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Butts

Another Computer Advice Thread!!!

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So I am planning on getting a new computer. This time, it will be a laptop. I need advice on what to get that is relatively inexpensive, yet very effective, and I figured I'd ask here on Doomworld because most of you are fairly knowledgeable on tech subjects. I would like something that can process quickly and play some relatively modern video games, but still be able to play older stuff without any issues. I would also like to find something that is "good for college", something that is "portable" (don't care how much it weighs, just has to not be huge), something that is durable too. I would like to find something with plenty of RAM and hard drive memory. Having a CD/DVD drive is definitely a plus. Price range I'm looking for is probably $1,000 and under. So far, I have found a Toshiba laptop, 14 inch screen, 4GB Ram, 320GB hard drive, DVD+-R/RW drive with double layer (whatever the fuck that means), 802.11b/g/n (what?) wireless LAN, and it's $500. I basically have no clue how to go about finding the right computer... Anyone have advice?

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A few things:

1) Laptops are not for gaming. Even though the video chipsets are modern, they're way underpowered so you may as well be trying to game on a GeForce 4.

2) Specs are easy to come by and brand matters more than price. I'd rather have a cheap Toshiba than an expensive HP.

3) Playing old games has nothing to do with the laptop and everything to do with the operating system. If you want to play really old games, a 64-bit OS probably won't support them. Dual-boot Linux or get DOSBox or something.

4) Look into refurbished models or netbooks. The productivity/graphics increase you'll get from some bigger, newer model will probably be negligable.

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Butts said:

I would like something that can process quickly


Any modern Dual core laptop will do, unless you're seeking max performance per core, which IMHO is not worth it. That being said, my new laptop has a T8300 dual core (2.4 GHz, Core 2 Duo, 3 MB L2 cache) Stay away from: single core Celerons, AMD CPUs, Atom CPUs, and dual cores with less than 1 MB of L2 cache.

Butts said:

and play some relatively modern video games, but still be able to play older stuff without any issues.


With laptops your options are limited, but try getting something with dedicated (not shared) video memory, even if just 256 MB. Stay the fuck away from Intel GMA integrated graphics. Your best choice would be something with a mobility nVidia 8400/8600 GT, like my recently bought Dell Inspiron 1720 laptop. It has 32 unified shaders, dedicated memory, and provides hardware PhysX acceleration, which is surely a plus for modern games (only on nVidia cores though).

Stay away from -200, -400 etc. series from either ATI or nVidia too, even for modern lines like 7xxx, 8xxx for nVidia or 3xxx, 4xxx for ATi: they are on par with a Radeon 9600 performance wise, at least on DirectX 9.0 and 8.0 games.

The "without any issues" clause also narrows down the OS to Windows XP (32-bit, professional), and maybe later you'll jump to 7, so make sure you choose a brand that supports both. I ditched HP in favour of Dell at the last moment because HP didn't fully support their new laptops under XP.

Butts said:

I would also like to find something that is "good for college", something that is "portable" (don't care how much it weighs, just has to not be huge), something that is durable too.

I would like to find something with plenty of RAM and hard drive memory.


Anything from Dell or HP is well built, sturdy, and usually well accessoried.

RAM and hard drives however are down to individual offers though, and whether it's sold as a Vista or XP machine. However, I'd choose better e.g. CPU or graphics and number of integrated peripherals over RAM or a bigger HD any day, for a simple reason: you can change/upgrade the latter, while you can't do shit about the former.

A laptop that has maxed out RAM slots and the biggest HD that will fit it in but has a measly Intel GMA for its video, will not quite last through college (which includes games!) as well as one that starts with less RAM and smaller HD but has better graphics and built-in accessories and ports to begin with.

Bucket said:

1) Laptops are not for gaming. Even though the video chipsets are modern, they're way underpowered so you may as well be trying to game on a GeForce 4.


What? I have a compaq presario laptop from 2002, that had an integrated ATI Radeon (with shared memory) and it was able to smoke a Geforce2 in 3DMark2001 (even with dedicated RAM) and hold its own vs a Geforce4. I could play Need for Speed and Battlefield 1942 on it with no problems.

Then, my Dell Inspiron has an nVidia 8600 GT with full PhysX acceleration, and it grossly outperforms my desktop's Radeon 9600 XT.

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Butts said:

Is this something that would probably be a good choice?
http://laptoplogic.com/reviews/dell-studio-1537-review


The dedicated GPU and VRAM will make it a vastly superior choice over anything with Intel integrated graphics. Then again, it will lag seriously behind a model with an nVidia 8400/8600. The performance/price ratio however is excellent, for a 15.4" laptop. If you can shell out a hundrer more bucks however, try moving to a model with nVidia: better cores + PhysX acceleration.

As for the OSes: I hate re-opening this can of worms, but Vista is a dead cause. If gaming and audio are important to you, stay away from it, revert to XP and/or wait for Windows 7. You may want to split partitions from now so you can dual-(or even triple) boot later. The only issue is that with a 32-bit OS (no matter which) you will not be able to use the 4th GB of RAM. With a 64-bit one however, you will almost surely run into driver and application problems, no matter which OS you choose. So, if you can trade 1 GB for better graphics, by all means do it.

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How am I supposed to find something without vista? Every damn computer on the market is vista.

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Proper operating systems have no problems with 4GB of RAM at 32 bits. The address space of a 32 bit processor is designed to allow up to 4GB to begin with, so unless it's a major problem with 64 bit CPUs, then all it takes is an operating system that works properly (read: anything previously released that was not produced by Microsoft). Although, Vista SP1 is supposed to correct the problem...of course, that doesn't correct the major suck that IS Vista...Windows 7 works properly but since it's not production-quality code yet, it doesn't count as a proper release.

Part of the cost of a laptop is the OS disc, which is ALWAYS Vista these days...even my old Acer Aspire 3680, a system which Vista shouldn't have come within a hundred feet of, came with it; I used it for a day before formatting the hard drive and installing XP SP2. I used that for about a year.

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Butts said:

How am I supposed to find something without vista? Every damn computer on the market is vista.


Well, that part you usually can't avoid. The Home premium version adds about Eur 60 to the final price. You'll just have to -figuratively- swallow the bitter wad of cum that's Vista, format, repartition, and install XP or whatever suits you better.

Eponasoft said:

Proper operating systems have no problems with 4GB of RAM at 32 bits. The address space of a 32 bit processor is designed to allow up to 4GB to begin with.


That limit is mostly due to the hardware architecture and driver model (memory mapped I/O). It's possible to partially overcome it for the OS itself by using tweaks and extension but it still applies to drivers and applications, even 32-bit ones running in a 64-bit OS, at least for Windows. Anyway, not really worth dissecting here, and it wasn't something easily foreseeable when Windows XP was released (late 2001). The history of computing is full of limits that got hit and then had to be worked around. Can anyone remember all the successive IDE/ATAPI size limits and their workarounds?

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