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I have recently been accepted to software engineering at the university of waterloo, and as such my parents have agreed to go 50/50 on a nice computer to bring to waterloo. At first I was looking at a laptop, but then some IT friends of mine suggested that I could get a better desktop and then connect to it through remote desktop. As such I put together a list of parts that I think should work well, but as this is my first time putting a computer together from scratch I have been trying to get as many opinions as possible. Thus this post. Here are the specs for the computer that I put together:

Anyways I want to be absolutely certain that this will work, so any feedback would be helpful. Thanks.

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Last Post by Labdabeta
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  • Actually to be honest I _might_ be thinking of the prior generation of XPS's. So don't necessarily dislike XPS's altogether -- however the 1366x768 screen is too weak. As for your parts, I assume they'd work (specwise they work), but I wouldn't be able to tell you whether they'd be … Read More

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The remote desktop idea expereince is going to work as good as upload speeds on both sides of the connection. While remote desktop can run on very little bandwidth, to get a good expereince, you do need some bandwidth. Also this may be nice until you run into the issue where something goes wrong on the remote side where this desktop will be located. Who will be able to assist you in troubleshooting? Then, you'll be stuck with the cheap netbook until you or someone has a chance to help you with the remote side.

Congrats on your acceptance to Waterloo!

Edited by JorgeM

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The thing is that I have an A+ certification manual and have been studying it, so I think I should be able to fix the computer fairly well on my own. Of course if I can't I can always post here :P I was originally thinking of a sager notebook, but I was told that I would get far more bang for my buck with a remote desktop which appeared to be true. Also, just how much bandwidth do you think I need for a good experience? Thank you for your reply!

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Good deal then. You won't need that much bandwidth. Worst case scenario, you could disable themes, dragging, other option in the RDP client if needed. I only mention it because depending on the network you connect to, say a saturated wireless network, the experience may not be a fluid as when you test this from the same LAN.

You should be good with this plan.

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Have you received an orientation package from the university? That might offer some suggestions as to what kind of technical specs they recommend when purchasing a computer for student use. Myself, I think any computer running Windows is okay (I don’t think you’ll need a dual-boot Linux machine). Programming, AutoCAD, report-writing, spreadsheets, etc. are the main applications you’ll use, so as long as you are on Windows you should be fine.

Unless you want to put together a new computer now for fun, I wouldn’t rush it; wait as long as possible. The longer you wait, the more you’ll get for your money.

A few other factors to consider:

Most stores (Best Buy, Future Shop, etc.) have back-to-school sales in late August and early September. If you wait until then, you should find some really good deals. I happen to like NCIX (ncix.ca). They, too, usually have great deals at the beginning of school term

University bookstores usually have a computer department. They should have several systems configured specifically for the university students. And they usually have huge discounts for their students at this time--another reason to wait until beginning of term.

Your professors might have their own ideas as to what kind of computer to use. You might want to wait until you are actually in school to get a system. That way, you are not buying a computer now, and then learning later that your computer science professor recommends something else. Or perhaps reach out and try to contact one of your future professors now.

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Just forget the desktop and crazy remote desktop schemes. You don't need a desktop for anything, and remote desktop will get tiresome fast. You should get a laptop and an external monitor. It'll have more power than you could need. You should get a Thinkpad T430 with Ultimate-N wifi, a 1600x900 screen, and the highest-numbered i5 CPU. Configure it with 4GB of RAM and buy another 4GB stick separately. (Or buy an 8GB making for 12 GB of RAM, you could upgrade to 16GB later.) Also configure it with the cheapest hard drive and replace that with a 120GB Intel 330 SSD or better. The SSD is the most important upgrade when it comes to improving general system performance.

(Do not get an OCZ SSD. These are well known to have reliability problems. Their main benefit is blazing speed for high loads. The Intel 330 and Intel 520 brands are reputed to be reliable, so I recommend going with those.)

The reason to get a Thinkpad is because as a student you'll want to get high-quality and speedy customer support in case anything goes wrong. You get that with Thinkpads. Since you're a student thus a laptop-abuser probably a 3-year warranty is worth it, not the standard 1-year. (It was worth it for me.) Also, Thinkpads are fairly well built so the probability of something going wrong in a given year is less than with cheaper laptops, given the way students abuse it. (I.e. if you drop it, there's less of a chance the case will shatter.)

