Laptops/Notebooks Review (Gateway, Toshiba, Compaq, Sony, and Dell Comparison) - Around $500 budget

A few key criteria should be evaluated when shopping for a laptop. The list below is limited to branded laptops priced under $550 and provides a summary of hardware and software details:






















Product Price Store Processor Memory Hard Disk (HD) Other Feature Summary
Gateway ML6720 $399.99 Best Buy Intel® Pentium® Dual-Core mobile processor T2310; 533MHz frontside bus, 1MB L2 cache and 1.46GHz processor speed 1GB PC2-5300 DDR2 memory for multitasking power; expandable up to 2GB 120GB DL DVD±RW/CD-RW drive; Label flash support; 15.4" widescreen; Windows Vista Home Premium; Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator X3100.
Toshiba A215-S7422 Onyx Blue $499.99 Best Buy AMD Turion™ 64 X2 mobile technology TL-58; HyperTransport™ and AMD PowerNow!™ technologies and improved security with Enhanced Virus Protection 1GB DDR2 SDRAM for multitasking power, expandable to 4GB 160GB Serial ATA hard drive (5400 rpm) DL DVD±RW/CD-RW drive; 15.4" widescreen; Windows Vista Home Premium; ATI RADEON X1200 graphics with 128MB-319MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory; S-video out.
Compaq Presario C581 $548 Walmart.com Intel Celeron Processor 530; 533MHz FSB bus speed;1MB L2 Cache 1024MB DDR2 System Memory 120GB (5400RPM) SATA hard drive 15.4" widescreen; Windows Vista Home Premium; Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 (shared) – 224MB total available shared graphics memory; Super Multi 8X DVD R/RW drive; S-video out.
Sony VAIO VGN-NR120E/S $549.99 Best Buy Intel® Pentium® Dual-Core mobile processor T2310; 533MHz frontside bus, 1MB L2 cache and 1.46GHz processor speed 1GB PC2-4200 DDR2 memory for multitasking power, expandable to 2GB 160GB Serial ATA hard drive (5400 rpm) DL DVD±RW/CD-RW drive; 15.4" widescreen; Windows Vista Home Premium; Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator X3100.
Dell Vostro 1400 $549.99 (price valid when clicking through from marketing email from Dell small business) Dell Intel® Core2 Duo T5270 1.4GHz, 800Mhz, 2M L2 Cache 2GB, DDR2, 667MHz 2 DIMM 120GB 14.1” widescreen; Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator X3100; 85 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery. S-Video Out.


The common features applicable to all of the models described above are:
  • Windows Vista or Windows XP Home OS.
  • 15.4” widescreen display.
  • Graphics Media Accelerator Chipset.
  • Lithium Ion 6 or 9-cell battery.
  • Wireless 802.11b/g card.
  • 10Base-T/100Base-TX Fast Ethernet LAN with RJ-45 connector
  • High-Speed Modem.
  • Two or more USB 2.0 ports.
The vital part of any computer is its Central Processing Unit (CPU) and should be considered in detail to effectively compare them. The Intel® Celeron processor is a basic low-end mobile chip and this is employed by Compaq. Pentium® Dual-Core is a higher-end chip that has hardware support for multi-threaded applications and is the one that Gateway and the Sony are shipped with. The AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-58 is the primary competition for Intel’s high-end mobile chips processor that Toshiba is based on. The Dell is fired by the Intel® Core 2 Duo chip, which is one of its high-end processors. The following CPU features affect system performance -
  • L1 Cache - faster than system memory and the L2 Cache usually located inside the CPU chip.
  • L2 Cache – faster than system memory usually separate from the CPU chip.
  • Clock Speed – Faster clock speed executes instructions more quickly. Benefits most applications - Media titles, games, and everyday productivity.
  • System Bus – Key component for overall system performance. Improvements in Performance and Responsiveness. Transfers data faster between processor, system memory, and graphics.
  • Hyper-threading technology – two software threads at the same time. Uses previously unused resources. Benefits multi-threaded applications and other applications such as virus protection that usually runs parallel with user applications.
  • Dual-Core – True parallel processing. Two threads to be processed using single execution core (single-core) – partially parallel. Dual core has two execution cores thereby enabling true parallel processing.
  • Virus Deterrent Technology – Added security for PCs. Avoids the classic buffer overflow viruses. Classify areas in memory by where application code can execute and where it cannot. When a malicious worm attempts to insert code in the buffer, the processor disables code execution, preventing damage and worm propagation.
  • Power Management – Allows using less power when computing doesn’t need to use power for all resources.
The table below summarizes the core differences in the CPUs used by these laptops:



















