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ArchangelOfTheLamb

9th-gen Intel or AMD Ryzen for development and VM laptop?

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Hi all,

 

It's that time of the year (tax time/AKA Xmas in July lol yay) and this year, I will be retiring my old i5 and getting a new laptop. My budget is up to $4.5k max, so I know I can get something pretty decent.

 

My main aim is to be able to run multile VMs on the machine and use the host for software (mostly web - .net, C#, JS/CSS/HTML) development - I am a web app developer by day but am also studying a Masters in Cybersecurity. The former activity involves developing stuff in Visual Studio and I would like to be able to deploy to an IIS and SQL server running on a VM for unit testing, debugging, etc. The latter activity involves me in the wonderful world of hacking through virtual networks, Assembly coding and reverse engineering (for vulnerability research, malware analysis and exploit development). It goes without saying that I do this on VMs.

 

Because I will potentially be running several VMs simultaneously, I am looking at something with 16-32GB of RAM and at least 12 logical cores - I also need enough SSD space and throughput and perhaps a secondary disk for extra storage. I am most inclined to go for the 9th-gen Intel Alienware 15" gaming laptop (though I won't be playing many games), but I know that Asus has released a model with the desktop version of the AMD Ryzen 7 (which sports 16 logical cores).

 

From what I have read online, the AMD option runs hotter and does not perform as well as the 9th-gen Intel, but these reviews were written with gaming in mind, rather than virtualisation. Part of me thinks that for my use case, the cheaper and more-CPU-core AMD option might be a fair choice.

 

Has anyone had experience with using these sorts of laptops for development and running VMs? If so, I would be interested to hear your views. I am most interested in smoothness of performance when running VMs, heat and web/networking performance.

 

(Oh and if you are planning on telling me to use a desktop, don't bother. I have one, but I need a better machine than the i5 that I can take with me to work and uni, or use whilst travelling. I am willing to spend the extra $$ to get something I will be able to use for a couple of years for this purpose. :-P )

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Does AMD actually have a mobile CPU running more than 4 cores? Even from Intel all I can see is the i9-8950HK and 2 i7 Coffee Lake processors (8750H and 8850H)

 

That's looking @ the Wiki articles so mightn't be up to the moment and not considering the future roadmap.

The Ryzens seem to have a 15-25 Watt TDP vs 45 for the Intels so maybe they don't run hotter?

Last year I attended a dying Alienware laptop that was used for gaming... it does seem that it suffered badly from the heat.

 

As for running multiple VMs - will they all be busy or only when you actually use it? It might be the case that lots of memory and a decent SSD are more important than a quick CPU with lots of cores.

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The Asus ROC Strix GL702ZC uses the desktop Ryzen (rather than the baby 4-core Ryzen APU) - but I from what I have read, it runs hot.

 

How busy my VMs are varies depending on what I am doing. When developing and testing, not too busy as they will mostly just be serving web pages and making SQL queries for unit testing purposes (I obviously don't do performance testing on my laptop). But when hacking (and especially when pivoting) I do need high availability of the virtual CPUs. I have found that when running multiple VMs and trying to pivot through a virtual network, staged payloads have tended to fail (they connect, but it shits itself while staging and no session is spawned), meaning that I have had to rely on inline payloads (which is problematic due to their size and the fact that they are way harder to obfuscate and get past AV) - I think this isbecause the hypervisor schedules execution control between the physical cores and the packets just don't get passed through before things time out. I don't have the same problem when I use a machine with more cores than guests or a physical network. (Obviously, the point of me wanting a laptop with more cores is so that I have something more portable and easier to snapshot than a bunch of physical hosts I have cobbled together).

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OK... I suspected maybe it was something along those lines.

 

My previous #1 home machine is a 1st gen Core-i type Xeon workstation by Dell. It's got real shitty cooling and has a TDP of 135 Watts which makes you wonder why they ran a blowthrough array of 2 fans against a passive heatsink.

Anyway, I ziptied a fan to it which helped a bit but didn't fancy the high 90s it was hitting during video encodes.

 

So, I used a program called ThrottleStop. There's other similar ones around but I found it the most useful and configurable. It allows you to throttle down the multiplier max when the temps get high, it's especially popular among laptop power users.

 

As to whether to go Intel or AMD - really, I don't have Ryzen exposure so can't much comment there. Though of course they seem to be on the usual mission of winning the Megahertz per buck race.

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From your requirements, the crippled Ryzen 5 with APU would not suffice. You'd need a desktop Ryzen 7 in a laptop which do exist in some gaming laptops.

Or get a new Intel i9.

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Thanks for the responses. After thinking about it and doing some more research, I have decided that a high-performance laptop is likely to be too big and clunky for me to carry around, plus they don't seem to have touch screen and they appear to run quite hot, which would likely shorten their lifespan. As such, I am pursuing a new line of enquiry. I am going to get a cheaper and smaller (but still decent) laptop to carry around to work, etc. and spend the extra monies on a beast of a desktop, which I plan to build partly using parts cannibalised from my current desktop (e.g. I have a good case with cooling system and power supply, plus I have an alright graphics card and am willing to wait to get a new one for the next generation). The motherboard, CPU and RAM will be new, as will the SSD. Given that I have NBN, I can then set up a VPN and remote into my desktop when I want to run multiple VMs remotely. I will essentially be using the desktop as either a VMWare ESXi server/Hyper-V server.

 

I think I will be able to get more bang for my buck with such a setup, though I am a tad concerned about latency when controlling my remote desktops. Has anyone done this sort of things before on an NBN connection (for the record I get about 70-100Mbps down and 10-25Mbps up when nobody else is home and nothing else is using bandwidth) and if so, was it doable or is it too annoyingly laggy? I have run AWS and Google instances with no trouble, but I am wondering how possible this would be on a home connection.

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The threadripper AMDs don't like ESXi much, apparently it's bit of bodge to get ESXi working on that.

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The threadripper AMDs don't like ESXi much, apparently it's bit of bodge to get ESXi working on that.

That's good to know. Any idea how they go with Hyper-V server? If I can't get VMs running on the AMDs, I may just need to pay the extra for Intel :-(.

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