You should definitely avoid thinking you can just "remote desktop" into a desktop. The latency will be high, or certain parts of campus the wifi connection will be spotty, and what kind of machine would you be remote desktopping from? A laptop? With what screen resolution? You're going to want at least 1600x900 resolution when doing work from your laptop. This means you're going to have to leave the cheap-crap consumer-grade laptop market anyway.

The only possible purpose of having a desktop in your case is if you want a gaming machine. When I was in school, all the gaming we did was on laptops. That way you get to be in the same room as the people you're playing with. It's much more social that way. People who gamed all by their lonesome from their dorm room were weird beasts. (What's bizarre is some of the specs you're linking to. If you want actual recommendations for reasonable desktop computer specs I'd be happy to give them, definitely don't go with what you've linked there.)

Now let me take some time to explain certain decisions in my recommendation. Should you get a T430 or a T530? With a T530 you can get a 1920x1080 screen and a quad-core CPU. Even when working on CPU-intensive technical projects, the benefit of quad-core is minimal for the sort of work you'd be doing as a student. (For example, you get quick compile times on student projects because there's such a small amount of code.) The reason not to get a T530 with these nicities is that it's too heavy, and so it'll be annoying to carry around. This would not be the case if you're 6 feet 8 inches tall, in which case I'd recommend a T530 with no reservations. For your reference, I'm 6'3" and I'd prefer something lighter. There are also smaller Thinkpads that could be recommended, but those that may come in 1600x900 resolutions (the X1 Carbon, T430u, and T430s) are not worth the expense. The X220 is out because 1366x768 is too small of a resolution.

You should also certainly get an external monitor, probably some 1920x1080 Dell ST2xxx for some price between $100 and $200.

(Edit: Note that there are other good choices for a laptop, so you shouldn't feel bad if you find one that you like and get that. One particularly good-looking option is a 14-inch Sony Vaio E configured with a 1600x900 screen and an Intel i7-3612QM processor for $899. An extra 4GB of RAM bought separately is $22, replacing the hard drive with an SSD (again, bought separately) is another thing that may cost you. Remember that it's always cheaper to buy RAM and most hard drive upgrades separately.)

Edited by Rashakil Fol

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Your professors might have their own ideas as to what kind of computer to use. You might want to wait until you are actually in school to get a system. That way, you are not buying a computer now, and then learning later that your computer science professor recommends something else. Or perhaps reach out and try to contact one of your future professors now.

A ha ha ha ha ha nope.

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In response to that, I was looking at sager notebooks, I definately do want to be able to game as well as do some hardcore number crunching. As such I was told by some friends of mine that a desktop w/ remote desktop would get me the but then again I am seeing a lot of the specs that you are talking about on the sager notebooks website, and sagers can come with up to 3 years of warranty. Whereas a custom desktop would obviously not have any warranty at all and I would have to do my own servicing on it. Do you think that a nice sager might be worth it? Also for the last four years I have been carrying a Dell Latitude D630 around school (since it is a private school, and that was the laptop they gave me). It is heavy, but I have definately gotten used to it!

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No matter what, getting a laptop for gaming performance is a fool's game. It'll be behind the latest games pretty quickly, and so it'll only remain an up-to-date piece of machinery for a short while. Realize that this entire post lives within the warped mindset of the 15" gaming laptop worldview. Really you should get a smaller laptop. But now let's enter the world of 15" laptops...

As for the brand, I have heard general praise for Sager notebooks. (Not unconditional blind love, just general "this is a laptop that isn't a broken POS" praise.)

As for the notebook itself, my general recommendation is: In any 15" Sager you must get the FHD 95% NTSC gamut 1920x1080 display. That's the most important thing. Also get a quad core processor. (An i7-3xxxQM). Get an Intel Advanced-N or Ultimate-N wifi card. (It gets better reception than the stock wifi card and that's important at a university.) I can't give recommendations about graphics card because I don't know much about this generation. Don't configure RAM for prices higher than $25 per 4GB dimm, or $65 per 8GB dimm. Get an Intel SSD, and only after comparing the upgrade cost against the cost of buying separately. (Maybe Crucial SSD's are fine. I'd be willing to take the risk on a Crucial-branded SSD.) Many Sager notebooks have a "second hard drive" option. I recommend considering going for that, with one SSD and one rotational hard drive. It's easy for college students with fast internet connections to fill up SSD drives, which are generally smaller.

