Best Laptop for Virtualization [2021 Reviewed]

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Best Laptops for Virtualization

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Are you a software developer looking to test out applications across multiple platforms? Or a content creator who needs software only available on a specific operating system? If you need a virtual environment for your workflow, then you also need a laptop capable of flawless performance. Who doesn’t want a powerful system they can carry on the go?   

There are many different virtualization options out there. You have VMware – an all-purpose virtualization software suite that can handle server, desktop, storage, and even network virtualization like a champ. Then there’s Citrix which specializes in creating virtual environments for applications. Even Microsoft has its own Hyper-V virtualization software baked into Windows. 

To navigate a virtual environment smoothly, you’ll need a laptop that’s equipped with at least a 4-core, 8-thread processor. Luckily, there are many devices on the market that fit the bill. While it’s easy to get lost, there are some key components that you should look out for. 

Firstly, you’re going to need a lot of RAM. The core functions of your virtual system, along with its software, can quickly eat up a significant amount of RAM. That number only rises when you test out applications or use content creation software such as Adobe Premiere Pro. That’s why a buffer of 24-32 gigabytes of RAM is recommended. Having access to that memory will allow your virtual environment to run smoothly without any lag.

Another important thing to consider is storage. Running a virtual system can easily take up 100 gigabytes of storage at a time. If you’re running more than one, it’s important to run each instance on a separate drive for better organization. You need at least a terabyte of storage, if not more. However, not any storage will do. Virtual systems can easily tire out a mechanical hard drive. That’s why SSDs are so important. With lightning-fast read-write speeds, SSDs ensure your virtual system doesn’t slow down your machine. 

Keeping these points in mind, we’ve picked out the best laptops on the market for all your virtualization needs. 

Top 3 Laptops for Virtualization [Reviews]

MSI CUK GF65 Thin Laptop

With compelling hardware at competitive prices, MSI’s laptop range deserves to be on your radar. The model we picked out is the MSI GF65 Thin. If maximum performance is what you’re looking for, the GF65 is your best bet.

Armed with a 9th Generation Intel Core i7 9750H 6-core 12-thread processor with a clock speed up to 4.5Ghz and a large 12 MB cache, this laptop offers stellar performance across all productivity workloads. The i7 9750H ensures smooth operation for workloads that heavily rely on single threads. Its multi-threaded performance is no slouch either. With 12 threads that can run simultaneously, you can run multiple programs in your virtual environment without experiencing any lag. You can even do a little gaming on the side since Intel processors offer much superior gaming performance than their competitors.

The amount of RAM and storage on offer is simply unbeatable. The GF65 features a whopping 64 gigabytes of DDR4 2666 MHz RAM, which is double the recommended capacity, ensuring smooth operation, faster rendering, and dry-running times for your virtual system. While 64 GB may seem like an overkill, it eliminates any memory bottlenecks and guarantees future proofing. In addition to the RAM, you have 1 TB of blazing fast SSD storage. It is enough for your virtual software, allowing multiple instances to run consecutively. The additional SSD slot on this laptop gives you the option for further upgrades down the road.

The laptop features a 15.6″ Full HD IPS 144Hz Thin Bezel Display that is simply gorgeous to look at. Thanks to the IPS panel, you have wide viewing angles with minimal color shifts. Color reproduction is great, allowing you to dabble in entry-level color critical work. Narrow bezels offer more screen real estate while maintaining the compact size of the machine. Overall, the display is solid. The trackpad is responsive with a satisfying finish. While the keyboard doesn’t come with a numpad, the omission is quite manageable. The keys have a satisfying feel to them and there is plenty of arm rest for long sessions.

Powering the display isan NVIDIA RTX 2060 Dedicated Graphics Card. This is one of the best graphics cards you can get at this price range. With 6 gigabytes of GDDR6 VRAM, 1920 CUDA Cores, and a clock speed up to 1.2 GHz, the graphics card can easily handle most modern games and software you throw at it. With dedicated ray-tracing and tensor cores, you can also use the graphics card for high-level ray tracing workloads. This will drastically improve the performance with hardware acceleration. It’s no surprise that the RTX 2060 is the top pick for most content creators and power users.

