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New toy for nem0nic (laptop thread)

Discussion in 'General DJ Forum' started by nem0nic, Jan 7, 2006.

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  1. nem0nic

    nem0nic Forum Member

    Today I got my Dell XPS M140. This the second laptop I've had in as many weeks (the first being a Sam's special that would get dropouts while running TDJS 2.6). I've been mixing on it for a couple hours so far and it seems to be rock solid. For those interested it's configured with the following...

    1.86ghz Intel Pentium M
    1gb DDR2 RAM
    80gb 7200RPM Hitachi drive
    8X dual layer DVDRW/CDRW
    Intel Pro 2915 WiFi w/Bluetooth

    14" screen
    4 USB 2.0 ports
    1 Firewire port
    VGA and SVHS video outputs
    1 PCMCIA slot
    5 in 1 Media Card Reader (SD cards, etc).

    The layout is pretty typical of a laptop, with nothing out of the ordinary. The touchpad feels nice and solid, but I've already bought a wireless mouse (not a touchpad guy). The native screen rez is 1280x800 (widescreen 16.9), so it's shorter than I'm used to. This would be a pain if I was going to have the mixer section open, so heads up to the non FS folks - you might want to opt for a model with a bigger display.

    Here are some pics for you to get an idea of the layout.


    Another negative worth mentioning is that the power supply is grounded, so you know what that means. A direct box solved the problem but I thought I would bring it up.

    As far as software goes the first thing I did was to uninstall alot of the crap Dell put on there. I didn't completely nuke everything yet, but I got rid of the stuff I KNEW I didn't want running on there. I pruned the services a little while still allowing this machine to be used for other purposes. I'm running SpeedSwitchXP on there, and have it set to max performance when on mains power (still dynamic when on batteries). I've double checked the processor speed using CPUID while on main power and verified that it's running at the appropriate 1.86ghz now.

    Seems to work and play well with the onboard firewire, but further testing is needed before I'm satisfied.

    So far guys I dig it. If you're searching for a laptop for FS this is looking like a good bet. I'll torture the poor thing tomorrow and follow up a bit.
  2. Vince_Tf

    Vince_Tf Forum Member

    Looks good. Is it quite thick or is it sitting on a cooler pad in your pix? Last time I checked out the Dell XPS it was relatively heavy since it was a gamer machine.

    Lots of people slag the Dell laptops but I really wonder about this. They didn't get to be the biggest computer maker by producing bad equipment. I've had a Dell tower system for a while and it's extremely reliable.
  3. PhilL

    PhilL Moderator Moderator

    I was talking with a friend at HP before Xmas who said there is a big shift on toward 16:9 screens and within 1-2 years 90% of laptops would be widescreen, a diametric shift from today. The problem with current screens and T3 is that you really need 1024 vertical resolutions to make effective use of the screen and todays 16:9 900 pixel vertical resolutions don't quite do it. I think NI need to pay close attention to resolution and layout going forward cramming more into the vertical is NOT going fly. Standard laptop resolution today is 1024X768 and NI have taken libeties with that such that things don't fit well especially well at all in windowed mode.

  4. mal1ce

    mal1ce NI Product Owner

    I'm just guessing, but it does in fact look like it's resting on a cooler. I have one that looks similar....
  5. nem0nic

    nem0nic Forum Member

    Yep, its a Thermaltake cooling pad. The thing on the side in the top pic is a USB LED light (can't tell because of the flash but that was taken in the dark).

    Phil, yeah I can imagine that T3 is going to be VERY crowded, but I won't install it until I'm sure I have a solid 2.6 system. The good thing is that this laptop has a few options for a 2nd display, so it's possible to support a more appropriate size and aspect. But still, it's defiantely something to think about going forward.

    On that same point, while I know it's comparing apples and oranges I can't help but think about other professional production apps like Reason. It's also vertically oriented, but has some interesting options for dealing with modules.

    Further testing reveals some interesting things about this laptop. Battery life is amazing. With WiFi and benchmarking apps running, I got 3 hours out of it. That might now seem like much, but try running 3DMark or Prime95 on your laptop and see what you get. This is an hour more than I expected, and much better than the Averatec laptop I returned.

