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Last laptop related post - I promise

Anyone own/use a widescreen laptop?

I am in the process of configuring a Dell Inspiron 9100 laptop and I am not sure which screen resolution to choose. I have three choices:

* WXGA  (1280x800)
* WSXGA+ (1680x1050)
* WUXGA (1920x1200)

I am thinking of choosing the WSXGA+ screen display, however, I read that that virtually all notebooks produce the clearest images only when running at their native resolution -- in my case it would be 1680x1050 -- and that you tend to get blurred images/text when you need to lower the screen resolution (i.e. 1024x768).  Has anyone experienced this problem?

The reason I am asking this question, is that I am worried that various text/images might be too small to read at the native resolution and if my mom decides to lower the screen resolution she is going to get readable but blurry text showing up on the screen!

Question 2

Since my mom doesn't plan on fragging any aliens, I was thinking of sticking with the default graphics card option which is:


Should I spend the extra $99 for 128MB of graphics RAM? My thinking is yes, although the only justification I can come with is "you never know what the future might bring".

Monday, August 30, 2004

That video subsystem is already a gross overkill - you absolutely don't need 128MB (and don't bother buying for the future - right now you can buy laptops for less than $1000 that are more powerful than $2000 laptops a year ago. Buying for the future is a bad idea on desktop PCs, but it's even worse with laptops).

Regarding the resolution, if your mother wanted to drop to 840x525 that would look fine, albeit pixelated (because it uses 4 pixels acting as one, but on the flip side doesn't have to do any dithering/aliasing). Otherwise, unless you only want to use a part of the display surface, aliasing is inevitable and does look like crap. Assess your true screen needs (I have a WXGA on my part-time laptop, and I love it) rather than overspending on something that just turns into a liability.

Dennis Forbes
Monday, August 30, 2004

Yes, you'll want to set it to native resolution for the sharpest image. If the text is too small, within the web browser go to "View/Text Size" or similar and make it larger. For dialog box and desktop text, right-click the desktop, go to "properties", then the "appearance" tab, and increase the font size.

Your mother doesn't need a 128MB card, so don't bother.

Mr. Tech Support
Monday, August 30, 2004

Hi Dennis,

I hear what you are saying.

I am purchasing a desktop replacement notebook (think boat anchor) and not something you would use for college study or casual use (i.e. browsing the web and word processing).

While this laptop is going to need to run some multimedia software (video on one monitor and grahpic charts on another), I doubt that this stuff will be comparable to running something like Doom III.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Dennis is right on the money - if you use 4 pixels to do the work of one, you won't have the dither/wonky look pixel interpolation brings.

Best way to decide is to test the apps on the gear before you buy ... ooooops, it's a DELL.  So go down to Officeworks and roadtest their display systems. Take your mom.

What do you mean your mother won't be fragging aliens? Isn't that a wee bit UnSomething?

Monday, August 30, 2004

Hi tollop,

What I mean by not fragging aliens is that she doesn't plan on playing any retail games on this laptop. That said, this laptop is very similiar to the Dell Inspiron XPS which is a gaming notebook.

The Inspiron 9100 is a high-end multimedia notebook and the software she needs to run on it has some fairly demanding "recommended computer requirements".

* 3 GHz or higher CPU
* 50-60 GB hard disk for video recording and processing
* SVGA graphic card or higher (1624x768)
* 512 MB or more of RAM

Monday, August 30, 2004

Now I am frankly fascinated. What software has those specs and yet requires a user to employ a tech rat to go shop for a platform? Visual Studio? Macromedia? Tivo? Super8 Home Movie Desktop Editor? 

Heavy iron and low res together. Do tell.

You need a CRT if you want to acceptable viewing at all available video resolutions rather than the very few integer divisions of native resolution offered by LCD technology.

Monday, August 30, 2004

I think it's an EEG recorder, isn't it? Lots of signal processing/number crunching.

Christopher Wells
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

That's gotta be a type:

SVGA graphic card or higher (1624x768)

Should be 1024x768 (SVGA).

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I have an HP Compaq nx7010 widescreen notebook. The screen is 15.4" and the res is 1280 x 800, which is it's native resolution. Anything else doesn't look ideal, but this looks fantastic.

As for the graphics card I feel inclined to agree. 64Mb is fairly low these days and 128 would help to future-proof the system. It might come in handy for MS's Longhorn UI which seems like it will require substantially more graphics power, if you're ever likely to upgrade to that. But if the cash is an issue it's not worth worrying about too much.

James U-S
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

By the time Longhorn actually ships today's laptops will be doorstops.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Thanks for all the help people!

Hi trollop,

Christopher Wells hit the nail on the head. This laptop will be hooked up to an EEG machine (measures brainwaves, heartbeat, etc.) as well as an external 17" monitor (paid $300 for a NEC LCD 1712 at The software that will be running on the laptop does a whole lot of cool stuff. One of the neat things it allows a patient (someone who is hooked up to a bunch of sensors) to do is manipulate video and graphic images using only their mind! EEG machines tend to be used in a lot of sports clinics. Also, researchers and pychotherapists use them as well.

Looks like I will wind up saving something like $292 off the sticker price for this laptop. While I know this isn't the best deal DELL has offered on this particular PC this year, I simply can't wait forever just to save another $100 or  more on the price.

I decided to take Dennis' advice and trimmed down my selection:

* 2.80GHz CPU with HT Tech, 15.4-in WXGA LCD instead of a 3.2GHz CPU with a 15.4-in WSXGA+ LCD
* 512MB RAM instead of 1 GB RAM
* 64MB RADEON 9700 instead of of 128MB RADEON 9700

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

To be pedantic:

"Should be 1024x768 (SVGA)."

SVGA is 800x600; the resolution above is actually XGA. What is the actual requirement?

Either way, I think for a non-power user/developer, the WXGA (1280x800) is probably the best choice.

Brad Wilson (
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Hi bob,

extra benefits in using a laptop are quietness, portability and internal batteries to bridge shorter power interruptions.

Consider a security tether and maybe a UPS if power continuity is an issue.

Good work!

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

A laptop battery should last three hours. Why on earth would you want a UPS?

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Power outages can last more than 3 hours. Yes, you can go completely bonkers about security and continuity and acquire a portable generator, fuel for the generator, ... or simply rig up a personal alarm ...  OTOH, if the equipment is purely for amusement value, don't bother.

Thursday, September 2, 2004

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