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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 11-17-2007, 02:22 AM
rickman
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Posts: n/a
Default New Laptop for work

I am looking at a low end Dell laptop, the Vostro 1500, as a new
computer for work. I may supplement this later with a new desktop
unit for crunching FPGA designs, but I will also be using this laptop
for this sort of work. I am looking for advice on the differences in
CPUs for FPGA work and anything else that is relevant.

I know that parallel ports are going the way of the serial port and
the dodo bird, but I can live with that. Most tools are available as
USB devices now.

This particular computer comes with WindowsXP rather than Vista. From
what I have heard, that is an advantage. But I notice that the
internal bluetooth adapter is specific for XP and others from Dell are
specific for Vista. Any idea what is up with that? Is there any
significant advantage to using XP pro over XP home?

This machine also has the "Intel(R) Integrated Graphics Media
Accelerator X3100". Is that just another way of saying "integrated
video"? Several of my other machines have had integrated video and it
does seem to drag down the CPU noticeably. Any idea if I will notice
the drag on the Core 2 Duo? They also offer an Nvidia Gforce 8400 GS
adapter for $100 and an 8600 for $200 more. Any idea if these are
worth it? The 1500 says it has "VGA video output & S-Video". Does
that mean I can connect two monitors for dual display?

The CPU is a T5270 (1.4 GHz, 2 MB cache) with upgrades to various
processors for significant money. The first stepup is to a T5470 (1.6
GHz) for $75 and others range up to $575! I am thinking I can live
with the slower processor. The memory is 2GB.

I was looking at the Vostro 1000 earlier this week with an AMD TK-53
processor (1.5 GHz, 512 KB cache) and a smaller hard drive. It was
$50 more so the 1500 looks like the better deal. Are there any
significant differences in the two CPUs for FPGA work? I guess the
small cache of the TK-53 would make it significantly slower for FPGA
work.

I saw a thread from earlier this year discussing some of this. I
wonder how much laptops have improved since then.


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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 11-17-2007, 03:34 AM
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: New Laptop for work

On Nov 17, 1:22 am, rickman <[email protected]> wrote:
> I am looking at a low end Dell laptop, the Vostro 1500, as a new
> computer for work. I may supplement this later with a new desktop
> unit for crunching FPGA designs, but I will also be using this laptop
> for this sort of work. I am looking for advice on the differences in
> CPUs for FPGA work and anything else that is relevant.
>
> I know that parallel ports are going the way of the serial port and
> the dodo bird, but I can live with that. Most tools are available as
> USB devices now.
>
> This particular computer comes with WindowsXP rather than Vista. From
> what I have heard, that is an advantage. But I notice that the
> internal bluetooth adapter is specific for XP and others from Dell are
> specific for Vista. Any idea what is up with that? Is there any
> significant advantage to using XP pro over XP home?
>



I prefer xp-pro because it allows you to use it over remote desktop.
As to whether that feature is needed on a laptop is your choice.


> This machine also has the "Intel(R) Integrated Graphics Media
> Accelerator X3100". Is that just another way of saying "integrated
> video"? Several of my other machines have had integrated video and it
> does seem to drag down the CPU noticeably. Any idea if I will notice
> the drag on the Core 2 Duo? They also offer an Nvidia Gforce 8400 GS
> adapter for $100 and an 8600 for $200 more. Any idea if these are



For the 2D realm it'll make no noticeable difference. If 3D's your
bag (basically games) then integrated video is pretty hopeless. On
the brightside integrated video will increase battery life which is
always a bonus.


> worth it? The 1500 says it has "VGA video output & S-Video". Does
> that mean I can connect two monitors for dual display?



Probably not. I suspect it means you can connect the laptop to a VGA
monitor, or TV with S-Video input. Note that while S-Video is OK for
watching a film, it's hopeless for actual work (unless you like
headaches).



> The CPU is a T5270 (1.4 GHz, 2 MB cache) with upgrades to various
> processors for significant money. The first stepup is to a T5470 (1.6
> GHz) for $75 and others range up to $575! I am thinking I can live
> with the slower processor. The memory is 2GB.



