Notebook Shopping Tips

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Notebook Shopping Tips

Postby KelloggsFrosties » Thu Sep 25, 2008 14:28

Okay, this one is extremely off topic:

I am planning to buy a notebook. One of my favorites is a DELL XPS 1530. Good choice?

Or do you have any other suggestions?
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Re: Notebook Shopping Tips

Postby Fitzcarraldo » Fri Sep 26, 2008 2:22

If you search the SL forums using keywords such as "laptop" and "notebook" you should find some helpful information. Personally I would not buy an HP laptop/notebook, neither would I buy a laptop/notebook that requires the use of ndiswrapper or madwifi (search for those two terms too) to get WiFi working. If I were looking for a new laptop/notebook I would research what hardware (i.e. video cards, sound cards, Ethernet cards, WiFi cards, Bluetooth cards, memory card controllers, USB controllers, etc.) works with Linux, and then look for a model that contains that hardware.

I bought my laptop before I discovered SL, but I was lucky and all my laptop's hardware -- video, audio, Ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, multi-memory card reader, Webcam, function keys, HDD controller, optical drive, etc. -- work with SL. It's an Acer TravelMate 8215WLMi, a two-year-old model that is not made any more. However, if you look at the internal hardware spec. from the lspci command I ran then you can see what it contains:

# lspci
00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Mobile 945GM/PM/GMS, 943/940GML and 945GT Express Memory Controller Hub (rev 03)
00:01.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Mobile 945GM/PM/GMS, 943/940GML and 945GT Express PCI Express Root Port (rev 03)
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) High Definition Audio Controller (rev 02)
00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 1 (rev 02)
00:1c.1 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 2 (rev 02)
00:1c.2 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 3 (rev 02)
00:1c.3 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 4 (rev 02)
00:1c.4 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801GR/GH/GHM (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 5 (rev 02)
00:1c.5 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801GR/GH/GHM (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 6 (rev 02)
00:1d.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI Controller #1 (rev 02)
00:1d.1 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI Controller #2 (rev 02)
00:1d.2 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI Controller #3 (rev 02)
00:1d.3 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI Controller #4 (rev 02)
00:1d.7 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB2 EHCI Controller (rev 02)
00:1e.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge (rev e2)
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation 82801GHM (ICH7-M DH) LPC Interface Bridge (rev 02)
00:1f.2 IDE interface: Intel Corporation 82801GBM/GHM (ICH7 Family) SATA IDE Controller (rev 02)
00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) SMBus Controller (rev 02)
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: ATI Technologies Inc M56P [Radeon Mobility X1600]
03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation 82573E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (Copper) (rev 03)
05:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection (rev 02)
0a:09.0 CardBus bridge: O2 Micro, Inc. OZ711MP1/MS1 MemoryCardBus Controller (rev 21)
0a:09.1 CardBus bridge: O2 Micro, Inc. OZ711MP1/MS1 MemoryCardBus Controller (rev 21)
0a:09.4 FireWire (IEEE 1394): O2 Micro, Inc. Firewire (IEEE 1394) (rev 02)

If you research a bit in the SL forums you'll see that the Intel 4965 WiFi card also works out of the box with SL, and I'm sure you'll find others mentioned. As I wrote above, personally I would try not buy a laptop with WiFi hardware that requires ndiswrapper and the Windows driver, or madwifi, but others may tell you it does not have a noticeable impact on WiFi performance. Nevertheless my preference would be to have a WiFi card that is supported 'natively'.

Also, bear in mind that just because one manufacturer's model works well does not automatically mean another model from the same manufacturer will also work well. This is because different models contain hardware from different suppliers. For example other models of Acer may not work as well as mine under Linux -- again, search the SL forums using the keyword "Acer" and "laptop" or "notebook" to see what comes up. Also try searching the SL forums for other manufacturers' names ("Asus", "Dell" etc.).

I know it may be difficult, but if you can burn a SL LiveDVD and try it in the notebooks that you are interested in then that is a good way to see if all the hardware is recognised by SL without problems.
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Re: Notebook Shopping Tips

Postby WarraWarra » Fri Sep 26, 2008 20:40

A few things you might want to look at before buying.
Shop around at similar specs and what you get.
Dell / Alienware owned by dell but independant / Sager.

Screen size ?
15" is ideal but has the problem that your video card might be okay or barely okay.
For travel = perfect size or smaller for in flight use on airplane where 17" can be a bit big and less time from batery / power or get bigger heavier battery but extra weight and 17" cost a bit more.

Screen UXVGA or XVGA ? :
The glossy refelctive screen has iretated me time and again or UXVGA so I have stuck to XVGA or mat / non shine / non mirror effect in bright light screen type.

Screen Res:
1280 or 1440 is ideal anything bigger is just a gimmick and does not do much if it has a intel or weak ATI / NVIDIA video card in it.
1280 or 1440 works well enough with weaker video cards to compensate. But do not worry too much about this one.

CPU:
Depends do you want power saving or performance , this will also change price a bit.
My t2600 dual core rocks but my Step Dad's t7600 sucks why no idea must be cogs and wheels and not working to well together / bus speeds etc . for wha the has even with my 7950gtx installed my t2600 outperforms his t7600 weard. Think memory / cpu speed linking ??

You also have the option to get a desktop quad core in a laptop like alienware or the sager's but they could cost more and have excellent parts. Portable desktops basically and a bit heavier to carry. You are looking at carrying close to 20lbs-25lbs or 10kg-13kg for laptop bag and what you want with you or need to have.

Ram:
2GB is more than enough unless you do frequent big file / 4gb file transfers or more then it helps to have more or vidoe editing otherwise 2gb is perfect.

