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Best Notebook Computer


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Hello all,


I am looking to buy a new notebook computer and was wondering what everyone thought was the best.

I am looking at the Dell Inspiron 9200 (2.1GHz/400 MHz, 1GB DDR SDRAM at 333MHz 2 Dimm, 128MB Radeon 9700 Video Card, 60GB 7200rpm Hard Drive).

I would love any opinions, I am pretty clueless when it comes to hardware. Are there better machines for the price ($3000)? Should I get a different configuration???

I run Studio Max, Flash MX, Photoshop mostly.


Please help, thanks.

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i'd rather have a real pentium 4 over an M....

3.2mhz VS 2.1.....you'll see the diff when rendering for sure.


you can get a P4 for well under $3000, with everything else you listed...that thing was really $3000!?!? what options did you put on it??

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I have heard that a Pentium M performs faster than a P4 with higher MHz, is that true?


Has anyone done a comparison for rendering or 3d software?


Other features that I would add are pretty basic- I think I listed all that would effect the performance?

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Okay, Alienware vs. Dell (dame price) which would you prefer?


Here are the specs for the alienware notebook:




Area-51m 7700


Warranty: 1-Year AlienCare Toll-Free 24/7 Phone Support with Onsite Service

Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional with Service Pack 2

AlienRespawn: Alienware® Respawn Recovery Kit

Case: Area-51m 7700 Case with 17" WideXGA+ 1400 x 900 LCD Display - Xeno Grey

Processor: Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor 560 w/ HT Technology 3.6GHz 1MB Cache

Motherboard: Intel® 915P Chipset Supporting PCI-Express

Memory: 1GB Dual Channel DDR2 SO-DIMM at 533MHz - 2 x 512MB

Video Card: Area-51m 7700 NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Go with 256MB of DDR2 memory

Sound Card: Sound-Blaster Pro Compatible 3D Audio

Hard Drive: Single Drive Configuration - 60GB 7200 RPM ATA100 - Hitachi

Optical Drive One: 24x10x24 CD-RW / 8X DVD Combo w/Software MPEG2 Decoder

Ethernet NIC: Integrated 10/1000Mb Gigabit Ethernet NIC

Modem: 56K Modem with V.92 Technology



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Hi everybody,


I have been cadding on a laptop for two years now. I just retired a Sony Vaio, it worked flawlessly under very demanding conditions. I gave it up for an Acer Aspire 1710 series notebook. I got into a true square 17" LCD (it is as big as many 19" CRT's), 3.0 ghz., 1 gig ram, 128 mg nVidia GO5700, 120 gig 7200 rpm hd, all for only $1899.00US in August (!!!!). It's the 1712SMI. They recently came out with the 1714SMI that sports all those spec's but with a 3.4 gig processor. Stay away from the modest 1710-1711 for cad/graphics, it has a diffrent GPU.


I use Revit as my primary design prog, and it handles it nicely.


The thing uses desktop components, and is a giant. If you plan on a cool afternoon session under the oaks by the river, forget it. But as I only take it on the road once a week or so, I can live with that. It has completely replaced my desktop, and I love it. Targus makes a couple of bags that it fits

into nicely.


I have read about some folks having monitor issues with it, so do your homework. All the usual disclaimers apply, but mine works like a champ.






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i really like alienware's new laptop. It is essentially a full sized computer in a laptop form. It also sports nvidia's new 6800 Go which is incredibly faster than there Quadro series and can handle HD really well. It also supports opengl. Alienware's support service is the best I've dealt with. Portablez.com sells the Sager 9860 and Prostar 9095 and is the exact same laptop as the alienware model mj12m 7700. The price is also comparable.

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So it sounds like the vote is for prostar or alienware. Has anyone compared these to the dell? Does anyone own the dell9200? Can anyone recommend it? I have a dell inspiron 8200 and it has worked very well with Max, which is why I am tempted to stay, but I am a little nervous about the Pentium M chip.



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I have the 9100. 3.2(northwood), 512mb, 128 ati, 60gb(7200rpm), 1600x1200. The first one arrived DOA (not a good vote of confidence) but they replaced it quickly (after a bizzare conversation with India tech). This one has been solid and so far a good "portable workstation". It's VERY heavy but I don't tote it around much. It performes fine for "medium duty" 3d, video, and graphics. The warranty will be up in a couple of months so we shall see...

