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Mephs

new laptop or new desktop?

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I''m just wondering what peoples preferences are for developing games? I''m considering buying either a Dell Inspirion 8500 with GeForce4 Go graphics, or a new Alienware desktop with GeForce FX. I''m not sure which would be the better purchase. Considering that my last desktop PC got stolen, a laptop would have the advantage that I can almost always keep it on person. I could work on my coding almost anywhere (freeing me from being cooped up in my room 24/7). Against that option though are the facts that I wont be getting as much performance for my money, I wont have as good upgradability. For a desktop PC, I have the disadvantage that I cant always be at home to ensure we''re not broken into, I can''t carry it around with me. The advantages though are that I will get better performance, better upgradeablity. Does anyone have any advice about the better option? Both cost roughly the same, but I''m a little worried about the performance (and perhaps feature) loss of a mobile compared to a desktop, after all, the main reason I''m upgrading is to allow me to work with a bit more freedom from performance constraints of a p2 350, 256 megs RAM GeForce MX440 desktop PC. The ability to code any time, anywhere though might be worth the tradeoff, but I''m not sure. Ideally I''d have a laptop with a GeForce FX card, but I don''t think you can buy laptops with them yet :/ Any advice and/or further pros/cons would be appreciated, Cheers, Steve

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Guest Anonymous Poster
laptops are typically a bad idea for gaming/game development. Why?

#1. They are more expensive than their PC equivilents.
#2. Most of the core parts on a laptop can''t be upgraded/replaced such as your CPU or video card. Which means it''s only a matter of time before you''ll need to buy a new laptop again to replace it.
#3. Everything you buy for your laptop such as batteries or ram is more expensive than the regular desktop equivilents.
#4. Most laptops don''t have video chips good enough to run the latest video games. Worthy chipsets are the radeon 9000 and the new Geforce4 4600 2go chipset. The rest are horrible, and don''t often offer good openGL preformance at all.

Now there are some laptops out on the market that are "virtual desktops" these things don''t use the mobile versions of the CPU''s to run which makes them equivilent to a desktop in speed however because these processors weren''t optimized to reduce the power consumption they''ll eat through a battery in just a few hours.

Now as for the desktops:

#1. Desktops aren''t very portable but you can get a small case and an LCD monitor and do very well moving it to from place to place.

#2. Parts for your PC are relatively cheap if you shop on pricewatch/newegg or pricegrabber.com. This means that you can spend $50 here and there to upgrade your computer should it ever get terribly out of date.

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I understand why you would want a laptop.
The AP above sums it up pretty well, i just want to add one thing: laptops might have poor upgrade options, but unlike an aging desktop computer you can actually sell them for a decent fraction(easily 50%, and 75+% isnt rare) of the purchase price, giving you a good start on buying a new laptop.

Actually i want to add more : Its a bit unusual to have a desktop PC stolen, laptops are MUCH more risky, since they are easier to steal, easy to sell off etc. So i wouldnt buy a laptop to avoid getting it stolen

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I think my main concern is performance, I mean right now I''m getting a maximum of 60-70fps on my current project, it is heavily optimised, but to get the level of detail I want... the hardware just isnt cutting it. My main concern is going out, spending £1000+ on a brand new laptop, and then finding there is barely any performance difference and/or when I start movingonto more advanced techniques like shadow volumes etc... I don''t have the power to use them. What I''m after basically is something that can quite comfortably (if not easily) run any of the DirectX sample apps, and a good portion (hopefully all) of the Nvidia samples. Looking at the GeForce 4600 Go specifications, it doesn''t look to be much of an improvement over my GeForce MX440, except that it has added support for shaders.

Saying that though, any processor would be an improvement over a p2 350, so I wonder how adversly my low speed processor is currently affecting my application framerates?

So far as I can see, a desktop would be a safe option, a laptop would be a bit more risky... but the thought of coding almost anywhere is very appealing... I know I''d get more coding done due to the flexibility, I could lie in bed and work if I''m not feeling up to getting up (I code a lot and sleep a little!!), I could work on coding at work if we have a quiet period, I could even go and code outside in the sunshine!!

If GeForce FX Go graphics cards were available in laptops now (or soon), I''d almost definitely get a laptop, because I''m pretty certain that would have about as much performance power as i''d ever need for the forseeable future (any further power is pretty much overkill). It happens though that they aren''t, and I can''t find any solid information on when they will be available either. If they are not available in the near future, or if they push the price of the laptop beyond my spending range (£1300 ish)... then I''ll probably go with a desktop.

