Advice on new Laptop needed, thank you

By on December 2, 2009 6:09:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

onomastikon

Join Date 02/2006
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Hello all, last week our apartment was broken into and almost everything was stolen, including our only computer, a 1-year-old ASUS laptop. (I surprised the thieves and was thus able to keep them from finding and stealing my wife's jewelery, at least that was salvaged.)

To make a long story short, I need a new laptop, and will be willing to spend up to 1,000 Euros. May I have your advice please? I know very little about computers or computing.

I will not (be able to) buy an Alienware or other high-end gaming rig. The laptops I have seen for 1000 Euros or under include a 17 inch display, 4 or 6 gig RAM, either a GeForce or ATI video card with either 500MB or 1 gig of memory, either Vista or Windows 7, some with a 32, with a 64, or both 32 and 64 operating systems, and various battery strengths. I haven't the slightest idea as to which graphic card is better, I figured "more memory" in them would be good, but does that all depend on the cooling units, the speed of the so-called FSB (is that right?), or other things I need to think about?

Ideally, I would like a machine which had the best of all these features, including battery duration length, but I am sure that is impossible. So to make my question as concrete as possible, could you please help me with the following?

  • Which would be most important: larger graphic card memory, processor speed, or RAM?
  • Which graphic cards should I avoid / look for?
  • I don't understand the difference between 32 and 64 bit -- is that important? What should I look for?
  • I have no experience with WIndows 7 -- does that mean hands off or get because I'll have to deal with it soon anyhow?
  • Any concrete tips appreciated, thank you

Thank you very much in advance. Quick replies would be most welcome, I would like to purchase a new computer tomorrow evening GMT+1. Thank you.

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December 2, 2009 6:22:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm not a computer expert by any means, but when looking at new laptops keep in mind that 32bit operating systems cannot utilize more than 4 gigs or RAM (looking at dxdiag, it actually seems to be about 3 gigs!) so avoid any "gaming rigs" that are trying to sell you RAM you can't use. As for windows 7, I haven't tried it yet, but it can't be worse than Vista, right?

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December 2, 2009 7:07:35 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting louist,
I'm not a computer expert by any means, but when looking at new laptops keep in mind that 32bit operating systems cannot utilize more than 4 gigs or RAM (looking at dxdiag, it actually seems to be about 3 gigs!) so avoid any "gaming rigs" that are trying to sell you RAM you can't use. As for windows 7, I haven't tried it yet, but it can't be worse than Vista, right?

It is 4 gigs of total memory. Video cards can eat a large chunk of this, but all sorts of stuff takes a little bit. So, yes..very good idea to go with 64 bit, if nothing else than allowing plenty of room for memory.

Back to the OP: First and foremost thing when getting a laptop that will play games is make sure the video card uses dedicated memory. Lots of laptop video cards will actually just use your RAM. This is bad for several reasons, but lets just leave it at a VERY bad idea.

If possible, I'de recommend windows 7. In most cases it runs faster than vista or xp, is the most secure of them, etc. W7 really is an upgrade.

I recommend avoiding HP and Gateway, and if possible Dell. For a cheaper mainstream the Toshibas are usually pretty good, but shop around a bit. www.newegg.com is awesome. Don't rely on it though, if you find a good one: Check the companies own website. They might have a better deal on the same computer.

For a laptop, try to get a 7200 RPM hard drive. Size shouldnt be too important, you can always get a cheap usb external.

The numbering system on video cards can be a bit confusing, but mostly it's the first number is generation, then the rest is the model number. Finally, the suffix determines how powerful for the line it is: ( IE: nvidia 8800 GTX is generation 8, model 800 and a GTX [ I can't recall exactly, but it is something like: GTS < GT < No Suffix < GTX < Ultra ] ) When moving the the 200 series ( say gtx 280 ) it is still pretty much the same, meaning 280 = generation 2 model 80. The current generation 2 is above the 9s btw. Anyways, to the point: The model number is generally more important. meaning an 8800 is close to a 9800. The 9800 is better, but only a little. Then, 9800 is close to a 280. Note,that because the gen 8 is now 2 generations behind an 8800 is a fair deal slower than a 280. ( My current 265 gtx OC is indeed faster than my old 8800 gtx ) ATI is pretty similar.

