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GIS PC laptop specs for ArcGIS

Suburb Repairman

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Need a little help here...

I need to come up with the specs I think we need to run ArcGIS on a PC laptop EFFECTIVELY (or at least as effective as ArcGIS ever is), because we all know the specs ESRI puts on the box as the bare minimum lead to endless battles with the blue screen of death. The only major extension we plan to get at this point is spatial analyst, though I'll be loading up a few of my freebie favorites.

IT gave me the stink-eye when I submitted a request for a MacBook Pro with some extra bells & whistles.
 

JimPlans

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Well, my first thought would be to get a 64 bit environment. Even though ArcGIS isn't (yet?) a 64 bit program, there are memory advantages to a 64 bit system, especially if you want to run a high-end graphics card. You probably want to spec out a workstation vs a regular desktop, unless you want to actually spec your own pwer supply, motherboard, etc.

I think you want lots of memory. Although the 32 bit process can only use the max memory that any 32 bit windows process can address (3GB), you can have more memory than that available to the system (up to 128 GB vs. up to 4 GB). One issue, as far as I understand it, is that 64 bit processes need more memory than 32 bit processes, so you will actually need more memory to do the same thing. So, maybe 8 GB?

Will you need a high-end graphics card? That I'm not sure of. Probably any decent stand-alone graphics card with its own on-board memory (as opposed to integrated video) would be preferable, and all workstations that I know of come with real video cards. So, maybe 256MB of video memory?

Drives, drives, drives! Will you be using an external database to serve your GIS data? If not, I suggest large, fast hard drives, perhaps with RAID 1 so you won't lose any of that precious data. Or with RAID 0, for faster performance but less fault tolerance? Or RAID 10, for both? Hey, all it takes is money. RAID 10 requires 4 disks, minimum, while RAID 0 or 1 only requires two. Me, I would go with RAID 1 (in addition to offsite backup, of course). So, two 500 MB drives?

Processor - the faster the better. Here I'm torn. ArcGIS isn't smart enough to use multiple processes, so multiple processors/cores aren't necessary. But, you can run multiple instances of ArcGIS, each on its own process/core, so in that case the multiple processors/cores are useful. I think a high-end dual core processor would be sufficient. I'm not convinced that you need an actual "workstation" processor like a Xeon. You should be able to get by with a Core Duo.

Monitor - some think the bigger, the better. I find 20 inch monitors to be sufficient, and I only use one. But that's me.

So, maybe $3,000 for a Xeon workstation, and maybe $2,500 for a Core Duo? Sounds fair to me.
 

JMplanner

Cyburbian
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For everybodys reference this is where ESRI's system requirements are.

At work, i am running a Dell Optiplex GX620.

Specs are
Intel Pentium D 3.2 GHZ (dual core)
2 gigs of ram
IDE hard drive
Integrated Intel Media Accelerator 950 with SHARED memory

ArcGIS takes forever to redraw. The key here is the integrated graphics slows down the whole system. You need a laptop with Discrete graphics (ATI or Nvidia). Do not buy a laptop with integrated graphics if you plan on doing GIS work.

Any of the new macbooks (pro or not) have these, but the Pro has a more powerful option.

I would say that the biggest "Lowhanging fruit" solutions for slowdowns are more powerful graphics cards and up to 3gigs of ram.

A higher RPM hard drive will be ok, but is not my main frustration. My main frustration with ArcGIS slowness is the redraws due to a slow graphics card.
 

boiker

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As for laptops, you're not going to find a processor that isn't 64bit anymore. Future software will be 64-bit.

That being said. 3-4GB RAM, a powerful processor (not that AMD turion/sempron or INTEL centrino/celeron crap) and a decent sized screen 17"+ will make GIS more tolerable on a laptop.

Make sure the laptop has firewire, usb 2.0 (perhaps USB 3.0--if you're lucky) and a 300GB or more HD.

WIndows 7 is a great OS and will be shipped in the next couple weeks. If you have to have this computer "standardized" by an IS or IT department, Vista and XP suffer from the ram cap JimPlans noted. I think 7 supposedly handles that limitation much better.
 

