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  1. #1
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus LTK's Avatar
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    Experiences with built-to-order and customizable laptops

    First things first: I'm going abroad for an internship for 8 months. I can't bring my desktop PC, so I'm buying a new laptop, and like the previous one I'm considering buying one that's custom built. That is, a laptop from a manufacturer that allows you to select which components to install in a laptop of a predetermined model. I'd like to share my experience with that and ask if anyone has done the same, and whether I should do it again.

    I'm typing this on a laptop I bought four and a half years ago. It has an Intel Pentium T4200 dual-core 2.00 GHz processor, an NVidia GeForce 9600M GT and 4 gigs of RAM. I've been using it to play everything from Crysis (of course) to STALKER: CoP, all of which performed adequately. Aside from becoming relatively slower over time (compared to my desktop computer) I've had very few problems with it. Sometimes it won't come out of sleep mode and sometimes the GPU crashes in a weird way. In both those cases I have to force a hard reset, and then it works again. It does weigh about 2.5 kilograms so I never made it a habit of carrying it everywhere.

    I chose a mid-range model that started out priced under 800, but with the upgrades I applied it came down to roughly 1000. The upside was that it came without an operating system; I could get that much cheaper myself. Although I suspect that I'm still paying more in the end than I would have if I just bought a regular gaming laptop. Since this one has served me so well, I'd say it's worth it.

    So here comes the plea for assistance: Do you have any experience with build-to-order laptops, good or bad? Would you recommend them or is it best to get a brand-name gaming laptop? Or are brand-name gaming laptops overpriced pieces of crap anyhow? And you just recommend that I put my desktop PC on the plane? Tell me about it!

    For the record, my laptop was made by bto.eu, a Dutch manufacturer.

    Incidentally, I would like to know if there's any way to get a decent sound card in a laptop, because having only left-side hearing, spatial simulation makes all the difference in the world for first-person games.
    Last edited by LTK; 09-12-2013 at 06:25 PM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by LTK View Post
    First things first: I'm going abroad for an internship for 8 months. I can't bring my desktop PC, so I'm buying a new laptop, and like the previous one I'm considering buying one that's custom built. That is, a laptop from a manufacturer that allows you to select which components to install in a laptop of a predetermined model. I'd like to share my experience with that and ask if anyone has done the same, and whether I should do it again.

    I'm typing this on a laptop I bought four and a half years ago. It has an Intel Pentium T4200 dual-core 2.00 GHz processor, an NVidia GeForce 9600M GT and 4 gigs of RAM. I've been using it to play everything from Crysis (of course) to STALKER: CoP, all of which performed adequately. Aside from becoming relatively slower over time (compared to my desktop computer) I've had very few problems with it. Sometimes it won't come out of sleep mode and sometimes the GPU crashes in a weird way. In both those cases I have to force a hard reset, and then it works again. It does weigh about 2.5 kilograms so I never made it a habit of carrying it everywhere.

    I chose a mid-range model that started out priced under €800, but with the upgrades I applied it came down to roughly €1000. The upside was that it came without an operating system; I could get that much cheaper myself. Although I suspect that I'm still paying more in the end than I would have if I just bought a regular gaming laptop. Since this one has served me so well, I'd say it's worth it.

    So here comes the plea for assistance: Do you have any experience with build-to-order laptops, good or bad? Would you recommend them or is it best to get a brand-name gaming laptop? Or are brand-name gaming laptops overpriced pieces of crap anyhow? And you just recommend that I put my desktop PC on the plane? Tell me about it!

    For the record, my laptop was made by bto.eu, a Dutch manufacturer.

    Incidentally, I would like to know if there's any way to get a decent sound card in a laptop, because having only left-side hearing, spatial simulation makes all the difference in the world for first-person games.
    I think the way to go with god sound on laptops is get a USB soundcard.

    As for the built to order - you can normally find reviews of the base model around (Clevo seem to be responsible for a lot of them). I decided that the Clevo in the form factor I was looking at wasn't quite what I wanted (lots of reviews crtitcised build quality) and went for a Gigabyte machine in the end.

  3. #3
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus LTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CMaster View Post
    I think the way to go with god sound on laptops is get a USB soundcard.

    As for the built to order - you can normally find reviews of the base model around (Clevo seem to be responsible for a lot of them). I decided that the Clevo in the form factor I was looking at wasn't quite what I wanted (lots of reviews crtitcised build quality) and went for a Gigabyte machine in the end.
    USB soundcards? That's news to me.

    Ah, Clevo. I just noticed that bto.eu is saying they're an 'official importer' of Clevo laptops. I guess that means their machines are based on Clevo models? I'm not sure. From the look of it, you can only get those through second-party sellers, is that right?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by LTK View Post
    USB soundcards? That's news to me.

