Our pick as the best laptop for virtualization is the MSI GS66 Stealth. It has a lot of CPU cores, RAM, and storage. In this post we will explore the MSI GS66 Stealth, as well as other laptops that I think are good options for virtualization.
|CPU||9th gen i7 (6 cores)||10th gen i7 or i9 (8 cores)|
|GPU||Not needed||Not needed|
|RAM||16 GB||32 GB or more|
|Storage||512 GB SSD||1 TB SSD or more|
The recommended specs are pretty steep, but I will include options from all ends of the spectrum. There will be a few laptops that are very well suited for virtualization, and some that are still god but could be better. The laptop that is best for you will mainly come down to your budget and how much you would like to spend on the laptop.
You should also consider what exactly you will be doing. If you only need to spin up one or two instances because you are doing some sort of web development and need access to a Linux server on your windows machine, then you would be okay with something around a mid-level laptop. If you need to spin up more than 2 VMs then you should probably lean more towards the higher end. This this post we will go over some of the better options out there.
Best Laptops for Virtualization
Let us dive into each of the options that are listed at the top of the page.
MSI GS66 Stealth
My favorite laptop brand is MSI, and the MSI GS66 is a great looking and powerful laptop. This laptop definitely deserves to be on the list of best laptops for virtualization. MSI has a lot of experience with making high end gaming laptop, and gaming laptops happen to be quite good for virtualization tasks.
One of the features that makes this laptop good for virtualization is that it comes with the Intel Core i9-10980HK. This CPU has 8 cores which is quite a lot of a laptop. This means that you can allocate more than if you had 4 for example. You probably want to use 1 or 2 cores per VM, giving you around 4-6 VMs that you could run.
The laptop also has a powerful GPU but that is not so important for virtualization. The laptop comes with the RTX 2070, but you can chose up to the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q if you want. This would be relevant if you want to play video games or need to do some sort of video editing.
Another great thing about this laptop is that it has 32 GB of RAM. you need a lot of RAM in order to allocate some of it to the VMs. Running a VM with only 1 GB of RAM is quite painful, so having more to give away is great.
There is also a 1 TB SSD on board which is good because the VMs can take up quite a bit of space.
See the MSI GS66 Stealth on Amazon.
Razer Blade 15
The Razer Blade 15 is another laptop that I really like. It looks great and the thin bezels gives it a premium look. This laptop has a lot to offer anyone who want a laptop of great quality that is not quite as expensive as the MSI GS66. This laptop may not be the best laptop for virtualization but it certainly is one of the top contenders.
This laptop is not as good as the MSI GS66 Stealth in the CPU department, but it still comes with the 6 core Intel Core 10750H. This is the new version of a CPU that was a staple in high end gaming laptops for a long time, so this is quite a good CPU. Fewer cores means that you can allocate fewer cores also, so even though 6 is good for a laptop, this would leave you to being able to give away perhaps 4 cores.
This laptop also comes with a good GPU the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q. Although not needed for virtualization, there are other things that can benefit from it, even chrome can use it these days to render things. Also, it is difficult to find a good laptop that does not have a GPU as well.
There is 16 GB of RAM in the laptop. This is not that much, but RAM you can always upgrade yourself at a later point if you feel like you need more.
There is also 512 GB of SSD storage. This could also be higher, but as long as you don’t have too much software installed it should be okay.
See the Razer Blade 15 on Amazon.
Acer Predator Helios 300
The Acer Predator Helios 300 gets better with every iteration. It is a reasonable priced laptop that offers specs that can match many of the more expensive options. This laptop is a great choice for those who want a great combination of price and performance. The really good price is one of the major reasons why this laptop made it onto the list of best laptops for virtualization.
The laptop comes with the Intel Core i7-10750H CPU. This is a 6 core CPU so it is pretty decent for virtualization. In a laptop I would argue that the number of cores is the most important thing for virtualization. If you don’t have any cores, then you cant spin up any VMs. The more the better, and 6 is pretty good for a laptop.