Unless you can bump it up to a 4Mb cache version, I doubt the extra
$100's for a few MHz is going to make all that much difference. 2GB
memory is about the most that XP can reasonably handle anyway, unless
you fancy playing with 64bit linux which is always an option (hint -
repartition the drives and reinstall windows the second you get the
laptop if you are even considering this option).


> I was looking at the Vostro 1000 earlier this week with an AMD TK-53
> processor (1.5 GHz, 512 KB cache) and a smaller hard drive. It was
> $50 more so the 1500 looks like the better deal. Are there any
> significant differences in the two CPUs for FPGA work? I guess the
> small cache of the TK-53 would make it significantly slower for FPGA
> work.



Dunno - the biggest difference I've found with a dual core machine is
that I can continue working thanks to the second processor. Now I'm
not waiting for it to finish all the time, I care a good bit less
about how long it takes.

Cheers,

Andy


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  #3 (permalink)  
Old 11-17-2007, 11:31 AM
HT-Lab
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: New Laptop for work


"rickman" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]m...
>I am looking at a low end Dell laptop, the Vostro 1500, as a new
> computer for work. I may supplement this later with a new desktop
> unit for crunching FPGA designs,


Consider a small form factor PC, they are small enough to carry home and you
get all the power of a desktop. The only disadvantage is that you can't use
them at an airport :-)

> but I will also be using this laptop
> for this sort of work. I am looking for advice on the differences in
> CPUs for FPGA work and anything else that is relevant.
>
> I know that parallel ports are going the way of the serial port and
> the dodo bird, but I can live with that. Most tools are available as
> USB devices now.


Correct, if you need a parallel port just look on ebay for a low-cost PCMCIA
parallel port card (don't buy a USB to Parallel port cable since they do not
work with dongles and apparently download cables). Serial ports are no
problem, I bought a 7 USB to serial port cable and it works perfectly ( I
use it with Teraterm to connect to my prototype board).

>
> This particular computer comes with WindowsXP rather than Vista. From
> what I have heard, that is an advantage.


Definitely, most EDA companies do not yet support Vista and if you don't
care about wobbly windows then stick with XP. As suggested by Andy I would
also recommend you set-up a dual boot with Linux. If you do this then I
would recommend using Redhat or one of its clones like CentOS 4.4 (not 5).
Linux is a great EDA environment although for some reason some EDA companies
still like to charge extra for their Linux version. I would also suggest you
keep your XP installation since you might nullify your warranty (completely
brain-dead I know).

> But I notice that the
> internal bluetooth adapter is specific for XP and others from Dell are
> specific for Vista. Any idea what is up with that? Is there any
> significant advantage to using XP pro over XP home?
>
> This machine also has the "Intel(R) Integrated Graphics Media
> Accelerator X3100". Is that just another way of saying "integrated
> video"? Several of my other machines have had integrated video and it
> does seem to drag down the CPU noticeably. Any idea if I will notice
> the drag on the Core 2 Duo?
> They also offer an Nvidia Gforce 8400 GS
> adapter for $100 and an 8600 for $200 more. Any idea if these are
> worth it? The 1500 says it has "VGA video output & S-Video". Does
> that mean I can connect two monitors for dual display?


If you want more screen area go for a single 24" (1920*1200) display since
they are absolutely great. I used to have two 19" screens and I get tell you
that a single 24" screen works much much better. Also most EDA tools require
large high-res screens, look at the number of windows in Modelsim or HDL
designer, you simply can not use them on anything less than 1280*1024 unless
you are one of those persons that can watch and enjoy a video on your mobile
(cell phone) :-)

>
> The CPU is a T5270 (1.4 GHz, 2 MB cache) with upgrades to various
> processors for significant money. The first step-up is to a T5470 (1.6
> GHz) for $75 and others range up to $575! I am thinking I can live
> with the slower processor. The memory is 2GB.


Go for 4Gbyte, this will make your P&R run a lot faster. Yes you can only
use 3.2GByte under XP but even the extra 1.2Gbyte will make a difference.

