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William George (Puget Labs Technician)

Product Announcement - New Traverse Mobile Workstation

Written on November 1, 2015 by William George
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Over the years I have worked here, our laptop line has changed a lot. We’ve had massive gaming-oriented models with 19-inch screens, tiny 12-inch models for the ultra-portable market, and everything in-between. We even had a touchscreen model for a while, since lots of people asked about that tech… and then it sold only a handful of units. We have just launched another update to our laptops, though, and I wanted to talk for a moment about our direction and goals. But first, a little background that will help explain our choices.

Intel is in the midst of launching their Skylake processor line, and while it is a nice upgrade on the desktop side of things - adding DDR4 memory support and improving power efficiency - one of the changes on the mobile side has a big impact on us. That change is the move away from socketed processors to only soldered-on models. This means we can no longer offer a laptop with mobile-class processors, ones designed for low power operation in a laptop, unless we want to buy laptops with the CPU already mounted in place. That means if we wanted to offer more than one CPU speed option we would have to inventory multiple laptop base units, and if we had a failed board or CPU we would have to replace the combo instead of just one or the other. For a custom system builder, where a our philosophy centers around providing a great customer experience and tailoring systems to the individual needs of users, that is a major problem.

At the same time, high resolution screens are becoming more and more normal - and many people expect 4K resolution even on relatively small laptop screens. That would be fine, except that the focus for such screen options is currently on the 15-inch and lower screen sizes; 17-inch models seem to be somewhat stuck in the past. It looks like that will be changing next year, but at the moment we cannot get high-res screens in the 17-inch size.

These factors, along with some other smaller issues, have pushed us toward our new laptop line: a single 15-inch, high-performance model. Here is a breakdown about the new unit:Puget Traverse D570i

  • It uses desktop-class Skylake processors, since that is the only way we can offer a range of different CPU speeds and prices. That also means higher performance than laptops using mobile chips, though because of the limited power and cooling in a laptop the same CPU in one of these systems will perform a little slower than it would in a full-blown desktop. Still, those looking for a lot of CPU performance will be well served by this system.
  • It uses mobile-class NVIDIA graphics cards. At launch it is limited to GeForce options, but when the next generation of Quadro cards for laptops arrives we hope to add one or two options from that line as well. It does *not* support the Intel graphics built into Skylake CPUs, though, which also means no added complexity of switching between integrated and dedicated GPUs. Thankfully, though, NVIDIA has gotten very good about minimizing power draw of their video cards when idling.
  • It has a 15-inch, 4K resolution screen. This is a high-quality, matte, IPS type screen with fairly wide color gamut.
  • It supports 2.5” SATA drives as well as fast M.2 solid-state drives. It does *not* have a built-in optical drive, though, as there is no space for one inside the chassis with all the cooling needed for the CPU and video card.
  • It includes a wide range of connectivity with a SD card reader, several USB 3.0 ports, eSATA (shared with one of the USB ports), a Thunderbolt 3 / USB 3.1 Type-C connector, and HDMI plus two DisplayPort outputs for external monitors.

There is more, of course, but those are the highlights. As with our desktop line, we are moving more toward serving the needs of high-performance users. These laptops are be able to handle intensive tasks like photo and video editing almost as quickly as a desktop, but with the added flexibility of being portable. They are *not* ultra-portable, slim, or lightweight though: in order to have the cooling and power needed for this hardware they are fairly hefty in size and weight… with a power brick to match. In fact, I would never use a computer like this on my lap! Under heavy load they really need room to breath, so it is important to have the computer on a flat surface and have no obstructions behind that block the heat exhaust.

I think the best way to describe these new units is actually as “mobile workstations”, rather than laptops or notebook computers. If you want a system with several hours of battery life, or which only weighs a couple pounds, or has a touch-screen… there are many great options out there. Those aren’t the markets we are trying to serve with this, and with Intel’s change to mobile processors we couldn’t serve them without compromising too much anyway. But if you are a photographer, video editor, gamer, 3D artist, or a user of any number of computationally intensive programs - then definitely check out our new Traverse D570i mobile workstation! And please, feel free to leave feedback in the comments below.

