Gaming Laptops buying guide for 2011.

Posted by insanejedi (650 posts) -

The market for gaming laptops can be pretty hard to get into since there's so many models, prices, and form factors. And you get bewildering looks if you want a gaming laptop that isn't a gigantic behemoth sometimes. So I've put together a guide of appropriate gaming laptops of 2011 by their design and intended use.

Portable Gaming Laptop

Alienware M11x R3

Now lets get this out of the way first. Full disclamer, I actually own this laptop and I believe it's the perfect accompaniment to a desktop PC gamer as it has the power to play most modern games on medium to high, and even max out some other games like ones powered by Unreal Engine 3. The 11.5 inch screen might seem to small for some, but I found it to be no issue at all and you quickly get used to it. For me screen resolution is everything and it sits at a very dense for its size 1366x768 display. This laptop also runs very cool even during gaming from my experience. Speakers are really good too, while they lack some volume power that it can't output to the point where you think a song is too loud, it will be more than enough to fill a room and with good quality. This thing is also as solid as a brick, no flex whatsoever wherever you handle it like an IBM Thinkpad, coupled with it's long battery life of maxing out to somewhere around 9-10 hours (On my end if you abuse it and set it to full brightness while browsing you'll still get 5 hours on a charge) it also makes a decent business and work laptop. Downsides are that it's kinda heavy for a 11 inch, but it's packed at a very portable 4.5 pounds which is the same as a 13 inch Macbook Pro, It's also pretty loud during load, but I doubt after the initial "whats that sound" people have around you once it kicks in that it will bother them that much after that. There's also no DVD drive so you're generally going to have to spend an extra 50 bucks for it, and I highly recommend getting the $20 anti-gloss screen protector, this leads to a price of around $1100-1200 for everything, but Dell has coupon codes running most of the time and it's best to keep your eyes peeled for them. If not, order over the phone from dell and haggle the sales person because they're paid on commission and you can probably slash $100 or more off the price, especially if you tell them something like "Well I'd get it if this other laptop wasn't less expensive and did just as much" and what other laptop does almost as much? That's the next one after this.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 6272 (Notebookreview.com with I5 processor)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 8136 (Notebookreview.com)

Weight: 4.5 Pounds

Screen: 1366x768 11.5 inch display

Cost: Around $1100- 1200 without discounts, with discounts potentially under 1000.

Pros:

+ Long Battery Life

+ Solid Design

+ Runs Cool

+ Leading Class Preformance

+ Great Fidelity Speakers for class

+ Fantastic preforming extras like the multi-color backlit keyboard, good internal microphone, and HD webcam

+ Alienware's Customer Support (Believe it or not you wont be talking to someone in India, you'll actually be speaking to an American for Alienware)

Cons:

- Heavy for an 11 inch

- Slightly expensive (Can be fixed with haggling or discount coupons)

- Fans do run loud

- Screen is glossy and reflective (Can be fixed with the anti-glare screen protector)

Polarizing:

+/- Design is hit and miss for some people (I personally think this thing looks really cool)

+/- 11 Inch design allows it to be fully open in constraining areas like Airline Coach

+/- No disc drive

PS: They also offer a $700 entry level M11X with an I3 330UM and a 1GB GT335M which preforms like the older M11X R1 or R2, Expect to see a PCMark of 3,700 and 3Dmark of around 6,400 which is a noticeable drop, but the old R1's could run Stacraft 2 on High without a hitch so this should too.

Cheaper Portable Gaming Laptop

Acer Aspire TimelineX 3830TG-6431

I don't know why Acer and Asus put the worst names ever on their laptops, they're extremely hard to remember. Regardless, I was pretty ticked when I saw this come out because I just purchased my M11x. This thing packs the same GPU and a potentially faster CPU since it's not a low voltage CPU, for $750 on Amazon. Configure an M11x the same way and it would cost 1000-1100. This doesn't come without a cost of the system though, and that's mostly it's durability for the long term. There's only one review of it currently, and thats on Laptop Mag, and Cnet did a first look at it, but no real long term professional testing has been done on it, but what has been there all points to it being good.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 6228 (Laptopmag.com)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 8084 (Laptopmag.com)

Weight: 4.2 Pounds

Screen: 1366x768 13.3 inch display

Cost: $750

Pros:

+ Same preformance for an M11X for less

+ Slightly lighter than an M11X (4.2 pounds vs 4.5)

+ Reported Good audio

+ Long battery life

+ Great Value for money

Cons:

- Unproven Track Record

- Runs Warm under video, probably would get hot under gaming

- No backlit keyboard of any sort

- Customer support sucks

- An hour shorter of battery life vs m11x

- Small touchpad

- Uncofigurable to any higher specification, and slower hardrive because of it (5000 RPM vs 7200 RPM of M11X)

