View Full Version : I need desktop advice

2013-09-03, 05:52 AM
My old W500 Thinkpad finally gave out; after four years of running to the college IT department every few months, I've graduated, the warranty's run out, and it's already broken in so many places there isn't enough structure left for me to glue it back together. I need to figure out what sort of laptop to get to replace it, and naturally every time I think I've found a good one, I find a passel of reviews contraindicating that. So, Playground, think you can recommend me a laptop?

The only really concrete requirement is that it runs 64bit windows 7 in order to run the software I use for my job. Beyond that, I'd like to be able to run fairly recent games; statistically, Googling their system requirements suggests I want 2.4 Ghz, 4 GB Ram, and at least a 1 GB video card, but I'm not sure how valid that is. Weight, size, and battery life aren't all that critical (although I do need to move it, which is why I'm not building a desktop) but I'd like it to be durable; after years of having hinges regularly shatter and cooling fans wear out, I'd like something I can use for a while without problems. If I could keep the price under $2k USD, I'd be very happy.

Any suggestions, Playgrounders?

2013-09-03, 06:31 AM
are you sure you need a super laptop?
for 2k you could get a stellar tower and a decent laptop besides. but laptop prices tend to explode if you want a desktop-replacement level gaming machine.

specs wise, i would recommend an intel chipset (they have higher temp/shock tolerance which actually matters in a laptop). an i-7 will likely be working just fine for longer than the case survives.

RAM is a bit tricky. different laptops make upgrading your ram either trivial or nightmarish, but ram should be cheap. when i first got this machine i only had 3 ram and it kept up just fine until recently. 8 should be plenty, more than 10 if you want the thing to last forever.

on that note, avoid alienware. they don't like you touching their innards and they overcharge on anything outside the most basic models.

the OS might take some poking around to find. a lot of the newest machines are pushing windows 8 and laptops don't take as kindly to OS changes as towers.

im not big on laptops, but the "Samsung Series 7 Gamer" looks like a good buy if you don't mind the short battery life.

2013-09-03, 06:56 AM
:smallconfused: That's strange, ThinkPads usually have a reputation of being the sturdiest and least prone to hinge breaking without going into military-spec stuff (and even then, on occasion).

The good news is that you'll easily find laptops that'll fit for you under $2,000. The current Thinkpad W Series (http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/w-series/w530/) starts at about $1,300 and already exceeds your minimum specs before you touch it. I normally am not a fan of extended warranties, but where stability is what you're looking for, you're still under budget if you get a 4 year accidental warranty coverage. If you want to pinch pennies, their T Series (http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/t-series/t530/?sb=:00000025:00003673:) can meet those requirements after you configure a video card on at $850.

Sounds like you're burned out on the ThinkPad design, though. Dell's Latitude (http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=slctu2d&model_id=latitude-e6530&c=us&l=en&s=bsd&cs=04) runs about $900 once you get your video card and memory added in, a higher spec model that runs a newer processor than what I've been linking to starts at (http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=sl65477p14&model_id=latitude-e6540-laptop&c=us&l=en&s=bsd&cs=04) about $1500. If you want to go overboard with durability, there's a semirugged (http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/latitude-e6430-atg/pd) design that you could get around $1800, but that will be trading off power for durability.

I hear praises of HP's ProBook series, but I'm afraid I'm really out of the loop regarding them, so I can't really say much more than that.

Anything further you can think of for your usage? If it is possible for you to answer, what kind of software do you use for your job? Is it just database work, or is it like CAD stuff? Any particular future game titles you're interested in? Any preference for your screen size?

2013-09-03, 08:24 AM
Actually, thubby, that's an excellent question; having checked, I don't actually need the big fancy machine to also be the mobile one. Our software can handle that. Apparently I was not the first person to have this problem, and everyone else has been running them remotely since I started here without anyone telling me. :smallbiggrin:

So apparently I was in error when I was looking for a laptop; the really old one I have lying around will serve for the portable part of the rig. Sorry for asking entirely the wrong question.

With that in mind, as per OracleofWuffing's question:

I need to do CAD with it, yes. As for upcoming games, I'm years behind the curve. I only really need it to run Skyrim, Fallout: New Vegas, and Kerbal Space Program at the highest possible settings. If it can also get Dwarf Fortress to run at multiple frames per minute, that would be great, but I don't think they make cores that fast.

So it can, in fact, be a desktop, if that makes things cheaper.

2013-09-03, 09:03 AM
Being a desktop makes things quite a bit cheaper for the same amount of power.
Would you be willing to assemble the system yourself? You get a lot more machine for your money that way and it is probably the easiest way get a machine still running Windows 7.

