Yet another graphics card question: NVIDIA vs NVIDIA?
April 23, 2006 1:54 AM   Subscribe

After configuring two laptops (Dell E1705 and Dell XPS M1710) to my needs, the only differences are the graphics cards and the price. The XPS houses the 512MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GTX whereas the E1705 comes in the 256MB NVIDA GeForce Go 7800 flavor. The price difference is that the XPS is $1,253 more expensive. What are the major differences between the two graphic cards? What about overall differences?

For my birthday (the 25th) present, my wife is allowing me to build a gaming laptop for myself. After some review-reading and comparison shopping I came upon two notebooks: Dell E1705 and the Dell XPS 1710. Everything else is essentially the same except for the price difference and the graphics card.

The setup for both of the notebooks are as follows:
-Intel Core Duo Processor T2500 (2MB Cache/2GHz/667MHz FSB)
-the XPS has 2GB DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHZ where the E1705 has 2 DIMM Memory 2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz (I'm not too sure if there is a difference here; an answer to that would be appreciated as well =D)
-80GB 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive

More specs can and will be posted upon request. I didn't think much else would be needed. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
posted by Jonasan to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
While I have little insight as to whether 'Shared' in this instance is anything like the old 'Shared' VRAM that was basically system RAM tasked out to the video card, I can at least tell you that the primary difference between a 7900 and a 7800 is that the 7900 is built with a 90nm process, allowing higher speeds, lower power consumption, and producing less waste heat.
posted by Ryvar at 2:23 AM on April 23, 2006

Here's an early review of the XPS M1710.

Toms Hardware is one of the most respected hardware sites out there, so I definitely suggest you read the whole thing before you decide to drop that kind of cash (I haven't read it yet, so I don't know the verdict). Keep in mind that this only an early review, and a more thorough (Toms is ridiculously, ridiculously thorough) review will be posted on the 27th, so you might want to wait and read that as well when it comes out.

Specific to your question, if you click on "Features: Nvidia's GeForce Go 7900 GTX Graphics Processor" in the table of contents, you'll find a nice little chart comparing the different video card flavours.

But really, I think that you might be better off spending the cash on a gaming desktop instead. Gaming laptops are heavy, have no battery life, and are in general, useless as regular workstations. As desktop replacements, they pale in comparison to what an top end SLI setup could do. But then again, XPS laptops are pretty shiny, so that's good too.
posted by Drunken_munky at 2:57 AM on April 23, 2006

Toms Hardware is one of the most respected hardware sites out there

Are you serious? Tom's Hardware has no integrity. They accept and demand sweet deals from manufacturers for brochure-like reviews.

See if a reputable site like Anandtech has reviewed these. Tom's Hardware hasn't been worth reading in years.
posted by Jairus at 3:07 AM on April 23, 2006

I'm almost positive that the "shared" memory means that your video card will be sucking up system ram. The "256 megs of ram" simply specifies the amount of system ram that it will gobble up. Assuming, of course, that some piece of software out there actually *uses* 256 megs of video ram....

Also, while I have no specs to back it up, my guts says that shared memory architectures are inherently inferior...but that's just me.
posted by jaded at 7:08 AM on April 23, 2006

Jaded is right. Shared memory or 'UMA' (unified memory architecture) means you lose system RAM to the GPU.

This is bad because:

a. You have less system RAM than you think.
b. System RAM is generally slower than the GDDR3 RAM that most modern video cards use.

If you can, avoid UMA at all costs, especially in a gaming system.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:13 AM on April 23, 2006

I bought a "gaming laptop" (Toshiba P30) and it's been great, EXCEPT for heat issues. It almost always overheats when re-installing the OS. I'd recommend you check into those kind of issues on buying a "high-powered" laptop.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:54 AM on April 23, 2006

One difference, the 7900 series is more power-efficient than the 7800 series, and the 7900-series parts are usually faster than their 7800 series counterpart.

Thing is it's very hard (for me) to find much on Dell's site about the video options on the e1750, so it's unclear the core speed of the 7800 GPU on that model. I did find one page that models with that chip actually have dedicated video memory, rather than the shared memory used with the ATI and Intel GPU options. Still, it's probably running at 350MHz and with fewer pipes than the 7900GTX, so there will be a considerable performance difference (>50%)

Not what you asked, but for the $1200 price difference you could probably put together a smaller form factor system with a full 7900gtx, a dual core AMD cpu and 2GB of RAM that would beat the laptop by a handy margin. Cut some of the gaming features out of the laptop and you could have money for a nice flat panel too.

So, for the price of the high-end laptop, you could have a semi-portable desktop that would be faster at gaming, a semi-portable LCD in a larger size, and a decent laptop suitable for pretty much any use but real gaming.
posted by Good Brain at 9:59 AM on April 23, 2006

Anandtech has a nice review of that XPS machine, compairing it to desktops with a 7900gtx:
The laptop competes pretty well with the desktops, at lower resolutions. On some games, it lags the desktop when running at the laptop LCDs native resolution by as much as 20-30%, but on others its about as fast, even at high resolutions.
posted by Good Brain at 10:22 AM on April 23, 2006

By far the biggest problem with shared memory is bandwidth. The display chip has priority in accessing memory, and if the CPU and display chip both need the memory channel at the same time, the CPU eats wait states until the channel becomes available. Using shared memory with a dual-CPU system is kind of like putting a jet engine on a tricycle.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:52 PM on April 23, 2006

Good Brain:
I'd love that suggestion for a SFF PC but it's hard for me while I live on board a ship (USS Kitty Hawk). I'm in the military and space is limited. If I want to get online, I have to hike down 7 flights of stairs, have my ID checked and then I would have finally left the ship. I would then have to take a 15 minute bike ride to a rec. center to connect to a hotspot. It's not impossible for me to have a SFF but lugging it around gives me a chance of breaking stuff as well.

Overall...what do you guys think? With nothing changed, buy the E1705 or the XPS?
posted by Jonasan at 2:07 AM on April 24, 2006

Take the $1,253 and buy yourself a Dell 2007FPW 20" widescreen LCD, a docking station, and then take your wife out to a five-star restaurant.
posted by Jairus at 2:20 AM on April 24, 2006

Cute idea but it still leaves me without a gaming laptop. Me = sad panda
posted by Jonasan at 4:04 AM on April 24, 2006

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