    Ah, Clevo. I just noticed that bto.eu is saying they're an 'official importer' of Clevo laptops. I guess that means their machines are based on Clevo models? I'm not sure. From the look of it, you can only get those through second-party sellers, is that right?
    Yeah, as far as I can tell, Clevo make "barebones" laptops - so screen, body, motherboard (graphics card). Then computer sellers in your country buy those in, and attach CPU, keyboard, network card etc to your spec. Some suppliers are quite up front about them being based on Clevo (or another company), others, it takes some digging.

  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Boris's Avatar
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    Where do you study, if I may ask?

    The place I attend has excellent laptop deals. They don't do build to order, but you do get a serious amount of laptop for surprisingly little money.

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    I had one built for me once and it took 4 EVER!

    I bugged the guy a lot during the course of those 9 months that he had my $900 dollars.

    It was taking soooo long I thought he stole my cash. His excuse was that he was waiting for the parts to go on sale. For 9 MONTHS???

    LOL

  7. #7
    Lesser Hivemind Node L_No's Avatar
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    A friend of mine bought one of those Alienware gaming laptops. He really likes it, but it was quite expensive. It was a regular model, not a custom order I'm afraid. Doesn't Dell do custom pc's anymore?
    Want to add me on Steam? Steam name: Mr. Gert

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus LTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boris View Post
    Where do you study, if I may ask?

    The place I attend has excellent laptop deals. They don't do build to order, but you do get a serious amount of laptop for surprisingly little money.
    I'm enrolled at the UvA and I'm going to Lund University. The UvA tells me to go to campusshop.nl. I'll check that out.

    I found another site that lets you pick your own parts (laptopplus.nl), and they're offering a demo model Clevo W880CU (Core i7 620M, GeForce GTX 480M) for less than €1000. Seems like a good deal, but it's a 2010 model, which may explain why it's half off the RRP.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by LTK View Post
    I'm enrolled at the UvA and I'm going to Lund University. The UvA tells me to go to campusshop.nl. I'll check that out.

    I found another site that lets you pick your own parts (laptopplus.nl), and they're offering a demo model Clevo W880CU (Core i7 620M, GeForce GTX 480M) for less than €1000. Seems like a good deal, but it's a 2010 model, which may explain why it's half off the RRP.
    That really doesn't sound very good.
    The first get core i series are from many years ago, and much slower (and hotter) than the current Haswells.

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Boris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LTK View Post
    I'm enrolled at the UvA and I'm going to Lund University. The UvA tells me to go to campusshop.nl. I'll check that out.

    I found another site that lets you pick your own parts (laptopplus.nl), and they're offering a demo model Clevo W880CU (Core i7 620M, GeForce GTX 480M) for less than €1000. Seems like a good deal, but it's a 2010 model, which may explain why it's half off the RRP.
    I don't think that's a good deal at all.

  11. #11
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus LTK's Avatar
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    You're right, it's not, I'm not even thinking at all.

    I might forgo the Clevos and whatnot for one of these, which is €50 less for students. Not great on a €1000 laptop but it's pretty well reviewed. Taking an easy non-custom lappy is maybe not a bad choice.

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Boris's Avatar
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    Depending on the configuration that's a good deal.

    If it's this thing the retail price is 1150 normally.

  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus LTK's Avatar
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    That's the SLI version. They stuck a second graphics card in the optical drive slot. There's also a 24GB SSD cache for the OS. It costs €150 more. Worth it?

    Now it's getting difficult. I compared the Lenovo Y510P to a Clevo-based BTO P-book 15CL54, which has the same processor, a GT740M or 750M instead of a GT755M, same screen size, same resolution, same amount of RAM, is slightly lighter, and lets me include a 120GB SSD for roughly the same price. Of course, it doesn't have as many good reviews (it has none at all), so hmmm...

    Although according to Rockman29 in another thread I should go with the GPU that uses GDDR5, which is the case for the Lenovo but not the Clevo. But giving up an SSD for that? Does it really make that much of a difference?
    Last edited by LTK; 03-12-2013 at 04:55 PM.

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Boris's Avatar
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    Yes. The GT740M is a weak GPU.

    You can add an SSD later, you can't really get a better GPU. A 740M gives about 9 FPS in Bioshock Infinite (1920x1080 ultra) while a 755M gives you about 24FPS. It's easily twice as fast.

  15. #15
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    I took the weekend to purchase a mid priced gaming laptop that we both wanted to have.

    One thing to note is as Boris said, there is good jumps between GPU tiers. 760 may be 15-20% better than a 750/755.

