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New Laptop - Which One Is Better?


Magister Lajciak

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With my current nearly 3-year old laptop living on borrowed time, I will have to buy a new notebook sometime in the relatively near future. I need the machine to be pretty powerful, as it must be able to do pretty much everything, yet remain portable, since I move countries regularly: work, multimedia and games. I am willing to spend up to $2000 on the laptop (if there are exceptionally good deals over $2000 I might even go over budget, but such deals would have to be truly exceptional).

 

I have been in the U.S. for less than 10 days so far (just moved in), so before going further, I would like to ask whether now is a good time to get a new computer or if it is better to wait. I am not familiar with market conditions in the U.S. - perhaps notebook manufacturers offer better prices in October/November than in September to attract Christmas shoppers, or perhaps they jack them up to milk them at this time - I am just not familiar with how prices change over the course of the year. It would be great if somebody could tell me when is generally the best time to buy laptops in the U.S..

 

I have searched a bit on the internet and have come across two machines that seem to be a good value for money and offer good performance. I would like to ask the forumers, which one they think is a better deal.

 

 

Machine 1: $1839.99

 

Intel

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  • 2 weeks later...

From what I've read it seems to be a toss-up between the ATI and the nVidia cards. Either one seems like it would work, although I was only able to locate benchmarks for the second card; Here they are:

The following average frame rates were measured with a Asus F8SN notebook equiped with GDDR2 and a T9300 CPU.

 

Crysis: 1024x768, low: 45 fps -> fully playable (altough not beautiful)

Supreme Commander (Benchmark): 1024x768, low: 27 fps -> well playable (especially smaller maps)

Unreal Tournament 3: 1024x768, Details 3/5: 30 fps -> playable with some stuttering (5-50 fps)

Doom 3: 1024x768, ultra: 84,7 fps -> fully playable

F.E.A.R.: 1024x768, med/med: 69 fps -> fully playable (in max/max avg. 34 fps)

Quake 3 Arena: 1024x768, highest: 501 fps -> fully playable

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Some of nVidia's chips that were manufactured in the past few months were suffering from a manufacturing defect. This was especially true for laptop parts. I believe they've fixed the problem now, but there could still be plenty of defective parts out in the market. I'd stay away from nVidia for the next few months.

 

http://www.theinquirer.net/gb/inquirer/new...-55nm-parts-bad

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1) Is this a good time to buy a laptop, or would you recommend I wait a month or two (or even longer) to get a better deal?

2) Which of the two systems above is a better value for money?

3) Which of the two graphics cards is better?

4) Is one or both of the above systems capable of running all future games (except shooters) to be released during the next three years?

5) Do you know of an even better deal than the above?

since i don't follow laptop developments as closely as i do desktop developments i can't comment on most of this. however, i can comment on #4: doubtful. at least, in order to answer the question with a yes you have to assume some pretty rigid requirements on "all future games ... to be released during the next three years" that may not hold.

 

first, from my experience, i only get about 18-24 months out of a processor/graphics card solution on a desktop, though admittedly i never buy high-end. i tend to stick to the upper-middle road, stuff that was new less than a year ago and has come down in price drastically. buying high-end probably would only add 6 months or so to my expectation but would cost twice as much, so i don't do it.

 

next, even with my system that's only a year old (and has an 8800 GTS 320 MB, OC'd) and 4 GB of mammaries with a core2 duo, i'm starting to notice stutter in games if i crank up the game features (in particular, i noticed this with the new witcher). i can only imagine that within the next three years, gaming technology will improve (er, get more complex) further burdening systems and resulting in reduced performance. laptop performance rarely seems to rival that of desktop and i would argue that my mid-level desktop compares favorably to high-end laptops (though i am not qualified to make such statements, it's just a hunch based on what i do know).

 

that said, if you aren't going for mobility, i'd go with the larger screen, particularly since it's cheaper. otherwise, i can't comment on how they compare one bit. is the vista ultimate 64-bit?

 

taks

comrade taks... just because.

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I'm on the market for a very similar kind of laptop you would want ML, and I"m getting the same kind of responses taks has given from across the board. With that budget (which is also mine) looking at 3 years is unrealistic - perhaps 2.

 

Some of nVidia's chips that were manufactured in the past few months were suffering from a manufacturing defect. This was especially true for laptop parts. I believe they've fixed the problem now, but there could still be plenty of defective parts out in the market. I'd stay away from nVidia for the next few months.

 

http://www.theinquirer.net/gb/inquirer/new...-55nm-parts-bad

 

Damn. So basically any of their cards could be buggered? That rules out quite a few options.

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From what I've read it seems to be a toss-up between the ATI and the nVidia cards. Either one seems like it would work, although I was only able to locate benchmarks for the second card; Here they are:
The following average frame rates were measured with a Asus F8SN notebook equiped with GDDR2 and a T9300 CPU.

