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Dave4994
05-20-2009, 06:48 PM
General Questions

1) What is your budget?
$1100-$1500

2) What size notebook would you prefer?
17"

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?
Have only had experience with Dell.

5) What tasks will you be performing with the notebook?
Mostly school work: Pro E, AutoCAD, internet surfing, video editing, music listening, and gaming.

6) Will you be taking the notebook with you to different places or leaving it on your desk?
I will be taking my laptop back and forth from home to school everyday (I practically live on it!)

7) Will you be playing games on it; if so, which games?
To be honest I probably don't game as much as most people on these forums. I am shooting to have my next laptop boot up quickly, open applications quickly, and have the processing power needed for 3D modeling programs and running code like MATLAB. However, I DO want the option to game: Sim City 4 (have't had a computer good enough to play it), and other games like Crysis, Half Life 2, Call of Duty, other taxing games, etc.

8) How many hours of battery life do you need?
2 hrs aught to be enough.

9) Do you mind buying online without seeing the notebook in person?
I trust XoticPC and the reviews I read.

10) What OS do you prefer? (more details below)
Unsure here! Seems like not all applications can be installed on Vista 64 bit. I am perfectly fine with 32 bit XP but 64 bit is apparenly newer and better/more efficient...


Screen Specifics

11) From the choices below, what screen resolutions would you prefer?
I am into good looking displays. At least 1680 x 1050 (I hear 1900 x 1200 makes the icons and text smaller?)


12) Do you want a glossy/reflective screen or a matte/non glossy screen?
Matte will do given that the screen is bright enough. I'll accept glossy too although glare does tend to be annoying.


Build Quality and Design

13) Are the notebook's looks and stylishness important to you?
Streamlined and simple is the way to go. I'm not so much into flashy lights, bulkyness, and cosmetic graphis. Plain, please.

14) When are you buying this laptop and how long do you want this laptop to last?
Before the fall semester (September). I've had my Dell ispirion for 3.5 years; I supposed I want this one to last at least this long.

Notebook Components

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

16) Do you need an optical drive? If yes, a CDRW/DVD-ROM, CD/DVD Burner or Blu-Ray drive?
At least a DVD-burner, a Blu-Ray drive would be nice if in budget, but not completely necessary.

17) What speed CPU/Processor would you like? Dual core or Quad Core CPU?
Seems to me like Quad Core is fastest, but that most other hardware, such as graphics cards, are optimized for use with Dual core processors (is this B.S.?).


Forgive me for my ignorance! I have been learning a lot over the past couple of months about new technologies (graphics cards, processors, ram, etc. however I still need help!)

Thanks!

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Anewbus
05-21-2009, 12:25 PM
Hi Dave,

First I’ll address a couple of your questions:

1) OS = Stability and “newness” not withstanding, the thing to keep in mind here is that a 32-bit OS can recognize up to 3GB of RAM while a 64-bit OS can recognize up to 6GB of RAM. A 64-bit OS is no more stable and efficient than a 32-Bit OS. For example 64-Bit XP was horrible. In fact, sometimes a 64-Bit OS is less efficient, but that’s not the big problem it once was. Stability and efficiency if you will, depends on the code (how well it is written), the availability of drivers and of course how it is installed and whether or not the hardware is compatible. (I’m an XP 32-bit guy myself because for a while Vista was terrible, but these days most of the problems have been worked out in both 32-Bit and 64-Bit Vista and a lot of it had to do with drivers. Personally, I’m sticking with XP 32-bit because there are other things I do not like about Vista, but that’s my own personal thing).
Rumor has it that Windows 7 is going to be the ultimate 64-Bit OS able to recognize more than 6GB of RAM, etc. However, given Microsoft’s habit of releasing things before they are ready and loading it with bugs, we will see.
Anyway, in your case I would go with Vista 64-Bit given the tasks that you will be doing. Besides there is plenty of free support should something go wrong.