Personally I'd still prefer a Thinkpad over a Sager for the reasons mentioned in the previous post, but also because it has a very nice keyboard and a nipple mouse. Did I also mention weight? It weighs less. The only way to get "reasonable" gaming performance on a Thinkpad is to get a W530 with a maxed out GPU. (That'll still get weaker gaming performance than equally priced alternatives, it's a workstation GPU which means blah blah blah better floating point accuracy worse gaming or something like that. Nevertheless it's likely you'll find yourself doing more typing than gaming...)

Also, a D630 is 4.37lbs. What Sager are you getting? All the 15" ones are like 6.8 lbs. The 14" and 11" Sagers don't have high screen resolution options, which happens to be the most important feature of the computer, so you've got to be looking at a 15-incher. Considering you have private-school parents I'd say get them to pay for half of a W530 (which is 6.2 lbs, more awesome in every way except a somewhat weaker graphics card. I was perfectly happy using my W520 for gaming, though, it could handle Portal 2 on high settings, but that's as graphically intensive as I got, I think. Um.)

Also the W530 has better battery life. I'm going to no longer meekly suggest a W530 and switch to strongly recommending a W530 configured with its best GPU option, because the significantly lengthier battery life will almost certainly make your life happier than a Sager alternative's marginally better gaming performance. Plus there are the other listed reasons.

The most annoying thing about a Sager will actually be that it lacks a middle mouse button.

Edited by Rashakil Fol

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I feel that I should make a separate post telling googlers in general what the most important parts of the machine are.

They are:

  • Quality of human interface.

    • The screen resolution on a 15" laptop should be 1920x1080 ("FHD"), but on a 14" laptop, 1600x900 ("HD+") would be acceptable. (There is well known 15" 95% NTSC gamut 1920x1080 option on the market, with good viewing angles. That's what you should get.) I recommend trying very hard to avoid anything less than 13" screens and anything less than 1440x900 if you want to to real work on your laptop.

    • The keyboard and mouse quality. Nothing's worse than having a bad trackpad or terrible keyboard. Thinkpads have the best keyboard/mouse, Sager/Clevo laptops are not bad.

    • Battery life. Quite important. With the right laptop you don't have to carry an adapter at all. Also, often you'll be in situations where there are no power outlets nearby. This is a trade-off with weight and portability, though.

    • Weight and Bulk. The ideal laptop is infinitesimally thin, has a 40-inch screen, and folds up into your pocket. But today, you can get a lighter laptop by paying more money for a better-engineered machine, or by sacrificing performance or battery life.

  • Performance

    • Get an SSD. Getting one SSD, from which the computer boots, and on which programs are installed, is the biggest improvement in desktop computer responsiveness today. It's a more important upgrade than the processor. (However, you can't switch the CPU of most laptops, but you can switch the hard drive.)

    • CPU. Getting a quad-core CPU (with a QM) in the name could be useful, if you ever need it. A software engineer who does things like downloading open source software and editing it would benefit significantly from this.

    • RAM. Often, configuring the computer to have more RAM is more expensive than buying the RAM separately and installing it. 4GB dimms cost under $25 today, and 8GB dimms cost under $65. Most normal computer users almost never need more than 4GB. However, getting a second 4GB dimm is cheap enough that you might as well get it, if there's a slot for it. You will need more than 8GB of RAM if you: try to compile and link Chromium, or maybe if you run several virtual machines at the same time. Some laptops have two RAM slots, some have four, which means you can configure them to 16GB and 32GB respectively, in the worst case. There's no reason to preemptively have more than 8GB.

    • GPU. Intel's Ivy Bridge processors have quite good integrated graphics that can play almost all existing games at low settings at 30fps. Reasons to get a discrete GPU include: you want to play better games at higher settings. You want to do CAD with resource-intensive models. You want to play around, programming computer graphics code. You want to play around with CUDA or OpenCL. Honestly, CAD and computer graphics were perfectly fun on 2004 computers, so that's just rationalization.

