For Day 26 of this series, I want to talk a little about laptop processor selection (since I get a lot of questions about it). Many DBAs, Developers, and consultants use laptop computers as their primary workstations for working with SQL Server. Even more than an actual database server, you are pretty much stuck with the processor that you initially buy in a laptop (unless you are pretty brave and willing to do some major surgery on the laptop).
Having the “right” processor for your needs is very important in a laptop. Making the wrong choice could mean that you have a lot less processing power or a lot less battery life than you expect. Unfortunately, you cannot usually rely on the sales clerk at Best Buy to give you good advice about which processor to pick for your new laptop.
Right now (April 2011) you want a Sandy Bridge processor in your new laptop. After the Sandy Bridge chipset issue in February (which had absolutely nothing to do with the processor itself), lots of Sandy Bridge based laptops are finally available for purchase.
Back in March, I wrote a post called Intel Sandy Bridge Mobile Processors Explained that covered some of the differences between the various commonly available Sandy Bridge processors. I would definitely advise you to avoid the low-end Core i3 Sandy Bridge processors (such as a Core i3 2310M), since they are only dual-core (with hyper-threading) without Turbo Boost Technology.
I recently had a reader tell me about a Clevo W150HNM with an Intel Core i7 2820QM processor that he bought. His submitted Geekbench score for that machine was 11,052 which is quite impressive! That laptop has more CPU horsepower than a relatively recent vintage (early 2008) four socket database server equipped with four Intel Xeon X7350 processors, according to Geekbench.
For more comparison results, the Geekbench blog has a post with a number of results from different models of the MacBook Pro, going back to the early 2010 models. You can use this to get a rough idea of how much better a Sandy Bridge based machine (Mac or PC) will perform compared to various older processors.
Another important benefit you get with a new Sandy Bridge machine is native 6Gbps SATA III support, which means that you can take advantage of the fastest 6Gbps SSDs. You will also get USB 3.0 ports, which are a huge improvement over USB 2.0 ports (which are usually limited to about 25-30MB/sec throughput).