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  • rangerdavid - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    Love your articles and site in general, but please: When using your DSLR to take a gallery of photos, tighten that aperture down four or five stops from wide-open, as you currently take your photos (probably necessitating a slow shutter speed and a tripod). Yes, some shots lend themselves to nice blurry depth-of-field effect, but not everything.

    Keep up the great work and Happy Holidays to you all.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    I think you've got it backwards... I prefer to shoot at a 14 f-stop and ISO 400, since the low f-stops give you the depth-of-field effect. They let in a lot more light, but I prefer a good flash over the blur. But otherwise I agree; Dustin needs to figure out the pictures better. (Sorry, Dustin, but it's true! At least he's no longer using a point and shoot.) Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    Oh believe me, I know. I'm getting there. Give me a video camera and I'll make it sing, but still photography utterly escapes me for some odd reason. Reply
  • rangerdavid - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    Note: NOT Trying to start a flame war.

    ...but I believe I had it right - yet it's confusing and I may not have been clear. A "wide" or "open" aperture is definitely a SMALLER number. This is a bit counter-intuitive. I should have said "tighten that aperture UP a few stops," even though I usually uses the phrase "tighten down" in common speech. I suppose both are common. The point:

    Higher f-stop = narrower aperture opening = greater depth-of-field = more of the laptop in focus.

    So I agree: Shooting at f/14 is a better choice than the wide-open f/3.5 or whatever he's using now. For more info:
  • Deinonych67 - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    You were correct using the term "stopping down" in reference to reducing the aperture size.
  • Stuka87 - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    I actually got a kick out of the isometric shot that is on the main page. It basically has a tilt shift effect on it, making it look like something you would buy for your daughters barbie dolls. Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    Since it appears that high quality screens are available almost exclusively in glare finishes these days, could you do a review comparing the out of the box quality of the screen with the results after applying a filter to it? and both sell filters in many sizes, so finding on to fit shouldn't be that difficult. Reply
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    I second this request. I don't like the dull low-contrast screens any more than any of the others who regularly complain about these things, but I hate glossy screens even more. When I saw the picture of this laptop on the AT front page and saw the reflection of the keyboard, and that glossy plastic on the bezel, my gut reaction was: "Aw, FFS...". Reply
  • Meaker10 - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    Notebook manufacturers typically use different internal coolers for the quad core models, thicker heatpipes and better fans are usually used.

    Dont assume just because your dual core version was comfortable that it impacts how the quad core model may fare.
  • CreateAccount - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    looks like a samsung or toshiba.
    reflective surface, who started this trend? It's never been cool.
    what happen to the brushed metal or the touchy plastic surface like the bottom case of the notebook? Bring those things back. That will cut the cost of the notebook. We don't need a notebook to looks pretty, we buy it to WORK! "WORK" that's the main purpose of it. Let those pretty stuff for A*ple, we don't need it.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    Apple went full glass on the top. Every designer of cheap laptops slavishly emulated the shiney bit as cheaply as could be done. Clueless PHBs then decided shiney was in and forced the rest of their designers to commit the same crime or be fired. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    I dislike the "edge-to-edge" glossy approach just as much as regular glossy; in fact, putting a glossy sheet over an LCD (typically with a small gap between them) is just brain dead. It's a case of two wrongs making a bigger wrong. Reply
  • Pylon757 - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    Then get a Thinkpad or a comparable business laptop (e.g. Dell Latitude or HP Elitebook). Those don't compromise on usability and most are all-matte. Reply
  • 5150Joker - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    With a 5650m GPU, you can hardly call it gaming worthy. Sure it's better than Intel integrated graphics but it's definitely not considered mid range in the notebook world. A midrange graphics chip in the notebook world is an nVidia GTX 260M or it's equivalent. The 5650 falls quite short of that. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    I'd say GTX 260M is more of a high-end mobile GPU. It's not in the dream category like GTX 480M, but for mobile graphics it's in the upper echelon. HD 5650 is a good "midrange" mobile GPU, but it's really an entry-level gaming GPU. The 1080p LCD is a bit of a problem for 5650 as well if you're playing games, but again you need substantially more expensive GPU and everything else to make that happen. Reply
  • 5150Joker - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    The 260M these days is mid range in terms of gaming video cards available. The top end consists of GTX 480M, GTX 470M, GTX 470M, AMD 5870m, 5850m. 2nd tier would be 4870m, GTX 280M and third tier is 260M (mid range by performance). The 5650 is even lower on the scale of performance thus IMO doesn't constitute mid range at all. It's lower mid range if anything. In January we're going to see even faster GPU's released so that will push the 5650 down even lower. Reply
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    For the most part I agree with this... the lack of GDDR5 is a problem with these midrange mobile GPUs... even the desktop 5750 has a gig of GDDR5.

