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New laptop??

By cookiedude · 29 replies
Sep 17, 2007
  1. Hi all

    I am looking for a laptop as a second PC, something I can use for work if need be. I am a designer/visualiser so use a lot of 2d and 3d software so will need something capable of handling this. I believe I have narrowed my selection down to 3 possibles:

    Sony VAIO FZ - http://www.pcwb.com/catalogue/item/SONB0190
    Toshiba Satellite Pro A200 - http://www.pcwb.com/catalogue/item/A0226123
    Dell XPS M1330 - http://www1.euro.dell.com/content/products/productdetails.aspx/xpsnb_m1330?c=uk&cs=ukdhs1&l=en&s=dhs

    On specification and price I am leaning towards the Toshiba, but I'm not too sure how good their laptops are?? The dell appeals on portability and the Sony on looks and spec, though both are limited by having the 8400M graphics cards which may not be powerful enough. Any thoughts?

    My budget is £1000, I don't really want to go over this. If anybody has any other suggestions I would like to hear them.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    We work on all three of those in our shop. We strongly recommend you stay away from the Sony VAIO FZ. It will unreliable due to the cooling channel inadequacy.
    Toshiba Satellite is decent, but if it fails parts are hard to get, and warranty repairs take a long time. This computer is not in the same category as the Sony or the Dell. Lower quality video and screen. For good Toshiba, get the Tecra.
    The Dell XPS M1330 is a much better machine that either of the other two... but has some troubles in the VISTa version. If the graphics card is inadequate, get the better Dell. But I think you will be happy with the 8400M if you are not going to use it for gaming. It is fine for Photoshop.
    The IBM Thinkpad T-60 and T-61 have high resolutions with better video graphics... Much more rugged, but the price is higher.
  3. cookiedude

    cookiedude TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 157

    I use 3d studio max quite a lot so if the 8400M can't handle games it probably won't handle 3D visual work too well either.

    You say the Tosh has lower quality video, but the model I've been looking at has a better graphics card and a trubrite screen (which I've heard are v good) so I don't see how that can be. The specific model is the Satellite Pro A200GE-1F9. I know they do a number of different Satellite models so just want to confirm we're talking about the same one?

    The Tecra's seem to have much lower spec than this for more money, can you recommend a specific model with decent spec?
  4. cookiedude

    cookiedude TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 157

  5. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,425   +112

    Toughbook or SR7

    Thousand pounds could buy you a top end here in the states, but in the UK do they have HP/Compaq... Toshiba was excellent once, but have fallen.. DELL laptops are made by another company no better than ACER. Gateway are good but now ACER owns them IBM ThinkPads are gone to another company I've heard good and bad. I repair DELLs daily you never know what you'll end up with a DELL. The only one that really good buy very expensive is the Panasonic Toughbook http://www.panasonic.com/business/toughbook/toughbook-product-awards.asp

    These don't break down as much as the others do, and far better than anything DELL has right now..

    Next to a Panasonic would be Hypersonic http://www.hypersonic-pc.com/2001/systems-mobile.asp EQ7 800Mhz DDR2 1066Mhz FSB 4GB Ram Max and SR7 667Mhz DDR2 / 800Mhz FSB 4GB Ram Max model comes highly recommended. But don't know if you can get this in UK as the Panasonic is all over the world.
  6. cookiedude

    cookiedude TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 157

    Yeah can get HP/compaq over here, but I've not heard great things about them to be honest. The panasonic toughbook might be reliable but doesn't have the spec I need. Hypersonic look pretty good for value but doesn't seem to allow shipping to the UK, doesn't register when selected. Thanks for the info though.
  7. cookiedude

    cookiedude TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 157

    How easy is it to upgrade the graphics card in a laptop? Is there anywhere online that would allow me to view compatible graphics cards for specific laptop models?
  8. nickslick74

    nickslick74 TS Rookie Posts: 575

    In general, upgrading a laptops graphics is nearly impossible. Due to the mobo layout and the heat considerations, most "off the shelf" graphic cards won't fit or work. Some of the newer model laptops do use a PCIe slot for the card, but finding a card to upgrade to that will fit is difficult and expensive.

    You are better off find what you want in the laptop instead of getting a cheaper one and trying to upgrade the graphics card.

