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Build or buy: Laptop or desktop?

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August 4, 2008 2:15:30 AM

I have a situation where I need a new PC, but I don't know whether to build one or buy one, specifically a Laptop. I've never owned a Laptop, but have considered one if only fact that I do some gaming. My friends tell me not to get a laptop because it won't be good for gaming.

Pentium4 2.66GHz
1GB of RAM (512x2)
GeForce 7900GS 512MB AGP
dual monitors at 1280x1024

My PC lifestyle is heavily Internet stuff, I do some photoshopping every so often, like 3 times a month. I 'll watch a a movie (Netflix) once in a while. I play games once a week myself but the games I play alone are not demanding. I general do LANgaming with friends. It's such a hassle to transport my HP tower, half the time I don't bother to bring it because it's kinda slow.

Games that I play alone are Guild Wars, Kohan:Ahriman's Gift, HalfLife:D ay of Defeat, Civilization4:Warlords.

Games I play with friends which are too demanding for my PC are Call of Duty4:MW, Sins of Solar Empire, Supreme Commander, and Bioshock. We are mostly RTS but do shooters when we are bored. They've just started playing Crysis but not everyone can play it. We have a tendency to play older games like Kohan, Jedi Knight, and Unreal Tournament.

I been reading the board and from what I've read I can build a pretty decent rig for $1200, but I been a little concerned about the coming of Nehalem which is supposedly going to revolutionize things. I don't know whether its hype or what. I don't want to build a rig only to find out I built one too late. I know that no matter when you buy/build a PC there's no stopping evolution of technology, but I'm worried about build a PC that has outdated hardware standards, specifically the motherboard.

Some of the biggest concerns I have are...

1. Are there Motherboards out there that will be able to handle the forthcoming Nehalem?

2. Will Nehalem change the architecture of motherboards and effect GPUs standards?

3. Is it possible to play graphically demanding games on Laptops? Are there concerns of overheating or enough GPU power?

4. How cost effective is it to build a desktop compared to building a Laptop?

5. Is it worth buying a laptop for gaming?

As you can see I got all kinds of questions and I don't know which direction I want to go. Biggest reason I'm even considering a Laptop is that I want to take my PC with me on trips. I often visit family out of state and really don't like using their PC to check my email and sites. I also wouldn't mind having one so I can watch movies on the road.

This has spurred a thought that maybe I should build a LAN rig and buy a laptop. But that sounds expensive and complicated. Any advice would be much appreciated.
August 4, 2008 2:29:40 AM

#1 - No. Nehalm will not work with any existing Mobos.
#2 - It will not effect GPUs.
#3 - Yes, But it will require a rather expensive Laptop and make the laptop not good for using as a mobile computing device. But it would be OK for gaming from the couch. A Desktop will always be a better gaming device.
#4 - The Desktop will be much cheaper.
#5 - It's fine to get a Laptop for gaming, but generally getting a Desktop for Gaming and a low-end Laptop for non-gaming purposes will get you a better gaming system and not cost you any more due to the high cost of gaming laptops.
a c 113 B Homebuilt system
August 4, 2008 2:35:19 AM

1. No

2. Yes new MBs, no GPUs will continue as they are now.

3. Possible but given your needs I would not do it.... You would need to spend over 3K on a laptop.

4. You cannot build a high end laptop as far as I know. Options to build a laptop are quite limited.

5. Only if you have a lot of cash to throw around. Most folks that like to LAN party get shuttles like:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Related resources
August 4, 2008 2:36:36 AM

certain laptops are built to game. they are basically a desktop, but in laptop form. what Im talking about is the kind of laptop that has a 24" screen, and is nearly 4 inches thick, housing desktop Intel quads, SLI 8800's, and quad HD's. The price tag is in the range of $6000.
AND it still cant play crysis.
August 4, 2008 2:39:11 AM

1. Are there Motherboards http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/motherboard out there that will be able to handle the forthcoming Nehalem?

no all existing motherboard wont be able to work with nehalem

2. Will Nehalem change the architecture of motherboards and effect GPUs standards?

it will change the architecture of motherboard but it will not effect gpu standards

3. Is it possible to play graphically demanding games on Laptops? Are there concerns of overheating or enough GPU power?

no you can but only on a $2000+ that is slower then most cheap desktop pc and high end parts will drain battery life faster even when the laptop is idle

4. How cost effective is it to build a desktop compared to building a Laptop?

well lets say a $1200 pc will do better then some $3000 laptops in games

5. Is it worth buying a laptop for gaming?

no


and with nahelam coming i wouldn't wait. chances are the first model will be very expensive and the motherboards

you best bet for a gaming machine is a desktop with

intel e8500/q6600
ati 4870/4850
4 gigs of ram
vista

and you will save a lot of money building it your self
August 4, 2008 3:01:56 AM

Thanks for help here, I'm really concerned that Nehalem will alter motherboard architecture much like previous AGP based boards were left behind for PCI, and that got passed for PCI-e. who's to say the Nehalem enhances integrated graphics. Intel would like nothing more than to rid itself of Nvidia.

