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General Laptop Advice From An Old Pro.

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May 25, 2010 5:16:18 PM

Alright, you've made up your mind to get a craptop, errr.... laptop and you're looking at all the different brands and configurations, scratching your head and wondering "WTH have I gotten myself into?" FEAR NOT DEAR FRIENDS! As a former salesman at tigerdirect.ca I can give you completely unbiased and truthful information, hopefully I can dispel a lot of myths surrounding laptop purchases.

Myth #1 - Processing power is all-important.

Actually, as with everything else, it completely depends on the application. Most people who buy laptops buy them for school or for work. Some buy them as their primary computer because they don't have a lot of room at home and so they assume that they need a powerful processor in order to do the everyday tasks they bought the laptop to do. The fact is, 90% of what people do on computers hasn't really changed since the days of Windows 95. Hardware has advanced much faster than software has. I was browsing with netscape and internet exploder back when I had a Pentium-I. You can't tell me that office applications need much either. I was using WordPerfect with an original IBM PC! LOL

Myth #2 - Brand matters

This is one of my favourites because it REALLY shows just how ignorant human beings can be. As someone who sold these things for a living at one of the largest computer retailers in Canada (hell, in North America) I can tell you a few things about the marketing behind the laptops and help you cut through all the BS.

The only difference between one brand and another is appearance (and sometimes quirky features that few people, if any, ever use). Laptops are like people, under the skin we're all pretty much the same. No matter what brand the laptop is, whether it's Acer, HP, Dell, Gateway, Lenovo, Compaq, ASUS, eMachines, Alienware, MSI, Toshiba or Packard-Bell, they're all made with the same internals from Intel, AMD, VIA, ARM, nVidia, ATi, Seagate, Hitachi, Western Digital, Foxconn, etc. They're also ALL MADE IN CHINA which means that most likely that they didn't even design the thing to begin with, they just bought the rights to a Chinese design, threw their name on it and marketed the hell out of it in North America. Also keep in mind that Acer owns Gateway, eMachines and Packard-Bell while HP owns Compaq and Dell owns Alienware. If you think they don't try to keep as many common parts as possible to keep costs down and profits up, you really should give your head a shake. Specs such as Hard Drive Space, RAM, Operating System, WiFi type, Bluetooth Compatibility, LED vs. Fluorescent backlighting and display size are the specs you should be looking at. Battery life is also a consideration but be sure to check how much a replacement battery will cost because you will most likely be replacing the battery at least once in the lifetime of your laptop. A battery with double the life might cost 5x the price to replace. No battery lives forever. Typically, eBay is the best source for replacement batteries.

Myth #3 - School home/laptops should be expensive to make sure they don't become obsolete.

This is the biggest pile of crap I've ever heard. I attend university and I use an eMachines E620-5885. Here's the specs:

CPU: Athlon 64 2650e 1.6GHz Single-Core
RAM: 2GB DDR2
Hard Drive: 160GB SATA
Graphics: ATi Radeon X1200
WiFi: Wireless-G
OS: Originally Vista Home Basic (gasp!), downgraded to XP Professional (Thank god!)
Optical: Dual-Layer DVD-RW

This machine (which I am typing on as we speak), from a specs perspective is rather primitive. The question is, since it runs everything I want it to (including most online games), why do I need to worry? Word and Powerpoint both work perfectly and probably would on an old Pentium-1. Programs like that, along with Firefox and other browsers were originally designed for much older machines and so even a machine like mine will be perfect for the average user who surfs the net, plays light games and does schoolwork. Even my old Pentium-3 laptop does these things. (I upgraded because after 9 years, it was physically falling apart but I use it for my magic jack now.) Believe me, my ATi X1200 is one of the LOWEST-scoring GPUs in benchmark tests but it's still fine.

Myth #4 - You should periodically drain your laptop battery completely and charge it up again

Hell no, you don't want to do that. Lithium-Ion batteries are not like the old Nickel-Cadmium rechargeables. They do not develop a memory from unscheduled charging and do NOT respond well to deep-cycling (draining completely and then recharging). That will kill a Lithium-Ion cell almost as fast as too much heat. Ideally, you would keep it plugged in all the time and the battery would last forever (which would defeat the purpose of having a laptop) but as long as you never drain it completely it will last for years. There isn't a huge difference between running it down to 10% as opposed to charging it from 90% from a battery life standpoint but keeping it as fully charged as possible at all times will make the battery more or less immortal.

Myth #5 - Intel is better than AMD / AMD is better than Intel

Again, your application makes all the difference here. If you do actual heavy-duty computing like video encoding, machine virtualization, etc. Then yes, Intel is the way to go. If, on the other hand, you don't want it for the aforementioned reasons, then AMD is the way to go. Here's my explanation:

Intel's mobile CPUs are superior in processing power to AMD's in the same price range. That means that they are better for heavy multitasking (I mean a LOT of tasks because all CPUs can multitask reasonably well, even single-cores, remember the Athlon 64?) but they have a serious thorn in their side, namely, the Intel GMA series graphics processors. Intel used to offset this with outstanding battery life by using their Centrino technology but AMD's Llano-based laptops have up to double the battery life of Intel's newest offerings anyway. If all you do is simple tasks at home like banking, surfing the web, playing music and watching movies, well, we were doing those exact things back in the days of Windows 95 with our Pentium I's and 486DX4-100's! You don't need serious power for that. Hell, my OLD Dell Latitude C610 with an ORIGINAL Mobility Radeon M6 having only 16MB of dedicated video RAM and 512MB of PC100 SDRAM plays NHL games streamed from cbc.ca FLAWLESSLY! Keep in mind that 2D graphics such as movies and photo editing are a snap for even the old ATi Rage and nVidia TNT2 series cards. Modern notebook GPUs are far more powerful than that.

AMD's Llano-based Sabine notebook platform looks to be the best thing out there right now for general use and light to moderate gaming with its APU (CPU and GPU combined). The AMD APU seems to be a fantastic design and received rave reviews right here on Tom's Hardware and on Legit Reviews for its graphics capabilities and very low power consumption. When it comes to gaming, the AMD A8-3500M has literally DOUBLE the battery life of the Intel i5-2520M and delivers far better graphics performance than Intel's crappy graphics processor while still remaining less expensive. The A8 laptop will also run for almost 8 hours if all you're doing is reading a document. The specifics are available here:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/a8-3500m-llano-apu,...
http://www.legitreviews.com/article/1636/1/

Netbooks:

Netbooks are almost all essentially the same with the Intel Atom 1.6GHz CPU,1GB RAM, 160GB HD, XP Home and Intel graphics. The only way to distinguish one from the other is through battery life and warranty. In the same price category you can expect them all to have the same specs. If there's one you like the look of better than the rest, then go for it but don't expect a performance difference between them unless you're willing to cough up extra $$$ for an SSD or faster CPU. Make sure you know what battery you're getting because some manufacturers bundle a 3-cell Lithium-Ion battery and some bundle a 6-cell Lithium-Ion battery. As before, be sure to find out what the price is for a replacement. Again, eBay is the best source for that.

Laptops vs. Desktops:

If you're thinking of buying a super-powerful laptop, I implore you not to. Laptops cannot be upgraded and are therefore technological dead-ends. For the price of a super-powerful laptop, you could pick up a desktop that is equal to or more powerful than the super-powerful laptop you're looking at AND get a $500 laptop for the same price. If you just need the laptop for mobility, then this combo is the way to go.

