Best Project Management Consulting Laptop Ever!

Disclaimer: this is an honest summary of my opinion of a product I bought myself. It is not sponsored content, I don’t get any compensation from anyone, and when I just looked for this again on Amazon to link to it, I see that it’s no longer available. But that’s OK, there are similar machines out there.

You should definitely consider a gaming laptop for your next working machine.

I recently retired the Dell Lattitude E6500 laptop I’ve been carrying for the last three years in favor of a new HP Pavilion 15 gaming laptop. No, I’m not following Peter Saddington into video gaming as a profession – this is the computer I’m using for my project management consulting work and writing. Note that I’ve been carrying laptops since 1987: GRiD, HP, Compaq, Toshiba, Dell, IBM, Apple, Lenovo, even ASUS. After seven weeks behind the wheel, I can truly say that this is the hands-down best I’ve ever had. 

It has an Intel quad core i7-6700HQ processor, 32GB of RAM, and two drives: a 512 GB solid-state drive for software and a 2 TB drive for my files. But the reason I went for a gaming laptop is the 15.6″ UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS anti-glare WLED touchscreen display.

I spend my whole working day with spreadsheets, MS Project, and other forms of tabular and graphical data. I routinely have two documents open side by side, updating one from content in the other. At my standing desk, I have two 1920 by 1200 monitors, but when I’m away, this laptop has all the space I need. Sure, I appreciate the fast booting experience from an SSD drive and a rocket-to-Mars processor, but that 3840 by 2160 display is like Elvis as the fifth Beatle. The widely variable display brightness and backlit keyboard just make it that much better for use in dodgy workspaces like aircraft and dingy offices.

As a product category: highly recommended.

Major Update to my Home Office!

I addition to writing and blogging, I’m a project management consultant working from an office in my home. Many of my clients supply a laptop that they want me to use when accessing their network. Up until recently, I just spread everything around on my U-shaped desk – laptop, monitor, monitor, laptop, monitor – and tried not to knock anything over. Then a few months ago, I started looking at standing desks. I just don’t have room in my home office for another table or desk – if I did, I’d add a woodworking bench. For a while, it looked like I was going to have to ditch what I had in order to be able to start over. Not my idea of a positive solution. So I asked my daughter-in-law for her recommendation.

Home office sitting configuration

Sitting configuration, sans mug

Like me, Nancy works with multiple monitors. She has been using a gadget from Varidesk for several months. It sits on the tabletop and lets you raise and lower your monitors, keyboard, coffee mug, and so on with minimal exertion. Her experience has been positive, although she is considering a product from another company with an electric motor to handle the lifting. Since I need the exercise, I opted for the manual version of the desk. But that really only solved half of the problem.

Home office sitting configuration

Standing configuration, avec mug

I found a dual monitor KVM switch from StarTech, which allows me to toggle between the laptops. Then I ordered a Vivo laptop stand so I could mount the client laptop above my Dell, which lives in a docking station. I now have the two laptops “stacked” vertically next to my standing desk and I can work on one computer while monitoring the other for activity. I can toggle both monitors, keyboard, and trackball with a single button on the right side of the StarTech KVM box, located between and beneath the monitors. The third 1920 by 1200 monitor is sitting in the corner, pending other uses.

The Vivo mount is stable enough to type on when logging in or when I want to respond to an Email or IM without switching to that laptop. It never moves, even when raising and lowering the VariDesk. I considered mounting the pole in an existing hole in the desktop return at the base of the U, but by using the C-clamp on the edge of the return behind the other laptop, I was able to reclaim that space for other uses. And when I need to remove the lower laptop from its docking station, the Vivo arm swings the upper laptop out of the way.

At this point, I’m sold on the health benefits and relative comfort of using a desk that lets me alternate between sitting and standing – when I say I’m an Agile project manager, I really mean it! My next purchase will likely be one of those soft padded mats to stand on and maybe an IV pole to supplement my coffee mug. If I ever decide to mount my Macbook, I’ll use that return desktop hole for another Vivo mount. They have one that supports both a laptop and a monitor, at standing height. And I still have space under the hutch on the left side of the desk for other gadgets.

Final note: I don’t have any relationships with any of these vendors, and I didn’t even add them to the Practicing IT PM Bookstore, although maybe I should. This is just my personal product review.

Amazon Prime – A Service Review


Reading My KindleI’m on my second Kindle. The first one was a second-generation device that Amazon discounted right after it arrived. I contacted them about the price drop, and to my surprise, they refunded the difference. The second one – a Kindle Fire – was a gift. I sold my original Kindle, still in excellent condition, back to Amazon for a $23 credit. To date, I’ve probably bought about 70 Kindle books. As you might guess, I’m a big fan of Amazon. I’m also a member of the Amazon Associates program, which is how I provide the PM Bookstore link on this site. The microscopic commissions aren’t a factor for me; the quality of the products and the service is why I like and recommend them. I feel about Amazon the same way I do about their Seattle neighbor, Costco (the other destination for my disposable income). Then about a year ago, I decided to try Amazon Prime.

If you live here in the U.S., Prime provides two day free shipping on any purchase. I hate to shop – growing up in your family’s retail business will do that to you. We buy a lot of stuff on Amazon, so that alone would justify the cost for us. Amazon also has video on demand, with about 40 thousand movies and television programs that Prime members can watch at no charge. This appeals to the Missus more than me. Naturally, the only television show I watch, “The Walking Dead,” isn’t on the free list, and we cancelled our cable service several years ago. I pay $1.75 per episode and watch it on my Kindle the next day. C’est la vie …

But the real attraction for someone who reads as much as I do is the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. I get to borrow books once a month, right from my Kindle. I just downloaded Deborah Miller’s new book, “Project Management: 7 Innovative Solutions to Today’s Project Management Challenges.” I’ll buy it if it seems worth the money, and I’ll write a review if it seems worth my time. In any event, I’ll borrow something else next month. When my book, “The Data Conversion Cycle,” comes out next month, Prime members will be able to borrow it. I hope you like it enough to buy it, or at least leave a review. But if all you do is borrow it, read it, and move on to the next book, I’ll understand.

I mention all of this because Amazon is offering a 30-day free trial of Prime. I rarely recommend products, especially services, because I find that sort of thing annoying in a blog devoted to a professional topic. But I’m making an exception in this case. Highly recommended. If you want to chime in (or offer a rebuttal), please leave a comment.