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What Laptop Has the Best Video? 29

Posted by Cliff
from the video-on-the-go dept.
magarity asks: "Compared to the primarily NVidia vs ATi desktop video market, there seem to be plenty of video chip choices for laptop makers with no clear market leader in installations. It seems no "mobile" variant or original video chip stands out. As a fan of NVidia graphics chips for desktops, I went looking to buy a laptop with the mobile variant of the Geforce2 chip, cleverly named the 'GeForce2go'. To my suprise, these are few and far between and only found two Dells and four Toshibas. HP, Compaq, and IBM laptops use a wide variety of other chips including manufacturers I'd never heard of until now. Does someone have a real-world report on whether the GeForce2go sucks batteries or just plain sucks? And since no one seems to be, who in your opinion should be the leader of the pack for mobile video?"
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What Laptop Has the Best Video?

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  • by iforgotmyfirstlogon (468382) on Thursday October 18, 2001 @08:53AM (#2446319) Homepage
    Screen is great, and the graphics are very responsive. ATI Rage Mobility AGP 2x w/ 8MB. It runs 3d games at 1024x768 with no hesitation, although I haven't benchmarked it. Your mileage may vary; I have 320MB of RAM.

    The really irritating thing is in the video drivers from IBM. For some reason, when it boots it automatically detects whether there is an external monitor or not and sometimes CHANGES THE GODDAMN BIOS SETTINGS to reflect that state. When the BIOS settings are changed, you can't toggle the screen settings with the function keys anymore. This wouldn't be a problem if I never used my docking station, but I often have problems with restarting my system undocked (after it being docked) and being unable to see anything on the damn LCD screen. This can be remedied if I can plug it into a monitor somewhere, but that kind of defeats the purpose of having a laptop in the first place. A real pain when I take the thing to meetings or try to use it on the bus to/from work.

    Only other problem: The screen rubs the keyboard. I've got halo's of about 20 keys and the trackpoint on the screen. It's not that visible YET, but I think it will probably start to restrict my viewing in the next 8 months or so.

    - Freed

  • Key Players (Score:4, Informative)

    by haplo21112 (184264) <haploNO@SPAMepithna.com> on Thursday October 18, 2001 @09:43AM (#2446606) Homepage
    After many years in the PC Tech Business, I have found there are basically two key players in this field. ATI, and NeomMagic.
    The ATI's are actually are not to bad, as the Rage Mobility is actually Nearly on par with the Regular Rage cards just Tuned more or less for the laptop screen. What this means from a user perspective is that the laptop screen looks great, and works great and there are like Zero issues and it gives you pretty much what you need for business on the LCD. 3D games even play well...I have not noticed any large battery power hit for playing them either. The other thing I like is that Driver Updates are frequent and easily available. The Rage Mobility's main issue however is that it IS tuned for the laptop screen so when you hook up an external Monitor, or dock the machine you can't get all you want out of the external Monitor. I am currently sitting at a 21 Inch Sony Flast screen Triniton that I can't run higher than 1024(The resolution of the Laptop LCD), the ATI doesn't offer 1152(The matrox in my desktop machine does), and 1280 gets a little fuzzy for my taste(Its not the Monitor I have tried 3 others and 2 other brands they all have this issue).
    Neomagic's Chipsets are more of a functionality Balance, they work OK for the intended purpose of giving you Video on a laptop machine. They have struck a balance between the Internal LCD and the Connected Monitor displays. It will Push to a higher resolution and render it fairly well(My old laptop on the same Monitor I talked about earlier would do 1152, and even 1280 decently(although full refreshes are sometimes painful at 1280, but the display is crisp). I can get Half Life to run and look good on that machine. Newer stuff is no deal it simply doesn't have the graphical Horsepower. Neomagics Driver updates are infrequent and hard to obtain. Some chipsets they don't even provide dribers for directly you have to get them from your laptop hardware Vendor. Hope that Helps.
    • The ATI cards display is tuned by default for the laptop lcd panel, but it is easily adaptable to external displays. The reason you cant get all the performance you want out of an external monitor is two-fold. First, the laptop is setup to drive the lcd panel mainly, everything else is an afterthought, which is why the supported resolutions generally arent that high. Secondly, the laptop is designed to prolong batery life as long as possible, so the output strength of the external VGA port is absolutely minimal (which can be very detrimental image-wise to an external device that wants LOTS of signal). To get the best picture possible on your monitor look at your "F" keys, one of them will have a pictogram of a montior or will be labeled "lcd/crt" or similar. Now find your "Function" (Fn) key, and hold it. Press and release the "F" key you found. You may need to repeat this procedure 1-3 times. Your laptop display should turn off and the image should be displayed on the external device only. This will ensure that your computer's full video signal is being sent to the external device. ALso, if you are running windows, go to your diplay properties and then settings, then click advanced and got to the "displays" tab. You will see your monitor and laptop (and probably a TV) set the monitor to primary and the laptop (panel) to secondary, this will also ensure that the majority of signal goes to the external device. The ATI rage mobility card is a very good card as far as laptop cards go. The ati and nvidia brands DO have much more frequent driver updates as well.