    • Ports and Expandability. Basically every new laptop, except for netbooks and crap consumerware laptops that are out of the scope of this discussion, has some USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, and maybe some USB 2.0 ports (such as an always-on USB 2.0 charging port), so there's not much to discuss here. Monitor outputs have more variety: VGA is useful for connecting to old stuff (like projectors) that are VGA-only. DisplayPort or mini-DisplayPort or Thunderbolt is good, dual-link HDMI is good. Single-link HDMI will get you by in the sense that if you're getting such a cheap laptop, it would be weird if you also had a monitor over 1920x1200.
      .
      If you're a college student, you should get a laptop that has a built-in ethernet port. It would be silly to get an ultrabook that lacks one (when there are those which have one) and then have to carry an ethernet adapter around. Wifi coverage on campuses is too spotty, and in classrooms filled with students, possibly too congested, and many times there are classrooms with ethernet ports by every seat. IEEE 1394 ports, eSATA ports, ExpressCard slots, and other things are unlikely to be useful. The ExpressCard slot is sometimes useful if some port on your laptop "dies" (especially ethernet) and you need to replace it. ExpressCard ports also exist because some people need obscure things like a serial port expresscard adapter, because the alternative, USB-serial convertors, is generally awful.

    • DVD Drives. The DVD drive, or a Blu-Ray drive, is not an important part of the machine. College students obtain their entertainment from other sources. Feel comfortable if your machine lacks one, in the worst case scenario you can get an external USB DVD drive.

    • Audio. Laptop speakers are generally bad, but functional. Some laptops have separate headphone and mic ports, some have them combined into one jack. You can get adapters between the two schemes, so it doesn't really matter, but having them combined is more convenient with the prevalence of modern headphone/mic equipment.

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Thank you for your input. I am now seriously considering a sager notebook over a remote desktop (though remote desktop is still in my mind). When it comes to mouse and keyboard I am good to go, I have modified a nice slim logitech keyboard to have the dvorak layout along with a QIDO to use it with and I have a razer naga epic gaming mouse. I want to be able to both play games and make games, as well as whatever I need to do in my software engineering class. I will post back if I make up my mind on exactly what to buy.

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I have a question. I have a pretty good understanding of just how big files are, but I do not know how fast I make files. How much total memory storage would you suggest?

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You mean, how much total disk storage?

If you're some mega-torrenter you can get an external hard drive. Internally I think 120 GB gives sufficient breathing room. To need more than 180 GB internally is pretty weird. That's based on certain usage patterns, though. I'd say 150 GB or more. That's assuming you get an SSD. If for some reason you get a rotational drive inside your machine (certain Sagers can be configured to have two drives) then it's relatively cheap to just upgrade to 500 GB 7200 RPM. (Don't get 5400 RPM drives.)

Edited by Rashakil Fol

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Ok, I was bored so I put together what I was going to make and put it into a nice little ASCII table. It is attached. What do you think? My only concern is that Adobe CS6 is going to be super expensive, but I hope that as a student I can get one of their student deals?

