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We look at a lot of research here at HardBoiled. Some of it highly scientific, which involves diving into surveys by Forrester and IDC for insights. Other times research is more informal, scouring message boards like Spiceworks and Reddit to gauge user impressions about products and technology. This is one of those informal studies, where we went deep into the discussion boards and tallied up specific laptop preferences mentioned by the IT community. It was a tedious task, but in the end rather enlightening. Here is what we found.

Research methodology

We looked at a popular Reddit thread in the in the Sysadmin sub-group, and two from Spiceworks; one geared at network administrators, and another at system administrators. The threads had a combined total of 463 replies when I checked. Of course, not every reply mentioned a specific laptop by name, but many did—136 specific models were counted.  Good enough for a word on the street picture of preferences.

Lenovo ThinkPads are immensely popular with systems administrators. The T400 series, especially, which stacked up 28 specific mentions.

Since one of threads dates back nearly two years, there were several Lenovo ThinkPad T420 references, which are still very capable machines to this day in terms of hardware—an i5 CPU, 4 GB of RAM, though you will probably want to upgrade the 320 GB 5200 RPM hard disk drive (HDD) to either a 7200 RPM HDD model or, better yet, an SSD.

Note that the T430 comes with both HDD and SSD storage.

Since both the T420 and T430 are both technically out-of-date (the T440 is the current retail model of choice) they are only available as refurbished items.

The Lenovo ThinkPad T440 has essentially the same specs that defined past ThinkPads, but comes installed with Windows 8 Pro.

MacBook Pro received 24 specific mentions, which for non-system administrators might seem out of the ordinary because the workplace is traditionally a Microsoft/Windows environment.

Perhaps you have heard the adage “The best Windows PC is an Apple Macintosh”—and there was certainly that sentiment on these boards. Several users talked about running Windows 7 Boot Camp on their MacBooks and enjoying the result.

Much of it has to do with the cleanliness of Macintoshes out of the box. PC OEMs have a reputation of imaging Windows PCs with extraneous software, or “crapware” as it is called in the IT trenches. Still, there are some who argue that the price differential between a MacBook Pro and Dell or Acer far exceeds the cost of a wipe and reinstall.

Apple’s pricing is what it is. The allure gets beyond hardware specifications and into that intangible realm we will reserve for another day and another post.

Honorable mention goes to the Dell Latitude and its various models, which received 20 mentions.

Dell Latitude
This line has always been popular among business users for its small form factor, light weight, and long battery life. Incidentally, IT users value similar specifications—though when it comes to screen size, IT is pretty well divided between small screen size (12.5-13”) and larger screen size (15-15.6”).

A number of network admins prefer the smaller screen and lightweight features, since they’re more likely to be on the go.

Not mentioned on the boards, but perhaps worth mentioning here, are the added remote management features in the Latitude line, courtesy of built-in Intel vPro BIOS management and wiping tools, and Dell’s automated utilities for app deployment and monitoring. Several IT users did mention that they found it helpful to be using the same equipment as the people they were supporting, though were divided on whether they needed hardware upgrades under the hood. Some IT users were decidedly cheeky about their more-is-better attitudes.

Other top mentions:

Dell Precision (6)
HP Elitebook (7)
Surface Pro 2 (5)—solely network administrators
MacBook Air (5)
Panasonic Toughbook (4)
HP ProBook (3)
Dell Venue (2)

Are you an IT administrator using a Lenovo ThinkPad or a MacBook Pro—or do you prefer a different laptop for your job?

Apparently, SysAdmins Love the Lenovo ThinkPad and MacBook Pro
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Apparently, SysAdmins Love the Lenovo ThinkPad and MacBook Pro
Adam Lovinus

Author Adam Lovinus

A tech writer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast from Orange County, California.

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