I hope this helps you wade through the sea of marketing BS and expensive sparkly glitter. Remember, a laptop is NOT a fashion statement unless you have money to burn. I know I don't and you probably don't either, take care.

If you have any questions about Laptops (or desktops for that matter), send me a private message and I'll do whatever I can to help you. :D 
SOURCES: notebookcheck.net, cpubenchmark.net

If you like what you read here, please post a reply so that this thread doesn't get buried. I'd like it to be stickied but nobody answers me.
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
May 29, 2010 6:39:40 PM

If anyone finds this useful, please say so. I'd hate to think I spent all this time for nothing! LOL

:sol: 
May 30, 2010 1:37:23 AM

I found the intel vs AMD section very helpful to me. I always hear about Intel is better than AMD, or AMD is better than Intel, but thanks for clearing up which is better for what.
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a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
May 30, 2010 1:51:33 AM

You're very welcome, I'm glad I could help. :sol: 
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
May 31, 2010 2:51:45 AM

1shado1 said:
If what you say regarding reliability is true, I guess that means this study is bogus?

http://lifehacker.com/5524704/laptop+reliability-study-...
the-most-sturdy-laptop-makers


I wouldn't say bogus as much as I'd say "That's what their test subjects said." I've seen Consumer Reports say that Apple Macbooks are the sturdiest. I bet if they took a different group of people and did the same test they'd have a different result. I'm not sure you might have thought of that. After all, 30,000 units over 3 years is a drop in the bucket in regard laptop sales, even for one year. There's no real way to accurately gauge what's best and what's worst. I just decided to go by the customers I spoke to who previously owned laptops and no brand was complained about more or less than any other. At least, not that I could notice. As a result, regardless of this test, I stand by my statement that I do not believe that one is significantly more reliable than another. Again, internals are all made in China by Foxconn, MSI, ASUS, nVidia, ATi, Intel, AMD, etc. All these companies do is assemble them, or as I said before, in a lot of cases, they just slap their name on them. If you don't believe me, here's solid evidence:

Acer Aspire 5515:

eMachines E620:

Yes, of course I know that Acer owns eMachines, I do believe I stated that in the original post, but you can't tell me that this isn't ridiculous. These two laptops were sold in the same marketplace (The Tiger Direct store I worked at) with the same specs at different prices. I ought to know, I bought one. :sol: 
a b D Laptop
May 31, 2010 4:15:29 AM



Thanks for your reply!
So basically the study I pointed out isn't any less valid than your opinion.
And for what it's worth, the study wasn't based on "That's what their test subjects said." It was based on statistics compiled by a company that provides extended warranties, not opinions. So if push comes to shove, and I HAD to choose, I'd still find their statistics to most likely be more valid than your unquantified opinion (no concrete statistics). Granted, 30,000 units IS a drop in the bucket, but isn't it still likely to be more accurate than "I didn't notice a particular brand being complained about more than any other"?

Maybe I misunderstood your meaning regarding Consumer Reports. But it is not like they take folks off the street and ask for their uneducated opinions. They have well trained staffers that perform all these tests supposedly as impartially as possible. Although I suppose a criteria such as "sturdiest" is somewhat subjective and opinion based.

As you stated, with so few companies actually putting these things together, perhaps the figures quoted in the study I mentioned can be chalked up to random chance, and are no true indicators of reliability. I don't know what to think, lol.

Just to be clear, it is not my intention to bust your chops. I found your article well thought out and informative. The more I think about it, the more I think you've somewhat swayed me to your point of view regarding reliability. I need to ponder this further.

Thanks. :D 
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
May 31, 2010 2:14:59 PM

I appreciate questions being asked, no need to worry about busting my chops..lol As you saw on the test, there was only a 10% variance from first to last so yeah, it could be just random chance. The thing that must be remembered is that these companies are in the business of making money and under capitalism, corporations are required under law to maximise profits and the dividends to their shareholders. As a result, the low bid almost always wins. They know that these laptops don't have to be THAT sturdy because technology advances so fast that most people would rather buy a new one than have theirs repaired. As a result, a lot of them get from the same suppliers who offer their products for the least money. Most industries are like that. Brand marketing has taken over almost every sector of the economy, even automobiles! I'm glad that you're doing research, it's very important to go out and get informed before making a purchase because it minimises the chances of your getting royally screwed, good man! :D 

Speaking of brand marketing, this should make you laugh, I know I was howling:

NOTE: This is NOT a hoax or a fake, Toyota really DID sell the Chevrolet Cavalier as a Toyota in Japan! :sol: 
Anonymous
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a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2010 1:29:26 AM

You should make a video, it might go viral...

Am looking at gaming specs, well I want a top GPU (GTX 460M) and for the first time in my life, I'll go for a non-mainstream brand. So what are your thoughts on Asus, Sager or MSI?
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
November 24, 2010 3:13:14 PM

I've never heard of Sager but that wouldn't be a problem, this is not rocket science it's laptop sales...lol

Honestly, I've used ASUS motherboards and vidcards and I've used MSI motherboards (never had an MSI vidcard though) and I'd say... 6 of one, half dozen of the other. They're both very good names and i'm sure that Sager is too. I'd recommend whichever one gives you the best price. If you're in North America, newegg has a great deal on an ASUS with a Phenom II X4 P920 CPU and an ATi Mobility Radeon 5730 GPU for only $780. Good deals can be found out there for gaming laptops but remember, once you pass that magical $900 mark, the laws of diminishing returns kicks in and you pay exponentially more for exponentially less. Remember this and remember it well, BRAND IS JUST AN INSIGNIA. Underneath, they're all AMD, Intel, nVidia, ATi and VIA parts.

A simple metaphorical question to prove my point. Who has proven to have the highest quality video cards in the last 5 years? XFX, Sapphire, EVGA, Powercolor, Sparkle, HIS, BFG Palit or Galaxy?

I rest my case.

Buy your laptop the way you'd buy a graphics card. Ignore the brand and look at the specs. I will say this though... from an overall performance standpoint, an AMD Llano-based laptop will give you the most for your money at price points under $1000.

GOOD HUNTING! :D 
Anonymous
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November 24, 2010 3:46:15 PM

Avro Arrow said:
I've never heard of Sager but ...


Haha this quote is a keeper "you pay exponentially more for exponentially less."

Dude make a video, seems like u know what u r talking and fed up of getting ripped off. I made this youtube clip for the same reason http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qE5IQ9tyAE and a step beyond that would be to discuss actual brands and what's under the hood.

I have a dream, "greedy laptop makers left with unsold piles 'coz people aren't that easily conned anymore" lol :D 
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
November 24, 2010 6:31:07 PM

I saw the video and I have to say it was very well put together. I agree with most of what you said (not all) but I won't say what I disagree with. What program did you use to make the voice? I could tell it was fake but it was still pretty damn cool. :sol
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
November 24, 2010 6:31:33 PM

Quote:
Haha this quote is a keeper "you pay exponentially more for exponentially less."

Dude make a video, seems like u know what u r talking and fed up of getting ripped off. I made this youtube clip for the same reason http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qE5IQ9tyAE and a step beyond that would be to discuss actual brands and what's under the hood.

