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Help in picking a laptop ( and the company )

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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November 4, 2006 9:40:58 PM

I'm considering getting a new laptop as mines are a bit long in the tooth. I'm a fan of ultraportables. The ones I have kept around are the Fujitsu P7010D and a Sony X505. But sadly ultraportables are not upgradeable. Curretly I'm trying to find a laptop with the following qualities:

1) Upgradeable: I want to be able to upgrade the laptop a year or two down the line if I feel the need for it.

2) Customer Support: I dont want the hassle of getting a laptop and then dealing with bad customer support or such. Something along the lines of, not to many questions asked and quick returns if I send in the laptop.

Those are the two main things in order of importance. From what I hear, upgradeable laptops arent small so I left out size. If they're big then so be it, just nothing so heavy and huge that I cant lift it with one hand. :p 

It would be great if there was a way to build your own laptop much like a desktop but I cant seem to find anything along these lines. Any help/recommendations would be great. Someone mentioned Eurocom to me and they look promising.

More about : picking laptop company

November 5, 2006 12:02:46 AM

My experience with laptops is that they are expensive to upgrade and you're much better off getting what you want when you buy it. As for support, good luck. My wife recently got a Dell laptop and I had to use their on line support. It was a chat thing with some guy in India or Pakistan, could tell by his name but his written English was fine. At the time there was no solution, which I evetually figured out from talking with him, wanted to disable the mouse pad because we were using an USB mouse. Dell finally came up with a fix. Like most support, on line or phone, they're reading from their on line support.
November 5, 2006 12:08:06 AM

Killer Notebooks has a 14 inch Kodachi.

Mark at KN gave me better customer support than any big company I've dealt with. Answered dozens upon dozens of questions before I had even purchased my Wakazachi, and solved any issues I had after I got it.

Shoot him off an email and I'm sure he'll help you configure the laptop of your dreams.
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November 5, 2006 11:27:24 AM

I found small computer stores are your best bet to getting laptops that can be upgraded. CPU RAM and Hard drive. There are laptops from dell that can be upgraded.
November 6, 2006 12:13:17 AM

I've heard that Killer Notebooks has good support, and I've seen how much he is on the forum.
However, there are very few notebook makers on the market that will offer the kind of upgradeability that a desktop offers. In most cases you can upgrade the RAM, hard disk (2.5"), and in more upgradeable machines from mobile processor and GPU to another mobile one. I would suggest a desktop replacement, probably from a more boutique or gaming oriented builder. Toms did do a review of a couple Eurocoms, so you could check if they look like what you want.
November 6, 2006 1:40:10 PM

When you say "upgradeable" do you mean the CPU, RAM, GPU, OS, WIRELESS, HARD DRIVE or all of the above.

What do you use the system for?

What is your budget now and a when you want to upgrade?

Honestly, upgrading 2 years in the future is tough because the chipsets all change and hardware follows suit. You can always use backwards compatible hardware, but why?
November 6, 2006 6:18:58 PM

Well when I say upgradeable I mean everything if need be but preferrably just certain areas such as the GPU, HD, RAM, CPU - in that order of importance. Since having memory upgradeable is taken for granted and these days it doesnt seem to be a chore to upgrade the HD either so pretty much just the GPU and CPU. The needs would mostly be for general use, ie. games, work, entertainment, etc.
November 6, 2006 7:06:21 PM

Ok, as far as RAM upgrading, think back 2 years ago, we were using DDR RAM in notebooks. I just started offering DDR2-800, probably tripple the bandwidth. 2 years from now we'll be talking about DDR3. That is what I mean when I say it may not be worth it to upgrade.

Same thing with the CPU, if you had a Pentium M from 2 years ago, you wouldn't want to upgrade it to even the fastest one now because we are already 2 generations past that with Core Duo and Core 2 Duo. 2 Years from now we'll be talking about Quad Core's as if they were junk. Think even desktops, 2 years ago few people could even conceptualize what a dual core meant now everyone knows what it is and needs it.

Hard Drives, again 2 years ago we were 100% EIDE and 7,200 was very expensive and smal capacities like 60 GB, now it is almost 100% SATA and 2 years from now at least SATA2 with massive amounts of Flash RAM buffer in a hybrid drive, or maybe even completely flash RAM/Solid State drives.

For the GPU, the only systems I know of with GPU's actually capable of upgrading are 17" and you said you wanted a portable unit so that is out. There were 15.4" models, but I never see the upgradable video cards coming to pass. This is something nVidia has been pushing for for a while, and it is a concept long overdue in notebooks.

You are correct that upgrading any of the other components aside from the GPU isn't that difficult. I just question if 2 years from now it would be worth it.

:idea: My advice to you would be to take a look at what you are using it for. General usage and light/medium level gaming, any C2D system you buy today will last you several years. A good example of a system well suited for this would be something with an nVidia 7600 or x1600 class or higher GPU. Try to get 1 Gig at least, and when you do if you can opt. for the RAM being on a single chip (instead of 2) you will be saving yourself a lot of headache in the future, and you ARE going to want to go to 2 Gigs sooner or later.

Hard core gaming and desktop replacement you need cutting edge, you need GPU firepower, this is an area that the game developers are really limited by the hardware out right now, even at the desktop level.

