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Old 11-25-2010, 05:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Acer Aspire 5742G-7220 vs. Equivalent Desktop

I have been trying to decide between a desktop and a laptop for quite some time now. The problem with this situation is that my question is too general. Laptop vs. Desktop is extremely subjective, and impossible to answer generically. It's very difficult to tell if the extra expense and reduced performance of a laptop are worth it if you don't know exactly how much more the laptop will cost. So, my plan became to find a decent laptop first (since those are generally bought as a single item) and then figure out a desktop configuration that produces similar performance. By comparing these two computers, I will know how much the "portability" of a laptop actually costs, and will be able to make my decision a little bit more empirically.

Paraphrased from my previous thread, here's what I use a computer for:

"Cyberschool" - lots of hours in a day on the computer
Plenty of internet browsing on sites like Youtube
Maya and other Autodesk programs (educational)
(Very) Amateur Programming
Photoshop, and other digital art programs
Minor gaming on medium settings would be a nice bonus

Here's one of the laptops I found:
Acer Aspire 5742G-7220, $830 all told.
Intel i5-460M processor
64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium
nVidia Geoforce GT 425M GPU, 2GB vRAM
500 GB Hard Drive at 5400 RPM
15.6" screen, 1366 x 768 pixels

Looks like value for money. The i5-460M processor clocks in pretty well on this list of mobile processors. Do you think it will be able to handle my workload? Judging almost completely arbitrarily, I will say that I'm not sure I need something quite as nice as the i7. Quad cores are rarely necessary in mild gaming, and I'm not sure if general computer use requires a huge CPU, either. Do programs like Maya benefit greatly from a better processor?

I was a little bit concerned about the amount of RAM, but then I read this article. It uses empirical evidence to suggest that more RAM only rarely and barely outperforms 3GB. My original intent was to try for 6GB, but I'm not quite as concerned with that now. Of course, the article never tested anything like high-resolution Photoshop, or Maya; do you think that is a big issue? More RAM also consumes more battery, and produces more noise/heat as far as I know. Do you think 4GB is enough for what I need?

I didn't like the graphics card at first, but it won me over. While not doing that well on this list of mobile graphics cards, the actual performance tests match cards far above its rank. I guess that's the problem with relying on numerical lists and rankings. Despite not being that heavily into gaming, I found this list much more helpful. The card I was comparing it to (the ATI Radeon 5650) ranked higher on the list, but lower in the tests. Let's not forget that the version of the nVidia Geoforce GT 425M they were testing had only 1GB vram. According to the Acer website (and more vendors), this model of the Aspire comes with 2 GB vRAM packed into this card. I've been told that vRam is quite important for programs like Maya. In addition, I've been told that nVidia is a generally superior company, and that the added bonuses (PhysX, etc.) are useful. This card is found on a couple of middle-ground "gaming laptops", most notably the $1400 Asus N73JQ-A2. Do you think this will be sufficient?

The actual, physical laptop is hard to gage. My entire courtship of this darling beauty has been over the internet. I have not been able to find any reviews on this specific model of Acer. But if I can trust what I've heard on Aspires in general, I should mention a few things. It's supposed to look good, which I'm completely indifferent to. More important to me is the screen. Dark colours apparently don't display well, which raises a red flag for someone such as me, who likes to use Photoshop. The keyboard got mixed reviews... Since I do plan to -eventually- buy a second screen, and hook up an external keyboard for occasional ergonomical use at a desk, these aspects don't spell doom for me and this laptop. The trackpad is supposed to be great, sliding well and supporting gestures. So, is this general information on Aspires relevant to this specific model? They certainly all look the same.

Most other aspects of the laptop meet my minimal standards, or I could care less about. I'm excellent at managing Hard Drive space, so 500 GB should be more than enough for me. I'm currently using only 80GB of 200GB. There's a disk drive, SD card reader, HDMI & VGA ports, enough USB ports, yada yada yada. You can check the detailed information out on the link I provided above.