Attachments
ITEM       |                                                    DESCRIPTION                                        |             ADDITIONAL NOTES             
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Monitor           |15.6" Full HD LED-Backlit Display featuring 95% NTSC Color Gamut in Matte Finished Surface (1920x1080) |Trig gives: h=9.36"=23.77cm, w=16.64"=42.27cm
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GPU               |Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M GPU with 2GB GDDR5 Video Memory                                                |Should be good enough, best one w/o back order
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
CPU               |3rd Generation Intel Core i7-3820QM Processor ( 8MB L3 Cache, 2.70GHz)                               |Extreme edition is too expensive, good enough!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thermal Compound  |IC Diamond Thermal Compound - CPU + GPU                                                                |I like IC diamond
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OS                |Genuine MS Windows 7 Ultimate 32/64-Bit Edition ( 64-Bit Preloaded )                                  |I am a big MSW fan, I know its features
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
RAM               |12GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz - 3 X 4GB                                                                   |Quite a fair bit, but I multitask a lot
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OS Perf. Drive    |Intel 80GB 310 Series mSATA SSD - Preconfigured as an OS Drive (Primary Drive C:)                      |To boost OS speeds + keep it clean
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Primary HD        |120GB Intel 520 Series SATA3 Solid State Disk Drive                                                    |High speed + decent storage, for my programs
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Secondary HD      |120GB Intel 520 Series SATA3 Solid State Disk Drive + Caddy Case                                       |Replaces DVD slot, for files etc.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wireless Card     |Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 - 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN Module                                     |To deal w/ poor internet quality at school
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Microsoft Suite   |Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Edition                                                             |My school taught me to use ALL of them well!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Warranty          |Sager 2 Year Limited Parts and Labor Warranty                                                          |I tend to break stuff :)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Shipping Warranty |Canada two way ground shipping service coverage add-on for Sager 2 Year Limited Parts & Labor Warranty |I am Canadian, and Waterloo is in Canada
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Additional Battery|BAT-9150, NP9150 Smart Li-ION Battery Pack (8 Cell)                                                    |So I can have 2 batteries, so when 1 dies, swap
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fingerprint scnr  |Built-in                                                                                               |Safety first!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total             |Sager NP9150 Gaming Notebook ($3 307.00)                                                               |Weight: ~6.8 lbs = ~3.08 kg, ETA:June 13/2012
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
ADDITIONAL SOFTWARE
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Media editing     |Adobe CS6 Professional, especially Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Bridge, Encore, Premiere, Flash             |I have experience with almost all Adobe products
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
C++ Code Editing  |Code::Blocks with MinGW pre-installed                                                                  |Free + Familiar
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Java Code Editing |Eclipse SDK                                                                                            |Free + Familiar
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Registry Editing  |TweakUI                                                                                                |Free
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Web Browsing      |Firefox                                                                                                |Free and customizeable
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Anti-Malware      |Malware Bytes (Free version)                                                                           |Free + Effective
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
ALREADY OWNED ADDITIONAL HARDWARE
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mouse             |Razor Naga Epic                                                                                        |Already purchased, very effective
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Keyboard          |Modified Logitech                                                                                      |Already purchased and Dvorakified
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Keyboard converter|QIDO (Qwerty in, Dvorak out)                                                                           |Already purchased, only for other's computers
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
External HDD      |750 GB ADATA Superior SH93                                                                             |Already purchased, for large media files
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ASCII PICTURE AS GENERATED BY ASCGEN:                            
                                                                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                           .                                              
                                                                                                                    ... o@.#
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"Diamond" Thermal compound: Drop it. They aren't selling you an uncoolable computer that needs an upgrade to special compound.

Windows 7 Ultimate is a complete waste of money over Win 7 Professional (which is a waste of money over Win 7 Home Premium). Drop that.

12GB of RAM? You are going to configure the minimum amount of RAM (probably 4GB) and buy the rest separately and install it yourself, unless you're paying under $25 per 4GB of RAM, right?

Microsoft Suite |Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Edition |My school taught me to use ALL of them well!

You don't need that at all. Drop it. You're not going to use it at all as a software engineering major, and the odd humanities class that wants a document in electronic .docx format will be able to take what google docs or OpenOffice spits out.

OS Perf. Drive |Intel 80GB 310 Series mSATA SSD - Preconfigured as an OS Drive (Primary Drive C:) |To boost OS speeds + keep it clean
Primary HD |120GB Intel 520 Series SATA3 Solid State Disk Drive |High speed + decent storage, for my programs
Secondary HD |120GB Intel 520 Series SATA3 Solid State Disk Drive + Caddy Case |Replaces DVD slot, for files etc.

First of all, a single 240GB Intel 520 costs exactly twice as much as a single 120GB Intel 520 drive, so you should definitely just get one of those instead of two 120GB drives. Second, the purpose of an 80GB Intel 310 is to cheaply supplement a rotational hard drive with an SSD that can fit in the mSATA slot (so that you don't have to replace your rotational hard drive), instead you're using it as a substandard SSD that will slow down your system relative to an Intel 520, especially since it will be preconfigured as a primary drive, which means by default all your programs will be on it.

Right now you should get a single 180GB or 240GB Intel 330 SSD right now and nothing else. Well, a 520 won't kill you. If you ever want more storage, buy a second hard drive later, when prices will be lower, instead of carrying the weight of an empty drive around for now.

Additional Battery|BAT-9150, NP9150 Smart Li-ION Battery Pack (8 Cell) |So I can have 2 batteries, so when 1 dies, swap

In principle, this is not a bad idea. It probably would rarely be used, and it's something you could put off purchasing until later, so I wouldn't get it just yet. (Basically you'll just end up carrying around an adapter instead of an adapter and a battery.)

Fingerprint scnr |Built-in |Safety first!

This doesn't give any "safety" but it is convenient.

Media editing |Adobe CS6 Professional, especially Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Bridge, Encore, Premiere, Flash |I have experience with almost all Adobe products

You're majoring in software engineering, not art. This would be an obscene waste of money.