Machine ProcessorL1 Cache L2 Cache Clock Speed System Bus Others
Gateway ML6720 and Sony VAIO VGN-NR120E/S Intel® Pentium® Dual-Core mobile processor T2310128 KB 1MB 1.46 GHz 533 MHz Dual Core true parallel processing enabled. Execute Disable Bit Virus Deterrent Technology and Intel Speedstep Power Management Technology Built In.
Toshiba A215-S7422 Onyx Blue AMD Turion™ 64 X2 mobile technology TL-58256 KB* 1MB*1.9 GHz1600MHz*AMD PowerNow Power Management Technology and AMD Enhanced Virus Protection capabilities.
Dell Vostro 1400 Intel® Core2 Duo T5270128 KB 2 MB 1.4 GHz 800 MHz Dual Core true parallel processing enabled. Execute Disable Bit Virus Deterrent Technology and Intel Speedstep Power Management Technology Built In.
Compaq Presario C581 Intel Celeron Processor 530128 KB 1 MB 1.73 GHz 533 MHz Execute Disable Bit Virus Deterrent Technology.

  • *The AMD processor uses dedicated L1 and L2 caches per core along with a full-duplex system bus. The Intel processors on the other hand use shared L1 and L2 caches along with a half-duplex front side bus.
Our Choice and Recommendation:

Our choice was the Dell Vostro 1400. It replaces an older Dell Cpi laptop with 256MB memory. The existing setup is with an external keyboard, mouse, and an LCD monitor and placed on a computer desk. The kids use the machine primarily to play their games such as Jumpstart KG, Curious George, KidPix, and games from pbskids.org. They also use it to browse the Internet and send emails. The Dell Cpi was perfect to execute these tasks. However, when we recently tried to hold a video conversation with it using Yahoo Instant Messenger the CPi was unable to handle it even at 100% CPU. That paved the way for the upgrade. The new Dell Vostro looks remarkably similar to the old Dell Cpi.

At the time we bought the new machine, the Gateway deal was not available at the Best Buy site. The pricing on the Gateway makes it a very attractive deal. The primary difference between the Gateway and the Dell are better CPU, 1GB extra memory, and better battery for the Dell. For our purposes, the Gateway would have worked just as well for about $150 less. Hopefully, our kids will appreciate the extra features that come with the Dell.

The Dell fares better against Compaq and the Sony – with more memory and better CPU for about the same price. The Toshiba, on the other hand provides an interesting comparison. It has the AMD chip and that compares very well with Intel’s latest offerings, more HD space, but less memory and can be had for $50 less than the Dell.

One other factor to consider is that the Dell comes preinstalled with Windows XP while the others come with Windows Vista. Windows XP sp2 is older but more stable operating system compared to Vista. Also, all the models except the Dell come with a number of trial versions of software installed. Needless to say, most will end up uninstalled.

For a family laptop, our recommendation would be the Gateway. The combination of the newer Intel chip, pricing, memory, and size of HD is hard to beat.

2 comments :

Mason said...

Um, isn't the vostro 1400 a 14" screen?

ks said...

Hi Mason:

Yes, you are correct. The screen size is 14.1". We have corrected the post. Newer info is available in the following related post:

http://www.onefamilysblog.com/2008/02/gateway-mt6728-toshiba-a215-s5818-sony.html

Also, the Vostro 1500 is their 15" version. Please see the link below:

http://www.dell.com/content/products/productdetails.aspx/vostronb_1500?c=us&l=en&s=bsd&cs=04

Regards,
One Family's Blog

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