If I had to rate priority I would say, from most important to least: Company that made it ( yea, its that important ) , Dedicated Video Card , 64-bit OS, More RAM, Windows 7, Video Card, 7200 RPM HD ( or SSD if you have enough money left over ).

Oh, btw: In case you didn't notice, you can mostly ignore the amount of ram on the video card. There are other factors that affect the actual speed a lot more...i've seen 256mb vid cards out run 1gb cards.

1 last thing. Screen size isn't that important...it's the resolution that matters. I don't care if your laptop is 60 inches...if its only 1 pixel, it's worhtless:)

Sorry if there are any inaccuracies, or if I rambled too much..its 7 AM and I need to get to sleep:)\

Cheers!

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December 2, 2009 7:27:02 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Heres the kick: Larger graphics memory? This doesn't matter at all unless you're playing at balls-ass-crazy resolutions, AND have a powerful GPU to back it up. A 9500 GT with 8 Gigs of GDDR3 (never gonna happen, but just an example) is still way way worse than a 9800 GT with 512 MB of GDDR3.

Processor Speed? As long as its dual core, is 2.0 GHz or better, and has at least 3 MB of L2 cache, you're set. IMO, I'd go intel, because I just built two budget PC's with comparable specs:

 

First: AMD Athlon II 5000 (2.8 GHz w/2 MB L2 cache)+ 2 GB DDR2 800 + HD Radeon 4770

Second: Intel e6850 (3.0 GHz w/4 MB L2 cache) + 2 GB DDR2 1066 (clocked to 800) + 9800 GT

 

Even though the first is overclocked more than the second, it reaches sim speeds of 1 mid/end game Demigod, while the second chugs away at a constant 7-10.

 

RAM? As long as you have 2 GB of any speed of RAM you are perfectly fine. How much does RAM effect your PC? Not. A. Whole. Lot.

 

GRAPHICS CARDS:

9800 GTX M, GTX 260 M, HD 4850 M, or HD 4870 M

 

If you want a gaming PC that's NICE, for 1000 Euros (which is like 2000 USD, right?), the laptop had better have one of those cards, or a better one in it. Otherwise you're getting rpped off.

 

32 bit and 64 bit are the ways that the operating system is designed. Technically, 64 bit is "faster" and can handle lots more RAM. The limit on a 32 bit system is 4 GB. But in reality? There's really no difference. 64 bit MAY experience some incompatibility with some of your programs, and you'll have to look for 32 bit versions if this happens. The only case of this that happened for me was 7zip - it wouldn't integrate into the right click menu on vista x86-64. So I had to go find the 64 bit version. Problem solved.

 

Windows 7 is the latest and greatest Windows Operating System. According to everyone, its much better than Vista and XP. In my experience, its perfectly fine. It doesnt really add a whole lot, but hey. It works. Windows 7 is "good".

 

Concrete tips: look for 7200 RPM hard drives. Focus on graphics cards. If you're willing to invest 1000 Euros, then you're willing to google "xxxx bench" and click a bunch of links. Don't trust notebookreviews.com

 

Edit: So 1000 Euros is $1500 USD. That's a great price range: you can easily get a high end gaming rig, just not alienware. Alienware is incredibly overpriced for what they're giving you, trust me. Here are some recommendations:

 

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834114785

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Asus+-+Laptop+with+Intel%26%23174%3B+Core%26%23153%3B2+Duo+Processor+-+Blue/Black/9556072.p?id=1218124204092&skuId=9556072

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834101203 (5400 RPM hard drive, but you can swap it out for a different one if you want to spend the money, or just add another - it has 2 hard drive slots)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834220642

 

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December 2, 2009 9:21:48 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hey thank you so much for these quick responses. If I understand the last two posters correctly,

(>> A 9500 GT with 8 Gigs of GDDR3 (never gonna happen, but just an example) is still way way worse than a 9800 GT with 512 MB of GDDR3.)

that means that the serial number on the back of the *GRAPHICS* card is what I should be looking for? Another question: How do I see the resolution Zechio?