    At stock clocks the 5650 isn't very impressive, but if you get a good one it can OC like a champ. My 5650 running at 850/900 clocks can give the Mobility Radeon 5830 a run for its money (10k 3dmark06). Yeah, I know benchmarks mean mostly jack, but this chip is great for the price, especially if you're a light game such as myself.
  • bennyg - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    I agree - the GTX 260M is a cut-down high-end GPU, kind of the low end of the high end. Kind of the "4830" concept rather than "4670"... I am of course referring to a very short space of time when number names had some kind of internal consistency with the product-space-concept the product was occupying :/

    The core of the issue I think is the challenge to compare technology from different generations or model years - there is relative performance at release (where the 55nm G92b derivative chips were king), then there is relative performance right now (where they're still more powerful than 40nm midrange from both camps but not by very much), after it's been superceeded by a generation or two.

    All I know as an individual, my (un-underclocked...) GTX260M runs the games I play at 1080p with good enough quality to keep me happy.
  • frozentundra123456 - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    A decent system, but the 1199.00 price is way out of line. For this, you can get the Asus G73 model at Best buy, and that has a mobility HD5870 and a 1.73Ghz quad core in a 17 inch chasis.

    If the NBLB2 is available for 899.00 as the artice stated it might be, then I would consider it.
  • warisz00r - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    Would you be able to get the G73 with a 1080p panel at the same price? No? I guess as much. Reply
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    The BB version of the G73 has a 1600x900 screen... so, no, no full HD for you. Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    No, it doesnt have a 1080p panel, but can the 5650 in the tested notebook run games at 1080p anyway? I dont think so at any kind of high detail.

    So I still think the G73 is a better value. I would prefer to have a somewhat lower resolution panel and the power to run at native resolution than a good display without the graphics power to use it properly.
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    Can I put this screen on my Gateway NV5925u?

    Also, damn! That 5650 gets hot! It's hard for the 5650 in my laptop to reach 70 degrees, even overclocked to 5730 clocks!

    ... somehow I got really lucky with the GPU in my laptop. I can OC it to 850/900 without any stability issues so long as I use a laptop cooler.
  • Zoridon - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    I'd be willing to recommend a mid range gaming notebook just like the NBLB2 if they made the native resolution 1680x1050. at 1080p the 5650 can't run most games at native resolution. 1680x1050 seems to be the breaking point or 1600x900. They could use the money saved on the screen and include USB 3 and a keyboard backlight with a decent touchpad. Throw in the Momentus XT hybrid drive as well. All of which could be done for about the same price. That way if you are forced to play at 720p you are much closer to the native resolution and will have a better picture than if you step down from 1080p. Reply
  • NJoy - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    You forget that they all have switched to 16:9 panels, while 1680x1050 is 16:10. In any case, thanks to small pitch the picture looks ok when you scale it down to 1600x900 Reply
  • NJoy - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    Very nice review. thanks.
    The touch buttons are supposed to work with the software, mainly to switch between different color profiles. However, the implementation is so bad that most compal users just disable them right away
    Next, the cooling. Traditionally, these compals cool the cpu a lot better than GPUs, probably due to a shorter heatpipe, but it should cope with quads without much problems. I recommended one to a friend recently and he got it with i7 840QM - havent heard any complaints from him yet.
    The GPU temps just make me feel really sad about the anemic DDR2 9600GT in my JHL90, which idles at 57C since day one and gets to 95C with toaster speeds. All that while cpu (p8600) never gets over 55.
    All in all, even despite the glossiness and dated design, I find this model to be one of the best laptops you can get for these money. There are not that many laptops packing so many nice features in a 15" chassis, especially here, in UK. DELL UK doesn't give you so many customisation options as the US one and their customer & repair service is to stay away from, so it's not a competitor, really
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    Glad to see some dual-core laptops with mid-range graphics getting some review time. The quad-core fad for laptops is really only beneficial for a small minority, the rest of the time it's a battery-wasting expensive upgrade that your graphs show to be of little improvement over a good dual-core.

