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Getting a New Laptop - Graphics Card Question

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
March 18, 2008 4:28:28 PM

Hi all,

I'm going back to school and thinking of getting a laptop. I already have a home-built desktop, so that will take care of all my quantitative modeling and heavy gaming needs (and seeing as how I'll be in political science, I think it'll mostly be for gaming). :) 

I want a laptop, however, for taking notes in class and also to play some older games (Civ 4, FEAR, Total War: Medieval 2, etc.). I've come down to essentially two laptops: a Dell Vostro 1400 which I can get for under $700 and a Dell Latitude D630. The latter I can purchase through the school, but I don't know how much it is.

So, assuming that price is equal, it comes down to graphics. The Vostro has a 128MB GeForce 8400M GS. D630 has an integrated GPU which I can hopefully upgrade to a 128MB Quadro NVS 135M. It's the same chipset as the 8400, but does anyone have any thoughts on if the Quadro would be able to play those games well on low (or possibly mid) settings?

Other comparisons:

Vostro - 5.7~5.9 lbs., slower CPU (C2D 1.4 Ghz), larger hard drive (120~250 GB)
D630 - 5.2~5.3 lbs., faster CPU (C2D 1.8 Ghz), 80 GB hard drive

If the Quadro would work for the games, that's going to tip in the D630's favor. Any thoughts?

Thanks in advance! This forum always has great advice!
March 18, 2008 7:59:57 PM

I saw a guy benchmark the D630 with the Vostro on Notebook Review, and he got a score of 888 on FEAR. Should be fine for Civ 4 on lower settings though, I think.
March 19, 2008 12:21:27 AM

The likelyhood of upgrading the integrated graphics in a laptop are close to nil. If you think that you need dedicated graphics I would strongly recommend that you get it now. But remember dedicated graphics=1/3 less battery life on the average. If you are getting this laptop for school use you may want to go with integrated graphics. A lot of these older games will play just fine.
Good luck.
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March 19, 2008 1:40:46 AM

Thanks for the replies, guys. I've seen some 3DMark06 #'s come in around 1500 for the 8400. It won't even touch my 8800GT, but I think that might be enough for FEAR at minimal settings.

Both computer's should have pretty good battery life, but thanks, Acron, I'll definitely keep that in mind. think the integrated graphics will work? My girlfriend kind of got burned with her laptop, which also has an integrated chip. However, after I got her hooked onto Civ 4, we found that she couldn't play it on her laptop. That said, the Intel GMA numbers aren't bad:

Any thoughts? I'm not sure this could handle Total War: Medieval 2.
a b D Laptop
March 19, 2008 2:40:49 AM

I would just get the 8400mGS at the very least. Intel's newest GMA, the X3100, scores a third of what the 8400 does in 3dmark06. I doubt an integrated solution could handle any of your games well.
March 19, 2008 10:42:59 AM

That's what my Lenovo R61i has the Intel X3100. Intel's drivers leave a lot to be desired but battery life for me hovers around 4.5 to 5 hours with Wi-Fi on(7 cell). I don't play any games but I've read that for basic older games it's OK
March 21, 2008 2:26:39 PM

Hey everyone,

Thanks so much for all the replies. They've been extremely helpful in figuring out what to buy.

So, going for the Vostro. I figure if I have a backpack, I really won't notice a 0.5 lbs. difference on my back.

Thanks again!
March 21, 2008 5:02:30 PM

Yeah, probably not. Messenger bags however, it's like you can feel every bit of extra weight....backpacks rule!
March 26, 2008 4:19:30 PM

The quadro is not for playing games...
March 26, 2008 7:40:42 PM

The Vostro he's looking at is equipped with the 8400m GS. Again, not great for games, but it's not a workstation card.
a b D Laptop
a c 230 U Graphics card
March 28, 2008 3:14:53 AM

I priced out my dream laptop (17" 1920 x 200, desktop replacement for CAD) some time back over at WidowPC, Falcon Northwest and Voddoo PC....all came in at about the same number ...$4700. I finally found out that they were all OEM'd from Clevo so I found myself a good Clevo distributor and bought the same exact thing, component for component for $3190 .. haven't looked back since. BTW, the only laptop vendor I am aware of right now that actually builds and sells under the same name is Asus.

