I need a high performance laptop

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iop
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I need a high performance laptop

Postby iop » Mon Mar 02, 2009 11:13 pm UTC

My work consists in part of doing image analysis using Matlab, and of (hopefully, as soon as we get a floating license) visualizing the images with programs like Imaris. Since the image files are 5-10GB each, I'd like a computer with as much RAM as possible, so that I can load at least part of the data into memory while I develop my algorithms.

Since I want to be able to work both at my desk at the Uni and at my desk at home (I carry the laptop to and from work every day), I am looking for a laptop that won't break my back - and yes, I am aware that I am going to pay a lot of $/power (I have, however, had very good experiences with expensive laptops so far; for example the Acer I got in 2002 with 1GB of RAM still runs fine, though I expect the HD to fail in the not too soon future).
I am looking for a 15'' laptop with lots of RAM. I want a decent graphics card and CPU, but I'm willing to compromise in exchange for a bit longer battery life (the laptop is going to be plugged in most of the time, but it would be nice if it was at least a little mobile).

I have been looking around for a bit, and I found a laptop that may be what I'm looking for with a reasonable price tag of ~4000CAD.

Eurocom M860TU Montebello

1680x1050 15.4"
512MB GDDR3 Nvidia GeForce Go 9600M GT
2.53GHz P9500 Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile
8GB; 2x 4GB; DDR3-1066; PC-8500
500GB; G-Force Protection; SATA-300 NCQ; 7,200rpm;
Intel WiFi Link 5300 abgn

What do you think about this configuration? Is there another place where I get the same for much less? Is there something I am totally missing that would either boost performance or battery life?
Also, I am thinking about getting XP64 for this laptop, since that is what I've been using so far, and since Vista supposedly needs much more resources. Is that sensible, or is Vista worth the time and system resources?

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby stephentyrone » Tue Mar 03, 2009 2:06 am UTC

Disclaimer: I work for Apple in the OS Group.

A 17" macbook pro is lighter, has a larger and higher resolution screen, a faster CPU, the same GPU, and supports 8gb of ram. I suspect it will get better battery life, as well. I *think* the base model sells for $3k canadian, which would leave plenty left over for DIY ram upgrade + windows install disk.

I'm sure others can find better deals as well. $4k seems expensive to me.
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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby niteice » Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:53 am UTC

On that note, Matlab runs on OS X. Imaris may as well, their website and Wikipedia aren't clear.

However, XP64 is apparently unsupported by Boot Camp if you choose to go that route. I haven't actually tried it but that's what I'm told, and I don't know about manufacturer driver availability.
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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby MoonBuggy » Tue Mar 03, 2009 10:53 am UTC

Apple actually do pretty well on price at the high end. Since you're at university, you should also be able to get an education discount on the Apple, brining it down to $2800; just don't buy the RAM upgrade from them, as always, it's more than double the price it should be. Allow $600 as a (rather generous) estimate for the memory upgrade, if you really need it now; that said, I'd spend an extra $280 on the processor upgrade from Apple if I were you, and stick with the bundled 4GB of RAM for six months or so, until 4GB sticks become a bit more commonplace and the price drops - the markup on them is still fairly disproportionate.

Dell do a similar machine for a few hundred dollars less, and they'll also do the RAM upgrade at a reasonable price, but the LCD and equivalent processor push the price up into more or less the same territory, if you need them. Either way, I'd expect a nicer machine for $3000-3500 than the one you mentioned at $4k, which can only be a good thing, really :)
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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby iop » Tue Mar 03, 2009 2:56 pm UTC

I hadn't actually thought of buying a MacBook, so thanks for the suggestion. I'd still need to install Windows on it, since even though Matlab runs on Mac, there is no COM interface on Mac. Do you guys know by chance whether you need two licenses of MS office if you install it both in Windows and in OSX?

4kCAD is for the computer with extras such as an additional battery, as well as taxes and shipping. I really have not been able to find something equivalent for less on the PC side, but then again I may just not have been looking in the right places.
Speaking of not knowing where to look: If I want to buy the RAM myself, where is a good place to shop? A quick search only turned up places that sell it for 1000$, which is what I'd pay Apple.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby Axman » Tue Mar 03, 2009 3:24 pm UTC

You gotta check out Newegg.ca. The most expensive of these laptops that meet or exceed your requirements is CAD$2375.

