Notebook newbie

I need to get a laptop and I am looking to spend $1500 *TOPS* (that means not a cent more!!) after shipping, accesories, etc...

I am willing to build my own, but am not sure if it is worth it or recommended over just ordering one. What would you recommend?

If I was to order one, where would the best place be to get one? Dell?

Is it easy to upgrade parts, IE order 256 MB Ram now and upgrade to 512 later; get a ATI radeon 7500 mobile now and upgrade to a Geforce4 Go mobile later? Add wireless networking card later? How do you go about doing this... do you just unscrew the laptop and put the parts in yourself or...?
Also, can I pick up a powersupply for the laptop pretty easily without having to order one? How much do these run for? (looking at Dell's site at least, it looks like you have to add them on as an option)

I am looking along these lines:

Pentium 4-M 2 GHz+
32MB dedicated 3D card (ie ATI radeon 9000 or Geforce 4 go)
256 MB Ram +
15 inch screen +


I am clueless as to what the difference between all these different new screens are (XGA, SXGA, WSWGA+ etc...) and also to the different battery types - can someone fill me in on this?

Anything I need to know would be great, and how much do you think that I should need to end up paying for a system that I outlined above?

Thanks guys, any and all advice is welcome!!!

Dan
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More about notebook newbie
  1. Check my profile and shoot me a email I'll see what I can find for you.
  2. <<<I am willing to build my own, but am not sure if it is worth it or recommended over just ordering one. What would you recommend?>>>

    I have quite a great deal of experience with notebooks, and I would not recommend that you build your own. But that really depends on what you want to use the notebook for. Do you want portability and battery life? Do you want Desktop Replacement raw performance? Or a mixture between the two?

    <<<If I was to order one, where would the best place be to get one? Dell?>>>

    Dell, if you decided on a Dell. Toshiba if you decide on a Tosh - it all depends.

    <<<Is it easy to upgrade parts, IE order 256 MB Ram now and upgrade to 512 later; get a ATI radeon 7500 mobile now and upgrade to a Geforce4 Go mobile later? Add wireless networking card later? How do you go about doing this... do you just unscrew the laptop and put the parts in yourself or...?>>>

    All decent notebooks allow you to upgrade at least one module of RAM (although not beyond the limit of the chipset (i.e. most have a 1GB limit)). You can upgrade the HDD on most, but only Dell (at the moment) offer the user the ability to remove their graphics card separately and replace it. I know that Dell allow you to add a Wi-Fi card in the Mini-PCI slot as all of their notebooks have the antenna built in. Dell's website has all the documentation required for replacing items in your notebook, that are very detailed.

    <<<Also, can I pick up a powersupply for the laptop pretty easily without having to order one? How much do these run for? (looking at Dell's site at least, it looks like you have to add them on as an option)>>>

    I suppose you could, but if you order a notebook from Dell or Compaq or whoever, it will come with a power adapter anyway - they are not expensive, and it is better to go with the one from the manufacturer as they sometimes have defects and are recalled; if you were using a 3rd party adapter, you would not get that coverage.

    <<<I am looking along these lines:

    Pentium 4-M 2 GHz+
    32MB dedicated 3D card (ie ATI radeon 9000 or Geforce 4 go)
    256 MB Ram +
    15 inch screen +>>>

    The P4-m's currently go up to 2.5GHz, with the 3GHz version to be released shortly, however they are not exactly efficient when it comes to powersaving. They have Enhanced Speedstep and such, but it was not originally designed for mobile use. If you are looking for high performance and excellent powersavings, take a look at the Intel Pentium-M (Centrino [Banias]) Processor.

    The top graphics cards at the moment are the M9 (Mobility Radeon 9000); M10 (Mobility Radeon 9600); GeForce 4 Go 4200; GeForce FX Go 5600.

    The Mobility Radeon 9000 was the first DirectX 8 compliant mobile graphics card. It scores around 8000 3DMarks on a 2.5GHz P4 solution in 3DMark 2001 SE; 1200 3DMarks in 3DMark 2003.

    The GF4Go4200 (the second DX8 compliant mobile card) is the 'best' at the moment for current games, and scores 10000 3DMarks in 2001SE on a 2.5GHz P4-m (1.6GHz Pentium-M/Centrino); 1400(ish) in 2003

    The Mobility Radeon 9600 is not [widely] released in notebooks yet, so scores are unknown, but it should compete heavily with the nVidia FX Go 5600.

    GeForce FX Go 5600, is only released in the Toshiba Satellite 5205-s703 as far as I know - it gets 8000 3DMarks in 2001SE on a 2.4GHz P4-m, and 2000 3DMarks in 2003.

    Most high performance notebooks today will come with PC2100 (266MHz) DDR RAM, but as notebook hard drives are very slow in comparison to desktop ones, the HDD is often the bottleneck for notebooks which causes significant slow-down (even current 7200rpm notebook HDDs only perform like their 5400rpm desktop counterparts), I would recommend getting 384MB at least.