Polarizing

+/- Unagressive design

+/- No disc drive

Desktop Replacement

M17X R3

I'm not a fan desktop replacements generally, because they seem to match the worst of both worlds of the laptop and the desktop, being big and bulky so it's not portable, but not powerful enough either. This desktop replacement though, I would not mind ever owning because of just how damn good it is. This thing is fast... record breaking fast... and it does so too while having a battery life of 5 hours on web browsing which is the amazing thing. Yes it's pricy, but the amount of configurations can streach out from a modest $1500 to a mind boggling somewhere around $5000, but whatever configuration you buy, it's going to still be pretty nippy as all 3 processors are quad cores, and the base model graphics card of a GTX 460m has more than double the processing power of the m11x GT540. The hard drive goes from a 320 GB to a 1.5 TB dual drive or 256 GB or 512 GB SSD. You name it, it has it, including a 3D Screen at your discretion and even an HDMI in, which allows you to plug in your Xbox 360 or PS3 and use the screen to play your console games. All this weighing a somewhat resonable for the world 9.6 pound setup.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 17486! (Laptopmag.com with 1st rate CPU and SSD) 9971 (Notebook review with 1.5 TB HD and 2nd level CPU)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 20048! (Laptopmag with mid level GPU)

Weight: 9.6 Pounds

Screen: 1600x900 or 1920x1080 17 inch display with optional 3D

Cost: $1500-$5000

Pros:

+ Breaknecking preformance

+ Decent Battery life under web browsing (3 Hours without SSD and 4-5 with SSD)

+ Amazing custimization to fit your needs

+ Features and options not seen on most laptops like 3D and Wireless HD, capable of streaming whatever your laptop has onto your TV

+ HDMI in allowing you to plug your consoles and use the m17x screen

+ Excellent speakers

+ Desktop keyboard quality keyboard

+ Large viewing angles

+ Components run cool even under load for the most part

+ Very high resolution Screen

+ Alienware support

+ Multi-zoned back lit keyboard

Cons:

- Competitors still about a pound lighter

- Options can still get expensive and intimidating

- Replacements of the metal design of the last generation to plastics may lead to a perceived downgrade in build quality.

Polarizing :

+/- conflciting reports of noise under load (quiet and loud)

+/- conflicting reports of heat level on the lap

+/- Design is too aggressive and vulgar to some

Budget Desktop Replacement

ASUS G73SW-A1

Not so much budget as it's just cheaper than the M17X. The ASUS G73SW-A1 runs for $1550 on Amazon but configure the M17X in the same way and the M17X runs for about 300-400 more, so you are getting more for your money. But what your sacrificing is the utter lack of customization since ASUS doesn't do build to order, and the keyboard isn't as nice as the m17x lacking good feedback for typing, and too much stiffness, it's also very cramped compared to the m17x spacious desktop like keys. The battery life is also shorter, getting around 2 hours off of light web browsing. But if your just looking for a laptop with just power and mostly going to be up to a wall socket and only going to use the keyboard for light typing and WASD setups, then the G73SW-A1 is probebly more than enough laptop for any gamer.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 8272 (Laptopmag)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 14058 (Laptopmag)

Weight: 8.8 pounds

Screen: 1920x1080 17 inch screen

Cost: $1550

Pros:

+ Better Performance Value

+ Bluray Drive standard

+ Good screen resolution and viewing angles

+ Decent speakers

+ Runs cool

+ Standard accidental warranty for 1 year and 2 year regular

+ Generally good customer support

+ A whole pound lighter than the m17x

Cons:

- Speakers aren't as high of a fidelity as the m17x

- Keyboard sucks

- Not configurable

- Classic gaming laptop battery life

Polarizing

+/- Arguable a more professional look than the m17x

An All Purpose 15 inch notebook

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch

Yup, that's right. I don't like macs, in fact you could say that I hate them with a passion as I think their overpriced designer fashion statements for the rich and dull that never actually use any of the power that it potentially has in it in the first place. But, it does have a very powerful graphics card and it's the only notebook that has that much power yet maintaining an amazing 8 hour battery life while weighing around 5.6 pounds, under load how long it will last? I can only guess. Though admittedly well designed, this notebook is still priced at an "Oh my god, what the hell were you thinking spending that much money!" sort of level. Also expect your wrists, legs, or wooden desk to leave a nasty burn mark as the stylish all aluminum body likes to conduct heat and A LOT OF IT. Not literally of course but speaking from experience of the last 13 inch Macbook with the 320m graphics card, playing TF2 with shorts on was a very uncomfortable experience from the lap. All this? An amazing 2600 to 2800 dollars for a system with the 2.3 quad core processor. You could downgrade the processor down to the 2.2 and have it for $2400 but that's not exactly cheap either.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 7648 (Laptopmag with 2.2 ghz processor)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 10359 (Laptopmag)

Weight: 5.6 pounds

Screen: 1440x900 or 1680x1050 15 inch screen

Cost: $2200 at base! 2400-2800 optimally!