2) I personally think the 1680X1050 native resolution screen is the best at present. It offers the most flexibility (you can drop it all the way down to 800x600 and everything in between that and 1680x1050). Besides most games don’t run that well in 1900x1200. I personally think that even for photo editing, spreadsheets and even watching videos in HD 1680x1050 is fine. You can always adjust the size of the icons to Large, but you are right. That works fine even with 1680x1050, but not so much with 1900x1200, the icons are still tiny. Plus, a 1680x1050 native resolution screen uses less power than a 1900x1200 screen.
3) Glossy vs Matte: Glossy screens offer better sharpness, contrast and color saturation under normal or low light conditions. The thing to keep in mine here is the lighting conditions you will be under most of the time.
For sunlight or bright lights including a close desk lamp, Matte would be your better screen option.
For normal light (office, classroom, etc) or low light then Glossy would be your better choice.
4) Quad core is not necessarily fastest. It’s just a bigger pipe. I think the Quads are still too early to buy into right now. You are correct a lot of firmware is not geared towards quads yet. Not only that, but there is power consumption to keep in mind, especially in a notebook. Give it another year and you will see them become standard equipment. If you get a minimum of a 2.4GHz Dual core CPU that will give you plenty of power.

You mentioned “listening to music”. I just want to point out that you will not find great sound or even good sound on any brand and model of notebook no matter what soundcard is in it. Sound is only as good as the speakers and there is just not any room for good speakers in a notebook. I would suggest using decent external speakers or headphones.

All the machines here will outlast HPs, Dells, Sonys, you name it, with proper care of course. The warranties offered at XoticPC kind of speak to that as well.

Ok, here are some config ideas on some machines.
First the 17-inch models: As you can see, there is not much in 17-inch models in your price range, but here are two that fall within it. Just so you know 17-inch models generally have battery life of 1-2 hours depending on what your doing. Have you considered a 15.4-inch model? You can get a lot more machine for your budget and they can have longer battery life and are lighter in weight. I’ll do a couple of those as well.

This comes in Glossy screen only as far as I know. You might want to talk to the folks at XoticPC to see if you can get this with a Matte screen if you want.
This machine comes with the OS, 4GB of RAM and a 320GB 7200RPM HDD. Had to stick with the 2.4GHz CPU to stay within budget. The GPU on this machine will work well for you.
I configured this with one of Xotic’s best warranties. The Asus warranty is better if you were not in the US, but it’s kind of challenging otherwise. The Xotic warranty is far better.

ASUS N70SV-A1 (http://www.xoticpc.com/product_info.php?products_id=2567%7B161%7D1411%7B7 6%7D1544%7B187%7D2578%7B94%7D1903%7B92%7D1987%7B88 %7D2013%7B186%7D1532%7B93%7D1645%7B112%7D656%7B98% 7D1907%7B96%7D1969%7B168%7D1453%7B116%7D696%7B117% 7D1915%7B120%7D703%7B110%7D1747%7B169%7D1449%7B119 %7D1678%7B100%7D734%7B164%7D1441%7B107%7D689%7B106 %7D1696%7B1%20)
- !! FREE !! UPS GROUND SHIPPING (Use Coupon Code FREESHIP in Checkout - US Only)
- 17.3" HD WXGA+ 16:9 "Glare Type" Super Clear Ultra Bright Glossy Screen (1600x900)
- Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound - CPU
- ASUS Zero Bright Dot (ZBD) Pixel Guarantee
- -Intel® P8600 45nm "Montevina" Core™2 Duo 2.40GHz w/3MB L2 On-die cache - 1066MHz FSB 25 watt - ENS
- nVidia GeForce GT 130M 1,024MB PCI-Express DDR2 DX10
- No Video Adapter
- ~ 4,096MB DDR2 800 (2 SODIMMS) Dual Channel Memory -
- Standard Finish
- - Combo Dual Layer SuperMulti 8X DVDRW Drive w/ Software
- - 320GB 7200RPM WD or Seagate (Serial-ATA II 3GB/s) - Default Hard Drive
- No Back Up Hard Drive
- No Floppy Drive
- Internal 8-in-1 Card Reader: MMC/SD/Mini-SD/XD/Memory Stick/MS Pro/MS Duo/MS Pro Duo
- Internal Bluetooth + EDR
- Built-in 802.11 Wireless A/B/G/N
- No Network Accessory
- Built in 1.3Megapixel Camera
- No TV Tuner
- Sound Blaster Compatible 3D Audio - Included
- Basic Black Business Case - Included
- Smart Li-ion Battery (8-Cell)
- No Car Adapter
- No Dock/Hub/Adapter
- No Fingerprint Reader
- Asus USB Optical Mouse
- No Notebook Cooler
- ~Windows Vista Home Premium 64-Bit w/ Drivers & Utilities CD's - Standard
- No Office Software
- No Software Bundle
- 3 Year Parts/Labor Warranty 24/7 Tech Support w/ LCD Accidental Damage Protection
TOTAL = $1490.89 with cash discount


