Forum Thread

"Ultimate" Laptop Request - lightweight, dedicated graphics, SSD, more

CrashCronin 102 21 March 8, 2012 at 10:00 AM
As someone who has assembled their own desktops for the last 10 years, I'm not used to asking the community for suggestions on computer products. Desktops are nice as you can assemble them component by component (and upgrade them independently).

In this case, I am trying to find a laptop that affords me a lot of flexibility in its use, as the exact cost (deal) is less of an issue for me right now. I intend its use to be primarily general web and word processing use, although I want the ability to play some games at a reasonably level (something the Intel 3000 chipset is not really sufficient for).

I am hoping the community can help me find a laptop that meets this criteria, regardless of the actual dollar amount. Spending $2,000+ is not a concern for me as much as making the right overall purchase. I've been bouncing between review sites the last few days and am hoping targeted feedback on my ideal may help fine-tune this a bit.

My requested criteria:
  • Modern processing power (i5/i7, preferred to be second gen)
  • At least 4GB of ram with the ability to upgrade to 8+ (obviously I can do the upgrade myself)
  • Dedicated video card for 'moderate' gaming. I want to be able to play MMOs, Diablo 3, and other reasonable intensive games, although not on the highest settings. My desktop is where I would "really" play, but want the flexibility in this area in the laptop. I very much like some of the modern laptops that come with a dedicated card plus an Intel card and allow you to use/control the card to manage power consumption.
  • Lightweight - I would prefer it be 5lbs or lower for simple ease of portability. [UPDATE: I'm willing to extend this to "under 6 pounds" as there seems to be a huge change in available performance from ~5 to ~6 lbs.]
  • SSD - I want SSD as it reduces load times across the board. I don't need massive storage space as my desktop or external drives will contain large volumes of files. I can do easily with only 128GB SSD. I know not all SSD is created equally so would want a reasonably effective one.
  • Size - 13-15"; I could go with an exceptional 12" but do not like laptops that are too small or too large (I had a first-gen 17" Dell XPS back in the day, hated the size).
  • Heat - I don't want a laptop that runs too hot. Between intelligently placed heat exhausts (back or sides, not bottom), SSD vs Hard Disk, and the ability to enable a generic Intel video card at times instead of the dedicated one, this should be feasible.
  • Screen - I am somewhat flexible; I don't mid glossy or matte. I don't need an ultra-high definition screen either as again from a graphics perspective I would expect the best experience for me to be on my desktop.
  • Keyboard - Flexible here
  • Touchpad - Flexible
  • Battery Life - 4+ hours preferably, although I know this depends on utilization (games vs. word processing, etc)

The most recent Macbook Pro 15" and Samsung Series 7 seem like decent candidates but I'm having a hard time finding other potential laptops that would match this criteria well.

Any suggestions/recommendations from the community are greatly appreciated, especially any specific pros and cons (or links to such).

Best,
Mike

13 Comments

1

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#2
You want to take a look at the Lenovo T430 line, which is launching in the next month or 2. It matches all of your specs perfectly. There are a couple machines to look at - the T430 (replaces the T420) and T430u (replaces the T420s). The u is optimized for weight, so if smaller & lighter are your main points, look at that one 1st. If speed & durability are your main concerns, look at the regular T430.

PROS: Most durable laptop you can buy
CONS: Expensive; service is not that great. You'll want to consider upgrading to on-site service or else you'll be mailing it in if something goes wrong.

The BIGGEST difference between the T420 and T430 lines is the newer generation Intel processor - if you're OK with sandy bridge, you can probably save a bunch of money as they close out the 420's and roll out the 430's - they'll be discounting the 420's pretty heavily soon (if they're not already)

Good luck!
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#3
I dunno is have the most durable laptop in the world really worth it? Personally i don't drop things but it would be good to have a durable laptop if it's going to be expensive.

Plus i just saw that the 430's are not out till the second half of 2012

http://www.laptopreviews.com/tag/t430

If you find one that you like but it doesn't have a SSD drive you can always install it on your own.

https://www.pcworld.com/article/1...aptop.html

What do you think of this one?

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Pro...6834230171

4 stars for reviews.
Intel Core i5
128GB SSD
4GB memory
Screen 13.3"
2 - 2.9 lbs
Up to 7 Hours battery

Cons not much memory or HD Space. Not sure if you can upgrade them.


Or

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Pro...6834246217

Intel Core i7 Turbo Boost up to 2.9GHz
256GB SSD
4GB DDR3
Screen 13.3" LED Backlight
2.91 lbs.
Up to 8 hours battery
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Last edited by JackScagnetti March 9, 2012 at 08:29 AM
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#4
Quote from Jeffbx View Post :
You want to take a look at the Lenovo T430 line, which is launching in the next month or 2. It matches all of your specs perfectly. There are a couple machines to look at - the T430 (replaces the T420) and T430u (replaces the T420s). The u is optimized for weight, so if smaller & lighter are your main points, look at that one 1st. If speed & durability are your main concerns, look at the regular T430.

