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Laptop Purchase Advice

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December 7, 2007 4:21:39 PM

Hey everyone,

I would really appreciate any advice on my laptop purchase. I built my own desktop last year, primarily to be a gaming machine. I'll hopefully be heading off to grad school next fall, so I'll likely rely upon the desktop to do quantitative modeling as well.

However, I'd also like to get a laptop for use in class and travel (especially since my girlfriend and I might be in different cities, and we'll see each other about once every 1-2 weeks). Consequently, while I'm sure the desktop will be doing the heavy lifting in terms of modeling and playing the most advanced games, I'd want my laptop to be able to play some older games (e.g. around Civ 4, maybe FPS on low settings) to pass the time on those long trips/procrastinating at the library.

So, my question: should I get a laptop with a discrete graphics card, or will the integrated graphics chip be fine?

I'm aiming for a 14" screen, around 4-5 lbs., since I'll be lugging this thing around a lot. Consequently, the best card I could expect is probably the nVidia Go 8400M GS 128MB DDR3. Clearly not all that good anyway, which is why I'd really appreciate any advice on this. Thanks!

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a b D Laptop
December 7, 2007 5:36:24 PM

Integrated cards have a hard time with games. If you want to play at semi decent rates you are best off getting a dedicated card. Even a low-end dedicated card will beat out an integrated chip. Now, you won't be able to play games like Crysis all that well with an 8400, but you should be able to play Civ 4 with it.
December 10, 2007 12:08:49 PM

can anyone tell me about the battery life, will a dedicated card would descrease battery life more than onboard , i mean a significant amount of battery life ???
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December 10, 2007 12:36:42 PM

1. Dedicated video vs. No dedicated video
- Best advice here: Make sure whatever laptop you buy at least supports a dedicated video card (not all of them do). Then price the cost of the card if you buy it yourself separately. Now, at least, you always have the option of adding one if you need one.
- Remember the integrated video and even some dedicated video cards still require part of your processor's memory space to work. Consider that when deciding how much memory you buy as all of it isn't available to the processor in those cases.

2. Every additional device requiring some amount of power to run is going to draw power from your battery. (So a vid card will add its share to draw down battery power.) But i can't believe it alone is significant.
Probably more significant is you checking on the Power Saving modes of the laptop so it will lower power usage when ever possible (eg. when devices aren't being used

3. If really concerned about battery power like get an extended battery tho realize it will add weight to the total wieght (plus add to the price of total cost!)
a b D Laptop
December 10, 2007 1:27:26 PM

LookinAround said:
1. Dedicated video vs. No dedicated video
- Best advice here: Make sure whatever laptop you buy at least supports a dedicated video card (not all of them do). Then price the cost of the card if you buy it yourself separately. Now, at least, you always have the option of adding one if you need one.
- Remember the integrated video and even some dedicated video cards still require part of your processor's memory space to work. Consider that when deciding how much memory you buy as all of it isn't available to the processor in those cases.


I like the idea, but that's hardly ever the case. In most circumstances, a laptop that doesn't come with a dedicated card, won't have an option for a dedicated card (no slot for it). Add on top of that the fact that it is difficult to actually find laptop graphics cards and you have a sticky situation on your hands. For whatever reason, laptop graphics aren't nearly as mainstream as desktops and as a result aren't readily available. Plus, they ain't cheap.

As far as battery life, yes a dedicated card will drain the battery faster if you are actually using it. With most laptops, they are configured so that the card clocks itself down when it's not being used so that it doesn't needlessly drain the battery. It's basically speedstep except for GPUs. Nvidia calls it Powermizer, not sure what ATI's version is.
December 11, 2007 2:37:22 PM

Thanks for all the advice, everyone. I'll go with the discrete card. It's only $100 more, and if it'll open up more gaming, that's worth it to me.
!