[Chimera-users] what laptop configuration should I get for using Chimera and ChimeraX with very large volumes?

Gregory Babbitt gabsbi at rit.edu
Thu Jul 18 20:07:31 PDT 2019

Recently, I have found this cheap Acer laptop has alot of bang for the buck for under $600....the GPU is equivalent to GTX 1030...about 400 cuda cores and not too loud or hot.  I converted it to Linux mint and added an additional 1TB SSD and it seems to run Chimera and even small Amber jobs quietly.


For desk system that is still portable in small rollerbag but with a monster GPU you might consider building in this Fractal design case with a mini ITX gaming board ($1100 build minus the GPU and monitor).  I actually run Titan Xp out of this and use a full HD portable monitor screen by GeChic.  Cabling was a bit tricky but not impossible




This whole system can fit in a mini roller bag or large briefcase and easily fit in airline overhead compartment....and pushes about 12 teraflops with the big GPU

Greg at RIT

From: Chimera-users <chimera-users-bounces at cgl.ucsf.edu> on behalf of Tom Goddard <goddard at sonic.net>
Sent: Thursday, July 18, 2019 7:31 PM
To: Ilona Nudelman
Cc: chimera-users at cgl.ucsf.edu
Subject: Re: [Chimera-users] what laptop configuration should I get for using Chimera and ChimeraX with very large volumes?

Hi Ilona,

  Chimera and ChimeraX rendering speed with large maps and atomic models benefits from a fast graphics processor.  Calculations in Chimera and ChimeraX benefit from a fast CPU (recent i7 or i9).  And for large data, e.g. multiple 1024^3 density maps, more memory is helpful (>= 16 Gbytes).  The problem is that laptops with a fast graphics processor are horrible noisy short battery life machines, because a modern fast GPU uses more than 100 Watts of power which drains the battery fast and heats the cramped laptop.  As an example I have an MSI GS65 Stealth 15.6" 8RF laptop ($2500) that I use for showing virtual reality when I travel


I don't use it for anything besides VR because it is noisy with no battery life (< 1 hr in VR, ~2-3 hours general use) -- and I chose this as one of the quietest  high-end graphics laptops.  So if you want a laptop that has general purpose utility I think you have to accept lower performance graphics so that it is quiet with long battery life.  I don't know what Windows laptops meet those requirements.  I use Mac laptops which are all quiet with long battery life, but the current highest end graphics offered on a MacBook Pro 15" is Radeon Vega 20 which is similar to an Nvidia GTX 1050, significantly slower than the above 1 year old Windows laptops (and much faster Windows laptops with GTX 2080 graphics exist -- bring your ear plugs and fire extinguisher).  An additional factor is the weight of the fastest video gaming laptops is around 10 pounds, you would not want carry such a machine anywhere.  The MSI machine above is not too heavy, maybe 4-5 pounds, the heavier machines allow bigger batteries and more space for airflow for cooling, and produce even more noise.

  In general Chimera and ChimeraX perform quite well on normal non-video gaming laptops.  If you want higher performance get one with an Nvidia or AMD gpu with modest performance (<= GTX 1050).  Most laptops have only Intel graphics which is a few times slower (although still perfectly usable for most 3d data).


On Jul 18, 2019, at 12:49 PM, Ilona Nudelman <inudelman02 at mail.rockefeller.edu<mailto:inudelman02 at mail.rockefeller.edu>> wrote:


I'm looking for an upgrade to my PC laptop (Windows) and wanted to ask if anyone has any advice on the configuration needed to run Chimera and ChimeraX with very large volumes and lots of heavy pdb's docked in. I am looking for a mobile workstation type laptop but I don't want to spend too much money - maybe 2,500-3,500$. Within these confines what memory, GPU, processor etc. would you recommend?

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