PROS: Most durable laptop you can buy
CONS: Expensive; service is not that great. You'll want to consider upgrading to on-site service or else you'll be mailing it in if something goes wrong.

The BIGGEST difference between the T420 and T430 lines is the newer generation Intel processor - if you're OK with sandy bridge, you can probably save a bunch of money as they close out the 420's and roll out the 430's - they'll be discounting the 420's pretty heavily soon (if they're not already)

Good luck!
Thanks for the pointer; these machines are a pretty good match spec wise. They are the least attractive laptops out there (short of some of the Alienware laptops), but that wasn't one of my criteria. I do think there will be a nice optimization for the 430s when they come out, but unfortunately I can't wait several months.
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#5
Quote from frankrizzo1 View Post :
I dunno is have the most durable laptop in the world really worth it? Personally i don't drop things but it would be good to have a durable laptop if it's going to be expensive.

Plus i just saw that the 430's are not out till the second half of 2012

http://www.laptopreviews.com/tag/t430

If you find one that you like but it doesn't have a SSD drive you can always install it on your own.

https://www.pcworld.com/article/1...aptop.html

What do you think of this one?

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Pro...6834230171

4 stars for reviews.
Intel Core i5
128GB SSD
4GB memory
Screen 13.3"
2 - 2.9 lbs
Up to 7 Hours battery

Cons not much memory or HD Space. Not sure if you can upgrade them.


Or

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Pro...6834246217

Intel Core i7 Turbo Boost up to 2.9GHz
256GB SSD
4GB DDR3
Screen 13.3" LED Backlight
2.91 lbs.
Up to 8 hours battery
I don't necessarily need an ultra-durable laptop as I take very good care of my electronics... although, with a 6 month old baby, I imagine durability now becomes even more important!

The items you suggested from NewEgg are nice, but fail to address the graphics card requirement.

Some further research points to the Dell 14z as a possible candidate, although I don't really like Dell computers overall and will have to look into a few reviews.

Thanks for the suggestions so far and I hope for a few more!
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#6
A few notes.

The NVIDIA 520M/610M and ATI 6470M/7470M are relatively weak cards that equal a desktop GT 520 or HD 6450. They're only about 30% powerful than the HD 3000 iGPU. These cards can give you decent performance for older MMOs like WoW or EVE ONLINE but choke on games like SW:TOR. A single step increase gets you significantly more performance but might compromise your weight requirement.

As a desktop user, you should know that mobiles i5s and i7s (with no Q suffix) are dual-cores. i7s (with a Q suffix) are quad-cores. For the size factor you're considering, you won't get a quad-core i7. You can decide whether you can use a dual-core i7 or not.

As far as the display goes, I'd pay for the high resolution display. 1366x768 panels are just stupid. You have no space to move anything, you have nowhere to put anything, and the dot pitch is frustratingly noticeable. They also suck in terms of quality.

For your price range, I'd consider the Sony Vaio Z with the HD panel.
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#7
Quote from exaltare View Post :
A few notes.

The NVIDIA 520M/610M and ATI 6470M/7470M are relatively weak cards that equal a desktop GT 520 or HD 6450. They're only about 30% powerful than the HD 3000 iGPU. These cards can give you decent performance for older MMOs like WoW or EVE ONLINE but choke on games like SW:TOR. A single step increase gets you significantly more performance but might compromise your weight requirement.

As a desktop user, you should know that mobiles i5s and i7s (with no Q suffix) are dual-cores. i7s (with a Q suffix) are quad-cores. For the size factor you're considering, you won't get a quad-core i7. You can decide whether you can use a dual-core i7 or not.

As far as the display goes, I'd pay for the high resolution display. 1366x768 panels are just stupid. You have no space to move anything, you have nowhere to put anything, and the dot pitch is frustratingly noticeable. They also suck in terms of quality.

For your price range, I'd consider the Sony Vaio Z with the HD panel.
I don't see a driving need for a quad-core processor in a laptop unless you intend to do high-end computing or intend to try to run games on max settings (which would also require a higher end GPU). That said, the advice on screen resolution is appreciate - I remember when 15" screens came with a 1280 x 800 resolution (or something like that), which wasn't nice at all.