    EDIT FOR VINCE------

    I've always liked Dell. They've always been good with service, and I feel that their prices are fair on average. The M140 I got is their slimline XPS and not a gaming machine. It's oriented more towards entertainment (with its media direct feature and the wide screen). I couldn't justify spending 3K on a laptop I would be using for FS. I have 2 desktops to play games with.

    Besides, before all the branding there are really only a few companies making laptops. If Dell can get you that same laptop cheaper through volume I'm down with that.
  6. nem0nic

    nem0nic Forum Member

    Here's the one week update. I nuked the factory OS install in favor of a clean install. During my first test after the nuke, I was getting regular dropouts about every couple minutes. TDJS would not lose position, but sound would drop out for about a second and I would get the red firewire icon. The culprit was the WiFi connection I left on before starting the test. I turned it off and mixed a 4 hour set with no problems. I have changed the keylock quality to Phase Vocoder and when I initially turn on the keylock I get a "click" that sounds like dust on a record. I can turn it on and off again after that with no such effect.

    If you're thinking about purchasing this lappy, I'll give you a heads up about software. Dell is no longer sending out CDs for the OS, drivers, or other such things. Since I bought the copy of XP Pro that's on it, I wanted the actual disc in my hands. One call to Dell was all it took. When I told them that I wanted to clean off all the apps and install my own, they OVERNIGHTED me the CDs I needed for free. So all you have to do is call. And with an XPS system, you'll get really good service (it's a big selling point).

  7. jeremygray

    jeremygray NI Product Owner

    re: 1280x800 - that is the lowest resolution panel available for that laptop and there is at least one if not two higher resolution panels available, the next one up in the line being 1680x1050 (which is the panel in my D810). Why didn't you order it? 1680x1050 is pretty amazing for T3, as I can have pretty much everything I ever need all displayed in the details panel at the same time!

    re: O/S & appliction media - Dell most definitely _does_ ship out media, but you need to check that you've ticked the box to get it while customizing your order before adding it to your cart.
  8. pulsewidth_Tf

    pulsewidth_Tf Forum Member

    hey nem0nic...long time! :D

    thanks for the post. interesting laptop. i have not been impressed with dell's laptop offerings over the last few years, but those XPS models are intriguing.

    you mentioned a PCMCIA slot, are you sure about that? i've not seen this laptop in person, but the dell website refers to this as an ExpressCard slot. my understanding is that ExpressCard is not backwards compatible with PCMCIA or CardBus. this could be a problem for non scratchamp users -- are any ExpressCard audio interfaces yet available? there is always firewire, but the cost is a bit more and that adds another breakout box to your rig.

    also, what is the gear stand your laptop is mounted on? looks pretty cool. i've had my eye out for something like a heavy duty music stand with some fastening hardware for holding something like a laptop.
  9. nem0nic

    nem0nic Forum Member

    Well, because I didn't think about it when I was ordering. Never entered my mind once to worry about the screen, as I was worried about other necessary upgrades. I would recommend a bigger screen to anyone wanting this lappy for T3.

    Yeah, I can't let go of old terminology. It is indeed an Express slot and WILL NOT work with your current cardbus firewire card. I'll also add that alot of companies haven't adopted this new bus yet, so your choices are limited right now. On my system it's working great with the built in firewire, but the first hiccup will have me looking for a new card.

    I'll also add that the new ExpressCard firewire adapters I've seen will support FW800.

    It's a standard monitor arm you can get at an office supply store for about $30. Actually, a CD deck usually sits there and I've built a stand for my laptop when I'm DJing at home. The pics don't show it well, but they're made out of nice oak and are definately solid.

  10. slopes

    slopes Forum Member

    hey nem0nic (maybe too late), and others,

    just a heads up that new intel technology is being rolled out now (gateway already is selling lappies with Core Duo Processors)

    all indications are its a MAJOR step in the right direction. check out a Core Duo vs Pentium M comparison

    should really come in handy if you're running more then one app.

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