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Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

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Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby Kuripari » Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:17 pm

So I've read through alot of the threads here vetting new builds. I got some good info, but I was hoping someone might have some more information to help me out.

Currently I own a macbook (that's dying again, needs a new battery and charger cable) It's an old intel macbook one of the first models, and a desktop iMac with an intel Core2 Duo.

It's definitely time to upgrade. With my current situation still needing a laptop for classes, and most of the schools I'm looking at for graduate work requiring a laptop, and since I can't afford both, I figure the best thing to do is buy a laptop.

I do game, so it'd be great if it was capable of handling it well, and would hopefully be good enough to last atleast a few years. I also need to purchase a small desktop for my mom while I'm searching, she needs a more basic system, but upgradeable is desired. I was thinking MicroATX size for her, though open to suggestions.

So I've been trying to read reviews of computers and hardware for about 2 weeks now, and having a really tough time sorting out what's really needed. I guess I've been a mac user so long, I rather lost touch with most of it. There is an incredibly overwhelming amount of information on the net, and I'm not sure I even really understand all of it anymore.

I was looking at the Alienware, though I really get the impression I'm spending out the rear for the name and a pretty box, that would probably leave a Dell for mom. I have looked at Dell laptops but generally the graphics cards don't seem too great.

So can anyone help me get a better idea, on what sort of numbers I really need to be looking at? Is an Intel I5 gonna be capable enough, I'm guessing 8G RAM. I see Nvidia for graphics cards.. which direction should I look there? 550M, 570M? I would think a higher number means better card, but from the reviews it isn't seeming like that's actually the case.

I've also looked at Cyberpower, iBuypower, and Asus in the end I'm hoping for something around the $1000 to $1500 range for the laptop.

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby Shyrtandros » Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:30 pm

I would say you should probably write up a small list for each intended computers use.

Example: Desktop.
Web surfing, facebook, flash games, pong ect.

Laptop
For the laptop it would be best to have a list of exactly what you need ( and want) it to do.

By gaming are you playing Wolfenstein / Sims or Crysis 2 / Battlefield 3?

School work are you needing just basic writing papers or making video presentations ect ect.Any specific preferences you're wanting could really help.

As you've probably read I just worked on buying my own desktop and I can tell you that I put A LOT of research into I5 vs 7 & 9 and I know it'll handle any games out right now if paired with a capable card.(not all of them on high settings though.)

If you're JUST a WoW gamer then get the I3 and still EAT extra FPS for breakfast.. ;) lol
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby gibborim » Wed Feb 15, 2012 3:23 pm

They require a Windows laptop? While I do have a general distaste for Apple computing products, laptops are the one place Apple shines as a competitor in the market.

How soon do you need the laptop? Right now, Summer, Fall or Spring term? What is your grad work in? (ie, just need it to durdle around on while working on your English Masters, or need it to run srsbsns math/engineering software)

The big thing is how long you can put off buying the hardware. The next generation of Intel chips is coming out shortly and should be a good performance boost while significantly reducing how much power is needed. It may take a little while for that to propagate into the Laptop markets though.
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby Kuripari » Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:52 am

Good point. I'm not in a major hurry, though the current dying laptop may boost things along if something decides to give out. I've already replaced insides once or twice now, and I'm not really interested in doing it again. Ivy bridge is set to hit in April'ish, from what I've been reading. It's supposed to be a big increase, but a lot of that increase come from an improvement to the on board graphics processor. If I'm using a graphics card with it, will I end up seeing much improvement out of the chipset over Sandy Bridge?

As far as requirements I don't think that school will have very high tech requirements, its med school. I will need to be able to do the anatomy software they give me, but I won't be crunching for high end math analysis or anything like that. The most intense I might do is some stats plus for research analysis. I did see your post Shyr, and followed it closely. I have read about the Intel chips a bit. I seem to get the impression that the 2500k is still a very good chip that can handle most applications. That's the one you got, so that's what I assume you mean, when you say you know it can handle the games.

I do like more intense gaming, I like FPS, and am looking forward to some of the new releases this year. I can also handle not being able to squeeze out cutting edge FPS at ultimate graphics settings, though it'd be bummer to have to go low on a new comp. I'm thinking it's probably ideal to put a SSD drive in the laptop, I do have an external Sata drive I can use for storage.

I've since found two webpages that I'm reviewing...

http://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-Pro ... 436.0.html
http://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-Gra ... 844.0.html

The downside to laptops is that I can't really build something, I'm more or less stuck with what someone else decides to put together. For instance I'd settle with a little weaker processor if I had a stronger video card, but a big video card = big processor. There really isn't a whole lot of balance back and forth.

I'm putting together a list of models I see, along with compared stats, so I can set them side by side... I guess I didn't need that much advice after all :p Though, if anyone has experience with particular manufacturers that knowledge would be useful. Reading web reviews can be hazardous to your health. I'm looking at some models by Sager, the iBuypower Battalion, and some Asus models. I did consider MSI but overall through newegg and amazon, they seem to get really bad reviews consistently.

