I'm about to post a WTB in the marketplace, but I'm still confused on a few things. All I'm sure I want is a 25w Penryn board in the 2.5GHz or higher range, an SSD with 100gb or more, 8gb ram, webcam and a GPS-capable WWAN card.
What I'm unsure of is:
1. the merits/drawbacks of the FireGL over the Radeon (T/W500), as they appear to be virtually the same gpu according to forum chatter. by the same token, the value of having discrete graphics at one's disposal at all if not doing serious gaming or 3D rendering.
2. the difference in display quality, if any, between DVI via the T400's dock or the onboard DisplayPort on the T400(s)/W500. The secondary display in question will be a calibrated, wide-gamut IPS panel used for photo editing. Significant differences between the two output types are a major determining factor. Someone willing to chime in on this should speak not merely to DisplayPort vs DVI but DisplayPort vs DVI via the dock, and any sacrifices that this might entail which would otherwise be absent on onboard DVI.
3. the best all around performer of all possible display options for the T500 and/or W500. If dock DVI turns out to be just as good as an onboard DisplayPort, I'll likely opt for a T400 with the High NIT (678) LED WXGA display, but resolution is somewhat of a factor as well. If the non-ultraNIT 1440x900 WXGA LED is plenty save for trips to the Sahara, that seems like it will blend the best of both worlds.
Cheers and Thanks in Advance,
I'll try to answer this as best as I can. I've owned a T400 in the past, as well as currently own a T500. I haven't owned a W500, though the FireGL GPU is essentially the same hardware as the HD3650 the T500 uses.
1: If you're not going to be doing anything like gaming or 3D editing, you won't see much use for the Radeon/FireGL GPUs on either the T400, T500, or W500. I think the T400s is Intel only, IIRC. The FireGL will be more reliable than the Radeon for professional apps but you will experience worse gaming performance due to the drivers; the T500's Radeon will be better for gaming at a cost of reliability and performance on professional apps. The T400 uses a Radeon HD3470 which is better than the Intel X4500 on these systems but about half as powerful as the T500/W500 GPUs. If you do any 3D gaming at all I would suggest getting a T500 with discrete graphics; it can still at least run modern games at mid-low settings and will handle older titles very well. This is a static benchmark, but here's 3dMark06 scores for all the cards involved:
Intel X4500MHD(all systems): 950-1000
Mobility Radeon HD3470(T400 Discrete): 2400
Mobility Radeon HD3650(T500 Discrete): 4300
Mobility FireGL V5700(W500): 3600
2: I haven't noticed any display quality difference between my T500's DisplayPort and using DVI on the Advanced Mini-Dock. One thing to keep in mind is that if you get a switchable graphics system you will have to switch to the discrete card for the DisplayPort or DVI to work. Intel-only systems don't have this limitation, and I'm pretty sure Intel-only T500 systems have the DisplayPort. All W500 systems have switchable graphics.
3: If you're looking for LED-backlit displays only, the only resolution you'll find them on the T500 is WXGA(1280x800). If you're willing to deal with CCFL, you can get WSXGA+(1680x1050) on the T500, and W500s can be optioned with WUXGA(1900x1200). On the T400 side, there is that ultranit WXGA LED screen which I haven't experienced. I hated the Samsung CCFL WXGA+ on my T400 and swapped it out to a WXGA+ LED display; the image quality was significantly better and I didn't have any problems with the brightness. I don't typically use my notebooks outdoors, but it was very usable outside. I'd say the 1440x900 LED would be the best combination of brightness and real estate if you're looking at a T400.