Hard drive:
Pro's / con's:

7200rpm is faster and makes a huge difference to any OS on it but uses more power on the battery and from the power supply.
1amp instead of 0.5amp or less for 5400rpm
Best is to get a fast hard drive with reasonable or small size and get a cheaper bigger slower 5400rpm via USB and use as backup also the small laptop size ones , very light and portable.
Ideal size 120gb or 160gb 7200rpm , more space is just for mp3's or video files / iso's that you would want to have a backup of or on a backup device in any case.

Keyboard back-light:
Back-light keyboards is expensive or on the expensive laptops but nice for messing in the night with.

Mouse Pad:
Mouse pads is very important and Dell has done this very well as has Apple the rest is a pain especially on a HP laptop.
Dell you can play serious accuracy games / shooters with the mouse pad + good video card and nuke desktop 8800gtx quad core's but's.

Speakers:
Speakers who cares get external ones and or earphones as this is what and how you end up using them , very seldom the actual speakers on the laptop.
Harman Kardon Soundsticks II gave me lots of pleasure and would buy them again but has to be positioned correctly for best sound + equalizer.

Networking:
Most of what is inbuild is okay and works with SL , wireless some works better = netter designed and or we have spend more time fixing bug's on it so get a familiar wifi card.
Same goes for 3G/UMTS/HSDPA data usb or inbuild the more you see it the likelyhood of more support and less bugs is higher possibility. Drivers is there and works just the gui and other stuff needs to get back to the future.

Video Card:
The most important thing for me is the video card.
I bought the E1705 or E1720 and installed a decent XPS / "same thing with ugly outside's" video card into mine and it runs like it should.

The 17" laptops has inter changeble video cards so you can buy cheap and change later or buy decent and enjoy where 15" or smaller you are limited to well Intel / ATI /Nvidia 8600 or less and all of them gives about a bit better than the Intel inbuild stuff or just a bit more to keep the receptionist happy when playing card games in windows.

Again Dell 17" / Alienware most models sizes or Sager has decent video cards.

What Video Card models to get ?
Depends on your budget and needs.
Alienware has 2x 8800gtx in SLI or Sager has 2x 9800gtx in SLI in a laptop.
The 6800 or 7800 or 8800 or 9800 of nvidia is the default cards especially the gtx models and the rest is overclocked or nock-off's of this with worse performance "period" same with ATI that is why they changed their labeling in the last 2 years to try and hide it.
The ?800 is default where ?600 is weaker and ?400 or ?200 is about intel inbuild or worse.
Example:
8900 = overclocked 8800
8800 = default
8600 is weaker
8400 = intel inbuild
You get the idea.
As far as I have read "ATI" does not have a ??? decent video card for laptops or not one I would bother to pay for. But you know me by now , full of issues LOL.

When will it brake or not ?
Basically in the first 3 months or 11th month something will go wrong or it will work period or at least on a Dell as your habits get into a groove and starts to be the same so no erratic something and all continues as is.
Screens get bad pixels eventually and become dimmer over time.
Hinges on screens is a bit of a pain as you get the floppy screen syndrome eventually.
Motherboards will die or last period.
Ram and hard rives will likely be most of your problems and windows viruses / norton if using windows LOL.

Dell has a decent fix it plan for most parts so does Apple.
Just remember the clown coming to fix it know less than you so do not give him a piece of cheese as he would want to feed the mouse pad LMAO yup it happens with Dell / Apple we come to fix it guy's , been thru 30 of them in 4 years with plenty computers.
This whole fix it process can leave you without a laptop / pc for upto 2 weeks or if lucky 3 days at minm. for call out fixes.

Necesity's for laptops:
Laptop bag that is padded be it on wheels like small suitecase or backpack as you would need to carry the fairly heavy / brick / power supply as well + a cable or 2 + external mouse if you please + some cd's and a backup usb hd or 2 so it all ends up at close to the desktop box weight alone or equivalent.
This is about avg. junk in most laptop bags and if not you wish you had + earphones of some sort.
A laptop cooling fan is very important will let your laptop last 4 times longer as heat is the worst problem on laptops / wear and tear from heat on motherboard.

PS> dead pixels is somehow related to funky video drivers or at least was on mine in windows and seems to have disappeared.
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Re: Notebook Shopping Tips

Postby WarraWarra » Fri Sep 26, 2008 20:47

Something I forgot.
Here in UK /EU you can get a gbp30.00 per month mobile broadband LMAO connection and get a free laptop same in EU , not sure what they are doing in the US.

So might want to get a free laptop with internet if here and spend money on a desktop or at least I would.
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Re: Notebook Shopping Tips

Postby chickpea » Sat Sep 27, 2008 0:51

Consider several items.

There are manufacturers out there that sell linux laptops. They are reputable companies that make excellent products. Although they may not be as price competitive as HP, etc.

HP for me has been nothing but trouble. Damn broadcom NIC.

Try a dell, they come with Ubuntu preinstalled so you know they are linux friendly. Although I have had mixed experiences with Dell hardware.
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Re: Notebook Shopping Tips

Postby lastkarrde » Sat Sep 27, 2008 9:40

Some midrange laptops ship with Nvidia's 8600 Mobile edition. I'd aim for that. I know first hand that it works.
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Re: Notebook Shopping Tips

Postby KelloggsFrosties » Sun Sep 28, 2008 10:03

Wow. Thanks for your hints. I think that will help me a lot. The more i am investigating and visiting shops, the more i fall in love with the XPS 1530. I am now quite sure that this will be the one :)
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