>
> I was looking at the Vostro 1000 earlier this week with an AMD TK-53
> processor (1.5 GHz, 512 KB cache) and a smaller hard drive. It was
> $50 more so the 1500 looks like the better deal. Are there any
> significant differences in the two CPUs for FPGA work? I guess the
> small cache of the TK-53 would make it significantly slower for FPGA
> work.


According to an English PC magazine both Rock and PCnextday (zoostorm) came
out as one of the fastest laptops in their price class:

http://www.rockdirect.com/
http://www.pcnextday.co.uk/

>
> I saw a thread from earlier this year discussing some of this. I
> wonder how much laptops have improved since then.
>


With the current speed of development I would say a year is just about long
enough before it is time to pass on your laptop to your kids or family
member :-)

Hans
www.ht-lab.com


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  #4 (permalink)  
Old 11-19-2007, 09:54 AM
Guru
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: New Laptop for work

On Nov 17, 2:22 am, rickman <[email protected]> wrote:
> I am looking at a low end Dell laptop, the Vostro 1500, as a new
> computer for work. I may supplement this later with a new desktop
> unit for crunching FPGA designs, but I will also be using this laptop
> for this sort of work. I am looking for advice on the differences in
> CPUs for FPGA work and anything else that is relevant.
>
> I know that parallel ports are going the way of the serial port and
> the dodo bird, but I can live with that. Most tools are available as
> USB devices now.
>
> This particular computer comes with WindowsXP rather than Vista. From
> what I have heard, that is an advantage. But I notice that the
> internal bluetooth adapter is specific for XP and others from Dell are
> specific for Vista. Any idea what is up with that? Is there any
> significant advantage to using XP pro over XP home?
>
> This machine also has the "Intel(R) Integrated Graphics Media
> Accelerator X3100". Is that just another way of saying "integrated
> video"? Several of my other machines have had integrated video and it
> does seem to drag down the CPU noticeably. Any idea if I will notice
> the drag on the Core 2 Duo? They also offer an Nvidia Gforce 8400 GS
> adapter for $100 and an 8600 for $200 more. Any idea if these are
> worth it? The 1500 says it has "VGA video output & S-Video". Does
> that mean I can connect two monitors for dual display?
>
> The CPU is a T5270 (1.4 GHz, 2 MB cache) with upgrades to various
> processors for significant money. The first stepup is to a T5470 (1.6
> GHz) for $75 and others range up to $575! I am thinking I can live
> with the slower processor. The memory is 2GB.
>
> I was looking at the Vostro 1000 earlier this week with an AMD TK-53
> processor (1.5 GHz, 512 KB cache) and a smaller hard drive. It was
> $50 more so the 1500 looks like the better deal. Are there any
> significant differences in the two CPUs for FPGA work? I guess the
> small cache of the TK-53 would make it significantly slower for FPGA
> work.
>
> I saw a thread from earlier this year discussing some of this. I
> wonder how much laptops have improved since then.


About the display: 15.4" in not enough for a real work.
You should better buy a 17", your eyes would be pleased.
As they say: integrated graphic card is OK if you do not use 3D
programs.

Guru
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  #5 (permalink)  
Old 11-19-2007, 02:03 PM
Marc Randolph
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: New Laptop for work

On Nov 17, 4:31 am, "HT-Lab" <[email protected]> wrote:
> "rickman" <[email protected]> wrote in message
>
> news:[email protected]m...
>
> >I am looking at a low end Dell laptop, the Vostro 1500, as a new
> > computer for work. I may supplement this later with a new desktop
> > unit for crunching FPGA designs,

>
> Consider a small form factor PC, they are small enough to carry home and you
> get all the power of a desktop. The only disadvantage is that you can't use
> them at an airport :-)


That is a neat idea. The slim Vostro "desktops" look pretty small and
can be had with something considerably more powerful for considerably
less expense.
Either way, you might check out one of the MANY deal sites (like
http://www.techbargains.com/ - but there are lots of others) that keep
track of the latest "best deals" from Dell. Just browse the left
column. If you don't like what you see, wait a week, they usually
morph slightly.

