3.0 years ago by
It really depends on why you are buying a laptop. Firstly if what you need is a computer, not specifically a laptop, then buy a desktop. A desktop with 32GB of RAM and a 4C/8T Xeon CPU will probably be cheaper than any laptop you could buy that could do bioinformatics. On the other hand, if you do need to be mobile, ask: how much actual computing do I need to do on it, or will it mostly be a dumb terminal connecting to cloud or HPC compute resources? Several companies can provide you with a powerful linux box in the cloud for free, or a small per hour cost. We do almost all our work on the universities HPC cluster, so our own computers most just act as screens and keyboards for that. In which case, choose the machine with the nicest screen and keyboard!
There is a limit to how much sequence analysis you can do on any laptop, and generally the limitation is going to be RAM. For example, the STAR RNA-seq mapper requires at least 24GB to map to the human genome (other, more memory efficient, mappers are available). Also datasets can be large - 100GB for a sequencing dataset would not be unusual. Look at it this way: faster CPUs and SSDs will help you get work done faster, but they won't change what you have the ability to do. More RAM and more disk space will allow you to do things you won't otherwise be able to do at all.
With that in mind, if I wanted to buy a laptop to do bioinformatics on, i'd look for something with at least 16GB of RAM and at least 500GB disk. If I had extra money, I'd use it to go to 1TB or even 2TB spinning disk, and 24/32GB RAM rather than getting an SSD (however much nicer SSD makes life). I would not get a MacBook Air. If you can't afford MacBook Pro, don't get Apple.