    I'm very interested in seeing how Sandy Bridge can close the gap for the notebook sector, because as of right now unless you REALLY need the quad, a dual with better screen/faster gpu is definitely the way to go.
  • Pjotr - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    Acer Aspire TimelineX 3820TG

    I still find this increadible value, ATI 5650 1 GB graphics, Core i5, 1.8 kg light weght and up to 8 hours of battery time. It should be around the top of the gaming charts... with a lower price than the reviewed unit and a lot more portable, although the standard low res screen.
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    The 3820TG is still not available in the US, else I'd own one already. -.-; Reply
  • TrooperOttawa - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    Right now the Dell XPS 15 is only available with the 1366x768 resolution. I agree that if you could still get the Dell with the 1080p screen then the Dell is the better system.

    So my question is, out of the following machines, which offers the best bang for the buck?
    - Compal NBLB2
    - Clevo B5130M
    - ASUS N53JF-XE1
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    I think that really depends on where your priorities lie.

    If gaming and budget are top priority, the NBLB2.
    If a slightly better screen, slightly better battery life, and slightly better connectivity are important, the B5130M.
    If the best battery life is what you're after, we haven't tested the ASUS but imagine it's probably going to do better than the B5130M.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    Wow, I hope Dell brings back the 1080p LCD soon; maybe it's just a temporary thing due to demand? (And if that's the case, you'd think they would realize that a good LCD *can* sell lots of laptops!) As for the rest, speak for yourself... *I've* tested the ASUS N53JF; I just haven't finished writing the review yet. ;-) So, um, SPOILER ALERT!

    Battery life with a 48Wh battery comes to 271 idle, 233 Internet, and 139 for H.264 playback. That's better than the competition (despite having a smaller battery) in two of the tests. Performance elsewhere is in line with the other i5 + 425M configurations we've tested. Here's the kicker, though: The 1080p LCD sucks. Not sucks as in it's worse than 768p, but sucks as in contrast is 233:1. That means that unfortunately, all the 15.6" 1080p LCDs aren't great; only some of them are. Also, the Dell XPS 15 still has by far the best sounding speakers; ASUS has some Bang & Olafsen tech supposedly, but they just don't sound that great -- they really overemphasize the highs, to the point where a lot of MP3s sound like they have tons of static. Anyway, the full review should hopefully be up this week.
  • debacol - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Whats the price of a Dell XPS 15 with the equivalent 640M CPU and 1080p screen? I have a feeling its a bit north of $1,100. Reply
  • Dug - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    I think this is a great improvement over the last review. Easy to read and very informative. Keep up the good work. Reply
  • mattgmann - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    My only question concerns hard drive space. Is there a second slot to add an SSD, or can the optical drive be replaced with an ssd? I really need to have room for data on my next laptop, so a lone SSD isn't going to cut the mustard. I'd be cool though if adding a second drive meant losing the optical drive.

    I am super impressed with the hardware in this lappy. I need a new laptop capable of doing some of my production work (mostly web stuff, but also lots of flash and photoshop/illustrator work) while I travel. I'm quite intrigued by the i7 640m.

    The build quality looks to be a little on the cheap side, but I'm not one for style anyway. I configured a system on cyberpowerpc without an operating system and slid in at ~1100, well within my budget. The Dell XS 15 isn't available with the i7 640m, and similarly configured systems were much more expensive.
  • debacol - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    I have an old Compal IFL90 and have been using it heavily for about 4 years. I haven't had a single issue with it at all. So even if the build quality doesn't "feel" as great as other laptops, at least from my personal experience, that "feel" hasn't translated into poor reliability.

    I use my laptop for light gaming and very heavy photoshop use (ie: always working with 300dpi 200+mb files).

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