> > The CPU is a T5270 (1.4 GHz, 2 MB cache) with upgrades to various
> > processors for significant money. The first step-up is to a T5470 (1.6
> > GHz) for $75 and others range up to $575! I am thinking I can live
> > with the slower processor. The memory is 2GB.

>
> Go for 4Gbyte, this will make your P&R run a lot faster. Yes you can only
> use 3.2GByte under XP but even the extra 1.2Gbyte will make a difference.


I'm not sure I agree completely with this part. If your design is
large enough to use that memory, it will help. And honestly, it may
be less about the size of the design and more about the size/number of
contraints in the .ucf (at least according to the warning ISE gives on
a few of our designs).

Marc
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  #6 (permalink)  
Old 11-19-2007, 02:30 PM
HT-Lab
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: New Laptop for work


"Marc Randolph" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]m...
> On Nov 17, 4:31 am, "HT-Lab" <[email protected]> wrote:
>> "rickman" <[email protected]> wrote in message

...snip..
>
> I'm not sure I agree completely with this part. If your design is
> large enough to use that memory, it will help. And honestly, it may
> be less about the size of the design and more about the size/number of
> contraints in the .ucf (at least according to the warning ISE gives on
> a few of our designs).


You are absolutely right, it is the number of constraints that seems to eat
memory like there is no tomorrow. I had a design which had a reasonable
number of false-path which couldn't be routed on 4Gbyte+4Gbyte swap machine,
however, when I removed the constraints it only consumed 1Gbyte.

The point I should have made is that memory prices are at an all time low so
don't skimp on it especially since most laptops are now dual core so you
might need some reserves for your VMware session :-)

Hans
www.ht-lab.com


>
> Marc



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  #7 (permalink)  
Old 11-19-2007, 02:47 PM
rickman
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: New Laptop for work

On Nov 19, 8:30 am, "HT-Lab" <[email protected]> wrote:
>
> The point I should have made is that memory prices are at an all time low so
> don't skimp on it especially since most laptops are now dual core so you
> might need some reserves for your VMware session :-)


Thanks to all for their insights.

Isn't memory at all time low prices most of the time? That alone does
not make any given amount cheap. Especially with Dell! They will
give you 1 or 2 GB with the machine and then charge you another $300
or more to bump it up to 4 GB!

If you think memory is cheap now, just give it until after Christmas!
It has been predicted for some time that both RAM and Flash prices
would be creeping up with the extra demand for the holidays. But
instead it has continued to creep down. With the softening of demand
following the holidays, memory prices should come down another 10 to
20% by February.

Besides, this will be *a* work machine, but if I have large designs to
deal with, I will come up with a desktop that can easily (and cheaply)
be maxed out on memory.

BTW, if I am running Win2K, does it have the same 3.2 GB limitation or
is it less? I assume the 3.2 GB limit is from the 32 bit address
size? Why is it 3.2 instead of 4 GB?

The small form factor machine is not really the best way to go since
not only can you not use it in an airport, you can't use it anywhere
you don't have a monitor and keyboard. At this time I feel I really
need a laptop.
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  #8 (permalink)  
Old 11-20-2007, 01:23 PM
Andreas Hofmann
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: New Laptop for work

rickman schrieb:
> BTW, if I am running Win2K, does it have the same 3.2 GB limitation or
> is it less? I assume the 3.2 GB limit is from the 32 bit address
> size? Why is it 3.2 instead of 4 GB?


The devices on the PCI bus, for example, are memory mapped and eat up
quite a lot of address space. There are ways to use the RAM between 3
and 4 GB, but you're on the safer side if you put 3 GB in your machine
if you can live with that. Otherwise think about using an 64-bit OS.

