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Gaming vs. Entertainment/home Laptops


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#1 problemrazor

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 12:12 PM

My current Dell Inspiron 700m is dying and I am looking for a computer to buy once Windows 7 is fully released. So far I like the HP Pavilion dv3t, Dell Studio 15, and Toshiba Satellite U500 (though there aren't many reviews on it). Would Alienware be a safe, long-lived laptop buy? Would it be essentially the same as these laptops, except with better AV attributes?

I would like a laptop with/that is:
portable
lightweight
fast
long-battery-life

However, I do want my new laptop to have the best visual/audio abilities possible. I plan to use my laptop mainly for pictures, videos, audio editing/recording, movies, and MUSIC (besides the internet, which I'm addicted to :blink:). I am wondering if a gaming computer is essentially equivalent to an entertainment/home model, except with the advantages of better AV attributes (e.g.S-Video/HDMI port/fast processor).
I simply don't know enough (yet) about putting together individual parts to meet these requirements/needs.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a gaming laptop if you aren't going to use it primarily for gaming? Should I just get an entertainment model?

Edited by problemrazor, 20 August 2009 - 12:17 PM.


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#2 DJBPace07

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 09:28 PM

Gaming laptops often have better graphics cards and a desktop-grade CPU. However, these laptops run hot, are heavy, and use a great deal of power. Most normal laptops can handle what you are going to do just fine. Alienware PC's are just upscale Dell PC's with a weird logo. In terms of AV attributes, the laptop should come with a DVI or HDMI port and S-Video should be ignored. Here are some laptop suggestions. If you're serious about audio, I suggest getting a very good pair of headphones and, if you're not too cash-strapped, getting a USB sound card. With audio, the phrase "garbage in, garbage out" comes into play. If the sound files are not already high-quality, the audio being sent to the speakers won't be too good. If the audio file is good but the speakers suck, the audio still won't sound too good.

SONY VAIO FW Series VGN-FW463J/T - A more upscale laptop with a great video card and HDMI. It does have a great deal of bloatware on it though.
SONY VAIO FW Series VGN-FW463J/B - This has most the same specs as the previous Vaio model, only it has a different color and is cheaper.
SONY VAIO FW Series VGN-FW450J/H - A good laptop that has Blu-Ray, but given the native resolution of the screen, it won't do 1080p, but it will do 720p. Plus, it has HDMI.
ASUS F50 Series F50SV-A2 - This also has Blu-Ray and HDMI like the Vaio. But this one costs less. It does use a 32-bit operating system, which is odd for a PC with 4GB of RAM.
HP Pavilion dv7-1270us - Another Blu-Ray laptop only this one has a rebate and has a mountain of bloatware on it.

Edited by DJBPace07, 20 August 2009 - 09:32 PM.

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#3 problemrazor

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 10:30 PM

Thanks <(^_^)> Yes, I understood/knew a lot of what you said. I just have only had this 700m and understand a gaming laptop offers some unique attributes. It's a question of how much those attributes will effect what I use on my computer. But I also saw that some gaming comps have two disk ports, one usually for HHD and the other for SSD. SSD only works with power, so do SSD slots basically help boot games faster and uphold the graphics of the game?

Sorry for lengthy or perhaps silly/unnecessary questions but I love computers, despite not knowing too much, and I really love learning more about them. I've been reading the wiki on them.

Edited by problemrazor, 20 August 2009 - 11:36 PM.


#4 problemrazor

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 11:34 PM

MY REAL QUESTION/DILEMMA

Ok, actually, just since you seem like the best/most willing person to ask, I'll just lay out what I want, from most necessary to me (top) to least necessary (bottom). It may not be possible to meet every point.
This is actually the best way for me to narrow choices and look laptops up, but I don't know of a search engine that includes all brands and varieties of laptops, in which to do that effectively.