While I would consider the Sony Vaio Z, the GPU is actually a separate component in the "Power Media Dock" which means from a general mobility standpoint, unless you bring the "brick" with you, you love the GPU power and resort to an Intel card. It is a novel idea and allows the laptop to be ultra portable on the move, and more powerful when attached, but I want to "have my cake and eat it too." Smilie

I continue to look at a high end Macbook Pro, going with the 2.4ghz i7, 128GB SSD, High Rez screen, 1GB discrete video card, etc. This pushes $2,500-$3,000 and I don't have a problem with the price, but am not sure if it is actually the best buy for what I am looking for. I'll continue to research and check back in this thread. Reps extended for helpful advice!
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#8
I recently undertook the same search, and ended up narrowing it down to the Samsung Series 9 15" laptop (only available for pre-order) [jr.com] and a Macbook Pro. I opted for the MBP, even though it isn't exactly lightweight, because it is available and I have a limited window for purchasing (actually, my employer is purchasing but I needed to decide). The upcoming MBPs and Airs are rumored to have the extended battery technology of the new iPad (possibly 24 hours!). I am going to add the SSD myself.
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#9
Your not gonna find one that is light weight and a powerful gaming laptop
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#10
Quote from frankrizzo1 View Post :
Your not gonna find one that is light weight and a powerful gaming laptop
I'm not interested in a "powerful" gaming laptop (I would agree with this statement if I was), but something that has the ability to play some modern games at low settings. The only real requirement is to have a dedicated graphics card; it does not need to be a high-end one.

To your point though, I am definitely trying to find something that is outside of the norm of the ultraportable market that maintains some versatility. I can indeed find a few examples that are right around this mark across several companies but have not determined which is the best option yet.
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#11
Quote from CrashCronin View Post :
Thanks for the pointer; these machines are a pretty good match spec wise. They are the least attractive laptops out there (short of some of the Alienware laptops), but that wasn't one of my criteria. I do think there will be a nice optimization for the 430s when they come out, but unfortunately I can't wait several months.
Then look at the T420's - they're already beginning to discount them in anticipation of the T430, and the biggest difference between the 2 is the newer generation Intel procs (which you won't get on ANY machine until May at the earliest).

http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrar...hpfa01181&
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#12
Quote from CrashCronin View Post :
.... something that has the ability to play some modern games at low settings. The only real requirement is to have a dedicated graphics card; it does not need to be a high-end one..
So your looking for a laptop with a good GPU like these below,but lighter?
679.99 Lenovo Y570 8GB 750GB 555M 15.6" [lenovo.com]
409.99 ASUS A6 4GB 500GB 6650M [newegg.com] 15.6"
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#13
I'm seriously considering a custom laptop to address this, from XoticPC. The specs I am evaluating are below:

ASUS U46SM-DS51
- No Xotic PC Gear
- Standard Production Time
- 2 Year ASUS GLOBAL OEM Warranty 24/7 Support / 1 Year North America (N.A.) Accidental Coverage (Accidental Requires Registration) (SKU - A9R102)
- Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit Pre-Installed + Drivers & Utilities Disk
- Smart Li-ion Battery (8-Cell)
- No Carrying Case
- Sound Blaster Compatible 3D Audio - Included
- No TV Tuner
- Integrated Digital Video Camera
- No Network Accessory
- Intel® Advanced-N 6205 - 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN Module (SKU - X8R103)
- Bluetooth Included (See “Wireless Network” Section Below)
- No Back Up Software
- Internal 4-in-1 Card Reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO)
- No Floppy Drive
- NO External USB Optical Drive
- No Back Up Hard Drive
- Combo Dual Layer SuperMulti DVDRW/CDRW Drive w/ Software (SKU - X7R451)
- 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 Sandforce Solid State Drive (Up to Sequential Read 550MB/s - Write 500MB/s SSD Serial-ATA III) (SKU - X5R005)
- Standard Finish
- 12GB DDR3 1333MHz Dual Channel Memory (1x4GB + 1x8GB SODIMMS) (SKU - X4N341)
- No Video Adapter
- nVidia GT 630M 1024MB PCI-Express DDR3 DX11 with Optimus™ Technology (SKU - X3R513)
- IC Diamond Thermal Compound - CPU + GPU (Cools better than all Compounds)
- 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i7-2760QM, 2.4-3.5GHz, (32nm, 6MB L3 cache) (SKU - X2R208)
- ASUS Zero Bright Dot (ZBD) 30 Day Pixel Guarantee - (Included on ASUS Standard NON-Upgraded Displays)
- NO Professional Monitor Color Calibration
- 14.1" HD 16:9 "Glare Type" Super Clear Ultra Bright Glossy LED Screen (1366x768) (SKU - X1R201)
- FREE!! UPS GROUND SHIPPING (Use Coupon Code "FREESHIP" in Checkout - U.S. Only, Not Available to Alaska and Hawaii)

Listed at 1" thick and 4.85lbs before the SSD drive. The price is ~$1,600 which isn't a problem for me. Any experience with the baseline model of this laptop and/or this vendor? The 630M video card seems to be a small step up from similar models at this weight/size mark. Thanks!
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#14
Quote from CrashCronin View Post :
The 630M video card seems to be a small step up from similar models at this weight/size mark. Thanks!
You should consider a 555M GPU as the minimum or 560M at the max. if you what play newer games 2-3 years down the road.
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