Pros:

+ Leading preformance to weight ratio

+ Leading preformance to battery ratio

+ Anti-glare screen option

+ Best touchpad anywhere

+ Solid feeling design

+ Back-lit keyboard

+ 16:10 hi-res screen

+ Industry leading customer service

Cons:

- Price

- Will get very hot

- Price

- Component upgrades like ram or CPU speed are for some reason more expensive than competetor upgrades (For example 2.2 ghz CPU to 2.3 is $250 where Alienware is $200)

- Only 500 GB hard drive, and 750 GB hard drive option is a slower 5000 rpm rather than a 7200 rpm

- No Bluray Drive option

- Customer support (specifically phone) is limited to 90 days unless you pay for Applecare which is another $350

- Did I mention price?

Polarizing:

+/- Social statement implications if you purchase one (in my view anyways)

Less expensive all purpose notebook

Alienware M14X

I know I know, I just shown all 3 of Alienwares offerings as the best laptops you can buy for the money and it makes me look like I'm being paid off by Dell to say this, but god damn it if Alienware is making some damn fine laptops and against the Macbook Pro 15 inch, there really isn't another laptop with the same or more power without having the battery life of the first electric car and weighing as much as a Cadillac Escalade. Make no mistake there's some sacrifices to be made, but if your willing to deal with a slightly heavier laptop with a middle to road battery life than the m14x could be a decent all purpose. The downside is it weighs a pound more than the 15 inch macbook and struggle to get half as much battery life. That being said it does get a higher performance than the Macbook pro and at half the cost. Configure the M14X similarly to the Macbook Pro 15 inch and you'll find that spec for spec the m14x costs around 40% less than the Macbook, and has a better graphics card. Half as much battery life might seem like a big deal, but remember it's more than 4 hours we're talking about, and that's more than enough to get whatever writing or web browsing to be done in. If graphical preformance isn't that much of a deal than I recommend the Dell XPS 15 which has the same GT540 found in the M11X, or the XPS 15Z, which has a 525M which doesn't do that bad either.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 9293 (laptop mag with best CPU)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 12553 (Laptop mag)

Weight: 6.4

Screen: 1366x768 or 1600x900 14 inch screen

Cost: $1100 base, optimal configurations go for around 1600-1800

Pros:

+ Better money to performance ratio

+ Still reasonable battery life

+ Better all around preformance than the 15 inch macbook

+ Won't burn your legs

+ Multi coloured backlit keyboard

+ Same desktop style keyboard as the m17x

+ Faster Ram (1600 Mhz vs Apple 1333 Mhz)

+ More options like wireless HD

Cons:

- A pound heavier

- Half the battery life

- Still no Bluray

- Loud fans

The I Want my Laptop to do Everything

Sony Vaio Z

Well it's basically everything and anything with no compromises. This little giant can stock a 2620m 2.7-3.4ghz processor, 2 SSD's up to 512 gb of space, 8 GB ram, and that dock on the side can be the bluray drive and the graphics card, a 6650m. All wrapped up in Sci-fi carbon fiber making it the most lightest and durable laptop probably ever. All weighing a impossible 2.5 pounds for just the laptop. To put in perspective the svelte and light macbook air, is heavier at 3 pounds. The cost? From a shivering $2000 to a bone chilling $3680. But this laptop comprimises on nothing, even the battery life is amazing at a 5 and a half hours, and an astonishing 11 hours with the extended battery which only makes it weigh 3.5 pounds. It's quiet annoying that they decided to take out the external graphics card and put it on this dock, but at the weight savings It's probably not that big of an issue to bring it along if you want to game around. The graphics is no desktop replacement but it's about on par with the Alienware m11x, which for a 2.5 pound laptop into perhaps a 3.5 laptop all together is pretty damn good. You might be wondering why I'm not screaming my head off about the price, and that's because it comes with SSD as standard so that explains the majority of why it's so damn expensive.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 10763! (laptop mag, best CPU)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 4068 without dock, with dock 7943 (laptop mag)

Weight: 2.5!