I have a dream, "greedy laptop makers left with unsold piles 'coz people aren't that easily conned anymore" lol :D 

I saw the video and I have to say it was very well put together. I agree with most of what you said (not all) but I won't say what I disagree with. What program did you use to make the voice? I could tell it was fake but it was still pretty damn cool. :sol
November 24, 2010 11:20:20 PM

Great article and cool video. Avro, I'd recommend doing a video based on your article, too.

That said, I just started looking for a laptop and have been doing some serious searching in the last 2 days. Apparently I've been looking in all the wrong places. :ange:  The first one to catch my eye was the ASUS A52F-X1, seen here: ASUS A52F-X1 It seemed to me the most bang for the buck, however it is at the very top of my budget of $500 - $700.

The use will be for general online surfing, watching videos and movies, homework, MS Access/PowerPoint/Word/Excel. I can use my desktops for the video conversion and dvd burning I do. This particular model has a blu-ray player, but that's not a necessity - it will be my first blu-ray player so I was thinking of using it to play BR dvd's on TV using the HDMI out. It does seem to be about the only 7200rpm HDD laptop in my price range.

Any other suggestions or recommendations? Or should I go for this one (especially since it's about $350 less than MSRP)?
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a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
November 25, 2010 7:57:34 AM

Honestly, that machine will be just fine but it kinda seems like overkill for what you want. You said yourself that you plan to use your desktops for video conversion (which is a smart choice because laptops cannot match the power of desktops) and I don't really see anything there that would be of great use. The Blu-Ray player is a cool thing but I believe that Blu-Ray discs will eventually go the way of the Dodo and everything will use flash drives instead. Using it as a Blu-Ray player will be a cool thing but keep in mind that you have working desktops and a Blu-Ray drive is only about $100. Since this is your first Blu-Ray player I can assume that you don't have any Blu-Rays yet and are therefore in no real hurry for them. You didn't mention gaming at all so the crappy Intel Graphics Media Accelerator will do all you need it to. The one thing about that laptop that gives me pause is the maximum resolution. For a laptop of that calibre, I hardly believe that 1366x768 is a decent resolution. What is the point of having a Blu-Ray player when the screen itself doesn't support 1080p resolution? There's no doubt that it's a great price for an i5 so it will be wickedly fast, assuming that you ever do anything strenuous enough with it to notice it's great power. I'd say that's a good buy, I can't say otherwise but I can tell that ASUS sunk everything into the CPU on that machine and seems to have skimped on everything else. I don't know where you got the idea that it's a 7200RPM hard drive though because it says right in the specs that it's 5400RPM.

I've compared Tiger Direct to other companies and they're absolute crap now(Having worked there helps me evaluate them accurately) which is a shame because they used to be quite good. Having said that, I still think that newegg or NCIX will give you a much better deal. If I had the money you're talking about to spend on a laptop, I'd be more likely to buy this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
This has a Phenom II X3 which will feel exactly the same as the i5 for what you're doing but it has other major advantages:
500GB Hard Drive instead of 320GB
ATi Mobility Radeon HD 5470 dedicated graphics card instead of the Intel Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD chipset (Which can be found in laptops that cost under $500)
17.3" display instead of 15.6"
Max resolution of 1600x900 instead of 1366x768
It's $50 less and has free shipping to the continental USA.

Now, to compare the CPUs... The Intel Core i5-450M 2.4GHz is a dual-core CPU with hyperthreading. The AMD Phenom II X3 N830 2.1GHz is a triple-core without hyperthreading. They both have a TDP of 35W. It's hard to quantify overall CPU performance because one CPU will excel in one area and the other will excel in another area. As a result, I took the scores from every single test that notebookcheck.net performs, added them together and divided them by the number of tests to get the overall average score of the CPU, rounded to the nearest integer. I did the time in seconds scores separately. You can check notebookcheck.net to verify my results if you like.

Intel i5-450M 2.4GHz:
Average score -> 10725 (higher is better)
Average test time -> 22 seconds (lower is better)

AMD Phenom II X3 N830 2.1GHz:
Average score -> 7069 (higher is better)
Average test time - > 34 seconds (lower is better)

The i5, overall is about 52% faster than the Phenom II in notebookchecks tests. This is significant for anything that you plan to do that actually will use that power. For normal things like windows startup, web browsing and office work, there will be no real discernible difference. For instance, something that takes the i5 4 seconds to load, it will take the Phenom II 6 seconds (on average) which is something that I doubt you'll ever notice. Hell, I use an AMD Athlon X1 2650e single-core CPU and I'm happy as a clam with it, even if I do use XP pro on it...lol

Now to compare the GPUs... I'll do the same thing I did with the CPU tests and we can see what the results are. I will show a total average GPU score and I'll show a gaming framerate comparison using Crysis at low XGA and then at high XGA. I know Crysis is ridiculously high-end but it's the only gaming test that notebookcheck.net did on both GPUs and I like to compare apples to apples.

Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD:
Average Score -> 2792 (higher is better)
Crysis low XGA frame rate -> 23fps (higher is better)
Crysis high XGA frame rate -> Failed

ATi Mobility Radeon HD 5470:
Average score -> 6543 (higher is better)
Crysis low XGA frame rate -> 53fps (higher is better)
Crysis high XGA frame rate -> 11fps (higher is better)

Overall, the HD 5470 represents a 132% increase in performance over the GMA HD. Yes, that is an INCREASE of 132% which means that the 5470 runs at 2.32x the speed of the GMA. This is a major equaliser, in fact it does more than equalise from some points of view. You see, there is nothing that the i5 can do that the Phenom II can't, it just takes about 52% longer to do it as the i5 runs at 1.52x the speed of the Phenom II. However, as demonstrated there are things that the 5470 can do that the GMA simply can't. That's why it failed to run Crysis at high XGA. I am also aware of problems with the Intel graphics drivers when one is trying to play Sims 3. I took care of a question over at Yahoo! Answers from a girl who can't get Sims 3 to run on her Intel GMA even though it supposedly exceeds the minimum requirements of the game. That leads me to believe that an unstable driver is the main culprit. With just plain weak performance and crappy drivers in a cheap graphics chipset, it leads me to believe that there are a lot of computer-ignorant people out there because they are buying them. Unfortunately, many of them end up being sorry they did.

Ok, my fingers are officially falling off from all this typing. I hope this long-winded (and probably overly-detailed) post tells you everything you need to know. I think I'll go to bed now.

Thanks for the compliment about thinking I should make a video. You humble me sir! :sol: 
November 25, 2010 3:07:59 PM

Wow. Thanks for the fantastic reply!

I like that ASUS you linked to, and reading your post (several times) prompted me to search a little. I'm not quite sure how you got to your #'s when comparing the GPU's so I couldn't quite do the same comparison; and quite honestly I found all the numbers overwhelming. I found these two Acer units with the ATI Mobility Radeon 5650 which as far as I can tell is a slightly better card than the 5470 in the ASUS - notebookcheck classifies the 5650 as a Class 2 and the 5470 as a Class 3. For my applications though I may not notice the difference since I won't be doing any high-end gaming.
Acer Aspire AS7741G-7017 - seems to be the best of both worlds: the slightly faster i5 with a dedicated GPU
Acer Aspire AS7551G-6477 - more comparable to the ASUS you found but $30 more.

The ASUS seems to be more of a "sale" (higher savings) but in a side by side by side comparison of the 3 above, I can't find why it was $70 - $100 more to begin with. On asthetics alone, I do like the looks of the ASUS better, though.

