Dell XPS 15: core i5 vs core i7

Discussion in 'Dell XPS and Studio XPS' started by knaadhan, Oct 27, 2010.

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  1. knaadhan

    knaadhan Notebook Geek

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    Hi Guys,

    I am a newbie to the forum (but certainly not a newbie to the world of notebooks :p )

    I am thinking of ordering the Dell XPS 15 and am really confused by Dell's options for core i5 and core i7.

    -RANT-I am very well aware that the quad core i7 (Dell offers atleast) doesn't have an Integrated GPU to take advantage of Optimus. I don't know for what reason then did Dell opt to go for the medium class GT435M card (which is supposed to support Optimus) in conjunction with the i7. They could have chosen a higher performing card from ATI/NVIDIA. Atleast they could have offered the GT435M with the core i5 but Dell shows a compatibility error and allows only the lowly GT420M even though 435M is supposed to work just fine. I don't buy into the 2GB VRAM as I am aware its just a marketing hype.-RANT- :)

    Now, I am a hardcore media enthusiast. I rarely play games on my laptop as I have a Playstation 3. I work with photography and watch HD movies a lot and maybe a lot of BluRay's in the future. I don't use high level stuff like AutoCAD, Maya etc. but use Adobe Photoshop regularly and DVD/Blu Ray decoding for playback occasionally.

    Considering Dell's stupid options and the fact that I need a laptop now:

    1) Would it be better to opt for the Core i5 + NVIDIA GT420M and Optimus? Is Core i5 good enough for Blu Ray playback and Photoshop without any glitches?

    2) Is it true that the Core i7 generates a lot of heat due to its 45 Watt power rating? I am afraid if I go with the i7 I might not get a lot of advantages, generate more heat and ultimately damage my laptop.

    Any input is appreciated guys! Thanks a bunch! :)
     
  2. Gloomy

    Gloomy Notebook Evangelist

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    Yes, the i7 runs hotter. No, of course it wouldn't damage your system!

    If a laptop is well designed the heat generated by the components should never be a problem. It takes a lot of heat to hurt them, and in most cases they have failsafe measures that kick into effect to protect them in case it really does get that hot-- the computer will NOT let you damage it, so fear not.

    Furthermore, the only time heat should be an issue is if you're noticing it. If the laptop is poorly designed and your work area is uncomfortable, that is a huge problem. You can say that heat is more of an issue for you than it is for the computer. :p But this has nothing to do with the CPU used-- just the design of the computer itself.
     
  3. Heartcloud

    Heartcloud Notebook Consultant

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    The only people who should be worried about differences between i3/i5/i7 are gamers or people who design 3D animation, because those involve non-stop calculations and 3D motion pictures. An i3 is sufficient for anything else as long as you use it wisely, meaning not opening like 100 Firefox tabs or 10 movies at once. This entire thing is only for psychological reassurance that you have "better specs" than other people, but most of the time does it really make a difference in performance? No. Perhaps you might notice a 0.00001 second speed difference, but that's not really detectable by humans.
    So if you don't play games and don't design 3D animation, then an i3 with any graphics card is more than good enough. If I were you I'd go with a laptop with a stylish design and long battery life (unfortunately other than MacBooks, such laptop doesn't really exist).
     
  4. knaadhan

    knaadhan Notebook Geek

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    Thanks guys! I agree with Heartcloud that Dell's design for the current XPS sucks. Unfortunately, right now only Dell, ASUS and MSI have the right blend of specs and features I need. Eg. 1080p screen, good speakers, USB 3.0, bluray drive, NVIDIA Optimus etc.

    And I am not a big fan of ASUS or MSI's designs compared to this. I also considered the HP Envy but I had a friend who had horror stories with it after it broke down and customer support claiming parts were not in stock etc (Radiance Display mostly). From my past experience, Dell's customer service is a little better.

    Since the video card is more important, is the GT435M really better than the GT420M? I checked several websites but I see no clear advantages. Any thoughts?

    Based on your inputs, I am inclining towards the core i5 option as of now.
     