Screen: 1600x900 13.1 inch or 1920x1080 13.1 screen

Cost: $1970 base, 2800 optimum setup

Pros:

+ Lightest laptop you can buy

+ Blistering CPU performance

+ Unrivaled graphics preformance in class with dock

+ SSD standard

+ Amazing battery life for performance

+ Matte anti-glare hi res screen

+ Durable and futuristic carbon fiber body

+ Runs cool under load

+ Backlit keyboard

Cons:

- Still pricy (though there is a tangible reason why it's so expensive)

- Fans are loud under load

- Trackpad is hit or miss

- Speakers could be better

Polarizing:

+/- Some might wish the graphics card was built into the laptop

I want my laptop to do everything but not cost me a kidney

Sony Vaio S

This is it, It's a laptop with the same processor as the Vaio Z, similar graphical capability, but has a normal hard drive and disc drive. As a result it weighs a little bit more but at a very light 3.8 pounds. It has a 6630m AMD graphics card and will last about 5 hours on a charge and 10 on the extended battery. Downsides might be that the screen isn't as good as color fidelity as the big brother Vaio Z or the other gaming notebooks, but it's matte so it wont reflect off light, and the speakers frankly suck. So best to get some new headphones while your at it. The other thing is that the graphics are manually switchable, requiring you to close off all video related programs before switching to the faster internal graphics card. The design might feel a bit flimsy as myself experiencing this laptop at a Sony store, I experienced a lot of flexing around the laptop but nothing too serious and probably an outgrowth of the light weight. I'd still call it a worthy laptop for all purposes as the specs are right and the design is good. Graphical performance should be less than the Vaio Z or the m11x, but it's probably not going to be a big enough of a drop to tell the difference.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 6106 (with entry level CPU laptop mag)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 7353 (laptop mag)

Weight: 3.8

Screen: 1600x900 13.1 inch

Cost: $1249 base $1700 optimum

Pros:

+ very light, almost a pound lighter than the 13 inch macbook

+ Great preformance to weight ratio

+ Doesn't cost as much as the Vaio Z

+ Slice battery offers amazing battery life

+ Blu-ray standard

+ Anti reflective screen

+ Backlit keyboard

Cons:

- Speakers are mediocre

- Picture quality of screen could be better

- Maybe flimsy feeling

Well there you go, here's my list of gaming laptops you should buy. There's more to buying a gaming laptop than just specs, but even the weakest of these, the Vaio S still has the graphical punch to run most games today and powerhouses in the past like Crysis on medium and be fine. Big behemoths like the m17x I would not be surprised if it was able to run Battlefield 3 on the highest settings without a hitch. Good luck with your PC gaming adventures.

#1 Posted by insanejedi (650 posts) -

The market for gaming laptops can be pretty hard to get into since there's so many models, prices, and form factors. And you get bewildering looks if you want a gaming laptop that isn't a gigantic behemoth sometimes. So I've put together a guide of appropriate gaming laptops of 2011 by their design and intended use.

Portable Gaming Laptop

Alienware M11x R3

Now lets get this out of the way first. Full disclamer, I actually own this laptop and I believe it's the perfect accompaniment to a desktop PC gamer as it has the power to play most modern games on medium to high, and even max out some other games like ones powered by Unreal Engine 3. The 11.5 inch screen might seem to small for some, but I found it to be no issue at all and you quickly get used to it. For me screen resolution is everything and it sits at a very dense for its size 1366x768 display. This laptop also runs very cool even during gaming from my experience. Speakers are really good too, while they lack some volume power that it can't output to the point where you think a song is too loud, it will be more than enough to fill a room and with good quality. This thing is also as solid as a brick, no flex whatsoever wherever you handle it like an IBM Thinkpad, coupled with it's long battery life of maxing out to somewhere around 9-10 hours (On my end if you abuse it and set it to full brightness while browsing you'll still get 5 hours on a charge) it also makes a decent business and work laptop. Downsides are that it's kinda heavy for a 11 inch, but it's packed at a very portable 4.5 pounds which is the same as a 13 inch Macbook Pro, It's also pretty loud during load, but I doubt after the initial "whats that sound" people have around you once it kicks in that it will bother them that much after that. There's also no DVD drive so you're generally going to have to spend an extra 50 bucks for it, and I highly recommend getting the $20 anti-gloss screen protector, this leads to a price of around $1100-1200 for everything, but Dell has coupon codes running most of the time and it's best to keep your eyes peeled for them. If not, order over the phone from dell and haggle the sales person because they're paid on commission and you can probably slash $100 or more off the price, especially if you tell them something like "Well I'd get it if this other laptop wasn't less expensive and did just as much" and what other laptop does almost as much? That's the next one after this.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 6272 (Notebookreview.com with I5 processor)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 8136 (Notebookreview.com)

Weight: 4.5 Pounds

Screen: 1366x768 11.5 inch display

Cost: Around $1100- 1200 without discounts, with discounts potentially under 1000.