ETA: What does this mean? "ATI Mobility Radeon™ HD 4250 Graphics with 256MB-1405MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory"
Anonymous
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November 25, 2010 11:44:43 PM

Truckman said:
For my applications though I may not notice the difference since I won't be doing any high-end gaming.
Acer Aspire AS7741G-7017 - seems to be the best of both worlds: the slightly faster i5 with a dedicated GPU
Acer Aspire AS7551G-6477 - more comparable to the ASUS you found but $30 more.

ETA: What does this mean? "ATI Mobility Radeon™ HD 4250 Graphics with 256MB-1405MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory"

Both Acers have 5400rpm drives, this is 30% slower than a 7200rpm model. If you went for the Acer, then in year-2 you will spend extra on a 7200rpm drive and maybe on a CPU updgrade if you feel like getting under the hood.

I don't like the sound of dynamically allocated memory. It could mean taking away from the RAM (and that the GPU comes with only 256MB standard). You want the GPU to have its own memory, GDDR3 or GDDR5 type.
November 26, 2010 12:57:03 AM

Quote:
Both Acers have 5400rpm drives, this is 30% slower than a 7200rpm model. If you went for the Acer, then in year-2 you will spend extra on a 7200rpm drive and maybe on a CPU updgrade if you feel like getting under the hood.

I don't like the sound of dynamically allocated memory. It could mean taking away from the RAM (and that the GPU comes with only 256MB standard). You want the GPU to have its own memory, GDDR3 or GDDR5 type.

It seems 90% - 95% of what I'm finding has a 5400rpm drive. The few I come across (only seem to be the HP models) sacrifice the stand-alone graphics card for the integrated one. I built one of my own on HP's website, opting for the Core i3-380 CPU, 500GB 7200rpm HDD, ATI Radeon 5650 1GB GPU, and 6GB RAM (FREE upgrade from 4GB to 6GB) for $750 (-$200 instant savings off "list"). AMD was not an option. That puts me $50 over budget, $100 over the others I was looking at, not counting shipping. And, I'm now learning that my budget may be getting cut. UGH!!! Me, I'd rather shell out the extra $$ now and be set for 3-5 years. I don't need the cutting edge, but also don't want to be outdated shortly after purchase (such as in the $300-$500 range).
Anonymous
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November 26, 2010 1:39:02 AM

Truckman said:
It seems 90% - 95% of what I'm finding has a 5400rpm drive. The few I come across (only seem to be the HP models) sacrifice the stand-alone graphics card for the integrated one. I built one of my own on HP's website, opting for the Core i3-380 CPU, 500GB 7200rpm HDD, ATI Radeon 5650 1GB GPU, and 6GB RAM (FREE upgrade from 4GB to 6GB) for $750 (-$200 instant savings off "list"). AMD was not an option. That puts me $50 over budget, $100 over the others I was looking at, not counting shipping. And, I'm now learning that my budget may be getting cut. UGH!!! Me, I'd rather shell out the extra $$ now and be set for 3-5 years. I don't need the cutting edge, but also don't want to be outdated shortly after purchase (such as in the $300-$500 range).

Wait for the discount period. Isn't black friday today or something?

My priority list would be a good dedicated GPU and a CPU that's more than 2GHz. The hard-drive can be upgraded, lots of shops sell cheap 2.5" drives these days... and maybe u could sell the old 5400 to recuperate some of the cost.

How about $780? ASUS N52DA-X1
-ATI HD 5730 1GB DDR3
-AMD Phenom II Quad-Core P920 (1.6GHz) <~~~had no idea it didn't have a great review
-4GB DDR3 RAM
-500GB 7200rpm
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a c 156 U Graphics card
December 17, 2010 3:29:18 PM

Quote:
Wait for the discount period. Isn't black friday today or something?

My priority list would be a good dedicated GPU and a CPU that's more than 2GHz. The hard-drive can be upgraded, lots of shops sell cheap 2.5" drives these days... and maybe u could sell the old 5400 to recuperate some of the cost.

How about $780? ASUS N52DA-X1
-ATI HD 5730 1GB DDR3
-AMD Phenom II Quad-Core P920 (1.6GHz) <~~~had no idea it didn't have a great review
-4GB DDR3 RAM
-500GB 7200rpm


Any Quad-Core CPU in a laptop is going to do well. As I had stated, my own laptop has a single-core and it works perfectly fine. The major thing is the Mobility Radeon HD 5730. That's one powerful mobile GPU and there's no way that the Phenom II X4 P920 is going to bottleneck it which means that the ASUS N52DA-X1 will be a great gaming laptop. :sol: 
December 17, 2010 11:00:52 PM

All these things here are really entrance-level laptops. I was wondering if you could offer an opinion on my choice of a relatively high end laptop for that kind of processing.

Laptop: ASUS G51JX-HD-SX232V ($1639)
i7-720 Quad-Core (1.73GHz-2.93GHz)
6GB DDR3 1366MHz RAM
500GB 7200RPM SATA HDD
nVidea GTS360M 1GB
Windows 7 64-but

What am I going to use it for is:
Music making (with Cubais and a high-end Yamaha keyboard)
Gaming - at LANs and at friend's places - (Modern Warfare 2, Star Craft 2, Black-Ops, Just Cause 2, Fallout New Vegas, etc)
On-the-move video watching
Document processing and web browsing while on the move

EDIT: This is my desktop for comparison. I can run most of my games with this on high-graphics (but not max) and I cannot really run Black-Ops smoothly.

Desktop: Custom* ($700)
E6300 Dual-Core (2.8GHz, overclocked to 3.1GHz)
4GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM
2 x 500GB 7200RPM HDDs
nVidea 9600GT 1GB
Windows 7 32-bit
*I plan to upgrade this to something more powerful about mid-next year. ($2400)

Now tell me, is this laptop overkill or is this the best I will find to suit my needs?

-Klosteral
December 18, 2010 3:57:49 AM

thanks for the notes on the battery life. i never would have thought running a lithium down to 0 and back would actually decrease its life span.
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 18, 2010 12:06:22 PM

Klosteral said:
All these things here are really entrance-level laptops. I was wondering if you could offer an opinion on my choice of a relatively high end laptop for that kind of processing.

Laptop: ASUS G51JX-HD-SX232V ($1639)
i7-720 Quad-Core (1.73GHz-2.93GHz)
6GB DDR3 1366MHz RAM
500GB 7200RPM SATA HDD
nVidea GTS360M 1GB
Windows 7 64-but

What am I going to use it for is:
Music making (with Cubais and a high-end Yamaha keyboard)
Gaming - at LANs and at friend's places - (Modern Warfare 2, Star Craft 2, Black-Ops, Just Cause 2, Fallout New Vegas, etc)
On-the-move video watching
Document processing and web browsing while on the move

EDIT: This is my desktop for comparison. I can run most of my games with this on high-graphics (but not max) and I cannot really run Black-Ops smoothly.

Desktop: Custom* ($700)
E6300 Dual-Core (2.8GHz, overclocked to 3.1GHz)
4GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM
2 x 500GB 7200RPM HDDs
nVidea 9600GT 1GB
Windows 7 32-bit
*I plan to upgrade this to something more powerful about mid-next year. ($2400)

Now tell me, is this laptop overkill or is this the best I will find to suit my needs?

