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Windows 7: Buying laptop... need component advice.


31 Aug 2010   #1

Win7 Pro x64
 
 
Buying laptop... need component advice.

So, my wife is looking to get a new lappy and asked me to find her the best deal. Since her work is going to foot half the bill, I want to go as all out as I can so that I can game on it when she is not using it. I need something professional looking since she will be taking it to work (i.e., no Asus), so I have set my sights on HP. I have heard issues about their reliability, but then again I have heard pros and cons for all laptop mfrs out there. They are offering decent deals right now in the form of instant rebates and coupons which makes it even more enticing.

My issue right now is I am confused about whether going "whole hog" on some of the components may be such overkill that it will create a negative experience (too much heat/noise). So, I am looking to those who know more to fill me in on what choices I will not notice any added benefit and should therefore save on budget and ultimately headache. So, here are HP's options (dv6t Select Edition):

CPU
i5-450M (2.40GHz, 3MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 2.66 GHz = Included
i5-520M (2.40GHz, 3MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 2.93GHz = +$100.00
i5-540M (2.53GHz, 3MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 3.06GHz = +$150.00
i7-720QM Quad Core (1.6GHz, 6MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 2.8 GHz = +$200.00
i7-740QM Quad Core (1.73GHz, 6MB L3 Cache) w/Turbo Boost up to 2.93 GHz = +$350.00
i7-840QM processor (1.86GHz, 8MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 3.2 GHz = +$550.00

I was originally going to go for the i7-720, but then read the following over at notebookcheck that gave me pause (I know it refers to the 740, but the thought it conveys I think holds true for both):
Quote:
Judging from the system benchmarks, it seems as though it's not worth investing in a quad core 740QM- A look at our benchmark chart even goes beyond that and shows that almost all our i5-520M notebooks achieve a better PCMark Vantage rating. For example, HP's Envy 14-1010eg (Radeon HD 5650, 6.914 points); Toshiba's Tecra S11-11H (Quadro NVS 2100M, 6.411 points); Sony's Vaio VPC-B11V9EB (Intel HD, 6.180 points). Many applications seem to like the higher basic clock rate of 2.4 GHz better than eight threads with 1.73 GHz.
So, should I look at the i5-540? Or since I am stepping down to the i5, should I go lower (since the savings of the 540 is only $50)?

Graphics
Intel(R) HD Graphics [HDMI, VGA] = Included
512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 switchable graphics = +$75.00
1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 switchable graphics = +$150.00
1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 Graphics - For Quad Core Processors = +$150.00

Obviously the last option is for choosing an i7, but looking just at the differences between the 5470 and the 5650, is the 5650 that much better to warrant the added $75 investment?

HDD
640GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive = Included
500GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive = +$0.00
750GB 5200RPM SATA Hard Drive = +$50.00
1TB 5200RPM SATA Hard Drive = +$150.00
160GB (Solid State Drive Flash Module) = +$270.00

I was thinking of opting for the 500GB due to the faster spinrate, but then read that it may cause more noise even when idle (can't find the quote now, sorry). I was wondering how come they only offer the larger capacities in the slower speeds. Since we don't need a ton of space, wouldn't it be better to get the faster drive? Or not?

RAM
4GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm) = Included
FREE Upgrade to 6GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm) = +$0.00
8GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm) = +$100.00

Due to the special on 6GB, the upgrade to 8GB is only $100, so I figured I might as well jump on it (given the whole dual-channel thing that I read in another review, sorry no quote again). But is that unnecessary? Should an unmatched 6GB be fine?

Well, I guess that covers all the basics. If I had gotten in on their free BD-ROM upgrade from ~2 weeks ago, I wouldn't even be asking this, so now I have time to overthink everything.

TIA! I appreciate your insight. If you happen to know of a different mfr with a deal that would realize all that I am looking for at a comparable price (~$1000 with instant rebates and coupon), then let me know.

VSP

My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

31 Aug 2010   #2

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by VulcanSoulPatch View Post
So, my wife is looking to get a new lappy and asked me to find her the best deal. Since her work is going to foot half the bill, I want to go as all out as I can so that I can game on it when she is not using it. I need something professional looking since she will be taking it to work (i.e., no Asus), so I have set my sights on HP. I have heard issues about their reliability, but then again I have heard pros and cons for all laptop mfrs out there. They are offering decent deals right now in the form of instant rebates and coupons which makes it even more enticing.