We don’t really care about GPU for virtualization, but this laptop comes with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060. This is a great GPU, and if you want to play video games or something like that then this is well suited for that.
There is 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD. This is OK for most people, but 16 GB of RAM can run out quickly. You can always upgrade to more RAM in the future yourself so it is not such a big deal for many.
See the Acer Predator Helios 300 on Amazon.
MSI GL65 Leopard
The MSI GL65 Leopard is another laptop that is more middle of the road in terms of pricing. It is not cheap, but it is not as expensive as some of the more premium option. The laptop looks great and is fairly similar to the Acer Predator Helios. This one is similar to the Helios, they may not be the best laptop for virtualization, but they are good alternatives that are more friendly to your wallet.
This laptop comes with the same CPU as the Acer Predator Helios, the Intel Core i7-10750H. It is a good CPU that will be common in mid to high-end gaming laptops.
One area where this laptop separates from the Helios is that it has an RTX 2070. This GPU is a little better, and it offers 8 GB of GDDR6. This is important if you want to do something like machine learning, but not so much for virtualization.
There is also 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD. As you can see, the specs are pretty similar between this one and the Helios, so go with this one if you want the better GPU for gaming or other resource intensive things.
See the MSI GL65 Leopard on Amazon.
ASUS ROG Strix Scar
The ASUS ROG Strix Scar is a beast of a laptop and offers some of the best specs for virtualization. The laptop also looks really good, and it has some nice features such as a 300Hz screen and ROG Keystone. T
This laptop comes with the Intel Core i9-10980HK CPU, just like the MSI GS66 Stealth. This is one of the best laptop CPUs on the market right now, and it has 8 cores which makes it a great laptop CPU for virtualization. Having enough CPU cores to allocate to the various VMs is very important, and 8 cores is very good for a laptop.
The laptop also has the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super for those who are interested in gaming, and a 300Hz screen to back up the gaming experience. This is a gaming laptop after all, and gaming laptops happen to be very good for virtualization.
There is also 32 GB of RAM 2TB of SSD storage. This is the best so far for SSD. 32 GB of RAM is very good as you should have enough for spin up quite a few instances without running too low or having to give away too little.
See the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15 on Amazon.
Dell XPS 15 9500
The Dell XPS 15 inch is another laptop that you can use for virtualization tasks. This laptop has the added feature of having a 4k touch screen. Depending on how you want to use the laptop, the screen might not be important, but for media consumption this is great. T
As with some of the other options, this laptop comes with the Intel Core i7-10750H CPU. It is a great CPU and is quite common in mid to high-end laptops. For virtualization tasks it is good, but 8 cores would be better.
This laptop has a weaker GPU than what a lot of the other options have. It comes with the Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti. This is still a good GPU, but the fact that the laptop has a 4k screen means that this is not the laptop you want to get if you want to play a lot of video games. Generating pixels for 4k takes a lot of work, and you definitely want more power to get optimal performance for that.
There is 16 GB of RAM and and a 1 TB SSD. This is pretty decent, and I am happy to see the 1 TB SSD. I think more laptops should go above the common 16GB RAM / 512 GB SSD combo.
See the Dell XPS 15 on Amazon.
The HP Omen is another gaming laptop. This laptop also looks like a gaming laptop for those who like that, I don’t. Despite the looks, this laptop has pretty decent specs, and the price is decent too. It is quite similar to both the Acer Predator Helios and the MSI GL65 Leopard.
The laptop comes with the Intel Core i7-10750H CPU. As with the others, this is a pretty decent CPU for a laptop. It is the new version of the i7-9750H, which was a staple in high end gaming laptops for a very long time. The 6 cores that it offers is quite decent for virtualization on a laptop.
The laptop also has the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q. This is a great GPU for intensive work such as video rendering on a laptop or gaming.
