I finally bit the bullet a couple weeks ago and bought my first laptop computer. Sure, I've purchased laptops before, but they were for the kids who have been off in college. Man, times have certainly changed since having attended college myself some 30 years ago. Back then we were using punch cards to submit our Fortran programs in batch, which were processed at an off-site computer
The main purpose of the laptop is to serve as a wireless mobile device that can be used anywhere in the house. I wrote most of this post in the family room and really enjoy the ability to move about. However, in order to accomplish this task, a multi-purpose cable router was necessary to make use of the laptop's wireless capabilities and to provide continued support for our existing 4-port wired network. Network connectivity was provided by D-Links's GamerLounge Wireless 108G Gaming Router, which supports wired and wireless connections.
An important requirement for the new laptop was that it be capable of providing reasonable 3D graphics performance in modern games. Although the laptop will primarily be used to run productivity applications, it should also be capable of providing a minimum of 30 frames per second to support casual gaming - preferably at the display's native resolution. Since this requirement will not be met with Intel's mobile graphics chips, I began looking at laptops with NVIDIA graphics solutions.
The model I selected was Dell's Inspiron 1520 Series, which I outfitted with an Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 (2.2GHz/800Mhz FSB/4MB Cache), 2GB of DDR2 memory running at 667MHz, a 15.4-inch widescreen LCD with a native resolution of 1440x900, and a 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics card. Although I wasn't a big fan of the desktop version of the GeForce 8600 GTS, the GeForce 8600M GT performs quite well in this laptop. With an additional cost of only $90, the GeForce 8600M GT was a steal considering the capabilities it brings to an otherwise underachieving 3D graphics sub-system.
Below are photographs of Half-Life 2: Lost Coast with 4x AA/High Quality (36 fps), Stalker with Static Lighting/Medium Quality (41 fps), and The Witcher with Medium Quality (29 fps) being displayed via a VGA connection on Vizio's 42-inch LCD TV, which sports a resolution of 1360x768. Note that the first photograph is of a pine tree that fell during Hurricane Isabel, which hit the area in 2003.
One feature that I was unaware of is that with Dell you can choose the native resolution of the display. The resolutions available for the 15.4-inch LCD were 1280x800 (default), 1440x900, and 1680x1050.