  • My Dell C810... (Score:4, Informative)

    by eric2hill (33085) <ericNO@SPAMijack.net> on Thursday October 18, 2001 @10:09AM (#2446746) Homepage
    ...has a 1.13GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, and a GF2Go with 32MB DDR. Tribes 2 simply rocks on the UXGA screen. I get no lag (becides network on occasion), and I run the laptop in "battery conservation" mode pretty much all the time. Even in complex scenes, I rarely notice a frame drop, and when I do, it could be related to the network connection.

    I easily get two to three hours of use (gaming or other) with the battery save mode on, and because of the speed, I rarely (if ever) hear the two (!?) CPU fans come on to cool the CPU. I'm sure that saves quite a bit of power right there. I may be able to squeak 4 hours out of the battery if I try really hard and don't game. For gaming, when I first boot the machine up, I copy (actually decompress, but whatever) the Tribes 2 folder out to a RAM drive. Loading missions is REALLY fast, and the hard drive never spins back up, again saving more power.

    The C810 costs a lot, but Dell goes through a round of "specials" every week, and you can pick up one of the following: $$$ off (200 usually), Free DVD or CDRW, Free Double Memory (buy 256, get 512), Free Accessories...

  • Apple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 18, 2001 @10:30AM (#2446860)
    I don't know what you will be using your portable for and why you're asking about video chipsets but in my, and many others, opinion Apple makes the best laptops for video. The new PowerBook G4s have a Rage Mobility w/16MB RAM, and an awesome 1152x768 screen. If you're looking for a good portable for taking to a LAN party and frag your buddies in UT or Q3A the PBG4 is a nice slim computer with plenty of power to push those pixels to the screen, not to mention AirPort and gigabit ethernet builtin for the networking. If your looking to do video editing there's the included iMovie and numerous pro level packages for doing that, along with the builtin FireWire and dual display feature (internal LCD and extrnal VGA or S-video) you have a nice video editing portable. Since this is Slashdot I feel the need to mention that you can run a number of different Linux distributions and *BSD variants. Mandrake, SUSE, YellowDog, LinuxPPC are a sample of the Linux distros to choose from. If BSD is more your style you've got Darwin, MacOSX, and NetBSD. Since you didn't specify that you're looking for an x86 I thought I'd chime in with my two cents.
    • "I don't know what you will be using your portable for and why you're asking about video chipsets"

      Whups, I was prompted to ask the question as a result of my research into a laptop. I had already ordered a Toshiba with a GeForce2go before even submitting the question. This is an attempt to stir debate of the merits of the various chips available rather than simply getting personal advice.

      It may be impossible to find a perfect mobile video chip, which would be one that:
      1. Uses as little battery as possible when with a light workload, and:
      2. Near desktop performance while taking a work break to play games.

