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Yet another clueless customer

Last response: in Mobile Computing
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February 25, 2005 12:55:38 PM

Ok ok, first of all, sorry to inflict yet another notebook purchasing thread on you good people.

I've been sifting through the madness for some time now, and here are some of the current questions I have.

1. I've been told that the Pentium - M processor's 2mb L2 cache offsets the lower clockspeed by a lot, and that it is in fact almost as good as the P4 processors with Hyper threading, which only have 1mb L2. Is this true, and if so, does it apply in the case of games? Gamespot reccomends a 2.4GHz processor for HL2 for instance, but will a 1.8 Pentium M's larger cache allow it to equal or surpass the same clockspeed in a regular P4?

2. Let us leave aside the curse of the 'shared graphics' cards for now. I keep finding great looking machines, only to see that the 'amazing' graphics card is in fact shared. Others have ATI's Radeon Mobility 9000 in them, with 128 vRAM, which at first sounded great, until I noticed that this card is not Direct X 9.0 compatible, eliminating many new titles, including the superb Rome: Total War, arrrg. So my question is, have subsequent versions of Direct X 9.0, patched this, or should I simply avoid this if I want to be able to run DX9?

3. In terms of screen resolution, what would you reccomend to a hardcore (to the possible detriment of my health hardcore) movie buff? I love films, and clarity and quality in DVD viewing rates highly in my priorities in purchasing a laptop. What's top of the range in this regard, and what will be totally worthless?

4. RPM, I know this is important in terms of loading programs and OS's etc. However, does it impact the programs once they are running? Will a low RPM slow down a game? Is 5400 a good compromise between heat/batteries and speed do you think?

Any help on these questions would be much appreciated, again, sorry about making another laptop purchase thread.

More about : clueless customer

February 25, 2005 3:35:33 PM

1) My 1.8ghz Pentium M laptop runs HL2 perfectly smooth.
2) If you are going to play games on this laptop do not get anything below a mobile radeon 9600.
3) Laptop screens go upto 17" now but that is really only useful if it is just a desktop replacement that doesn't move much. It is totally impractical if you are going to be moving around a lot. I think a 15.4" screen is probably the way to go right now to have portability and some decent screen area.
4) A lower rpm drive does just what you said, load things slower. Once it is running it is fine, it is just the loading period that sucks. The 40gb 5400rpm drive in my laptop takes over a minute to load the next area in HL2. My desktop with raid0 raptors takes maybe 5 seconds.
I haven't had a 7200rpm drive in one of my personal laptops yet but I think it is safe to say it will shave off quite a bit of battery life. If you are going to be on the go a lot just stick with the 5400rpm drive, it really isn't that bad.

<A HREF="http://www.folken.net/myrig.htm" target="_new">My precious...</A>
February 25, 2005 8:47:15 PM

The "M" chips kick butt compared to a p4. I'm not so sure it is the cache that is the reason. The p4 is less efficient per clock partly due to its longer pipeline. The "M" gets more work done per clock, like an AMD chip. I've got an old 1.5GHz "M" with only one meg of cache in my laptop and it works great on games.

DX9 games also support DX8 so that they will run on older systems. You will lose some of the DX9 special effects but a DX8 card will still work. That said, I agree that if you are intrested in gaming on your notebook you should get at least a 9600.

The big screens are pretty, how much weight/size do you want to lug around? As far as resolution goes, any laptop screen is going to have higher res then a DVD. DVD resolution is 720 by 480. My screen is a mid grade wsxga and has a resolution of 1680 by 1050, way more than a DVD. The bottom of the line wxga screen is 1280 by 800 which is more than enough for DVD viewing. I'm gonna leave this one up to you. A higher res display is nice for high res pictures and internet browsing. A friend just got one of those fancy new wuxga screens at 1900 by 1200. The higher the res of the display the smaller everything gets. My friend runs his display on less than the max res because he can't read the tiny writing. I'm happy with the wsxga, it is a nice middle ground. Many laptops skip from wxga to wuxga, I don't know which of of those I'd pick. Perhaps on a small ultra portable like a 12 inch the lower res would be ok and on a huge 17 inch you might need the higher res. The bigger the screen the bigger the pixel.