My issue right now is I am confused about whether going "whole hog" on some of the components may be such overkill that it will create a negative experience (too much heat/noise). So, I am looking to those who know more to fill me in on what choices I will not notice any added benefit and should therefore save on budget and ultimately headache. So, here are HP's options (dv6t Select Edition):

CPU
i5-450M (2.40GHz, 3MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 2.66 GHz = Included
i5-520M (2.40GHz, 3MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 2.93GHz = +$100.00
i5-540M (2.53GHz, 3MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 3.06GHz = +$150.00
i7-720QM Quad Core (1.6GHz, 6MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 2.8 GHz = +$200.00
i7-740QM Quad Core (1.73GHz, 6MB L3 Cache) w/Turbo Boost up to 2.93 GHz = +$350.00
i7-840QM processor (1.86GHz, 8MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 3.2 GHz = +$550.00

I was originally going to go for the i7-720, but then read the following over at notebookcheck that gave me pause (I know it refers to the 740, but the thought it conveys I think holds true for both):
Quote:
Judging from the system benchmarks, it seems as though it's not worth investing in a quad core 740QM- A look at our benchmark chart even goes beyond that and shows that almost all our i5-520M notebooks achieve a better PCMark Vantage rating. For example, HP's Envy 14-1010eg (Radeon HD 5650, 6.914 points); Toshiba's Tecra S11-11H (Quadro NVS 2100M, 6.411 points); Sony's Vaio VPC-B11V9EB (Intel HD, 6.180 points). Many applications seem to like the higher basic clock rate of 2.4 GHz better than eight threads with 1.73 GHz.
So, should I look at the i5-540? Or since I am stepping down to the i5, should I go lower (since the savings of the 540 is only $50)?

Graphics
Intel(R) HD Graphics [HDMI, VGA] = Included
512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 switchable graphics = +$75.00
1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 switchable graphics = +$150.00
1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 Graphics - For Quad Core Processors = +$150.00

Obviously the last option is for choosing an i7, but looking just at the differences between the 5470 and the 5650, is the 5650 that much better to warrant the added $75 investment?

HDD
640GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive = Included
500GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive = +$0.00
750GB 5200RPM SATA Hard Drive = +$50.00
1TB 5200RPM SATA Hard Drive = +$150.00
160GB (Solid State Drive Flash Module) = +$270.00

I was thinking of opting for the 500GB due to the faster spinrate, but then read that it may cause more noise even when idle (can't find the quote now, sorry). I was wondering how come they only offer the larger capacities in the slower speeds. Since we don't need a ton of space, wouldn't it be better to get the faster drive? Or not?

RAM
4GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm) = Included
FREE Upgrade to 6GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm) = +$0.00
8GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm) = +$100.00

Due to the special on 6GB, the upgrade to 8GB is only $100, so I figured I might as well jump on it (given the whole dual-channel thing that I read in another review, sorry no quote again). But is that unnecessary? Should an unmatched 6GB be fine?

Well, I guess that covers all the basics. If I had gotten in on their free BD-ROM upgrade from ~2 weeks ago, I wouldn't even be asking this, so now I have time to overthink everything.

TIA! I appreciate your insight. If you happen to know of a different mfr with a deal that would realize all that I am looking for at a comparable price (~$1000 with instant rebates and coupon), then let me know.

VSP

***PROCESSORS***
The main thing that you want to look at is the Level Cache. Usually the good ones will have higher MB. Then next you want to look at the cores. I'll be perfectly honest with you. You can look at the speeds all you want but .10 to .20 is not going to make a whole hell of a difference. The computer goes so fast you won't see a difference. There is a processor with i7 that has a 6 core but I am not sure if that laptop comes with it. I know when I was building my desktop. I had that option.

***RAM***
This is very important. You don't want to get too little and your not running a server so you dont want to get too much. I think 8-12 is very good but really this depends on what your going to do with the laptop. I was a heavy gamer and I ran alot of networking applications so that is why i got 12. Make sure you get DD3 or at least DD3 ram. If you can find faster... go for it.

***Hard Drive***
Solid state over Old style...
since the solid state is brand new your going to get less for the buck.. but you also can move it up and down side to side and not worry about your data being corrupted becuase there is no moving parts. 120 gig is plenty unless your going to be storing alot of video... the windows 7 is probaby going to take 12 gig on its own... and the rest is up to you

the old style hard drives...
you always want to get the 7200 over 5200.. that is the RPM speed it goes to spin. The slower the spin, the longer it takes for the needle to find your data... pretty common sense there.