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I took your advice and made a new list, it is attached. A few things that I did not change were:

  • I did not get rid of MSOffice suite. This is because my program is a co-op program and while I am on the job I may very well need/wish to use MSWord/Excel. Also my e-mail is compatible with MSOutlook, which is familiar.

  • I kept the Professional version of windows, since it has XP mode. I do not need ultimate since it really doesn't provide anything extra that I would use.

  • I also was not sure if I perfectly understood what you said about the OS Drive. I took what you said to mean chose the default option "None"

Thank you for your help!

PS: My old Dell Latitude D630 is just about dead! Its hard drive is shot and its CPU is dying because its fan is broken. I have no warranty on it either since it is 4 years old. Basically, the sooner I get my new laptop the better!

Attachments
ITEM       |                                                    DESCRIPTION                                        |             ADDITIONAL NOTES             
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Monitor           |15.6" Full HD LED-Backlit Display featuring 95% NTSC Color Gamut in Matte Finished Surface (1920x1080) |Trig gives: h=9.36"=23.77cm, w=16.64"=42.27cm
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GPU               |Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M GPU with 2GB GDDR5 Video Memory                                                |Should be good enough, best one w/o back order
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
CPU               |3rd Generation Intel Core i7-3820QM Processor ( 8MB L3 Cache, 2.70GHz)                               |Extreme edition is too expensive, good enough!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thermal Compound  |IC Diamond Thermal Compound - CPU + GPU                                                                |I like IC diamond
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OS                |Genuine MS Windows 7 Professional 32/64-Bit Edition                                                   |I am a big MSW fan, I know its features
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
RAM               |8GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz - 2 X 4GB                                                       |Cheapest option + good enough
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Primary HD        |240GB Intel 520 Series SATA3 Solid State Disk Drive                                                    |High speed + decent storage, for my programs
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Secondary HD      |Caddy Case                                                                                             |Replaces DVD slot, for HDD later if needed
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wireless Card     |Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 - 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN Module                                     |To deal w/ poor internet quality at school
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Microsoft Suite   |Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Edition                                                             |My school taught me to use ALL of them well!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Warranty          |Sager 2 Year Limited Parts and Labor Warranty                                                          |I tend to break stuff :)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Shipping Warranty |Canada two way ground shipping service coverage add-on for Sager 2 Year Limited Parts & Labor Warranty |I am Canadian, and Waterloo is in Canada
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fingerprint scnr  |Built-in                                                                                               |Just for kicks!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total             |Sager NP9150 Gaming Notebook ($2 827.00)                                                               |Weight: ~6.8 lbs = ~3.08 kg, ETA:June 13/2012
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
ADDITIONAL SOFTWARE
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Media editing     |None :( Unless I find that at some point I need it.                                                    |Too expensive
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
C++ Code Editing  |Code::Blocks with MinGW pre-installed                                                                  |Free + Familiar
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Java Code Editing |Eclipse SDK                                                                                            |Free + Familiar
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Registry Editing  |TweakUI                                                                                                |Free
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Web Browsing      |Firefox                                                                                                |Free and customizeable
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Anti-Malware      |Malware Bytes (Free version)                                                                           |Free + Effective
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
ALREADY OWNED ADDITIONAL HARDWARE
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mouse             |Razor Naga Epic                                                                                        |Already purchased, very effective
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Keyboard          |Modified Logitech                                                                                      |Already purchased and Dvorakified
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Keyboard converter|QIDO (Qwerty in, Dvorak out)                                                                           |Already purchased, only for other's computers
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
External HDD      |750 GB ADATA Superior SH93                                                                             |Already purchased, for large media files
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ASCII PICTURE AS GENERATED BY ASCGEN:                            
                                                                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                           .                                              
                                                                                                                    ... o@.#                                              
                                                                                                       .i7n1toAU2oCvi::,,. W                                              
                                                                                         .v77nA6U2zz2Cc;:,....... ...... . W                                              
                                                                          .i;vCSSU6862CYYi:,,.............:::::::i;iii:.Q  6                                              
                                                            .:;7vM:.M2oZoCYii:...........,,,,,iiiii;iiiiii:::,,,,.,..,. $ .8
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I did not get rid of MSOffice suite. This is because my program is a co-op program and while I am on the job I may very well need/wish to use MSWord/Excel. Also my e-mail is compatible with MSOutlook, which is familiar.

You won't be using your personal laptop at any co-op job you have.

