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I am looking at a DELL XPS 1530 preloaded with Ubuntu. I am going with the Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 processor ( This is 64 bit according to Intel ...
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  1. #1
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    128MB vs. 256MB Grapics Card


    I am looking at a DELL XPS 1530 preloaded with Ubuntu. I am going with the Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 processor ( This is 64 bit according to Intel website: Intel® Core™2 Duo processor numbers).

    How much overkill is going with a 256MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 8600M GT vs128MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 8400M GS?

    I plan on using Compiz Fusion with OpenSuse 11.0, KDE 4.1.2. Is the 256 card worth the extra $100? According to Compiz website (Hardware/NVIDIA - Compiz Fusion Wiki), 64MB is minimum memory required. I do not plan to do gaming or video editing. I just want to utilize Compiz Fusion 3D desktop effects.

    Thanks.

    -Mike
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    Linux Guru bigtomrodney's Avatar
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    I have this thing about powerful graphics cards in laptops. I've done it before and it just wasn't a great idea. You pay for it in your system running hot all of the time and your battery being sapped of power. Also, the proprietary nVidia drivers make it difficult to suspend your system, whereas an Intel chip would work out of the box.

    The question to ask is are you using the laptop as a kind of desktop replacement or as a mobile device. Big graphics cards don't lend themselves well to being mobile

    As someone who spends their time repairing other people's systems (both hardware and software) the one thing I've learned is that if you want a mobile system make sure the specs are for a mobile system and if you want a powerhouse get a well cooled desktop. I see people go out and get high powered processors that are too hot for the chassis they are on and too hungry for the battery feeding them. It's all too easy to spec up on the Dell site and bigger numbers are often more attractive

    Anyway , hope I didn't sound like I was lecturing you...if you're set on the nVidia card the 8400 would sell me on its heat/power profile but I'd rather have the extra RAM on the 8600. If it's a case that the RAM on the 8400 is faster though I'd go with that, throughput is more important than storage when it comes to graphics cards.

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    Linux Guru techieMoe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigtomrodney View Post
    I have this thing about powerful graphics cards in laptops. I've done it before and it just wasn't a great idea. You pay for it in your system running hot all of the time and your battery being sapped of power. Also, the proprietary nVidia drivers make it difficult to suspend your system, whereas an Intel chip would work out of the box.
    I've never had overheating issues with Nvidia cards in a laptop, and suspend works fine for me using Intrepid. You are correct though that no special graphics drivers are needed for an Intel chipset. The downside of course is that you can't run anything more demanding than a low-graphics session of Nexuiz without a dedicated card.

    The question to ask is are you using the laptop as a kind of desktop replacement or as a mobile device. Big graphics cards don't lend themselves well to being mobile
    How so? My Inspiron 1520 had the option to use a 256MB graphics card (I chose 128 for budget reasons) but the size of the laptop was unaffected by this choice. I'm perfectly mobile, thank you very much.

    As someone who spends their time repairing other people's systems (both hardware and software) the one thing I've learned is that if you want a mobile system make sure the specs are for a mobile system and if you want a powerhouse get a well cooled desktop. I see people go out and get high powered processors that are too hot for the chassis they are on and too hungry for the battery feeding them. It's all too easy to spec up on the Dell site and bigger numbers are often more attractive
    The only time in my experience when I've had a laptop that got unusably hot was when I had my first-generation Apple MacBook Pro. Battery life is only an issue if you plan on playing movies or high-end games on the go. When I'm on my laptop I'm generally around a power outlet, so the extra power my dedicated graphics card uses is a moot point.

    To the original poster: I very highly recommend the larger card. You should buy as much as you can afford on a laptop because you usually can't upgrade it later. A 256MB card will keep you going for a while.

    ::EDIT:: I just read the end of your post where you said you don't plan on gaming. If that's the case, an integrated Intel is perfectly fine and everything bigtomrodney said should be considered. I was giving my opinion as a gamer, for what it's worth. Should have read the whole thread first.
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    Linux Guru bigtomrodney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by techieMoe View Post
    I've never had overheating issues with Nvidia cards in a laptop, and suspend works fine for me using Intrepid.
    That's a first I've seen...are you using the nv driver? That works fine but the proprietary driver has given me trouble with various Go4, GeForce 4400, 6200, 7900 and 8600. That's been on a selection from Dell, HP and Siemens on both Notebooks and Desktops. I'm not doubting you - I'm just surprised because you're the first person I've come across that this works for.
    How so? My Inspiron 1520 had the option to use a 256MB graphics card (I chose 128 for budget reasons) but the size of the laptop was unaffected by this choice. I'm perfectly mobile, thank you very much.
    I meant big in the sense of 'Big Iron'. That is in the context I painted, hotter and more hungry with regards to power. I didn't say the 256MB card was bigger

  5. #5
    oz
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    Is the 256 card worth the extra $100?
    Wow... that's a big difference for only 128 MB more.

    If the 128 MB cards work well enough for you on desktop machines, it should work well enough in the laptop. I'd be very reluctant to spend an extra $100 unless I really needed the difference that it would buy.
    oz

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    Linux Guru techieMoe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigtomrodney View Post
    That's a first I've seen...are you using the nv driver?
    I play 3D games, does that answer your question? No, I don't ever use the nv driver if I can help it. I've had more stability issues with it than the official Nvidia drivers. I forget what version of the Nvidia driver Hardy uses, but Intrepid uses 177.80? I think.

    It really doesn't matter though; I've never in the history of all the Nvidia cards I've ever used run into overheating issues. The same can't be said for ATI.

    Off the top of my head, the Nvidia cards I've tried (all using official Nvidia drivers, the latest that were available at the time) were:

    Geforce 2 MX440
    Geforce 4 ti 4200
    Geforce 6800 (Not Ultra)
    Geforce 8400M GS

    The first 3 were desktop cards, the last one is in my laptop. I'm quite happy with all the Nvidia cards I've purchased in the past. I'm sorry to hear you've had issues, but just know that they are apparently not universal.

    I'm not doubting you - I'm just surprised because you're the first person I've come across that this works for.
    I know this is anecdotal, but you're actually the first person I've heard who has had problems with an Nvidia card. In my sphere of influence they tend to get high marks all around.

    ::EDIT:: *Sigh* I really need to slow down and read things more carefully. I gather that you were talking about the suspend feature working and not overheating issues? Suspend has rarely worked for me on the laptop in Linux. Hardy had issues waking up from a Suspend sometimes, necessitating a hard reboot. The fact that this seems to work without a hitch on Intrepid is a good thing.
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    bigtomrodney, techieMoe, ozar,

    Thanks guys for all your input. This has helped clarify my questions regarding the larger graphics card. For my needs I believe the smaller one (128MB) will be sufficient for my needs. I currently have a 128MB ATI Radeon HD 2400 PRO (RV610 94C3) on my desktop ( Intel Core 2 Quad, 4 GB RAM) and Compiz-Fusion 3D desktop effects work without problems.

    Its good to have forums like this. In preliminary talks with the Dell sales guy, he tried to up sell me right away to the 256MB card. I guess that is his job, but I would not have known any better without getting the facts here first. The XPS 1530 comes with 4GB RAM ( at least on the one's that are preloaded with Ubuntu) so that should give me plenty of memory for applications. The only upgrades I am considering is the $75 for a LED screen rather than LCD and $75 upgrade to the T8100 processor. LED is brighter and uses less battery than LCD ( that is what I have read on line at least). A year ago the LED upgrade was around $200 - $250.

    -Mike
    Suse Linux Enterprise Server 11
    Suse Linux Enterprise Server 10 - SP3
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