Laptop Gaming..... (Can someone answer my questions?)

I’m thinging about getting a laptop for gaming, but I’m undecided. These are the specs of the laptop that I’m looking at:

Laptop Specs: Dell Inspiron 8200

-$100 OFF Mobile Pentium®4 1.9GHz-M,15.0 Dell® UltraSharp™ Display
-64MB DDR 4XAGP NVIDIA GeForce4 440 Go™ 3D Video
-Save $99 (Savings included in price) 40GB Ultra ATA 5400 RPM HD
-Floppy Drive
-Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition
-Integrated Network Card
-Internal 56K Modem
-FREE 8XCD-RW/DVD Combo Upgrade (from DVD) Roxio’s Easy CD Creator®
-Microsoft®Works Suite 2002 w/ Money 2002 for DVD Drives
-Norton Antivirus® 2002, 90-day introductory offer
-Dell Jukebox powered by MusicMatch
-1 Year Limited Warranty plus 1 Year Mail-In Service
-Dell Picture Studio, Image Expert Standard

total= $2,288.00 (not including shipping)

I don’t think that’s a bad deal…

My Questions are:

  1. How well will I be able to run todays games at 1028 or 1200 resolution? Will I see any type of slowdown since I’m on a laptop?

  2. Will this system be powerful enough to play Doom 3 in a year or two? Will it play newer games that will be out in a year or two? I’m planning on keeping this system at least 2 years, so I would like it to last a while and be able to play future games.

  3. Can I upgrade the processor or video card on this laptop? Some people that I’ve talked to have told me that the G4 440 is actually a seperate card, and even though it’s a pain in the ass, you can upgrade the video card. Is this true? In fact. he gave me a link to a Ebay auction and the seller was trying to sell G4 440 video cards for your laptop.

  4. What’s the equivelent of this 64 mb. G4 400 when compared to a desktop Geforce card? Is it comparable to a G3 or better?

  5. How is Dell’s laptops? Are they top quality, and if you game on a laptop how do you like it? How does it compare to a desktop? Is it the same type of gaming experience?

We’ll… If you can give me any other advice I would definitely welcome your input.

thxs guys

I almost bought a Dell last year, but then was going to go for a Toshiba laptop, but then the axe fell on me, so I’ve held off.

Do a lot of research at a USENET newsgroup… I think comp.sys.laptops is one. They’re always talking about Dells and such there.

I really don’t know what to tell you about the build quality of Dells. From what I understand, Dell actually outsources production of its laptops to a Tawainese manufacturer, and I’ve heard good things and bad things about them.

There are also conflicting reports about getting 1 year or 3 year coverage. Some people never have any problems with their Dells, and others just have lemons. So the lesson is be on the safe side and get the 3 year. Of course, the 3 year won’t save you if you crack the screen.

Then there’s an issue of Dell’s LCD’s. Some of them were too yellow, and there’s always a good chance you’ll get a bad pixel somewhere on the screen (and if you’re really unlucky, it’ll be in the middle). So you’ll always have a black dot. From what I’ve understood, the LCD’s come from third-party manufacturers, and that IBM makes the best LCD’s, so if possible, request one with an IBM LCD.

And will you be able to play Doom3? I doubt it. The GeForce4Go is like hte GeForce4MX. It’s basically a dressed up GeForce2Ultra. It lacks the vertex shaders or pixel shaders, which are crucial for Doom3, that can be found in the GeForce3 and the GeForce4Ti. Carmack has stated that the GeForce3 (with its vertex shader and pixel shader) will be the absolute minimum for Doom3. And it will run best on the next-generation cards from ATI and Nvidia due out in a couple of months.[/list]

Hmmm… Thxs for your input. I allways thought that the G4 440 was just as powerful as a Geforce 3? And the G4 440 lacks the vertex shader and pixel shader that is found in the Geforce 3? Are you sure about this? If your correct then I’ll just build a desktop system.


