Beware of DX10 . . .

In a few months, I’ll have to get somebody a notebook for someone. Indeed, I feel a bit of desire to get one myself sooner than that.

So I started looking, but before I did, I set some criteria for it. Since either notebook would need to last a long time (five years or a bit more, I wanted to future-proof it as much as possible. I didn’t want either to have an abbreviated life because it lacked a feature that could have been bought or otherwise provided for back in 2006.

So this is what I came up with.

  • The notebook had to have/be able to handle 64-bit processors.
  • The notebook had to have/be able to handle a 7200rpm hard drive.
  • The notebook needed to have a decent battery life (say three hours).
  • The notebook needed a replaceable video card.
  • The whole shebang, with a decent multiyear warranty, needed to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000.

    Boy, did I have my head in the clouds!

    There’s lots of Intel machines out there, but none have a 64-bit processor, and while those with 945 chipsets ought to handle Merom eventually, buying two CPUs for one notebook is less than optimal.

    AMD machines of course are already 64-bit capable, but finding one that meets all the other criteria so far has been Mission Impossible.

    Of course, one can always buy a 7200rpm drive to put in, and buy an extra large battery pack; it might break the budget, but not annihilate it.

    The real stickler I’ve found, though, whether on the Intel or the AMD side, is the replaceable video card. They are few and far between, and worse, unless I’m looking for them in all the wrong places, replacement video cards are even scarcer than the notebooks that can handle them.

    Why should you care?

    Well, if you’re a gamer, you should. Most notebooks, even those called gaming notebooks, have integrated video: the video chip and memory is built into the motherboard. The gaming mobos will tend to have high-end integrated video, but integrated video it still is.

    Integrated video usually means, “You can’t upgrade it.”

    Why should you care?

    Well, there’s going to be something called DX10 coming from Microsoft next year, and no video card, of any kind, supports it yet.

    It will probably take a while for the first game to require DX10 to work at all, but it will probably take much less time for games to start taking advantage of it if you’re using a DX10 capable card.

    Either way, if you have a notebook with integrated video, or buy one before sometime early next year, no matter how good it is, you’ll be out of luck when it comes to DX10 (which is supposed to be the video standard for the lifecycle of Vista, which ought to be at least five years).

    The same is true if you spend a truckload on one, two, four, or whatever number of video cards anytime soon on your desktop.

    Of course, you may have a short replacement cycle of a couple years, and since Vista is very, very unlikely to be a must have shortly after introduction, this may be irrelevant to you.

    But if your replacement cycle is more than a couple years, and you’re into gaming, whether on a notebook or on a desktop, you may very well want to start looking for notebooks with replaceable video, or wait until DX10-capable cards become available, for either notebooks or desktops, before you shell out a lot of money for equipment that may become outdated sooner than you might think.


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