***video card**
this is up to you too...
most games now and days will run on a dedicated 1 gigabyte card...DEDICATED!
remember if its on board and not dedicated it will steal from your system's ram.
but look into the different cards..becuase some cards will transfer data alot faster. Just go thte manufacturs website and do a comparison.

I am going to be straight forward with you. You might as well spend a few more bucks to get this thing at least "good" becuase you want to have this thing last for a few years and as soon as you recieve the computer in the mail it will be outdated anyways. So you might as well get the components a little higher up so that it will last a little longer as the newer software comes out. So it can handle it in the long run. Especially when it comes to the ram.... Software now and days...comsumes alot of ram... the more you have, the better off you are.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
31 Aug 2010   #3

Win7 Pro x64
 
 

acurasd, I appreciate you stopping buy and offering your input, but I am still wondering about what are the best options of the choices that I have listed, since that is what I am limited to (unless other entire systems are suggested).

Unfortunately, desktop to laptop comparisons don't translate well, since they are entirely different beasts. I am pretty familiar with desktop offerings and what will give me the best bang for my buck there (having researched the hell out of components over a two month period for my recent desktop build), but I was able to ensure that I would have an adequately cooled system (my rig has 3-120mm intakes, 2-120mm piggybacked exhaust on the LC radiator, and 2-140mm blowhole exhaust), something which I cannot augment on a laptop build. Heat, noise, battery life... all major concerns for laptops that are not easily fixable, just avoided. Add to that the statement that the i5-520 may be a better performing CPU over the i7-740, my i5-540 vs i7-720 question is now of great importance.

Memory: 12GB not even offered, so can not be considered; just trying to decide between 6GB and 8GB.

HDD: going SSD with a builder is not economically feasible, better to swap it out meself, so I only need to know between the two "included in price" (640GB @ 5400rpm vs 500GB @ 7200rpm) is better; I know that faster is better, but does it mean excessive noise/heat in a laptop?

Vid card: doing my darnedest to stay away from integrated only (which will still be used for non-graphic apps); I want the dedicated for gaming, so the question is: would the 1GB 5650 be unneccesary in light of the 512MB 5470 (and the rest of the system specs)?

BTW, should I move this to Hardware & Devices instead? Is that a more appropriate forum?

Thanks again in advance for any advice.

VSP
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


31 Aug 2010   #4
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

Since this is a laptop, I would go for the more modest options. Else you will encounter an awful heat problem. And I would not at all go with an HP laptop (desktop yes but not laptop). Toshiba would be my choice.
And if you want to play games - especially modern games, get a desktop. Laptops are very poor choices for games. Configure the laptop to the tasks of your wife - not your gaming ambitions.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
31 Aug 2010   #5

Win7 Pro x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by whs View Post
Since this is a laptop, I would go for the more modest options. Else you will encounter an awful heat problem. And I would not at all go with an HP laptop (desktop yes but not laptop). Toshiba would be my choice.
And if you want to play games - especially modern games, get a desktop. Laptops are very poor choices for games. Configure the laptop to the tasks of your wife - not your gaming ambitions.
Ahh, man... now why do you have to go a be the voice of reason???

Seriously, thanks for your post. I know I should be more grounded in my thinking.

To fill you in (thought this was too much info to post from the get-go), my wife is going to be switching jobs, soon, and they know it, yet they are allowing her to claim the laptop. She knows that the new job is going to provide her with a laptop that she will be able to do her "work" work on, so this is going to end up being our mobile play machine (since she also would not want to load personal programs and such on her work computer). She actually told me that she would like me to be able to do our home vid editing on it (in addition to my new rig spec'd in my profile), so gaming and that are not too far off (I know vid editing is more memory intensive, and gaming is more graphic intensive).

At first she wanted to have a long battery life so I was looking for an ultraportable, but then said she would most likely keep it plugged in at all times and wouldn't mind having a larger screen. I was going to go for a 9-cell battery so that we would be able to run it for a little longer off the wall, considering it was going to have more power-hungry components, and was looking into 15" since her current screen is ~15.4". The main reason she wants a laptop is to have the ability to be mobile with it. She also likes the fact that we can use Skype on our current 4+ year old Vaio and run around after our little one and still keep him in the frame. Having it be able to play games (and I'm not talking Crysis, currently Torchlight, maybe some Nation Red) is a needed bonus for me since I can't haul my rig on vacation.