See for yourself…

I have almost that exact laptop, save for the video card (mine is a 32 MB GeForce 2 Go) and the processor speed (900 MHz). I find that it plays most games quite well, particularly those games suited to laptops (strategy games, RPGs). With hardcore 3D games, I typically have to turn down the detail settings a bit (but not a lot); I suspect the RAM and the video card are the limiting factors there. My desktop ( a 733 MHz machine with a GeForece 3 Ti 500 and 512 MB RAM) runs most 3D games very well at 1024x768 with all the details settings maxed out.

I’m not sure how much faster the new GeForce 2 Go cards are, but since I’m happy with my rig, I suspect you’d be happy with one that’s faster, even if only by a little.

One piece of advice: BUY THE EXTRA BATTERY. The big monitor, fast processor, and smokin’ video card suck juice at an alarming rate. In fact, you won’t play many games on battery power alone, because they go dead too fast. With both batteries in my machine and fully charged, I can play Warcraft III for about an hour and a half, tops. Fortunately, many airlines have started to add power outlets to each seat in their newer planes. If you plan to use the laptop for extended unplugged gaming anywhere else, I’d advise a few extra batteries and a seperate charger.

Yep, that mobile GeForce card is like a GF4 MX. Great for most of today’s games, but when the Doom III generation hits, watch out.

I have a Toshiba Pentium III notebook with a GF2Go card, and it’s a fine system for networking gaming, etc. Would I want it as my primary gaming rig? Nope. Rather than buying 12 pounds of Dell P4 notebook for $2,300, I’d get a $1,500 notebook with a P3 CPU (Surprisingly little difference in performance between a 1GHz notebook P3 and a faster notebook P4, and better battery life) and a 3D chip, and then spend the left-over $800 on updating your current PC to an Athlon XP, GeForce4 Ti4600 setup. Then you’d have the best of both worlds.

I have a Compaq EVO N600c from work. It’s got some ATI Radeo chip (I think 7500) and runs at 1.3Ghz (P3). It works REALLY well for current 3D games (Freedom Force, Medal of Honor, etc.) and has a killer screen.

I’m sure the GeForce 4 mobile is even better. Just watch out for battery life. A bunch of people bought those nifty Toshibas only to find out they get about 75 minutes of battery per charge. I get about 3 hours on mine.

It is almost always possible – though certainly not easy – to upgrade the video card on a laptop. The only problem will be finding a better video card to upgrade to. Good video cards for laptops don’t come around very often.

But, I’d absolutely buy that laptop. Great deal. Really.

I’d go with what Denny is saying. There are some amazing P3M-based notebooks out there that are now dirt cheap. We’re talking $1,100-$1,200 range, and you get a 1GHz processor, gobs of RAM, 14-15 inch screens, and decent hard drives. They’ve got pretty good video processors too, usually a 16MB ATI or Nvidia chip. Then use that extra $1,000 you’ve saved and just upgrade the hell out of your current system. Buy a new mobo, processor, RAM, and video card and you’ve got a top-of-the-line desktop again.

Trust me, the notebook isn’t going to be your main gaming machine, no matter how beefed up it is.

I’ve got a PowerBook (yes, I made a stupid decision and gave Apple a chance), and even if I could play more games on it, the fact is that I trash the hell out of it just typing and lugging it around with me. Fact is, your notebook takes a lot of abuse if you carry it around with you, even if it’s in a padded case. Mine’s got “bruises” on it’s LCD which you can only see at an angle, but it’s annoying.

Plus, my only complaint about the Inspiron 8200 is that thing is a friggin’ brick. It’s almost 2-inches thick, and it weighs over eight pounds. More like nine pounds if you get the secondary battery installed. Get a Toshiba or a Compaq P3M-based notebook. They’re thinner, weigh less, and your carrying shoulder will thank you.

I’ve got an Inspiron I8000 - 1 gig Pentium, UXGA hires screen (1600x1200), 256 Meg RAM, GeForce2Go video. DVD drive in the permanent bay, CDRW in the hot-swappable bay.

I run a lot of games on it - I’m currently playing Morrowind and MOH on it, in addition to a lot of less demanding games. The biggest issue you may have in transitioning to gaming on the notebook is using the mouse-stick (the “nubbin”) instead of a mouse. You can easily hook an external mouse up to it, but the reason for a notebook is to be able to use it in your lap or on a tray on an airplane, etc.