Looking at other brands of laptop, nothing even comes close to matching the value for money seen in these Acers. That makes me think something's up. Is there something defective with these laptops? What do you guys think of the Acer brand? Is there something shady going on? Please mention if you have bought Acer before.

So now, the second part of the plan is to find a desktop configuration (I am willing to build my own) similar to the laptop found above. I want to create a desktop computer with the same performance as the laptop I described above. Then, I will compare the prices to see if "portability" is worth it in this particular case. The problem is... I have no idea where to start. So, could someone out there help me? I know you guys are apparently awesome at this. Could you configure a desktop version of the computer above? How much would it cost? Ultimately, I probably won't buy that exact version. I'll end up spending the extra money on something like extra monitors, more RAM, or a better graphics card. Please note that I have absolutely no exiting desktop computer. That means the Windows, the monitors, the keyboard, etc., all have to be included in the price.

I will eagerly read any and all responses; please do not be afraid to go into great detail. I'm here to learn! Thank you!

To summarize, I asked three main questions:
First, do you think the laptop above, the Acer Aspire 5742G-7220 will meet my needs?
Second, what is your experience or opinon on the Acer brand?
Thirdly, could you help me with figuring out an equivalent desktop configuration

Luminareo is offline  
Old 11-26-2010, 09:44 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Acer Aspire 5742G-7220 vs. Equivalent Desktop

Here is a decent shot at an equivalent desktop. I took the liberty of using AMD hardware since it's generally a better value at that performance level. It's not a 100% match but it should be close enough for what you need. I also used quality components so if you used parts like you would find in an OEM system you could knock a couple of bucks off the price. That total price is $393. - Sony Optiarc Black 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 12X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA CD/DVD Burner - CD / DVD Burners - Rosewill Blackbone Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive - MSI 880GM-E41 AM3 AMD 880G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - SeaSonic SS-350ET Bronze 350W ATX12V V2.31 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply - Power Supplies - G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL7D-4GBRH - AMD Athlon II X3 450 Rana 3.2GHz 3 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Desktop Processor ADX450WFGMBOX

On the subject of what to actually go with if you don't need mobility there is really no benefit to getting a laptop. The comments regarding the Acers poor display are likely accurate, as a general rule most laptops have pretty terrible LCD's these days. If you want a truly good screen you are pretty much limited to the HP Envy, Dell XPS, and Apple Macbook Pro lines and none of them come cheap.

Personally I would get a nice AMD quad core desktop with a large 1080p display or two. Photoshop and AutoCad will really befit for the added screen real estate and the system will simply be much more pleasant to use in general.


AMD Phenom II x4 955 Black Edition : Asus M4A89GTD PRO : Corsair 550VX
G.SKILL Ripjaws 4x2gb DDR3 1600 : MSI Geforce GTX 770 2gb : Antec 300
OCZ Agility 2 60gb SSD (OS) : SanDisk Ultra 120gb SSD (Apps) : Crucial M500 240gb (Steam) : Win 8.1 Pro 64bit
2x Samsung 2494LW & 1x Dell U2312HM Eyefinity

Lenovo ThinkPad X220 : Core i5 2410M : 12.5" 1366x768 IPS LED display : Intel 320 Series 120gb SSD

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 stock 4.3 : Nexus 7 2 stock 4.4

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Old 11-26-2010, 11:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Acer Aspire 5742G-7220 vs. Equivalent Desktop

Edits below.

Thank you very much for the response and the help!
Wow... $400? That's a very stark price difference.
But is that everything I need to run a computer? Keep in mind that I do not have an existing desktop to work off of. In addition to the guts of the computer, I need a keyboard, mouse, mousepad, operating system, and screen. Additionally, I think that computer is missing a graphics card?

I could probably find a keyboard, mouse, and mousepad for $50.
A screen with built-in speakers might be around $100 low-end.
$100 for the OEM version of Windows 7 Home Premium x64.
I'm unsure on the graphics card, but maybe around $100?

Including all of that hardware, the cost comes up to around $750, without taxes.
Incidentally, the price of the Acer Aspire 5742G-7220 just went down to $750.
Looking at it that way, it seems that a laptop is the way to go. But am I missing something?