I've got a 7200 rpm drive and it does take more power but not a whole lot. I highly suggest one, as does Tom's:

<A HREF="http://www.tomshardware.com/mobile/20031031/index.html" target="_new">http://www.tomshardware.com/mobile/20031031/index.html&...;/A>

Summary:

"For users faced with the choice between a standard 4200-rpm hard drive and a faster 5400-rpm or even 7200-rpm model, we would recommend picking the faster-turning drive."

Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire.<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by lakedude on 02/25/05 06:08 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
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February 25, 2005 9:48:38 PM

The CPU in a system is not nearly as important for games as the gpu. I traded a 2GHz p4 laptop with 768MB of ram and an ATI 7500 graphics card in on a 1.5 GHz "M" laptop with 512MB of ram and an ATI 9600 pro turbo. My benchmarks roughly doubled and battery life went up by hours.

My buddy Bill learned from my "slower is better" upgrade path and traded a 2.8GHz p4 with an ATI 9000 in on a 1.8GHz "M" with an ATI 9700 and his scores doubled as well.

There is no comparison. Both of the newer laptops run WAY smoother than the old ones in spite of the "slower" CPUs. I'm sure that in some pure CPU stress benchmark the old systems would be faster but in the real world the new systems are so much better.

Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire.
February 26, 2005 6:28:53 AM

Its not just the cache. The Pentium M on the whole is much more efficient compared to the P4. But on repetitive tasks like video processing, the P4 is faster. Rapture will probably be able to answer you which PM's performance corresponds with which P4.

The 9000 though supporting only DX8 is a decent card for older games unlike the GeForce Go5200 which supports DX9 but is a piece of crap. I agree with folken about the 9600.

I have a 32mb 5200go and though I can play farcry with it, I do so with minimal quality settings and it still lags a little sometimes.

As for the screen, I suggest you get an XGA resolution one. I have an SXGA display and it looks great when playing movies but the fonts are a bit too fine for me. You should go out to the shop and try them out to see if you're comfortable with them.

:cool: :eek:  :redface: :frown: :lol:  :mad:  :eek:  :smile: :tongue: :wink: :evil: 
February 26, 2005 8:33:36 PM

Yeah, the best thing you can do screen wise is go shopping at a local computer store. They have a new screen type out that is really pretty at certain angles but has a lot of glare at others. This screen type is called TrueLife, TruBriteĀ®, Crystal View, BrightView, XBright, Ultrabright, GlassView, glossy, and even "glare-type". You need to judge for yourself if you like the "glare type" display.

Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire.
February 27, 2005 3:48:26 AM

Thanks for all the help guys!

So, basically I'm looking at two systems, the expensive one sounds pretty sweet:

Pentium M 2.0GHz
SXGA 15.4 inch display
768 RAM
Mobility Radeon 9600 Pro Turbo 128Mb VRAM

Which sounds great! What do you think.

For about 300 less I can pick up:

P4 3.0GHz
SXGA Display
512RAM
Mobility Radeon 9700 64Mb VRAM

Apart from that, they're fairly comparable in terms of everything else.

One last query. Dell list the Optical drives of these machines as and I quote verbatim: 'Internal 8X DVD RW +/- Combination drives with dual layer capability'

Now, if you click the 'More info' tab it tells you about the device, except there it has 'DVD + CDRW +/-' my only concern being that the DVD one doesn't handle CD burning, though this sounds pretty unlikely, just thought I'd make sure.

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by confusionabounds on 02/27/05 00:49 AM.</EM></FONT></P>
March 1, 2005 11:23:15 AM

Its probably a little late, but I've been meaning to get around to this topic for a while now (oh the workload :(  )
Anyway, I hope it is of some use:

Quote:
1. I've been told that the Pentium - M processor's 2mb L2 cache offsets the lower clockspeed by a lot, and that it is in fact almost as good as the P4 processors with Hyper threading, which only have 1mb L2. Is this true, and if so, does it apply in the case of games? Gamespot reccomends a 2.4GHz processor for HL2 for instance, but will a 1.8 Pentium M's larger cache allow it to equal or surpass the same clockspeed in a regular P4?
Quote:


