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Old July 11, 2010, 09:09 AM
mneszt mneszt is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 7
Default HTPC laptop/desktop advice

Hi! I've been coming to this site a lot over the last year or so since I discovered it, but this is my first time posting. I'm looking for some advice concerning purchasing a new laptop and/or desktop for HTPC purposes. I've been waiting for what seems like forever for new laptop models to come out in Canada, but I got tired of waiting yesterday and decided to try out a Sony VAIO E laptop from FutureShop yesterday (I have 14 days to return it if I don't like it). It seems like a pretty decent option, but I'm wondering if I might be able to get something that better fits my needs for around the same price or a few hundred dollars more.

I'll try to cover all my bases. Sorry if it's long, but I appreciate any advice I can get!

Information regarding expected system usage:
  • HTPC (up to 1080p .mkv and Blu-ray)
    • connected to Pioneer VSX-9040THX receiver (supports all current audio formats via HDMI) for a 5.1 speaker set-up and 1080p Samsung LCD TV.
  • General purpose computing (i.e. occasional Word/Excel/Powerpoint, email, internet, etc...)
  • Skype video calling my relatives/friends that have just moved away to Toronto and Alberta!
  • Light-Moderate gaming - Most of my gaming (which isn't much) is otherwise done on an X-Box 360.
    • Dragon Age Origins, Civilization type games
    • I would like to be able to play Diablo III at a decent framerate when it is released.
    • I don't need to be able to play games on super high-res, and I don't play much online. I just want a decently smooth frame rate.
Budget and other info:
  • ~$1000 (before taxes), but willing to go upwards of $1500 depending on what it will get me (see below). I will supposedly be receiving a $1900 scholarship in the mail, but I'm going to pretend that it doesn't exist until it's actually been deposited into my bank account.
  • I will probably be buying a 3-year warranty for any laptop I purchase.
  • I have never built a system before, but I am willing to try. However, I would MUCH rather just purchase parts off of an online retailer (NCIX or NewEgg) and pay somebody that actually knows what they're doing to put it all together. The thought of tinkering with a motherboard and CPU worries me (I don't want to break it!).

Options I am considering (listed prices are before Quebec taxes):
  1. Getting a single laptop with Blu-Ray ~$1000-1200 - options include....
    • Sony VAIO E series - $999 at FutureShop - 15.5 inch 1366 x 768, core i5 430, Radeon 5450, Blu-ray, 500 GB 5400 RPM HDD, 4GB Ram, VGA webcam, battery life ~2-3 hrs and TONS of pre-installed programs that uses 33% of system memory when idling!!!
    • Sony VAIO F series (~$1200 from Sonystyle.ca, 16.4 inch 1600x900, core i7-720QM, nVidia 330m,Blu-ray, 4 GB Ram, 500 GB 7200 RPM HDD, 1.3 megapixel webcam, backlit keyboard, pitiful battery life, and Windows 7 Professional with the option to prevent them from installing a billion programs).
    • There doesn't seem to be any other decent laptops with Blu-Ray in Canada around $1000.
  2. Get a new desktop HTPC and cheaper, thin and light laptop and +/- standalone Blu-ray player
    • HTPC desktop - a cheaper build with Core i3 530 vs AMD Athlon II X something, 4GB ram, Radeon 5570 vs 5670 , Western Digital Caviar Black 1Tb or Caviar Green, ? case
    • Laptop - 13-15 inches (but preferably < 14 inches), light, good battery life - perhaps
      • Acer Aspire TimelineX - I think the 13 inch one is ~$650 from online retailers in Canada, but I heard that the build quality isn't that great.
      • Anything else with decent build quality and battery life that won't break my budget.
  3. Decent laptop and stand-alone Blu-ray player (e.g. PS3) or external Blu-ray drive
    • Lenovo Ideapad Y460 - ~$1150 after 10% coupon with free shipping and 3 year warranty (includes accidental damage protection) - 14 inch 1366x768, Core i5 520, 5400 RPM HDD, switchable Radeon 5650, pretty decent battery life on integrated graphics mode ~4-5 hours, ? quality webcam
    • Envy 14 - in a perfect world this will be released in Canada for about the same as in the USA, but in reality, it looks like we're only getting a super-inflated $2000 option with a lower-res screen (at least according to Amazon.ca).
    • Another laptop, perhaps something with nVidia Optimus?


In terms of personal preference, I think that option #2 would be my optimal choice. I think it provides the most "bang for the buck" out of the 3. Option #1 is probably my least favorite as I don't think it makes sense to have a laptop that big. To me the whole point of a laptop is having something portable. A 16 inch behemoth is definitely not portable (especially with <2 hrs of battery life) and a 15 inch machine isn't much better IMO.

Thanks again for any help!
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