Hi, my brother is looking for a low power consuming notebook for studying mainly and needs help.
Well, to make things a bit shorter, we'll found the Dell Inspiron 13v and 15v to be very interesting. They're running with dualcore Intel CULV CPUs, the Pentium SU4100 (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer_Ultra-Low_Voltage) with the choice of the Core 2 Duo SU7300 (1 MB more L2 cache only I think, 40€ more - needed?) and you can chose between the Intel X4500MHD and the AMD Radeon HD 4330. You can choose between a 5400RPM (default) and a 7200RPM hard drive and we want to use the big 8cell battery so it lasts over 8 hours at least.
Here are our questions:
1.) Would it be worth to spend 40€ on the faster CPU?
2.) Would it be worth to spend money on a 7200RPM hard drive?
3.) What exactly is the state of the Intel drivers for the X4500MHD? Is it the i965 mesa driver? How is 2D/Composite performance, what about watching videos?
Also, with the current state of the opensource drivers, would the AMD Radeon HD 4330 be an option (no powerplay support yet)?
Hi d2kx! I have a laptop (Acer 6930) with an Intel 4500MHD and it is working fairly well, but at least for now it doesn't have h264 accel (only mpeg2 with vaapi).
About the HD 4330... OSS drivers don't do PowerPlay now, so I think it would consume more energy, but maybe you can enable/disable the Ati GPU in the bios (some laptops have this option) and use the Intel GPU when is needed.
Both GPUs are good to watch videos. If you use mplayer-mt it will work even better. For the Ati GPU there is xvba-video now with Catalyst (I know you don't want closed drivers, but is good to know that the video accel is supported), with the OSS driver XV is working ok too.
Intel WiFi 5100 is supported, I have the same chip in my laptop and is working well... I use Arch in mine, but Ubuntu installs automatically the firmware and drivers so you won't have problems with it.
Actually, if you really want low power you have to look asides the x86 way. Really low power consumption can be done e.g. with ARM based ones. Just have to find one that suits your needs and that will also have a decent battery. Some of these "netbooks" have good power comsumption values but lack a decent battery.
Then you also have to plan in that not every distribution directly supports all non-x86 architectures.
If you're going to buy the DELL machine you might ask them to ship it without the MS Windows. Dell seems to listen to customers from time to time. Sadly the preinstalled Linux offers only come with ultra-cheap ones (to keep them cheap). Though I guess in the US some can be ordered with enterprise distributions (SuSE, RH).
The HD4xxx should be driven with the fglrx until the free drivers are matured enough. Currently these do fine on R100-R500, but my HD3870 and HD3300 are R600 based and they're not 100% completely supported so these even more recent models will not have complete support yet.
Of course it should also be possible (since that should be slotted) to add in a dedicated GPU board later (ask about warranty conditions first if you inted to open the box and put something in the slot).
for the intel onboard GPU... I don't have personal experience with these (check my signature ) but unless they are 3rd party imgtec/PowerVR's Poulsbo sh*t they should do fine. Provide basic 3d and fair 2d with low power consumption. If it is poulsbo stay away from it or wait until the binary blob situation has come to a consumer friendly soulution. (If you followed Phoronix or other newstickers recently you'll have noticed the slow progress happening there).