Which one would you buy if you were me?
Medion Erazer X6825
40% (2)
40% (2)
Asus G75 Series ROG G75VX
20% (1)
20% (1)
Wait for Lenovo Y500 IdeaPad
20% (1)
20% (1)
Other
20% (1)
20% (1)
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Poll: Programming / gaming laptop advice (Medion?)

Edit: I just posted a reply to this topic to resolve it and tell interested people that I got the Medion (10th post). If you came here to give me advice: thank you, but I no longer need it. Of course, if you still want to add to the discussion: be my guest.

Dear Escapists,

I'm on the verge of buying a new laptop and I could use some advice. I'm a programmer who spends an exorbitant amount of time on my computer, so I'm willing to shell out the fairly hefty[1] sum of roughly €1700. Unfortunately, for a software engineer, I know fairly little about hardware. I realize this may not be the most obvious website for asking about my particular use case, but this is the only forum I frequent and I think a lot of laptop gamers face a lot of similar issues when picking out their machines.

Because I know I can be fairly verbose and I have a lot to ask, I'll spoiler all my questions so it's easy to skip over parts you don't want to read.

Thanks a lot for your time and any help you may have to offer!

[1] Although, as we'll see it may actually not be that big a budget for what I want.

I'm working with the same limited information you've posted here so take my advice with a heaping of salt. From what I can tell, the Lenovo looks to be the most powerful and by far the cheapest so it seems really hard to pass up, however, being largely unfamiliar with the GTX 600 series and laptop GPUs in general, I can't be totally certain that's the case since for all I know a high end 680M or 670M may be more powerful than two low end 650Ms (even a low end model of one of the former may be more powerful than two high end models of the latter, I'm completely unfamiliar with the technical specs of each) - it really depends on the exact specs of the cards used in each model, look for more information or contact the manufacturers.

Regardless, the Lenovo seems like a bargain in comparison. The SSD may be substantially smaller but in general the storage drives in laptop are fairly easy to replace and upgrade - the manufacturer or retailer may even offer an upgrade for a reasonable fee, though it would probably be cheaper to do yourself, and considering how much the prices of SSDs have dropped upgrading to a larger one should still leave the total cost far below the others.

How much more using two cards will drain the battery I don't know...I can almost guarantee that under load it will drain substantially more however being unfamiliar with the various cards mentioned and how SLI manages power usage it's hard to determine the overall difference. Chances are you'll get a general idea from a comparison between the usage times on battery power listed by the manufacturers.

A lot of your additional questions seem a bit out of my depth but there are a few I can cover. When it comes to RAM (when you say banks, I assume you mean the separate channels and not the individual slots) really you want to use as many channels as you can, though each channel can have more than one slot associated with it. Each channel communicates separately so if you're using two sticks of RAM on a single channel you're worse off than if you're using them on separate channels because you're forcing all of the data through one. I'm not sure of the performance difference when say you're using two 4GB sticks compared to one 8GB on the same channel however I assume the difference is minimal (though I'd prefer the latter since it's easier to upgrade to 16GB). When it comes to the need to use the same kind of memory the answer is kinda. If you're using memory of a different speed then the faster sticks will be nerfed to the lower speed. Also, sometimes different sticks just don't want to work together (I've read it may be related to whether both sticks have chips on one or both sides). I've encountered this issue once myself though simply getting the same kind of RAM should avoid anything like this (it really is best practice). AFAIK the brand of RAM doesn't change much when it comes to performance, it's mostly about reliability (and the possibility of overclocking). Faster RAM is going to give you faster performance though whether you notice really depends on the application (and how observant you are).

I'm no expert when it comes to Wi-Fi, but getting a fancy ass card is probably more about performance than reliability. I do most of my personal wireless on the cheap, it all works well and is consistently faster than my internet connection, you really shouldn't need something high end unless you plan on doing a lot of file transferring or media sharing over Wi-Fi (keeping in mind that you also need a network that supports it unless you're going ad hoc).

