View Full Version : Transferring to university and looking for a laptop.

Exile 195
04-05-2009, 03:08 PM
Hi there! Just registered a couple of days ago and I'm looking for some advice on purchising a laptop for college. Please note that I've also never actually bought a laptop before and only started researching the topic recently.

1) What is your budget?

2) What size notebook would you prefer?

3) What country are you buying this in?
United States

4) Are there any brands that you prefer or any you really don't like?
Not much, again I'm pretty new to laptops.

5) What tasks will you be performing with the notebook?
School - Word processor, spreadsheets, powerpoint, etc... plus some some science/engineering related number-crunching.

Gaming - Primarily stuff like Morrowind and Oblivion and Thief: Deadly Shadows, no fps however.

6) Will you be taking the notebook with you to different places or leaving it on your desk?
I will be taking it around campus with me, but I can manage a weighty notebook.

7) Will you be playing games on it; if so, which games?
Again things like Morrowind, Oblivion, Knights of the Old Republic, Thief Deadly Shadows etc...

8) How many hours of battery life do you need?
Not particularly sure on this one, advice needed.

9) Do you mind buying online without seeing the notebook in person?
No problem.

10) What OS do you prefer? (more details below)
I would prefer Windows XP Home on account of it being better at heavy number-crunching and hearing about their being quite a few problems getting some of the games that I own to play on Vista.

Screen Specifics

11) From the choices below, what screen resolutions would you prefer? (more details below)
Not sure.

12) Do you want a glossy/reflective screen or a matte/non glossy screen?
Doesn't matter.

Build Quality and Design

13) Are the notebook's looks and stylishness important to you?

14) When are you buying this laptop and how long do you want this laptop to last?
I'm looking to purchase it withing the next four to five months and I would love for it to last through my time in college (5-6 years).

Notebook Components

15) How much hard drive space do you want; 80GB, 160GB, 250GB, 320GB, 500GB, 1TB, or 1.5TB?

16) Do you need an optical drive? If yes, a CDRW/DVD-ROM, CD/DVD Burner or Blu-Ray drive?
Yes, a CD/DVD Burner.

17) What speed CPU/Processor would you like? Dual core or Quad Core CPU?
Dual core would be fine, though I would be willing to upgrade to a Quad Core if it's more useful for my needs.

Yeah, as I noted above I'm pretty new to this and can use all the advice that you can provide. Thanks!

04-05-2009, 04:12 PM
You did your job filling out the form so sorry to ask more but. I could make so many suggestions I would rather narrow it down than overload you.

First from my read I think you need a good CPU and a mid performance GPU? Your budget allows a very powerful system. Do you want to spend your money to get the most or would you rather buy what you need and save lots of cash?

Also if you could let me now what you use now and how it performs for the tasks you ask of would really help. CPU, GPU and Monitor size and resolution.

I suggest a trip to Best Buy to hold some 14" 15.4" and 17" to get an idea of how you feel about the size and weight for portability.

Exile 195
04-06-2009, 04:28 PM
Well, since my response yesterday hasn't shown up, here it is again:

In answer to your first question, yes. I was informed by my faculty advisor that a good and powerful laptop capable of some wireless networking is an "unofficial" requirement to for majoring in engineering.

Second question: I would prefer, if possible, somewhere in between. Since I'm double majoring it's predicted to take me somewhere between 4-6 years to graduate. By then I'll need to upgrade again to the latest technology for my job. Thus, I do need something with some power to it, but since I'm going to have look for a new laptop in a few years anyway, I feel that saving some money would be good.

This is what my current desktop configuration is:

Dell Dimension 4550 Series, Intel Pentium 4 Processor at 2.40GHz
256 MB DDR SDRAM at 333MHz
17 in flat panal display
64 MB GeForce MX Graphics Card
120 GB Ultra ATA/100 Hard Drive (7200RPM)
Windows XP Home Edition SP3
Intel Pro 100M Integrated PCI NIC Card
resolution is 1024 by 768

...plus a buch of other software. As far as performance goes: its slow to start and shut down, I can use Microsoft Word to prepare reports and such but I do not have Excell Spreadsheets and I cannot use Powerpoint, and all of the engineering and number-crunching software that I will require cannot run on this machine. Game wise, I can play most of my stuff okay; Knights of the Old Republic, for instance, plays without a hitch on moderate graphical settings. Morrowind on the other hand, is a different story. Initially I was able to play it at low to moderate settings and get an average of 15-20 fps in towns and 25-35 fps in the wilderness, crashes were few and far between. Now, however, I can barely get 4-12 fps anywhere and have suffered more frequent crashes. Oblivion cannot run on this system (due to to low system specs), and Thief: Deadly Shadows requires a card with pixel shading, a fact that sadly I only figured out after getting the game. So yes, as you can see, my interests in gaming have exceeded my current system.