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have you tried working for some long period of time with a laptop.

if not, i would suggest you to do so.

i''m saying this, bc. i also bought a laptop.
speedwise it was ok. but the main problem was,
that i felt totaly uncomfortable while working at it.
the keyboard is too small, the screen is to small and only
refreshes at low 60Hz... and so on.

if that does not bother you, then buy one, it has, other than that, some obvious advantages.

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hmm.. thinking about it, a compromise could be in order. If I were to purchase a decent mid-high range desktop for the majority of my work, and a second hand or clearance laptop to do mobile coding, that could work well. Is anyone able to inform me of any decent place to pick up outdated laptops (albeit with a semi decent graphics card so I can at least do basic graphics work).. bearing in mind I''m in the UK not the US? That way I have a good balance of being able to code on the go, while still keeping decent performance/upgradablity in my main machine.

Cheers,

Steve

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Guest Anonymous Poster
AP has it mostly right... Most of the newer laptops allow CPU, memory and video upgrades. Yes Video upgrades, as an example Dell notebooks have that ability (or so im told) but its a send to the manufacturer kind of thing. as always you check with the manufacturer to see what you can do.

Both the Mobile Radeon 9600 and Mobile GeForceFX are going to be avail very very soon. They have been announced and released to manufactures for testing/integration.

I had the same idea as you, I wanted to move around etc. I ended up buying an Inspiron 8500 w/R9000. It was great for a little while but I found myself sitting at a desk most of the time with a full-size keyboard and mouse (The built in keyboard/track pad does get a little annoying after using it for a couple of hours). The notebook is simply amazing, but it wasn''t what I was hoping for. I ended up returning it and buying a desktop.

Personally, I would get a 15" LCD monitor and a Shuttle nForce2 SFF case (Alienware sells some pretty wicked sets or build your own) and a wireless mouse/KB set. That will serve you much better in the long term and you could pretty much take it anywhere you wanted.

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You could get a laptop with a docking station. The docking station is a contraption with a monitor, keyboard and mouse attached to it with a space to stick your laptop, basically turing it into a desktop. If you need to take off, you just pop out the laptop. Dell makes good docking stations for their Inspiron/Latitude laptops.

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I debated the very same thing about a year and a half ago, sans the part about being afraid of having my desktop stolen. I chose the laptop. Dell Inspiron 8100, 30Gb HD, 512Mb RAM, 32Mb GeForce 2 Go, 1GHz P3, 15" LCD with 1600x1200 support. It''s a mistake I will not make in the future.

For raw performance, a laptop will never compete with a desktop, assuming both of them are top of the line at the same time. I had purchased it as a replacement for my previous desktop and it was a mighty big disappointment. I use a docking station, I have it rigged up to a 20" LCD flat panel, USB mouse+keyboard, all sorts of other USB devices (printer, scanner, Visor Prism docking station, external USB drives, camera, etc).

It handles everything just fine. No real compatibility problems. But it''s sooooo slow. The hard drive is the major limiting factor. At 4200 RPM''s, it just doesn''t cut it for high end application development. And at a hefty 9lbs, it''s not exactly a lightweight. If you go for the 5400 RPM drive, it''s faster, but you lose battery power faster. I have 2 batteries in it and it averages 4-5 hours.

While on one hand, it''s really nice to take my work with me, the slow performance makes me wish I''d just bought a monster desktop instead. That''s where I do the vast majority of my development anyway and its where I do all of my best and most intensive work. Portability is nice, but not at the sacrifice of performance. If you''re looking for a desktop replacement, take my advice. Get another desktop. If you want portability, get a laptop. You cannot have both.

If you really want it, get a really low end ultra lightweight laptop with firewire, a 20Gb Windows iPod, and a raging fast desktop. There''s your portability, your blazingly fast performance, and your firewire drive can double to hold all of the things you''re actually developing. That''s what I plan on doing next time.

Some will disagree with me, but this was my experience. The choice is yours. Some of these other guys have some good points about some of the differences which are a bit more specific than my view of "Don''t do it. I did and I regretted the decision". And as for having your desktop stolen, that''s just wrong... Remind me not to move there. I''d hate to have to worry about my machine all the time.


Looking for an honest video game publisher? Visit www.gamethoughts.com

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Well I''m off to University next year, so I''ll definately get a laptop. As far as I''m concerned, only buy a laptop if you really need portability. The fact you can work outside is nice, but not a reason to get one. The one thing I will have to have is a mouse, I could never work without a mouse, or at least not comfortably. Unfortunately, at the moment I have a wireless mouse with a mains docking station, which is frustrating.

I would certainly recommend a larger laptop if you can''t decide. They''re so much faster and cheaper than the smaller ones. Weight shouldn''t really be an issue, unless you''re really lazy.

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