EDIT: And how do I know if the memory is "dedicated"? Sorry. Thank you!

I think I am going to print this thread out and take it to the computer store.

Over here (Germany), they don't sell Dell etc., it's either Acer, Toshiba, Asus, occassionally Sony, or another one whose name escapes me.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR HELP

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December 2, 2009 9:30:59 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

With an nVidia Graphics card, it will have a "50" tacked onto the end if its integrated. Also, chances are, it will be a low number in a series.

For example: a 6150 is an integrated version. This means that it mooches off of the system RAM instead of having its own. If you get a 9600 or better, you won't have integrated memory. With Radeon, kind of the same thing, except I'm not sure how their name scheme goes.

 

If it has a 9800 xxxx (anything) or is gtx 260 M, or a Radeon 4850 (this is made by Radeon, so the "50" naming scheme of nVida doesn't apply. They're different companies) M, the memory is DEDICATED and not integrated. Any laptop graphics card that is even somewhat nice will NOT have integrated graphics, so its not something you should really worry about too much.

 

To sum everything up: Check to see if it is a 9800 GTS M, 9800 GT M, 9800 GTX M, GTX 260 M. These are the graphics cards that you want, and they will be available in laptops for under 1000 Euros. Don't be fooled into getting a 9600. The difference between a 9600 and all of the above graphics cards is quite vast.

 

I'd go Asus. If you can find this laptop:

 

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Asus+-+Laptop+with+Intel%26%23174%3B+Core%26%23153%3B2+Duo+Processor+-+Blue/Black/9556072.p?id=1218124204092&skuId=9556072

 

or a very similar model, it's one of the best bang for your buck laptops available.

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December 2, 2009 11:55:43 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

i bought this laptop 11/15/09 returned it 11/28/2009

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Asus+-+Laptop+with+Intel%26%23174%3B+Core%26%23153%3B2+Duo+Processor+-+Blue/Black/9556072.p?id=1218124204092&skuId=9556072

 

ended up with problems with it and returned it...could've been just my luck and everyone else who's bought the same one may be having fantastic results. so to avoid the same problem (video issues and sound issues) i got the one i believe is a step above it. for the one link above i paid the 999...for the one i replaced it with i paid 1200.00 and i do like it so far.  i think it's this one that i ended up getting... http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Asus+-+Laptop+with+Intel%26%23174%3B+Core%26%23153%3B2+Duo+Processor+-+Black/9556125.p?id=1218124208054&skuId=9556125

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December 2, 2009 11:57:27 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting onomastikon,
Hey thank you so much for these quick responses. If I understand the last two posters correctly,

(>> A 9500 GT with 8 Gigs of GDDR3 (never gonna happen, but just an example) is still way way worse than a 9800 GT with 512 MB of GDDR3.)

that means that the serial number on the back of the *GRAPHICS* card is what I should be looking for? Another question: How do I see the resolution Zechio?

EDIT: And how do I know if the memory is "dedicated"? Sorry. Thank you!

I think I am going to print this thread out and take it to the computer store.

Over here (Germany), they don't sell Dell etc., it's either Acer, Toshiba, Asus, occassionally Sony, or another one whose name escapes me.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR HELP

 

NP, always glad to help:)

For the resolution, it should be mentioned somewhere around where it talks about the display. EX: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834220642

Under Display it says "Resolution 1920x1200". This means that it was 1920 pixels wide, and 1200 high. ( so called high def 1080 is 1920x1080 ...as you can see, this screen is slightly higher resolution than 1080p. TVs are always way behind. My current computer monitor is actual 2560x1600, lol )

Also, typically they try to say whenever it is dedicated. They know it is a big selling factor for those of us that know what we are looking for. So, it'll usually say something like "Nvidia 260m with 1gb dedicated video memory". When browsing on newegg.com they have a filter on the left for "Video Type" so you can choose to show only Dedicated cards.