Xilinx has a web page that gives some details about the memory
requirements of ISE depending on the target device.

http://www.xilinx.com/ise/products/memory.htm

Regards
Andreas
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  #9 (permalink)  
Old 11-20-2007, 07:36 PM
General Schvantzkoph
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: New Laptop for work

On Fri, 16 Nov 2007 17:22:34 -0800, rickman wrote:

> I am looking at a low end Dell laptop, the Vostro 1500, as a new
> computer for work. I may supplement this later with a new desktop unit
> for crunching FPGA designs, but I will also be using this laptop for
> this sort of work. I am looking for advice on the differences in CPUs
> for FPGA work and anything else that is relevant.
>
> I know that parallel ports are going the way of the serial port and the
> dodo bird, but I can live with that. Most tools are available as USB
> devices now.
>
> This particular computer comes with WindowsXP rather than Vista. From
> what I have heard, that is an advantage. But I notice that the internal
> bluetooth adapter is specific for XP and others from Dell are specific
> for Vista. Any idea what is up with that? Is there any significant
> advantage to using XP pro over XP home?
>
> This machine also has the "Intel(R) Integrated Graphics Media
> Accelerator X3100". Is that just another way of saying "integrated
> video"? Several of my other machines have had integrated video and it
> does seem to drag down the CPU noticeably. Any idea if I will notice
> the drag on the Core 2 Duo? They also offer an Nvidia Gforce 8400 GS
> adapter for $100 and an 8600 for $200 more. Any idea if these are worth
> it? The 1500 says it has "VGA video output & S-Video". Does that mean
> I can connect two monitors for dual display?
>
> The CPU is a T5270 (1.4 GHz, 2 MB cache) with upgrades to various
> processors for significant money. The first stepup is to a T5470 (1.6
> GHz) for $75 and others range up to $575! I am thinking I can live with
> the slower processor. The memory is 2GB.
>
> I was looking at the Vostro 1000 earlier this week with an AMD TK-53
> processor (1.5 GHz, 512 KB cache) and a smaller hard drive. It was $50
> more so the 1500 looks like the better deal. Are there any significant
> differences in the two CPUs for FPGA work? I guess the small cache of
> the TK-53 would make it significantly slower for FPGA work.
>
> I saw a thread from earlier this year discussing some of this. I wonder
> how much laptops have improved since then.


I'm waiting until January when the Penryns come out. The Penryns have 6M
caches and amazingly low power. NCVerilog seems to be very sensitive to
cache size, my benchmarking shows dramatic performance increases with
each jump in cache size. I don't know if we've reached the point of
diminishing returns after 4M but it seems like it would be worth the wait
for the 6M Penryns to find out.
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  #10 (permalink)  
Old 11-21-2007, 04:38 AM
rickman
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: New Laptop for work

On Nov 19, 3:54 am, Guru <[email protected]> wrote:
>
> About the display: 15.4" in not enough for a real work.
> You should better buy a 17", your eyes would be pleased.
> As they say: integrated graphic card is OK if you do not use 3D
> programs.


Yes, I am a big fan of large displays. But I don't want to get
Vista. The only machines I have found that come with XP are Dell
Vostro (or the much more expensive business models) and they don't
provide XP with the 17 inch models for some reason. I even mentioned
to the guy on the phone that they would be losing a sale because of
this and he said he would pass that on.

Actually, I am very impressed with the Vostro 1500 models in terms of
price and functionality. Even the 1700 model (17 inch display) is a
pretty good buy at around $850, but my understanding is that Vista
uses so much memory that 2 GB is not a lot. Buying ram from them is
absurdly high so I don't want to have to go above the 2 GB that come
with the machine... what ever happened to the days of 640 kB being a
lot of RAM??? How fast do you think XST would run if it was rewritten
to work with mag tape?

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  #11 (permalink)  
Old 11-21-2007, 05:05 AM
rickman
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: New Laptop for work

On Nov 20, 1:36 pm, General Schvantzkoph <[email protected]>
wrote:
>
> I'm waiting until January when the Penryns come out. The Penryns have 6M
> caches and amazingly low power. NCVerilog seems to be very sensitive to
> cache size, my benchmarking shows dramatic performance increases with
> each jump in cache size. I don't know if we've reached the point of
> diminishing returns after 4M but it seems like it would be worth the wait
> for the 6M Penryns to find out.


Yes, I hope I can wait. But I expect the Penryns to be priced out of
my range. I also don't have any confidence that they will be out at
any given time. Intel may be shipping in January, but that doesn't
mean they will appear in any laptops other than very high end for a
while longer.
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