      I went for the GeForce2go purely on the reputation for performance of its desktop big brothers. But discussion generated may help others make up their minds if their needs/wants are different.

    • Re:Apple (Score:4, Informative)

      by frankie (91710) on Thursday October 18, 2001 @01:49PM (#2447937) Journal
      new PowerBook G4s have a Rage Mobility w/16MB

      Close but not quite. The new TiBook has the Radeon Mobility [google.com]. It's rather more powerful than the old Rage series; the game sites say it stacks up well against GeForce 2Go.

      Mmm... dual display LCD and 21" external at 24 bits...
  • My advice is to avoid ATI like the plague. Their drivers for Windows 2000 totally suck. They've basically abandoned chipsets that are only 1 year old! (on a laptop, the video can't typically be upgraded, so it's very important to have good driver suppport).

    My laptop, a Dell Inspiron 3800, uses the ATI Mobility M1 chipset. Despite the fact that they were still selling this computer until about 6 months ago, driver updates have already stopped. (As far as I know, you can still buy NEW laptops using these chips)

    OpenGL stuff, like "Half-Life" doesn't work, period, and no fixes are forthcoming.

    Additionally, ATI is the only vendor that hasn't figured out how to do dual display under Windows 2000 (very important for business presentations). They do not plan to fix this issue, even though it works fine on Nvidia.

    Your laptop choices are really Trident, ATI, or Nvidia. Trident sucks. ATI does NOT deserve your money. Nvidia is unproven, but seems to be doing well so far, so that's what I would recommend.

    • I have a Gateway Celeron 450, with ATI Rage 2xAGP, with windows 2000.....

      the first thing I'd like to point out is that it's actually windows 2000's fault that the card can only mirror, instead of extending the desktop. On the other hand, it does mirror, and works wonderfully at that, and I can push 1600 once I turn the LCD off. I wouldn't recommend it for gaming, but I do watch DivX on it quite often.

      -d

      • the first thing I'd like to point out is that it's actually windows 2000's fault that the card can only mirror, instead of extending the desktop.

        Then how does the Nvidia GeForce2Go card work? It seems to handle dual displays just fine. Yes, it is inconvenient to program dual displays because Microsoft made it hard. Hardware manufacturers (ATI) choose to either write drivers, or not write drivers. ATI has chosen NOT TO write those drivers. Matrox and Nvidia have chosen TO write those drivers.

    • One thing to note is that ATI doesn't make laptop drivers for the consumer -- they expect the OEM to customize the drivers for a particular model and then release them to the end user. It could be that ATI shipped updated drivers, but Half LIfe fixes are low on Dell's priority so they aren't handing them off to you. Or it could be ATI's normal situation of abandoning old chips quickly.

      This leads to interesting situations where different models with the same chip have different resolutions and features available.
      • One thing to note is that ATI doesn't make laptop drivers for the consumer -- they expect the OEM to customize the drivers for a particular model and then release them to the end user. It could be that ATI shipped updated drivers, but Half LIfe fixes are low on Dell's priority so they aren't handing them off to you. Or it could be ATI's normal situation of abandoning old chips quickly.

        What you are saying is true - however, you have to realize that OEMs like Dell, Gateway, and Compaq have very little, if any ability to change the driver. They mostly just package their driver with the appropriate readme and installation instructions. They certainly can't make major changes, like "fix OpenGL".

        Unfortunately, this is not simply an issue of ATI fixing something and Dell taking forever to package it - no one has these drivers, I've tried the packaged drivers from every OEM. And I'd like to point out that it doesn't really matter whether it's ATI or the OEMs fault -the end result is the same - the consumer has poor drivers for their ATI card.

