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Virtualization is the process of creating a virtual version of something that is physical. For us that means creating virtual instances of a machine. By doing this, you could run multiple instances of an operating system on the same piece of hardware that used to only run one. It is not common to use a laptop for virtualization, but it is still possible. Normally you would use a server that has more powerful parts and can accommodate more virtual instances running on it at once.
The most use cases for virtualization is in the cloud or in a data center, but you can also use it on your laptop. You can for example run VirtualBox on Windows to get access to Ubuntu, or you can run windows on a Mac machine. If your laptop is powerful enough, you can even spin up a number of virtual machines on your laptop.
Based on our research, our pick as the best laptop for virtualization is the HP Omen (#ad).
Best Laptops for Virtualization
We consider the following laptops to be among the best options for virtualization laptops.
1. Best Laptop for Virtualization: HP Omen
Our pick as the best laptop for virtualization is the HP Open. This laptop offers great parts in all the categories that are important to us. The thing to look out for is that the more premium the laptop is, the better parts it will also have in areas that we don’t care so much about, such as the GPU. This laptop has an RTX 2060 card which is really good GPU, so if you are also interested in games and such then this is great. If not, it is not really something you need.
Something that is important to us though is the CPU. This laptop has the Intel i7-9750H, which is among the best laptop CPUs. It has 6 cores, which is great for virtualization on a laptop as you can allocate away a few cores to virtual machines. You could get more cores on a desktop grade CPU, but this is almost as good as it gets for a laptop.
Another great thing about this laptop is that it comes with 32 GB of RAM out of the box. RAM is not so important initially as you can always upgrade it pretty easy yourself. This laptop has two slots for RAM sticks that are easily accessible, which is important in a laptop for virtualization as you are likely to want to add more at some point.
The laptop also has a 1 TB SSD. The more memory you have the better. You can use this to host quite a few virtual machines, and allocate enough memory to all of them so that you can actually install some software there. The fact that it is a large SSD is also important, as an SSD is a lot faster than a regular hard drive. Virtual machines also tend to be a bit slower just because they don’t have as many resources allocated to them.
Another reason this is our pick as the best laptop for virtualization is the cooling system. It has 3 vents an 5-way airflow. This is great for keeping the laptop as cool as possible.
See the HP Omen (#ad) on Amazon.
2. Value for money laptop: Razer Blade 15
The Razer blade is one of my favorite laptops, and it is well suited for a lot of things. It comes in quite a few models, but the one we have selected as the best option for virtualization has a weaker GPU than what it normally has. A GPU is not the most important thing for virtualization, so you can get better parts that do matter. We have also selected a screen that is 60Hz instead of 144Hz, as a high refresh rate might be good for gaming, but it will not make the laptop any better for virtualization.
The laptop comes with the same Intel Core i7-9750H CPU. For virtualization you should look for at least a CPU that is as good as this one. The more cores the better probably.
There is only 16 GB of RAM in this laptop, so it is not as good as the 32 GB in the HP Omen. Luckily upgrading RAM is quite easy and you should be able to do it yourself. You can easily start out with 16 GB, and depending on your use case it might be enough. If you are just going to be running one or two instances through Virtual Box then 16 GB should be plenty to start with.
As far as storage goes there is a 128 GB SSD and a 1 TB hard drive. This is not my favorite combination as the 128 GB fills up too quickly. If you are planning on installing a couple of games and a few larger programs then the 128 GB will be filled up. I have this setup on my personal laptop as well and sometimes it feels a bit limiting.
Overall the Razer is one of the better laptop options out there. It looks great and it offers really good parts.
See the Razer Blade 15 (#ad) on Amazon.
3. Good virtualization option: Dell G5 15
Another great laptop for virtualization is the Dell G5 15. This laptop has most of the things we are looking for, starting with the Intel Core i7-9750H CPU. As stated before, the more cores you can get your hands on the better probably. This CPU is present in most high end gaming laptops, and the reason is that this is one of the best laptop CPUs out there right now.
The laptop also has a 256 GB SSD and a 1 TB Hard drive. This is a little better than what you get in the Razer blade. a 256 GB SSD should give you more room for installing software on the SSD, as you might also want to install some things on the VMs that actually take some space.
There is only 16 GB of RAM in this laptop as well, but you should be able to upgrade it without much issues. 16 GB is enough to start out. Most laptops will not have more than 16 GB unless you go for a very high end option, but the problem then is that you get more things that you don’t need for virtualization. If you are using the laptop for other things such as programming or video gaming then it might be a good choice to get a better GPU as well, but not just for virtualization.
This laptop is well suited for virtualization because of the CPU it has, large amount of storage, and a decent amount of RAM.
See the Dell G5 15 (#ad) on Amazon.
4. Good gaming laptop: MSI GF65 Thin
The MSI GF65 thin is a good mid-level gaming laptop. Despite the price of a mid level gaming laptop it does offer some good parts that are well suited for virtualization. The biggest downside about this laptop is that it only has a 512 GB SSD. This is more than enough if you are only going to have a few virtual instances, but any more and it will be a bit limited in terms of storage space. Of course it comes down to what you are planning on using the VMs for.
