Technology Integrated video card?

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Ollie123

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Hi everyone,
Buying a new laptop soon for grad school, and have settled on a Dell Latitude (probably a D630) since although I hear they are not as durable as say, Lenovo, they seem to be the best "deal" in terms of what you get for the price. Plus they're one of the few places where I can find a machine that isn't tainted with Vista (which I haven't liked in my limited experience with it).

Anyways, I'm contemplating upgrades(namely to the video card, but figure I'll mention the others while I'm at it) and wondering if others would be willing to offer some input since it will actually be my first laptop. IDEALLY I'd like this to last me about 5 years so I want to make sure I'm upgrading where I should be.

RAM:
2gb is pricy ($200) but is it worth it in case I do ever have to upgrade to Vista (which right now at least is a memory-hog)?

Video Card:
Any reason to splurge for a $70 NVIDIA 128mb over integrated? I've got a desktop if I want to play games...not sure the video card would do much other than suck battery life. Then again, if I get a video card, could I then get by with 1 gig of RAM for Vista?

Hard drive:
Is a 7200 worth it over 5400 for 60 bucks?

Wireless:
I think I'm going to go for the Dell 802.11 n mini-card. Would this still work for b/g networks? (I could be wording this wrong, I'm not too much of a tech-guy, just done some reading on it while researching this...). Basically, just wondering if there is any reason to spend more on an a/g/n dual-band card over the "just n" card.

Battery: 6 cell or 9 cell? $29 for the 9-cell or I can get 2 6-cells for $69.

Thanks everyone! Any input would be greatly appreciated since I'm unfamilar with what to expect out of a notebook - not exactly at a stage in my life where I have money to throw around so I want to make sure I do this right the first time!

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Hi everyone,
Buying a new laptop soon for grad school, and have settled on a Dell Latitude (probably a D630) since although I hear they are not as durable as say, Lenovo

I'll throw out my usual strong recommendation for CompleteCare the accidental damage insurance. It's not inexpensive, but compared to the cost of a new laptop if something happens, it's very cheap.

IDEALLY I'd like this to last me about 5 years so I want to make sure I'm upgrading where I should be.

I don't know how realistic 5 years from a laptop before obsolescence is. Given that we're just on the far side of a generational switch (mainly between single and dual cores, although there are a few other factors) you might just make it, but I'm not sure I wouldn't plan on 3, and consider 5 a nice bonus if you can make it.

Which processor are you looking at getting?

2gb is pricy ($200) but is it worth it in case I do ever have to upgrade to Vista (which right now at least is a memory-hog)?

Vista is always going to be a memory hog; it's only going to get worse as application developers get used to having more memory to play with, and as Microsoft releases updates.

It's not hard to upgrade the RAM yourself.

I'd recommend going with 2GB off the bat (whether direct from dell or #2 below), but since cost is an issue, you've got two cheaper options:
1) Just get 1GB and upgrade later.
2) Order the Dell with the minimum ram (512mb with XP) and then order the 2GB kit separately (I recommend crucial.com as a good memory vendor, but there are often cheaper places) and upgrade it right off.

BTW, going from 1gb to 2gb on XP gives a nice speedbump if you're a heavy multitasker, but it's not going to offer any noticeable speedup for more general use.

Any reason to splurge for a $70 NVIDIA 128mb over integrated? I've got a desktop if I want to play games...not sure the video card would do much other than suck battery life. Then again, if I get a video card, could I then get by with 1 gig of RAM for Vista?

I haven't used the X3100 video with Vista yet, but the generation of the video on the D620s (X3000, I think, but it may have been GMA950) was borderline unacceptable with Vista's Aero interface, and ANY amount of memory. I doubt X3100 is much better.

Is a 7200 worth it over 5400 for 60 bucks?
Depends on what you do with it; for general office tasks, probably not. If you're using disk-heavy applications, it can make a big difference. It also will run down the battery faster, if that's a consideration.

I think I'm going to go for the Dell 802.11 n mini-card. Would this still work for b/g networks? (I could be wording this wrong, I'm not too much of a tech-guy, just done some reading on it while researching this...). Basically, just wondering if there is any reason to spend more on an a/g/n dual-band card over the "just n" card.

Unless you know for sure that you need the 802.11a support, there's no reason to get it. "a" is basically only used in a few corporate networks, or by people who've gotten a wireless-A router for home (although if you live someplace with a lot of neighbors using 802.11b/g/n it can be very nice to have A since it uses a different [5.something ghz vs 2.4ghz] band and will typically have much less interference... the downside is the range is a lot shorter.)