I really recommend against buying it in store. You'll pay a premium compared to online for sure. If you poke around, some sites will ship directly to germany, but if you know someone in the US you can have it shipped to them, then they can just send it on to you. Newegg loves to do free shipping, so it wont cost anything extra to do this with them.

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December 2, 2009 2:57:54 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Get a MacBook.

Normal for office work and all the regular stuff.

Pro for Games and movie editing.

 

bloody expensive but well worth the money and OS-X is just sweet.

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December 2, 2009 3:02:38 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

I recently aquired this and love it: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834220605&Tpk=g51j

As you probably know based on your previous laptop, the Asus are very solid. For what you get for the price it is very nice. Not the best on battery, but hey, look at the power.

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December 2, 2009 3:46:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Here's a link that may help on the graphics front:

Tom's Hardware Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

They maintain a reasonably complete list that helps when you are trying to decide which graphics cards are better than the other.  It helps alot when comparing NVidia to ATI/AMD.

If you are going to be gaming at all on this, then you really do want to focus on the graphics card.  Laptop RAM is the simplest upgrade in the computer world.  In most cases you can do it in less than a minute.  Laptop hard drive upgrades are easy as well.  If either of those are small, don't worry about them and just plan on upgrading when it starts to bother you.  It's even possible to upgrade the processor (not recommended though), but in most cases you are not going to be able to upgrade the graphics at all. 

If you're gaming needs are only moderate just get nearly any dedicated card and you'll be okay.  It doesn't really need much dedicated memory, even 512 would be adequate.  If gaming is a primary use then definitely get the best video you can.

Intel does generally make better laptop processors, but if you get better graphics on an AMD chip it's probably worth it.   Very few things really strain a processor nowadays (except Dwarf Fortress... if you're a DF fanatic forget the graphics card and get the fastest processor you can!)

If you can afford a SSD it will definitely be worth it.  The performance boost is incredible and they use less power than a conventional drive, so it should prolong your battery life.  That might be out of your price range though.  Consider saving up for one in the future though.

Definitely get Windows 7 64bit, no question there.  If available you might want the Professional edition over Home Premium, but that's not a big deal and you can easily upgrade to Pro later if you need to.

ASUS is definitely a good choice.  Acer and Toshiba aren't bad either.  I beleive Sony has been hit or miss.  Lenovo would be another good brand, especially if support is a factor.  I'm not sure what kind of presence they have in the EU though.  If at all possible definitely buy online, although that might involve more delay than you want right now.

 

 

 

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December 2, 2009 3:47:46 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting Aroddo,
Get a MacBook.

Normal for office work and all the regular stuff.

Pro for Games and movie editing.

 

bloody expensive but well worth the money and OS-X is just sweet.

I strongly disagree. I own a almost 1 YO macbook pro and a 3 YO toshiba. I prefer the toshiba for everything I do, gaming, text, video, music, web, programming, etc.

( If you don't care about a mac vs pc comparison, feel free to skip the next paragraph. )

My 3 Year old toshiba that I paid 1500 for is very close to my 1 year old macbook pro in every single way. ( the $2300 macbook pro that is. ) A current Toshiba Qosmio, is only 1,900 and is far better ( http://laptops.toshiba.com/laptops/qosmio/X500/X505-Q850 ) , geforce 250 vs 9600, 6 gig vs 4 , 64gb SSD+ 7200 250gb HD vs 320gb 7200, blu-ray + dvd, etc. drive vs regular dvd drive, 1920x1080 full HD monitor vs 1440 x 900 low res monitor, Windows 7 is better than mac os x, especially when playing games ( I will give you mac os x is generally better than xp. Vista too if you dont know how to control vista...7 is quite nice though. ) The 1 and only area that it can try to compete is battery life. However, I and plenty of people I know do not get anywhere near the 7-8 hours claimed. ( I generally get around 2 hours on my mac, 1 on my toshiba. Both are low enough that it doesnt matter...using either laptop away from a power socket just doesnt work for anything besides offline non-graphic programs. Laptops really do need to work on battery power more.