** = not completely necessary, but nice, and therefore on the list
++ = Mandatory. I put it on the list, but it's a standard on most laptops

++.....DVD/CD drive & burner
.........12-15 inch glossy screen (being small, I feel it should have good battery life) hopefully touchpad
++.....some sort of wireless card
++.....at least 150 GB hard disk
**......decent speakers (not "tinny" sounding)
++.....USB slots (2 preferably)
.........SD card slot
.........webcam
**......keyboard backlight
.........computer lock port/input/hole
**......SSD drive/slot
.........HDMI or S-Video port

So far the things I have trouble finding are a small laptop (12-13 inch) with a webcam, SD slot, DVD/CD drive, and backlight. That's what I care about most, aside from the things that are pretty standard on most laptops now (>150GB hard disk, processor, memory, etc.). Does SSDs increase speed of the computer? Also, is there a point in waiting for newer laptops/series/models to come out once Windows 7 comes out? I mean are new laptops from the main manufacturers going to come out?
Sorry for lengthy or perhaps silly/unnecessary questions but I love computers, despite not knowing too much, and I really love learning more about them. I've been reading the wiki on them.

Edited by problemrazor, 20 August 2009 - 11:40 PM.


#5 DJBPace07

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 01:32 AM

I'll try to combine both posts into one.

Post one.
Indeed, many laptops have two HDD ports. Though, lower-end, or inexpensive, laptops have only one and have that hard drive partitioned out to look like multiple drives. Not all laptops have SSD. If you save a large number of files, you may find the SSD more trouble than they are worth given their small size. The cost for SSD's may make them impractical for budget laptops. For instance, lets assume you want a 128GB SSD, the least expensive one costs $240. Compare that with a traditional platter-based drive for the same capacity. Access times with an SSD are much improved since there is no spinning platter.

Post Two
Most of the must have items on your list are found in almost every decent laptop, though the backlit keyboard may be an issue. Backlit keyboards are largely unnecessary given the brightness of the screen and the raised nature of the lettering on the keys. Also, you can use standard HDD ports for SSD's, though you may need a cradle or find one that works with laptops. Finding good speakers on a laptop is difficult given the small size. You should forget about the integrated speakers and get high-quality headphones (that's what I did when I got a laptop) or a good 2.1 speaker setup. In laptops, once you get below 15-inch screens, finding a laptop with a CPU that is desktop-grade below $700 is difficult. You generally have to sacrifice processing power in favor of less efficient mobile CPU models. Often, as laptops get smaller, so does the feature set and processing power. You can wait for Windows 7, but some laptop manufacturers have upgrade programs where you can upgrade to 7 for free. The MSI CX600-049US NoteBook has such a program, the details are here. You're going to be balancing a number of things with whichever laptop you choose. You'll want a big screen to view videos and pictures, over 15 inches. If you're going to be editing photos and videos, you'll want a dual core processor over 2GHz, perferably a Core 2 Duo. Also, you will want plenty of RAM, at least 4GB with a 64-bit operating system to use it all. Finally, if you're planning on doing anything more than general internet surfing, you will want a graphics card, preferably a dedicated one, that isn't Intel. From what I can tell, the Acer Aspire AS5739G-6132 would work. Plus, that model is eligible to get Windows 7 from Acer when it is lauched, as you can see here.

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#6 problemrazor

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 07:29 PM

Thanks a lot. This makes deciding much easier. One more quick question though: Why would SSDs be more trouble if you save a large number of files? And by large number you mean "many," not the amount of space the files take up, right?