Those games are pretty easy to run, so nothing special there. The secondary requirement when you switch to a desktop is that you then need a monitor, so resolution of said monitor will have an impact on what sort of video card you want to get.

If you are interested in building your own this post from last month (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=295524) is still mostly up-to-date in terms of hardware and prices. The discussion gets off in a few places but the meat of the build is near the end of the first page.

2013-09-03, 09:17 AM
If it's a desktop, I can build it myself; I've done it before.

I'll check what resolution my monitor is.

When you say mostly up-to-date, is there anything noticeably off?

EDIT: And which build do you mean?

2013-09-03, 09:24 AM
I don't know, I haven't checked if there have been any major changes in prices in the last couple weeks. I don't think there have been any new component releases but prices can change from week to week so what is the best price to performance part one week might not be the next, it won't be anything big but it will be there.

Also not sure how well that fits your budget, in which case things can change a lot.

edit: and maybe the builds were on the 2nd page now that I go through the thread a bit more closely.

2013-09-03, 11:34 AM
Well, cribbing from the other thread, how is this? (http://pcpartpicker.com/p/1zwzu)

2013-09-03, 12:23 PM
I will probably be repeating some of what I said in the previous thread, but oh well.

Unless you have a high resolution monitor (1080p is standard, not high at this point) or a multi-monitor setup then that video card is way overkill for what you need. You could spend half as much and still max out the games you have mentioned. (unless maybe your CAD program takes advantage of CUDA)

You are going to want a second normal hard drive along with the SSD, 120GB just won't go very far.

After-market CPU cooler isn't necessary unless you plan on overclocking. Though if the bit of noise reduction you get from it is worth the cost then it is worth getting.

The Intel i5's seem to be the top end of the price versus performance ratings but the i7's aren't a bad choice. Doing CAD you might see a difference (not sure, don't work with CAD and I'm sure different programs are better then others at supporting more cores) but probably not much of a difference with games.

Overall a good build.

2013-09-03, 12:30 PM
I have that case. It can be loud, but it's very nice. The blue LEDs help cool the whole thing down. Also I think the top fan is the biggest commercially in a case? I like it. You do want to grab a bigger/non-SSD hard drive though. 120 GB won't get you very far, but it's nice to load the OS superfast.

2013-09-03, 01:31 PM
Right. I forgot to mention that I have a spare non-SSD one-terabyte hard drive that would also go in this case; it'll have the storage, it's just not included in the build cost.

What should I change out the current video card for? I'm not good enough with them to know which numbers are important.

And yes, noise reduction is important. I'd like to make this a very quiet machine, if I can.

2013-09-03, 01:47 PM
I would start by looking at this for an idea. (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-card-review,3107-5.html)
I would say either the Radeon 7970 or the Nvidia GTX 770 are good choices. You could probably even go down another step, but those would be the "balanced" options for your CPU and the general build level you are at.

2013-09-03, 02:06 PM
All right, that knocks the cost down considerably.

What can I do about noise/cooling? Is there a quieter case out there, ideally one that doesn't cost $100?

I'm guessing I'm not going to be demanding enough of the hardware to warrant a liquid cooling system, at least not one that would be quieter than fans. Am I right?

2013-09-03, 02:32 PM
Usually the fan speed is the biggest influence on noise, and that generally comes from your video card. With 4 large fans on the case you can have them all turned down and still have decent air-flow.
The down side to that though is fans don't block noise either, so the noise you get from the video card will be higher then if you had a more enclosed and dampened case. The Antec Sonata cases I know are good for noise, and I'm sure there are others, that is just the only name that comes to mind without some searching.

You will probably see the most noise reduction by finding a video card with quieter fans.

2013-09-03, 04:35 PM
Look into the Samsung ATIV Book 6 or 8. Nice graphics card, very good processor and RAM, solid build. They come with Windows 8 but you can always downgrade.

2013-09-04, 07:58 AM
A question on cooling:

From what I can tell, the CPU I want doesn't ship with its own cooler. If, as I suspect, the motherboard is usually going to be parallel to the ground, do I want a cooler with the fan parallel to the mobo or perpendicular to it?

2013-09-04, 08:45 AM
I don't think they sell CPUs without the coolers any more, any "retail boxed" CPU will have the fan/heatsink.

Virtually all cases hold the motherboard perpendicular to the ground, they design the heatsink brackets with that in mind. You shouldn't have anything to worry about. The heat pipe cooler design is very common with after-market coolers. Given most stock coolers blow towards the motherboard and that does increase the airflow across some parts of the motherboard but it is hot air coming from the CPU. The other design is better for cooling and the only reason they use the old design on the stock heatsinks is because it is cheaper.