Big Owl

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We have a tablet laptop in our department that we have a license of arcview on. We are running windows xp and have 2 gigs of ram. I am thinking that the processor is a 64 bit dual core in the ~2.6 GHz. It seems to do okay for running arcgis; the guy that uses it the most doesn't complain. The tablet function is great for interactive presentation as you can hook it up to a projector and draw on it. It also works great for site inspections as you can take a raster image of site plans and geo reference them. When your out in the field you can mark up the plans... this would work better if we could get the gps card to work. It's cool.:h: It helps that arcgis has tablet support.

If i were to replace my desktop i would go the tablet route; but for now i am attached to my 24" wide format flatscreen. I also like that my work is tied to the office so to speak.

For what its worth.
 

JimPlans

Cyburbian
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409
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13
We have a tablet laptop in our department that we have a license of arcview on. We are running windows xp and have 2 gigs of ram. I am thinking that the processor is a 64 bit dual core in the ~2.6 GHz. It seems to do okay for running arcgis; the guy that uses it the most doesn't complain. The tablet function is great for interactive presentation as you can hook it up to a projector and draw on it. It also works great for site inspections as you can take a raster image of site plans and geo reference them. When your out in the field you can mark up the plans... this would work better if we could get the gps card to work. It's cool.:h: It helps that arcgis has tablet support.

If i were to replace my desktop i would go the tablet route; but for now i am attached to my 24" wide format flatscreen. I also like that my work is tied to the office so to speak.

For what its worth.
We had a project that used tablet PCs at a previous job, and they worked very well. There were some hardware failures, of course, but many fewer than we thought might happen, especially because we chose not to buy "hardened" tablets.

But, I'm not sure that I would trust my GIS work to a laptop unless I also had desktop back-up and the laptop was only for travel/presentations. I've seen too many laptop failures to trust them as my sole computer (especially because I'm not the greatest data backer-upper).

My previous post was conflating laptops and desktops. I wouldn't waste my money on a Xeon laptop (I don't even think you can buy them), and a real workstation laptop (like a Lenovo W700ds) with RAID 1 would cost you about $4,500 for the set-up I discussed earlier, and you would only get a 17 inch screen and 320GB of hard drive storage. This is the other reason why I hate laptops: more money for less capability.
 

JMplanner

Cyburbian
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Bunch of Windows lovers :D

Apparently the Macbook Pros are the fastest laptops to run windows on
http://store.apple.com/au/configure/MC226X/A?mco=NjcxMTczOQ
I wish I had a MacBook Pro. The specs would be perfect for ArcGIS. No question. Very strong graphics, good amount of ram, good processor. A VERY nice battery life, and a nice (depending on what size you got, BIG) screen.

Good luck convincing your IT department. It could be set up with Boot Camp to run windows full time, but that means some work for them. Nobody likes added work when they are already busy.
 

jablackburn

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I run arcmap on a Toshiba 1.6 GHZ Centrino Duo laptop. It's running Windows XP Pro, 4 gb of RAM, and 128 integrated intel graphics. The integrated graphics are horrible for anything really, but drawing state-wide files on any computer will take a while.

Honestly, it does pretty good for the drawing and everything, compared to the old Dell GIS computers we had in school.

The major advantage of having a dual-core CPU is for running processor-intensive things (such as viewsheds that take several days) on one core, while still being able to use your computer (for another instance of ArcMap and other things) almost at a normal speed with the other.

My 2 cents.
 

amurph

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Best desktop for GIS

Hi guys

I'm trying to figure out which computer will be best for use on ArcMap 10. I'm implementing the use of GIS in my small business and want to gauge a price. I'd be grateful if you could help :)
 

Cismontane

Cyburbian
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900
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17
For large GIS databases, RAM is a bigger issue than processing speed in many cases. 4 gig probably doesn't really do it anymore.
 

Nabad

Cyburbian
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27
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This thread has been very helpful!

Does anyone have any experience running ArcGIS on ultrabooks? I'm thinking about getting this one, upgraded to 6 GB of RAM: http://us.toshiba.com/computers/laptops/portege/z930

Am I out of my mind thinking that could handle ArcGIS?

I really want to get something light because I'll be in grad school carrying my laptop around everywhere. And I have a spare flatscreen monitor that I can plug my laptop into when I'm at home to get more screen space.
 
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