Thanks for the responses, I'll keep digging for now, and see if I can find out anything else about Ivy Bridge.

P.S. they don't require a windows PC, but as a long mac user, I've had a little bit of trouble with compatibility with those around me, and requirements for things like games not really working as well. Plus I figured I could get more for my money by going PC. Though I've not been super excited about very many PC laptops I've seen.
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby Flex » Thu Feb 16, 2012 3:12 pm

Grab a Windows 7 Pro OEM, get the best MacBook Pro you can afford and set up a bootcamp partition. I do that on my rather old iMac without much issue.
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby Gab » Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:00 pm

Kuripari wrote:I was looking at the Alienware, though I really get the impression I'm spending out the rear for the name and a pretty box, that would probably leave a Dell for mom. I have looked at Dell laptops but generally the graphics cards don't seem too great.


So what you're saying is you want a Dell for you and for your mom? I wouldn't go with an Alienware, Dell acquired Alienware back in 2006 iirc and Alienware has gone downhill ever since.

Kuripari wrote:So can anyone help me get a better idea, on what sort of numbers I really need to be looking at? Is an Intel I5 gonna be capable enough, I'm guessing 8G RAM. I see Nvidia for graphics cards.. which direction should I look there? 550M, 570M? I would think a higher number means better card, but from the reviews it isn't seeming like that's actually the case.


An i5 will be plenty for years to come I imagine, especially with the overclocking capabilities (on desktops anyway, not sure about the mobiles). Although Gibborim has a valid point that new chips are releasing soon and should be more efficient on your battery, they should also drop the price of the current gen chips though. 8GB of RAM is also plenty considering 32 bit OS don't even recognize more than 4 GB and most everything is still being run as 32 bit. You really don't get a large visible boost in performance from going from 4GB to 8GB but RAM is so cheap these days that why wouldn't you?

As far as video cards are concerned, most everything I have seen indicates Radeon cards are more bang for your buck at nearly every price point than Nvidia cards. That's for desktop cards though, so might not be completely relevant to mobile cards.



Flex wrote:Grab a Windows 7 Pro OEM, get the best MacBook Pro you can afford and set up a bootcamp partition. I do that on my rather old iMac without much issue.


Trolling? Or he could just buy a better PC for half the price and not have to worry about it (slight exageration, but yeah...)?
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby gibborim » Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:15 pm

Flex wrote:Grab a Windows 7 Pro OEM, get the best MacBook Pro you can afford and set up a bootcamp partition. I do that on my rather old iMac without much issue.


Ah yes, we could eliminate the competitiveness of Apple's laptop lineup by slapping on an extra $130.
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby Talaii » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:05 pm

Gab wrote:An i5 will be plenty for years to come I imagine, especially with the overclocking capabilities (on desktops anyway, not sure about the mobiles). Although Gibborim has a valid point that new chips are releasing soon and should be more efficient on your battery, they should also drop the price of the current gen chips though. 8GB of RAM is also plenty considering 32 bit OS don't even recognize more than 4 GB and most everything is still being run as 32 bit. You really don't get a large visible boost in performance from going from 4GB to 8GB but RAM is so cheap these days that why wouldn't you?

As far as video cards are concerned, most everything I have seen indicates Radeon cards are more bang for your buck at nearly every price point than Nvidia cards. That's for desktop cards though, so might not be completely relevant to mobile cards.


For the desktop chips:
An i3 is a dual-core chip with hyperthreading (2 cores/4 threads), without turbo boost.
An i5 is a quad-core chip without hyperthreading (4 cores/4 threads), with turbo boost.
An i7 is a quad-core chip with hyperthreading (socket 1155) (4 cores/8threads) with turbo boost.
Here, there is little advantage going from an i5 to an i7, at least for gaming. The -k chips (2500k, 2600k, 2700k) let you overclock, with the right chipset of motherboard.

For the laptop chips:
Everything has hyperthreading
An i3 is a dual-core chip without turbo boost (2 cores/4threads)
An i5 is a dual-core chip with turbo boost (2 cores/4 threads). Turbo boost can make a big difference here, because it allows it to run MUCH faster for a (potentially) limited time.
Some i7s are dual-core chips, some are quad-core. The quad-cores generally use more power, but are much more powerful chips. The dual-cores are identical to the i5s, with a slight clock speed bump.
There is no overclocking potential - neither the chipset used, nor the chips themselves, allow it.

Spending more to get an i5 mobile chip is almost always worth it (for Sandy bridge, anyway). Don't bother with an upgrade to a dual-core i7, it's a bunch of extra money for an extra 100-200MHz, usually. An upgrade to a quad-core variant, however, is usually worth it. Looks like a "Q" in the model number (for example, i7-2670QM vs i7-2677M) indicates a quad-core. Since the quad-cores use more power (45W rather than 17W or 35W), they are usually only found in larger laptops, but you'll need a larger laptop for a decent video card, too.