MS Office Professional costs $350 USD. You will hypothetically use it to write up the odd essay. For starters, even if you want to use Outlook, you should be getting Office Home And Business, which is $200 USD, not Professional. However, there's no reason to use Outlook for university email at all. Outlook is designed for way more than that and not worth paying for. There are countless free email clients and the probability stands that you'll end up using webmail or forwarding the email to a personal gmail account. So if you were to get any Office suite, it should be Home and Student, which is $120 USD. But really you don't need that either. You can always get it later if you feel yourself missing it. You won't though.

(If you're a sane software engineering student you'll be typing whatever essays you have in Emacs or Vim and then copy/pasting them into OpenOffice before printing it out and turning it in.)

For example, in my computer science degree here is a list of some of the Windows programs I used more often than MS Office (which was preinstalled on my university-configured laptop):

  • Firefox
  • Emacs
  • Matlab
  • MingW
  • LaTeX
  • Continuum
  • Maple
  • LabVIEW
  • Visual Studio 2003
  • MIT Scheme
  • IrfanView
  • The Glasgow Haskell Compiler

Note that some of them, Maple, Matlab, and Visual Studio 2003 and LabVIEW, are not even free. (They were also preinstalled on my laptop, we had university licenses of some sort or another for them.)

I kept the Professional version of windows, since it has XP mode.

XP mode is for businesses that have very badly written legacy applications that run on XP. All software that you'll want to use will run on Windows 7 (or it won't, it'll only run on Linux or other POSIX systems...). There is no reason not to get the Home Premium version.

I also was not sure if I perfectly understood what you said about the OS Drive. I took what you said to mean chose the default option "None"

I don't know what you pressed "None" on but it looks correct to me in terms of hard drives. There's just one hard drive there.

NP9150... ($2 827.00)

Even taking off $350 for the useless Office license that's still $2477. I hope your parents are rich.

And that's still a bulky-as-heck laptop that'll be obsolete to your gaming standards in a year. Is it worth getting such a bulky thing so that you can get one year of high gaming settings?

You shouldn't get this computer. If you're so into gaming that you're thinking of getting something like this, you really should go with a desktop, then you'd be able to upgrade it and so on over the future.

I have more than enough spare money to spend on whatever laptop I wanted and I still wouldn't get that if I was into playing the latest video games. I'd definitely get a desktop for that purpose and accept lower settings with a slimmer, lighter laptop if I ever wanted to play video games on the go. The battery life and bulk of that thing is too abysmal to take seriously.

Edited by Rashakil Fol

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I think it would help to imagine your future self using this computer.

You've made comments based on the weight of a sub-5lb computer. This is 6.8 lbs. I don't think you appreciate how heavy and bulky this thing is.

Imagine your future self playing video games on this computer. A year later, some new game comes out and you can only play it on medium settings. Then a few years after that, your computer is this bulky gigantic thing that can't play any new video games at high settings, with horrible battery life.

Okay, let's just imagine the next year. You're playing video games on this computer. How happy are you? Now suppose you're playing video games at a slightly worse resolution, with slightly worse settings. How happy are you?

The difference in happiness is approximately zero.

The difference in happiness between carrying around a 6.8 several-inches-thick behemoth such as this and some other laptop is much less.

You could get a Retina MacBook Pro instead of this laptop.

You could get a Sony Vaio Z with a quad-core processor and detachable sheet battery instead of this laptop. (That's what I have, it's great.)

You could get an Ultrabook with an IPS display, plus a reasonable gaming desktop, instead of this laptop.

Basically, stop everything, don't get this laptop.

If you want to be some super e-peen gamer, get a desktop, then at least you'll be able to upgrade it every two years.

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I understand what you are saying, my only concern is the lack of support that I would get with a desktop, though I do know how to fix most computer issues. I guess my biggest concern is that I am not very knowledgeable with where/what to buy. Basically I want to be able to play all the latest games if I wish. At school all I want to be able to do is play games from now on low settings without lag. Writing/compiling code should not be a major problem once my computer is capable of gaming, right? I would like to have access to my 'home' computer files from school. As such is there anything in particular that you would suggest for my computer? (A cheat sheet like the one in your 4th post would be excellent, links to specific parts would be even better, anything would be helpful)

Another thing that I have to keep in mind is time. I need this computer before I go to school, but more importantly I am going to france in about a month, and I would like to have this computer by then. As such a laptop seemed ideal since it would arrive quickly and be perfectly portable (I can easily take a 7 pound weight, just to test it out I put one in my backpack over the last few days, barely noticed it!) Thank you for your help!

