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Need help buying a performance laptop [~$1.2K]

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July 20, 2011 10:23:41 AM

Hi,
I'm looking for a decent laptop for around $1.2-1.3K with the accent being on cpu performance. Here are my reqmts.

Budget: 1.2-1.4K (wouldn't mind spending less)
Screen: 15-16 (most pbbly not 17, definitely not <15)
Brands: No particular preference, need a cheap and durable one. I presently have a Dell which used to be pretty fast.
Mobility: would prefer a 9 cell battery.
Durability: semi-durable (I don't abuse it, but it often accompanies me wherever I go)
Multitasking: all the time
Gaming: Almost never. (almost)
Calculations: Tonnes, simulations+video editing
Storage: atleast 500GB
Optical Media: dvd+cd writer
Operating System: most pbbly end up using 7, but I'd certainly try to get a Linux box if it were cheaper.
Location: The US most of the time... at times in India

Now, I looked around a little bit, and I found a Dell XPS15 to be pretty decent.
Using the specs:
CPU: i7-2720QM This appears to hit the sweet spot. (or do you think it's not a reasonable jump over the i7-2630QM to justify the extra cash, say $125)

GPU: Nvidia GT 540M. Don't need a very powerful one right now.. just buying one for the future.

RAM: Q. : do we really need any more than 4-6GB. My old laptop has 4 GB, and I don't feel the need for more. However, how much difference does a faster RAM offer (1600 vs 1333).
Dell charges $120 to upgrade from 4GB 1333 to 8GB 1333. While I can just add a 4gig @1333Mhz for $33, or replace it with a 4Gb 1600MHz for $60..


HDD: SSDs appear to be out of my budget. I'm thinking a 750Gig 7.2K or a 500x2 7.2K (that's what Dell offers)
Do you think for the reasons mentioned above this might end up being a bottleneck? Perhaps I could upgrade to an SSD in like 2 years when they're cheaper (hopefully).

Monitor: Assuming that I settle for a 15 incher... Do I need 1920x1080? ## What about a 17"one?
I mean.. I'd like to have as much clarity as possible.. but will this actually end up helping... cos for the laptop I saw.. it costs an additional $150.

##One more thing... do you think I should wait for Ivy Bridge 22nm cpus? I heard they're rumoured to be here by April '12. It'd suck if I waited and they turned out to be only marginally better.. or annoyingly expensive.

And, since I'm either buying in August or April, to get cheap deals... I have to make my decision in 1-2 weeks.
I mean it'd be silly to mistime a laptop purchase.

##I'm not very brand particular.. Dell looks cooler than cyberpower.. and ends up being just marginally expensive. I saw a good deal for an HP laptop also.. any recommendations here?

Is there anything else that I should keep in mind... cos I plan to keep the laptop for atleast 3 years after buying.

Thanks for reading.. :) 

Best solution

a c 572 D Laptop
July 20, 2011 1:07:15 PM

Hello ShauryaVerma;

IMO the i7-2720QM upgrade over the i7-2630QM isn't a great value. Most likely you'd not be able to notice the difference.
The 15" model laptops usually have a single HDD drive bay - which is true of the XPS 15. With the bigger 17" chassis you get the 2nd HDD drive bay.

I think you would be OK with the GT 525M graphics option. Although the GT 540M is a better match for the 1920x1080 LCD screen & light to medium gaming.

If you think of the 2720QM $125 upgrade and 15" 1920x1080 LCD $150 upgrade you end up with $275 which could get you a nice 160GB SSD.
How ever I do favor the best CPU & LCD screen you can afford.
I don't view a 7200rpm HDD as serious bottleneck on any laptop with 4GB (or more) of RAM.
RAM and HDD/SSD can be easily upgraded later. There is usually very little extra benefit of adding extra or faster RAM. However that depends on how you use the laptop and the programs you run. You're 'simulations+video editing' might be an exception but you didn't provide enough info to know for sure. Video editing 2hrs a week? Probably not worth upgrading. 2hrs a day? Now you're getting into an area where it makes more sense.

1366x768 (1600x900 for the 17" models) vs 1920x1080. Higher resolution (more pixels) is not the same as 'higher clarity'. It's just more on-screen real-estate to work with multiple windows, large image, etc.
Dell XPS has a better than average TN display and will get you the 'better clarity' I think you want, compared to a standard $600 laptop.

I like the XPS15. The backlit keyboard and excellent audio system is a bonus too. If you're current laptop isn't cutting it for you anymore there is no reason to wait 8 months for Ivy Bridge (a die shrink of Sandy Bridge).

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July 21, 2011 8:14:08 AM

Thanks very much WR2 for your help.
I had almost zeroed in on the 2720QM.. now I think I might end up with the 2630.. And, since it’s slower, it might also help my battery life.
I guess I’ll stick to a 15” rig, and save like $50 that way. As it is, I’ll be carrying it with me often, so the lighter weight would be an advantage.
I’ll just attach any extra monitor from my lab when I need more real estate,

Since gaming’s not a priority, I guess a 525M should be sufficient.
**I hope I’ll be able to connect secondary monitors, as in with a part of the screen on the external one and a part on the inbuilt lcd.

The thing with resolution, I know 1080p is not gonna add zilch to the clarity of a video. It was just for word, matlab, gambit (and multitasking) that I was considering upgrading. Perhaps I’ll spend the money I save with the 2630 here
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a b D Laptop
July 21, 2011 6:36:57 PM

Performance laptop, now there's an oxymoron if I've ever heard one. Almost as bad as the Senate ethics committee.
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July 21, 2011 6:55:43 PM

Sure ram, I'll come to you the next time I plan to buy a performance cluster computer. :p 
I was thinking.. NVIDIA Tesla.

****One thing.. I just happened to check stuff on this site: Newegg.. they have cheaper deals than Dell.

They have a very pretty $950 HP, a moderately cool Asus for $1050, and a Samsung... among others. I heard that HP have been facing some flak over their reliability..

do you think I should jump ship for one of these??
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July 21, 2011 6:55:48 PM

Sure ram, I'll come to you the next time I plan to buy a performance cluster computer.
I was thinking.. NVIDIA Tesla.

****One thing.. I just happened to check stuff on this site: Newegg.. they have cheaper deals than Dell.

They have a very pretty $950 HP, a moderately cool Asus for $1050, and a Samsung... among others. I heard that HP have been facing some flak over their reliability..

do you think I should jump ship for one of these??
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July 28, 2011 3:26:28 AM

Best answer selected by ShauryaVerma.
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