( You can resume reading now )

Almost forgot...are you dead set on it being a laptop? For half the cost, you could buy an extremely powerful gaming desktop. 800 bucks will get you a tower that can run crysis at max with ease. With the money you save, you could almost buy a 30" 2560x1600 monitor for it:)

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December 2, 2009 5:23:44 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

In your price range I'd try to look out for a notebook with either a Geforce 9800m, 250m or Radeon 4670. These should be comparable in speed (higher number are better of course).

The processor does not matter that as almost any dualcore processor is more than fast enough. Anything with more than 2 GHz should be fine (most gaming notebooks are bottlenecked by their graphics card, processor is ultra fast but the game slows down as the graphics chip is not nearly as fast compared to the processor).

When looking at hard drives 7200rpm drives are faster but louder. If you don't care about the noise 7200rpm would be better.

If it has 4 GB RAM you definitely should avoid Win XP 32 bit as it can handle only up to 3 GB.

Other than that look out for battery life (as gaming notebooks can have a battery life of 1 hour) and display (glare looks nice when the notebook is turned off or you're watching movies in a dark room but with some light you can enjoy a mobile mirror).

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December 2, 2009 5:52:17 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

I bought an Acer Aspire laptop a while ago with a Radeon dedicated memory graphics processor.  It has an Intel Core Duo and 1G of memory.  It was under $1000 US and I think it was a real bargain.  It plays games nicely and I'm very happy with that aspect of it, however, there are some things to watch out for with laptops like this.

My main complaint with the particular laptop I bought is the finish on the screen.  For some reason, makers are using glossy screens like crazy now.  They're just horrible.  They're fine when there's low ambient light, but with any light behind them, they turn into mirrors and become very difficult to view.  Why do makers insist on perpetuating such a major flaw in monitor design?

The other issue is battery life.  You will pay in battery life for a machine that has any graphics capability, especially when actually playing a game with it.  I can get maybe 20 minutes on mine when playing a game, about an hour otherwise.  I have an aux battery I use.  Definitely something to look at carefully. 

I would also look for a solid state drive.  They're much better for laptops with lower power consumption, higher speeds, and better reliabilty.  Win7 has full native support for solid state drives.  However, good ones are still pretty expensive so that may not be within your budget.

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December 2, 2009 7:07:14 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

What kind of games are you planning to play? For higher-definition ones, you'll need a higher-end laptop with around 4+ GB RAM. With games like SOASE, I'd recommend a general-area laptop, not a gaming one. I recently bought an HP laptop with 3 GB RAM, Radeon 4200 graphics card, and a 2.10 dual-core processor for about $550, and works wonderfully for most games. Also, make sure to look into Windows 7.

HP and Asus are both great brands for laptops. Toshiba, Dell, and Acers aren't good, especially since Toshibas and Acers tend to be damaged very easily.

Otherwise, it is worth looking at a desktop computer, because a laptop's battery drains extremely quickly with any game.

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December 2, 2009 8:43:58 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

I would go with a HP, they have a lot of extra BIOS options wired in so it is easier to change your os further down the road. As for os go 32 or 64 win 7

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December 3, 2009 6:18:09 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

THank you, this is all very, very helpful. Newegg will not ship to Germany, however -- does anyone know a comparable site over here? Thank you!