Pros:

+ Long Battery Life

+ Solid Design

+ Runs Cool

+ Leading Class Preformance

+ Great Fidelity Speakers for class

+ Fantastic preforming extras like the multi-color backlit keyboard, good internal microphone, and HD webcam

+ Alienware's Customer Support (Believe it or not you wont be talking to someone in India, you'll actually be speaking to an American for Alienware)

Cons:

- Heavy for an 11 inch

- Slightly expensive (Can be fixed with haggling or discount coupons)

- Fans do run loud

- Screen is glossy and reflective (Can be fixed with the anti-glare screen protector)

Polarizing:

+/- Design is hit and miss for some people (I personally think this thing looks really cool)

+/- 11 Inch design allows it to be fully open in constraining areas like Airline Coach

+/- No disc drive

PS: They also offer a $700 entry level M11X with an I3 330UM and a 1GB GT335M which preforms like the older M11X R1 or R2, Expect to see a PCMark of 3,700 and 3Dmark of around 6,400 which is a noticeable drop, but the old R1's could run Stacraft 2 on High without a hitch so this should too.

Cheaper Portable Gaming Laptop

Acer Aspire TimelineX 3830TG-6431

I don't know why Acer and Asus put the worst names ever on their laptops, they're extremely hard to remember. Regardless, I was pretty ticked when I saw this come out because I just purchased my M11x. This thing packs the same GPU and a potentially faster CPU since it's not a low voltage CPU, for $750 on Amazon. Configure an M11x the same way and it would cost 1000-1100. This doesn't come without a cost of the system though, and that's mostly it's durability for the long term. There's only one review of it currently, and thats on Laptop Mag, and Cnet did a first look at it, but no real long term professional testing has been done on it, but what has been there all points to it being good.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 6228 (Laptopmag.com)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 8084 (Laptopmag.com)

Weight: 4.2 Pounds

Screen: 1366x768 13.3 inch display

Cost: $750

Pros:

+ Same preformance for an M11X for less

+ Slightly lighter than an M11X (4.2 pounds vs 4.5)

+ Reported Good audio

+ Long battery life

+ Great Value for money

Cons:

- Unproven Track Record

- Runs Warm under video, probably would get hot under gaming

- No backlit keyboard of any sort

- Customer support sucks

- An hour shorter of battery life vs m11x

- Small touchpad

- Uncofigurable to any higher specification, and slower hardrive because of it (5000 RPM vs 7200 RPM of M11X)

Polarizing

+/- Unagressive design

+/- No disc drive

Desktop Replacement

M17X R3

I'm not a fan desktop replacements generally, because they seem to match the worst of both worlds of the laptop and the desktop, being big and bulky so it's not portable, but not powerful enough either. This desktop replacement though, I would not mind ever owning because of just how damn good it is. This thing is fast... record breaking fast... and it does so too while having a battery life of 5 hours on web browsing which is the amazing thing. Yes it's pricy, but the amount of configurations can streach out from a modest $1500 to a mind boggling somewhere around $5000, but whatever configuration you buy, it's going to still be pretty nippy as all 3 processors are quad cores, and the base model graphics card of a GTX 460m has more than double the processing power of the m11x GT540. The hard drive goes from a 320 GB to a 1.5 TB dual drive or 256 GB or 512 GB SSD. You name it, it has it, including a 3D Screen at your discretion and even an HDMI in, which allows you to plug in your Xbox 360 or PS3 and use the screen to play your console games. All this weighing a somewhat resonable for the world 9.6 pound setup.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 17486! (Laptopmag.com with 1st rate CPU and SSD) 9971 (Notebook review with 1.5 TB HD and 2nd level CPU)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 20048! (Laptopmag with mid level GPU)

Weight: 9.6 Pounds

Screen: 1600x900 or 1920x1080 17 inch display with optional 3D

Cost: $1500-$5000

Pros:

+ Breaknecking preformance

+ Decent Battery life under web browsing (3 Hours without SSD and 4-5 with SSD)

+ Amazing custimization to fit your needs

+ Features and options not seen on most laptops like 3D and Wireless HD, capable of streaming whatever your laptop has onto your TV

+ HDMI in allowing you to plug your consoles and use the m17x screen

+ Excellent speakers

+ Desktop keyboard quality keyboard

+ Large viewing angles

+ Components run cool even under load for the most part

+ Very high resolution Screen

+ Alienware support

+ Multi-zoned back lit keyboard

Cons:

- Competitors still about a pound lighter

- Options can still get expensive and intimidating

- Replacements of the metal design of the last generation to plastics may lead to a perceived downgrade in build quality.