In summary, I need a laptop that can handle hardcore engineering and math programs and I would like to be able to play some of my more demanding games at high settings with good fps.

04-06-2009, 10:53 PM
OK that helps.

Try to give you an idea of the current hardware vs yours.

CPU- P4 2.4GB 512KL2vs T9400 2.53Ghz 6MBL2
Mips: 5,234 vs 19,790
Mflops: 4,502 vs 18,660

wPrime a multi threaded calculation of pi: P4 2.5Ghz vs T9400 2.53Ghz
32 test: 645.32/s vs 27.913/s

RAM: Intel 845 256GB PC2700 vs Intel PM45 4GB PC6400
Bandwidth: 2547MB/s vs 5617MB/s

HDD: 120GB 3.5 ATA/100 @7200 vs 320GB 2.5 SATA 300 @7200
Read bandwidth: 45MB/s? vs 62MB/s

GPU is worse than all these. The lowest discrete mobile CPU available today is far superior to your current. And the ones here are just so much more powerful. From what you have said? GPU is going to blow you away.

First recommendation:

FORCE 3551 (Built on MSI-1651) (http://www.xoticpc.com/product_info.php?products_id=2462{76}2005{187}1757 {94}1074{92}2445{88}2463{186}734{93}2459{193}657{1 12}2476{98}1799{96}2461{168}1453{116}1416{117}707{ 120}703{110}2426{169}1449{119}1898{100}734{164}144 1{107}1539{106}1691{121}1532{108}710{109}711{170}1 492{173}1175{167}1452{103}2020{113}1413{111}1414{6 9}1930)
- 15.4" WXGA "Glare Type" Super Clear Ultra Bright Glossy Screen (1280x800)
(Black/Silver Plastic Default Exterior)
- Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound
- Standard Dead Pixel Policy
- -Intel® P8700 45nm "Montevina" Core™2 Duo 2.53GHz w/3MB L2 On-die cache - 1066MHz FSB 25 watt
- nVidia GeForce 9600M GT 512MB PCI-Express DDR3 DX10
- - 4,096MB (Corsair, Kingston, Major Brand) DDR2 800 (2 SODIMMs) Dual Channel Memory
- Standard Finish (WXGA - Plastic Matte Black with Silver Trim ~ WSXGA+ - Black Brushed Aluminum
NO DELAY for Custom Color Options
- - Combo Dual Layer SuperMulti 8X DVDRW Drive w/ Software
- - 320GB 7200RPM WD or Seagate (Serial-ATA II 3GB/s)
- Internal 4-in-1 Card Reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO)
- Internal Bluetooth + EDR
- Built-in Intel® PRO/Wireless 5300 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi Link
- Built in 2.0 Megapixel Camera
- Sound Blaster Compatible 3D Audio - Included
- Carrying Case Optional (Select if desired)
- Smart Li-ion Battery (6-Cell)
- -Windows Vista Home Premium 64-Bit w/ Drivers & Utilities CD's
- 3 Year Complete Care Full Parts / Labor Warranty - Next Business Day Shipping both ways - Lifetime 24/7 DOMESTIC Toll-Free Telephone Tech Support


Other than it is a good system that I am certain will blow you away coming from your current. The main strengths are price and an absolutely great warranty! 3 years parts and labor overnight included? That should give you confidence. The GPU is not the most powerful but is not weak. I think it will impress you very much. I have one a little less powerful an Crysis on medium runs about 20fps avg and I find that playable. I play CoD4 pushing 40fps avg this should do a little better. I know those fps are not competitive but for playing alone works fine. I mention those because I think much more demanding than all you mentioned. That said yours should rock.

Back on doing engineering I hear about CAD and hear more CPU than GPU but think they like higher screen resolution. WSXGA+ costs $69. $80 jumps you up to a 2.66Ghz CPU w/6MBL2? Not sure you need.

I highly recommend you get the computer requirements from the institution. I am certain we are above but I have been wrong in the past.

On to what I would recommend upper end it can come with a gaming GPU beyond your gaming needs. But also has a professional GPU option if you find that would be needed.