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When it comes to gaming, I guess it's pretty clear you will be much happier if you spend 1/3 of your money on a desktop, 1/3 on a laptop, than spending $2400 on a horrible gaming laptop.

If you want to build a gaming desktop, the place to look is here: http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3458091. Scroll down to the "Sweet Spot Performance Gaming" system for component suggestions. (That's $600, doesn't include PSU or the case.) The CPU and graphics card are both better than the ones on the $2.4k laptop that you specced out. The CPU will be fast enough for the next 5 years certainly, the GPU, maybe not.

This leaves the question of what laptop to get. You wouldn't go wrong if you got a Thinkpad T430 with an i5-3320M CPU, 1600x900, Advanced-N wifi, 9 cell battery. Upgrade to a 500 GB 7200 RPM hard drive (for $40) and worry about getting an mSATA SSD, to be used as a cache drive, later. (Probably: get an Intel 313 SLC 20 GB mSATA cache drive.)

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Thank you very much. I told my father about what you suggested and he had some good ideas for cheaper computing that would still make me happy. Basically, he pointed out that all the 'new, sweet, awesome' games I would only need to play on the desktop. The laptop only needs to run the simple games that I like. Basically I have modified my view such that I am looking at likely getting a gaming desktop, like the one you suggested as well as a simple laptop, probably a dell since I trust and like dell. I will reply back with specs as soon as I find them.

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Edited by Labdabeta

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I am going to be near a Canada Computers store shortly... can you at least post back telling me if that desktop will be the sweet spot gaming performance machine that I was aiming for?

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  • a 120GB SSD should be OK, at least for a while.
  • dell XPS is a cheap laptop. The only durable laptops Dell makes are Precisions and the highest-numbered Latitudes. The general recommendation is to avoid XPS's. And that laptop in particular is a terrible configuration. It has a 1366x768 screen. It has the last generation of CPU at what is probably not a marked-down price, and it's an underclocked low voltage chip. And you're paying a horrible price for that.
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I am mostly worried that I will get all of the parts that I listed for the desktop, I'll try to put them together and they won't work, or I will be missing something. Would those parts work to make a fully functional computer?

Also, here is what I interpreted as your laptop suggestion, with some slight modifications, is it good?

Thinkpad T430:

  • Intel Core i5-3320M
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • XP Mode english
  • 1600x900 LED Monitor
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • 4GB RAM
  • Camera + Microphone (my parents want to be able to skype me)
  • 500 GB 7200 RPM HDD
  • 320 GB 7200 RPM 2HDD
  • 9 Cell Battery
  • Intel Centrino Ultimate Wireless Card (for poor internet speeds speckled throughout most schools)
  • MS Office Home & Student
  • Kensington Twin Head Cable Lock

Thank you so much for your help!

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Actually to be honest I might be thinking of the prior generation of XPS's. So don't necessarily dislike XPS's altogether -- however the 1366x768 screen is too weak.

As for your parts, I assume they'd work (specwise they work), but I wouldn't be able to tell you whether they'd be incompatible.

Your T430 config is fine except I don't see why you configured two hard drives.

Votes + Comments
Thank you for all your help!
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I don't see why you configured two hard drives

The dual hard drives thing is just something I am used to. My school made a dual-partition on our drives at the network (IE: we would have to be on the school network to change it) I got used to the idea of a C:\ drive for programs and a D:\ drive for files.

As for your parts, I assume they'd work (specwise they work)

Specwise is all I need for now. A friend of my father's puts computers together for a living, he will tell me if my computer will be fully compatible (my main concern is whether it will fit properly into the chasis).

don't necessarily dislike XPS's altogether

I won't

Thank you so much for your help. I will now prepare to buy the parts I need and put them together. Unless my father's friend points out some serious flaw in my parts I should be good to go.

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The dual hard drives thing is just something I am used to. My school made a dual-partition on our drives at the network (IE: we would have to be on the school network to change it) I got used to the idea of a C:\ drive for programs and a D:\ drive for files.

Or maybe one for Windows and one for Linux.

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I never thought of doing that! That is very clever! Thank you!

PS: I will not mark this thread as solved until the problem is solved, IE: until my computer is up and running, but thank you for all your help!

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