As for durability questions: it definitely feels less “solid” than my IBM Thinkpad - just more flex in the plastic. But I haven’t had that result in any breakage, and I’m pretty rough on a notebook. I have had a couple of warranty issues: I had an internal video cable issue, and my CDRW was a little funky, but they took care of both of those very quickly (they sent an Airborne person to the house with a box, I stuck the computer in the box, and it was returned, repaired, 3 days later.)

Battery life is pretty low if you’re gaming - get the second battery (you can plug them both in at the same time.) And it IS heavy - I carry it in airports a lot, and I can now tie my shoes without bending over.

I also have the Dell Inspiron 8100. Playing Morrowind and Dungeon Siege (MP with my 4-year old on the desktop… this game is tailor made for a 4-year-old if you forget about all the hacking and graphic spurting of blood. But I digress)

I’m enjoying MW very much, played it while I was on vacation for a week in Tahoe. I don’t even miss the pixel shading that I get with my GF3 on my desktop machine.

I’ve also played Diablo II, Comanche 4, and a ton of TBS games on it. (SMAC, CIVII, CtP2, etc.)
My only gripe is that the 20 gig harddrive seems a bit small for more than one or two games at a time (in addition to all the work related stuff-- web server, db server, development studio, etc)

And I used to play EQ on it, but now with Luclin I just can’t imagine playing with less than 512 RAM. Wish I had upgraded that from 256 to begin with, would help with my web development too.

OK enough rambling. I love my dell laptop. Get an 8100 or higher. Or get one of the more recent Toshiba Satellite models (my 2nd choice).

I can tell you what not to get. Don’t get a Toshiba 5005-s504 or any other laptop without a Mobile CPU. I bought a 5005-s504 about 3 months ago and I got screwed. It has a 1.1ghz cpu, 512mb of RAM, 40GB HD, 15" UXGA screen, 32MB GF4 440 Go, etc. sounds great right? It is until you try to put it under stress like running say … Quake 3. It has a non-mobile processer in it and not enough cooling so when the cpu gets too hot it just throttles it back to the level of a 550. And it gets too hot within a minute of running said program. I can run 3 or 4 timedemos and have the score half by the time I am done.

Here is the kicker Toshiba is not acknowleging the problem. There was another problem where laptops were just shutting down because of heat but the latest bios “fixes” that by throttling the cpu. All in all it is a crap design and I am paying for it.

Anyone have any contacts high up at Toshiba or CompUSA? I will probably have to send this thing to Toshiba 2 or 3 times or go with the class action lawsuit that is going on here: I am so freaking pissed about this.

– Xaroc

BTW, the 30 seconds it runs at top speed it runs well (1024x768x32 Q3 is 100fps+) so the GF4 440 Go is a decent chip. I wouldn’t count on the GF4 440 Go running Doom 3 well though because it is missing some of the high end true GF4 level features.

I also have a Dell 8200, with pretty similar specs.

It runs everything I want it to quite well (I have no bugs with NWN, for example).

However, I’m not very discriminating with regard to whether I have pixel shaders on or not, etc. If you are, a laptop will not be the way to go. If you want a system that can run most games pretty well, then the laptop will be fine.

Never try to game on batteries, though. Won’t happen, at least not for long.

I just had one of those Dell 8200s in here for review.

I really like it. That UltraSharp screen is worth every penny: it’s definitely got much better contrast and far superior scaling to most laptops. I expect many other laptop manufacturers to follow suit shortly.

Dell also uses a prett fast hard drive, for a laptop. Slower than most desktop systems, but that’s a weak link in all the mobiles.

Right now, there are no laptop graphics chips that support DirectX 8 pixel and vertex shaders. Not from any company. But they’re coming soon from both Trident and ATI (and we have to assume, NVIDIA, though I have no details about that).

I’m not sure exactly when, and I couldn’t say if I did, but it’ll probably be a good 60 days or so until you can buy a Dell or Toshiba or something with a DX 8 class video chip in it.