Don't worry about Vista, it's much better about resource management than XP and usually just as fast or faster. The only exception to this is if you're on a computer that doesn't actually meet Vista's minimum requirements.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby iop » Tue Mar 03, 2009 5:10 pm UTC

Axman wrote:You gotta check out Newegg.ca. The most expensive of these laptops that meet or exceed your requirements is CAD$2375.

Don't worry about Vista, it's much better about resource management than XP and usually just as fast or faster. The only exception to this is if you're on a computer that doesn't actually meet Vista's minimum requirements.


Thanks for the tip on Vista.

Actually, when I configure the Eurocom laptop to the same specs as the Asus ones, I come out with about the same price. What makes my configuration more expensive is that I want 8GB of RAM (which really is expensive indeed) and that some of the other components consume less power (that is why it is good to have DDR3 vs DDR2, right?). Also, it looks like ASUS comes with non-64-bit Vista, which is not quite optimal.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby Mach1ne » Tue Mar 03, 2009 5:24 pm UTC

Check out cyberpowerpc.com for customization (sometimes they have nice deals) but their customer service is shitty. If you ever need drivers, you're better off surfing the web than going to them

EDITED: (newegg is good too :D )

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Obilgatory Why not just do Y? post.

Postby phillipsjk » Tue Mar 03, 2009 9:37 pm UTC

I suggest you get more bang for your buck by buying a desktop, and leaving it in the Office.

If you buy the "pro" version of Windows XP (not sure about what version of Vista) you get Remote Desktop functionality bundled for free.

If the visualizations are not happening in real-time, the low bandwidth of the connection should not be a major problem.

The Remote Desktop Client can be run from a Windows 98 (or later) machine, but may not support some of the newer features.

Pro: You can have the computer work while you travel.
Con: You may need to talk to the admin about firewall piercing.
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Re: Obilgatory Why not just do Y? post.

Postby Mach1ne » Tue Mar 03, 2009 10:22 pm UTC

phillipsjk wrote:I suggest you get more bang for your buck by buying a desktop, and leaving it in the Office.

If you buy the "pro" version of Windows XP (not sure about what version of Vista) you get Remote Desktop functionality bundled for free.

If the visualizations are not happening in real-time, the low bandwidth of the connection should not be a major problem.

The Remote Desktop Client can be run from a Windows 98 (or later) machine, but may not support some of the newer features.

Pro: You can have the computer work while you travel.
Con: You may need to talk to the admin about firewall piercing.


I agree about the desktop, but then again I was never huge on laptops. I just find desktops much more comfortable.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby b.i.o » Thu Mar 05, 2009 7:08 am UTC

iop wrote:Thanks for the tip on Vista.

Actually, when I configure the Eurocom laptop to the same specs as the Asus ones, I come out with about the same price. What makes my configuration more expensive is that I want 8GB of RAM (which really is expensive indeed)

Then they're overcharging the hell out of you for it.

and that some of the other components consume less power (that is why it is good to have DDR3 vs DDR2, right?). Also, it looks like ASUS comes with non-64-bit Vista, which is not quite optimal.

The difference between DDR3 and 2 power consumption is maybe a few minutes off of your battery. If you're buying a laptop like this battery life should not be something you're expecting a lot of.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby iop » Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:18 pm UTC

b.i.o wrote:Then they're overcharging the hell out of you for it.

Unless you know of a secret place that sells 2x4GB of RAM for laptops for really cheap, I wouldn't say they're overcharging. The markup relative to 4GB is about 800$, which corresponds well with what I see generally in places where they sell RAM. Having said that, I guess I really should wait for RAM prices to drop. 8GB of RAM would make my life easier, but with 4GB I can still work.

b.i.o wrote:The difference between DDR3 and 2 power consumption is maybe a few minutes off of your battery.

Thanks, I didn't know that the difference would be so small. I know I am getting a powerful machine, but I'd like to be able to get at least 2hrs of work done before the battery runs out.

phillipsjk wrote:I suggest you get more bang for your buck by buying a desktop, and leaving it in the Office.

I do not want to get a desktop for two reasons. One is psychological: If it's mine, I do not want it to permanently live in the lab. The other reason is practical: Remote desktop is simply too slow for what I want to do.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby Axman » Thu Mar 05, 2009 8:02 pm UTC

Why don't you start with a 4GB laptop, see if it works, if not, buy a replacement 4GB stick, upgrade to six, see if that works, if not, upgrade to eight. The way Intel's north bridges work, they no longer need matching banks of RAM to operate in dual-channel.

