Menu

LEX File Exchange
EA Support Files
SC4 Wikipedia
Network Addon Mod
Dependencies
Chat

Author Topic: Advice on buying a new laptop  (Read 4233 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline brick_mortimer

Advice on buying a new laptop
« on: September 26, 2017, 02:34:55 PM »
Hi fellow devotees,

My laptop (windows 7) is running on its last legs.
And because SimCity 4 is basically the only game I still play, I turn to you for advice before upgrading to windows 10.
Iím not (completely) computer illiterate, but Iím asking kindly to use plain English :)

Hardware:

Processor: doís / doníts?
Graphics / video card: doís doníts?
Sound card: doís doníts?
Ö?

Software:

The game itself:
I know Iíll have to upgrade to an all digital version of SimCity 4 and I already have Steam.
Is the Steam version good? Is it patched?
Is it easy to apply the ďI-HT fixĒ on the Steam version?
Other advice on the Steam version?
(Reasons not to buy the Steam version?...)

Regions:
Can I just copy my regions folder and continue play my existing regions?

Custom content and mods:
Can I just copy my plugins folder?
What about mods that require installation (NAM, terrainmods etc.)?
I guess I should install them again on my new machine?

Third party programs:
I use the Reader, DAT packer, SC4 Terraformer, Region Census, LotEditor and the DAMNManager
Is it easy to make these programs work under windows 10?

My (old) laptop isnít dead yet, but I want to make a well-considered decision in buying a new laptop before this machine eventually dies.

Thanks a bunch for helping me out!

(my apologies if this is in the wrong sub-forum, but this seemed the best place.
Please move my post to the correct place if I made a mistake)
Busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest
Me no coffee function without so good

Offline mgb204

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2017, 03:05:58 PM »
Honestly, any laptop you buy will play SC4, it's an older game and simply doesn't require the sort of resources modern games would.

So in terms of CPU/RAM etc, it really comes down to how much you want to spend, an i3 would be more than suitable. Bear in mind SC4 doesn't work with multi-core processors too. I wouldn't buy a computer with less than 8GB RAM, 16GB maybe better, but is a waste of money if you aren't using applications that need it (SC4 won't). You won't get a choice of soundcard with a laptop, it's all on-board these days, although it shouldn't cause problems. Worst case if it does you can simply turn the audio off.

Videocards are your biggest potential source of headaches. There is no guarantee that the one you get will play nicely with legacy games like SC4. If you are looking at budget computers, almost certainly it will come with an on-board Intel or AMD chip, which work OK, but depending on how many mods you use, may not give ideal performance. If you buy one with an additional dedicated card that will mean a much more expensive machine is needed. In theory that should perform better with SC4, but driver compatibility is always a possible problem.

All versions of SC4 work the same in terms of plugins/game configuration. It's no harder/easier with any of them. I would avoid the Origin edition, it's very broken and can't be patched, but all other digital sellers have pre-patched versions. Steam will add pointless DRM to SC4, whereas the version on GoG does not, hence I would personally advise the latter.

Regions: Yes you can simply copy the folders over and it will all be there for you.

Plugins: Much the same as the regions. You don't need to re-install the NAM or any mods that use installers either. Although if you want to change the install options you will. It may be worth a new install of the NAM though, since it will add a 4GB patch that allows SC4 to use most of the systems memory, which prevents many problems.

So far as I know, with some tinkering, every one of the main SC4 applications for modding will work with Windows 10. Nothing has changed so fundamentally in Windows 10 that should break any of them.

Offline kbieniu7

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2017, 06:38:58 AM »
I'm just passing by on the forum, have time only for one advice. I've recently upgraded sligthly my computer  (not a laptop, but a PC). I've bougth extra RAM (now it's 4GB) and a SSD. And, in my opinion, the latter gives a lot, if you put the system (I'm still running windows 7) and the game with plugins and regions on it. The difference in speed is huge :)
Thank you for visiting Kolbrůw, and for being for last ten years!

Offline Andreas

  • Administrator
  • Forums Legend
  • *
  • Posts: 4780
  • Total likes: 997
  • Reputation: 33
    • SimCityPlaza
  • CL: ()bobby() Transit Controller
Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2017, 08:25:28 AM »
I think most has been covered nicely in the postings above; I agree that looking for a laptop with SSD is an absolute must, because it's the one thing that speeds up the entire system more than anything else these days. And even though SC4 can't make use of modern multi-core CPUs, you should look around for a quad-core with decent single-thread speed, since background processes (Windows Update, antivirus etc.) can eat quite some resources.