 

Crysis: 1024x768, low: 45 fps -> fully playable (altough not beautiful)

Supreme Commander (Benchmark): 1024x768, low: 27 fps -> well playable (especially smaller maps)

Unreal Tournament 3: 1024x768, Details 3/5: 30 fps -> playable with some stuttering (5-50 fps)

Doom 3: 1024x768, ultra: 84,7 fps -> fully playable

F.E.A.R.: 1024x768, med/med: 69 fps -> fully playable (in max/max avg. 34 fps)

Quake 3 Arena: 1024x768, highest: 501 fps -> fully playable

 

Hmm, thanks for the benchmarks. Apparently, the Radeon 3650 is slightly better, but essentially in the same category as GeForce 9500 GS.

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Some of nVidia's chips that were manufactured in the past few months were suffering from a manufacturing defect. This was especially true for laptop parts. I believe they've fixed the problem now, but there could still be plenty of defective parts out in the market. I'd stay away from nVidia for the next few months.

 

http://www.theinquirer.net/gb/inquirer/new...-55nm-parts-bad

 

Ouch, that forces me to discount NVIDIA... thanks for the warning.

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Some of nVidia's chips that were manufactured in the past few months were suffering from a manufacturing defect. This was especially true for laptop parts. I believe they've fixed the problem now, but there could still be plenty of defective parts out in the market. I'd stay away from nVidia for the next few months.

 

http://www.theinquirer.net/gb/inquirer/new...-55nm-parts-bad

 

Ouch, that forces me to discount NVIDIA... thanks for the warning.

 

I don't know, the article only mentioned HP mobile chipsets so if you're not buying from them you would probably be ok.

Edited by Strix
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1) Is this a good time to buy a laptop, or would you recommend I wait a month or two (or even longer) to get a better deal?

2) Which of the two systems above is a better value for money?

3) Which of the two graphics cards is better?

4) Is one or both of the above systems capable of running all future games (except shooters) to be released during the next three years?

5) Do you know of an even better deal than the above?

since i don't follow laptop developments as closely as i do desktop developments i can't comment on most of this. however, i can comment on #4: doubtful. at least, in order to answer the question with a yes you have to assume some pretty rigid requirements on "all future games ... to be released during the next three years" that may not hold.

 

first, from my experience, i only get about 18-24 months out of a processor/graphics card solution on a desktop, though admittedly i never buy high-end. i tend to stick to the upper-middle road, stuff that was new less than a year ago and has come down in price drastically. buying high-end probably would only add 6 months or so to my expectation but would cost twice as much, so i don't do it.

 

next, even with my system that's only a year old (and has an 8800 GTS 320 MB, OC'd) and 4 GB of mammaries with a core2 duo, i'm starting to notice stutter in games if i crank up the game features (in particular, i noticed this with the new witcher). i can only imagine that within the next three years, gaming technology will improve (er, get more complex) further burdening systems and resulting in reduced performance. laptop performance rarely seems to rival that of desktop and i would argue that my mid-level desktop compares favorably to high-end laptops (though i am not qualified to make such statements, it's just a hunch based on what i do know).

 

that said, if you aren't going for mobility, i'd go with the larger screen, particularly since it's cheaper. otherwise, i can't comment on how they compare one bit. is the vista ultimate 64-bit?

 

Yes, desktop systems are definitely more powerful than notebook ones, and besides, these graphics cards are not the top end mobile graphics cards either - more like higher-level mainstream cards. You are probably right that it won't really be able to run "all future games... released during the next three years", so I guess I have to qualify that somewhat:

 

1) I have read some recent statements (from Epic, I believe) that graphics in games have pretty much topped out for some time, so improvements in this area are going to be much slower than hitherto.

2) I am excluding shooters and racing games from the games that need to be run in three years - these two types of games are generally graphically the most demanding.

3) When I say that games should be able to run, I don't necessarily mean that they need to run well. It is enough that in three years I can actually load them and play them on say 1024x768 (I doubt most will support an even lower resolution by then) with low detail.

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I'm on the market for a very similar kind of laptop you would want ML, and I"m getting the same kind of responses taks has given from across the board. With that budget (which is also mine) looking at 3 years is unrealistic - perhaps 2.

 

Hmm, I guess I might have to adjust my expectations then. I would have thought 3 years could be a realistic life-cycle for a gaming laptop if I am not too demanding as to how well the games should run at the end of this period, but I guess that might not be the case.

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Some of nVidia's chips that were manufactured in the past few months were suffering from a manufacturing defect. This was especially true for laptop parts. I believe they've fixed the problem now, but there could still be plenty of defective parts out in the market. I'd stay away from nVidia for the next few months.

 

http://www.theinquirer.net/gb/inquirer/new...-55nm-parts-bad

 

Ouch, that forces me to discount NVIDIA... thanks for the warning.

 

I don't know, the article only mentioned HP mobile chipsets so if you're not buying from them you would probably be ok.

 

Well, apparently NVIDIA claims that, but the article seems to have implied that these problems could appear in all chipsets - after all why would NVIDIA only have supplied them to HP? If they had a production line problem these faulty parts would have leaked into the entire lineup.

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Going through the same thought process about expectations ML - I would have thought so, too.

 

I'm going to buy mine just after Christmas to take advantage, but when that time comes I'm going to take a game, and ask to install and see how it runs. I'm sick of buying computers that don't actually run games as they should 'on paper', even when the best of computer nerds are there to inform me.