Polarizing :

+/- conflciting reports of noise under load (quiet and loud)

+/- conflicting reports of heat level on the lap

+/- Design is too aggressive and vulgar to some

Budget Desktop Replacement

ASUS G73SW-A1

Not so much budget as it's just cheaper than the M17X. The ASUS G73SW-A1 runs for $1550 on Amazon but configure the M17X in the same way and the M17X runs for about 300-400 more, so you are getting more for your money. But what your sacrificing is the utter lack of customization since ASUS doesn't do build to order, and the keyboard isn't as nice as the m17x lacking good feedback for typing, and too much stiffness, it's also very cramped compared to the m17x spacious desktop like keys. The battery life is also shorter, getting around 2 hours off of light web browsing. But if your just looking for a laptop with just power and mostly going to be up to a wall socket and only going to use the keyboard for light typing and WASD setups, then the G73SW-A1 is probebly more than enough laptop for any gamer.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 8272 (Laptopmag)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 14058 (Laptopmag)

Weight: 8.8 pounds

Screen: 1920x1080 17 inch screen

Cost: $1550

Pros:

+ Better Performance Value

+ Bluray Drive standard

+ Good screen resolution and viewing angles

+ Decent speakers

+ Runs cool

+ Standard accidental warranty for 1 year and 2 year regular

+ Generally good customer support

+ A whole pound lighter than the m17x

Cons:

- Speakers aren't as high of a fidelity as the m17x

- Keyboard sucks

- Not configurable

- Classic gaming laptop battery life

Polarizing

+/- Arguable a more professional look than the m17x

An All Purpose 15 inch notebook

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch

Yup, that's right. I don't like macs, in fact you could say that I hate them with a passion as I think their overpriced designer fashion statements for the rich and dull that never actually use any of the power that it potentially has in it in the first place. But, it does have a very powerful graphics card and it's the only notebook that has that much power yet maintaining an amazing 8 hour battery life while weighing around 5.6 pounds, under load how long it will last? I can only guess. Though admittedly well designed, this notebook is still priced at an "Oh my god, what the hell were you thinking spending that much money!" sort of level. Also expect your wrists, legs, or wooden desk to leave a nasty burn mark as the stylish all aluminum body likes to conduct heat and A LOT OF IT. Not literally of course but speaking from experience of the last 13 inch Macbook with the 320m graphics card, playing TF2 with shorts on was a very uncomfortable experience from the lap. All this? An amazing 2600 to 2800 dollars for a system with the 2.3 quad core processor. You could downgrade the processor down to the 2.2 and have it for $2400 but that's not exactly cheap either.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 7648 (Laptopmag with 2.2 ghz processor)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 10359 (Laptopmag)

Weight: 5.6 pounds

Screen: 1440x900 or 1680x1050 15 inch screen

Cost: $2200 at base! 2400-2800 optimally!

Pros:

+ Leading preformance to weight ratio

+ Leading preformance to battery ratio

+ Anti-glare screen option

+ Best touchpad anywhere

+ Solid feeling design

+ Back-lit keyboard

+ 16:10 hi-res screen

+ Industry leading customer service

Cons:

- Price

- Will get very hot

- Price

- Component upgrades like ram or CPU speed are for some reason more expensive than competetor upgrades (For example 2.2 ghz CPU to 2.3 is $250 where Alienware is $200)

- Only 500 GB hard drive, and 750 GB hard drive option is a slower 5000 rpm rather than a 7200 rpm

- No Bluray Drive option

- Customer support (specifically phone) is limited to 90 days unless you pay for Applecare which is another $350

- Did I mention price?

Polarizing:

+/- Social statement implications if you purchase one (in my view anyways)

Less expensive all purpose notebook

Alienware M14X

I know I know, I just shown all 3 of Alienwares offerings as the best laptops you can buy for the money and it makes me look like I'm being paid off by Dell to say this, but god damn it if Alienware is making some damn fine laptops and against the Macbook Pro 15 inch, there really isn't another laptop with the same or more power without having the battery life of the first electric car and weighing as much as a Cadillac Escalade. Make no mistake there's some sacrifices to be made, but if your willing to deal with a slightly heavier laptop with a middle to road battery life than the m14x could be a decent all purpose. The downside is it weighs a pound more than the 15 inch macbook and struggle to get half as much battery life. That being said it does get a higher performance than the Macbook pro and at half the cost. Configure the M14X similarly to the Macbook Pro 15 inch and you'll find that spec for spec the m14x costs around 40% less than the Macbook, and has a better graphics card. Half as much battery life might seem like a big deal, but remember it's more than 4 hours we're talking about, and that's more than enough to get whatever writing or web browsing to be done in. If graphical preformance isn't that much of a deal than I recommend the Dell XPS 15 which has the same GT540 found in the M11X, or the XPS 15Z, which has a 525M which doesn't do that bad either.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 9293 (laptop mag with best CPU)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 12553 (Laptop mag)

Weight: 6.4

Screen: 1366x768 or 1600x900 14 inch screen

Cost: $1100 base, optimal configurations go for around 1600-1800

Pros:

+ Better money to performance ratio

+ Still reasonable battery life

+ Better all around preformance than the 15 inch macbook

+ Won't burn your legs

+ Multi coloured backlit keyboard

+ Same desktop style keyboard as the m17x

+ Faster Ram (1600 Mhz vs Apple 1333 Mhz)