    • Odd, I've never had that problem on my HP OmniBook 6000. It to uses an ATI Rage Mobility M1 8MB on a 15" SXGA+ TFT. The only game that is hell to play on it is Quake 3, other then that Tribes, UT, and most others work fine. Granted, I don't play a lot of FPS on the laptop, most of my gaming is done on the 2 hour train ride home, so a lot of RTS is done - no problems with it at all.
      Maybe its the maker of the laptop that's the problem. My exp. has been great with these HP's, they really need to market them better. I feel bad for the other suckers on the train with their small screens and short battery times when I lug this 15" beast with 4.5hours of battery time.
    • Actually, stay away from Nvidia like the plague

      (Please note that this is from an Linux users point of view, I have no idea if the same applies to windows)

      There is OSS support for ATI cards under DRI (the lovely technology that gives linux users stuff like OpenGL). There is NO OSS support for Nvidia cards for DRI. Additionally, for linux, the ATI drivers are pretty much stable. The drivers that Nvidia put out for linux, are not only a joke, but they don't even support basics like Power Management.

      My question to you is would you rather support a company that produces crap CSS drivers, or a company that supports the development of OSS drivers?

      (The only "issue" with ATI is the fact that they have yet to release the 3d core specs for the Mach64, however the great guys at http://dri.sourceforge.net/ at working on this)

      For more info, please look at the following thread
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/linux-dell-laptops/m essage/6367

      Sunny Dubey

      PS: I too own a i3800, and am waiting for the moment that it will have 3d support under x4

      • My question to you is would you rather support a company that produces crap CSS drivers, or a company that supports the development of OSS drivers?

        Well, to be honest, I would prefer that ATI support the closed source OS (Windows 2000) that came with my computer before they spend time working on open source drivers for an OS that I have no interest in. Don't get me wrong, Linux is fine, and I think it's in everyones best interest for ATI to release specs. But I want what I paid for fixed before anything else.

        • I guess that is where we are worlds apart.


          When you buy hardware, you want quality hardware with quality drivers. I on the other hand, don't. When I buy hardware, I want quality hardware with open specs. I generally don't care for linux drivers most companies ship because they are usually crap, and usually written by someone with little understanding of the linux kernel..


          From a linux users's point of view, ATI does exactly what the linux community wants. Instead of creating crap CSS drivers, or cryptic OSS drivers, ATI chooses to release docs and specs of their products, so that members of the OSS community can write the drivers themselves.


          For this reason alone I will continue to support ATI. I'm always amazed at how the slashdot community seems to love Nvidia's products and at the same time rave about linux day and nite (the two are an oxymoron). Hopefully, one day, when the guys at Nvidia aren't so arrogant (I've met them before, I know) they'll realize that more than releasing specs for their older and 2nd generation products makes them look good in the eyes of many. ( I understand and wholefully respect any 3d graphics company's desire to not release specs for their current 1st generation products.)


          Sunny Dubey

  • I've got a 1GHz Dell Inspiron 8100 with a 32MB GeForce2 GO. The graphics performance is quite good. I've been using it for 3D modeling with Maya, and it runs without a hitch. If you're wanting to use professional CAD and modeling software, a very cool thing I've found is the ability to unlock features in GeForce series cards that are intended for the high-end Quadro cards, such as Hardware Accelerated Lines and User Clipping Planes. With the desktop GeForce2 cards, a slight hardware mod (moving a resistor) does the trick. But the only way I know of doing this for the GeForce2 GO, however, is by modifying the drivers under Windows with a utility called SoftQuadro (http://www.nvworld.ru/docs/sqe.html). This won't improve game performance, though - it'll most likely hurt it if anything. It's only useful if you use apps like 3D Studio, PRO/E, Lightwave, etc.

    Besides the Quadro2 GO (which is only found in the exotic Fujitsu-Siemens Celsius Mobile H), the GeForce2 GO is the best mobile graphics chipset on the market right now. Soon, though, ATI will be releasing their Mobility Radeon 7500, which is reported to blow the GeForce2 out of the water. Here's a comparison: http://www.inqst.com/articles/radeon/0826main.htm . I've read, however, that the previous Mobility Radeon chipset had problems with professional applications like Maya, and I'm not sure if those same problems will be inherited by the newer chip.

    As for power consumption, I get 2 1/2 to 3 hours, which ain't bad considering the 15" display.

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