8 GB RAM should be more than enough, but the GPU thingy is a bit tricky alright. Ideally, it should have a dedicated nVidia/AMD GPU with proper driver support, not sure if the Intel GPUs support SC4 properly (not speed-wise, but rather driver-related). Try to find a machine with a decent display (IPS panel), preferrably not in 16:9 format, unless you want to watch movies and such. The extra vertical room in other display formats pays off quickly.

The rest really depends on your likings, and naturally, how much money you want to spend. If you like to have a portable computer, look at the overall size, weight and battery power. Also, stay away from "Gaming" laptops, as they're usually rather expensive, heavy, and very loud under heavy load (SC4 still makes use of ALL CPU power of one core, so it might trigger that easily). Generally speaking, business laptops are more durable than consumer ones, naturally, they're a little more expensive, though.

Offline mgb204

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2017, 12:54:03 PM »
Support for Intel on-board chips is much better than it was, a driver update last year took care of most of that. I can play on a 1st Gen i5 laptop with hardware rendering, but a general lack of RAM (since it's shared between system + GPU) and the slower speed of it, isn't ideal. If all the graphical bells and whistles don't bother you, it's certainly far cheaper, because you won't get a dedicated card if you are buying low end.

A SSD is very useful, it certainly will speed things up for SC4 if everything is located there. But again, you are looking at mid-high end laptops to get one. At the cheap end, if you did find one, it would be limited capacity and likely lack a separate normal HDD, which is needed for larger storage. Again this all really depends on your budget and needs.

Offline brick_mortimer

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2017, 01:53:37 PM »
mgb204, kbieniu7 and Andreas,
thanks for the advice, this is such a great community!

It's a reassurance the transfer to a modern machine *should* go rather flawless.

@mgb204:
Concerning the DRM from Steam, will it pose problems if I try to apply the I-HT fix by DATpacking the fix with simcity_1.dat?
Or is the DRM not that restricting?

@kbieniu7 @Andreas:
Well, I had to look up "SSD" on google ;), but it looks like an interesting way to go.
My budget isn't unlimitid, but I'm willing to invest in decent laptop and I'm certainly not limiting myself to a budget-brand run of the mill one.

About the GPU and graphics card...
Support for Intel on-board chips is much better than it was...
Sorry for the silly question, but when you talk about these on-board chips, you're talking about the GPU right?

Maybe a more general question concerning graphics / GPU:
Does anybody have a bad experience? In other words, what are the don'ts?

A dedicated graphics card is quite expensive indeed, but if I know the don'ts (of built in graphics / GPU), I can just look at the specs.
Knowing is half the battle :satisfied:
Busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest
Me no coffee function without so good

Offline Andreas

  • Administrator
  • Forums Legend
  • *
  • Posts: 4780
  • Total likes: 997
  • Reputation: 33
    • SimCityPlaza
  • CL: ()bobby() Transit Controller
Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2017, 02:26:57 PM »
"On-board" basically means that the GPU is integrated into the CPU (or it's two chips on the same module). In notebooks, those are often soldered onto the mainboard and channot be changed, but usually, you can only upgrade RAM and HDD in most notebooks anyway. Personally, I got a desktop with an AMD CPU, which also features integrated graphics, and SC4 runs absolutely fine. Intel doesn't make as good GPUs as AMD, although the current ones are probably decent enough and support the game "quite ok".

Offline mgb204

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2017, 02:32:21 PM »
Intel on-board = GPU, but if you do buy an AMD system, it will be a AMD/Radeon GPU instead. In short, these are now part of almost every CPU, so every system has one. (Andreas beat me to this)

Have a look here. For a long time, the drivers caused all sorts of issues with SC4, but now they don't. I also haven't seen anyone reporting issues with the newer variants either. Again worst case scenario, you could switch to Software Rendering and it would work. I personally think the modern integrated GPUs are great, provided you don't need to play all the latest games, it's all you should need.

