to an i7, which also gets you a discrete graphics card, and the P70 from a 500 GB hard drive to a 256 GB SSD). But, even then, they are still dramatically different. The Surfacebook will still be way lighter and more portable while the P70 will have a larger screen and a workstation graphics system that is more aimed to things like CAD and 3D modeling than gaming.

So, to me, you need to first determine what you really need and/or are after. From your description, you likely can live with a Surfacebook with an i5 processor and only integrated graphics (although what kind of software development could effect this). If so, that means you can go with the base Surfacebook model and thus get the lower cost. Then the question is whether or not you can live with a 13" screen as opposed to a 17" screen, which from your post sounds like you can. The last question is whether or not you need or want an easily removable battery. The Surfacebook's definitely does not meet that criteria, while the P70's apparently does.

So, to me, the question boils down to if you are just deciding between the two...do you want a light, highly portable 2-in-1 one with a 13" screen and a hard to replace battery and that can be bought for a lower price but with no discrete graphics or a heavy mobile workstation with a 17" screen, an easy to remove and replace battery that will definitely come with a discrete graphics system, but will have a 500 GB hard drive rather than an SSD in the base model (thus requiring spending more if you want an SSD)? After you answer that question, you can then decide if there are any upgrades that you want to do beyond the base model.

Even for me personally, it is not a clear cut choice. It depends on what need I would be filling. Since I don't really travel these days and thus don't need portability, I would personally would likely pick the P70 of the two. But, then I am not in the market for a Window laptop, or even a laptop in general, so I don't really have a need.

I don't need a high end graphics card. I can live with the 13.5" screen. Most of my use will be on my desk with an external screen and keyboard.

The demo on the Surface Book was impressive. The detachable screen is actually kinda handy and it's a touch screen, so it can do a lot of what a tablet can do. I'll upgrade to the faster processor and maximum memory.

Thanks for the detailed reply. Very helpful.

Running Win 10 & Office 365.


#4 Cynthia Moore

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 01:46 PM

I have a couple of more specific questions after more research.

 

First, my usage:

  • 60% office type work: Word, Excel, Access, QuickBooks, browsers. Some of the Word documents are fairly large (80-100 pages) and contain a lot of graphics (charts, graphs, screen shots, clip art, some photos).
  • 30% software development: mostly writing code and creating flowcharts in Visio plus and some compiling and testing. This is probably similar to the office work as far as CPU demand.
  • 5% simulations: Writing and running some medium complexity simulations. These take seconds to minutes on my old Dell Inspiron 9400 laptop.
  • 5% graphics: Very light Photoshop-like editing of photos.

Here are my questions:

  1. CPU & Memory: If I get the Surface Book, it will be with the Performance Base. That means an Intel Core i7 CPU with 16GB or memory. The P70 has a Xeon E3-1575 v5 with 64 GB of memory. Will I notice a difference for what I do?
  2. External Monitor: I'm not too worried about the screen size (13.5 vs 17.3) because it will be used with the docking station and at least one external monitor 90% of the time. My question is what size external monitor can each machine support? I'll probably be getting at least a 24" monitor, but I might get a larger one if it were supported.
  3. Ports: Some reviews complained that the Surface Book had old USB 3.0 ports. Will this be a problem?

Thanks

 


Running Win 10 & Office 365.


#5 smax013

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 05:22 PM

I visited the local Microsoft store and was told exactly that. I asked them why they would build a machine with the part most likely to fail be not replaceable. They said that it was necessary to get it as compact as it is.


That is the reason given for all similar such machines (including the Mac laptops that I use), which does make some sense. Nor sure of the need to superglue the battery in place making it super hard to remove, but I can understand the need to go to a non-removable (by simple means at least) battery. Quick release type batteries take up more room than the types of batteries that in the likes of the Surfacebook (and my Retina MacBook Pro). And when they are trying to make the laptop as sleek and svelte as possible, then that makes sense. And I am fine with that. It is also the reason why they tend tend to go to un-upgradable RAM (soldered directly onto the motherboard) and potentially un-upgradable SSDs (again potentially soldered onto the motherboard). Soldering some RAM chips directly onto the motherboard takes up less space than a RAM DIMM. Same can be true of SSD storage chips.

Where I have a problem is when that is the only option available. This is less of an issue in the Windows worlds as there are tons of options. It has, however, become a pain in the rear in the Mac world as ALL their laptops (and some of their desktops) have been designed with the "we must make it as thin and light as possible even if that means we sacrifice form over function" mentality. I could see that for some of the laptops, but not all. Not every one needs a superduper thin laptop.