-Klosteral

Document processing, watching videos, making music... these are all simple tasks for most machines. The thing that really makes this baby tick is that GTS 360M. That's a class 1 mobile GPU and your games will really fly. That machine will play pretty much whatever games you can throw at it with very good frame rates. It is a bit overkill but with the high-end games you like to play it's perfect as long as it fits your budget. I don't know why you'd want to spend $2400 on a gaming dekstop though, THAT is definitely overkill. A gaming desktop that plays every game under the sun with perfect frame rates shouldn't cost more than $1000. As for the laptop, if it fits in your budget, go for it. To give you a true honest opinion though, I'd have to know what the price is. I can tell you that if it's an Alienware, it's too expensive because you can find many non-Alienware laptops with the same specs for less. How much is that little monster going to set you back? :sol: 
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 18, 2010 12:10:59 PM

zhakar said:
thanks for the notes on the battery life. i never would have thought running a lithium down to 0 and back would actually decrease its life span.

You're welcome. Yeah, most people don't realise that and when I was looking through Yahoo Answers I was seeing a lot of people thinking that cycling the battery was not only not bad for it but they were thinking it was necessary! I actually only slipped in the battery myth the other day because I realised that I had forgotten to put it in there. The post was originally about making a choice with a purchase but the way the battery is treated is a pretty important part of laptop maintenance so I added it. :sol: 

Here's the 411 on Lithium Battery Maintenance:
http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_prolo...
December 18, 2010 12:35:16 PM

Interesting stuff here.
What are your thoughts on "business" laptops?
Are they worth the extra cost?
Are they more reliable do you think?
I'm going to replace my 5 year old Dell Latitude (Not one problem ever) and am looking at another Latitude or a ThinkPad T510. Surprisingly the ThinkPad works out cheaper than the Latitude, whereas 5 years ago it was definitely the other way around.
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 18, 2010 1:51:18 PM

I just found out that Shopper's Drug Mart in Canada (called Pharmaprix in Quebec) carries laptops and netbooks. That just blew my mind! :sol: 
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 18, 2010 2:14:01 PM

DellorLenovo said:
Interesting stuff here.
What are your thoughts on "business" laptops?
Are they worth the extra cost?
Are they more reliable do you think?
I'm going to replace my 5 year old Dell Latitude (Not one problem ever) and am looking at another Latitude or a ThinkPad T510. Surprisingly the ThinkPad works out cheaper than the Latitude, whereas 5 years ago it was definitely the other way around.

It's funny you should mention the Dell Latitude because I still have my old Dell Latitude C610 with a Pentium-III in it. It was made in 2001 and still works although it's physically falling apart so I use it for my magic jack.

Honestly, I don't really think that there is such a thing as a "business laptop" anymore. I mean, laptops have become not so application-oriented anymore with the exception of gaming laptops. I think that this is because with the exception of high-graphics requirements of games (and video encoding), software has fallen far behind hardware as far as advancement is concerned. Software has become stagnant and business applications are the perfect example of that. For instance, my old Dell Laptop which originally came with Win2000 (I replaced it with XP Pro) can run MS-Office 2007 with no problems. Business applications are primarily text-based and haven't changed much in the last 15 years. MS-Word, for instance, still looks more or less the same today as it did on Windows 95. I can do (and did) an entire powerpoint presentation for University on my eMachines E620 which only has an AMD Athlon 64 2650e running at 1.6GHz with a primitive ATi Radeon X1200 GPU. You can read the rest of the specs earlier on in this thread. That ThinkPad T510 would be a real waste of money because for business apps, you would never notice a difference between the performance of that machine and that of a cheap laptop costing only $500. Business laptops today sometimes have special security features like facial recognition (which has a rather dubious track record) or the fingerprint scanner. If you expect to have a ton of sensitive information on the laptop, it may be worth it but for most situations, it's one of those bells and whistles that few people ever actually use. Honestly, I don't think I could be bothered with it. Now, if you're going to be doing office presentations in HD on a projector and want to use HDMI, then of course you'd get a laptop with an HDMI output. In most cases though, a powerpoint presentation is not done in HD and probably never will be because the whole concept of the powerpoint presentation is to get an idea across and HD doesn't really help in that unless you're trying to sell a graphics engine in which case, it's a gaming laptop that you'd want. Some people feel that in business, the type of laptop you carry affects how people perceive you (As stupid as that is, I can see that being true). If you want to look successful, you have to have an expensive laptop just as you need an expensive suit, car or watch. In recent times however, I think that the way you are perceived in a business environment would be aided by a no-nonsense approach that isn't wasteful of valuable resources ($$$). In that manner, having a laptop that is good enough to do the job but cheap enough to help the bottom line might make you appear intelligent, appropriately frugal and good at making financial decisions. If it were me in your shoes, I'd most likely get a mainstream laptop around $500 with an emphasis on hard drive space and battery life. I think that a 14"-16" screen would be a good size to get a good balance of display quality and portability (bigger screen laptops are bigger, heavier and less portable). I'd get a dual-core CPU of some kind like an Athlon II X2, Pentium Dual-Core or i3 without worrying too much about the GPU (unless you want to play some games to relieve stress in between meetings/presentations) and I'd want a webcam and mic built into it for videoconferencing. That's an ideal situation, balancing cost with efficiency and convenience because in the real world, for most business applications, you can get by just fine with a netbook. The drawbacks to that are of course the small screen and keyboard but the advantage is long battery life and you can keep it in your suit's inside pocket. From a reliability standpoint, I think they're no better or worse than any other. Hell, I've dropped my E620 at least 5 times, it still works perfectly and it cost me only $310CAD in July of 2009. I'd widen my scope to include all brands, not just Dell and IBM(Lenovo). There are great products from Acer (including eMachines, Gateway and Packard-Bell), HP (including Compaq), Lenovo, Dell, Fujitsu, ASUS, MSI, etc. I think you would be remiss to actually care what the brand is. My advice with laptops is the same as my advice with everything else. Get what you need and no more. Imagine you're going to buy a video card. Do you care if it's MSI, ASUS, Sapphire, Powercolor or Palit? With obvious exceptions like XFX, EVGA, Zotac and Sparkle that offer lifetime warranties (which doesn't apply to laptops), nobody really cares what brand of video card they have as long as it has that lovely "GeForce GTX 580" or "Radeon HD 5970" on the box. I know this is a long and wordy answer but that question was a good one and there are so many correct answers to it. If this answer leaves you more confused than before, shoot me a private message with what you do for a living and what you need to do with the laptop and I'll be able to help you further. :sol: 
December 18, 2010 2:28:06 PM

Avro Arrow said:
The drawbacks to that are of course the small screen and keyboard but the advantage is long battery life and you can keep it in your suit's inside pocket.


Ha Ha. last time I wore a suit was when i got married 20 years ago.

I travel a lot and take my laptop on site so it needs to be robust. I use it for CAD/Office apps at work and for entertainment in the evening in my hotel room. The odd game sometimes and some Photoshop/Premiere stuff. I need a 1600 x 900 x 15" screen, at least, for the CAD stuff. 1920 x 1080 x 17" would be great but it's too heavy for airline cabin baggage with all my other bits as well.