When it comes to replacing or upgrading parts it not only depends on the part but also the laptop model. As mentioned earlier in general the storage drives are easy to replace. RAM probably comes second when it comes to ease of replacement but it may vary depending on how the laptop is put together. Disks are all but dead so personally I wouldn't worry about that, regardless if the laptop you've got already has a disk drive it should be possible to upgrade (though I'm sure there are exceptions). Wi-Fi cards are usually a little trickier to replace and require putting more things apart though it should be possible in most cases. You'll probably get better answers to these by contacting the relevant manufacturers or checking the product manuals online.

That's all I have to say about that.

xXSnowyXx:
I'm working with the same limited information you've posted here so take my advice with a heaping of salt. From what I can tell, the Lenovo looks to be the most powerful and by far the cheapest so it seems really hard to pass up, however, being largely unfamiliar with the GTX 600 series and laptop GPUs in general, I can't be totally certain that's the case since for all I know a high end 680M or 670M may be more powerful than two low end 650Ms (even a low end model of one of the former may be more powerful than two high end models of the latter, I'm completely unfamiliar with the technical specs of each) - it really depends on the exact specs of the cards used in each model, look for more information or contact the manufacturers.

Thanks a lot for your help! The thing is, according to notebookcheck.net the 680M and 675MX (ranked 13 and 22) are a lot better than 2x 650M SLI and 670MX (ranked 43 and 44). That makes the Lenovo definitely not the most powerful one of the candidates, although it's still the biggest bargain. However, as I mentioned, it's not expected to become available until March 15, which would be just in time for my emigration, but if it's later (and these things always are), it won't be an option for me.

xXSnowyXx:
Regardless, the Lenovo seems like a bargain in comparison. The SSD may be substantially smaller but in general the storage drives in laptop are fairly easy to replace and upgrade - the manufacturer or retailer may even offer an upgrade for a reasonable fee, though it would probably be cheaper to do yourself, and considering how much the prices of SSDs have dropped upgrading to a larger one should still leave the total cost far below the others.

If I can just add a €100 SSD myself, that would be great and the Lenovo would still be much cheaper than the rest.

xXSnowyXx:
A lot of your additional questions seem a bit out of my depth but there are a few I can cover. When it comes to RAM (when you say banks, I assume you mean the separate channels and not the individual slots) really you want to use as many channels as you can, though each channel can have more than one slot associated with it. Each channel communicates separately so if you're using two sticks of RAM on a single channel you're worse off than if you're using them on separate channels because you're forcing all of the data through one. I'm not sure of the performance difference when say you're using two 4GB sticks compared to one 8GB on the same channel however I assume the difference is minimal (though I'd prefer the latter since it's easier to upgrade to 16GB). When it comes to the need to use the same kind of memory the answer is kinda. If you're using memory of a different speed then the faster sticks will be nerfed to the lower speed. Also, sometimes different sticks just don't want to work together (I've read it may be related to whether both sticks have chips on one or both sides). I've encountered this issue once myself though simply getting the same kind of RAM should avoid anything like this (it really is best practice). AFAIK the brand of RAM doesn't change much when it comes to performance, it's mostly about reliability (and the possibility of overclocking). Faster RAM is going to give you faster performance though whether you notice really depends on the application (and how observant you are).

Actually, I was talking about the slots (not the channels), but this is very informative. On the other hand, I'm afraid that the manufacturers don't put channel information on their websites (although I guess I can ask them).

xXSnowyXx:
I'm no expert when it comes to Wi-Fi, but getting a fancy ass card is probably more about performance than reliability. I do most of my personal wireless on the cheap, it all works well and is consistently faster than my internet connection, you really shouldn't need something high end unless you plan on doing a lot of file transferring or media sharing over Wi-Fi (keeping in mind that you also need a network that supports it unless you're going ad hoc).

