Getting The Most Out Of A Low-End Laptop

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epobirs

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For a turnkey solution, a cheap gaming laptop is one of the very few places AMD still does well. An A8 or A10 laptop has a very strong GPU for the price and the quad-core CPU portion is adequate.

The one place such machines come up short is the rarity of higher resolution screens offered. 720p-ish displays are pretty much the rule for these products. Though I did find yesterday that my old A6 laptop does just fine driving a 1080p HDTV through its HDMI Out port. Despite having it for nearly four years, I'd never had a reason to connect a monitor before. I needed to demonstrate Windows 10 to a group of people and there was a 50" screen handy...
 

wkwilley2

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For a turnkey solution, a cheap gaming laptop is one of the very few places AMD still does well. An A8 or A10 laptop has a very strong GPU for the price and the quad-core CPU portion is adequate.

The one place such machines come up short is the rarity of higher resolution screens offered. 720p-ish displays are pretty much the rule for these products. Though I did find yesterday that my old A6 laptop does just fine driving a 1080p HDTV through its HDMI Out port. Despite having it for nearly four years, I'd never had a reason to connect a monitor before. I needed to demonstrate Windows 10 to a group of people and there was a 50" screen handy...
This is actually what I did, I purchased a Lenovo Z50 earlier this year, has an A10 7300 in it and works very nicely. I don't play any AAA titles so it does what I want very well. The most intensive game I played on it was TERA and it would run 20-30 fps in most cases with medium settings at 720p. 90% of the steam games I play with it run flawlessly and video playback is great.
 

IInuyasha74

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Why not replace the lcd screen with a 1080p IPS panel? They are easy enough to find, cost around $100, and you can probably sell the old one for $75-80. I did this on my HP ENVY laptop and don't regret it for a second.
I actually considered doing this and spent considerable amount of time researching into it. The reason I didn't go through with it is that I couldn't find a panel that was a perfect fit for this system. It seems Samsung doesn't sell a 1080p for another laptop of the exact same size. Although I could find others that were close, just a few millimeters off in size, I didn't want to risk it.
 

Durandul

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For a turnkey solution, a cheap gaming laptop is one of the very few places AMD still does well. An A8 or A10 laptop has a very strong GPU for the price and the quad-core CPU portion is adequate.

The one place such machines come up short is the rarity of higher resolution screens offered. 720p-ish displays are pretty much the rule for these products. Though I did find yesterday that my old A6 laptop does just fine driving a 1080p HDTV through its HDMI Out port. Despite having it for nearly four years, I'd never had a reason to connect a monitor before. I needed to demonstrate Windows 10 to a group of people and there was a 50" screen handy...
If you think about it, you could probably buy a laptop display designed for a higher end sku of the same model, and just buy it off ebay. You could probably get a 1080p panel for less than $100. That'd be a pretty solid upgrade. I'd have to do my research first though.
 

Arbie

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The single most effective thing you can do for usability (won't speed up your games) is install Process Lasso from Bitsum.com. I have the Home Bundle installed on multiple machines ranging from circa 2010 netbooks to a fast gaming PC. In ALL cases I saw a marked increase in GUI responsiveness.

The netbooks of course improved the most - it's like night and day. They now support regular use of MS Word and Excel, whereas I wouldn't even want to use them without PL.

Bitsum has a free version of Process Lasso which anyone with less than a top-end machine should at least try. I can't say enough good things about the product or its support. This is one of those "labor of love" utilities that just gets better month after month.
 

zodiacfml

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Get a Broadwell CPU with decent GPU. I have a cheap laptop with an i5-5200u and 1366x768 display and decently runs older games. I prefer an integrated GPU as discrete graphics just kills the laptop in a few years. Yeah the graphics is not modern and might lag often times but still allows gaming.
 
I did this with my three year old $350 17" HP G7 with a 900p screen. It came with an i3 2310M and 4GB Samsung 1066 RAM (single stick). I upgraded to an i7 2620 CPU ($145 new OEM), 8GB 1600 memory ($45), and dropped in a $65 128GB SSD OS drive and moved the stock 500GB HDD to the CD bay as the data drive. I even bought a new keyboard for $15. I sold the CPU and RAM for $75 together.

So for a net outlay of $205 I got essentially a new and more powerful laptop that outperforms anything else that can be bought for ~$520 in the total cost of this ($350 + $145 + $45 + $65 + $15 - $75) and will be a great performer for years to come. The battery life is down of course, but mostly this thing stays plugged into the wall.
 

Valantar

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An interesting read, although parts of it seems a bit out of touch with current hardware trends - like soldered-on CPUs, which have unfortunately become the norm in nearly all PCs today. The entire U-line of CPUs from Intel is available only in BGA (soldered-on) form, and is thus not replaceable.
 

IInuyasha74

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Not sure about the U processors, but Haswell M and QM processors are often in sockets. Intel and its OEMs fluctuate back and forth between how much they solder. It is hard to say for Skylake systems, but for Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell, and AMD's CPUs there are still a lot of systems which the CPU can be changed.
 

wewum

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Well, when your laptop cpu hits 85 degrees Celsius on idle, and throttles when you check your email, there's only so much that you can do.
 

wtfxxxgp

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Well, when your laptop cpu hits 85 degrees Celsius on idle, and throttles when you check your email, there's only so much that you can do.
I'm shocked that the article didn't mention this (or maybe I missed it), but surely a freaking great clean would be the first thing that you should do to ensure that all your bits are working well enough before you swap out the first part even. It's amazing how much dust works against performance.
 