Thanks for a thoughtful reply. There's so much ignorance on many of these forums.


a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 18, 2010 9:28:02 PM

You're very welcome. Now that I hear CAD and 1600x900x15.6", I know that the T510 is the one you must get. The nVidia Quadro on that laptop makes it essentially a mobile graphics workstation. You have one of the 0.1% of occupations that actually REQUIRES powerful graphics. Just remember, back when Dell Latitudes and IBM ThinkPads dominated the high-end laptop landscape and seemed to be invincible, those laptops were made in Japan or the USA, not China (I know my Dell was). The ThinkPad may look the same but it's not an IBM anymore, it's a Lenovo. Lenovo is Chinese and their laptops are made in China/Taiwan (like all the others). I applaud you however, your requirements are a tough nut to crack in the laptop market and through good research and sound reasoning you found one that will do the job for under $1,500. I couldn't find anything more suited to your needs myself. :sol: 
December 19, 2010 9:17:24 AM

Avro Arrow said:
Just remember, back when Dell Latitudes and IBM ThinkPads dominated the high-end laptop landscape and seemed to be invincible, those laptops were made in Japan or the USA, not China (I know my Dell was). The ThinkPad may look the same but it's not an IBM anymore, it's a Lenovo. Lenovo is Chinese and their laptops are made in China/Taiwan (like all the others).

I know, I know and it's a big problem and I really hate buying stuff that's made there but it's hard to find anything these days that's not made in China :( 
Now if only the Germans started to make laptops and built them as well as they build their cars...
December 19, 2010 10:19:38 AM

Avro Arrow said:
Document processing, watching videos, making music... these are all simple tasks for most machines. The thing that really makes this baby tick is that GTS 360M. That's a class 1 mobile GPU and your games will really fly. That machine will play pretty much whatever games you can throw at it with very good frame rates. It is a bit overkill but with the high-end games you like to play it's perfect as long as it fits your budget. I don't know why you'd want to spend $2400 on a gaming dekstop though, THAT is definitely overkill. A gaming desktop that plays every game under the sun with perfect frame rates shouldn't cost more than $1000. As for the laptop, if it fits in your budget, go for it. To give you a true honest opinion though, I'd have to know what the price is. I can tell you that if it's an Alienware, it's too expensive because you can find many non-Alienware laptops with the same specs for less. How much is that little monster going to set you back? :sol: 


I need to spend more because I do not just want to run games, I want to run them on the highest settings I can. My desktop (built mid 2009) cannot handle CoD: Black Ops and only runs Star Craft 2 on medium, thus making it almost redundant.

I am an Australian so all above prices are in Australian Dollars. This is equal to the USD but we are forced to pay more because of both GST and import duties (retailers pay this so we pay more.)

My laptop alternative is an ASUS G53JW for $1850 which has the same specifications as the G51JX, different only by its core i7-740 CPU and nVidea GTX 460M GPU.

Thanks for your opinions,
-Klosteral
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 19, 2010 10:33:46 PM

Klosteral said:
I need to spend more because I do not just want to run games, I want to run them on the highest settings I can. My desktop (built mid 2009) cannot handle CoD: Black Ops and only runs Star Craft 2 on medium, thus making it almost redundant.

I am an Australian so all above prices are in Australian Dollars. This is equal to the USD but we are forced to pay more because of both GST and import duties (retailers pay this so we pay more.)

My laptop alternative is an ASUS G53JW for $1850 which has the same specifications as the G51JX, different only by its core i7-740 CPU and nVidea GTX 460M GPU.

Thanks for your opinions,
-Klosteral

Well I'll be honest with you my fellow commonwealther, if I were you, I'd be upgrading my desktop, not blowing money on a high-end laptop. For $500 max you could turn your desktop PC into a gaming monster. Check out skycomp.com.au and you'll see what I'm talking about. If you need any help I'd be glad to give it to you. Truth be told, I'm much more of a desktop guy than a laptop guy since I've used x86-based desktops since I was 8 years old and did my first build when I was 12. :sol: 
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 20, 2010 2:58:40 AM

DellorLenovo said:
I know, I know and it's a big problem and I really hate buying stuff that's made there but it's hard to find anything these days that's not made in China :( 
Now if only the Germans started to make laptops and built them as well as they build their cars...

Yeah that's true but the problem is that they'd be about as expensive as their cars and most people don't hold onto a laptop that long because they become outdated rather quickly. :sol: 
December 20, 2010 9:06:38 AM

Avro Arrow said:
Well I'll be honest with you my fellow commonwealther, if I were you, I'd be upgrading my desktop, not blowing money on a high-end laptop. For $500 max you could turn your desktop PC into a gaming monster. Check out skycomp.com.au and you'll see what I'm talking about. If you need any help I'd be glad to give it to you. Truth be told, I'm much more of a desktop guy than a laptop guy since I've used x86-based desktops since I was 8 years old and did my first build when I was 12. :sol: 


The reason I am reluctant to upgrade my computer is because I would loose everything on it and would be forced to re-download half my stuff in the 64 bit version. The 32-bit or x86 versions restrict the computer to use a total 3200MB of RAM which - understandably - effects gaming.

Are you saying I should spend only $1400-$1500 on a laptop (but I still want it to play games on relatively good settings) and use the other $300-$400 to upgrade my desktop?

-Klosteral
December 20, 2010 9:33:00 AM

Klosteral said:
The reason I am reluctant to upgrade my computer is because I would loose everything on it and would be forced to re-download half my stuff in the 64 bit version. The 32-bit or x86 versions restrict the computer to use a total 3200MB of RAM which - understandably - effects gaming.

Are you saying I should spend only $1400-$1500 on a laptop (but I still want it to play games on relatively good settings) and use the other $300-$400 to upgrade my desktop?

-Klosteral


I don't understand your thinking here... upgrading does not mean going to 64 bit. All that will do is allow you to use more RAM (more than 4GB is not that much of an improvement for many apps - Photoshop being a notable exception) and improve the performance of some (not many) applications that are optimised for 64 bit.
You could however, get a new graphics card and see a big improvement - much better than adding more RAM. That 9600gt is a virtual antique these days - nearly 3 years old!
If you did want to go further and get a new motherboard and cpu as well, I think all you would need to do would be to install the new motherboard drivers.
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 20, 2010 1:53:15 PM

Klosteral said:

Desktop: Custom* ($700)
E6300 Dual-Core (2.8GHz, overclocked to 3.1GHz)
4GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM
2 x 500GB 7200RPM HDDs
nVidea 9600GT 1GB
Windows 7 32-bit
-Klosteral

Klosteral said:
The reason I am reluctant to upgrade my computer is because I would loose everything on it and would be forced to re-download half my stuff in the 64 bit version. The 32-bit or x86 versions restrict the computer to use a total 3200MB of RAM which - understandably - effects gaming.
Are you saying I should spend only $1400-$1500 on a laptop (but I still want it to play games on relatively good settings) and use the other $300-$400 to upgrade my desktop?
-Klosteral

