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Which laptop is right for me?

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Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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June 16, 2011 1:58:03 PM

Hello everyone,

I'm now off to college, forced to part from my desktop that has been upgraded with love through the years. After years of buying parts individually, being asked to compare whole laptops that are only slightly different is a little overwhelming. Its a jungle out there with notebooks, and I could really use some guidance.

That being said, from the searching I've done on my own, I've narrowed it down to about 5 different choices: Alienware mx14, Dell XPS 15, Lenovo Thinkpad T520, Sager T8130, and the Asus G53.

My goal was to keep the price at around 1200 while still being able to play starcraft 2 (and hopefully Diablo 3 sometime soon) on Medium/High settings. Having a decently long battery life (not while gaming) is also quite important. Fair battery life and decent levels of portability is a must, while hard drive size is not.

Some thoughts on the individual laptops as well as any changes from the base configuration:

The Thinkpad is on sale with huge savings til friday, but it seems to be the weakest in the graphics department. Does it compensate for the weaker GPU with its other components? Also, even on sale, its a bit out of my price range. (Upgraded to Nvidia 2000 quadro, i7 2720QM 2.2 ghz) ~$1500
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The Alienware laptop doesnt specifically mention "optimus" on the website, so I'm a little worried about the battery life. Also, the smaller screen size (and hopefully lighter weight) seems to make it the most portable of the five. (Upgraded to i7 2630QM 2.0 ghz)~$1200
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I can't really think of anything the Dell XPS 15 does better or worse than the other laptops, just seems really solid all around. (upgraded to i7 2720QM 2.2 ghz, Nvidia GT 540)~$1200
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The Sager looks like quite the beast on paper, but I've heard scary things about their general quality as well as their battery life. Could someone confirm/deny? ~$1200
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The Asus also looks to be quite powerful, but is also a little more than I'd like to spend even at the base configuration, but I'm willing to spend a little more if the performance is that much better. ~$1300
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I hope I didn't scare anybody off with this huge write up, and I just want everyone to know that any feedback is appreciated!

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June 16, 2011 2:27:36 PM

Msi gx680r it seems to be a popular choice now. i have the older gx740 and it runs all game no problem with the 5870m.. also im not an asus fan but i do like alienware but you pay the price for them
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June 16, 2011 2:59:08 PM

The specs and price of the gx680 seem quite close to the other laptops, so what would you say sets it apart from the ones I listed?

Edit: forgive me, I realize that this reply can seem rather snappish, but believe me when I say that I mean it with genuine curiosity; I seriously am clueless as to how these laptops fare against one another.
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a b D Laptop
June 16, 2011 4:10:39 PM

alright, out of the ones you posted, lenovo seems like a bad choice, that GPU is a business class Gpu designed for applications, not gaming.

one thing to say, i7 is better than i5, but if you can get 2630 no point overpaying for a tiny upgrade to 2720.

Lenovo, seems pricey, find the one with GT 5xx video card in it and see if it's any cheaper, also have a look at idea pads.

Alienware, looks good, keep that 2630, the 555 should be ok, all GT 5xx have optimus as far as I know

XPS, looks nice, keep the 2630 there and update to GT540 ( I think that's what you said but the link doesn't show choices, so just making sure)

Sager, keep the 2630, stock video card is gtx560M right now, that should be plenty in 13" laptop. as far as I can tell it's a solid laptop. One thing to tell you about getting sager from xoticpc, sager will be the one building your machine, and they will be shipping in from CA, if you have any problems and you have to send it in for service, you'll have to ship it back to sager in CA.

Asus, good machine, the stock seems to still be the gtx460m, which is slightly older than 560 but should still be much better than GT series.

so as far as specs are concerned, the 2630 should be fine, get the best GPU you can get on the machine if it's GT series, gtx 460/560 will be fine.

The rest of the features are up to you, but I would recommend to look at the external casing the most, do you like how the machine looks, do you like the buttons layout, do you like where the ports are, how many of them, etc. Because unlike in a desktop, the laptop is not adjustable as you see fit. In the end I would also consider the price, and warranty options, the availability of service centers around your university location etc. Chances are in 4 years of college you might run into some problems, you don't want to sit without a laptop for a month while it travels across the country so a tech can look at it for 20 minutes and send it on the return trip. (consider the fact that dell can send a tech to your location to swap out certain hardware or trouble shoot, xoticpc doesn't offer such pleasures, they are limited to phone tech support or shipping it to them for service)

one thing that amused me, for xps dell recommends 2620 over 2630, asking $100 more for it. What they fail to say that 2620 is still a dualcore, while 2630 is a quad.

regarding the battery life, the semi-gaming laptop that you're counting on will have some trouble staying awake for a long time on battery, so to maximize battery life make sure to set all those power saving options in window settings (dim the screen backlight, turn off display sooner, spin hdd less, numb down the wireless power, etc win7 has pretty good options on there)
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June 17, 2011 12:37:31 AM

I'll be going to college in California, so that should be fine :)  . I really liked the Sager when I looked at it, but I heard that they have disabled the optimus features of the graphics cards in their 8130 and 8150, and I was worried that that would really cripple battery life.