    I went through a few questions to myself:

    What price range?
    What resolution aim? Panel Type (IPS or not)?
    Display size? (14, 15, or 17inch)
    Chassis type: pay more for lighter and thinner?
    8 GB Ram min.
    How well do I want to play the games? Ultra? Medium? Which games?
    Option to put your own SSD in if the configuration does not come with one

    I was torn between finding a sale on one for $700-$800 or stick with one in the $1000+ USD.



    The lower resolution laptops may not have as big of a graphics card, but you do not not need it at 1600x900 or lower. Y510p seemed to have the better price for performance in that price range and I considered it, especially since Lenovo had it on discount all weekend. There is also a couple Asus laptops in the same range and power.

    One problem I found is there are a lot of laptops using 3rd gen intel vs 4th gen. Although the battery performance seemed to be the same between the two for a lot of laptops.

    I really wanted a 15 inch display and ideally an IPS panel. I decided to go with thinner and lighter since I want something portable, since it will be used more for traveling and on a lap then sitting on a desk full time. That bumped up the price $200-$300. I think I could have gotten by with 1600x900 resolution, but could not see skipping out on 1920x1080. This right here is probably your biggest price choice since a higher resolution display costs more along with the requirement for a better video card to run at 1080 well.

    So:
    15 inch, IPS panel, 1920x1080
    Light, Thin
    4th gen Intel
    SSD optional, can put my own in.

    I eventually settled on a Gigabyte P35G. Configuration 1. I plan to remove the DVD drive and put in an my current 128GB SSD in it. There is a separate mSATA slot but rather upgrade my desktop SSD.

    If weight and size is not a big concern they also have their P2xW/K line. You save a couple hundred and still get the same specs as the 35G. They also have the 24/34 line of laptops if you wanted to go with 14 inch or 27 line if you wanted a 17 inch display.

    Downside is the 765m is 2GB GDDR5 vs the 770m 3GB GDDR5. P25W has the 770m.


    It just shipped today, hopefully get it by this weekend so have time to configure and test it before traveling.

    Here is hoping it turns out well.


    I used this article as a starting point on what laptops to look at:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7554/b...s-holiday-2013

    Notebook graphics power/spec chart:
    http://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-...ist.844.0.html

  16. #16
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    That's the P35K you plumped for. I gather it does a good job.

    I recentley bought a P34G, (14", 1.6kg, near enough same specs as the P35K) and am all around very impressed with it. Was unpleasantly expensive however.

    If you're getting the P35K, give it a careful inspection on delivery. There's been some problems with it erm, bending in the middle.

    Last edited by CMaster; 04-12-2013 at 09:33 PM.

  17. #17
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    That was a concern I had read about and am hoping it was a first run production problem. Thanks for the reminder.

    Hah, they even had the laptops at BlizzCon. Well 3 weeks ago I was not in the market for one when I was there.
    Last edited by Moraven; 04-12-2013 at 10:19 PM.

  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus LTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moraven View Post
    I took the weekend to purchase a mid priced gaming laptop that we both wanted to have.

    One thing to note is as Boris said, there is good jumps between GPU tiers. 760 may be 15-20% better than a 750/755.
    Man, only a weekend? I've been mulling over this for more than a week. Where did you buy yours? There is only one place in my whole country that sells Gigabyte laptops and they're only selling two tablet-based models, so that's useless.

    The Lenovo, having a beefier GPU, seems like the better option of the two now (although I still like the look of that IPS panel on the BTO) and if I could put a proper SSD in it as well, that'd probably seal the deal. Lenovo has something called Ultrabay that allows this, so I need to see how much the corresponding SSD module would cost.

    Edit: Oh, it's just a caddy that you can insert a separate 2.5" drive in. I don't know why I thought they would sell them as integrated devices.
    Last edited by LTK; 05-12-2013 at 03:55 AM.

  19. #19
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    I plan to remove the DVD Drive and put a old SSD card with the caddy in its place. It supports mSata also but wanted to upgrade my desktop SSD capacity when SSDs were on this this weekend. Hopefully it can boot from that slot with no problems. Will find out Saturday.

    I am in USA, so I had multple options. I got it from Newegg. Amazon here had it also.

    XoticPc and ExcaliberPC here, boutique gaming hardware sites, sell it also.

  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus LTK's Avatar
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    Not even Amazon UK has any of the P model Gigabyte laptops. Still, if I did find one, the delivery costs would go through the roof, so I think the Lenovo Y510P plus an SSD and caddy is the way to go. Amazon UK does sell the caddies but it might be tricky to figure out which one will fit.

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