I read some reviews that look at different distances and with walls between the laptop and the WiFi point. That's what I meant by reliability. The reviews show a clear advantage for the Bigfoot Killer, but I was wondering how relevant this is in real life. You're probably right that the internet connection will probably not be able to keep up anyway though, and I don't really think I want to shell out €70 right off the bat for it. Maybe I'll try to upgrade if I run into problems with this.

xXSnowyXx:
When it comes to replacing or upgrading parts it not only depends on the part but also the laptop model. As mentioned earlier in general the storage drives are easy to replace. RAM probably comes second when it comes to ease of replacement but it may vary depending on how the laptop is put together. Disks are all but dead so personally I wouldn't worry about that, regardless if the laptop you've got already has a disk drive it should be possible to upgrade (though I'm sure there are exceptions). Wi-Fi cards are usually a little trickier to replace and require putting more things apart though it should be possible in most cases. You'll probably get better answers to these by contacting the relevant manufacturers or checking the product manuals online.

You're right, I should ask the manufacturers. I'm fairly sure they'll say I shouldn't touch the insides of their laptops though as it will probably void the warranty (except for the custom builders, who might not care).

xXSnowyXx:
That's all I have to say about that.

Thanks a lot! It was really helpful!

There's a reason the Lenovo is cheap... they have a terrible reputation for reliability.

My go-to recommendation for any high end use laptop is a Clevo or a custom rebadged Clevo (such as Sager)... failing that either a high end Asus or MSI laptop. You'll pay a premium for them but in the case of these 3 brands, you get what you pay for (unlike many other laptop brands)... as far as laptops go, anyway.

As for upgrading... ugh... unless you're ponying up for a custom engineered laptop (not custom build) you're gonna have a hard time upgrading anything beyond the usual HDD/SDD, RAM, Optical bay device and anything in expansion slots... and even if the laptop is upgradable more than the average laptop there's the issue of finding the parts and that laptop parts cost a fortune compared to similar function desktop parts.

Jordi:
Thanks a lot! It was really helpful!

Glad I could help! Though take heed...Rhombus may hate you but it doesn't mean he isn't usually right. I've never even seen a Lenovo laptop but I've had enough experience with ASUS and MSI tech to know it's good quality stuff. Regardless of what you go for, I'd definitely shell out for extended warranty...with such a big investment on something that can sometimes be impossible to fix yourself (tracking down a replacement board usually isn't easy, not to mention actually putting it in) you don't want to be without it if something happens.

RhombusHatesYou:
There's a reason the Lenovo is cheap... they have a terrible reputation for reliability.

My go-to recommendation for any high end use laptop is a Clevo or a custom rebadged Clevo (such as Sager)... failing that either a high end Asus or MSI laptop. You'll pay a premium for them but in the case of these 3 brands, you get what you pay for (unlike many other laptop brands)... as far as laptops go, anyway.

Thanks for the heads up! Actually, I think (but I'm not 100% sure) that the built-to-order laptop I mentioned is actually an adapted MSI GT60 since it's in the page title (but not anywhere else), people mentioning these laptops on the internet are consistently saying stuff like "my custom laptop is basically an MSI XYZ" and the laptops look a lot alike. I'll ask them though. The other major BTO vendor in the Netherlands is also the official Clevo reseller, so I think most of their laptops are adapted Clevos. I'm going to look into that.

I would go for the Asus since it seems more solid. I wouldn't worry so much about the graphics card, a 680 in a laptop is too much of an overkill purchase and because of the weaker CPUs there aren't going to be any serious differences in gaming performance.

AWAR:
I would go for the Asus since it seems more solid. I wouldn't worry so much about the graphics card, a 680 in a laptop is too much of an overkill purchase and because of the weaker CPUs there aren't going to be any serious differences in gaming performance.