It is true that the low clock speed of the Pentium-M is rarely a hinderence, but it is not only due to the large L2 Cache, but rather to the core design in general. I don't like explaining it like this, but it is the simplest method - the Pentium-M is *essentially* a hybrid between the NetBurst Architecture (Pentium 4) and the P6 Architecture (Pentium III) with the benefits of both, and a couple of extras on the side too.
Even the first Pentium-M (Banias) had a very large L2 cache of 2MB, and the same L1 of that of the Tualitin P3, it also has a very high IPC (Instructions Per Clock-Cycle) which is the main offset of speed compared to the P4. Compared to the P3, the PM has a much, much improved branch predictor, and a slightly longer pipeline. The core is very similar, but the packaging is identical to the P4 (although the pinout is slightly different) and it shares the 400MHz (Now 533MHz) FSB. So what it boils down to is that the Pentium-M is a very capable processor (especially with repetitive tasks), but also, since it was designed from the ground up as a mobile CPU (i.e. power saving), it is very, very thrifty.
The Pentium-M Banias is best compared as follows:
PM 1.4 ~ P4 2.5
PM 1.5 ~ P4 2.66
PM 1.6 - P4 2.8
PM 1.7 ~ P4 3.0
PM 1.8 ~ P4 3.2
PM 2.0 > P4 3.4

The above comparison is by no means conclusive, and merely represents a vast majority of tasks, not including gaming or encoding. I have favorably compared a PM(B) 1.6GHz to a P4 2.8GHz in a previous thread.

But, to answer your question, a 1.7-1.8GHz Pentium-M (Dothan) will be more than adequate to play games, and would perform favorably compared to a 2.4GHz P4 (although, if you pair it with a similar graphics card, the performance difference will be highly negligable).

Quote:
2. Let us leave aside the curse of the 'shared graphics' cards for now. I keep finding great looking machines, only to see that the 'amazing' graphics card is in fact shared. Others have ATI's Radeon Mobility 9000 in them, with 128 vRAM, which at first sounded great, until I noticed that this card is not Direct X 9.0 compatible, eliminating many new titles, including the superb Rome: Total War, arrrg. So my question is, have subsequent versions of Direct X 9.0, patched this, or should I simply avoid this if I want to be able to run DX9?


Well, as powerful as the MR9000 once was, it is not really all that capable in DX 9 games, although it is DX9 "Compatible" if not DX9 "Compliant" (The former meaning it can play DX9 games, the latter meaning it is a DX9 card).
I would encourage you to get something a 'little' higher spec than that (at least).

Quote:
3. In terms of screen resolution, what would you reccomend to a hardcore (to the possible detriment of my health hardcore) movie buff? I love films, and clarity and quality in DVD viewing rates highly in my priorities in purchasing a laptop. What's top of the range in this regard, and what will be totally worthless?


Alright, As has been mentioned in subsequent posts, its all about personal preference: You simply have to go and see a few that you are interested in and then decide for yourself. Although, if u truly are a movie buff (and have good eye-sight :p ) , then you can't not be interested in those new Dell (9200's are they?) with the high resolution 17" LCD (and they are not THAT big). You can't beat the quality and uniformity of those 1920*1200 Panels.

Quote:
4. RPM, I know this is important in terms of loading programs and OS's etc. However, does it impact the programs once they are running? Will a low RPM slow down a game? Is 5400 a good compromise between heat/batteries and speed do you think?


Firstly, rpm is not just 'very' important, it is possibly the most speed inhibiting factor on a notebook computer. If you have a slow hard drive, EVERYTHING will be slow (maybe not while you're in the game, or while working in Word, but the system will just FEEL slower) - similarly if u have a faster hard drive, everything will feel a heck of a lot faster. It won't impact too much while you're in a game, but if it is a taxing game, with large textures, it will lag every now and then. A 7200rpm notebook HDD (2.5") is typically not any hotter, nor any noisier, nor any more power consuming than their 5400rpm counterparts. Really, the difference is literally undetectable. Go for the fastest you can, even if it means reduced capacity - in a notebook it is worth it.

Quote:
Any help on these questions would be much appreciated, again, sorry about making another laptop purchase thread.


No worries.

