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US Military going to Africa - Help pick my new Laptop

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April 19, 2012 2:39:38 PM

Ok forum, work your magic. I'm US Military about to be sent over to Africa for 6 months. I'll have a stable mediocre WiFi connection while I'm there. I currently have a 17" HP notebook with a Mobility Radeon HD 5470, and let me just say I'm not impressed with this thing at all for gaming. On 1600x900 (it's native resolution), some games I try to play have framerates in the high 20's, and that's just not playable for me (that's with settings on LOW). Games like Borderlands and Counter-Strike Source I have to dumb down the resolution considerably, and we all know that when you play on an LCD on its non-native resolution, it looks terrible. I just want to be able to play some games at the NATIVE resolution of whatever laptop I get, at framerates in the high 50's or higher. Also, I would like for it to either have a nice webcam, or I'll buy a separate one so I can Skype my wife and brand new baby while we are apart.


1. What is your budget?
I'd really like to spend under $1000 if possible. I'm US Military, so hopefully I can get a discount somewhere

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?
My wife and I currently have a 17" notebook, and I like the screen size, but if my budget is restraining me I can settle for a 15"

3. What screen resolution do you want?
I recognize that laptops on a budget are limited by many things, and asking for playable framerates at 1080p with the games I want to play, while at the same time spending under $1000 is probably impossible. I'm hoping that I can get a laptop with a decent video card that can deliver good framerates in the 1600x900 or 720p area.

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?
Bulk doesn't matter to me. I just want it to be able to do what I want.

5. How much battery life do you need?
8+ cell battery would be nice. I realize it will have to be plugged in to use the dedicated graphics card and play games at decent framerates.

6. Do you want to play games with your laptop? If so then please list the games that you want to with the settings that you want for these games. (Low,Medium or High)?
Yes, I play games. I anticipate buying Borderlands 2, Diablo 3 and the new Counter-Strike when it comes out, but I also play other games like Borderlands, League of Legends, pretty much all Valve games with the HL2 engine.

7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.)
I might be able to bring a DSLR to africa with me, and could possibly do some photo or video editing, but I would rather spend money to increase the FPS in the games if I had a choice.

8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?
at least 500GB and 7200RPMs

9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
Whatever is going to get me the best deal

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?
Well, considering I'll be away from most civilization for 6 months, I'll need it to last while I'm there.

11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ?
Doesn't matter. I back up all my movies to digital format from my main PC (which has a Blu-Ray player) and store them on an external hard drive. I'll be able to bring those digital movies with me and don't anticipate really needing a blu-ray player or burning DVD's with this thing.

12. Please tell us about the brands that you prefer to buy from them and the brands that you don't like and explain the reasons.
I could care less about brand, as long as the company can give me what I want for those 6 months I'm gone.

13. What country do you live in?
USA, but I'll be going to Djibouti Africa. I'll need to have some sort of adapter to ensure it works with the power that's supplied out there.

14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.
I don't need a Core-i7. My main PC has a Core-i5 2500-k and that is PLENTY of CPU needed to play games. I feel like putting a core-i7 in a laptop takes money away that could be spent on increasing the graphics. My main PC has a Radeon HD 5770, and that thing plays like a dream at 1080p on my 46" flat screen. I don't need anything THAT powerful, but it would be nice to play at decent resolutions at smooth framerates.

I guess my optimal specs would look something like this:
Screen: 17" laptop with a good screen
Resolution: 1600x900 would be nice
CPU: Core-i5 or if AMD has something just as good for cheaper, I'm all for it.
GPU: Whatever will play games at the native resolution at acceptable framerates
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium
RAM: At least 4GB of RAM
CD-ROM: Plain old CD/DVD ROM drive is fine
HDD: at least 500GB and at least 7200RPM (no 5400RPM drives)
Networking: Wireless b/n at least, and gigabit LAN would be nice, but I could settle for 10/100
Battery: 8+ Cell, but I could be swayed with a 6-cell
Speakers: Could care less, I use headphones

I've seen the Toshiba Qosmio X770-BT5G23 with close to these specs and I can get it for about $1000, but I just want to see if you guys knew of any better deals. It's 17", has a Core-i5, GeForce GTX 560m, is 1600x900.

Hell, I'd even take a refurbished laptop, or someone's used laptop that they will sell me if they want to upgrade and give me a deal.
April 19, 2012 3:15:27 PM

If you are not going to need to carry your computer often, you want to focus on durability and performance instead of mobility. In Africa, not sure about Djibuti, but I think norm is that you lack reliable electricity, fast internet, and probably you will face a higher temp than here in the US, unless you will be somewhere far south. Again, I don't know about geographical location of the country. I've been to Kenya, relatively developed country in the continent, but even at the most advanced internet cafe in Nairobi, I couldn't even browse webs resided in the US server contently. You may have access to the government channel, but still I guess won't be really robust for playing online game. Having said that, I think you should check first the environment you will be at in the country before making a purchase. For example, if electricity is not reliable, you will need to play on battery a lot of time, of course making sure to charge the computer whenever possible. Also if the Internet connection is not robust enough, you better forget to play online game, which will be frustrating. I think durability is really a big deal here, because temp and dust in the air will be more challenging. You better check this out. For this reason, I recommend ThinkPad (ToughBook is beyond budget, and not efficient choice) model, probably 15" because it will use less power than 17" as well as make the same level of graphics look better in the smaller screen. It is really challenging to play game on high/ultra with 50fps on laptop, and such beast costs a fortune. The reason behind ThinkPad is that this line has more test routine than other major brand laptops. Last time I was involved, it had almost double tests than the most major competitors. That's why ThinkPad has been in cockpit of major airline flights as well as in spaceships.