Tags: laptop, mobile, workstation, Skylake, Intel, Traverse
Stephens_Chris

I am super interested to hear what people think of the new laptops. These things are not thin and light, but the performance is pretty impressive. If you are looking to do your serious computing work on the go, then take a look at these laptops. GPU accelerated and parallel computing isn't ready for this platform yet, but Don is working on it!

Posted on 2015-11-02 18:41:50

Just FYI - we had an update to the screen type after initial launch. We are no longer using a GSync capable screen. Instead, we have a higher quality IPS screen now. The text of the blog post above has been changed to reflect that.

Posted on 2015-11-05 19:43:20
JoeInIowa

I would love to hear from any photographers who own one of these!! Impressions? Thoughts?

Posted on 2015-11-17 12:10:37

We haven't shipped any units out yet, but should be doing so in the coming days. It will probably be a few weeks before people really get to using them, and I'm not sure if any of the folks that have bought the new models so far are photographers. Hopefully we'll get some end-user feedback here about them at some point, though :)

Posted on 2015-11-17 18:43:40

I did most of the qualification and testing of this laptop and while I'm not a great photographer, I can tell you that throughout the process I just kept thinking: "this laptop is perfect for content creators". Why?

1) 4K IPS screen is a huge reason. The picture quality you get is extremely good (NTSC 72%, SRGB 100%) and the resolution is four times better than a normal 1080p screen. It is only a 15.6" screen, but until 17" units become 4K capable (there are no 17" 4K screens yet), this is pretty much the best, highest quality screen you can get in a laptop.

2) Robust connectivity with Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1, and ESATA support. I know a lot of content creators like to use external storage to sort their projects (either by year, client, etc) and this laptop lets you use basically any storage device you want. TB3 is extremely new so that gives you excellent future proofing. At the same time, USB 3.1 is backwards compatible with pretty much any USB storage and ESATA is there in case you still have ESATA storage devices. It also has a built-in SD card reader (although I'm not sure how the performance stacks up against a high quality external card reader)

3) Excellent performance due to the desktop-class CPU. In most situations (Photoshop, Lightroom, and even most video editing) you will get really close to desktop performance with this laptop. The performance from a "traditional" laptop doesn't even come close. The size does mean that there isn't enough cooling to allow for full speed under extremely heavy loads, but at worse you would see ~10% performance drop over a desktop. That sounds like a lot, but another way to think of it is that in those situations your CPU is equivalent in performance to the last generation desktop CPUs. Still much, much faster than a normal laptop. The mobile GTX 970M and GTX 980M are no slouches either.

4) Storage and RAM capacity. We can do 32GB of RAM right now (should be 64GB in the near future) which is more than enough for almost any photographer or content creator. For storage we can do two M.2 drives (the Samsung 950 Pro have up to 5x faster read performance than a normal SSD!) and two 2.5" drives. That allows for up to 5TB of super fast storage today and will only increase as larger drives are released. Basically, for storage and RAM this unit is really, really impressive.

There are a few downsides to this laptop, but in my opinion they pale next to what I described above:

1) Battery life is only a few hours. We are still working on getting exact numbers, but don't expect more than a few hours of battery life under even a moderate load.

2) It is a laptop, but in order to have all the features (the desktop CPU especially) it is definitely larger and heavier than most traditional laptops. Probably somewhere around 8lb with all the hardware installed. The power brick itself is also fairly large since it has to provide 330W of power and that takes some space!

3) Cooling a desktop CPU means there is a lot of heat to vent. I wouldn't suggest using this on your lap directly due to this. Not only will you get really warm, but using it on a not flat surface may also limit the cooling which can result in a drop in performance due to thermal throttling.

I think the pros outweigh the cons by a huge margin, but different people have different needs so it is really a call only you can make.

