A Challenge

I got an e-mail from a friend yesterday with a bit of a challenge. They currently have an original 15 inch MacBook Pro and are looking to upgrade. The laptop primarily gets used under Windows, so they are trying to find an equivalent PC rather than have to pay out for a copy of Windows on top of the copy of OS X that will come with the machine. The challenge is set out below:

Men (and woman) of geeky tendencies, I require your assistance.

If I wanted a portable machine with a ~15â€? screen, at least 1440×900 res, with a graphics card comparable to a NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT, what should I get?

It’ll need to support 3Gb of RAM (maybe 4Gb if I go 64bit), and be capable enough to run many virtual machines, as well as all the latest games with prettiness turned up (UT3, I’m looking at you.). Would be nice it were no heavier than 2.5Kg.

The 2007 edition of the MacBook Pro ticks a lot of boxes, but I’m not sure about paying the OSX tax to get what will in effect be just another XP laptop.

What are Sony, Toshiba, HP, Dell, Alienware etc doing in the lightweight gaming laptop space? Have I missed out a manufacturer who is doing great things? What would you recommend?

All opinions welcome!

My thoughts are that there aren’t many options at the moment since many of the laptops in that form factor come with on board graphics which are not really suitable for gaming.

I also think that you’ll struggle to find a design quite as sleek as the MacBook Pro since Apple are building machines using a custom chassis whereas the majority of the rest build their machines with off-the-shelf parts. Having said that, I’m probably totally biased in that I have an Apple machine as my main box and probably wouldn’t run a MacBook Pro in anything other than OS X!

So, anyone got any suggestions?

3 thoughts on “A Challenge”

  1. Good luck! It doesn’t matter how much you spend on a laptop it just won’t be as good as a desktop. If they are going to be running a lot of virtual machines I would say make sure you get as much RAM and the fastest and biggest hard drive you can afford. Nothing kills a virtual machine’s performance more than a slow hard drive or running out of physical memory. If it was up to me, and I absolutely had to get a laptop, I would probably get something from the Dell XPS line of laptops, because they tend to be a bit cheaper than most others. You really have to watch what video card gets included though – most laptops just have garbage for video.

    I’d be interested in a follow-up to this article, to see what they ended up purchasing. Keep us posted!

  2. I went to http://www.dell.co.uk, selected Notebooks/Home, then ‘Be Creative’ and the Inspiron 1520. Hit Select with Windows Vista (sorry, no choice here), then Customize. You can then change the screen to 1440×900 if you really want stupidly high DPI, but to be honest I’m finding 1680×1050 on 15.4″ a trial.

    This spec has the GeForce Go 8600M GT graphics chip requested. Weirdly, the XPS laptops only seem to go up to an 8400M GS. They don’t do a 15″ XPS, only a 13″ or 17″.

    It might be a little heavy at a starting weight of 2.89kg.

    The higher-res screen costs an extra £47. Bumping the memory from 2GB to 4GB costs a whopping £364.25. A 2.2GHz processor (T7500) to match the MacBook Pro is another £70.50. It does come with a 250GB hard drive, but unfortunately only 5400rpm and no choice. The Dell has 256MB of video memory compared to Apple’s 128MB. If you want Bluetooth add another £17.63 or £51.70 if you want a Bluetooth mouse as well. 802.11n to match the MacBook Pro is another £50.

    The T7500/4GB/high-res screen combination comes in at £1,230.75, still £60 less than Apple’s machine which is £1,299, with twice the main and video memory and twice the disk space. Do it quick, though, as the current £50 off/free shipping offers run out in two days’ time. How much is that OS X tax? About £400 on this showing.

    My personal Dell Latitude D820 is very well built. The systems we’ve had at work from Dell over the last few years have been mostly very good, although my desktop had a faulty DVD drive after about a year(tray wouldn’t open) and one of the laptops we received when ordering 10 in one go back in 2004 had a failed Bluetooth card. Of those I think 8 are still in regular use, one having had a new hard drive, which the other two were replaced due to needs having changed I think.

    You might find it’s more customisable if you go through the Small Business website. On the other hand Dell are weird about which models they sell through which channels and what they will allow to be customized on any given model. I’ve just configured up a ‘Vostro 1500’ for £859 + VAT but that’s only got a 160GB hard drive, no Bluetooth and no built-in camera (and only a one-year next-day warranty). You can go up to 1680×1050 on that model. You can also go with Windows XP if you don’t want Vista – starting weight is still 2.87kg, I’ve no idea where Apple have shaved 400g off.

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