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Laptop for graphics development

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Bit off topic perhaps but does anyone do their game/graphics dev on a laptop? I have a great desktop setup with a 240GTX but it's not setup all the time and I'd like to just pick up a laptop and do some dev when I feel like it.

Can anyone recommend if there's anything comparable to the 240GTX yet? Or if not, what's the best setup to go for which would give me relatively comparable graphics performance to the xbox 360. Budget not really a problem.

Thanks (I'm in the UK)

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I can't give you any advice on which laptop to buy, but from my experience I'd say that you should NOT buy a laptop with switchable graphics (one high performance and one low performance for battery usage) as this is causing me major problems for driver updates: because lenovo doesn't feel like updating their drivers a lot I had to use some unoffical hacky drivers and even these are the 11.3 drivers while the new ones are 11.10. Before I used the hacky drivers I couldn't even use openCL because it requires newer drivers.

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Check this out. I develop and game on my laptop, I have a Geforce GTS 360M and I haven't had any problems running BF3 or any other games. The GTX 560M seems to be way better than the GTS 360M so you shouldn't have any problems running any game graphics card wise.

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I've been using K52JE with Radeon 5470 - quite good for graphics development (of course as I'm doing some performance heavy stuff (like GI, realtime ray tracing, etc.), I have to test it also on real machines sometimes (having few desktops at home/work) - but using such notebook really made me optimize my code a lot further than it was) ... so next time I'm also going to buy this-like cheaper notebook.

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The biggest problem I found in development on laptops is that I can't run my projects on nVidia Parallel nSight so I'm not able to profile them on the laptop. Is anyone able to use Parallel nSight on laptops?

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I actually do lots of my development work on a laptop, but I have found that the lack of driver support is the biggest problem... If you can find a solution that has drivers from the manufacturer, then you will be much better off.

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I actually do lots of my development work on a laptop, but I have found that the lack of driver support is the biggest problem... If you can find a solution that has drivers from the manufacturer, then you will be much better off.


How do you profile your projects on the laptop? PIX only?

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Performance testing is limited to my desktop, since since I don't have a D3D11 card in my laptop. Even so, since DX9 it has always been a problem to get decent driver updates on a laptop GPU. I really don't have any clue why the driver experience is so totally different between desktop parts and laptops, since they use the same processors...

Anyhow, any algorithms that will run on D3D10 hardware can be tested in realtime, but for performance you should always go for the desktop.

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I went for a Novatech laptop in the end, gtx560m with 1.5gb RAM, i7 2.4ghz, 8gb ram, 320gb 7200rpm hd, apparently this setup will play most games at native resolution at a good fps speed so that's good enough for me. I know it'll probably never happen but any 3d dev I do I envisage it ending up on xbox360 so it'll be fine I think.

I'll post results when I get it

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It doesn't really matter; if you get a slow laptop you can run the graphics in software mode to test the correctness of your rendering, the only thing I can think you need a powerful laptop for is if you're trying to do performance measurements, at which point I wouldn't recommend using a laptop. As long as you can get at least 10 fps on a laptop you're probably fine as far as testing goes. Just make sure you have the ability to time step your game/simulation.

Regular time stepping uses delta from last frame to update, time stepping is using a value you set yourself as an update delta and only updating when you get a space bay down command or something.

Word of warning, before you buy a new laptop, find out what chipset it's using (mainboard) or graphics card, and google that for directX problems. If you get a laptop that has bad graphics drivers, using software rendering mode isn't going to help. For example I've got a 945gm chipset that doesn't do a specific draw mode in directX at all ( one of the less commonly used indexed primitives draw calls, some games would crash if I tried to play them on the laptop )

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I recently bought an Alienware M17X. You can make it as good as you want.
I got an i7 with 8gb mem and a Geforce 580m with 2gb in it. It is really an awesome laptop and great for DX11 development even. It even runs BF3 perfectly smooth :)
Can highly recommend that one. I ordered it from the dell website. Very pricy though, but you can also keep it lower performance for cheaper. There are also other less advanced laptops from Alienware, which are a bit smaller, but I didn't like the keyboard layout of those, as that would suck a bit with programming.

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Is battery life a problem?
As a side note, I have a laptop i3... I'm totally unsatisfied with battery life, although I have plenty of CPU power I don't use.
But of course, I suppose OP is looking for computer that can be carried around rather than a laptop.
Seriously, how to get decent battery life?

And seriously, stop the high-end madness for development. It's not like you're going to tax your system any time soon.

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And seriously, stop the high-end madness for development. It's not like you're going to tax your system any time soon.


That very much depends on what you're working on. :P

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Well I'm the other way about battery life, I'm never going to do any heavy dev on it unless I'm near a power socket so it's not so much of an issue. The reason I want to dev on a laptop is that I don't want a big desktop PC set up permanently in my home, I'd rather just be able to pick up a laptop from under the coffee table, plug it in and get straight to work.

I sometimes which these guys would design laptops which don't even have a battery, meaning more space for more powerful components - the only other place I might use the laptop is on a train and they have power sockets anyway.

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I sometimes which these guys would design laptops which don't even have a battery, meaning more space for more powerful components - the only other place I might use the laptop is on a train and they have power sockets anyway.
those are called "DeskNotes", which are meant to be desktop replacement. I had one like 6-10 years ago (I guess), it had no battery, but instead a desktop-cpu (dual core P4) which got quite hot, but was ok', as there was enough space for enough cooling.
not sure if they're still on the marked, but it was quite a nice idea, they weren't more expensive than a PC (they had no battery), a tft display was integrated (back then a CRT was more common on a desktop) and the company where I bought it, used desknote barebones, it allowed you to configure all parts just like on a desktop PC.





if you don't care bout battery life, whether they're heavy or big (compared to e.g. an MacBook Air), get an alienware notebook.

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Have you heard of System76? They sell really nice laptops with Ubuntu installed. They also provide Windows 7 drivers if you want to dual boot. I have their Gazelle Professional 15" Laptop with an nVidia 460M GTX (They recently upgraded them to 560M GTX's). I also love it because it comes with a 1080p screen, a Sandy Bridge I7, and 8GB of RAM. I got it for $1,500.

www.system76.com if you're interested.

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I think System76's notebooks are Clevos. You can also buy Sager-branded Clevos from e.g. xoticpc. I hear the NP8150 and its relatives give pretty decent bang/buck/portability, though where you want to live on the Pareto front is up to you.

I need a laptop myself, and I'd buy an Alienware m14x tomorrow if it didn't look like a toy for adolescents. I need to take this thing to conferences, etc.

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I need a laptop myself, and I'd buy an Alienware m14x tomorrow if it didn't look like a toy for adolescents. I need to take this thing to conferences, etc.
+1
dell XPS are kind of similar, usually they have less GPU power, but that's probably because you don't want to hear a noisy fan (while you might not care that much during playing).


( sadly the smallest ones you can buy are Dell XPS 14z and XPS 14R, but on the other side, you can choose between with intel, ATI and NVidia GPUs.)

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Well, I had my order placed with Novatech (in the UK) but some of my components were put on backorder so I asked a company called pcspecialist.co.uk if they could build a similar laptop and get it to me quicker, they said they could so the order's with them. They have some great feedback on their service too.

I almost went for the gtx580m but it was £380 more, so sticking with the gtx560m on a 15.6" chassis (Vortex II). Nice setup and only £1190.

Thanks for all the advice guys

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So I ordered my pcspecialist.co.uk custom-built system on Wednesday, and it's being delivered tomorrow. I have to just big them up before I've even received the laptop because their online service was absolutely fantastic.

We'll see what the hardware's like tomorrow!

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