Almost any machine in this class is going to be upgradable in the future. Probably NOT to Quad Core on the Intel side because intel is notorius for screwing people over on socket/platform changes and just charging headlong into new technologies and "Devil may care" about anyone who bought our last gen of stuff, but AMD's AM2 platform in a notebook might upgrade to their 4x4 Quad Core.

AMD is very good at ringing everything they can out of their technology, which is good for the end user... look at DDR RAM, they took that 3 years longer than Intel did, and Intel had about 3 different memory technologies between then and now.

I DO wish AMD would have gone right to DDR3 with their AM2 platform, but whatever, smarter people than I at AMD made the decision.
November 6, 2006 7:28:29 PM

I guess I should rephrase :D  . I'm aware of the issues of what will/could happen 2 years from now if I wanted to upgrade. New standards will come out that could redefine interfaces, etc for various components/technologies. That would indeed be very troublesome. :? I'll clarify my needs.

Lets say 2 years, or even 1 year down the line, I feel the need to upgrade the GPU because I wish to play the latest games at the time at what I feel is an acceptable level, I dont wish to have to purchase a whole new laptop just for that. Just a simple swapping of a new GPU with, say, more memory, doesnt necessarily have to be a whole lot faster since then I would ( or rather the upgrader ) have to deal with heat issues or power requirements, etc. Just something simple as in more memory. The same could be said of the HD. It doesnt necessarily have to be faster just more capacity. Whatever works without having to upgrade to a new motherboard or introducing other levels of complexity.

After a certain amount of time, I would most likely want to upgrade a large part of the internal components, maybe even all. But most likely after two or three years a new CPU which would probably mean a new motherboard which would probably mean a new GPU which....ad infinitum. :p  But certain areas dont have to be touched such as the HD unless necessary.

Basically I'm trying to not to deal with the issue of how to get rid of the "old" laptop. I'm not particularly fond of the idea of trying to resell it somewhere else and then having to play customer support later on. I dont believe its necessary to waste the current materials that I have either, in this case the laptop chassis and/or whatever else that doesnt have to be upgraded. But the main thing is the customer support thing. :p 
November 6, 2006 8:18:23 PM

For the
:arrow: hard drive, make sure it has a SATA interface. the best hard drive you can get right now is the 100 Gig 7,200 rpm, but since they have moved to perpendicular writing, you should see 120's, 160's etc soon.
:arrow: GPU is the big one, you are not going to be able to realisticly do this with a chassis under 17" right now.

I think you should consider a notebook/desktop/any computer equipment a sunk cost. When the time comes, sell the thing on Ebay and forget about it.
November 6, 2006 8:23:55 PM

Well I noted that when you say any chassis under 17", so the 17" and 19" are doable? I dont mind the extra weight, got a handy dandy Arc Teryx camping backback complete with weight supports :lol: 
November 6, 2006 8:29:57 PM

Desktops can be fun to upgrade and customize, but I think the same experience with a laptop, with our current technology, is just impossible.

Just get a nice one now and it will last you a while. You might not be able to play the latest game on the highest settings, but you never will be a ble to do that unless you're throwing hundreds of dollars at a new video card every few months.
November 6, 2006 8:31:55 PM

Yea, the 17" and 19" notebooks both have modular or upgradeble video cards. Cards range from x1600, 7800 GTX, 7900 GTX 256/512 Mb, 7950 GTX. Of course the x1600 won't work in a Sli configuration.

I would think the AM2 platform would be more futureproof just going on track records of both companies AMD & Intel, but right now AMD is getting their butt kicked in pretty regularly by the C2D.

November 6, 2006 8:50:48 PM

The GPU could certainly be upgraded in some case on larger (read 17" or so) laptops. Except for the rare occasion in which a notebook vendor uses an ATX style motherboard (with PCI-e), these cards use either a proprietary interface/formfactor for the GPU, which would lock one in to a certain subset of GPUs, or they use NVidia's MXM standard(s). MXM comes in several flavors as detailed at: http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/video/display/200601062351...

Quote:
Nvidia MXMs are designed for usage in notebooks and are supposed to allow customers to upgrade graphics sub-systems in their laptops. In reality, it is practically impossible for end-users to acquire MXM graphics cards themselves. There are a number of MXM implementations – MXM-I, MXM-II, MXM-III and MXM-HE – for various needs that are different by footprints (MXM-I is the smallest, MXM-HE is the largest) and by thermal compatibility. While the MXM products are backwards compatible (MXM-HE slot can support all the rest form-factors), different notebooks employ different MXM flavours and utilise specific cooling systems.

In some cases one can get the GPU upgraded through the vendor at a later date.
November 6, 2006 8:57:57 PM

MattJacob: I cant agree on the desktop being fun to upgrade part or at least not my server. Currently have 2 opteron's on it with Thermalright XP-120 eatsinks attached + Delta fans on top. Just thinking about popping in dual cores and having to fiddle around with those damn heat sinks makes me shudder. :x

KillerNotebooks: I'm not too concerned about SLI configurations. I'm not a hardcore gamer and I dont play shooters. Some online RPG's and strategy games are pretty much it so I dont need something spetacular. So sometime down the line I might wish to upgrade the GPU because some new MMORPG is coming out that I might want to try out or something similar.
November 6, 2006 10:58:10 PM

Well, then it sounds like a 17" with 7800 GTX would be more than enough for you.
November 6, 2006 11:14:14 PM

Thanks for all the help so far. :D 
!