+ More options like wireless HD

Cons:

- A pound heavier

- Half the battery life

- Still no Bluray

- Loud fans

The I Want my Laptop to do Everything

Sony Vaio Z

Well it's basically everything and anything with no compromises. This little giant can stock a 2620m 2.7-3.4ghz processor, 2 SSD's up to 512 gb of space, 8 GB ram, and that dock on the side can be the bluray drive and the graphics card, a 6650m. All wrapped up in Sci-fi carbon fiber making it the most lightest and durable laptop probably ever. All weighing a impossible 2.5 pounds for just the laptop. To put in perspective the svelte and light macbook air, is heavier at 3 pounds. The cost? From a shivering $2000 to a bone chilling $3680. But this laptop comprimises on nothing, even the battery life is amazing at a 5 and a half hours, and an astonishing 11 hours with the extended battery which only makes it weigh 3.5 pounds. It's quiet annoying that they decided to take out the external graphics card and put it on this dock, but at the weight savings It's probably not that big of an issue to bring it along if you want to game around. The graphics is no desktop replacement but it's about on par with the Alienware m11x, which for a 2.5 pound laptop into perhaps a 3.5 laptop all together is pretty damn good. You might be wondering why I'm not screaming my head off about the price, and that's because it comes with SSD as standard so that explains the majority of why it's so damn expensive.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 10763! (laptop mag, best CPU)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 4068 without dock, with dock 7943 (laptop mag)

Weight: 2.5!

Screen: 1600x900 13.1 inch or 1920x1080 13.1 screen

Cost: $1970 base, 2800 optimum setup

Pros:

+ Lightest laptop you can buy

+ Blistering CPU performance

+ Unrivaled graphics preformance in class with dock

+ SSD standard

+ Amazing battery life for performance

+ Matte anti-glare hi res screen

+ Durable and futuristic carbon fiber body

+ Runs cool under load

+ Backlit keyboard

Cons:

- Still pricy (though there is a tangible reason why it's so expensive)

- Fans are loud under load

- Trackpad is hit or miss

- Speakers could be better

Polarizing:

+/- Some might wish the graphics card was built into the laptop

I want my laptop to do everything but not cost me a kidney

Sony Vaio S

This is it, It's a laptop with the same processor as the Vaio Z, similar graphical capability, but has a normal hard drive and disc drive. As a result it weighs a little bit more but at a very light 3.8 pounds. It has a 6630m AMD graphics card and will last about 5 hours on a charge and 10 on the extended battery. Downsides might be that the screen isn't as good as color fidelity as the big brother Vaio Z or the other gaming notebooks, but it's matte so it wont reflect off light, and the speakers frankly suck. So best to get some new headphones while your at it. The other thing is that the graphics are manually switchable, requiring you to close off all video related programs before switching to the faster internal graphics card. The design might feel a bit flimsy as myself experiencing this laptop at a Sony store, I experienced a lot of flexing around the laptop but nothing too serious and probably an outgrowth of the light weight. I'd still call it a worthy laptop for all purposes as the specs are right and the design is good. Graphical performance should be less than the Vaio Z or the m11x, but it's probably not going to be a big enough of a drop to tell the difference.

PCMarkVantage (Benchmark of Computers CPU) = 6106 (with entry level CPU laptop mag)

3DMark06 (GPU Graphics preformance) = 7353 (laptop mag)

Weight: 3.8

Screen: 1600x900 13.1 inch

Cost: $1249 base $1700 optimum

Pros:

+ very light, almost a pound lighter than the 13 inch macbook

+ Great preformance to weight ratio

+ Doesn't cost as much as the Vaio Z

+ Slice battery offers amazing battery life

+ Blu-ray standard

+ Anti reflective screen

+ Backlit keyboard

Cons:

- Speakers are mediocre

- Picture quality of screen could be better

- Maybe flimsy feeling

Well there you go, here's my list of gaming laptops you should buy. There's more to buying a gaming laptop than just specs, but even the weakest of these, the Vaio S still has the graphical punch to run most games today and powerhouses in the past like Crysis on medium and be fine. Big behemoths like the m17x I would not be surprised if it was able to run Battlefield 3 on the highest settings without a hitch. Good luck with your PC gaming adventures.

#2 Posted by JJWeatherman (14486 posts) -

Wow, this is a ton of info, but it's awesome. Thanks!

Online
#3 Posted by Video_Game_King (34651 posts) -
@JJWeatherman said:

Wow, this is a ton of info, but it's awesome. Thanks!

Exactly. Now I know which gaming laptop to get, should I ever decide to upgrade (hint: it's the first one).
Online
#4 Posted by sins_of_mosin (1556 posts) -

I looked into getting a laptop as my main PC for two years and just couldn't pull the trigger.  The price performance ratio is just too low.  Only way I could possibly do it was if I was on the move 75% of my time.