I've heard from a family member of mine who's a trained programmer that integrated graphics is the future. Unfortunately I didn't get much details beyond that. I have feeling Nehalem will play a huge role in that.

When would be the ideal time to build a desktop, now or later this year?
August 4, 2008 3:07:58 AM

Proximon said:
5. Only if you have a lot of cash to throw around. Most folks that like to LAN party get shuttles like:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I like these Lanboxes but can I fit a regular motherboard in it? or is there a specific size? How do I determine if a Motherboard will fit in it?
August 4, 2008 3:15:46 AM

i prefer a laptop
a b B Homebuilt system
August 4, 2008 3:32:40 AM

craywulf said:
Thanks for help here, I'm really concerned that Nehalem will alter motherboard architecture much like previous AGP based boards were left behind for PCI, and that got passed for PCI-e. who's to say the Nehalem enhances integrated graphics. Intel would like nothing more than to rid itself of Nvidia.

I've heard from a family member of mine who's a trained programmer that integrated graphics is the future. Unfortunately I didn't get much details beyond that. I have feeling Nehalem will play a huge role in that.

When would be the ideal time to build a desktop, now or later this year?


Actually, PCI was left behind when AGP showed up, not the other way round. :) 

I'm a trained programmer myself, but still I can't tell you if the future of graphics is in integrated or discrete graphics. Intel says integrated is the future, and they work on something called Larrabee (google it!). nVidia says they're idiots and that the future is in discrete video cards, like they produce. AMD/ATI is in the middle, selling lots of discrete video cards but also making the most powerful integrated chipset yet (780g) and working on a future product combining CPU+GPU. That's why AMD bought ATI after all. So, no offense to your family member, but if Intel/AMD/nVidia don't know for sure, fat chance that he/she can know for sure :)  I guess we'll see in a few years. Nehalem will play absolutely no role in that, it's just a CPU with no graphics abilities at all.

If you want to build a gaming PC now, get a HD 4850 (or two). If not, wait until next spring when the video cards based on 40nm technology are supposed to appear.


a c 113 B Homebuilt system
August 4, 2008 3:39:54 AM

PCI-E will be around for a while yet.

The problem with moving towards an integrated system is that people's needs vary wildly. Also, Intel has not yet figured out what people want graphics-wise. They remain far, far behind in the GPU area and it will take many years yet for them to convince consumers and more importantly software makers that they have a good product.

No the little cases require mATX boards. There is a good selection of these. You also have other considerations with the limited space.

It's just a matter of what you want more. If it was me, I would get a mid-sized case with some good handles, probably something that wasn't real heavy.
August 4, 2008 3:58:31 AM

I think I'm starting to lean towards building a LANbox, my only real concern is upgradability, specifically GPUs. I've read many Newegg reviews about certain GPU cards not fitting, especially running a SLI/Xfire.

I'll probably hold out on a Laptop for another 7 months or so.
a c 113 B Homebuilt system
August 4, 2008 4:05:08 AM

I doubt you need to SLI or crossfire. You can get away with one good video card.
August 4, 2008 4:27:48 AM

I have both.

The laptop is great for, internet, email, office apps, and a GPS on the road.

The Desktop stomps its ass in games, movies, Newgroup downloads, Photos, Videos, unzipping/raring, storage, boot times, ect................

The laptop cost $300 more then the Desktop.
August 4, 2008 4:51:11 AM

Proximon said:
This is a nice case, almost makes me want to build one:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
That's one that I'm looking at right now. I like the handle on it, but I can't imagine that being enough to carry it fully equipped. Are there other case manufactures out there that offer handles on their LANboxes?

Before I was looking at LANboxes I had my mind set on Coolermasters Cosmos series which have really nice handles. Unfortunately the thing is huge and not portable-friendly.
August 4, 2008 5:16:16 AM

Personally, if you're into gaming, a desktop is the way to go. I am getting a laptop soon (it's about to be built) that I paid about $1450 for. It has similar specs when compared to my desktop, however I'm more than sure that my desktop will still be the better gaming rig.

For your price range of $1200, a desktop is the best idea. I paid about $1700 with S&H almost two years ago for my desktop (including monitor, keyboard, speakers, mouse, OS), and it still kicks a$$! Mind you a similar system would cost about 500 less, or in your price range. You already have the monitors, so you can rule those out of the budget right away. I dunno if you have a keyboard, mouse, and speakers (i'm assuming so) taht also will cut your cost of peripherals and allow you to spend that 1.2k on the computer alone (which is about what I paid for the computer itself minus the peripherals.)

The other plus with the desktop is that I loved building it and I keep adding in more parts. Plus, I can overclock my rig with the new cooler I bought (which was a minor investment, but worth it). With a laptop, you get to sacrifice performance for portability and battery life. It is also more difficult to dual booth with a single hard drive laptop because of partitioning when compared to dual hard drives.

Your 1.2k is best spent on a desktop IMO
!