While the build quality of the GF65 is also excellent! The construction is surprisingly robust. Smart choices in the cooling system prevent the machine from overheating. The design language has a distinct “gamery” look with red accents and a red backlit keyboard. While appearances are subjective, we think it looks cool with the matte black finish. While MSI rates the battery to last around 7-8 hours, you are looking at around 5-6 hours with heavy use, which is respectable. The speakers aren’t the best but they’re loud enough for everyday use.

On networking and connectivity, the GF65 comes with the RJ45 ethernet port, and features 802.11 ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. You can expect fast and seamless connectivity with all your wireless devices and home networks. The port selection is solid with one HDMI, two type-C USB 3.2 Gen 1, and two type-A USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports. External drives, peripherals and mobile devices can be easily connected.   

Out of the box, you’ll find Windows 10 Home pre-installed. The laptop comes in at around 4.1 pounds and has dimensions of 14.13 x 9.99 x 0.85 inches. This makes the laptop surprisingly portable. While the machine is not the lightest or the smallest one around, it is relatively thinner and more lightweight compared to other behemoths you see at this performance level. You can carry it around without hassle – which is a boon for students and working professionals who have to commute a lot. More importantly, you won’t find performance this good in such a small package.

Overall, we think the GF65 is a great option for those wanting maximum performance and future-proofing for virtualization in a compact form factor. 

Powerful i7 processor
Not the best speakers
Excellent RTX graphics card
Relatively portable with a compact design
64 GB of fast RAM

Lenovo ThinkPad E15 Laptop

Lenovo has always been a powerhouse in the enthusiast laptop sphere. Their line of ThinkPad laptops has consistently redefined notions of performance and functionality on a mobile machine. That’s why we’ve added the Lenovo ThinkPad E15 to this list.

The E15 comes with the latest 10th generation Intel Core i5 10210U processor with 4 cores, 8 threads, clock speeds up to 4.2 GHz, and 6 mb of cache. While the i5 may be inferior to an i7, the performance gains of the newer 10th generation chips have been spectacular! Thanks to better binning, optimization, and architectural improvements, the i5 10210U easily beats the i7 8550U. It offers outstanding single-threaded performance which is enough for most productivity workloads for your virtual environments. While its multi-threaded performance is not the best, most applications rarely utilize more than 8 threads at a time, so that’s something negligible!

The machine comes equipped with 32 gigabytes of fast DDR4 RAM and 1TB of lightning-fast SSD storage. We think the memory capacity is the perfect amount for all your virtualization needs. You can run most programs and even more than one virtual system without hitting the memory cap. However, it won’t be as future-proof as having 64 gigabytes so you might have to upgrade down the road. Similarly, you can’t add a second SSD due to the lack of an extra slot. The storage capacity, however, is more than enough for any virtualization software that you may use. With substantial read-write speeds rated for high capacity transfers, you can expect top-notch storage performance.

The E15 comes with a 15.6” FHD IPS Anti-glare LED Display. The unique anti-glare feature allows you to use your laptop outdoors. Even in suboptimal indoor lighting, the screen retains its brightness without reflecting any light. The wide IPS panel provides great viewing angles and color accuracy although users have reported the color temperature to be a bit saturated. This makes for vivid images that really pop on the screen. The display is great for a virtual system even though color critical work might benefit from a panel with more sRGB coverage. Powering the display is the Integrated Intel UHD Graphics. While discrete graphics cards are much better, integrated graphics solutions have made great leaps in performance. You won’t be able to play the latest games but you won’t have problems running all the software you need.