#5 Posted by Th3_James (2575 posts) -

My laptop can run CSS maxed out at 1366x768 so that's good enough for me. I use beast of a desktop for my computing needs. For the price of some of those laptops you could build a hell of a desktop and get a pretty good laptop.

#6 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -
@Th3_James said:

My laptop can run CSS maxed out at 1366x768 so that's good enough for me. I use beast of a desktop for my computing needs. For the price of some of those laptops you could build a hell of a desktop and get a pretty good laptop.

That's how I look at laptops.
I got a very old one which is my ''I just woke up, I need to check my email and social media crap but I don't want to get out of bed onto the cold floor towards my pc'  laptop.
#7 Posted by insanejedi (650 posts) -
@Th3_James said:

My laptop can run CSS maxed out at 1366x768 so that's good enough for me. I use beast of a desktop for my computing needs. For the price of some of those laptops you could build a hell of a desktop and get a pretty good laptop.

True, but some people like me travel around a lot and sometimes I'll be away from my desktop for 4-8 weeks. It's nice to have something like the m11x which is powerful but portable for modern gaming needs. I don't get the appeal to desktop replacements for the most part though, the m14x probably sits at the most I'll ever carry day to day.
#8 Edited by RichMeisterMan (70 posts) -

Awesome post, right up my alley too!  I think I am going to end up picking up that Timeline.  I've been on the lookout for a new laptop that has moderate gaming performance as I'll be away from my desktop for 2+ months for some army training. Also, the timeline qualifies for a free 4gb xbox through amazon (if you're a student).
 
There are apparently some complaints about the keyboard, but I think it looks nice, the macbook look is good and I really appreciate the unaggressive look of the laptop.  I personally think the Alienware laptops look ridiculous, same with the ASUS ones but to a slightly lesser degree.

#9 Posted by Nux (2220 posts) -

Nice

#10 Posted by Rolyatkcinmai (2661 posts) -

My custom spec'd HP is stronger than those Alienwares for about $400 less. Explore your options.

#11 Posted by insanejedi (650 posts) -
@Rolyatkcinmai said:

My custom spec'd HP is stronger than those Alienwares for about $400 less. Explore your options.

What model is that?
#12 Posted by rmanthorp (3703 posts) -

This is awesome! Looking to get a laptop, will give this a thorough read.

Moderator
#13 Posted by Burn1n9m4n (258 posts) -

Its cool you put this up. I've been considering a new laptop to act as an all-purpose use/gaming solution. Currently I'm using a Dell XPS M1730. Its not bad, but after going through several rounds of part replacements and significant slow downs I think its time to upgrade. Plus the rig itself is too heavy to lug around compared to more portable units, which given how much time has passed since the M1730 came out, are now also more powerful. What do you think of the Dell XPS 15z in terms of where it lies on the scale of type of usage, price, and power?

#14 Edited by insanejedi (650 posts) -
@Burn1n9m4n said:

Its cool you put this up. I've been considering a new laptop to act as an all-purpose use/gaming solution. Currently I'm using a Dell XPS M1730. Its not bad, but after going through several rounds of part replacements and significant slow downs I think its time to upgrade. Plus the rig itself is too heavy to lug around compared to more portable units, which given how much time has passed since the M1730 came out, are now also more powerful. What do you think of the Dell XPS 15z in terms of where it lies on the scale of type of usage, price, and power?

I mentioned it in the m14x part. the XPS 15Z is basically a cheaper macbook pro. Since you have a 525M graphics card you lose a bit in the graphics, about 7500 on 3dmark vs the macbook pro's 10 000. Since this was a gaming laptop article, I decided to go with the m14x since gamers tend to care about power and performance more than the portability aspect, though the m14x isn't that bad in that department either. If you want to keep the form and portability of the macbook pro 15 inch without paying the price, then you go with the XPS 15z, if you want the power (or even more) of the 15 inch macbook without the price and only sacrificing a bit in the portability aspect, then you go with the m14x. Still the XPS 15z is still good at gaming, only 600 points behind the M11x, so you should be able to run Crysis on medium with a decent 30 FPS average. The XPS15Z expect it to get hot like the macbook though since it's a similar aluminum construction. 
 
PS: I looked up your old Dell XPS, the m14x i mentioned weighs 6.4 pounds your old XPS weighs around 11. So even if you bought the heavier M14x, it would be worlds easier to carry around than the old XPS. The old XPS also benched a 8000 on 3Dmark06, so you'll be getting even less preformance out of the XPS15z with 7500. If you went with the m14x You'll see a preformance upgrade to 11000 which is 3000 more than your old XPS.

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