I like to reference this cart
since it does a nice job at visualizing/comparing various graphics solutions.
That's great for comparing, but since recent reviews only test on newer games and higher resolutions than laptop (mostly) I'm finding it hard to say what level I need.
I would probably skip on the 520m if you're planning on any games that are more than moderately demanding. (if your hardware capabilities allow, you may develop a taste for more demanding games than what you have listed) The good thing about gaming on laptops is that they are unfortunatley typically restricted to 720p resolution which greatly reduces the need for large graphics muscle seen in the desktop realm.
True, I don't know what I'll be playing in 2-3 years which makes me want to go for better, but I don't want to be spending more if I don't have to.
The integrated 6520G graphics have 320 shaders running at 400Mhz, it shares its memory from the system RAM. The 6490 has 160 shaders at 700-750Mhz but it's got dedicated 1GB memory; giving it more memory throughput compared to the 6520G. (This was based on very little information. If anybody wishes to correct/refine my comment, please feel free)
Ah the clockspeed is much slower, as well as memory. Thanks.
Do you NEED to get a laptop right now? Intel Ivy Bridge mobile processors should be out in 2 months or less with graphics comparable to todays Llanos but the CPU will be much stronger and use less power. Also, AMD Trinity APUs will be coming out in that same time frame which will be better than Llano in both graphics and CPU muscle. I think Trinity might be the "perfect" processor for gaming notebooks.
Given how soon IB and Trinity are coming out, now is really not a good time to buy a new laptop if you're at all interested in graphics performance. 2-3 months from now you'll have *much* better options. Ivy Bridge and Trinity will bring only modest CPU performance gains, but the GPU performance difference will be huge in both cases.
I doubt those will be available in the UK close to the US launch day. If I knew a solid Trinity laptop was coming out in June I would indeed wait.
As far as my experience can help, I've been using different kinds of laptops during the past few years mostly due to friends having problems with theirs and me fixing those. I get my time on it to test various things. One thing I can say is that Llano integrated graphics are as good as the entry level discrete graphics(6470m/6490m/GT520M). So the extra price you would pay for an entry level discrete graphics certainly doesn't seem worth it to me. As for SB's HD3000, it's not bad. It can play SC2 at ~low/medium settings depending on what kind of FPS you would require at minimum. In comparison Llano would do fine at medium/high. On the processor side, SB is faster no doubt, but on everyday use, I can't notice much of a difference. One thing I'd say is a quad-core Llano seems to be snappier when you run a multithreaded program. For example, I would notice that I can play Counter-Strike source fine on a quad core Llano while Steam is doing a game backup on the background whereas a dual core SB would start to freeze for just a fraction of a second every now and then.
This helps a lot. Glad to hear Llano runs games and things just fine, it is hard to tell from the raw numbers what is playable and what is not. I wonder why it is so much cheaper.
Everyone else: thanks as well for responding. I'm now leaning towards the Llano options.