  5. Heartcloud

    Heartcloud Notebook Consultant

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    Like I said if you don't play games even Intel HD graphics would be sufficient for you. You shouldn't worry about graphics card on a laptop, and often graphics card as well as stylish design are the hardest criteria to meet when searching for laptops, and closes a ton of doors. I've been looking for a stylish laptop with a 5650-level graphics card for weeks, and dead ends just keep coming (like the discontinuation of SXPS 16), I've given up now and will just wait until Christmas for the sales or new models.
    If you plan to play games on low settings, then GT420 is sufficient. GT420 is roughly the same level as ATI 5650, which is the entry level graphics card for laptops that are suited for gaming. Anything below that you will experience slight lag for demanding games like Starcraft II or Mafia II, but still ok for most other games on lowest settings (like ATI 5470 or GT310). GT435 is better than 420 and lets you play most games on medium settings with no lag, it's roughly the same level as ATI 5730, and some games on high settings. But Dell's dumb design or marketing strategy forces you to buy an i7 for the GT435, which in my opinion is not worth it.
    Stick with Intel HD integrated if you won't game that much, or GT420/ATI 5650 if you play games a lot, or go all out (at the cost of battery life and heat) and get that 5730/GT435 if you really care about graphics quality.
     
  6. Ichinenjuu

    Ichinenjuu Notebook Deity

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    I don't see much reason to get the i7. It seems to me more like megapixels on a camera. It's a marketing thing for people who are automatically drawn to "bigger and better", but unless you actually need to make poster-sized images, you don't that many megapixels. Same goes for the processor. Unless you are using very demanding specialized software, the i7 is probably not necessary. For me, battery life and temperature are important and a core i5 will be better in both of those respects.
     
  7. knaadhan

    knaadhan Notebook Geek

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    Like I said, I really don't know why Dell is doing this. They should have bundled the 435M with the i5 for the perfect blend in my opinion. I saw this review for NVIDIA Optimus at PC Perspective - http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=868 and was sold on the technology to conserve battery. Thanks for the advise on the level of the cards though. I think I am going to go for the GT420 as I dont think any other brand has something solid planned as of now for the holidays. I would have gone for the Macbook Pro but I want more bang for the buck. I don't want to have dead weight slab of aluminum 2 years later because of Apple's paltry hardware offering.

    You are right on that one Ichinenjuu. After clock speeds were limited by physics, Intel had to rely on another marketing strategy to keep selling processors and thereby the multiple core processor hype started I guess.
     
  8. Gloomy

    Gloomy Notebook Evangelist

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    Not at all. I have an i7 and wouldn't have it any other way. I frequently tab between games, music players and internet browsers at the same time-- a load that would seem relatively sluggish on a dual core screams on a quad core: I've experienced this first hand.

    Of course, if I didn't multitask so heavily, it wouldn't be worth it.

    Kinda shortsighted to say that it's pointless just because it's useless to you. In my opinion, the only reason to get a dual core, really, is battery life. Like I've explained before, heat is a non-issue in all but the smallest of systems.
     
  9. knaadhan

    knaadhan Notebook Geek

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    Thanks for that input! I am just thinking Optimus will be the best option for me since a decent battery life + less heat is what I want for my laptop. But, isn't it true that clock speeds on quad cores are limited due to heat concerns. So theoretically, for many daily usage tasks sometimes a higher clocked dual core processor might beat the quad core right? I read about this some time ago on Tom's Hardware guide (I am sorry I am not a processor expert! :p I am just seeking opinions.)
     
  10. Gloomy

    Gloomy Notebook Evangelist

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    In some cases, yes, on paper. But not enough that you'd notice-- maybe a split second? This difference is going to diminish rapidly as time goes on, and soon enough it's going to be the other way around. The only reason it is so right now is because quad cores are relatively new to mainstream consumer systems. Already there are applications that benefit more from one extra core and not at all or very little for increased clock speed.

    See here:

    Medal of Honor Single Player Graphics & CPU Performance > CPU Scaling - Core i7 9xx - TechSpot

    They increase clock frequency by 100%, but performance only goes up by 9%. This is an application that is able to fully utilize four cores. Eventually optimization like this will trickle down to everything.

    This isn't to say that you shouldn't go for the dual core, though. This is a laptop after all, and if you need the battery life, well there's no helping it.
     
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