Sager NP8662 (Built on Clevo M860TU) Pre Order ETA Early April (http://www.xoticpc.com/product_info.php?products_id=2564{76}768{187}1757{ 94}1074{92}2421{88}1925{186}734{93}2431{193}657{11 2}656{98}1295{96}2434{168}1453{116}1416{117}705{12 0}703{110}2426{169}1449{119}1898{100}734{164}1441{ 107}689{106}1696{121}694{108}710{109}711{170}1591{ 173}1175{167}1452{103}1889{113}1413{111}1414{69}71 4)
- 15.4" WSXGA+ "Glare Type" Super Clear Ultra Bright Glossy Screen (1680x1050)
- Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound
- Standard Dead Pixel Policy
- ~Intel® P8700 45nm "Montevina" Core™2 Duo 2.53GHz w/3MB L2 On-die cache - 1066MHz FSB 25 watt
- nVidia GeForce GTX 260M 1,024MB PCI-Express DDR3 DX10 (User Upgradeable)
- None Standard
- ~ 4,096MB DDR3 1066MHz Dual Channel Memory (2 SODIMMS) (Requires Vista 64-Bit to recognize Full 4GB)
- Standard Finish
- ~Combo 8x8x6x4x Dual Layer DVD +/-R/RW 5x DVD-RAM 24x CD-R/RW Drive w/Softwares
- ~ 320GB 7200RPM (Serial-ATA II 300 - 16MB Cache)
- Internal 7-in-1 Card Reader (MS/MS Pro/MS Duo/MS Pro Duo/SD/Mini-SD/MMC/RS)
- Internal Bluetooth + EDR
- Built-in Intel® PRO/Wireless 5300 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi Link
- Built in 2.0 Megapixel Camera
- Sound Blaster Compatible 3D Audio - Included
- Basic Black Business Case - Included
- Smart Li-ion Battery (8-Cell)
- Integrated Fingerprint Reader
- ~Windows Vista Home Premium 64-Bit Installed (64&32-Bit CD Included) w/ Drivers & Utilities CD's
- 3 Year Labor* 1 Year Parts Warranty Lifetime 24/7 DOMESTIC Based Toll Free Telephone Tech Support (Labor Warranty through Xotic PC)


I try and configure the same to give you a real comparison. The things that are not vs the first. The screen resolution on this is the upgrade on the first. The GPU on this is so much more powerful. The warranty is very good but not as good as the first. Before you ask DDR2 and DDR3 makes no real difference at this point in system performance. So do not concern yourself with the first being 800Mhz and this being 1066Mhz. The bandwidth is the same.

If you upgrade the CPU 1 level $80 on the first $75 on this for the same CPU.

This offers the professional GPU cost is $265.

The notebook as configured will game Crysis. A recent post by Justin has the benchmark.

This is in your budget but more powerful than your stated needs.

I am sure this is a big investment. I would like to help you get the best for you. I think Xotic sells the best of the best. That said if you decide You think "business class" type notebooks fit your needs better I would be happy to share my knowledge. This is going to be a tool for your success sure some fun but mostly a tool. I am certain everyone wants you to get the best for you.

I switched from a PIII 21/2 years ago to Dual Core. Last November got my current rig. You are going to be in shock when you get. Amazed would be an understatement.

Good luck! Sorry took me a little time to post back. And I do think any questions and comments are cool. I do have others just don't want to overload you. So feel free posting back as much as you like. The more the better if it helps you.

Exile 195
04-07-2009, 10:39 PM
Thanks for the suggestions! The Sager appears to have what I'm looking for, though I wouldn't mind seeing some of your other recommendations.

I do have few questions from my looking around at the various options available to me. First being just how useful is this Turbo Memory? Their description makes it sound near indispensible for Windows Vista, but I'd like a more personal recommendation.

Second, could you tell me some more about the differences between the default video card and the nVidea Quadro that's also available? I'd just like to know more about what its affects would be.

Third, I notice that Xoticpc offers spare ac adapters, will I need an extra or not?

Finally, the reason that I'm looking at Windows XP as an operating system is because I do have some games ( the might & Magic series to be specific) that may or may not run on Vista, (most info that I've received about this is that it's pretty much a dice roll whether or not Vista will accept the older software or not). Plus I've also heard that Vista isn't particulay good with hard core number crunching software and related programs. So could so shed some light on this subject for me. Thanks!

