Laptop Advice - Desktop Replacement.

  SeanUK 14:57 04 Sep 2009

Hey Guys,

I'm off to Uni in a few weeks and I figure I'll need a nice new laptop to tick me over for the next three years.

I've been looking around already, and I'm trying to weigh up the pro's and con's of Ultraportable vs Ultrapowerful.

I expect to pay a premium on a laptop, 'gaming' rig and I'm not under any illusions that a powerful laptop will come cheap.

Here's my problem though. I've been using a Cougar Desktop System for the last year. It's a pretty decent spec, with 8880gs graphics, 2gb ram, and an AMD Athlon 6400 processor.

I don't want to drop £500-800 on a laptop and feel like I am losing out on performance.

I'm prepared to spend up to £800 on a laptop, as long as I am actually getting decent value for money. Are there laptops out there, that will offer decent gaming performance at that price?

I'd be looking to play games like CoD4,Mass Effect, Dragon Age:Origins, etc. Medium settings would be fine, but high is preferred.

I am hoping to 'future-proof' my laptop, as I won't be replacing it for three years at least, and I won't be taking my desktop with me.

I am finding it hard to justify spending an extra £300-400 on a 'premium' laptop instead of just going with an ultra-portable.

At the moment the Dell Range of laptops seem to be the most attractive, but I don't hold the company in high regard. I've heard some terrible stories about customer service, etc.

Any advice? Places to look? Things to consider?

Thanks in advance

- Sean

  nissanalmera 15:08 04 Sep 2009

Hi SeanUK,I have used Dell for some 6 years,desktop and laptop and unless they have deteriarated recently,I have found customer service excellent.I recently bought Studio 15 3 months ago at a time of deals.With voucher £100 off and Dell discounted price £800 with bluray.Excellent machine

  Clapton is God 15:10 04 Sep 2009

"I've heard some terrible stories about customer service, etc"

I wouldn't base your buying decision on hearing "some terrible stories".

The reason to buy Dell is because they make solid, reliable machines. You won't need customer service. I've had 3 Dell PCs and 2 laptops over the years and NEVER had to contact their customer service. My elder daughter graduated last year and is still using the Dell Inspiron laptop she took to Uni in 2005 and my younger daughter starts her second year at Uni next month - she also uses an Inspiron.

If you do buy Dell (or any make), be sure to buy the optional accidental damage insurance because, in general, students and laptops are not a good mix!

  SeanUK 15:37 04 Sep 2009

Hey Guys, thanks for the quick replies.

I am glad to hear that you have had good experiences with Dell. It puts my mind to rest a little.

Dell seem to offer a good build, at a nice price.

The Studio-15 Series of laptops are grabbing my interest at the moment. They are also offering some nice deals at the moment, which would net me a saving of £284 if I order before the 9th September.

The key specs of what I have put together include:

Microsoft Operating System:
Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium SP1 (64 BIT) - English (with Free Windows 7 Upgrade)

Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor P7350 (2.0 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB, 3 MB L2 Cache)

4096MB 800MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM [2x2048]

Hard Drive:
320GB (5.400rpm) SATA Hard Drive

Video Card:
512MB ATI Mobility RADEON HD 4570

Primary Battery:
Primary 9-cell 85 WHr Lithium Ion battery

Standard Warranty:
1Yr Limited Warranty - Collect & Return

Accidental Damage Support:
No Accidental Damage Support

Which weighs in at an attractive £654.02 with Total savings* of £284.00.

What do you think of that spec, is there anything that I have forgotten?

Have you had any experience with the Studio 15 range of laptops?

Does this look like a sensible buy to you?

Thanks again for your time

- Sean

  Clapton is God 15:46 04 Sep 2009

Basic spec looks OK.

Don't forget a printer and, as I said, you might want to pay a bit extra to extend the warranty to 3 or 4 years and add the accidental damage cover.

  GaT7 15:53 04 Sep 2009

The "Video Card: 512MB ATI Mobility RADEON HD 4570" unfortunately is the weak point for your requirements - click here for more info on the card. The Full benchmark list click here.

In the 1st link above, if you look at the right column, which lists the other graphics cards, you should be aiming at a minimum of a 9600M GT or above in the middle of Class 2.

To get anywhere near your desktop's 8800gs, you'll need to be looking a bit further up I think. G

  SeanUK 16:05 04 Sep 2009

Hey Again,

Thanks for the input.

A printer isn't a must for me, as I'll have access to a printer on campus I think. If not, I'm sure I can buy one a bit later on once my loans actually go in ;)

@Crossbow - I figured as much, thanks for the links they are helpful. Unfortunately, Dell do not offer the option to upgrade to a better graphics card whilst staying within the Studio 15 range.

Do you know of any good laptop deals, that include a 9600M Gt, or above?

I was considering the alienware range, but battery life, weight and general design put me off a little bit.

  GaT7 16:31 04 Sep 2009

If you visit the 9600M GT page click here, towards the bottom it gives a list of many laptops with this particular graphics card. Look at the info under 'Gaming Performance' too.

The trouble with laptop graphics is that they are much more expensive when compared to their desktop cousins, & so the price increases exponentially! G

  SeanUK 17:18 04 Sep 2009

To be honest, if the price is going to get stupid at £800-900+ I don't think it's really an option I will pursue.

Now I am stuck with a decision to make, should I hit the mid-range Studio15 laptops (as they look really nice), or should I skimp down and go for an ultra portable but less powerful machine!

If graphics capability is now a side-concern, what area's of the system should I look to beef up?

I am guessing HDD,RAM,CPU, and Battery Life are the most important things now?

  GaT7 17:48 04 Sep 2009

"I am guessing HDD,RAM,CPU, and Battery Life are the most important things now?"

You can't really improve on the RAM & CPU. Former because >4Gb is pointless on a 32-bit OS, & the latter should be more than good enough (at this price point anyway).

The hard drive will depend on how much you think you'll need, but can be replaced later with something bigger if required. Get an external hard drive for storage & backups instead.

Regarding the battery, I don't think they do a better one than that 9-cell one, do they? G

  SeanUK 18:02 04 Sep 2009

Hey Crossbow,

If I was to upgrade the ram I'd also switch to 64 bit vista. I'm not sure if I'd need anymore than 4gb ram, is laptop Ram the equivalent to desktop RAM?

Regarding the battery, that is the best battery I could pick and I'd probably buy a spare/second battery for when that one goes flat. I was thinking more about if I decide to shop around.

Sorting out a cheaper external hard-drive does seem to be the way to go, as bigger HD's tend to whack the price up by as much as £60, for an additional 100gbs!

Thanks again for the input, I have been looking around a lot today and I keep floating back to the Dell laptops.

I'll have to sort out my student account, and place an order soon. Knowing my luck, the £200 offer will expire by the time I get around to ordering. We shall see :)


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