Sorry that I can't make a specific recommendation, but my advice is to keep these points into your consideration.
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a b D Laptop
April 19, 2012 3:22:11 PM

First of all, I think you've already gotten a hint that a gaming laptop is an oxymoron. Second, Panasonic used to offer a line of ruggesized portables that I would look at if I were you. Good luck and thanks for your service.
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April 19, 2012 3:26:34 PM

I respect Panasonic ToughBook, but as I mentioned, it's beyond budget, and not efficient for gaming laptop. It is for military field use, or field engineer.
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April 19, 2012 3:29:15 PM

I would a say a base model Dell XPS 17 is pretty much exactly what you are looking for.

@ $899 and a geforce gt 550m should do you alright.

I was looking for the models that have the 525m's as they are actually identical gpus, and can clock straight up to 550m's speeds, but I couldn't find them...
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a c 572 D Laptop
April 19, 2012 3:31:16 PM

Some lukewarm reviews on that Toshiba Qosmio X775-Q7170 model.

How soon do you need your new notebook?
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a c 572 D Laptop
April 19, 2012 3:45:14 PM

XoticPC gives military, student or cash discounts.
For about the same price as the Toshiba you can get similar performace:

MSI GE60 15" notebook
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April 19, 2012 3:51:41 PM

Thanks for the responses so far. To answer some of the questions:

My living quarters will have reliable power, that won't be an issue.
Toughbooks are out the budget.
I don't leave until September, so I'm in no rush at all to make the purchase.
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April 19, 2012 4:28:22 PM

A great possibility might be to go through AAFES for an Alienware m14x. SOLID machine with excellent price to performance ratio. Will play what you want, when and where you want it. Also, if you are in a dark barracks or other room the adjustable lighting is a necessity.

http://www.dell.com/us/p/alienware-m14x-r2/pd.aspx?&~ck...

Don't order from the website, go through AAFES or call Dell for discount and free upgrade options. Work with them, don't just point and click and you can get amazing deals/upgrades. Or, use those specs at about a grand to go shopping for other brands. Those specs would do you quite nicely, definitely!

That Toshiba Qosmio X770-BT5G23 is a very good machine, as well. I have heard some reliability issues with it (which may be a concern in Africa), but performance wise it puts things right where you want them. Or talk to Dell about an m17x in that price range through AAFES or military discount.

And check this site out for comparison of video card performance in various games:

http://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-Graphics-Cards-Benc...

You can easily see that the included card can handle games very well. It is a very good cost/performance option when mobility is a requirement.

Quote:
Performance

The gaming performance of the GeForce GT 650M equipped with DDR3 graphics memory lies somewhere in the former 2011 high-end category between the GeForce GTX 460M and GTX 560M. The performance is exceptionally good in shader-heavy DirectX 11 games and benchmarks. However, the 128-Bit memory interface can be a bottleneck if DDR3 graphics memory is employed. Despite the slower core clock of only 735 MHz, the GDDR5-version of the card should be much faster. Demanding games of 2011 like Battlefield 3 will be playable in 1366x768 and medium or high settings. Less demanding games, such as Modern Warfare 3, are easily playable with maxed out settings and 1080p resolution.


I would like to point out that a lot of people are going to crap on two things I have said:

- You can game on a laptop quite happily.
- Buy an Alienware

These are people who have no freaking clue. Take it from a very mobile Alienware m17x owner. These things are built and can chew up and spit out the needs of the mobile gamer. Mine has travelled daily for the past year (for work and gaming) and it doesn't have a scratch on it and there has been zero problems. I even end up using it 9 times out of 10 when I have a much "better" gaming desktop at my disposal.
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April 19, 2012 5:32:53 PM

Thank you po1nted, and I do believe you, Alienware does make some nice systems. It's just that it has been my experience when pricing out systems that having the "alienware" sticker on the case usually adds about a $50-100 premium. Perhaps that has changed, but just the idea of having an alienware makes me feel like I'm paying too much for what I need. I just checked out the specialty store, and they don't offer 15 inch alienware laptops through the AAFES website. It's either 14 inches for close to $1000, or 17 inches going for at least $1350. I'd rather take a 15 inch from a different company that still gives me what I want than go down to 14 inches. As I stated in my original post, I play games on either my 46" LCD TV, or my 17 inch laptop. Going down to 14 inches seems like it would be too small. 15 inches I'm not even entirely comfortable with, but realize I may have to settle for it.

Also, thank you for mentioning the AAFES website. I have purchased a few laptops through them over the years, and I have them as a possible vendor as well through the specialty stores. I hadn't thought to call directly though. Before the military I used to sell cell phones, and I had a customer tell me I could sell snatch to a prostitute and sand to an Iraqi, so maybe I'll try and verbally wheel and deal with them. Good call.
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April 19, 2012 5:37:29 PM

Exactly! Use your super uber special ops sales skills to get that card upgraded for free, no shipping charge or "but this company can sell me the sme config for $200.00 less" angle.

Quote:
Also, thank you for mentioning the AAFES website. I have purchased a few laptops through them over the years, and I have them as a possible vendor as well through the specialty stores. I hadn't thought to call directly though. Before the military I used to sell cell phones, and I had a customer tell me I could sell snatch to a prostitute and sand to an Iraqi, so maybe I'll try and verbally wheel and deal with them. Good call.
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