Posted on 2015-11-17 18:48:53
JoeInIowa

Matt, thanks so much for taking the time to write such a detailed reply. This helps alot. I have what I hope are my last few questions:
1. I am used to using a glossy screen and have read many reviews on both sides re: glossy v matte. Can you share your opinion? Were the colors noticeable duller to the point that it would impact photo editing?
2. With the 4K screen I have heard some people report that text is very small or some other such issues. Did you experience anything like that? Will I be able to use this lap top with an external monitor that isn't 4K? Any known issues?
3. If I configure this laptop with the storage I can afford now but want to upgrade later, is that something that you guys do and will I be able to with this laptop?
4. If I purchase one of those cooling systems to put under the laptop will that help with the heat?

The other "cons" are really ok with me as I use the laptop plugged in most of the time and on my desk. My overall main concerns are speed with PS, lightroom, etc., the 4K monitor and the ability to "upgrade" when needed.

Again, thanks so much for your help. All of you have been very prompt and patient with your responses.

Posted on 2015-11-17 20:16:55

Sure, I'll try to answer your questions as best as I can:

1) This one really comes down to preference. Glossy screens have a bit more vibrant color, but they have a big problem with reflections and glare (which can really change how an image looks on the screen). Matte is a bit less bright and vibrant, but you don't have the glare issue. Also, matte is much better than it used to be which is how this screen can be matte while still NTSC 72% and SRGB 100% (which means the color is pretty darn close to real life with color calibration). Personally, between matte and glossy I would take matte every time. Glossy may look better on a show floor, but for practical purposes I simply feel like matte is the better option.

2) What you are probably hearing about is from when 4K was pretty new and driver/OS support wasn't great. What was happening is that text, icons, etc. are normally set to look good on a 1080P screen and if you make the resolution of the screen 4x larger, the text/icons end up a quarter the size. Windows is much better about automatically adjusting it now or you can tweak it even further in the display options (Display Settings -> "Change the size of text, apps, and other items" on Windows 10) to make that type of thing scale up to match a 4K screen.

Edit: sorry I missed the question about external monitor. yes, you can use an external monitor with this laptop (either HDMI or DisplayPort natively, but DVI would work fine with an adapter). Since the main screen is 4K @ 60Hz I think you can only be able to do one or two additional displays (1080p, 2K, or 4K @30Hz) but I haven't had a chance to confirm whether it is one or two. 4K makes a mess of how many screens you can have since a single 4K display at 60Hz is actually technically two virtual displays crammed into one physical display. At the very least, one extra display is no problem, and you can always get more through a docking station (like this one: https://www.pugetsystems.co... ) if you need to.

3) Upgrading storage is no problem - we offer lifetime labor and support which includes hardware upgrades. Just ship it in to us, pay for the parts themselves, and we will install and configure it. Storage drives are really easy to upgrade (and RAM as well), but keep in mind that if you want to upgrade the drive with your OS and programs, that usually will need a complete OS reinstall. So if you can avoid it, don't skimp on your primary storage drive if possible.

4) That would help a bit, but I don't think it will do a ton compared to just using the laptop on a desk/table since the main limiting factor isn't airflow but rather how much surface area there is on the heatsink to physically dissipate the heat. If you will be using it on an uneven surface (lap, blanket, etc) it would probably help just by keeping the intake/exhaust vents clear though.

Hopefully that adequately answers your questions. The matte vs glossy question is probably the hardest one to answer simply because it is so difficult to describe something like like color and vibrancy.

Posted on 2015-11-17 20:49:30

I would also add that we have received overwhelming feedback from photographers that they prefer matte screen over glossy in general.

Posted on 2015-11-17 21:02:36
JoeInIowa

Great!! Thanks so much

Posted on 2015-11-17 21:33:30
JoeInIowa

Thank you!!!! Helps alot. Just about ready to purchase!!

Posted on 2015-11-17 21:33:17