As a separate note, I've seen several notes that the Intel wireless cards tend to have somewhat better reception and battery life than the Dell ones; I've always used the Intel cards, so I can't directly compare them.

Battery: 6 cell or 9 cell? $29 for the 9-cell or I can get 2 6-cells for $69.
Unless you get a second battery for the modular bay, you have to shut down to swap the 6-cells. The 9-cell does add a bit of bulk (it projects off the front, albeit with a rubberized wrist rest.)

If you are going to go through classes, you might consider the modular bay battery - it's kind of a pricy option, but the combination of the 9-cell + modular bay batteries will give you the longest possible runtime without changing batteries.

Oh - and if you're concerned about battery life, you're especially right to want to stick with XP for now. At least on my D620, battery life has dropped a LOT since going to Vista.
 
Thanks for the input:) I figure 5 years isn't "exactly" realistic, but I can dream:) Office apps and SPSS are generally not too hard on systems (and that is probably what I will be running 90% of the time) so I bet I can make it at least 4.

The processor I was going for was the Intel Core 2 Duo T7300. Seems like the best deal since its only $50 to upgrade and I get 4M instead of 2M(I assume that's bus? Or am i reading it wrong...) and .2 more GHz. Sound like a plan?


RAM: I'm comfortable adding RAM to a desktop...not so much to a laptop so I'd prefer to get it as is unless I can get it installed dirt cheap somewhere. I don't think I need 2 gigs right now, but unfortunately, eventually I probably WILL want vista and it might be nice to be ready-to-go when that fateful day comes.

HD: Could you define disk-heavy? (Sorry, as I said, not overly knowledgeable about such things). Mostly I'll be using it for stats, lit searches, Office, and maybe some basic web development/extremely low-end programming. I think games would tend to be very disk-heavy, not sure if those apps would though.

Video: That just stinks:( I'd rather do everything I can to keep battery life up since this thing will likely be with me at school for 12-16 hour days and I don't know when I'll be able to plug it in. Doesn't sound like integrated video is even functional with Vista though. I'm going to start a bring back DOS campaign. I don't need my OS to be pretty, it just has to work. Efficiency > Appearance

Wireless: Don't need A then. Would my "n" card be able to connect to a "g" network though?

Battery: Bulk sounds bad:( I'll think on this one. What is your setup on the 620 and how much battery life do you get?

Thanks again for the help!
 
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Thanks for the input:) I figure 5 years isn't "exactly" realistic, but I can dream:) Office apps and SPSS are generally not too hard on systems (and that is probably what I will be running 90% of the time) so I bet I can make it at least 4.

In that sense, yeah, you can probably pretty easily get 4 (at least if you stick with Office 2003 or 2007... by the time Office 2011 (or whatever) comes out, who knows? I'm not even jumping to 2007 just yet.

The processor I was going for was the Intel Core 2 Duo T7300. Seems like the best deal since its only $50 to upgrade and I get 4M instead of 2M(I assume that's bus? Or am i reading it wrong...) and .2 more GHz. Sound like a plan?

The T7300 is pretty much the "sweet spot" right now, yeah. The 4M(egabyte) is the L2 cache size, which definitely is a nice speed bump over the 2M cache. The bus speed is 800MHZ on all the processors I see offered with the D630, which is the big improvement of the 630 over the 620 I've got (which is 667mhz).

RAM: I'm comfortable adding RAM to a desktop...not so much to a laptop so I'd prefer to get it as is unless I can get it installed dirt cheap somewhere. I don't think I need 2 gigs right now, but unfortunately, eventually I probably WILL want vista and it might be nice to be ready-to-go when that fateful day comes.

It would save about $100 total (based on $200 to upgrade to 2gb, and about $100 on crucial for 2x 1gb chips - it's best to install them in matched pairs.)

Rather than reiterate that it's not that hard -- heck, I've been working on these things way too long to be a fair judge anymore -- here's the Dell service manual instructions for adding/replacing memory on the D630 : http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/latd630/en/SM_EN/memory.htm#wp1084976

HD: Could you define disk-heavy? (Sorry, as I said, not overly knowledgeable about such things). Mostly I'll be using it for stats, lit searches, Office, and maybe some basic web development/extremely low-end programming. I think games would tend to be very disk-heavy, not sure if those apps would though.

