Best laptop for serious chess program.
July 28, 2008 2:28 AM   Subscribe

I recently received a gift of a highly regarded computer chess program with the following recommended system requirements: PC Intel Core 2 Duo, 2.4 GHz, 4 GB RAM, Windows Vista 64, GeForce8 graphics card (or compatible) with 256 MB RAM or higher, 100% DirectX compatible sound card, Windows Media Player 11, DVD ROM drive. I’m not very computer savvy and need some recommendations as to the best laptop I should buy to run this program. Are these system requirements standard on certain machines now or is this something I will have to have specially configured for me? Light weight, quality, and dependability are more important than price. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.
posted by thaivagabond to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
That is a very high list of requirements. Most machines don't ship with Vista 64. For $2700 you can get a Macbook Pro that meets all those requirements, and purchase a copy of Windows Vista 64bit elsewhere.

You could surely find a local geek who could install it for you.
posted by SirStan at 2:50 AM on July 28, 2008

Just to clarify...

Core 2 Duo 2.0 is usually standard, 2.4 is usually a slight upgrade from base.
4GB Ram is the upper echelon of what laptops take, and will be an upgrade from base.
Vista 64 again is pretty rare, and will be an upgrade to Vista Business 64 from many companies.
GeForce 8 graphics card is rare except on "gaming" laptops.

The "Windows media player 11", "DVD ROM", and "100% dx compatable sound card" are standard.

I was also going to recommend and IBM T61p, however the Quadro FX 570M isnt exactly a GF8 series card, and given the requirements specifically state the need... I wouldn't want to recommend something that wont work.

If you care about weight, quality and dependability Dell is probably out. :) as well.. but an XPS M1530 with a 2.4ghz cpu, 256mb GF8 video card, comes out to ~$1800. They don't offer Vista 64 though, so factor that in.
posted by SirStan at 3:00 AM on July 28, 2008

If you are talking about ChessBase 10 then you can probably relax that video card requirement and go with an IBM T61p. I can't imagine why they recommend such a high end video card! You also don't need Vista 64 bit (I imagine they just picked the best machine on the market, and asked the local IT guy to make a list!). If it runs on XP, it will run on Vista home just fine.

So that being said -- If you want to go all out I would recommend the MBP. If you want to safe a little change, the IBM T61p loaded up is $1800. The XPS is a decent machine as well, and comes out to $1750ish. The Mac meets your "quality" requirement more than almost anything else will.

Let me know if any of these tickle your fancy and I can tell you exactly what to click to buy one. You could quite easily follow a "do it yourself" tutorial on installing Vista or XP on the MBP.
posted by SirStan at 3:08 AM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think you're on the right track. No, there isn't any real standard, but if you have your list of requirements, your friends (us!) or someone selling them (them) can give you specific models to look at.

It would be more useful to know what program you are actually talking about (though it does have a fun air of mystery about it this way). Hardware 'requirements' are often kind of arbitrary and made up...someone who has used the same program might be able to tell you something like "oh yeah you only need the video card for the 3D FPS Nuclear Chess Tutorial and it's not a big deal if you want to skip that".
posted by Bokononist at 3:43 AM on July 28, 2008

Thats incredible for a chess game. What are the minimum requirements? What game is this? Im finding it hard to believe these specs. Most hard-code first persons shooters dont demant this.

The only part of this list I'm worried about is the video requirement. It may not run on a cheap intel integrated graphics kit.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:02 AM on July 28, 2008

If it is ChessBase 10, note that the minimum requirements are much more reasonable:
Pentium 1 GHz, 512 MB RAM, Windows Vista or Windows XP (Service Pack 2), DVD ROM drive, Windows Media Player 9. I've literally found computers in recycling bins that could run that. No idea what kind of performance "hit" you'd be taking.
posted by Benjy at 7:10 AM on July 28, 2008

In general, chess progams like as much CPU and RAM as you can give them. That doesn't mean that they won't run perfectly well on much lower spec hardware.

The recomended specs probably include 64 bit Vista because that lets userland 32bit applications access the full 4Gb of RAM that they can address — you can't do this in the 32 bit version of Vista, because large chunks of the address space is reserved for various reasons.
posted by pharm at 8:09 AM on July 28, 2008

large chunks of the address spare are reserved. Sigh.
posted by pharm at 8:10 AM on July 28, 2008

It's possible that the video card is being used for mathematical operations, so I wouldn't skimp too much. It's a sure thing the game won't be using it for any kind of video that might actually tax it, though...
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:56 AM on July 28, 2008

Honestly, those requirements are a bit of a stretch for a chess game. They really do sound like "recommended" specs. I just checked out ChessBase 10 and the recommended section matches your specs. Generally, you don't have to follow the recommended specs verbatim. I think the best way would be to consider it your high-end, and the mininum specs as the low-end, and then go in between for the hardware you should buy.
posted by curagea at 10:15 AM on July 28, 2008

Yea, that really doesn't sound necessary. The $500+ dollars more you'd spend getting the "recommended" system wouldn't really justify the half a second or whatever you'd save each time the computer figures out the next move.
posted by JauntyFedora at 2:53 PM on July 28, 2008

Yea, that really doesn't sound necessary. The $500+ dollars more you'd spend getting the "recommended" system wouldn't really justify the half a second or whatever you'd save each time the computer figures out the next move.

Maybe you could email their technical support staff and ask them what sort of performance you would see for the two different levels of hardware, and perhaps ask them what laptops their developers use, if any. Speaking as a researcher in computational science, the difference between 512MB and 4GB of RAM can be quite substantial, as well as the transition from 32-bit to a 64-bit environment. That said, I would place money that the video card is not used for mathematical operations, and that their algorithms wouldn't be able to take advantage of Vista 64 or 4GB of RAM unless you were playing against this thing at incredibly-slow-GrandMaster Performance level.
posted by onalark at 6:14 PM on July 28, 2008

Thank you for the great responses. I do appreciate your input. Oh, and yes, it is the Chessbase 10. Cheers.
posted by thaivagabond at 6:11 AM on July 29, 2008

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