I suspect you won't see much or any improvement at six GB, no matter what you're doing, given that a non-workstation will have other bottlenecks.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby iop » Thu Mar 05, 2009 9:47 pm UTC

Axman wrote:I suspect you won't see much or any improvement at six GB, no matter what you're doing, given that a non-workstation will have other bottlenecks.

For me, the advantage of lots of RAM is to be able to keep large amounts of data in RAM without needing to keep reading from/writing to disk all the time. I hope I am correct in that for this particular use, the amount of RAM available is the only thing that matters.

I keep looking at the MacBook. Light, large, possibly decent battery life... it does sound like it may be nice to work with.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby GuitarFreak » Thu Mar 05, 2009 11:14 pm UTC

Sager notebooks is a great place to look. Here's two very high end laptops

- Display: 17" Wide Viewing Angles WUXGA LCD with Super Glossy Surface (1920 x 1200)[+$95.00]
- Processor: Intel® Core™ 2 Quad Processor Q9650 / 12MB L2 Cache, 3.0GHz, 1333MHz FSB[+$150.00]
- Video & Graphics Card: Single Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTX Graphics with 1GB DDR3 Video Memory
- Operating System: Genuine MS Windows® VISTA Home Premium 32/64-Bit Edition
- Memory: 4GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz - 2 X 2048MB[+$45.00]
- RAID Storage Options: RAID-0 Storage ( Data Strip - Requires 2nd Hard Disk Drive or both 2nd & 3rd Hard Disk Drives )
- Primary Hard Disk Drive: 500GB 5400rpm SATA 300 Hard Drive[+$70.00]
- 2nd Hard Disk Drive: 500GB 5400rpm SATA 300 Secondary Hard Drive in RAID configuration[+$125.00]
- Optical Drive: 8X DVD±R/RW/4X +DL Super-Multi Drive & Software
- Wireless Network Card: Intel Wi-Fi Link 5300AGN - 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN Module
- Bluetooth: Internal Bluetooth Module
- Primary Battery: Smart Li-ION Battery Pack
- Microsoft Office: Microsoft Office Ready with Free 60-Day Trial
- Warranty: Sager 1 Year Limited Parts and Labor Warranty with Three-Day Shipping Both Ways Paid
- Carrying Bag: Standard Carrying Bag

$2,884

- Chassis Color: Orange Trim
- Display: 17" Wide Viewing Angles WUXGA LCD with Super Glossy Surface (1920 x 1200)[+$95.00]
- Processor: 45nm Intel® Core™ 2 Quad Processor Q9100 / 12MB L2 Cache, 2.26GHz, 1066MHz FSB[+$710.00]
- Video & Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 280M Graphics with 1GB DDR3 Video Memory
- Operating System: Genuine MS Windows® VISTA Home Premium 32/64-Bit Edition
- Memory: 4GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz - 2 X 2048MB[+$50.00]
- Primary Hard Disk Drive: 500GB 5400rpm SATA 300 Hard Drive[+$70.00]
- Optical Drive: 8X DVD±R/RW/4X +DL Super-Multi Drive & Software
- Wireless Network Card: Intel Wi-Fi Link 5300AGN - 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN Module
- Bluetooth: Internal Bluetooth V2.0 + EDR Module
- Primary Battery: Smart Li-ION Battery Pack
- Integrated Security Device: Fingerprint Reader
- Microsoft Office: Microsoft Office Ready with Free 60-Day Trial
- Warranty: Sager 1 Year Limited Parts and Labor Warranty with Three-Day Shipping Both Ways Paid
- Carrying Bag: Standard Carrying Bag

$2,724

If you need the graphics power, I'd go for the second one. If you need CPU power over graphics, then go with the first one. It also has more hard drive space.

www.sagernotebook.com

Also, you could wait a bit and get this:

http://www.anandtech.com/weblog/showpost.aspx?i=578

Core i7, dual GTX 280M, 12GB RAM, up to 1.5TB hdd space. Quite an impressive machine. Although it will most likely cost well over $3000.
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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby Axman » Fri Mar 06, 2009 1:56 am UTC

iop wrote:For me, the advantage of lots of RAM is to be able to keep large amounts of data in RAM without needing to keep reading from/writing to disk all the time. I hope I am correct in that for this particular use, the amount of RAM available is the only thing that matters.