04-07-2009, 11:35 PM
Turbo Memory as of yet is not realizing it's claimed promise. Not sure currently but the past version caused many reduced performance. Without getting boring and over complicated. All starts with CPU and giving it what it wants. The L1,L2,(L3),RAM,HDD. All those get progressively larger. Put Turbo after RAM before HDD? Turbo is what 2GB to 4GB? Well RAM is 4GB standard on notebooks. The reason in my progression things keep getting larger is to increase the chance the CPU will get a hit (what it wants). Turbo has the statistical chance of a needle in a haystack. but going there after RAM slows it from going to HDD where it is? So for an unlikely chance you will find you delay the access to the HDD where 99.99% of the time the hit is. with 512KB RAM 2GB Turbo might work. until they get 32GB+ it will not work.


GPU's. The default is a gaming card it is optimized for gaming it is optimized for DX. The other is optimized for graphical intensive engineering and design tasks generally called OpenGL. The OpenGL card is also called a professional card. It is not designed for gaming if mostly equal do not game as well. But they crush the DX gaming card for what they are designed to do. I think they call it rendering? Not sure. As a side note. Soft modding (using gaming drivers) can make a professional card game close or better than the gaming card. The opposite in most cases can not be said. Nvidia in particular hardware cripple the OpenGL benefits on many gaming cards. I mean why pay more if you can just change drivers?

You need to check what is preferred at your school. Not all tasks require the benefit of a professional card and I lack the expertise to say more. I just don't know more.

AC adapter. If you use in more than one location sometimes for some people having in both places is nice. If you buy one and it breaks you can order another. I suggest if you have to ask don't worry about and don't get (yet).

On your last question. I speak with no authority or specific knowledge. Well I have knowledge but don't know the apps you are talking of. That said. Vista requires more resources works better with faster systems. Much complaining by many, are those who lacked a powerful enough system. In other words XP does not run great on a PIII with 256MB RAM either but for some reason they don't blame XP they blame a weak system. wPrime is a benchmark that calculates pi to some level? It does better on Vista than XP? It tests your CPU's math ability. So contrary to what you heard?

90% of Vista hating is by those who have not used. 10% should of never tried with their systems. And yes 100% new OS always have issues. XP did but how soon we forget.

Consider I believe you were not so silly as to of installed Vista on your current system? Well others did. Why is no one complaining about Crysis? Because the gamers have a clue, sort of don't want to over brag on gamers but they do know their hardware!

Vista bugs have for the most part been worked through. Business has not and refuses to switch to Vista. You could if using certain application want XP? I don't know. I had surgery a while back and the hospital was using 2000? Well if they spent a million on it and it works why spend 2 million on XP or 4 million on Vista? There are real issues most are economic. I agree MS should not be forcing OS down business throat vs supporting current. Of course M$ makes more with new OS than updates?

But remember you as an individual lack great infrastructure so enjoy the fruits?

Good luck.;):)

Exile 195
04-08-2009, 10:20 PM
Well I was able to find the minimum hard ware requirements on the university's web site:

Intel Core Duo, AMD Turion or 2GHz Intel Centrino


Microsoft Windows XP (Vista is acceptable for new laptop purchases)

802.11b/g wireless

And these are some of the software bundles that I will most likely use:

Office 200x (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#office) (Microsoft) (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#office)
Matlab (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#matlab)(MathWorks) (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#matlab)
Mathtype (DesignScience) (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#mathtype)
MSDNAA (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#msdnaa)(Microsoft) (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#msdnaa)
SolidWorks / COSMOS (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#solidworks)(SolidWorks) (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#solidworks)
Mentor Graphics / PADS (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#mgc-pads)[/URL]
[URL="http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#autodesk"]Autodcad, Civil3D, etc... Various Titles (Autodesk) (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#solidworks)
SAP2000 Pro and ETABS (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#csi) (CSI) (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#csi)
MINEQL+ (Environmental Research Software) (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#mineql)
EES (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#ees) (F-Chart Software) (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#ees)
OSUWare (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#osuware)(Various) (http://engr.oregonstate.edu/computing/personal/149#osuware)

Finally, I have done some personal research into the compatability of the games I listed previously and here are the results: Morrowind and Oblivion can both run on Vista 32 and 64 bit with only a few minor problems. Knights of the Old Republic can run but will definately have some major, potentially game crashing/freezing problems. Thief should run with no problems, and the Might & Magic series apparently can run on Vista 32 bit but not on Vista 64 bit; many people have tried with various hardware configurations but no one has succeeded.