Lenovo opted for an all metal construction with this laptop which feels sleek and modern. The matte black finish and minimalist look will appeal to a lot of users. While the keyboard is not backlit, it comes with a numpad and a neat track ball that you can use to move the cursor. The touchpad itself feels satisfying to use. Lenovo baked a couple of unique features in the form of a privacy shutter that covers the HD 720p Webcam when you’re not using it. There is also a smart power button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor if you want to biometrically protect your laptop. You can expect decent battery life with this device as it comes with a 3-Cell 45WHr Li-ion battery. While it’s rated for 11 hours of mixed use, you are realistically looking at around 6 hours of battery life with heavy use – which is great for a business class laptop.

In terms of connectivity, there are a suite of options. The device has 1 HDMI, 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1, 1 USB-C 3.1 Gen 1, 1 USB 2.0, 1 Headphone/microphone combo jack, and an RJ45 ethernet port. You can easily hook up your phone to charge or use multiple external devices at a time. The standard 802.11ac Wi-Fi is used so you can expect smooth conference calls and data streaming.

Packaging all this hardware, the laptop has the Windows 10 Pro version and comes in at 14.5 x 9.7 x 0.7 inches, weighing 4.3 lbs. While it’s a bit on the heavier side and certainly less portable than other options, we don’t think it’s going to pose a significant problem. The laptop’s size and heft are in line with the standard at this range. However, the cooling system that Lenovo used is not as great as other laptops in this price range. Under heavy load, the device can run hot. While it’s definitely manageable and seldom results in poor performance, it’s something to take note of.

Overall, the ThinkPad E15 offers the right specs for virtualization at a great price. You really can’t go wrong with this option. 

Impressive 10th generation Intel processor
A bit on the heavier side
Superior build quality and finish
Device may overheat
Blazing fast SSD
Has a trackball and a webcam privacy shutter

Acer Nitro 5 Laptop

Acer is another reputed brand in the laptop market. Recently, they’ve made a name for themselves for providing the best hardware at a ridiculously competitive price. One such laptop is the Acer Nitro 5 and we’ve picked it as another worthy option for virtualization.

Powering this machine is the 9th generation Intel Core i5 9300H processor with 4-cores, 8-threads, clock speeds up to 4.1 GHz, and 8 megabytes of cache. While the processor is 9th gen, it has amazing performance. It belongs to the “H” series of processors designed for maximum performance on laptops. You can expect performance on par or better than 10th generation i5 processors bearing the “U” suffix. As usual, you can expect strong single-core performance which is great for gaming and many productivity workloads. Even though the processor is less efficient than the newer parts, your virtual environment will run smoothly with this chip.

You’ll find the standard 32 gigabytes of DDR4 RAM on this laptop. As discussed before, this capacity is perfectly adequate for running even two virtual instances simultaneously. However, you may be limited in terms of memory as the years go by. Where this laptop truly shines is in the storage department. Not only does it feature 1 terabyte of super-fast NVMe SSD storage, but it also comes with a 1 TB HDD for extra storage. This means you won’t ever have to worry about your storage space running out. The extra hard drive can be used to store applications and software installation packages that aren’t frequently used. This leaves the SSD to be used only for virtualization. It’s a quality of life feature that’s hard to pass up. Users have reported the red and write speeds on the SSD to be consistently amazing. Even the hard drive features above average performance. This is the laptop to get if you have to test out applications across multiple virtual systems.

For the screen, you’re looking at a 15.6-inch FHD display with anti-glare. It gets decently bright and has good enough viewing angles. It truly shines in color reproduction as it has 103% sRGB coverage. It’s perfect for color critical work and multimedia consumption. The anti-glare is fairly standard and won’t blow your socks off. However, powering the display is a discrete NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card with 4 gigabytes of dedicated VRAM. While the graphics card won’t run all the latest games at 60 fps with maximum detail settings, it is good enough for most games. Where it shines is in productivity workloads. With hardware acceleration, this graphics card can significantly improve the speed and efficiency of any content creation work. Rendering times can also be significantly reduced. While it’s no RTX card, its productivity performance is more than enough for most users.

