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Gadgets, pt II - He's just this guy, you know.

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November 28th, 2007

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02:30 pm - Gadgets, pt II
Well ... my last gadget post gave me a little info on iPods, and a lot about laptops, so I figure I should clarify how I'd be using a laptop (I think I'm decided on the 80Gb iPod Classic, and at some point I'll consider other devices for shiny-portable-phone-webbrowser uses) :

1) I will probably want to dual-boot with something Unix-y (Ubuntu or OS X will do), and Win XP (probably not Vista). Need a decent amount of disk space - the more the merrier !

2) One use will indeed be games, under Windows. I don't really need the absolute maximum gaming performance, though, as I generally don't buy games just after they've come out - I often pick up things on special a couple of years down the track. I do want to be able to replay all my old games, though, all the way back to Civ2 and SMAC[1]. I also want decent performance for things like Oblivion, and will be picking up Bioshock and Supreme Commander in the near future. WINE gaming or VMware gaming don't really interest me - WINE because I've never had much luck getting games to actually run (even ones with a "gold" rating in the DB, e.g. BG II), and VMware because some of the games probably do need the computer's full attention on them to run properly.

3) I'm not actually sure how important size/portability are to me. Not even sure if I want 15" or 17" (or something else). I imagine at some point I'll have an external monitor hooked up to it, so 15" may not be a huge drawback ... on the other hand, 17" would be nicer when on the move.

4) I'm also not quite sure what my budget limit is. I have few doubts that a MacBook Pro would be a very nice machine for me, but configured the way I want it it would be nudging £2k, which is indeed rather expensive. I keep thinking that a non-Mac laptop suited to my purposes should be available for somewhat less than that, even if it isn't quite so Shiny!™.

For reference, my current desktop machine has an Athlon 2400, 2Gb RAM, GeForce 5900XT, dual boots XP and Ubuntu 7.04. Doesn't really run Oblivion properly - I had to run it at 800x600, and turn down/off most of the effects to get a half-decent frame rate (15-20, except in fights where it dropped below 10).

[1] Ironically, SMAC plays ok under XP (with the XP patch), but I couldn't get the Linux version working under Ubuntu 7.04.
Current Mood: curiouscurious

(5 touches | En garde !)


[User Picture]
Date:November 28th, 2007 03:22 pm (UTC)
I'm very happy with my MacBook Pro. Sure, it cost a bit more than a similarly spec'd Wintel laptop, but I've more than recovered that cost in time not spent fixing the damn thing after it's become stuffed for no apparent reason (yes Windows(R)(TM), I'm glaring at you). I don't use it for games - I have my old Athlon 2200 with 1G RAM for that, though I could certainly run the games I'm playing (WoW, StarCraft, FallOut) on the Mac. (It's more a case of it not being under my control outside workhours... ;-)

I used to be the control-freak when it came to hardware and software, and insist on building & installing everything myself, but these days I've reached the stage where I just want something that bloody well *works*. And the MacBook Pro does. Once Leopard supports Time Machine drivers over wireless I'll be sorely tempted to get a new box and possibly replace my FreeBSD desktop with it... because backups "that just work" are such an enticing thing!
[User Picture]
Date:November 28th, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC)
Seriously - a Rock. One of the Extremes i recomend but even the cheaper ones are good. You cant beat them on customer service either. You have seen Reet and mine. I'd never use another brand. As an example the ones Reet and I have are a year old - run core 2 7600 with Geforce 7950 512MB graphics cards and 2 GB Ram. I can run Oblivion pretty high at the native 1920x res.
[User Picture]
Date:November 29th, 2007 04:51 am (UTC)
Is there really much price differential with the MacBooks? Because if he can't afford/justify a high end MacBook, he can't afford/justify a high end non-Apple laptop either.
[User Picture]
Date:November 29th, 2007 06:42 am (UTC)
You have a better choice would be a good way of putting it. While the extreme 770 weighs in around the same price the older extreme models and some of the pegusus models (which are still very good) come in around half the price of the MacBook pro - Rock just make very good laptops.
[User Picture]
Date:November 29th, 2007 05:27 am (UTC)
My advice:
- don't write Macs off, compare the actual price to similarly specced machines. The price differential may not be as large as you think, and no quality laptop that will run Oblivion well is cheap. For myself, if I really wanted to run Oblivion I'd consider buying an Xbox 360 :-)
- a poor quality laptop is much more unhappy-making than a poor quality desktop. I'd seriously consider, if I had to make the choice, taking a better quality lower-specced laptop over something higher-specced but flaky.
- Mac OS X is indeed sufficiently unix-y for most uses (Doctorow-ish free software zealotry excluded). I install quite a few things using the BSD ports system, and run a few X11 things (wireshark, for example), and I've done local apache and zope installs for development purposes in the past.
- old games probably do indeed run fine under VMware or similar (I use Parallels, but its the principle I'm assuming here), effectively getting only part of the RAM and half the processor only effectively puts the specs back a couple of years, and quite a bit of the work is being done by the graphics card, which in some cases (if you have a virtual software solution that supports it, are running full screen, etc) may be at full capacity. But you are quite correct that modern games will suffer. It would be interesting to experiment (ie if you run Oblivion etc full screen, how much of the work is being done by the graphics card?) but I would assume a modern high-spec game will need to be running on a native OS. Note that some of the software solutions (I only know about Parallels) will let you use the same OS install/partition both for dual booting and for VMing, which is very convenient. Quite tempted to do this myself when I get my new MacBook Pro next week.
- it sounds as if you are committed to dual booting and rebooting as needed for games anyway, which to me makes Macs look more attractive (dual booting is a big deal to recommend to someone that doesn't already do it -- some people are fine with it, some people find it super annoying). Macs make very fine XP machines (and actually, even better Vista machines - effectively as good or better than PC vendors). All the current line are basically fairly standard modern midrange-to-high-end Intel hardware, the only unusual thing about them being they have genuinely modern EFI firmware.
- I have no real advice on the 15" vs 17" issue, other than, having tried both, I'm heading back to 17" for my new machine. But it really depends on individual use patterns, I almost never use an external monitor, so if you do, that may change things.
- one tip about buying Apple laptops - it seems that the one place where Apple are crazily overpriced is RAM. Look at configuring a machine with the minimum RAM from Apple, and then upping it with third party RAM (good dealers may do this for you if you buy from a dealer rather than direct from Apple, but otherwise its a user servicable part, and easy), and see if that makes a difference in price comparisons.

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