    <<<I am clueless as to what the difference between all these different new screens are (XGA, SXGA, WSWGA+ etc...) and also to the different battery types - can someone fill me in on this?>>>

    as VGA stands for Video Graphics Array, XGA stands for eXtended Graphics Array. XGA is short for 1024x768 resolution; SXGA (Super) is 1280x1024 res; SXGA+ is 1400x1050; UXGA (Ultra) is 1600x1200; WSXGA+ (Wide) 1680x1050; WUXGA is 1920x1200. LCDs are only capable of displaying 18-bit colour (generally), but it will look the same as a CRT when viewed at 32-bit. The new Dell Widescreen LCDs use IPS (In Plain Switching (Or Super TFT)rather than the norm TFT (Thin Film Transistor), as it gives an almost 180' viewing angle. However, there was a bad "batch" of these screens (from Samsung) that aquired burn-in (Residual Capacative Charge), but those are being replaced.

    <<<Anything I need to know would be great, and how much do you think that I should need to end up paying for a system that I outlined above?>>>

    I would price your ideal system and price at the Dell website (on a Dell notebook), and use it as a baseline to compare other notebooks to until you find the one you want.

    Oh and keep us posted to your progress so that we can give you further advice as you choose.

    Anytime,

    RaPTuRe


    Who's General Failure and why's he reading my disk?
  3. So far for the $1500 price tag I have only seen the Dell 5100 come close to this price. $1,362 to be exact.

    SPCES:
    P4 2.4GHZ, 512MB 266mhz 2dimms, 32mb Ati Radeon 7500, 40gb HD, USB Memory Key 64mb, XP Home, Network/Modem, 8x DVD-Rom
    94 WHr Battery, 1 year warranty.
  4. You are able to change the graphics card on Dell laptops? Does that mean you can upgrade them at a later date?
  5. Quote:
    You are able to change the graphics card on Dell laptops? Does that mean you can upgrade them at a later date?

    Not necessarily.
    1)If your graphics go bad, they <i>may</i> upgrade for you.

    2) You could send your laptop to Dell for upgrade service.

    3) Depend on who you know at Dell, you may be able to order the spare part directly. I don't know anyone.

    4) You could try and order the part as a spare from some other vendor (HP, Toshiba, Acer)

    Intel giveth and Microsoft taketh away.
  6. Not on all Dell notebooks, but a fair majority of them.

    Yes. You may upgrade the graphics card, provided that you have a Dell that has a separate Graphics PCB.

    Bear in mind, that Dell does not support "upgrading" your notebook graphics card, however, if yours "goes bad", you can order a "replacement" from Dell (if you catch my drift), you can get part numbers on the Dell Forums easily enough.

    You wouldn't be able to get a Dell graphics card from another vendor though (and if you could, I wouldn't recommend it).

    RaPTuRe

    Who's General Failure and why's he reading my disk?
  7. Thanks so much for all of the help so far guys, I really appreciate it!

    Another question I have, what brand would you recommend and what do you think of some of these brands for notebooks: Dell & Gateway; Toshiba, Compaq, Alienware. What do you guys think of ordering one offline as opposed to picking one up from Best Buy or CompUSA? What do you guys think of the Best Buy brand laptops? I have never even thought about buying a deskptop from a retail store as such, but I'm not sure on laptops... advice on a brand/company?

    Also, warranty - is it a bad idea to just get the 1 year warranty for a laptop?

    Thanks!
    Dan
  8. Dell are good, some people have had horrible experiences - not me. If you don't like it, send it back within 30days and you get your money and go elsewhere.

    I don't have any experience with Gateway.

    Toshiba are also great, they are very well constructed machines, and are maid with very sturdy components, but you pay for it. a lot. They often have very good features, but they always just seem to miss the ONE thing that everyone wishes it would have.

    Compaq are very good, I have been very satisfied with all Compaq notebooks that I have used, and I would recommend them as well as Toshibas second to Dell.

    Alienware/Sager/Eurocom... etc. are shocking. I have used a couple once, and never again. Shoddy build quality, heavy, structure bends when you pick it up, under it's OWN mass!! but they are for RAW performance (which they don't do very well I might add. My old Inspiron 8200 at 1.7GHz got higher 3DMark 2001 scores than their Area 51-m at 2.4GHz with the same graphics card).

    Although I'm a citizen, I've never lived in the US - except for one year of my life, so I wouldn't know about the brands you mentioned below. Perhaps someone else will have some experience.

    Warranties and notebooks. You can go with a 1 year, but i would definitely suggest that you upgrade it to a 3 year as you approach the end of your warranty. Try and make it an "at-home" warranty if you go with a Dell.

    RaPTuRe

    Who's General Failure and why's he reading my disk?
  9. http://outlet.dell.com go there and see if there are any refurbished dell laptops that goes along on what your looking for. You'll more than likely find one. I bought a refurbished one and it looks brand new and works great! I have the Latitude C400 if your curious.
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