Well, you're not right, this is not how Windows operates. Or even Linux without twerking it. Or OS X.

If memory serves... Also, I've done some similar tests and found similar truths.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby stephentyrone » Fri Mar 06, 2009 2:30 am UTC

Axman wrote:If memory serves... Also, I've done some similar tests and found similar truths.


That most relevant test in that link is testing performance of an app that can only address 2GB of memory on a system that has 2/4/8GB of memory. Of course it's not going to see a huge improvement in performance of the app under test. The OP is talking about a 64 bit process that isn't subject to the same limitation.

That isn't to say that the OS will keep the entire image into RAM necessarily, just that those tests are pretty much meaningless in addressing the question at hand.
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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby Axman » Fri Mar 06, 2009 2:54 am UTC

stephentyrone wrote:That isn't to say that the OS will keep the entire image into RAM necessarily, just that those tests are pretty much meaningless in addressing the question at hand.

Which is partly why I think it's best to start with 4GB to see if it even hits 100%, although I am not inclined to believe that. Buying factory memory upgrades is just a ridiculous expense in addition.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby mosc » Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:33 pm UTC

Also memory gets cheaper every day. You can buy it later when you install newer software that really needs it.

I'd point out the absurdity of a decent GPU in a laptop though. You certainly aren't going to get 2 hours of gaming out of the battery and you've forked over about $1000 for that supposed benefit. More than enough to cover a much faster desktop AS WELL as a laptop.
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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby iop » Fri Mar 06, 2009 8:33 pm UTC

Axman wrote:Well, you're not right, this is not how Windows operates.

Axman wrote:I think it's best to start with 4GB to see if it even hits 100%, although I am not inclined to believe that. Buying factory memory upgrades is just a ridiculous expense in addition.


I just tested memory usage of Matlab on a WinXP64 desktop with 8GB of RAM. When I start creating arrays of 1000x1000x10 (comes out to about 800MB each), Matlab quickly creates the first nine arrays, increasing its memory usage to 7GB. On the tenth array, it starts paging, which is when everything starts getting sloooow. Thanks for the warning, I'm glad it doesn't apply to me.
As I mentioned, I agree that buying 2x4GB of RAM right now is a bit overly expensive - even though it would really be useful.

mosc wrote:I'd point out the absurdity of a decent GPU in a laptop though. You certainly aren't going to get 2 hours of gaming out of the battery and you've forked over about $1000 for that supposed benefit. More than enough to cover a much faster desktop AS WELL as a laptop.

In my case, the alternative to one laptop with decent GPU is to buy two desktops, one laptop, as well as buying a table and finding space in my apartment to place the desktop. Also, I would really like to have the time for gaming.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby mosc » Fri Mar 06, 2009 8:51 pm UTC

Shuttle boxes or other small footprint minis and flatscreens probably give a footprint not much larger than a laptop. It's not really a question of space. Also why is one machine replaced with 3?
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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby stephentyrone » Fri Mar 06, 2009 10:58 pm UTC

iop wrote:I just tested memory usage of Matlab on a WinXP64 desktop with 8GB of RAM. When I start creating arrays of 1000x1000x10 (comes out to about 800MB each), Matlab quickly creates the first nine arrays, increasing its memory usage to 7GB. On the tenth array, it starts paging, which is when everything starts getting sloooow. Thanks for the warning, I'm glad it doesn't apply to me.


Perfect (though I assume you mean 1000x1000x100 or some such; a 1000x1000x10 array of doubles -- what Matlab uses -- is only about 74MB)

mosc wrote:I'd point out the absurdity of a decent GPU in a laptop though. You certainly aren't going to get 2 hours of gaming out of the battery and you've forked over about $1000 for that supposed benefit. More than enough to cover a much faster desktop AS WELL as a laptop.


He's not buying it for gaming. He's buying it to do image analysis. While I agree that laptops are underpowered for the money vs. desktops, if you need a laptop, you need a laptop. I assume he knows what he needs (and doesn't want to be the loser who drags a shuttle/flatscreen into a cafe to work while he drinks his coffee, because really, who wants to be that guy?) There's a lot to be said for having everything on a machine that you can conveniently carry with you, and that you can work on for three or four hours before you need to find an outlet to plug it into. If you're a cafe-hopping grad student doing computational work, a good laptop is vastly more useful than a high-performance desktop and a cheapo. When you need to meet with your advisor tomorrow but your internet connection is out / you're coming back from a conference / whatever, you don't want to be in the situation that you need to remote desktop to some other machine to get your work done.
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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby Æshættr » Sat Mar 07, 2009 10:13 pm UTC