The laptop still comes with the Intel Core i7-9750H. Try to get a laptop that has at least as good of a CPU as this one. 6 cores goes a long way when you want to virtualize the CPU, as you have more cores to allocate. You can over-commit resources, but this will allow you to have better performance.
The laptop has 16 GB of RAM. This should be the minimum amount you aim for. You could get one with only 8 GB but that is quite small even for just using a laptop for something that requires a little bit of power. For virtualization it is really not good.
Overall this is a great option if you are looking for something that is a little more budget friendly.
See the MSI GF65 Thin (#ad) on Amazon.
What can you Virtualize?
A common form of virtualization that most know is of the server, or operating system. You can run a virtual instance of an operating system on top of your main one. This is commonly used to get access to an operating system that is not already installed on your machine. For example, programmers who have windows machines but need access to an Ubuntu machine can easily do it by using VirtualBox.
Another use case for virtualization is for storage. You can remove the physical reliance on storage hardware, having your operating system talk to the virtualized storage instead of directly going to the physical hardware. When you visualizer an operating system you also take advantage of virtual storage.
Essentially, a lot of things can be virtualized. Other examples include IO, applications, networks, you name it. Virtualization is everywhere, which is why it is so important for any IT professional to learn more about it.
How are things virutalized?
Virtualization is achieved by using a hypervisor. It is the program that is responsible for creating and managing everyhing related to virtualization. Examples of hypervisors are Microsoft Hyper-V, KVM, and Oracle VirtualBox.
Some of these examples are type 1 hypervisors and some are type 2 hypervisors. Type 1 is something that runs directly on your hardware. This means that there is a lot more involved in running it and you would normally not do this on a laptop that you own. In a sense you can think of these as operating systems themselves, and not something that runs on-top of or inside your host os. An example of a type 1 vendor is Microsoft Hyper-V.
A type 2 hypervisor on the other hand is something that runs on top of your regular operating system. These are much more commonly used on laptops and probably what you will be using. A really good example is VirtualBox.
Regardless of what kind of hypervisor you are going to use, it is the the component that makes virtualization possible.
What to look for in a laptop for Virtualization
Now, when you set up the hypervisor you have to allocate virtual CPUs, virtual memory, virtual disk space. The better your physical components, the more you can allocate, and therefore the best laptop for virtualization will be a powerful one.
Based on the things we now know about virtualization we can recommend a few things that you should look for.
You must keep in mind that ordinary straightforward and economical laptops with standard configurations are not the best options. The best laptops for virtualization possess high-end hardware and software for excellent performance and durability. Here is what you should look for in a laptop for virtualization.
The RAM performs simple functions in your laptop but plays a critical role in the performance of the computer. It is a temporary storage for the data and information waiting to be fed into the processor (CPU) for processing. The more it can store, the faster your computer will be. Coupled with a powerful processor, such as a latest gen i7 CPU, the RAM helps your computer to process data and information faster.
Your laptop needs at least 16 GB of RAM for smooth virtualization. When you create a virtual machine using for example VirtualBox, you have to allocate a certain amount of RAM to the guest operating system. If you allocate too little it will not run smoothly. If you allocate too much then your host machine might start to underperform. The more RAM you have, the better it is.
Most budget laptops have a RAM much less than 16 GB. Although you can install a virtualization software on them, it would not be able to perform seamlessly. If you want to run this software, you should consider upgrading to a more powerful machine. Of course, running just a single instance of a VM will work okay with 8 GB, but your experience will be limited.
The process is the brain of your laptop, fetching data from RAM, executing operations and running applications on your system. Low-end computers have single core processors which, no matter how fast or powerful they are, cannot run virtualization software.
When setting up virtual machines you also have to allocate a number of cores to the VM. The fewer cores you have, the worse it is. Because of that I recommend that you get a 6 core CPU.
You will do fine without a GPU, but most high end laptops do come with them these days. Prioritize the CPU over the GPU. If you can fit a good one into your budget that is great, as it is important for other things. Such as gaming and doing things like machine learning if you are into that.
I recommend you look for no less than 512 GB of storage, perhaps even 1 TB. An SSD would be best, but you can also get some external storage and use that. When you set up the different virtual machines they need to have storage as well, and the more you want to set up the more physical memory you need to allocate the virtual memory.
Alternatives to a laptop for virtualization
A laptop is not the best option for virtualization. A much better option would be to build a desktop machine that could house much better parts, stay cooler, and sit out of sight in a corner. Using a laptop is not the most conventional thing, and it is because they don’t really offer the most economical way of achieving virtualization.
If you are looking for a laptop because you want a laptop and you are only going to do limited virtualization then it is okay. But if it is for professional use where a lot of people are going to connect to the machine then you are better off going with a desktop.
Virtualization is highly effective and can make good use of the underlying hardware. That being said, the more you allocate to different machines, the less powerful they will be. A laptop can not perform at the same level as a server in terms of total resources, but some laptops are quite good these days and can provide a decedent amount to be split among a few VMs. In general, the best laptop for virtualization should be the most powerful one that fits in your budget.
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