The DRM doesn't effect you adding the I-HT patch, it's standard Steam stuff all their games have. I.e. every now and again you must logon to Steam to be able to use SC4. Now you might argue that's a light touch, but so did many when they put SafeDisc DRM onto game discs. You know, the ones that now don't work because you can't validate the disks any more. Put simply, a DRM free version is the last copy you'll ever buy, but any DRM is always potentially a ticking time bomb. As such, I personally wouldn't buy the Steam version out of principle.

Offline matias93

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2017, 05:08:34 PM »
Expanding on the SSD thing: it would be adviseable to use it only as a secondary storage, not to replace a conventional hard disk with an SSD. Why? Because SSDs (and memory cards, by the way) have a limited number of writing cycles before causing spontaneous file corruption. That way, they optimal usage is as the old 'write once, read many' memory devices.


If you will add an SSD to your laptop, look for one that can be placed alongside your normal hard disk (there are some that aren't sized like a 2.5" disk, but as an Express card, and some laptops have space for them either on an side bay or internally). As you will only store some game files on it, it doesn't need to be really big (that's good for your pocket!). Once working, just install the game and the plugins on it; if you need to do changes, do them on the more durable hard disk and move the final files (like the DATpacked folders) to the SSD.

"Lets be scientists and as such, remember always that the purpose of politics is not freedom, nor authority, nor is any principle of abstract character,
but it is to meet the social needs of man and the development of the society"

ó ValentŪn Letelier, 1895

Offline Andreas

  • Administrator
  • Forums Legend
  • *
  • Posts: 4780
  • Total likes: 997
  • Reputation: 33
    • SimCityPlaza
  • CL: ()bobby() Transit Controller
Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2017, 10:20:26 PM »
I think write endurance isn't that much of an issue for SSDs after all. While it is true that each memory cell has a limited number of write sequences (depending on the kind of the SSD, some 1000-10000), modern SSD controllers have become rather intelligent in using a specific write pattern in order to cut down write access. Defective cells are automatically marked bad, and most SSDs have a certain percentage of spare cells, too.

90% of the data on your computer is only written once, or changes rarely (i. e. when you update a program, or change the metadata of a file). The SSD controller detects such data and moves it to other memory cells from time to time, so those "fresh" cells can be used for write-intensive files, too. If you have a 240 GB SSD, and each cell lasts for 1000 write cycles, that means it has a write endurance of at least 240 terabytes, which means you could re-write the entire data on your SSD daily over a period of almost three years. It's extremely unlikely that this ever happens.

Apart from that, I agree with what you said, though, per gigabyte, SSDs are about ten times more expensive than a hard drive, so it might be feasible to get a relatively small SSD (at least 120 GB, 240 GB would be better) along with a hard drive, where you can store your photos, music and videos, which don't need fast access times in most cases. If there's no room inside for both, a simple external USB hard drive surely does the trick, though (having a separate backup drive is crucial anyway, since both HDD and SSD can break any time due to various reasons).

Offline brick_mortimer

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2017, 01:42:37 PM »
@Andreas
Thanks for explaining the GPU thing to me in plain English :thumbsup:
Glad to know "modern" GPU's won't be an impediment.

@mgb204
Thanks for pointing out the thread on ST about driver compatibility.
Similar (older) threads about running the game in hardware mode and modern GPU's had me worried.
Switching to software rendering is still a possibility of course, but I'm using the Appalachian terrain mod and it requires hardware rendering if I'm not mistaken.

I never looked at the DRM thing like that, but I do understand the mather of principle.
I'm principally against giving my private information to a profit seeking corporation; that's why I don't have facebook $%Grinno$%

@matias93, @Andreas
Thanks for the advice on SSD and pointing out the risks.
When I googled SSD I already found out about the limited writing cycles.

If I'm going for an SSD, it would be alongside a conventional HDD.

A related question about installing SimCity4 on an SSD:
I always thought you should install the game on the dedicated path C:\Program Files etc... in order to make the NAM, DAMNmanager etc. work.
Am I wrong, or do I make the SSD my C-drive?
Busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest
Me no coffee function without so good

Offline mgb204

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2017, 02:03:54 PM »
SSDs are wasted if you don't use them as the main boot drive. All the performance benefits are far more useful with your OS and Applications running from it. I mean, would you want to access your data files quickly but not get the benefits of system responsiveness and quicker booting? It's a huge difference too, combined with the latest generation of CPUs, you're likely to really feel the change. In fact, HDD technology really hasn't changed for coming close to 20 years. SSDs came about precisely because spinning disks were causing the main bottleneck in most computers.

