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Barebones Notebook Build - Suggestions?

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February 12, 2007 6:21:52 PM

I am going to need a new notebook in the 2 week timeframe for a new job that I will be starting. I don't have time to game, so this is a work only notebook. It will be running Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, Office 2003, and other web development related programs.

My requirements:

    [*:51a808de37]Processor:
    Must be dual-core (the faster the better).
    Currently looking at the T7200 (Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2ghz and 4MB cache)
    [*:51a808de37]Screen size:
    17" widescreen (weight is not much of an issue for me)
    Prefer WSXGA resolution (1680x1050) unless someone can convince me that WXGA (1440x900) is better on the eyes for this size screen.
    [*:51a808de37]Hard drive:
    As fast as possible, and at least 60GB.
    Speed is more important than capacity. (i.e. should be 7200rpm)
    [*:51a808de37]Memory:
    At least 1GB ram, 2GB is better.
    [*:51a808de37]Other:
    Wireless B/G (but I can always add this on later)
    This will be running Win XP Pro (NOT Vista)
    I don't have a problem running on-board graphics, as this is not going to be used for gaming or Vista.

    I have done some research and can't seem to find my exact requirements for under $2000 or so. Then I ran across a barebones notebook that caught my eye.

    Proposed build:

    [*:51a808de37]$952.75 MS-171544-019 - 17" WSXGA Barebone Notebook
    [*:51a808de37]$275.00 Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 (2Ghz 4MB)
    [*:51a808de37]$86.00 Hitachi 7K100 80GB 7200rpm SATA HD
    [*:51a808de37]$30.00 Intel 3945ABG Wireless
    [*:51a808de37]$0.00 1GB 533mhz ddr2 sodimm (2x512MB) (I already have this spare memory. It could be upgraded later to 2GB if 1GB isn't enough.)
    [*:51a808de37]Total: $1,343.75 + $24.82 shipping = ~ $1370


    Actual Build (Items purchased so far):

    [*:51a808de37]$795.00 shipped - MS-171544-019 - 17" WSXGA+ Notebook. Purchase included optional Intel 3945ABG wireless module ($30-$40 value)
    [*:51a808de37]$276.23 shipped - Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 (2GHz 4MB cache)
    [*:51a808de37]$118.75 shipped - Hitachi 100GB (0A25016) 7200rpm SATA 8MB Notebook Hard Drive
    [*:51a808de37]$0.00 - 2x512MB DDR2 533MHz (already have)
    [*:51a808de37]Total (so far): $1,189.98 shipped


    Finally, my questions:

    Can anyone share their experience with building/using/supporting barebones notebooks? I have build 30+ desktop systems from individual parts over the last 15 or so years, but never a barebones notebook. What issues will I run into with a barebones that a brand name (i.e. HP, Toshiba, Sony, Dell, etc) notebook wouldn't have? Is it worth the extra $600+ to go with a name brand? Or, does anyone know of a good deal on a name brand that meets my requirements? Does anyone have sxpierence with the MS-171544 barebones notebook?
February 12, 2007 7:12:11 PM

My suggestion is to get 667Mhz DDR2 rather than 533. Yes, tighter timings are great, but the C2D really shine with 667. The selection of the T7200 is good. I own the 80GB Hitachi 7K, it's a great hard drive, but I suggest notching it up to the 100GB model. 80GB can be a little constricting sometimes, and the 100 and 120GB models perform a little bit better.

I have 2GB Patriot 667Mhz RAM in my Core Duo notebook (which I plan on possibly upgrading with a T7200!) and it is solid gold for a decent price. If you're going to be running Vista on this bad boy, I would say 2GB has got to be your standard. If XP, 1GB would be fine. Maybe you could buy one 1GB stick now and then another of the same type in a few weeks / months.

There's nothing fancy to putting together a barebones notebook. It's about as straightforward as a regular PC, just with laptop parts. I'm not much for 17" notebooks, but if that's what you've got your eyes on go for it.

Actually...perhaps you should take a jaunt over to HP's website and see if you can configure a system you like for the right price? I don't think they offer 7K hard drives, but you could upgrade it later (as I have). If there's nothing you like, keep going with your build.
February 13, 2007 2:05:17 PM

ajfink,

Thanks for the suggestions. Do you have any links to show the performance difference between the 667 mhz ram vs the 533? Are we talking 2-3% difference, 5% difference, 10%, more?

Also, why do you recommend staying away from the 17" models. Is it just a size/weight issue? For me, the benefit of the bigger screen (higher res) means more lines of code on it at any given time. And the larger (physical) size also means less eye fatigue. Seeing that this is going to sit on a desk most of the time (except for taking it to meetings and bringing it to and from work) the weight isn't that much of an issue. My previous work laptop was a 15" widescreen with a very high res (WUXGA 1920x1200) and I found myself squinting a lot. I think the dot pitch was too low for comfort (although one could fit a lot on that screen!).

Also, I checked prices for the 100GB Hitachi model, and it is a good $20-$30 more than the 80GB. At more than $1 per GB I don't think I need the larger drive. I already have plenty of storage space (~ 1.5TB) in my servers and desktops. My previous work notebook had a 60GB drive that still had 15-20gb free, so I think the 80GB will work out fine. From what I have read the Hitachi 7200rpm drives are better than the Seagate 7200rpm drives. Do you have any experience with this?

Finally, I did check HP's website (as well as Toshiba's and Dell's) but can't find exactly what I want for under $1900 or so. At this point the barebones is looking very tempting, but I am trying to decide if I should wait a couple of months for the Santa Rosa to come out, or if I should spring for this now. I imagine prices will come down on all the existing processors/barebones when the Santa Rosa platform comes out. I think it is slated for April 07, so not that long to wait.
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February 19, 2007 2:24:28 PM

Well it looks like not many people have experience with these barebones notebooks

Anyway, I just picked up one of these from eBay for $795 shipped (included the $30 wireless card). I still need to get the T7200 cpu and 7K100 hard drive from somewhere. For now I will use the 2x512mb ram that I already have, and will upgrade to 2x1gb later (if it becomes an issue).

I will update this thread with the final build cost and my impressions of the whole experience.
!