This machine also has an “ok” GPU. Had to add the OS and had to stick with the 1-year warranty to stay in budget. Personally I think the Asus is the better of these two.

MSI GT725-074 (http://www.xoticpc.com/product_info.php?products_id=2551%7B76%7D1280%7B94 %7D1074%7B92%7D1987%7B88%7D1671%7B186%7D1532%7B93% 7D1645%7B112%7D656%7B98%7D1907%7B96%7D1969%7B168%7 D1453%7B116%7D696%7B117%7D707%7B120%7D703%7B110%7D 1747%7B169%7D1449%7B119%7D1898%7B100%7D734%7B164%7 D1441%7B107%7D2259%7B106%7D1688%7B121%7D694%7B108% 7D710%7B109%20)
- 17" WSXGA+ "Glare Type" Super Clear Ultra Bright Glossy Screen (1680x1050)
- Standard Dead Pixel Policy
- -Intel® P8600 45nm "Montevina" Core™2 Duo 2.40GHz w/3MB L2 On-die cache - 1066MHz FSB 25 watt - ENS
- ATI HD4850 512MB PCI-Express DDR3 DX10
- No Video Adapter
- ~ 4,096MB DDR2 800 (2 SODIMMS) Dual Channel Memory -
- Standard Finish
- - Combo Dual Layer SuperMulti 8X DVDRW Drive w/ Software
- - 320GB 7200RPM WD or Seagate (Serial-ATA II 3GB/s) - Default Hard Drive
- No Back Up Hard Drive
- No Floppy Drive
- Internal 4-in-1 Card Reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO)
- Internal Bluetooth + EDR
- Built-in 802.11 Wireless A/B/G/N
- No Network Accessory
- Built in 2.0 Megapixel Camera
- No TV Tuner
- Sound Blaster Compatible 3D Audio - Included
- MSI Matching Backpack
- Smart Li-ion Battery (9-Cell)
- No Car Adapter
- None Standard*
- No Dock/Hub/Adapter
- No Fingerprint Reader
- No External Keyboard or Mouse
- No Notebook Cooler
- -Windows Vista Home Premium 64-Bit w/ Drivers & Utilities CD's
- No Office Software
- No Software Bundle
- 1 Year MSI Parts & Labor Warranty Lifetime Tech Support
TOTAL = $1428.81 with cash discount


Now here are some 15.4-inch models:

This one would suit you very well. The GPU on this blows away the one on both 17-inch models I showed you. It is $12 over your max budget, but if you can swing the extra $12 it would be worth it. I did bump up the HDD to 7200RPM as you would be much happier with that over a 5400rpm for what you will be doing and it was only $15 or $20. I had to stick with the warranty it comes with, but it’s fine. Most cost comes from labor. Parts are generally inexpensive except for the screen and motherboard. So 3-years labor/1-year parts is not bad considering you also get free lifetime 24/7 domestic tech support. (Something Dell will never have).