A word of caution, when an SSD dies, it's like it's been switched off, no warning, no chance to recover data, I've had this happen with one of the early ones. However, they are much better these days, frankly it should outlast your new laptop's useful life. Another benefit with a laptop to having one, you can freely move around with the laptop, without risking damage to the HDD, since there are no moving parts. As such, if you don't need a huge amount of space, a 256GB or 512GB drive may be all you need. If not though and you are looking for more built-in storage, firstly avoid so called SSHDs, or Hybrid Drives which have a small SSD cache and a normal HDD. If either part dies, the whole does. They aren't really cheap enough and are nothing like as efficient, it's a half-baked solution IMO. Getting a laptop with space for two drives may not be a huge issue, since you aren't looking for a budget model, you should be able to achieve that. Just bear in mind, that puts pay to the moving around with it safely thing I mentioned before. I have an XP laptop with a 60GB drive that's just fine for my needs, but for a more modern OS, you'll be needing 256 realistically. I'm already courting the idea of upgrading mine to 512 (Desktop), and chucking the 256 into another laptop I have.

Indeed Appalachian and all such HD textures must be used with DirectX hardware rendering or they won't work. I wish I could tell you absolutely 100% this will happen, but the reality is that there is no real way to know. Unless by some miracle you can test-drive a machine and install SC4 on it as part of that. But the Intel drivers as far as I know will work, but people do get issues with some newer GPUs. If you have the option to buy a machine you can return with no fuss for a brief period, that would give you a little time to ensure it will play SC4 properly or get your money back.

Offline Andreas

  • Administrator
  • Forums Legend
  • *
  • Posts: 4780
  • Total likes: 997
  • Reputation: 33
    • SimCityPlaza
  • CL: ()bobby() Transit Controller
Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2017, 02:16:14 PM »
As said before, the SSD needs to be used for installing the OS and your applications, everything else wouldn't make sense. If you happen to get a laptop with small SSD and additional HDD, where you want to store your personal files, you can still make a copy of your SC4 folder and use a custom shortcut with something like the following added: -UserDir:"C:\SimCity 4\" (which contains the content that you'd find in "\Documents\SimCity 4\", such as the plugins and your regions). I'm using this configuration since quite a while, and it works fine for me. The game still needs quite some time to load, but once you opened a city, you'll notice how fast the textures and models are loaded after each zoom change or rotation of the map. :)

Offline brick_mortimer

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2017, 05:33:39 AM »
So your C-drive should be on the SSD in other words?

Btw, thanks for your patience with all my questions :thumbsup:
Busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest
Me no coffee function without so good

Offline Andreas

  • Administrator
  • Forums Legend
  • *
  • Posts: 4780
  • Total likes: 997
  • Reputation: 33
    • SimCityPlaza
  • CL: ()bobby() Transit Controller
Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2017, 05:51:16 AM »
Yeah, exactly. :)

Offline brick_mortimer

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #15 on: September 30, 2017, 11:08:24 AM »
Cool! I think I've got it.
Time to start browsing for laptops and a trip to my FLCS.

Thanks you all for helping me out :thumbsup:
Busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest
Me no coffee function without so good

Offline troop

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2017, 12:57:40 AM »
ASUS usually makes good reviews.  What's your budget?

Offline troop

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2017, 12:58:52 AM »
Check here for performance comparisons between brands. https://pc4u.org/best-gaming-laptop-under-1500-dollars/

Offline Andreas

  • Administrator
  • Forums Legend
  • *
  • Posts: 4780
  • Total likes: 997
  • Reputation: 33
    • SimCityPlaza
  • CL: ()bobby() Transit Controller
Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #18 on: October 08, 2017, 03:18:35 AM »
Alas, those are way too expensive for a laptop that is supposed to run SimCity 4. One for half the price should be more than sufficient. :)
Andreas

Offline brick_mortimer

Re: Advice on buying a new laptop
« Reply #19 on: October 08, 2017, 11:21:56 AM »
@troop
My current laptop is an ASUS and I'm very happy with it (it's at least 7 years old)
Thanks for the link, but these are a tiny bit too expensive for me  :)

Thanks for the advice  :thumbsup:
Busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest
Me no coffee function without so good