Most games these days are very disk heavy, yes. Development of larger programs are very disk heavy, but light duty development isn't. Stats can be disk heavy if the data set size gets bigger than will fit in memory, but with 1-2gb of memory, that would take a pretty large data set.

Video: That just stinks:( I'd rather do everything I can to keep battery life up since this thing will likely be with me at school for 12-16 hour days and I don't know when I'll be able to plug it in. Doesn't sound like integrated video is even functional with Vista though. I'm going to start a bring back DOS campaign. I don't need my OS to be pretty, it just has to work. Efficiency > Appearance

OK, a couple of things -
1) When you go to Vista, you can always turn off the 3D effects. I don't know if it will help with battery life but it's worth trying, and it will definitely help with the responsiveness if you get it with the integrated video and then find it a bit less than snappy with Vista.

2) Get the modular bay battery. Having nearly twice the battery life (compared to the 6 cell) is really nice.

3) Stick with XP as long as you can. Battery life was a lot better. Unlike speed issues, this one might actually get better as Vista (and Dell's drivers for Vista on their machines) get a bit more mature.

Wireless: Don't need A then. Would my "n" card be able to connect to a "g" network though?

As far as I know, all N cards also support B and G, yes.

Battery: Bulk sounds bad:( I'll think on this one. What is your setup on the 620 and how much battery life do you get?

I've got a D620, T7200 (2ghz), 2gb (upgraded from 1), 100gb 7200rpm drive, Nvidia video, Intel A/B/G, 9 cell battery + modular bay battery. I added the 2gb of memory and modular bay battery after moving to vista. With XP, I got about 3 hours of runtime on the 9-cell battery, dropped to just under 2 on Vista, although I'm a pretty heavy multitasker. I'm back up a bit over 3 with the modular bay battery on Vista.
 
It actually doesn't look nearly as bad as I was expecting to install memory. I guess the last laptop I was digging around in was quite a few years ago....it looks alot neater than it once was. I could definitely handle that upgrade, just need to make sure Dell won't void my warranty if I do it myself.

Doubt I'll need the 7200 then unless I'm running some epidemiological studies, which doesn't seem terribly likely at this point.

Mayhaps I will skip the video card and just try and stick with XP as long as I possibly can. It sounds like a video card would be absolutely useless to me save for Vista's pointless eye candy (I doubt generating line graphs will prove too taxing for even an integrated video system).

Is it possible to upgrade from integrated video to a card at a later date, or is the integrated pretty much a commitment?

Still unsure of what I will do battery-wise. Media bay sounds like the "best" but I don't know if its worth the price. Maybe I'll get the normal 6 or 9 cell and upgrade to a media bay later if I need it.

Thanks for everything! You've been incredibly helpful.
 
It actually doesn't look nearly as bad as I was expecting to install memory. I guess the last laptop I was digging around in was quite a few years ago....it looks alot neater than it once was. I could definitely handle that upgrade, just need to make sure Dell won't void my warranty if I do it myself.

I don't know if it technically voids your warranty, but I can say from experience that they don't practically care - with the caveat that you'll need to swap your old memory back in if you have to send it back for warranty service.

Which actually raises one notable advantage to paying more for the memory through them - if the memory itself is what goes bad/gets damaged, it will be covered by your machine warranty. Given how hot some laptops run, this has been a big advantage in the past.

Doubt I'll need the 7200 then unless I'm running some epidemiological studies, which doesn't seem terribly likely at this point.

It's also even easier to upgrade later than memory, and 2gb vs. 1gb will make a bigger difference in performance for most things you're likely to be doing.

Mayhaps I will skip the video card and just try and stick with XP as long as I possibly can. It sounds like a video card would be absolutely useless to me save for Vista's pointless eye candy (I doubt generating line graphs will prove too taxing for even an integrated video system).

Sounds like it; when/if you upgrade to Vista (I've still got one friend running Windows 2000 so it's hardly mandatory) you can assess whether to turn on the Aero interface (assuming it lets you; I think it just will -whether you'll happy with the interface responsiveness is another matter.)

Is it possible to upgrade from integrated video to a card at a later date, or is the integrated pretty much a commitment?

It's a commitment. With this model, as best I can tell from the service manual, the video chip is a permanent part of the motherboard. Even in some older ones where the video was on a daughtercard, upgrading would have been deep surgery.

