A Tale of Four Laptops

With the release of the 22nm Ivy Bridge microarchitecture less than three weeks away, at the end of April 2012, I thought it might be a good time to do my little part to stimulate the world economy by giving people some reasons to consider upgrading to a shiny new Intel Ivy Bridge laptop once they are available. I currently have four laptops available at my house to play with, so I thought I would run a few quick benchmarks on them. These are all fairly recent vintage machines, as you can see in Table 1.

You might be wondering why I have four laptops, which is a good question! The HP Envy 15 is sort of a white elephant, that I paid way too much for when it came out in late 2009. I really wanted a good quality Core i7 laptop for the PASS 2009 Summit, so I bought the HP Envy at Micro Center, and soon discovered that it ran very hot, with pretty dismal battery life (about two hours). It now sits on my hobby desk in the basement, relegated to playing music and web surfing. That is sometimes the price of being an early adopter!

After almost literally getting burned by the old HP Envy, I picked up the Toshiba R705-P25 from Best Buy (since it was a loss-leader OEM model), and originally used it for teaching and presentations, and now for astronomy. It is very light, and has good battery life. About a year later, I picked up a very similar Toshiba R835-P55X from the Microsoft Store in Park Meadows Mall (it was also a loss-leader OEM model). I use it mainly when I speak at big events like the PASS Summit or SQL Connections. Finally, the Dell Precision M4600 is my work laptop from Avalara, which I will have to be sending back in a few weeks. It is a wonderful machine, that is a little heavy compared to the Toshiba Portege.

I case you are wondering what a loss-leader OEM model is, it is simply a specially configured model that a system vendor will make for a large retailer, that the retailer sells for less than a similarly configured model directly from the system vendor. The retailer makes a large purchase of this model, and sells it at a low cost, hoping to make money on accessories, extended warranties, and other silly things like Geek Squad services.

I talked about these systems in a little more detail when I acquired each one, as linked below:

HP Envy 15 1050nr

Toshiba Portege R705-P25

Toshiba Portege R835-P55X

Dell Precision M4600

System Purchase Date Processor RAM
HP Envy 15 1050nr Nov 2009 1.6GHz Core i7 720QM 12GB
Toshiba Portege R705-P25 Jul 2010 2.27GHz Core i3 350M 8GB
Toshiba Portege R835-P55X Jun 2011 2.30GHz Core i5-2410M 16GB
Dell Precision M4600 Aug 2011 2.30GHz Core i7-2820QM 16GB

Table 1: System Specifications


Here is a little more detail about the processors in these four laptops in Table 2.

Processor Code Name Cores TDP Process
Core i7 720QM Clarksfield 4 + HT 45 watts 45nm
Core i3 350M Arrandale 2 + HT 25 watts 32nm
Core i5-2410M Sandy Bridge 2 + HT 35 watts 32nm
Core i7-2820QM Sandy Bridge 4 + HT 45 watts 32nm

Table 2: Processor Specifications


Table 3 shows the relative performance of these four systems as they are configured right now (after I have done things like adding more RAM or upgrading to a hybrid drive or an SSD). The two Toshiba Portege systems have Intel integrated graphics, which works well enough for daily business use. The Envy 15 has the stock 500GB 7200rpm hard drive, the Portege R705 has a 500GB Seagate Momentus XT hybrid drive, the Portege R835 has a 180GB Intel 520 SSD, while the Precision M4600 has a 256GB Plextor SSD.

System Processor Memory Graphics Gaming Graphics Disk
Envy 15 6.9 7.1 6.8 6.8 5.9
Portege R705 6.3 6.3 4.6 5.2 5.9
Portege R835 6.9 7.4 5.9 6.2 7.8
Precision M4600 7.5 7.8 6.9 6.9 7.7

Table 3: Windows Experience Index Scores


Table 4 shows the Geekbench 2.3.0 scores for these four systems. Even the slowest one of the bunch has more CPU and RAM performance than many older production database servers, which shows you the power of Moore’s Law!  You might try using an argument along that line when you are trying to convince your boss that it is time to upgrade your database server. You can ask “How come our mission critical database server has less CPU horsepower than Glenn Berry’s two year old, 3 pound Toshiba laptop?”

System Geekbench 2.3.0 Score
HP Envy 15 1050nr 4938
Toshiba Portege R705-P25 3953
Toshiba Portege R835-P55X 5778
Dell Precision M4600 9615

Table 4: Geekbench 2.3.0 Scores


So what is the moral of this story? First, we have seen very significant performance increases, with less heat and much better battery life as Intel has rolled out new processor architectures using smaller manufacturing processes over the past two-three years. I suspect that many people reading this have even older hardware than any of my machines, with pretty ancient 90nm and 65nm processors that really ready to be retired.

The 22nm Intel Ivy Bridge is a Tick Release that should give about a 10-15% CPU performance increase compared to the 32nm Sandy Bridge. The integrated graphics are supposed to show more like a 50-75% performance increase compared to Sandy Bridge. You will also see better battery life compared to Sandy Bridge. If you gave anything older than Sandy Bridge, then Ivy Bridge is a pretty compelling upgrade!

If you do decide to get an Ivy Bridge system, you really should bite the bullet and get a fast SATA III SSD. Once you have a good SSD, you will never want to use a conventional hard drive again.

Here is CPU-Z for these four systems:


Figure 1: Intel Core i7 720QM (Clarksfield)



Figure 2: Intel Core i3 350M (Arrandale)



Figure 3: Intel Core i5-2410M (Sandy Bridge)



Figure 4: Intel Core i7-2820QM (Sandy Bridge)

This entry was posted in Computer Hardware, Laptops, Processors and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Tale of Four Laptops

  1. Szymon says:

    Nice post, I always like to read hardware performance comparisons. Just one thing – can you add info on how much you spent on upgrades?

  2. Andrew says:

    Glenn, do you know if it’s possible to swap out the Core i3 processor in the Toshiba R705-P25? I was thinking about putting in a Core i5 or i7 CPU

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