Due to heat and power consumption issues, laptop chips are and will always be at least 12-18 months behind the desktop products. At least until there are some drastic changes in computing.


So your basically saying that probably within a couple of months that we should see video cards for laptops that will be on par with a geforce 3 or 4? That they should have all the features that these cards have?

What is your take on upgrading to a better video card? How about upgrading the processor? Can it be done? Is it a pain in the ass?

thxs for your input…

I can tell you what not to get. Don’t get a Toshiba 5005-s504 or any other laptop without a Mobile CPU. I bought a 5005-s504 about 3 months ago and I got screwed. It has a 1.1ghz cpu, 512mb of RAM, 40GB HD, 15" UXGA screen, 32MB GF4 440 Go, etc. sounds great right? It is until you try to put it under stress like running say … Quake 3. It has a non-mobile processer in it and not enough cooling so when the cpu gets too hot it just throttles it back to the level of a 550. And it gets too hot within a minute of running said program. I can run 3 or 4 timedemos and have the score half by the time I am done.

A friend of mine has the exact same problem. I remember him describing it exactly like this. I’ll forward the link to him.

I heard this problem happens on desktop machines as well, though it is much less common. I think overclockers run into the throttling on the P4 at about 2.7-3.0 ghz, too.

I think one of the biggest problems you run into when trying to upgrade a video card laptop is simply finding the part. There’s absolutely no market for laptop video card upgrades, so you can’t go to 99.99-percent of computer retailers and actually buy a chip.

I’ll echo what has been said about getting a Mobile processor. There are some generic laptop makers (and certain models from the big boys) which actually use desktop processors. While they certainly give you high speed, those processors are not optimized or even designed for mobile computing… so they suck power like there ain’t no tomorrow, and they heat up like crazy. Normally, that’s not a problem in a desktop, since the thing is plugged into your wall socket and you’re not holding the desktop on your lap. Put a desktop processor in a laptop, though, and you get 30-45 minute battery life, and you gotta put some insulation on your lap, or else you’re gonna get burned.

I think Trident is working on making a comeback with a fully DX8 mobile part. SIS has the Xaber which is a DX8 part, hardware pixel shader/software vertex shader, which is cheap and has a low transistor count, so similar mobile gpus could be coming.

Great thread. I’m also pondering the Toshiba vs. Dell issue. The Dell can be tailor configured, and they’re always running promotions, so if you tweak your order right, you can get a decent portable for less than the comparable Toshibas, which aren’t configurable.

But the Toshiba Satellite 5105 line is really nice. It uses the mobile P4, so it shouldn’t have the same problems Xaroc had, and I like the form factor and physical design better than the Dell’s. The s607 beat the Inspiron in ZiffNet tests, but it had a faster hard drive and 512MB Ram to the Dell’s 256MB. I think the Toshiba 15 inch Personal Theater screen is comparable to the Dell 15 inch “ultra bright” UXGA. Dell may have adjusted their prices recently, but when you try to beef up the hard drive and ram to compete with the Toshiba, it starts getting expensive.

If you check the Toshiba web page, you’ll see they took the s607 off the list and replaced it with a newer model that upgrades the CPU from a P4-M 1.7Ghz to a 1.8, and they boosted the hard drive to 60Gig. I was thinking of getting a Toshiba to use as a desktop replacement, but what Denny said is true too - it’ll never fully replace a desktop with a good CRT screen for performance and video resolution flexibility.

I will say the screen on my Toshiba is incredible, native 1600x1200 resolution with very bright crisp graphics. And everything else about the notebook is nice also, it is just that one design flaw that is killing an otherwise great computer.

The one thing you want to check is the support forum for Toshiba. If you do a search on 5005 you see a ton of complaints if you do a search on 5105 there are very few complaints and none about the slowdown issue.

– Xaroc

BTW, I just dropped my laptop off at a Toshiba authorized service center, cross your fingers that they can do something … anything to fix my laptop. Having to get into a pissing match with Toshiba doesn’t really thrill me.