    Edit: I have found my own HP laptop to be very nice. Here is one I found at the same website you posted the Asus from: http://www.laptopsdirect.co.uk/Hewlett_Packard_Pavilion_dv9574ea_GT433EA/version-1.asp

    Nearly identical to the one I have, just newer graphics and more HDD space.
  9. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    We are pretty sure you will not like the Toshiba Satellite... What I recommend is that you see and handle all these laptops, becuase of the 3D Studio Max limitation. I like Toshiba, but I do not like their parts system or their long waits on warranty repairs.
    Only about 8 percent of laptops have a video graphics card you can reliably change.
    I would only consider the upper end Thinkpad, HP, upper end Gateway, and Dell XPS for what you seek. You will be disappointed by the Toshiba, methinks, and horribly disappointed by the Sony VAIO.
    When you look them over, on site, remember that high end graphics create a great deal of heat. So look for multiple cooling fans, and several cooling channels. If the laptop cannot move out the hot air, it will not last.
    Examine reviews on the video graphics LCD screen... the first thing to fail on Toshiba and other low priced modems, and the most expenisive to replace.
    Good luck. Please let us know what you decided upon, and how it works after a few months experience. That will be the biggest help to others.
  10. cookiedude

    cookiedude TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 157

    I really like the look of the HPs but I'm reluctant to go for a 17inch model as I need it to be fairly portable. Although I'm beginning to think the only way to get the spec I need is to sacrifice some portability. Do you carry your HP laptop around much?
  11. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    You can get Thinkpads in small medium and large screens with weights to match... The small ones have their optical drives in a separate base.
    Same with Dell Latitudes, and Certain Gateways.
    I don't remember seeing any light weight HP units... They are heavy, but the good ones are very good.
    Anybody who has carried a laptop across the Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, or Dallas airport soon finds ways to leave them home... but we find that a number of backpack carrying cases for laptops work wonderfully well, while reducing theft, and damage.
  12. cookiedude

    cookiedude TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 157

    Again, with regard to Thinkpads, Latitudes and Gateways, I can't seem to find any of them with the right spec. So i'm left with a choice, I either go for the more portable route or I go for performance. In which case I think it will have to be the Dell M1330 or the HP Pavillion dv9574ea.

    I can't believe how hard it is to pick a laptop!
  13. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,425   +112

    I have HP laptop I have no problems with it, but it does use AMD cpu which to me it the best value. I use to work and support Compaq which are not HP prior they had DIGITAL brand too. Compaq/HP are easy to fix if they need be parts are all over.. You need certain specs for your studio program. I did some digging for you with the hypersonic, but they don't ship to the UK. You need to http://www.ciao.co.uk/ and search for your part of the world for the specs you need. There is another laptop company that makes good solid laptops but I can't remember the name. Remember get 4GB of RAM DDR2 or DDR3 whichever you can get. Beef up the battery to 12 cells I've seen 14 cells but it depends. Don't get a DELL even the Workstation models M series I don't think there so hot and gives a lot of head aches to repair them. Follow the specs on hypersonic EQ7 in another brand.

    Check these specs out for HP with AMD..

    Gives you a start..
  14. cookiedude

    cookiedude TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 157

    Cheers for the info.

    Was all set on going for the top spec VAIO FZ (I know, you hate me for even considering it!), but had one last search of the net for laptops with appropriate spec and stumbled across a couple of ASUS models. Specifically the V1s and the new F8 (though i don't think the latter is available yet!) The V1 is a little more than I wanted to spend but want to get the most for my money.

    If anybody has any experience with the ASUS V1 or F8 then I'd like to know what you think? Alternatively I may stick with the VAIO FZ (sorry)!
  15. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    Perhaps you have been lucky with the Compaq laptops, but industry wide, they have the fifth highest complete failure rate... ahead of only eMachines, Alienware, Sony VAIO, and WinBook. Although there are parts available, some of their parts such as the DVD optical burner, lcd inverter, lcd screen are extremely expenisve.

    I do not hate you for considering the Sony VAIO. It is your money. They are just trouble prone, and once the warranty runs out, very expensive to fix... and the parts are impossible to get.

    If reliability and parts availability are concerns, consider only IBM Lenovo Thinkpads, followed by Gateway, Dell, and HP in the upper half of their price ranges... and perhaps the Toshiba Tecra and its new replacement.

    The ASUS V1 and FB have impressed some people thus far, but their parts availability remains a question. ASUS does NOT make that laptop. It is made for them. Nobody knows if ASUS will stick with this new laptop venture. Laptop competition is very strong, and the cost of supporting a new laptop venture is very high. Certainly, it is a better choice than the Sony VAIO, Compaq Presario, eMachine, WinBook, and Alienware.
  16. cookiedude

    cookiedude TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 157

    The main reason I am considering the VAIO is the spec and price are the closest match to my needs, I understand your concerns on the reliability issues though. However i have read mixed reports on this - some good, some bad - and friends of mine have owned them without issue, one for 4 yrs and still going strong.