SamSerious

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Cleaning helps a lot and the things in the article aren't exactly false, but they can only help to turn a slowed down low-end laptop into a well running low-end laptop so it can run like it should have all the time.
However you can do that to a middle-class laptop as well so the gap won't get closer..
 

IInuyasha74

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On the topic of cleaning the laptop, I figured that would be a common enough practice that it doesn't need said.

@SamSerious: True the hardware upgrades aren't going to be as practical on a higher end laptop, but modifying the clock speeds will be. If anything, on a mid-range or high-end laptop limiting the CPU could result in even greater gains. The system would still have a rather limited ability to cool the hardware inside of a restricted case. If the GPU is experiencing thermal throttling on a game that isn't limited by CPU performance, then this method of limiting the CPU speed would likely improve performance. Overclocking could also further improve performance and can be quite effective on higher-end laptops. So while this article focuses on taking a low-end system and bumping it up to upper-mid range on the CPU and upper low-end for a laptop, these practices could have benefits for higher end systems too.
 

IInuyasha74

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The CPU upgrade can make it a rather high performance system can't it? Feels nice on your wallet too. Currently my desktop is down because of a issue with my i7-3770K. I'm using the laptop I discussed in the article for full time work purposes now. I didn't feel the need to mention it, but this thing doesn't have the slightest issue running regardless of how many applications I have open, which is like 40+ tabs and on average 15 applications running around the clock. Granted, none of them are CPU intensive, no video editing or programming, but it does great for work.
 

wewum

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It's not even worth upgrading. The GPU is ABSOLUTELY AWFUL!! (P6200 HD) It can't run Minecraft at the lowest settings at a consistent 10 fps. (@720p)
 

IInuyasha74

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Do you mean the laptop I used in this article can't? Because if so, that isn't true. It plays games just fine, though I do usually have to drop settings. Recently I've been playing Dead Rising 2 and Shogun 2 Total War on it.
 

wewum

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No, my laptop. It has a p6200 cpu with the integrated gpu(the p6200 hd). According to game debate, it performs 81% WORSE than the GeForce 8200. Also, it performs 806% WORSE than the Intel HD 4000. Yeah, it's that bad.
 

IInuyasha74

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Oh I see, I missed your earlier comment. You may want to check your fan if you are hitting 85 degrees Celsius on basic stuff like that. That is a bit abnormal. This system I have after all the modifications hits about 85C under full load, and that is quite common for a laptop, but it shouldn't do that at idle.

Since you have an 8400 gs, you might benefit from slowing your CPU down some to reduce heat inside of the system when gaming. It is hard to say without testing, and will depend heavily on what game you play, but it might help a bit. I'd really look into your fan though, 85C at idle is concerning.
 

wewum

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When did I say that I have an 8400 GS?
 

RavingPriest

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Regarding your CPU choice, how did you determine what the laptop would accept? I see you kept it within the same CPU generation and wattage, but were there any other constraints you had to deal with; e.g. bios compatibility?
 

IInuyasha74

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That is a good question actually, and it is something I have heard voiced several times when considering a CPU upgrade on a laptop. So far in my experience with these upgrades, I have not encountered an issue with BIOS compatibility when upgrading the CPU. This might be because of the amount of research I do into the system beforehand, though. Similar to upgrading the CPU on a desktop motherboard, I always check the socket first, and find a list of CPUs that work with that socket. Then, I determine the chipset inside, typically by using CPU-Z, and research what the chipset was designed to do.

Learning that my laptop had an Intel 7-Series chipset, told me that I should stick to Ivy Bridge processors. Although it didn't amount to much in this case, if it had a mobile Intel 6-Series chispet (designed to work with Sandy Bridge) and I purchased an Ivy Bridge CPU, there was a good chance there would have been compatibility issues and I would have needed to choose a different CPU.

After that, I typically research the product line. Laptops are almost always sold as part of a series, for example this falls into the Samsung Series 3 laptop product line, which are all extremely similar to each other. I couldn't say for certain, but it seemed a reasonable hypothesis that laptops in the same product line which were the same size, used the same case, and sold reasonably close to the same price probably used the same chipset. As I said, this isn't something I could be sure about, but the logical reason to make a motherboard with a CPU socket is so that you can change the CPU and re-use the same motherboard inside of multiple systems. I couldn't find a Samsung Series 3 laptop with the exact CPU I wanted to use, but I did find that the NP300E5C systems similar to mine used a wide variety of CPUs.

Ultimately, when I went to install the new CPU it was still a coin toss if it would actually work or not. I believed it would, as I was working under the assumption that Samsung would go ahead and program in support for the entire line of Ivy Bridge processors so that they could use this motherboard in as many systems as possible. I minimized the risk of failure as much as possible by researching all aspects of the hardware that were relevant to the upgrade, and I stuck to the same electrical and thermal limits of the previous CPU. It could have failed, but I had more reason to believe it would succeed and went ahead with it. Sometimes you just have to roll the hard six.
 
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