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I just ordered up a Gateway m675xl notebook. I was in the search as well I checked Alienware, dell, Sony, etc. But the price, size, speed and reviews got my vote.

Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor 3.4GHz with Hyper-Threading Technology

1024MB 400MHz DDR SDRAM (2-512MB modules)

80GB 5400rpm Ultra ATA hard drive

Modular 60GB hard drive (fits in floppy drive bay)

Modular 8x DVD±R/±RW/CD-RW recorder

17.1" High Resolution WSXGA+ TFT Active Matrix w/ ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 8x AGP w/ 128MB DDR video memory

Integrated 802.11b/g wireless networking card :D

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Sager... best performance for the money. People at work have been buying them like they are going out of style. It may seem like an off brand, but they have been around for a while. The amount of laptop you can get for $2k is amazing. and if you go higher and spend $3.5K there is no other laptop that can come close:




Not super pretty... but really solid

BTW... the hypersonic and the portablez are based ont he Sager brand. They sell their laptops to other manufacturing companies.


The only thing that people have told me that come close to it is the fujitsu ones



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I too have had my eye on the Sager laptops for some time. My only major concern was the brand and that i don't know anyone who has one. The other option was to buy a BOXX which is very similar, but it cost about $600-800 more. I'm glad to see some positive comments about the Sager notebooks. I mean c'mon...a RAID setup in a laptop!!!! Sager gets my vote! :D

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Four years ago we purchased 4 Sager computers. They were the most sophisticated thing we could buy at the time. We spent like 4K on each one. They didn't last long. They were not built tough enough for guys on the road all the time.


Most of the features they advertised worked OK but no entirely fine. We started having problems with various things. Among the first things to suffer was some bright dots on the screen. They said that since they were less than 6 dots it was acceptable. Not realy, because the 6 dots were on the center of the screen. The four computers turn into bad computers after about 18 months.


I think at one time Sager was Klevo or maybe the reverse. Their services was not all that great. I think most of the people like Allienware they somehow use a Sager or Clevo mainboard on which they build their platforms.


Then we bought Toshiba's. It is still the same 4 old guys beating these computers and they are working fine after almost three years. I will stick to the Toshibas.



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Just to clarify... Alienware, Hypersonic, Portablez, and Sager all use the same chassis for their newest high-end laptop. For a good laptop stick with a company that is known for great customer service. Sometimes paying a little extra for some peace-of-mind is worth it. Review all their specs and make sure the laptop is going to have what you need.


good luck

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Thanks for the advice.


Alienware is supposed to have good customer service, I think that is where I am leaning. Although I have always owned a Dell and they have served me well.

Can someone fill me in on RAID? What exactly is it, is it a good thing for notebooks/rendering, why? It doesn't look like Dell uses it on the 9200 Pentium M, is that a problem?


I am trying to decide if a $3000 3.6 Ghz Alienware laptop is $500 better than a $2500 Dell 9200 Pentium M....


Tough call.

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Hey CB --


I feel the need to post my experiences with Alienware -- they literally have ruined my last two months. And the ordeal STILL isn't over as I type.


I ordered a 3.4 GHz Area-51m from them on Oct. 11 -- the order was delayed first because they neglected to bill me (one of the only manufacturers that bills before they build the machine rather than after they ship, which for me was a three-week difference) until I *reminded* them to do so. But by then they were out of stock of silver chassis (wow -- so no one got laptops that week unless they wanted blue? 'cause green was already backordered by a month when I ordered)... so that delayed it another week.


After a month, and I received the machine. Opened it up and the screen size differed from what was pictured on their site. Apparently they hadn't updated their site to reflect the new design they were shipping -- I took this screenshot:




while showing it to a customer service rep (in Costa Rica, BTW) to show him that a month after the fact the enlarged image STILL showed the old design. Bear in mind there was no discrepency when I ordered, the enlarged version was the design depicted everywhere and by every reviewer.


I hate the new design. It's a 17" aspect ratio in a 15" chassis, so you lose visible area. Also, the screen resolution is 1650x1080 or so -- okay for 17", but unbearably small on a 15.4". I was on the phone with them for over two hours going back and forth as to how this amounted to sales fraud, nevertheless they charge a 15% restocking fee on all returned items and will not waive it under any circumstances. On my ~$3k machine, that meant over $400. I repeatedly -- at least four times -- demanded to speak to a supervisor, to which he flatly refused to put me through.