...are more easily modified.
In another three years, I might be feeling like my computer isn't adequate any longer. With a desktop, I would be able to spend some money upgrading, instead of buying a whole new computer. Even if I did a "complete overhaul", I would still be able to save money on stuff I already bought, such as mouse & keyboard, monitors, existing RAM. As long as prices continue to come down and technology continues to advance, a major update might not take more than $400. Or if I decide that 4GB RAM is simply not enough for Autodesk, I can easily upgrade that. Since I'm not exactly going to be rich for the next couple of years, I won't be able to buy new computers very often. Being able to modestly upgrade what I have might be nice.
...are still cheaper if I want to go for better quality.
No, this desktop wouldn't be all that much cheaper, as far as I can tell. But I've heard that the price difference gets far bigger when you go for higher quality. Maybe if I were to spend $1000, I would see a significant difference. But do I need a $1000 computer? As a person with "100% disposable income" and still a need to save for things like education, I find it very difficult to decide how much I should spend. So I'm really trying to spend based on how much power I need, not on how much money is available to me.

...come prebuilt.
At my age, I generally welcome new experiences, such as building computers. However, the thought of messing something up is stressful. No matter how many times I've been told "how easy it is," I still appreciate the idea of a pre-built laptop.
...are portable.
I guess that's the main benefit, and the main question in laptop vs. desktop. I really appreciate portability. When you need to use a computer as much as I do, it's really nice to change rooms every couple of hours, even if you're at home. Additionally, many of my computer-hobbies involve groups, which means taking my computer elsewhere. It's not really a question of needing to use email or word processing on the go. I want to be doing programming, photoshop, or maybe even light gaming without being stuck in my basement. If I can't do these for a reasonable price on a laptop, I'll content myself with a desktop. Which leads me back to one of my biggest questions.

Will the Acer laptop linked above be able to handle what I want to use it for?
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Old 11-27-2010, 12:20 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Acer Aspire 5742G-7220 vs. Equivalent Desktop

The computer doesn't need a graphics card, it has an integrated ATI Radeon HD 4250 that should offer similar performance to the gpu in the Acer.

I didn't include a monitor, keyboard or audio but here are equivalent ones to what you would get in the laptop. - Hanns·G HZ194APB Black 18.5" 1366 x 768 5ms Tilt Adjustable WideScreen LCD Monitor w/Speakers 250cd/m2 10,000:1 - Rosewill RK-101 Black 107 Normal Keys PS/2 Standard Enhanced Keyboard - Rosewill RM-C2P Black 3 Buttons 1 x Wheel PS/2 Optical 800 dpi Mouse

Those are $102 total so when you add $100 for the cost of Windows 7 the cost of the system is still only $600 and you end up with a larger, better screen and slightly faster hardware all around.

Yes, the Acer laptop should do everything you need however Photoshop and Autocad will be far from ideal in such a small, low resolution screen. Also most laptops aren't really that protable, you still need to be in range of an outlet if you plan on using it for more than an hour or two.

I think the problem with the comparison you are doing is you want a desktop to match that laptop, not the best desktop you can get for the money. There are a number of upgrades that could be done to the desktop that would allow it to substantially outperform the laptop while still remaining at a similar price.

AMD Phenom II x4 955 Black Edition : Asus M4A89GTD PRO : Corsair 550VX
G.SKILL Ripjaws 4x2gb DDR3 1600 : MSI Geforce GTX 770 2gb : Antec 300
OCZ Agility 2 60gb SSD (OS) : SanDisk Ultra 120gb SSD (Apps) : Crucial M500 240gb (Steam) : Win 8.1 Pro 64bit
2x Samsung 2494LW & 1x Dell U2312HM Eyefinity

Lenovo ThinkPad X220 : Core i5 2410M : 12.5" 1366x768 IPS LED display : Intel 320 Series 120gb SSD

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 stock 4.3 : Nexus 7 2 stock 4.4

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