Laptops forum


Need help choosing/configuring a laptop. ~$1500 budget

by David_LaPierre / December 12, 2011 7:25 AM PST

So I'd like this laptop to be a good all-around solution. I'd like it to be portable, long battery, durable, and performing well for a wide range of high demand applications. I have a budget of $1500, but lower is better of course. Impossible goal, I know, but it is the standard to aim for.
Here is the setup I have right now. Please give any input as far as different configurations or different laptops entirely.

Dell XPS 15 - $1370

17.3" FHD (1080p) with 2.0MP HD Webcam
15" is the smallest I am likely to go. Smaller screen means longer battery life, increased portability, and likely easier resale. Larger screen means... larger screen, full keyboard. In the case of Dell, getting a 15" screen means a B+RG backlight which gives increased color gamut, but slightly lower max brightness. Also, the 17" version of the XPS has 2 hard drive bays. This has been one of the hardest things to decide on. Any input?
I don't care about the webcam.

i7-2640M 2.80 GHz with Turbo Boost 2.0 up to 3.50 GHz
I chose this CPU specifically because it is dual core and has a high operating frequency. From what I understand, there is little to be gained at this point from a quad core over a dual core, and in some cases a quad core processor is less able to run older software than a dual core with a higher frequency rating. Also, the TDP rating for this processor was 35W compared to the 45W of all other i7s. Is this a good choice?

6GB Shared Dual Channel DDR3 Memory
I will upgrade this to 8 GB myself. Cheaper than buying it from Dell.

NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 550M 1GB graphics with Optimus
Optimus should save my battery life. The only option on this laptop is an upgrade to a GT 555M. The 555M has 3GB of memory, but as can be seen here:
the specific configuration of the GT 555M used by Dell is "144 cores 590MHz (GF106), 192Bit DDR3". Not bad, but not the best possible, and I wonder how much of an advantage this has over the $150 less expensive 550M. I know this won't be a high end gaming machine either way, but I'd like it to be reasonable capable of playing the latest for a couple years to come. Also to consider is how much easier it will be to resell this laptop while being able to market 3GB over 1GB.

8X Tray Load CD/DVD Burner (Dual Layer DVD+/-R Drive)
I don't expect to use Bluray

JBL 2.1 Speakers with Waves Maxx Audio 3
I love the speakers on the XPS line. Has a little sub at the bottom which helps make it one of the best sounding laptops I've ever seen. I use a pair of Logitech UE 10's most of the time, but they isolate so well that it can be inconvenient to use them sometimes, and I don't want to carry around external speakers.

Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 and Bluetooth 3.0
WiFi capabilities are important, the 6230 seems to be much better than the standard adapters used. I don't use Bluetooth now, but I may in the future.

1.0TB 500GB 7.2k HDD x 2
2 Hard Drive bays. Doesn't support RAID, but still could be very useful. Eventually I will upgrade to a nice SSD (or 2), but I will not pay Dell's prices for them.

I think that is about everything. Thank you for the help everyone!

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All Answers

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Sadly, with all that the battery life and times are not good
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 12, 2011 7:32 AM PST

That is, batteries are mostly 300 cycle affairs with a 1 or 2 year lifespan if you use them.

And at 17 inches, this is mostly a desktop replacement with the 15 inch being more your run of the mill portable laptop.

I didn't read what this was used for or if you are over 40. Why I ask is 1080 displays even at 17 inches tend to be a subject of much discussion as the screen text does tend to get small.

And last we have the issue that most laptops last about four years. I spent about half that for a rather nice Samsung RC512 which wakes in about 4 seconds from a zero power sleep, and has many nice features such as a battery life extender since I keep it on AC all the time.

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Laptops and the i7
by TWB404 / December 12, 2011 8:27 AM PST

I would avoid any laptop with an i7 in it unless you plan on buying a cooler to go underneath it. They are pure heat generators and will cause an early failure right after the warranty runs out. If you plan on it being a house hold unit and not moved around much then a 17" is fine but if you plan on using it as a true laptop then you should consider the 15" systems.

Have you looked at any of the latest AMD APU units that out, for general video viewing and movies they are rating in the upper side of the reviews. Not bad at medium game play to.

I would recommend some of the ASUS units at Newegg if you want to take a look see at them. If your going to be upgrading your own ram you should be able to get one for under a thousand dollars. Most of your ASUS units come with 2 year warranty and the first year also has a drop warranty included.

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Prior to Sandy Bridge this was very true.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 12, 2011 8:30 AM PST
In reply to: Laptops and the i7

Today with the current crop of Sandy Bridge CPUs seem to have corrected this. The only time I find them to put out a lot of heat is when run CPU intensive work. Even the new i5 Sandy Bridge gets warm on these tasks.

GOOD POINT about a sub 1K buck with 2 year warranty.

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