Thanks for the tip! However, I was always under the impression that for gaming the bottleneck is pretty much always the video card (although it depends on the game). Especially in laptops. Are you saying that you think the i7-3630QM (which I thought wasn't so bad) is so bad that the difference in video cards won't be noticeable (in a significant number of games)?

Please keep in mind that we're talking about the 680M here (i.e. not the 680-without-M desktop version). Notebookcheck.net has some nice comparisons between video cards in the Benchmark sections of their respective info pages: 680M, 675MX, 670MX. On the 3DMark 11 benchmarks there are actually comparisons between the 680 and 680M and it's the desktop version is apparently 50-60% better. When looking at other comparisons between the cards, it appears that there are also often significant differences between the 680M, 675MX and 670MX (it's hard to create an overview, but it appears the 680M regularly beats out the 675MX by 20-30% and the 670MX by 50%).

It may seem like I'm just disagreeing with you, but I don't really know that much about this and I'm genuinely curious about your insights with respect to the CPU being such a bottleneck that the GPU no longer matters as much (I'm aware that the cited benchmarks were taken in different systems than the ones I'm considering). If anything, your advice prompted me to do more/better research myself, so thanks!

Jordi:
-snip-

Yeah, well actually you now seem to know more on the issue than I do ^^
My opinion is that you just can't get the kind of performance you get on the desktop, that's why I think it's a good idea to settle for less. One thing that is crucial is reliability. We are talking about high end components here that will get hot during stressful applications and games leading to a shorter lifetime. It's worth pointing out that on tech surveys, Asus comes second best in reliability behind Toshiba while Lenovo is pretty low on the list.
Also that 25 euro cooling paste option sounds to me a like a gimmick. It's true that in some cases cooling paste needs to be replaced but that's after years of use, and higher quility thermal grease doesn't make a noticeable difference in temperatures (are we even sure they will use top grade stuff?).
Finally, I wouldn't take into account stuff like RAM (you can always add more later), storage (same as ram) and blu ray drives (you can buy external ones if you really need them).

I know this topic is a bit old now, but I know other people are having questions similar to mine and when I'm doing my purchasing research I also like it when the topics get resolved. I'll add a disclaimer to the first post saying this is an old topic.

Anyway, I did end up going with the Medion. The Asus was a really good candidate, but there was a large difference in video card performance and RAM size that finally made me pick the Medion. I had also heard relatively good stories about the quality of the system, that put my mind at ease a little. The Asus' quality might still be better though. The built-to-order system was discounted, because of stories about shoddy quality and a helpdesk guy who tried to sell me pointless crap instead of providing actual information.

If it had been available sooner, I might have gone with the Lenovo, because the price meant that I could upgrade components myself and still have a cheaper system. Lenovo's helpdesk told me that their average delivery time is one week. So if that is correct and the launch data of March 15 was correct, I would get it on March 22. That would be okay, but if even a tiny thing went wrong, I wouldn't have gotten the system in time. Since these are their own (probably optimistic) estimates and it's a new launch here, I didn't like those odds.

The Medion actually wasn't my first choice in the end. Someone pointed out the quality of Dell Alienware laptops and some ways to get discounts on them. This made me slightly break my budget to get an M17x, but after ordering the system they changed their estimated delivery date from March 8 to March 26, so I had to cancel it.

Over the last period I've had to deal with a lot of helpdesks and it just baffles me how little they know or can do. Everything is "in China", so they have no idea about delivery times and whether things are in stock. But they also have no idea what brand SSD, RAM or HDD their own laptops have. Maybe I'm naive, but that seems like something they ought to know.

I haven't really used my laptop much yet, because I'm very busy with work, but so far everything's looking good (except Windows 8).

Anyway, thanks for your help everybody!

Good to know everything worked out okay. Windows 8 actually offers little other than improvements once you uninstall all the Metro apps from the start screen and add some power option shortcuts (or use a start menu replacement, though I personally like the new one once it's cleaned up).

 

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