What I'm saying is that you don't need to have a gaming laptop at all. I have my gaming monster desktop computer and I only have my laptop for simpler things when I'm out and about. You don't need to upgrade your motherboard from what I can see there, a video card and a CPU is all you need to make your computer into a monster. Check this out:
Video Card:
http://www.skycomp.com.au/item/SAPPHIRE-HD5850-1GB-256B...
CPU:
http://www.skycomp.com.au/item/INTEL-CORE-2-QUAD-Q9505-...
That would make a gaming monster of your computer for certain. That is all you need to play whatever you want at whatever settings you want. You can overclock the Core2Quad even higher than the Core2Duo and all you have to do to change the CPU is drop it in. That way, there's no drivers to change. That video card is 4-6x more powerful than the one you currently have. The only thing you need to make sure of is that you have a 500W power supply. Your motherboard is fine, so is your RAM, your hard drives, your optical drives and is your OS, so why change them? Those two simple upgrades costing $525 incl. GST will make your desktop more powerful than even a $2000 gaming laptop. This is why I say that it's not a good idea to spend a lot of money on laptops, you cannot upgrade them simply and cheaply. A high-end laptop also tends to generate enormous amounts of heat which shortens its useful life. I can guarantee you that these two changes to your desktop configuration will make you not only decide that you don't need an expensive laptop, but that you don't need to spend $2400 on a new desktop later. Why buy a whole new computer when you can make your computer new for a fraction of the price? :sol: 
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 21, 2010 2:29:47 PM

Klosteral said:
Hmm ok.
What about these two:
http://www.msy.com.au/product.jsp?productId=6303
http://www.netplus.com.au/product/CP1/CPINPC4D%2DQ8400/...;-Quad-Core-EMT64T-2.66G-Replaces-Q8200-1333Mhz-LGA775

With this as a laptop:
N61JQ-JX002
http://www.msy.com.au/Parts/notebook.pdf

I still want a relatively powerful laptop and if you combine all 3 items, they fit my budget.

-Klosteral

Sure, any Radeon HD 5850 will do the trick although the Vapor-X is renowned for its cooling and overclocking properties. The only problem with the one you selected is that it says they don't have any. The CPU is less powerful and overclocking it won't bring it up to the Q9505's level because it only has 4MB of cache instead of 6. Either one will work just fine however. That laptop will be perfect for gaming as well, that Radeon HD 5730 is a really good GPU so yeah, if you can fit all of that into your budget, go for it. It's a lot better than the over $3000 you were looking at before. To be 100% honest with you though, I'd change the CPU on your desktop last. That Core2Duo at 3.1GHz will probably be just fine for at least another year. Get the video card first and see how it runs, I'm pretty sure that you'll forgo the CPU and will be very satisfied. There are still very few games that use more than 2 cores and I don't see that trend changing much in the next 12 months. :sol: 
December 21, 2010 7:55:52 PM

Avro Arrow said:
Sure, any Radeon HD 5850 will do the trick although the Vapor-X is renowned for its cooling and overclocking properties. The only problem with the one you selected is that it says they don't have any. There are still very few games that use more than 2 cores and I don't see that trend changing much in the next 12 months. :sol: 


I chose the 5850 because I looked at some graphics card comparisons and was using the 5850 as a benchmark for finding better cards. Then I realised, the 5850 WAS the better card :D 

There are actually many games that use more than 2 cores now; the 2 most recent Call of Duty games, Medal of Honor, Need For Speed and a couple others are known to perform better with quad-core CPUs. Apparently Black ops ONLY runs with quad-cores (my 3GHz Dual Core cannot handle it)

I showed you those websites to indicate where I would be getting the stuff from and the prices, I do not plan to buy anything until late January so they have plenty of time to stock up.

Thanks for all your help,
-Klosteral
December 22, 2010 7:28:34 PM

Thanks for the reasoned, consumer-conscious discussion. I am going to show it to my daughters and wife, not that they will change their attitudes.

I have a question you might be able to help me with. My daughter is a freshman in college and has an "old" (three years) laptop (specs below) she complains about, but when I pin her down, it does everything she needs it for - it just doesn't look like a new Macbook (hate Intel? don't get me started About apple...). However, she says it seems slow, and I promised to fix it up over break. She mainly does web stuff (read facebook) and occasional schoolwork with MS Office.

After 3 years there OS is probably clogged with junk, I plan to back up her data and do a reinstall.

If it still seems too slow I have 3 possible upgrades, and I would like your update on whether they will result in a noticeable performance improvement for her uses:

1. Get a wireless N usb card. Probably about $30, maybe $20 on sale

2. Upgrade from 1MB to 2MB RAM (max) about $50

4. Upgrade from 80GB 5400 rpm to new gen HDD, probably 320gb, 7200rpm, 16gb cache, about $60-$80.

At this point I have spent $150 on upgrades on a $400 laptop. Does it make sense? The other way to look at it is I have saved $350 on the cost of a new laptop.

The question is whether it would be a dramatic improvement - what do you think?

The specs are as follows:

Product Name Compaq C571NR
Product Number GF572UA#ABA
Microprocessor 1.73 GHz Intel® Pentium® Dual Core processor T2080
Microprocessor Cache 1 MB L2 Cache
Memory 1024 MB DDR2 System Memory (2 Dimm)
Video Graphics Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 (shared)
Video Memory Up to 224 MB
Hard Drive 80 GB (5400 RPM) Hard Drive (SATA)
Multimedia Drive Super Multi 8X DVD±R/RW with Double Layer Support
Display 15.4" WXGA High-Definition BrightView Widescreen (1280 x 800) Display
Fax/Modem High speed 56k modem
Network Card Integrated 10/100BASE-T Ethernet LAN (RJ-45 connector)
Wireless Connectivity 802.11b/g WLAN
Sound Altec Lansing
Keyboard 101-key compatible
Pointing Device Touch Pad with dedicated vertical and horizontal Scroll Up/Down pad
External Ports
3 Universal Serial Bus USB 2.0
1 VGA (15-pin)
1 RJ-11 (modem)
1 TV-Out (S-video)
1 RJ -45 (LAN)
1 headphone-out
1 microphone-in
Dimensions 14.1"(L) x 10.2" (W) 1.38" (min H) /1.77"(max H)
Weight 6.6 lbs
Product Specifications
December 22, 2010 7:41:02 PM

I completely agree about the MacBook comment; my friend(s) are the same.

If your girl only wants to do those really low-power tasks like word processing and FaceBook, she does not need a better laptop. That said, 6.6lbs is about 3kgs in my country and that is pretty heavy. She may want something lighter for extra portability and your upgrades are not going to help that. But that is a different matter.

As for the upgrades themselves, definitely do the memory (RAM) and the hard drive upgrades but most new systems use G wireless so I do not think the N card will be the most useful. Besides, it is a USB dongle and your daughter may not like it sticking out the side of her laptop. Girls seem to care only about looks; hence why they look to MacBooks.

Here are the prices for your HDD and RAM (you have to buy 2GB RAM because they need to be the same brand, speed etc) from my local retailer:
2GB DDR2-800 PQI (brand) - $32
2.5" 320GB Western Digital - $50
USB Tenda W311U Wireless N - $13
http://www.msy.com.au/Parts/PARTS.pdf

New Total: $95AUD

If you do decide to get a laptop, these are the prices and specs of what I am looking at in Australia:
http://www.msy.com.au/Parts/notebook.pdf
You can probably get the same stuff for about 20% less in the UK or the US.

-Klosteral
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 22, 2010 9:36:24 PM

bobehill said:
Thanks for the reasoned, consumer-conscious discussion. I am going to show it to my daughters and wife, not that they will change their attitudes.

I have a question you might be able to help me with. My daughter is a freshman in college and has an "old" (three years) laptop (specs below) she complains about, but when I pin her down, it does everything she needs it for - it just doesn't look like a new Macbook (hate Intel? don't get me started About apple...). However, she says it seems slow, and I promised to fix it up over break. She mainly does web stuff (read facebook) and occasional schoolwork with MS Office.