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Going through the same thought process about expectations ML - I would have thought so, too.

 

I'm going to buy mine just after Christmas to take advantage, but when that time comes I'm going to take a game, and ask to install and see how it runs. I'm sick of buying computers that don't actually run games as they should 'on paper', even when the best of computer nerds are there to inform me.

 

Hmm, I am not going to be in the U.S. during Christmas or just after Christmas, so I will have to make the purchase either before I leave or after I return. I plan on buying it online - I think that's more convenient and cheaper than doing it at a mortar and brick store. Gateway computers seem to offer great value gaming value for money, but I heard bad things about their durability, so I am as yet unconvinced. Plus, they use NVIDIA graphics cards and now I have become fearful of those. Hopefully NVIDIA clears their component pipeline soon, so that they become equally viable to ATI again - I don't have any real company preferences in terms of graphics cards (though I do prefer Inte's Core 2 Duo over AMD's processors - at least until AMD comes up with something better for laptops), but options/competition are good.

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Well, apparently NVIDIA claims that, but the article seems to have implied that these problems could appear in all chipsets - after all why would NVIDIA only have supplied them to HP?

 

Different versions of the same card are sent to companies, thus Dell is not likely to have the same supplier of "M"-cards as, for example, HP. At least that is my impression of how the system works.

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Well, apparently NVIDIA claims that, but the article seems to have implied that these problems could appear in all chipsets - after all why would NVIDIA only have supplied them to HP?

 

Different versions of the same card are sent to companies, thus Dell is not likely to have the same supplier of "M"-cards as, for example, HP. At least that is my impression of how the system works.

 

I hope you are right and you may well be. Still, I will be afraid to buy from them unless I can find this confirmed somewhere - it's still a substantial risk.

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Still, I will be afraid to buy from them unless I can find this confirmed somewhere - it's still a substantial risk.

 

Well, I do not know about this particular card, but if you look into the 8600M GT you will find plenty of documentation regarding the differences between retailers. Some, like Dell, use the GDDR2 that is set at a slightly default higher clock speed* but is less stable when overclocked, while others, like the higher-end Apple laptops, use the GDDR3 version that is clocked slower out of the box but can handle a higher level of overclocking. Of course there are also 256 and 512 versions of the cards as well and other things that might affect where a card came from -I would guess, although this is purely conjecture at this point, that there are more manufacturers of 256 "M" cards than there are of the 512 version- and who offers it.

 

 

*At least I believe this is the case, I might be mistaken; although I know the GDDR2 are at least as good as the GDDR3 cards if the latter is not overclocked.

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Thinking about this more, I am starting to even consider building my own desktop machine. The price would surely be much cheaper despite much better gaming capabilities. Well, the fact that I move relatively frequently is a damper, but perhaps I could manage it somehow. The loss of occassional mobility when not moving, but merely when I want to take my computer with me somewhere would be annoying, of course, but still... the prices are supposedly substantially better for desktop PCs.

 

I have never built a computer on my own from its component parts before, but from what I hear it is not that hard. There might even be some online guides to help me along if I decide to go that route. However, I do not know of any reputable websites where I could order the components cheaply and wouldn't know what components to get anyway. Does anybody have any suggestions in this regard?

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Thinking about this further, I am willing to moderate my requirements on Blu-ray. I do archive stuff, but it can be done on DVDs (though I then need more of them) and Blu-ray movies might take a while longer to become widespread.

 

Other than that, the requirements for the desktop or the laptop are what I described in the initial post, though a desktop that I could build myself would have to offer much, much better price/performance ratio for me to be willing to sacrifice the convenience of a notebook.

 

Also, I forgot to mention that both the laptop and the desktop would absolutely have to have LAN and Wireless LAN capability. This is more or less a given for laptops, but it is not obvious when building a desktop.

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I have managed to find one notebook with ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3850 and that is the following: http://www.zipzoomfly.com/jsp/ProductDetai...ctCode=10009297

 

I am temtped to buy it, as other specifications seem alright too (it doesn't have Blu-Ray, but I suspect that it will take another 3 years or so for Blu-Ray to become mainstream... and without Blu-Ray the WSXGA 1680x1050 screen is probably sufficient) and the price seems decent too, but it has the following processor/chipset:

 

CPU Type: AMD Turion X2 Ultra

CPU Speed: ZM-82 2.2GHz

Chipset: ATI RX781

 

I am not very familiar with AMD/ATI chipsets and processors, but I do know that unlike Intell, they have not yet transitioned to a 45 nanometer process and still use 65 nanometer processors. This sucks in terms of heat generation/overheating, in battery power (though that is somewhat less important for me) and I suspect in performance too. I have heard that they lag behind Intel's solutions performance-wise at the moment.

 

Does anybody know about this particular CPU and chipset? Is it any good compared to stuff like say Intel's P8400 or similar Dual Core processors?

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There ARE laptops capable of running Crysis on high settings:

 

http://banners.zepto.com/Trailers/hydra/index.html

 

$3850.. But it features an MXM slot, which means you can upgrade the GPU on it! Never saw that on a laptop before.

Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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