And I swear to God, that wasn't the only issue. I turn on the machine, and the CMOS battery was dead. No quality control whatsoever -- if that had booted the machine to do any tests before it shipped (for those who don't know, Alienware advertises a 200-point Quality Control Process), they could not have missed the halt on boot to enter date and time. The video card drivers were misconfigured, the wireless drivers were inoperable and I had to fix (so much for fine-tuning driver performance), and, the ultimate insult, keys X, C, and V on the keyboard were dead on arrival. Nothing could bring those back.


I shipped it back for my 85% refund immediately, and I'm still waiting for that to come through. They told me they've received the machine and are processing my paperwork, but at this point it'll be two months and over $400 lost when this debacle is over. Once the money comes in, I'm going with Gateway's 675XL -- I've had a good history with Gateway, and while it's physically bigger, the weight and battery performance is pretty comparable... and after seeing a laptop screen smaller than the 15.1" 4:3 I already had, I simply want the bigger size.


Dig online and you'll find plenty of stories like mine -- and a lot of complaints about month-plus long turnarounds on machines returned for repairs. Alienware employs people to actively work their numbers resellerrating.com and other web rating websites, so in my opinion they must be skewed. Bottom line is I paid more for their machine for their quality service, engineering, and quality. I got none of that and paid for it in time and money.


I've contacted the Florida Consumer Commission or whatever their agency is and filed complaints, but ironically because I have no computer at home now (the old laptop went to my sister who needed it for college) I don't have time to pursue email correspondence and move things along.


Alienware must still satisfy the majority of it's customers, I don't know how they'd stay in business otherwise. But after my experience, I would strongly caution you that there's more risk involved dealing with them than you would ever think.


Good luck man -- hope your new little one brings you lots of joy!



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Sorry dude, missed your question on RAID -- it's a setup for using two identical hard drives in tandem, so you have the equivalent storage of one of the drives, but they can be set up to either mirror one another (so if one were to ever fail, your data is saved -- more for servers and high-use drives) or, in your case, they're striped so when writing data, half the data is sent to one drive, and half the other. This means you get twice the read/write speed of a single hard drive, which means loading programs and opening/saving files much more quickly.


I didn't know ANYONE had done something like that in a laptop, that's pretty cool. Personally, if I were to get a laptop with two drives, I'd use them both for independent storage, since laptop drives are small and much more expensive. It's pretty confining, especially doing visualization work.





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Geez, that's pretty rough, sorry to hear that story. With that in consideration, I'll change my vote from Sager to BOXX. After hearing a nightmare like that, the few extra dollars spent on a reputable company with proven service is worth it.


I know Dell and Gateway has treated us good so far. And I also own a Toshiba ($800 Celeron!) that I've run AutoCAD, 3DSMax, and Premiere Pro with no problems (although it's the wifey's). But I like the BOXX line because of it's true workstation roots, the RAID, and the proven service.


Which leads me to RAID and why i like it in a laptop. Typically in laptops the HDs run at 4200, 5400, or 7200 rpms. Anything below 7200rpms is too slow IMO for a workstation. However the 7200rpm notebook HDs max out at only 60GB (at the moment), which is ok for some, but for small for me. A RAID setup (striped) uses two identical drives. In simple terms, a RAID will split a file being written in half, and write each half to each drive simultaneously. So theoretically it cuts the write time in half, however real-world it's somewhere about 20-30% faster. So it's not only faster, but it doubles your storage to 120GB.

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That sucks Shaun, sorry. You have convinced me to not buy alienware. Thanks for the info on RAID. For my purposes, I will probably go with a 7200rpm 60G drive and add an external drive for extra storage.


As for memory, what's the difference between 1G at 333 Mhz and 1G at 533Mhz. Would you notice a difference?


Thanks for all the help.


I like the Boxx system, but it's really expensive.


Any more input on the Dell 9200 or Pentium M????

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Damn Kainoa, I can't believe I screwed up on defining a striped RAID array... you're right of course, you get the combined space. The draw back is if either drives fail, you lose all your data. But seriously, I've never had a hard drive fail on me, so that makes it impossible, right? ;-)



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