Sorry, got a bit off topic with my rant about Apple's "thin is everything" kick.

I then asked what I do if the battery fails or gets very weak. I was told that if it's in warranty, they will give me a new machine. If it's out of warranty, they will give me a new machine for $700 (this was a machine with most of the upgrades).


That sounds good. Of course, being the an extremely "glass is half empty" type person, I would not believe it until I needed to make use of that policy and found that the policy was in fact true...unless I had the policy in writing...and even then would suspect it would be a pain in the rear to get them to honor the policy. :grinner:

#6 smax013

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 05:57 PM

I have a couple of more specific questions after more research.
 
First, my usage:

  • 60% office type work: Word, Excel, Access, QuickBooks, browsers. Some of the Word documents are fairly large (80-100 pages) and contain a lot of graphics (charts, graphs, screen shots, clip art, some photos).
  • 30% software development: mostly writing code and creating flowcharts in Visio plus and some compiling and testing. This is probably similar to the office work as far as CPU demand.
  • 5% simulations: Writing and running some medium complexity simulations. These take seconds to minutes on my old Dell Inspiron 9400 laptop.
  • 5% graphics: Very light Photoshop-like editing of photos.
Here are my questions:

CPU & Memory: If I get the Surface Book, it will be with the Performance Base. That means an Intel Core i7 CPU with 16GB or memory. The P70 has a Xeon E3-1575 v5 with 64 GB of memory. Will I notice a difference for what I do?


I doubt you will notice a different for the tasks you list above. I cannot easily find which specific i7 processors are in the Surface Book...both Microsoft's site as well as many reviews just say "i7 processor" or at best "2016 i7" or maybe "Sky Lake i7". Thus, I cannot know for sure which processors are available for the Surface Book (there was one review of the top, top of line model and said it has an i7 6600U processor. The "base model" of the P70 comes with an i7 6700HQ. If you want to see a comparison between that and the "top of the line" processor in the top, top of line Surface Book model, there here it is:

http://www.cpu-world.com/Compare/932/Intel_Core_i7_Mobile_i7-6600U_vs_Intel_Core_i7_Mobile_i7-6700HQ.html

In essence, they both have similar clock speeds, so for single core tasks, the 6700HQ will be just a smidgen faster, but likely not enough to be noticeable unless doing REALLY processor intensive tasks (like maybe encoding a video file you might notice a difference, but even then likely still rather small). The 6600U will be more power efficient, which you might notice in terms of battery life (but then you say it will mostly be hooked to a external keyboard, mouse, and monitor, which means it is likely going to be plugged in most of the time) and slightly less power drain when plugged in. The biggest difference would be if you are using programs or doing tasks that can take advantage of multi-threading. If so, then the 6700HQ would be better.

And similarly things will be similar when you go to the upgraded processors for the P70. As I understand it, Xeon's main benefit are more cores, which then helps with tasks and/or programs that support multicores and multithreading. Others likely can offer more.


External Monitor: I'm not too worried about the screen size (13.5 vs 17.3) because it will be used with the docking station and at least one external monitor 90% of the time. My question is what size external monitor can each machine support? I'll probably be getting at least a 24" monitor, but I might get a larger one if it were supported.


All of them likely should be able to drive a single 24" or 27" monitor with ease, potentially even the Surface Book with only integrated graphics. Any of them will have no problem driving a 1920x1080/1200 external monitor and likely even a 2560x1440 external monitor (my 2012 11" MacBook Air can drive my 27" 2560x1400 monitor).

And since you are talking about the Surface Book with a Performance Base (i.e. will have a discrete graphics card), it should have no problem even driving a 4K monitor for the types of tasks you describe. Even the integrated graphics model of the Surface Book might be able to drive a 4K monitor for basic tasks (which most of your takes are) as modern integrated graphics these days are pretty powerful.

The P70 should be able to drive any single monitor that you attach to it, no matter which model/graphics system you pick. It likely can drive multiple external monitors for many tasks, but I did not delved into that.

It really becomes an issue of what resolution monitor do want to drive and what do you want to do with the computer. For example, if you want to game on a 4K monitor, then you will need a very powerful graphics card for that and even then it might be fast enough for some people (I believe the most powerful desktop graphics cards are only now getting close to be able to do 60 frame per second for most current games on 4K monitors, but could be wrong).