Acer decided to go for a design with unique touches of flair. While the angular design with red accents may not be for everyone, we think it is certainly bold and unique. Where the laptop truly surpasses the competition is in what’s inside the chassis. With a proprietary Acer CoolBoost Technology with Twin Fans and Dual Exhaust Ports, this device manages to stay cool even in the most intensive workloads. This will ensure your components have a long lifespan and your legs don’t get hot when you use the machine on your lap. The two speakers with MaxxAudio contribute to create a cool stereo effect with more clarity and depth to the sound compared to other laptops. However, the volume is average.

This laptop also comes with a smattering of ports for all your connectivity needs. It comes with an RJ-45 por, a USB Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, a USB 3.0 port featuring power-off charging, 2 USB 2.0 Ports, and an HDMI 2.0 port with HDCP support. There is also an Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 6 AX200 802. 11ax which can handle all of your networking needs. While the trackpad is not the smoothest out there, it gets the job done. The keyboard is backlit and has a tactile feel, making typing satisfying and robust. With a 4 Cell Lithium-ion Battery, you can expect battery life to be a solid 6-7 hours of mixed and heavy use.

Finally, the laptop comes with Windows 10 Home pre-installed and a CUE bundle of extra cable accessories. The laptop has dimensions of 15.35 x 10.47 x 1.05 inches with a weight of 5.51 lbs. It is the heaviest and largest laptop on this list. While portability is not as convenient as other more compact options, it is still quite manageable. The laptop is a bit heavy so you need to keep that in mind. 

Overall, the Acer Nitro 5 is a solid option that offers superior cooling and a discrete graphics card at this range, despite its bulky chassis.

High performance i5 processor
Might be too bulky for some users
Comes with a discrete graphics card
Superior cooling performance
Wide selection of ports

Final Words

Virtualization is one of the most demanding workloads for any machine out there. However, it opens doors to a new frontier of computing. To leverage these opportunities, you want everything to be smooth. Time is precious and if you spend a lot of it hunched over your screen waiting for applications to load, then it’s hardly worth it. That’s why a perfect combination of fast RAM and SSD along with a capable processor is absolutely essential.

In this guide, we looked at three excellent laptops to see which one would best suit your virtualization needs. While all three of them are more than capable of running a virtual system, we wanted to give you a full picture of the best one depending on your use case. 

The MSI CUK GF65 Thin is hands down the fastest machine on this list. It has a fast processor and powerful RTX graphics card. Its headlining feature is the massive 64 gigabytes of speedy DDR4 RAM as well as the 1 TB SSD – with a free slot. While the battery life may not be the best, the machine is very portable for the performance you are getting. MSI’s offering stands out with its compelling hardware package and sleek, compact design.

If you don’t really need the overkill specs and just want a laptop from a trusted brand, then the Lenovo ThinkPad E15 is the one for you. It comes with quality of life features like a webcam shutter and a trackball and packs the latest 10th generation Intel processor. However, the 32 gigabytes of RAM may need to be upgraded later down the road and the lack of a discrete graphics card may be a dealbreaker for some. The cooling system is also subpar. I don’t recommend this machine for those seeking maximum performance.

Lastly, the Acer Nitro 5 combines great specs and affordability in a package that is well-built and cool under load. If you don’t care about future-proofing but also can’t skimp on the performance, then the Acer Nitro 5 is a great option. It comes with capable discrete graphics, has a powerful processor, and has just the right amount of RAM and SSD for a smooth experience. What sets it apart is its stellar cooling system that will ensure your laptop runs cool and lasts for longer. 

All three of these laptops offer stunning value. The Acer Nitro 5 is a great choice if you are looking for just the right amount of performance without breaking the bank. However, we would recommend the MSI GF65 Thin for its powerful specs and portable design. As laptops are a long-term investment, it pays to have the extra RAM capacity and SSD slot, as well as a powerful graphics card to leverage hardware acceleration. All that performance is packed into a chassis that is easy for most people to carry. For these reasons, our vote goes to the MSI GF65 Thin. It is highly recommended!