Quote:
2) If you are going to play games on this laptop do not get anything below a mobile radeon 9600.


well, to be more accurate: if you want to play games (other than solitaire and possibly warcraft) decently, then don't get anything below a MR9600 :p 

Quote:
A lower rpm drive does just what you said, load things slower. Once it is running it is fine, it is just the loading period that sucks. The 40gb 5400rpm drive in my laptop takes over a minute to load the next area in HL2. My desktop with raid0 raptors takes maybe 5 seconds.
I haven't had a 7200rpm drive in one of my personal laptops yet but I think it is safe to say it will shave off quite a bit of battery life. If you are going to be on the go a lot just stick with the 5400rpm drive, it really isn't that bad.


Having used both, i can tell you that the 7200rpm is very noticably different, in boot times, load times, everything, and the power drain is immeasurable. THG even did a test on this some time back, illustrating how little battery life was affected.

Quote:
The "M" chips kick butt compared to a p4. I'm not so sure it is the cache that is the reason. The p4 is less efficient per clock partly due to its longer pipeline. The "M" gets more work done per clock, like an AMD chip. I've got an old 1.5GHz "M" with only one meg of cache in my laptop and it works great on games.


Indeed, "M"s are very quick little chips, but when it comes to encoding, (audio and video), the P4 still takes the crown.

Quote:
My friend runs his display on less than the max res because he can't read the tiny writing. I'm happy with the wsxga, it is a nice middle ground.


Hmmm, but this can be resolved by increasing the DPI of the font, which displays the fonts bigger, but the resolution stays the same. You CANNOT run an LCD on anything but its native resolution, in my opinion anyone who does so should be fined :p  !!!

lakedude has kindly supplied THG's <A HREF="http://www.tomshardware.com/mobile/20031031/index.html" target="_new">review</A> on the mobile drives.

Quote:
The CPU in a system is not nearly as important for games as the gpu. I traded a 2GHz p4 laptop with 768MB of ram and an ATI 7500 graphics card in on a 1.5 GHz "M" laptop with 512MB of ram and an ATI 9600 pro turbo. My benchmarks roughly doubled and battery life went up by hours.


Good advice...

Quote:
Its not just the cache. The Pentium M on the whole is much more efficient compared to the P4. But on repetitive tasks like video processing, the P4 is faster. Rapture will probably be able to answer you which PM's performance corresponds with which P4.


That's mostly correct, some repetitive tasks are actually a lot quicker on the PM, however, due to the large cache. But that's a perfectly adequate summary of the PM vs P4

Quote:
Yeah, the best thing you can do screen wise is go shopping at a local computer store. They have a new screen type out that is really pretty at certain angles but has a lot of glare at others. This screen type is called TrueLife, TruBriteĀ®, Crystal View, BrightView, XBright, Ultrabright, GlassView, glossy, and even "glare-type". You need to judge for yourself if you like the "glare type" display.


This is the best advice that anyone can give you. Displays are a personal choice.

Quote:
Pentium M 2.0GHz
SXGA 15.4 inch display
768 RAM
Mobility Radeon 9600 Pro Turbo 128Mb VRAM

P4 3.0GHz
SXGA Display
512RAM
Mobility Radeon 9700 64Mb VRAM


Hmm, the first one definitely. The 300 bucks on the other one would be made up if u added another 256MB RAM to equal the P-M system.
The difference in performance between the 9600 Pro Turbo, and the 9700 is also not all that great, but with the 1st system, you get the advantage of lower heat, lower noise, longer battery life (like 2-4hours more) and a generally more pleasant notebook computing experience.

Quote:
One last query. Dell list the Optical drives of these machines as and I quote verbatim: 'Internal 8X DVD RW +/- Combination drives with dual layer capability'

Now, if you click the 'More info' tab it tells you about the device, except there it has 'DVD + CDRW +/-' my only concern being that the DVD one doesn't handle CD burning, though this sounds pretty unlikely, just thought I'd make sure.


Yes, the DVD+-RW Drive can write DVDs (that it specifies) and CDs (both R and RW).

Hope you find what you're looking for - keep us updated!

Regards,
RaPTuRe

Who's General Failure and why's he reading my disk?
!