I really like the alienware even though it has a weaker graphics card compared to the Sager or the Asus, if only because of the smaller size/weight and the potential for longer battery life with a (hopefully) less demanding graphics card. Is this misguided?


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June 17, 2011 9:47:33 AM

i own an alienware m15x with i7 740 gtx460 and only 4gb of ram and yes like everyone else it runs crysis ( the benchmark ) all high on the native 1600x900 no problems, i also own an msi gx740 with an i7 720qm a 5870m and i put in 8 gb of 1333 memory. that also runs anything with no issue whatsoever..new is not always better in my opinion. and yes although the new sandybridge processors are quicker are you really going to notice it as i dont think many would, being as my laptops run anything and very speedy.. keep your eye on something i7 740 maybe and go for the ssd..there the biggest upgrade possible.

Edit: got the alienware today. its uk spec and with the voucher cost me £850 with bluetooth and a 250gb drive ( i only use for games and i have a gaming desktop)
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a b D Laptop
June 17, 2011 12:36:29 PM

haywire1982 said:
i own an alienware m15x with i7 740 gtx460 and only 4gb of ram and yes like everyone else it runs crysis ( the benchmark ) all high on the native 1600x900 no problems, i also own an msi gx740 with an i7 720qm a 5870m and i put in 8 gb of 1333 memory. that also runs anything with no issue whatsoever..new is not always better in my opinion. and yes although the new sandybridge processors are quicker are you really going to notice it as i dont think many would, being as my laptops run anything and very speedy.. keep your eye on something i7 740 maybe and go for the ssd..there the biggest upgrade possible.

Edit: got the alienware today. its uk spec and with the voucher cost me £850 with bluetooth and a 250gb drive ( i only use for games and i have a gaming desktop)

well this is a sound advice, but advice regarding cpu. he's not asking about cpu, because if you bothered to look at the links he gave in his post none of the models he's looking at offer 1st gen sandy bridge.

Quote:
I'll be going to college in California, so that should be fine :)  . I really liked the Sager when I looked at it, but I heard that they have disabled the optimus features of the graphics cards in their 8130 and 8150, and I was worried that that would really cripple battery life.

I really like the alienware even though it has a weaker graphics card compared to the Sager or the Asus, if only because of the smaller size/weight and the potential for longer battery life with a (hopefully) less demanding graphics card. Is this misguided?

I think you're confused about optimus. It is used in medium range graphics cards of GT 5xx series to provide power savings when extensive usage of dedicated gpu is not needed and the computer uses an integrated intel graphics chip that comes with the processor.

This same technology doesn't apply to high end graphics cards of GTX series (GTX 4xx, 5xx). These don't have the option to switch off.

I can't give you the info on power consumption between GT555 with optimus and GTX460, if you can find a review somewhere that compares the two, that would be your best info.

If you like the alienware, it's still a good buy, see here how GT555 compares to GTX560, it's only slightly slower : >link<

Uploaded with ImageShack.us

there's about 50fps difference on lowest settings and 20fps difference on ultra, but GT555 should be able to get you 30fps on high settings in most of the todays games.

so if you like alienware more than sager, and you think that optimus will give you better battery life (I think you should try to find a review to compare the 2 cards) the choice is clear, buy alienware, it's a great machine from a company that has support centers and techs all over US.
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June 17, 2011 4:49:26 PM

^^ well the links that are provided are notebooks that he's looked at. personally on the budget he's on i would buy a nice gx680r with a 120gb ssd and also the 500gb storage drive. then that will have the 2nd gen processors. its one of the cheaper models nut they have ( in the uk ) great customer service and i have none of this keyboard flex and screen glare people moan about. B ut i agree with the alienware im a fan also...between the 2 tho i think useabilty spec and customer service i would go with the Msi.. alienware like the other brands you pay for the name..where as msi its no frills stuff for less money with 99% of the thrills. NO BRAINER
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June 18, 2011 2:38:23 AM

I've taken some time to check out the MSI laptops, and while I agree that they are quite powerful, I don't know if I could stand to look at it for too long...

I've just heard too many dreadful things about the battery life of the Asus and Sager (some Asus user claims they got 3 hours of battery life AFTER underclocking the CPU/GPU). Meanwhile, I've heard that the m14x will last significantly longer. While the Sager and Asus beat the m14x out of the water for gaming and possibly price/performance ratio, I've gotta take the portability of the alienware.

Thanks for all your input people!
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a b D Laptop
June 18, 2011 4:58:23 AM

no sweat, hope you enjoy your laptop once you get it :) 
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