#7 problemrazor

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 07:38 PM

Oh, and I agree about backlighted keyboard..not worth it. Actually, one more: So you mentioned getting more memory space and a better video card. I think most modern laptops would satisfy my needs. I just basically want another 700m, which has lasted me between 4 & 5 years. My main concern is that my 700m has been pretty slow in the last year or two, and I basically want to make sure that even when viewing/editting movies, pictures, and music my new computer will stay pretty speedy. I'm sure this has much to do with spyware, adware, and viruses, which I've had some problems with my 700m. So my point is, do you think a 4GB memory and upgraded video card is necessary to preventing my new computer from slowing down? I'm going for a 12-13 inch screen, so would the CPU be that slow? Here are the basic specs on my 700m: http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/dell-inspi...?tag=mncol;rnav

#8 problemrazor

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 08:04 PM

Also, is it really more expensive to buy an upgradable part later? I mean, couldn't I get more RAM or a better video card later? Would it cost much more? Because what if a laptop has almost everything I want, except it could use a better graphics card? Wouldn't it be better to just get the laptop, then upgrade a part? How do you know if a part is compatible with the computer? Also, if it doesn't say on these site's anything about Windows 7, does that mean they won't be able to be used with Windows 7? <--This is my main reason for trying to wait until Windows 7 comes out.
The computers I'm currently looking at, though perhaps a bit pricy (anything under $2000 works..I'm planning to keep this comp until it breaks), are:

HP Pavilion dv3t & Touchsmart tx2z
http://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/shopping...ility_notebooks

Dell Sudio XPS 13
http://www.dell.com/us/en/home/notebooks/l...s=dhs&cs=19

Toshiba Portege M750 & Portege R500/R600
http://laptops.toshiba.com/laptops/portege

Sony VAIO Z & SR series
http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores...y.com/index.php

Edited by problemrazor, 21 August 2009 - 08:16 PM.


#9 DJBPace07

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 11:09 PM

I'll combine your posts into a single one, again.

Post 1: With the reduced capacity of SSD's, file size becomes very important. It is easy to fill up a hard drive 128GB in size with multimedia. For instance, on my PC, Windows occupies 10GB, my programs (I'll admit I have a huge drive so I don't remove applications that often, yours would be half to a quarter of mine) take up 110GB, my music, a combination of WMA Lossless and MP3, take up 23GB, pictures take up another 5GB, and video another 150GB. Before long, you could run out of space, then you would need to upgrade a drive. Keep in mind that my PC has a TV tuner in it, along with a high-end sound card, so I have a large amount of video and my audio is as close to CD quality as you can get.

Post 2: Laptops are not highly upgradable, unlike a desktop. On a laptop, you can add more RAM, install a new hard drive, and maybe a new optical drive. You cannot upgrade the CPU, the screen, nor the graphics card. Using that link you provided, your old PC was good a few years back. Frist, the CPU technology is old and inefficient, second, the RAM only goes to 2GB, third, and finally, the graphics are simply awful. My old Vaio I got when I went off to university (2003) had similar specs and a better graphics card. I had to replace the laptop three years later since it was so painfully slow. If you have a good antivirus, like NOD32, your computer should not be slowing down due to adware and all the other nasty things the Internet throws at it. The PC simply may not be able to handle the newer stuff that is out. 12 to 13 inch laptops aren't that powerful and editing and watching multimedia on them can be painful. Laptops of that size are typically considered secondary computers, powerful enough to get on the net and do a few things, but lacking in the power department. Many laptop users get, or build, a good desktop PC, then spend little on a laptop since the desktop computer has all the processing muscle.

Post 3: You cannot upgrade a laptop. You can usually replace the RAM and the hard drive, but everything else is off limits. This is why, if you're planning on having a laptop be your one-and-only PC, to get the best you can afford. Many laptop makers have Windows 7 upgrade programs, here's the one for HP, here's the one for Dell, here's the one for Toshiba, here's the one for Sony. Manufacturer's love to hide information on the program, for some reason. Chances are, you won't be keeping the laptop until it breaks, it will get too slow one day and you'll need to buy a new one. In the $1000 plus category, there are more powerful options available. The ASUS G Series G51VX-X2A, SONY VAIO FW Series VGN-FW495J/B, and the ASUS N81 Series N81Vp-D1 are all good alternatives. The more powerful the PC, the less battery life you get. Tack on a good screen and battery life dips to 2 or 3 hours with everything on high.