Asus has some really nice laptops in this range. Unfortunately, the one that may fit your needs best (the G71G-Q2) is, unfortunately, only on the U.S. newegg site, and doesn't specify what type of memory/how much can be put into the laptop (Asus doesn't even have that model on their website yet.) An HP DV7T series laptop can also be configured with Quad core + 8GB RAM (I think it may be DDR2, it doesn't say) + 500GB 7200 RPM HDD + 1GB Radeon HD 4650 for about $3,479 CAD (Unfortunately, I can't find this one on the Canadian HP site.)

A few questions about the work you'll be doing (since I don't really know much about it):
(1) Are the problems you're working with embarrassingly parallelizable?
(2) If (1) is true, can the programs you're using utilize a GPU to do the heavy lifting?

If both 1 and 2 are true, you may want to stick with a machine with a dual-core processor instead of a quad core, since a single GPU will outstrip a quad-core in problems involved in graphics.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby iop » Sun Mar 08, 2009 5:26 am UTC

mosc wrote:Shuttle boxes or other small footprint minis and flatscreens probably give a footprint not much larger than a laptop. It's not really a question of space. Also why is one machine replaced with 3?

I need one computer at work, one at home, and a laptop. The computer I use at work and the computer I use at home are both used for work, which requires lots of RAM. Instead of buying two desktops and a laptop, I'd rather buy a single laptop, which brings the additional advantage that I can work with it on the dining room table (even a small desktop is a bit awkward and very baby-unsafe there).

Æshættr wrote:A few questions about the work you'll be doing (since I don't really know much about it):
(1) Are the problems you're working with embarrassingly parallelizable?
(2) If (1) is true, can the programs you're using utilize a GPU to do the heavy lifting?

(1) The most RAM-intensive ones are parallelizable (though I don't own Matlab's Parallelization Toolbox yet)
(2) Matlab can't do this directly, but I may be able to get code that can.

As to the suggestions for laptops, I thank all of you. It looks like there really are very few options for powerful, yet portable (15" PC or 17"MacBook Pro) notebooks out there. I guess it comes down to whether I want to pay the premium in price and learning curve for the MacBook Pro in return for longer battery life.


stephentyrone wrote: I assume you mean 1000x1000x100 or some such; a 1000x1000x10 array of doubles -- what Matlab uses -- is only about 74MB

Oops. You're right of course. Thanks for standing up for me, by the way.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby secondhandloser » Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:59 am UTC

The Dell M4400 or D830 are both great buys-
I use a Dell 820EP (T7600 processor and 2GB of RAM) and run MATLAB just fine. Toss a bit more RAM in either of these guys and you should be happy.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby scurrminator » Thu Mar 19, 2009 9:21 pm UTC

buy alienware

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby iop » Thu Mar 19, 2009 9:34 pm UTC

scurrminator wrote:buy alienware

The m15x was the first laptop I looked at - it seemed to have everything, except a reputation for working well. Also, it has only a HDMI out, so that I wouldn't be able to use it for presentations.

I am getting a MacBookPro delivered on Monday.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby Axman » Thu Mar 19, 2009 9:49 pm UTC

HDMI and DVI are the same, they have different pinouts, is all. You can get DVI and VGA adapters for a couple bucks. It may be too late now, but for anyone else out there with the same restraint, knowing is half the battle.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby stephentyrone » Fri Mar 20, 2009 12:10 am UTC

iop wrote:I am getting a MacBookPro delivered on Monday.


Hope that it works out well for you =)
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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby iop » Fri Mar 20, 2009 12:11 am UTC

Axman wrote:HDMI and DVI are the same, they have different pinouts, is all. You can get DVI and VGA adapters for a couple bucks. It may be too late now, but for anyone else out there with the same restraint, knowing is half the battle.

Oh, really? When I was looking on the internet all I found was people saying that HDMI is digital and VGA is analog and that thus it wouldn't be possible to connect to VGA unless I had a converter that would cost over 100$. I guess the converters that I saw must have been ripoffs for n00bs like me.

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Re: I need a high performance laptop

Postby MoonBuggy » Fri Mar 20, 2009 10:43 am UTC

So is HDMI pin-compatible with DVI-I or only DVI-D? Or does it vary from machine to machine?
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