Ports: Some reviews complained that the Surface Book had old USB 3.0 ports. Will this be a problem?

Thanks

It should not be, but it kind of depends on what the reviewer is meaning by "old USB ports". Can you link to a specific example?

Without more information, my guess is that they are referring to the Surface Book lacking USB-C 3.1 ports, which is not a big deal, IMHO. In fact, some people might consider that a good thing as a USB-C port would require an adapter to use a traditional USB cable/plug or you would have to get new external drives and other USB devices that have USB-C ports. Case in point, a lot of Apple Mac users were up in arms when Apple released the new MacBook Pros that only had USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports (they were USB-C form factor ports that support USB 3.1 as well as Thunderbolt 3) on them. That pretty much meant using an adapter (aka "dongle") for just about anything one connected to a new MacBook Pro. And Apple did not even both to toss in one $19 (that is at least what they sell them for...you can get cheaper ones) USB-C to USB-A (USB-A is the typical USB port) adapter in the box with the new MacBook Pros.

#7 Cynthia Moore

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 07:12 PM

Thanks very much. I decided to go with the Surface Book. I appreciate all of the information.   :thumbup2:


Running Win 10 & Office 365.


#8 smax013

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 10:01 PM

Thanks very much. I decided to go with the Surface Book. I appreciate all of the information.   :thumbup2:


From what you described, it did sound to be the better option for your needs. It is an intriguing machine, especially if I wanted 2-in-1 laptop that can still act as a true laptop. My only concern is the hinge system. I don't like the way it leaves a gap when closes. That seems like a recipe for the hinge or screen getting broken if carried in a bag with other heavily items...space mean potential for movement/flex, which mean potential for breaking. But, if it is going to sit at a desk hooked to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse or only be carried in bags with few other things, then that is not an issue. In my case, I have situations in the past where I had a backpack with a thick textbook and sizable binder as well as other things in addition to my laptop while I was teaching. I am not sure I would have trusted a Surface Book in that situation in the backpack. It is possible that it is strong enough, but I have not seen any independent testing of that.

#9 Cynthia Moore

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 11:34 PM

 

Thanks very much. I decided to go with the Surface Book. I appreciate all of the information.   :thumbup2:


From what you described, it did sound to be the better option for your needs. It is an intriguing machine, especially if I wanted 2-in-1 laptop that can still act as a true laptop. My only concern is the hinge system. I don't like the way it leaves a gap when closes. That seems like a recipe for the hinge or screen getting broken if carried in a bag with other heavily items...space mean potential for movement/flex, which mean potential for breaking. But, if it is going to sit at a desk hooked to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse or only be carried in bags with few other things, then that is not an issue. In my case, I have situations in the past where I had a backpack with a thick textbook and sizable binder as well as other things in addition to my laptop while I was teaching. I am not sure I would have trusted a Surface Book in that situation in the backpack. It is possible that it is strong enough, but I have not seen any independent testing of that.

 

I brought the machine home a few hours ago. I'm just starting to explore the features. I think I'll be learning for quite awhile.

 

I never thought of the gap before you mentioned it. It will be mostly on a desk, but I do travel several times year. When I do, I carry my laptop in a high quality Briggs & Riley travel briefcase. It will be in its own compartment designed especially for laptops. But now that you bring up the gap issue, I might look into getting a strip of cloth of soft foam to put inside the closed machine.

 

Thanks for the tip.


Running Win 10 & Office 365.


#10 Cynthia Moore

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 12:07 AM

Thanks very much. I decided to go with the Surface Book. I appreciate all of the information.   :thumbup2:


My only concern is the hinge system. I don't like the way it leaves a gap when closes. That seems like a recipe for the hinge or screen getting broken if carried in a bag with other heavily items...space mean potential for movement/flex, which mean potential for breaking.


I just did a little testing. The hinge is actually quite strong. I'd say it's at least twice as heavy as the one on my old Dell laptop. It's made of 4 long wedges that run the width of the machine. When closed, they form a solid semi-circle that is very sturdy. I can;t imagine that the hinge itself could be broken by a book in a backpack.

If I squeeze the closed machine about half way down, there in a little play, but just a little before the top touches the keyboard. I still might look into a piece of Styrofoam or something for travel.

Thanks for the tip.

PS: I do like the instant on and off. It's about 2 seconds to shut down and about 12 seconds to start up including the face recognition. Of course, my old Dell with Win XP used to start up much faster than it does now.

Running Win 10 & Office 365.





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