Still unsure of what I will do battery-wise. Media bay sounds like the "best" but I don't know if its worth the price. Maybe I'll get the normal 6 or 9 cell and upgrade to a media bay later if I need it.

That's not a bad plan at all. If you wait for a sale from Dell's parts division (typically 10-15% off, possibly also free 3-5 day shipping) it may even prove a little cheaper purchased separately.

In terms of the bulk of the 9-cell battery, here's a pretty good picture off the web of the protrusion of the cells past the front:
http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/13800.jpg
I don't find it bothersome, but YMMV. I'm about 99% sure it's the same battery on the D630.

If the bulk isn't going to bother you, and you want run-time, the 9-cell is the way to go for your main battery.

Thanks for everything! You've been incredibly helpful.

You're most welcome!
 
The 9 cell isn't nearly as big as I thought it would be, that probably wouldn't bother me in the slightest. How does yours handle abuse though? My concern is less that it would bother me and more that it would end up getting knocked around since it extends past the "base" of the machine even when its closed and I'd hate to have the internal parts get jarred around because I accidentally caught the battery on something moving my laptop around.

I assume all drives are modular now and I can just buy the media bay battery later if I want one, right? Just don't want to have to dismantle or buy a new CD burner because I have one that is built into the system and can't be removed.

Thanks again:)
 
The 9 cell isn't nearly as big as I thought it would be, that probably wouldn't bother me in the slightest. How does yours handle abuse though? My concern is less that it would bother me and more that it would end up getting knocked around since it extends past the "base" of the machine even when its closed and I'd hate to have the internal parts get jarred around because I accidentally caught the battery on something moving my laptop around.

It sometimes feels like my whole life is on my laptop - it takes a lot of hard use - and I've occasionally picked up the whole machine by the battery "lip" without any problem. It's pretty sturdy. The rubberized surface has gotten a bit dingy, but the clips to the machine are solid after 8 months.

I assume all drives are modular now and I can just buy the media bay battery later if I want one, right? Just don't want to have to dismantle or buy a new CD burner because I have one that is built into the system and can't be removed.

That's a big advantage of the D6x0/D8x0 - they *still* have modular optical drives, and you can swap the battery in instead (or a second hard drive, or a different/newer optical drive.)

This was pretty much a universal feature on "business" laptops up to a couple of years ago, and it's actually becoming less common rather than more common (it's hard to do on super-thin systems), but Dell has stuck with it for most of the Latitude models.

Thanks again:)

You're welcome.
 
One last question.

How's the Blue Tooth notebook stuff work, and is it worth investing in?
 
One last question.

How's the Blue Tooth notebook stuff work, and is it worth investing in?

I haven't used Bluetooth much, but given that it's what, about $30(?) to get the internal card, it's probably worth it for futureproofing unless you're at the far end of your budget. If you don't get it, for about $20 you can later get a USB Bluetooth adapter (looks basically like one of those flash drives) later, which work just as well but are one more thing to plug in, potentially lose, etc. [Alternatively, the internal BT card is installable later, although looked a bit more difficult than just plugging memory or a hard drive in.]

As for what I've used... it's been a relative pain in the neck to get Bluetooth peripherals set up with Windows in the first place, but potentially handy once set up. I've only used the one in my laptop for sync'ing with a PocketPC phone... I ended up prefering, after trying it a bit, to just use USB since that keeps the phone from having its battery run down while sync'ing or using the mobile internet connection.

It's also good for various remote i/o devices (at my last job before this one, our manager got everyone wireless BT keyboards and mice for no particular reason) and supposedly more peripherals (mostly ones that currently use wired USB) like digital cameras and printers are going to be using it in the future - some do now, I think.

Oh - separate note: you'll notice that Dell sells separate options for Bluetooth for XP and for Vista. This is simply a matter of the firmware, and if you later upgrade from XP to Vista the drivers you can download from Dell will update the firmware for you without much difficulty. Downgrading the firmware from Vista-compatible to XP-Compatible is trickier.

(For some models - although I don't think this applies to the D630 - they also sell separate options for the DVD readers and writers. That determines which DVD-player software, and possibly what CD/DVD writing software, they bundle with it. The bundled DVD player software - WinDVD and PowerDVD at various times - is fine, but the bundled "lightweight" version of the Roxio CD/DVD writing software is pretty much a junky demo.)
 
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