The video card is significantly faster in the Alienware machine. The Pentium M is slower (about equal to a 2.5 GHz P4) but draws much less power and runs cooler and quieter than the P4. Screen size, hard drive speed, and price are also factors, but those being equal I’d go with the Alienware.
Neither one is high-end in comparison to current machines and even those have trouble with newer games, so its suitability depends on what you want to play.
The friend who is choosing also wants good sound & speakers, in which I understand the Alienware loses to the Inspiron, but she’d have to get an OS for the Inspiron so the extra costs would probably even out. How easy would it be to get & install a quality sound card for the Alienware?
The internal speakers will suck on both of them. For the sound card, there are a couple of decent PC Cards available, and a wide range of USB/Firewire devices. What does she intend to do with the sound card, what does she need as far as inputs/outputs, and how much can she spend on it?
Yes, the sound card generates the sound that then goes to the speakers. You need one.
My advice is to not get a laptop for gaming, especially if you want to buy the latest and greatest games to play on it. If you’re happy with games 2 or 3 years old you might be ok, but laptops have always been behind the power curve, games take a lot of computing power to run.
You’d be better off with a ~$1,000 PC loaded up with 2GB of memory and a fast video card.
Sure it does. Alienware had a reputation as being super, high end machines. Now that they’re owned by Dell that reputation has been largely chipped away. If someone didn’t know that they’re not the computers they once were…and the OP didn’t!
I’ll echo the “do you need a laptop for games?” question. Laptops can’t be upgraded like desktops (at least not nearly to the same degree) which is a big drawback for gamers. Sort of like being a gamer but wanting a mac. You can do either, but you’re limiting your ability to play anything you’d want to right out the gate.
In any case with laptops the better video card trumpts most other features.
The m5500 was produced before Dell bought Alienware.
The poor sound is primarily the speakers. If she doesn’t have a need for surround sound, midi connections, etc. she should get a decent set of amplified speakers (or hook into a home stereo) and see if that’s good enough for her.
Mostly the speakers. I’d pick up a set of external powered speakers for maybe $50 – you’ll get decent sound. Adding a sound card to a laptop is gilding a turd, really. I like my laptop lots (HP nw9440 “Mobile Workstation”) but it’s not nearly as nice as my desktop, despite costing about the same.
If your friend insists on a laptop but wants to game, prepare her for either playing older games or accepting lower frame rates. One bad thing about laptops is that, since they have LCD screens, the resolution is fixed (or looks like total ass if you modify it from the default). This means that instead of dropping to 800x600 to get a decent frame rate of say 20fps, you’re stuck with the 12fps you get at 1440x900.
Also bear in mind that widescreen monitors do not always play well with older games, as widescreen is relatively new to the gaming scene. Most games release in the last couple of years are fine, but then you have the problem with performance.
Btw, the lady & I have been following these on some Internet markets so the prices on these are ranging about $800, give or take $100. We’re making sure the sellers have a solid rep & there’s some sort of warranty offered.
Anyway, we found this yesterday for a bit more, along with a lesser DDR & HD model for a couple $100 less. Good reviews on the standard review sites (CNET, notebookreview.com, etc.)- anyone have any thoughts on this, compared to the
Alienware. And yes, I know it’s a Dell…
Dell Inspiron 9400 E1705 Duo 1.6Ghz T2060 120GB HD 2GB RAM
The video card is a 256MB ATi Mobility Radeon ™ x1400 HyperMemory Graphics.
That has the others beat except for the video card. It is a large improvement over the 9700, but still lags the 6600 Go by a small amount. It’s hard to say if it would be a noticable difference. It’s still not going to play newer games well.