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#10 problemrazor

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 11:32 PM

Ya, sorry for the spastic thought processing/posts. I meant "get slow" by "break" :blink: Anyway, I think this is more than enough I need to make my decision. I want a smaller laptop for the portability and battery life. I suspect I will be mostly playing music and video/looking at pictures, as opposed to high processing editing. Therefore as long as there is no pausing and other playback problems I don't much care about weaker CPU/processing ability...unless this poses a problem when running multiple programs. The same goes for the graphics card..the 700m has been fine for the games I use, however, they're old games and I expect to upgrade to better games and internet graphics usage. Anyway, thanks again. The biggest thing here is how to compromise what. May I ask what laptop you have now?

Edited by problemrazor, 22 August 2009 - 12:09 AM.


#11 DJBPace07

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Posted 22 August 2009 - 12:31 AM

Oh, I got rid of the laptop in favor of a high-performance desktop I can upgrade. I used to have an old Vaio. It was a desktop replacement laptop that weighed, wait for it...., almost 18 lbs. I remember flying with the thing and it was painful (literally) lugging it though an airport. When I got the desktop, it was a pain getting this giant desktop tower to and from the university, but I managed. Some forms of video compression can use a great deal of CPU power, plus you cannot upgrade the CPU so I wouldn't cut corners there. The problem is, most of the good CPU's are in the larger laptop models, like the Acer Aspire AS5739G-6132. The Acer's 15.4 inch monitor isn't that big, plus, in a power save mode, the battery can last for about 3.5 to 4 hours. I think the Acer has the most balanced features and reasonable price considering what you're wanting. The SONY VAIO CS Series VGN-CS230J/W would be good since it has a newer Core 2 CPU, but it does have a low-end graphics card with a 14-inch monitor. The TOSHIBA Satellite L515-S4925 would be a follow-up even though it has a somewhat lacking Pentium CPU and a poor Intel graphics card. If you want to go smaller, down to a 13-inch, the SONY VAIO SR Series VGN-SR420J/B would be a very nice choice. It has a good CPU, video card, and plenty of memory. The problem with that one is the price.

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#12 problemrazor

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Posted 22 August 2009 - 02:13 AM

Yup, I agree with you analysis of those comps. I just was looking at the VAIO SR series. I'm trying to compare the various laptops I've looked at, but since they're from different companies and I don't know exactly where to find them I use the search engines. Search engines get me the main title, but with slightly different serial/model numbers...like I searched for the HP Pavilion dv3t on CnetReviews and it came up with a bunch that were like dv3z, or dv3, etc. What does this mean? The different model number only indicates some of the parts are different right? But then how can I compare the computers' price-to-attributes if I'm looking at one starting model and another upgraded/higher priced option/model? It becomes harder to compare if you're getting a good deal for your buck if each review has different meory and storage sizes and optional parts integrated.

Edited by problemrazor, 22 August 2009 - 11:19 AM.


#13 DJBPace07

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Posted 22 August 2009 - 03:08 PM

Since you're in the U.S., you can buy the laptops online through Newegg. That would be the best option in terms of price. Most physical stores don't have too many models on hand. On the links I've provided, you can view the individual specifications by clicking on the specifications tab. Model numbers do change, such as dv3z to dv3. The dv3 is likely the base model and the dv3z is almost like the base model with some different component or components. For instance, a slightly larger hard drive in a laptop would probably warrant a new model number. Given the volume of model numbers, looking for laptops can be a painstaking ordeal. Becuase of this, I usually look for core components, come up with a list (as I've done for you), and then try to go more in-depth with two or three models. For me, core components would be the CPU, the amount of RAM, and the graphics card. When I purchased my old laptop, one of the most important features was the size of the screen, since I would be watching DVD's on the laptop. Now, thankfully, for about 1/3 of the price of my old PC, I can get one that is far more powerful and weighs much less. This is all thanks to Moore's Law.

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