Sager NP8662 (Built on Clevo M860TU) (http://www.xoticpc.com/product_info.php?products_id=2564%7B76%7D768%7B187 %7D1757%7B94%7D1074%7B92%7D2422%7B88%7D1925%7B186% 7D1532%7B93%7D2431%7B193%7D657%7B112%7D656%7B98%7D 1295%7B96%7D2039%7B168%7D1453%7B116%7D696%7B117%7D 705%7B120%7D703%7B110%7D2426%7B169%7D1449%7B119%7D 1898%7B100%7D734%7B164%7D1441%7B107%7D689%7B106%7D 1696%7B121%7D%20)
- 15.4" WSXGA+ "Glare Type" Super Clear Ultra Bright Glossy Screen (1680x1050)
- Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound
- Standard Dead Pixel Policy
- ~Intel® P8600 45nm "Montevina" Core™2 Duo 2.40GHz w/3MB L2 On-die cache - 1066MHz FSB 25 watt
- nVidia GeForce GTX 260M 1,024MB PCI-Express DDR3 DX10 (User Upgradeable)
- No Video Adapter
- ~ 4,096MB DDR3 1066MHz Dual Channel Memory (2 SODIMMS) (Requires Vista 64-Bit to utilize Full 4GB)
- Standard Finish
- ~Combo 8x8x6x4x Dual Layer DVD +/-R/RW 5x DVD-RAM 24x CD-R/RW Drive w/Softwares
- ~ 250GB 7200RPM (Serial-ATA II 300)
- No Back Up Hard Drive
- No Floppy Drive
- 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
- No Network Accessory
- Built in 2.0 Megapixel Camera
- No TV Tuner
- Sound Blaster Compatible 3D Audio - Included
- Basic Black Business Case - Included
- Smart Li-ion Battery (8-Cell)
- No Car Adapter
- No Dock/Hub/Adapter
- Integrated Fingerprint Reader
- No External Keyboard or Mouse
- No Notebook Cooler
- ~Windows Vista Home Premium 64-Bit Installed (64&32-Bit CD Included) w/ Drivers & Utilities CD's
- No Office Software
- No Software Bundle
- 3 Year Labor* 1 Year Parts Warranty Lifetime 24/7 DOMESTIC Based Toll Free Telephone Tech Support (Labor Warranty through Xotic PC)
TOTAL = $1512.23 with cash discount


If money is extremely tight you can consider this one as it comes standard with Xotic’s best warranty. With the price point I was able to bump the CPU up quite high. Kept the HDD at 250GB 7200rpm just to keep price down. The only downside is while the GPU on this machine is not bad the one on the NP8662 is head and shoulders above it.