So, is there anything specific about why HP laptops should be avoided? The specs on that Pavilion I linked to are awfully nice for the price. And as far as Toshibas go, do you know where I should look for a decently spec'd one? Or should I try to buy straight from them?

I also saw a nice Vaio at Costco for ~$1K (though my local one was sold out), but it had the i7 chip (unsure if it was 720 or 740) and an nVidia gfx card (unsure of the model). Are today's Vaios decent? (The one we have is a hand-me-down from my Dad, so I haven't really done any laptop shopping before.)

Speaking of Costco, I just saw this Toshiba over there: Toshiba A665 Laptop Core i7-720QM 1.60GHz 1GB nVidia GT330M. It only has 4GB of memory and a 500GB @ 5400rpm HDD, so my questions above about specs come back into play.

Thanks again for the input. And for reading my lengthy posts!

VSP
My System SpecsSystem Spec
31 Aug 2010   #6

Vista Ultimate 32 bit, Win 7 Pro 32 bit, Win 7 Pro 64 bit
 
 

Amazon.co.uk: acer 5740g

This covers most of the options.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
31 Aug 2010   #7

Win7 Pro x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by wysiwyg View Post
Amazon.co.uk: acer 5740g

This covers most of the options.
Thanks for the input, though that system here in the US (through Amazon) is sold either used or from a routinely severely overpriced Marketplace Seller. I will check Newegg later for something comparable.

Any other suggestions, or answers to the original questions?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Sep 2010   #8
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

I voted against HP because I myself and a couple of friends had a bad experience with them. A while ago I saw a large selection of Toshibas at BestBuy. I don't know about Costco because I do not shop there, but I know that Sam's club is more expensive than BestBuy. And Walmart sells junk.
You have to realize that there is very limited venting in a laptop and if you overspec it, you end up with a heat problem. Look at the wattage of the components (CPU, Graphics - if not integrated - and Disk). I have one of those models that constantly ran too hot and the mere exchange of the HDD for a SSD cured the problem.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Sep 2010   #9

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1
 
 

If you're thinking of a VAIO, you can never really go wrong with them. I've had a few of them and they're very reliable.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Sep 2010   #10

Win7 Pro x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by whs View Post
I voted against HP because I myself and a couple of friends had a bad experience with them. A while ago I saw a large selection of Toshibas at BestBuy. I don't know about Costco because I do not shop there, but I know that Sam's club is more expensive than BestBuy. And Walmart sells junk.
You have to realize that there is very limited venting in a laptop and if you overspec it, you end up with a heat problem. Look at the wattage of the components (CPU, Graphics - if not integrated - and Disk). I have one of those models that constantly ran too hot and the mere exchange of the HDD for a SSD cured the problem.
OK, thanks for the info. I checked BB, not many applicable Toshis online atm, though I may still be aiming too high. Will have to check in store the next time I swing by.

The nice thing about Costco, of course, is the return policy, and the fact that they extend the mfr's warranty. The Vaio I saw there was around $1100 and was nicely spec'd, but has the i7, which based on your advice and the notebookcheck quote I have decided against and will be going for an i5, though I am not sure which version atm. I am also thinking that getting the lower end gfx card would also be better due to the heat issue, and that would make battery life better, too, when unplugged.

Forgot to mention before, I am looking at Intel only due to the advice I was given about what was currently available for desktops back when I was looking into my new rig ~February this year (in the sense that even the i5-750 could clean up any AMD offering at the time). Does this advice hold true for mobile processors? Are there any AMD CPUs I should be looking at that are of the same power but don't generate excessive heat?

What speed HDD did you swap out? 7200rpm? Would you therefore recommend the 5400rpm? Would we experience less heat and noise with that? Or would the speed sacrifice not be worth it?

Someone mentioned to me a while back on another site to look at the Seagate Momentus due to its hybrid technology. Due you know anything about those? Will it be less power consumptive/heat generating than a standard HDD? Chances of me swapping out the HDD from the get-go is pretty slim, but I might as well ask now!

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Darician View Post
If you're thinking of a VAIO, you can never really go wrong with them. I've had a few of them and they're very reliable.
Thanks for the input... our current Vaio has been pretty good, but Vista is pummeling it to death and making it grind to a halt. A good reformat/reinstall is probably in order, but try tell that to the wife!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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