    I appreciate your input though, and i understand why you have suggested those other makes but i simply can't find any with good enough spec. I don't know if specification differs over here to that of America??

    So ASUS look like they might be pulling out of the laptop market? that could make future support a problem!
  17. halo71

    halo71 TS Rookie Posts: 1,090

    Cookiedude.....none of the Dell XPS models suit your needs? As already said, I would stay away from the VAIO and Satellite models!
  18. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    As you do your scrolling through reviews, always check to see how performance matches specs. Some are a bit to proud of what their marketing people prepare.
    If you have not tested your choices with a hands-on evaluation of every machine, I urge you do do so. If reliability and long life mean anything, look at cooling channels and configuration carefully.

    Clearly I am not going to talk you out of the Sony VAIO at this point... and I am only concerned about reliability and service after the fact. I have always been a strong supporter of Sony electronics, particularly their monitors and miniature tape systems. But I am outraged at what I see from Sony service and tech support of computers... a totally separate part of the huge Sony organization.
    After what we see in our shops, we could never recommend Sony, eMachines, or Alienware. But Sony sells an enormous number of laptops... so wonderful when new.
    Good luck to you. When you have had that Sony for two years, please get back to us with your evaluation. If you ever have tech support or warranty service, let us know how they do. It is possible that they have changed.
  19. cookiedude

    cookiedude TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 157

    None of the XPS models quite match my needs! The M1330 doesn't have the graphical power and the other 2 are too big!

    I have now decided against the VAIO FZ, having read a review it would seem it isn't up to much in terms of 3D performance so would be useless for me (shame, coz i really like the look and feel of it)! So now I am no closer to choosing, though I do have another shortlist :)

    Acer Aspire 5920 - though the styling and weight put me off a bit.
    ASUS V1S
    Samsung X65 - http://www.cclonline.com/product-in...y_id=360&manufacturer_id=0&tid=np-x65t000/suk

    Sorry I keep changing my mind, it must be getting really annoying, I just have a particular spec (look, performance and size) in mind and I just can't find anything I'm 100% happy with!

    Are there any new models due out soon that I should take a look at?
  20. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,425   +112

    Acer has been around for years but the build quailty isn't the same when it comes to hardware. You need to go to http://www.notebookreview.com/ and do some research on what you want. Raybay and me can go at it all day about which he and I think are better and why. His and my experience in repair of these devices won't be the same. I would still buy another compaq or hp and which would compaq V6000 series with AMD X2 T X64 120GB SATA, 1GB of DDR2 an etc.. I don't care for VISTA Business but since I got resources and take the care that. If you want Sony brand or Acer go to that site above and see how others fair it before you lay down british pounds.

    Just don't buy a DELL, they overheat, heavy, slow all type of odd problems with them. Everyone here will tell you the same where I am at.. Crap!
  21. cookiedude

    cookiedude TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 157

    Well I went for the samsung x65, which arrived this morning from laptops direct. haven't had chance to use it yet but i've had it out of the box and it looks and feels really nice. if anybody has any questions about it let me kno.

    cheers for all the advice.
  22. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    Good news. Not many have experience with Samsung laptops. Perhaps you could find the time to give us a report after a month, then again after a year.
  23. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,425   +112

    Samsung laptop, oh boy! Good luck with it... Yes by all means tells us both how it goes with it..
  24. cookiedude

    cookiedude TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 157

    Quick update:

    Had chance to run 3dmark 06 last night and was pleasantly surprised, got a score nearly double that of my home PC! So far so good.

    Cooling seems more than adequate but time will tell on this front, will try some demanding apps and see how it copes. I got a 3 yr warranty bundled with the price of the laptop so if anything does go wrong at least I can get it fixed!

    I am a little disappointed by the screen. It is clear and bright when viewed at the right angle, but it is not a glossy screen (which I prefer) so viewing off angle can look a bit washed out.

    It seems quite solidly made, the keyboard feels nice and responsive in use, but I don't like the positioning of the dvd drive as it gets in the way when I pick up the laptop.

    I will give further updates as I use it more. If you have any specific questions please ask.
  25. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    You got a deal by getting that three-year warranty.
    A suggestion: laptop cooling systems fill up with dust and fiber. Keep it cleaned with canned air such as dust off. Do not use a vacuum, or compressed air that does not have a compound such as difluoroethane gas, as various devices will create static electricity.
    We suggest you clean out the fan and cooling channels every six to nine months... more often if you have a dog or a cat.
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