FORCE 3310 (Built on COMPAL JHL90) (http://www.xoticpc.com/product_info.php?products_id=2455%7B76%7D1743%7B18 7%7D1757%7B94%7D1074%7B92%7D1779%7B88%7D2410%7B186 %7D1532%7B93%7D2459%7B193%7D657%7B112%7D656%7B98%7 D1799%7B96%7D1803%7B168%7D1453%7B116%7D696%7B117%7 D890%7B120%7D702%7B110%7D2486%7B169%7D1449%7B119%7 D1898%7B100%7D734%7B164%7D1441%7B107%7D1539%7B106% 7D1688%7B12%20)
- 15.4" WSXGA+ "Glare Type" Super Clear Ultra Bright Glossy Screen (1680x1050)
- Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound
- Standard Dead Pixel Policy
- -Intel® P9600 45nm "Montevina" Core™2 Duo 2.66GHz w/6MB L2 On-die cache - 1066MHz FSB 25 watt
- nVidia GeForce 9600M GT 512MB PCI-Express DDR2 DX10
- No Video Adapter
- - 4,096MB (Corsair, Kingston, Major Brand) DDR2 800 (2 SODIMMs) Dual Channel Memory
- None Standard--
- Standard Finish
- - Combo Dual Layer SuperMulti 8X DVDRW Drive w/ Software
- - 250GB 7200RPM WD or Seagate (Serial-ATA II 3GB/s)
- No Back Up Hard Drive
- No Floppy Drive
- Internal 3-in-1 Card Reader (SD/MMC/MS)
- None Standard--
- Built-in Intel® PRO/Wireless 5100 802.11 a/g/n
- No Network Accessory
- Built in 2.0 Megapixel Camera
- No TV Tuner
- Sound Blaster Compatible 3D Audio - Included
- No Carrying Case
- Smart Li-ion Battery (9-Cell)
- No Car Adapter
- None Standard*
- No Dock/Hub/Adapter
- Integrated Fingerprint Reader
- No External Keyboard or Mouse
- No Notebook Cooler
- -Windows Vista Home Premium 64-Bit w/ Drivers & Utilities CD's
- No Office Software
- No Software Bundle
- 3 Year Complete Care Warranty - 3 Year Parts with Next Day Shipping, 24/7 Telephone Tech Support & Lifetime Labor Warranty
TOTAL = $1365.76 with cash discount

Dave4994
05-21-2009, 01:55 PM
Anewbus,

Thank you very much for your detailed and in-depth response. I come across some of the information before, however your summary of contemporary operating system technologies (32 bit XP vs 64 bit Vista) was exactly the type of information I'm looking into. It seems like Vista won't be such a bad thing to go with since it has been out long enough. My only real fear that I have with it is incompatibilities with the software that I will be using on it.

Your explanation on displays was also very nice--I like good looking displays and am willing to dish out the extra cash for something pleasing to look at. I will end up spending most of my time inside with background lighting (i.e. the desk lamp that you mentioned). With that said, I suppose the matte finish will suffice.

Although Vista seems ok with the latest and greatest games / software, it seems like I should wait on the Quad core. Although my laptop is plugged in most of the time, there are a handful of occasions every semester that I wish I had 2+ hrs of battery power.

As far as music listening goes, I should have clarified more. I am not inerested in a laptop with good speakers. I think that would be a waste of my money. I always carry a nice set of headphones around (etymotics) to do my music justice. If I'm playing a game or watching a movie I'll typically plug in speakers through the headphone jack.

I currently have a 15.4" laptop and ever since I started looking for a new laptop I thought a bigger screen and full keyboard would be awfully nice to have. However, it looks like those two things alone are not worth the price.

Based on what you have told me I can get a 15.4" laptop screen with better insides for less money. I am really liking the way the Sagear NP8662 looks. Thank you for the suggestion. The casing is also appealing to me. Is there any reason why there is such a price jump from 15.4" screens to 17" screens??

Dave

BKR2879
05-21-2009, 02:02 PM
1) OS = Stability and “newness” not withstanding, the thing to keep in mind here is that a 32-bit OS can recognize up to 3GB of RAM while a 64-bit OS can recognize up to 6GB of RAM.

Just a small clarification.......

Modern 64 Bit Microsoft OS's can use far more than 6GB of memory. Xotic themselves ship laptops with up to 12GB of memory in the system, all of which is usable by a 64 bit OS of appropriate version.

Depending on the version of the OS you are running, you can use Terrabytes of memory, but unless you are in a scientific lab or perhaps NASA, you would never need that much. Your off the shelf copy of X64 Vista Ultimate for example can see and use up to 128GB of memory. By comparison, Vista Home Basic X64 can only use up to 8GB.

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa366778.aspx

Microsoft themselves hard code a memory limit into some versions of their OS's so that companies or corporations that need to use tons of memory have to pay more for a high end copy of the OS.

Windows 7 X64 is the most stable OS I've ever used. Vista was a disaster all around and neither the X32 or X64 versions are worth the hassle. Drivers at this point aren't much of an issue for any hardware I've seen or used under Windows 7, and I've used a lot of things with it at home, and especially where I work.