Can get a list of Clevo vendors here:

a b D Laptop
March 28, 2008 3:31:58 AM

MSI does as well and I think (check me on this) Acer does too.
a b D Laptop
a c 230 U Graphics card
March 28, 2008 12:22:59 PM

Asus, Sony and Apple are the notable exceptions.....Here's some info but it's pretty old.....many vendors have shaken out of the market since then. Reportedly Lenovo and Toshiba still make soem but most are made by ODM's. Acer is questionable also as can be seen here:

Acer will add Inventec to its list of ODM notebook manufacturers, joining Compal Electronics, Quanta Computer and Wistron, the Chinese-language Commercial Times reported today. cer has reportedly been seeking a fourth contract notebook maker in order to reach its goal of shipping seven million notebooks next year. Although Foxconn Electronics (the registered trade name of Hon Hai Precision Industry) was originally thought to be the most likely partner, Acer ruled out the EMS giant in March, when Acer chairman JT Wang stated that Foxconn has decided to focus on OEM notebook production, instead of the ODM business

A few examples of ODMs are Quanta, Compal, Clevo, Mitac, Asus, Acer, Arima, Uniwill (now ECS/Uniwill) -- perhaps you have never heard of these companies before. But you have definitely seen their systems under other well known brand names. ODMs are usually located somewhere in Asia, and may have distribution centers in the US. ODMs distribute their product to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Each ODM sells its computers to many different OEMs. Clevo is usually first and on the cutting edge when it comes to gaming laptops."

This is more recent:

"A significant point to note is that the vast majority of laptops on the market are manufactured by a small handful of ODMs.[3] The ODM matters more than the OEM. Major relationships include:

* Quanta sells to (among others) HP/Compaq, Dell, Toshiba, Sony, Fujitsu, Acer, NEC, Gateway and IBM - note that Quanta is currently (as of August, 2007) the largest manufacturer of notebook computers in the world
* Compal sells to Toshiba, HP/Compaq, Acer, and Dell
* Wistron sells to HP/Compaq, Dell, IBM, NEC, and Acer
* Arima sells to HP/Compaq, NEC, and Dell
* Uniwill/ECS sells to IBM, Fujitsu, and Dell
* Asus sells to Apple (iBook), Sony, and Samsung
* Inventec sells to HP/Compaq, Toshiba, and BenQ"

Virtually none of the namebrands manufacture their own laptops. The few notable exceptions are IBM, Acer, Toshiba, Twinhead and Apple. Yet, even Toshiba and Apple do not make all of their own. All of the rest buy their laptops from what is called an Original Design Manufacturer (ODM). Then, they install the hard drive (usually an IBM, Hitachi, or Toshiba), processor (Pentium x, Celeron, or AMD) and system memory (SDRAM). Installing these last three components is very easy to do, and leaving these for "the last minute" allows for a wide range of custom configurations.

Once these companies add in these three components, they have a complete laptop. They then put their label on it and market it.

Each ODM sells its computers to several different OEMs.

For example an ODM named Compal (not to be confused with Compaq) makes the Dell Inspiron 5000, the PowerPro III:567, the Sceptre SoundX S6600 (14.1") and S6900 (15"). These are all the same laptop, just with different names on them! Compal also makes some of the Hewlett Packard line of laptops, and they make the Sceptre SoundX 5200.

Quanta makes the Dell Latitude. GVC makes the Micron Transport Treck and Treck 2. Compaq is actually manufactured by companies called Inventec (Armada and Prosignia lines) and Arima (Presario line).

Sager Computers are made by Clevo (the 9820 and 2850) and Kapok (the rest of the line). Clevo and Kapok are different Divisions of the same company and are also one of the largest, and best, in the world. Other ODM names are Mitech, Kapok, Clevo, FIC, Twinhead, and Uniwil--just to name a few.