Ok, I think I have sort of the lowdown comparison (hopefully) between the Nvidia Geforce 6800 Go and the ATI Radeon X300 mobility line:
the 6800 of course is substantially more expensive than the 64MB and 128MB ATI cards
2) Battery life
From what I remember, you can apparently get... 3.33? hours with the 6-cell and up to 5 hours with the 9-cell using the ATI X300. FIVE HOURS! That opens up a lot of flexibility in your day right there (you could run it for more than half of your working day non-stop on battery). With the 6800 Go, you get approx. 2 hours with the 6-cell and 3 hours to 3h15min with the 9-cell.
3) Image quality & Performance
- A. General system performance
Ok, your system performance shouldn't really be affected no matter which card you choose. I remember when review sites used to benchmark the test systems to see which system was faster in normal applications with a particular video card, but I haven't seen that sort of comparison any more. Maybe it's because CPU's have gotten so fast that whatever CPU load a video card would take up doing the 2D rendering is now inconsequential. With that being said, you WILL notice lower performance if you're using a video card/chipset that is based on shared RAM memory. This is because it's eating up part of the memory bandwidth to access its memory. HOWEVER, two things to note:
From what I gather from the 6000's hardware page
, only the 64MB version uses shared memory: 32MB of dedicated RAM and 32MB of shared memory. Anyways, under normal Windows usage, not all of the 32MB of shared memory would actually be allocated, I believe. You'd either be losing out on, say, a minimum size of 8MB of RAM, or perhaps none at all, since it's got its own 32MB of dedicated memory. I would believe that the ATI engineers / firmware developers would make it so that the drivers just used the onboard dedicated RAM and never touched the system memory unless you needed the extra space.[Added later:] Oh my goodness... I wrote this whole following section about Intel integrated graphics because, for some reason, I thought I was talking about the i6000 series.... I SO need to go to sleep, lol. I guess that's why I linked to the 6000 spec page in the last paragraph. Hmm, ok, I blame it on the fact that the only Dell Canada Inspiron that I know of that has the ATI X300 64MB option is the i6000d. i9300's come standard here with the 128MB X300.
The same might be said for the integrated Intel graphics, too. It can take up to 128MB of shared memory, depending on the situation and total amount of RAM (http://www1.us.dell.com/content/prod...pecstab#tabtop - see footnote #3), but it'd probably only take up about 8MB for non-gaming/3D rendering, if I had to guess. Ooh, here's a good page from a Tom's Hardware analysis on integrated video: Weaknesses Of Integrated Graphics. It mentions the increased memory bandwidth demands that accessing the shared memory would require when you're doing something intensive like 3D gaming, but it doesn't mention anything about 2D image quality for web browsing (because that's not so much of an issue NOW of days), nor DVD playback. This is a 2 year old article, though. Anyways, here's something else very interesting from the article: Sysmark 2002 benchmarks with the integrated video chipsets, and the results showed that using the integrated video vs. adding a video card only meant that you were just barely (they viewed it as negligible) slower in the office-like benchmark. But I should note that the benchmark was conducted at a low XGA (1024x768) resolution @ 60Hz refresh rate, and those office tasks aren't usualy memory bandwidth intensive. If you're running at WUXGA @ 60Hz (@ 32-bits), that's 527MB/s of memory bandwidth to just do the display (I think that's how it works). With the i6000's PC3200 RAM, though, you have ~3052MB/s of memory bandwidth, and that doubles to ~6104MB/s if you're running in dual-channel mode. Anyways, in summary, it looks like integrated graphics don't affect performance that much, unless you're doing any 3D gaming or rendering (in which case they "suck" for more than one reason, lol). BUT WAIT! I just read that most integrated video chipsets have a small amount of cache (let's hope greater than the 9MB that WUXGA @ 60Hz @ 32bpp takes up) onboard so that the video chipset can access it directly instead of using main memory (for basic 2D display). Hmm... so maybe integrated video is pretty fine now of days for non-3D stuff.
- B. 2D image quality (not video)
Generally, for Windows applications and 2D stuff, the difference will come down more to ATI vs Nvidia, because as far as I know, the 2D RAMDAC chips and other hardware for 2D stuff is the same for each company if you're buying a recent card from them. I think you'd get the same 2D image quality in normal applications whether you're using an ATI X800 PT card or a mobility X300, since I'd expect that ATI isn't exactly revolutionizing their 2D hardware technology, which has matured quite a bit, already. Nvidia of course uses their own technology, so you MIGHT be able to see a difference between Nvidia 2D and ATI 2D, but I haven't heard 2D quality comparisons being an issue with video cards in the last like 3+ years.
C. 2D video performance & image quality
Generally, you shouldn't see much difference, either, for normal video playback. ATI's video might be even higher quality than Nvidia's, due to the different hardware acceleration technology that ATI would use. The video card is only involved in video playback only when hardware acceleration is used, which I think might only be used for MPEG 2 (DVD) decoding/playback and HDTV playback. HOWEVER, here is a big difference: as far as I know, the 6800 Go has a feature called Purevideo (you will probably need to download a patch to enable it with Windows Media Player), which enables hardware acceleration (via DirectX, I believe) of HDTV decoding and also DVD playback, too. This is on top of the usual video/DVD decoding acceleration hardware that Nvidia cards have. The desktop X300 has the VideoShader
function which includes "All-format DTV/HDTV decoding", but the mobility X300's spec page
doesn't seem to show that... Ok, the mobility X300's overview page
DOES list VideoShader as a feature, which helps with DVD playback. And it should have the usual ATI video acceleration features, too. UPDATE: Apparently you can also download the hotfix from Windows that uses DirectX video acceleration for HDTV clips, too. Or the newest Catalyst drivers took advantage of this. Something like that. I'm not sure if it works for the X300, too, but I wouldn't be surprised.