I'd download the RC1 copy of Windows 7 X64 from Microsoft and use it on whatever laptop you get. You'll be able to purchase a retail copy by the end of this year, and the RC1 is good until next year. I'm currently running it on 1 laptop, 2 desktops, and 1 netbook without issue.

Dave4994
05-21-2009, 02:24 PM
Windows 7 X64 hasn't been released yet, right? If it has been, how do I get my hands on it? *Edit: Never mind, you can download a trial version from Microsoft.com.

Through UB (my college) I can get Windows Vista Ultimate for almost nothing. Will this do, or would it be wise to go with Windows 7 X64?

Thanks,

Dave

BKR2879
05-21-2009, 03:05 PM
There's a pro and a con to it unfortunately, like everything in life.

Vista Ultimate is supported by MS, whereas Windows 7 is not atm.

Granted, every driver for Vista I've tried for varying hardware went in fine under Windows 7.

If you can, I'd try Windows 7 first to see if it works ok for you, if so, you don't need to spend more money. If it doesn't for some reason, then you could pick up Vista Ultimate on the cheap.

If some applications seem unstable or problematic, remember to try the compatibility mode settings to fix it. Many times Windows 7 will offer suggestions for that automatically if a program doesn't start correctly.

In either case, I'd go with the 64 Bit version without hesitation, but thats me. ;)

Anewbus
05-21-2009, 04:21 PM
Just a small clarification.......

Modern 64 Bit Microsoft OS's can use far more than 6GB of memory. Xotic themselves ship laptops with up to 12GB of memory in the system, all of which is usable by a 64 bit OS of appropriate version.

Depending on the version of the OS you are running, you can use Terrabytes of memory, but unless you are in a scientific lab or perhaps NASA, you would never need that much. Your off the shelf copy of X64 Vista Ultimate for example can see and use up to 128GB of memory. By comparison, Vista Home Basic X64 can only use up to 8GB.

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa366778.aspx

Microsoft themselves hard code a memory limit into some versions of their OS's so that companies or corporations that need to use tons of memory have to pay more for a high end copy of the OS.

Windows 7 X64 is the most stable OS I've ever used. Vista was a disaster all around and neither the X32 or X64 versions are worth the hassle. Drivers at this point aren't much of an issue for any hardware I've seen or used under Windows 7, and I've used a lot of things with it at home, and especially where I work.

I'd download the RC1 copy of Windows 7 X64 from Microsoft and use it on whatever laptop you get. You'll be able to purchase a retail copy by the end of this year, and the RC1 is good until next year. I'm currently running it on 1 laptop, 2 desktops, and 1 netbook without issue.


Thanks for clarifying and providing more info on this.:)

Anewbus
05-21-2009, 04:24 PM
If your desk lamp lighting is background and not directly over the screen you could get away with a Glossy screen. (Talk about liking good-looking screens, the glossy screens on the Sagers/Clevo/Compal are fabulous).:)

powerpack
05-21-2009, 07:07 PM
The notebooks Anew recommended are excellent suggestions. And yes the NP8662 is tempting if in budget.

On resolution and power consumption it is my understanding not what matters. The screens power is for the backlight so screen size not resolution is what uses power. So a 15.4" less than 17" if similar specs say single or dual lamp and similar luminance.

I do favor 1680x1050 even more on a 15.4"

And as said I think glossy will work fine for you.

Anewbus
05-22-2009, 09:34 AM
The notebooks Anew recommended are excellent suggestions. And yes the NP8662 is tempting if in budget.

On resolution and power consumption it is my understanding not what matters. The screens power is for the backlight so screen size not resolution is what uses power. So a 15.4" less than 17" if similar specs say single or dual lamp and similar luminance.

I do favor 1680x1050 even more on a 15.4"

And as said I think glossy will work fine for you.

Your right about the screen size using the power and not the resolution. My bad. :-/