As far as video cards in a laptop go; which video card you need depends largely on the screen resolution. You'll need a much better video card to power a 1080p display than you would for your more typical 1366x768 laptop panel. I can't offer any specific advice; but anandtech's bench has a decent list of laptops with performance numbers. Look here.

Finally, the problem with a gaming laptop. Good processors, and good video cards, generate a lot of heat. In order to keep them cool, the laptop generally needs to be quite large/heavy/thick, which makes it a lot less portable. Fortunately, almost everything now can turn itself off/slow itself right down when not being used, so battery life isn't as terrible as it used to be for this class of machines, but if it's big and powerful, it'll be big and heavy too. Personally, I'd much prefer a decentish smaller laptop (maybe not quite an ultrabook, but something small with an i5 and integrated graphics) and a desktop for gaming sitting at home, than try and get one machine that can do both. It does depend on your usage model for the laptop, but a big gaming laptop will basically require setting up on a desk to use anyway, and you'll need to be connected to power to even think about gaming on it. Desktops are cheap, smallish laptops with good battery life are fairly cheap; gaming laptops are big and expensive, and generally the worst of both worlds.
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby Era » Fri Feb 17, 2012 5:18 am

I have an Alienware M17x laptop, and while it looks sweet and now runs (almost) fine, I have to admit it really wasn't worth the money. It's been in for service 5 times in a year, generally makes a lot of noise, prone to overheating, and at first you think you won't mind the weight, but after six months you really do. :P

That's the big M17x though, the M15x might be a bit more forgiving. But yeah, after spending a lot of money on a gaming laptop, I would have to advice against doing it. From my point of view, it's just not worth it. Buy something that can run a game decently for those "away from home abstinence" moments, but don't blow a lot of cash on a gaming laptop.
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby gibborim » Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:29 am

The base price on the alienware models isn't too bad, but they charge you 2-3 times as much as they should for addons/expansions.

I'm sure you probably don't want to be the guy who shows up with an alienware laptop to some grad level cadaver lab.
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby gibborim » Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:32 am

Kuripari wrote:If I'm using a graphics card with it, will I end up seeing much improvement out of the chipset over Sandy Bridge?


They are introducing a significant improvement to transistor design along with shrinking transistor size. I would expect significant improvement over Sandy Bridge.
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby Shyrtandros » Fri Feb 17, 2012 9:55 am

gibborim wrote:The base price on the alienware models isn't too bad, but they charge you 2-3 times as much as they should for addons/expansions.

I'm sure you probably don't want to be the guy who shows up with an alienware laptop to some grad level cadaver lab.


I find this annoying.. I have heard too many times about people who will buy a second laptop or won't take theirs to school because of the way they will(or assume they will) be treated for having a gaming laptop..

A quote from a guildy "I'm buying a cheap dell laptop for business school because it would look bad if I showed up with my $2000 Alienware."

I guess I'm biased as a "gamer for life" but even the business part of me can think logically that a personal computer isn't only used for school.. also any gaming rig will be capable of handling almost ANY school related programs ect ect.

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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby Shyrtandros » Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:03 am

I will add one thing that (most) people agree with.

Alienware is to gaming laptops just as Harley is to Motorcycles

50% of the price is in the name™ and lesser famous manufacturers make equal or better products for up to 50% less.
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby Flex » Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:41 am

Gab wrote:
Flex wrote:Grab a Windows 7 Pro OEM, get the best MacBook Pro you can afford and set up a bootcamp partition. I do that on my rather old iMac without much issue.


Trolling? Or he could just buy a better PC for half the price and not have to worry about it (slight exageration, but yeah...)?


Not at all
Though I've not been super excited about very many PC laptops I've seen.


Just the trackpad experience alone makes an Apple laptop better than any Windows laptop I've used.
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Re: Moving from Apple back to PC Laptop

Postby Kuripari » Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:41 pm

I've always liked apples service. They've to date done thousands in service for free. (atleast thousands according to their estimations) and rarely has the computer in question been in warranty. They just fix things and take care of them. However, lately I've been spending more and more time bootcamped, and just wondering what's the point, if I'm in windows all the time anyways. It's a great computer when I'm running OSX, but its an expensive windows box. Especially, when there's a bug that causes windows 7 to really suck at battery management on it.

As far as Alienware, I know its money for a name. It's one of the few brands I solidly remembered from before. Though really it's in the bottom of my differential, and really is there more as a baseline to compare to.

And thanks Talaii, I didn't realize the bit about most laptop chips being dual-core not quad. I had assumed as on desktop models the i5's and i7's were quad.

Overall, I think Shyrt's new desktop system was $700 or so... I guess it might be worth looking at the possibility of building a desktop, if I can do it for roughly around that price, and focusing on portability for a school PC. The downside is I don't have old components to carry over (a DVD etc) Though I think those are $20 or so these days?

I might go do some research on that route, and come back when I've assembled a system to make sure it'll all stick together and boot up :D
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