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December 3, 2009 9:39:40 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

You might try this site:

www.notebooksbilliger.de

http://www.notebooksbilliger.de/advanced_search_result.php?quick=1&x=0&y=15&keywords=Notebooks+mit+Grafikkarte+ATI+Mobility+Radeon+HD+4670+ (Radeon 4670 chip)

http://www.notebooksbilliger.de/advanced_search_result.php?quick=1&x=9&y=12&keywords=Notebooks+mit+Grafikkarte+NVIDIA+GeForce+GTS+250M+ (GeForce 250m chip)

http://www.notebooksbilliger.de/advanced_search_result.php?quick=1&x=15&y=11&keywords=Notebooks+mit+Grafikkarte+NVIDIA+GeForce+9800M+ (GeForce 9800m chip)

Looking at the prices the 4670 might give you most bang for your buck (but you might have a look at notebooks with a 240m chipset).

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December 4, 2009 4:09:21 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thank you. (I love that name, Lord Pökelfleisch, that's excellent.) I like your advice, but am still wary, since I am really un-saavy. The people above mentioned getting "ripped off" if I don't get one of their mentioned cards for that price, and I have no idea what a 4670 is compared to a 4870M.

I'm almost tempted to buy at Newegg, have it shipped to friends, and have them ship it over -- but am unsure about the power supply, US vs. European. Does anyone know if that will be a problem? I mean, getting a replacement plug for 110V and the right adapter?

Can anyone tell me if I am being crazy? I went to a local "Saturn" and saw a new Sony VGN-FW 54M, which only impressed me because of what appears to be a very nice screen: high resolution, anti-reflection de-mirroring (or however you say that in English). It has a C2D P7450 processor (2.13 GhZ), an ATI 4650 with 1 gig, 4 gigs of RAM, 64-bit Win 7, for 1000 Euros. They keypad seemed suboptimal, but everything else seemed ok. For Germany, this looked like the best deal I've seen so far, even compared to notebooksbilliger.de -- or am I being foolish?

Thank you so very much

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December 4, 2009 11:20:51 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Thanks.

With notebook graphics chips it's a bit harder to tell which are really better. For desktops the 4670 is up to 50% faster than the 4650. You have to take in mind that desktop chips usually are faster than their notebook counterparts (ATI being more close to the desktop version as Nvidia afaik). The 4870 currently would be top of the line (and those chips do take a lot of power, if you need some battery life, mid range chips would be better).

You might have a look at this site for a comparison:

http://www.notebookcheck.com/Vergleich-mobiler-Grafikkarten.358.0.html

According to this chart the difference between 4650 and 4670 seems to be not as huge as compared to their desktop counterparts (although the chart might be flawed if the score is mainly dependant on 3dmark).

A problem is that it seems to be quite hard to find any good reviews of notebook graphics chips (only just reviews of single notebooks with different chips). You should be able to play most games (as long as you dont need to play to play Crisis ).

In your price range you probably wont find a laptop with 4850, 260m, 280m. The laptop you mentioned does seem to be a bit expensive though. Just found this site:

http://www.notebookinfo.de/notebook-grafikkarten/ati-mobility-radeon-hd-4650/5/12/

The Dell ones seem to be quite nice and there are quite a lot of notebooks with a 4650 at 800 euro. According to this review it does not seem much slower than than a 4670:

 http://www.notebookjournal.de/tests/msi-gx623-8647vhp-919/1

I'd recommend you to go to Saturn to have a look at the laptop as layout is an important factor as well and you would be able to just take it to them if any problems arise. Another possibility would be Dell as they ought to have good support instead of the cheapest internet seller.

 

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December 7, 2009 3:54:08 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thank you very much. I ended up getting the sony, as I liked the display and keyboard, all things else considered. Thank you, thank you all.

Can someone tell me: What is a "lojack", and does it really prevent theft? Thank you.

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December 9, 2009 1:56:27 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

i'm sorry i am not familiar with that certain 'lojack'. but, you ended up with a great choice there. Sony's great.

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December 7, 2010 4:14:12 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The important thing is what sorts of games do  you play?  If you mostly play strategy games, you'll want RAM+processor and can skimp on graphics card.

 

 

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