There is also 16 GB of RAM and the standard 512 GB SSD. This is a very common combo, and for most it will work fine. You are unlikely to need hundreds of GBs on the VMs, so you should be OK. The only problem with 16 GBs of RAM is that you don’t have that much to give away. For a single instance it is OK, but if you have 3 or something like that it can become an issue.
See the HP Omen on Amazon.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus is an interesting looking laptop. Despite the weird keyboard placing, the laptop does have very good parts that are well suited for virtualization in a laptop. Based on the specs this is one of the best laptops for virtualization, but the design may be enough to not go with it for many.
The laptop comes with the 8 core Intel Core i7-10875H. This is a great laptop CPU, and it has the 8 cores that we are looking for. The more cores the better, not only for virtualization but also most other things.
The laptop also has the RTX 2080 Super, which is an incredible laptop CPU. Despite being so thin they manager to get some pretty powerful parts inside. The GPU makes the laptop suitable for video games and other resource intensive activities.
There is 32 GB of RAM and 1 TB of SSD storage. This is very good, and the 32 GB is quite a bit better than 16 GB. For regular use 16 GB is more than enough, but when you have to allocate away some it drops fast.
See the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17 on Amazon.
Razer Blade Pro 17
This is the second Razer Blade on this list. As the Zephyrus, this is a 17 inch laptop, so it offers more screen real estate than a standard 15 inch. I think this is one of the better looking laptops on this list.
The pro version of the Razer Blade comes with the Intel Core i7-10875H. This is the 8 core CPU and it is well suited for virtualization. You should try to get an 8 core CPU if you have the budget.
The laptop also comes with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q. This GPU makes the laptop suitable for gaming and much more, but it does not make a big impact on virtualization.
There is 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage. The storage is not as good as some of the other laptops, and for the price it would have been nice with a 32GB/1TB option.
See the Razer Blade Pro 17 on Amazon.
MSI GE75 Raider
The MSI GE75 Raider is another high end gaming laptop. This laptop is better than the Razer Blade Pro 17 in terms of specs, so this should be a contender if you are looking for something in that space. This laptop is similar to the MSI GS66, but it is a 17 inch laptop.
The laptop comes with the amazing Intel Core i9-10980HK. The product page says 6 cores, but this is an 8 core CPU. So if you go for this one make sure to reach out to the seller to confirm.
The laptop also has the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super. This is a great GPU that can handle games on high settings, but for virtualization it is not so important.
There is also 32 GB of RAM and a 1 TB SSD on this version. This should be plenty for many.
See the MSI GE75 Raider on Amazon.
MSI GS75 Stealth
The last laptop on this list is another MSI. MSI is a great company that makes very good laptops. This is a 17 inch laptop and very similar to the premium GS66 model.
This laptop comes with the Intel Core i7-10750H. This is the 6 core CPU that a lot of the other laptops also come with. 6 cores is OK for virtualization. Try not to go for a 4 core option as it will severely limit what you can do. If you do end up going with 4 cores then more than 1 VM instance might be an issue.
The laptop has the RTX 2070 Super which as we have seen is a great CPU for gaming and other resource intensive tasks.
There is also 32 GB of RAM which is great, and a 512 GB SSD. The SSD could be higher, but the 32 GB of RAM is pretty solid.
See the MSI GS75 Stealth 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 everything 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
Let us take take a look at the various components that you should be looking for and why.
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.
You need 16 GB for virtualization, but 32 would be better. It is possible to do some activities with 8 GB but it will start to impact the performance of both the host and guest OS.
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 at least a 6 core CPU, with 8 being the best. If you go with 4 cores then be aware that you will be more limited in how many instances you can have running. The best laptop for virtualization has at least 8 cores.
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 1TB. 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. The best laptop for virtualization should have at least 512 GB of SSD storage, with 1TB bein a lot better.
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.
I am a Software Engineer who enjoy writing about things that interest me. Here on OamaTech I write about programming as well as other tech related topics. Visit my author page to learn more about me and what I am working on right now.