After 3 years there OS is probably clogged with junk, I plan to back up her data and do a reinstall.

If it still seems too slow I have 3 possible upgrades, and I would like your update on whether they will result in a noticeable performance improvement for her uses:

1. Get a wireless N usb card. Probably about $30, maybe $20 on sale

2. Upgrade from 1MB to 2MB RAM (max) about $50

4. Upgrade from 80GB 5400 rpm to new gen HDD, probably 320gb, 7200rpm, 16gb cache, about $60-$80.

At this point I have spent $150 on upgrades on a $400 laptop. Does it make sense? The other way to look at it is I have saved $350 on the cost of a new laptop.

The question is whether it would be a dramatic improvement - what do you think?

The specs are as follows:

Product Name Compaq C571NR
Product Number GF572UA#ABA
Microprocessor 1.73 GHz Intel® Pentium® Dual Core processor T2080
Microprocessor Cache 1 MB L2 Cache
Memory 1024 MB DDR2 System Memory (2 Dimm)
Video Graphics Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 (shared)
Video Memory Up to 224 MB
Hard Drive 80 GB (5400 RPM) Hard Drive (SATA)
Multimedia Drive Super Multi 8X DVD±R/RW with Double Layer Support
Display 15.4" WXGA High-Definition BrightView Widescreen (1280 x 800) Display
Fax/Modem High speed 56k modem
Network Card Integrated 10/100BASE-T Ethernet LAN (RJ-45 connector)
Wireless Connectivity 802.11b/g WLAN
Sound Altec Lansing
Keyboard 101-key compatible
Pointing Device Touch Pad with dedicated vertical and horizontal Scroll Up/Down pad
External Ports
3 Universal Serial Bus USB 2.0
1 VGA (15-pin)
1 RJ-11 (modem)
1 TV-Out (S-video)
1 RJ -45 (LAN)
1 headphone-out
1 microphone-in
Dimensions 14.1"(L) x 10.2" (W) 1.38" (min H) /1.77"(max H)
Weight 6.6 lbs
Product Specifications

The hard drive? nah, that won't speed up anything. The RAM? Yeah, that will make a difference for sure. The Wireless stick? Nope, I can't see that being a problem unless the integrated one died. I'm going to guess that this is an XP laptop and I'll tell you three programs that are GOLDEN for speeding up XP.
1.) CCleaner
2.) Regscrubvistaxp
3.) Defraggler

CCleaner stands for "crap cleaner" and is made by a company called piriform. You can use it to clear out all the crap in her temp folders.
Regscrubvistaxp does exactly what it sounds like. It cleans out the registry of all the crap that has gotten into it over time.
WARNING: If you see like 3000 errors, re-install windows. Only a virus can do that kind of damage.
Defraggler is also made by piriform and as its name suggests, it is a defrag utility that is 1000x better than XP defrag.
CCleaner and Defraggler are both available on filehippo.com and RegScrubVistaXp is available at majorgeeks.com, they're 100% free.
If your daughter is still whining, get her this:
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Compaq+-+Presario+Laptop+/+...
It's only $300 and it's guaranteed to shut her up. Tell her she can go buy her own webcam. :sol: 
December 22, 2010 11:00:15 PM

Avro Arrow said:
The hard drive? nah, that won't speed up anything. The RAM? Yeah, that will make a difference for sure. The Wireless stick? Nope, I can't see that being a problem unless the integrated one died.


A 7200RPM drive will be faster than a 5400RPM drive, though not by much and it will be unnoticeable on such a low-end computer where heavy processing is not performed.

I would recommend doing the upgrades and periodically (every few months) running the programs Avro Arrow suggested and keeping your computer smooth and fast. Also, consider purchasing a virus scanner such as Kaspersky Anti-Virus or Trend Micro Internet Security. Viruses can destroy computers or at the least slow them down. My personal preference is to Trend Micro and I have licences for all of my home computers.

Good luck,
-Klosteral
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 23, 2010 4:31:19 AM

Or, you can do what I do and combine AVG Free with Spybot S&D and have perfect protection at no cost. :sol: 
December 23, 2010 8:19:24 PM

Yes, AVG is the best free-ware anti-virus out there; I encourage everyone to have that on if they have no paid anti-virus software. That said, I like Trend Micro and do not mind spending money on licences for it.
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 23, 2010 11:47:15 PM

I'm a cheap bastard, what can I say? :sol: 
December 23, 2010 11:58:22 PM

No much bro, not much at all.

I need your opinion... again... for something like the third time...

I like the ASUS N61 here (the specs, price etc):
http://www.msy.com.au/Parts/notebook.pdf
But I think a 16" screen could be a little to large to frequently take around.

Do you know where I can find an equivalent laptop (not craptop :p ) for a similar price in a smaller (14" or 15") screen? Or will the cooling for something in a smaller case be poorer, thus making it more prone to overheating?

-Klosteral
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 24, 2010 4:06:15 AM

I think that what they are calling a 16" screen is really a 15.6". I've never seen a real 16" laptop before but 15.6" is the standard size of the overwhelming majority of laptops today. The line between what constitutes a 15" or 16" laptop is blurry because a 15.6" is often referred to as either or. My own laptop is a 15.4" screen but it's a 16:10, not 16:9. When monitors started adapting the 16:9 ratio which is standard for HD video as opposed to the 16:10 ratio which is the standard for games, 15.4" became 15.6" and since it now rounds up, some manufacturers have started calling them 16" screens instead of 15". That laptop is a standard size so there's no real need to worry. A problem with the smaller screens is that they rarely, if ever, have powerful GPUs because smaller screen laptops are only very rarely used for gaming. As I was looking through some Aussie sites, it struck me how much more you pay for computer hardware there (That could be due to the fact that I only saw Intel-based laptops on 2 major sites). If someone was to start selling AMD-based laptops in Australia, they'd clean up because you Aussies would be ecstatic that you weren't getting buggered on the price anymore. I think that the laptop you chose it perfect for your purposes and I couldn't really find one better although it doesn't help when skycomp, computer online and Mwave's websites are all down at the same time. I'll check again in the morning. :sol: 
a b å Intel
a b à CPUs
a c 114 À AMD
a b D Laptop
a c 156 U Graphics card
December 24, 2010 4:14:18 AM

I am going to add something here concerning netbooks. I saw all the sites talking about the differences between Windows 7 Starter and Windows XP Home and how they're similar in performance. Well, I'll tell ya, I never liked XP Home and W7S was really pissing me off on my new netbook. I bit the bullet and installed Windows XP Pro today on it and HOT DAMN what a difference! The thing isn't SLOW anymore! I mean, I knew it would be faster, my laptop is much faster with XP Pro but DAMN, I never expected XP Pro to make it go from painful to smooth! Comparing the performance levels between Windows 7 Starter and Windows XP Professional is like comparing cold molasses to greased lightning! And that is NOT an exaggeration! :sol: 
December 26, 2010 5:28:37 AM

Avro Arrow said:
I think that what they are calling a 16" screen is really a 15.6"


I doubt it. I know that MSY is prone to making typos (such as the 5740M typo - should be 5470M) and I would not be surprised, however after checking the ASUS website, it IS 16"
http://event.asus.com/au/2010/n61series/Spec.htm
!