I agree with most of the things kashifme21 said, but not all.
For example, I am running a 2.8GHz dual-core and an Nvidea 9600GT 1GB while being bottlenecked by a 32 bit operating system. That said, I am still able to run GTA 4 with decent framerates (no lag). Admittedly I cannot run it on the highest settings but at least it works.
I would recommend getting the following:
AMD AM3 x4 955BE
4GB Kit 1333RAM PQI
WD Black Caviar 1TB
ATI 6870 1GB Powercolor
Vantec ION 620W (or similar)
64 Bit Windows 7 HP
And all will cost about $600.
This will be able to run almost any game currently out there on medium-high settings with good frame rates.
ps3 will cost him 300usd and the ps3 version doesnt hold a candle compared to the PC version. PS3 version is blurry runs in sub hd i think at 540p and has very small viewing distance also runs at a mere 25fps, think he can get a better experience on PC with minor upgrades.
The PS3 version is 720p native at 50fps and the PS3 upscales to 1080p very well. The draw distance is perfectly sufficient for driving through a CITY where there are BUILDINGS everywhere. OK, the graphics could've been a little sharper, but there's so much motion blur going on it hardly makes a difference.
And I don't care what spec you throw at it, the PC version is junk and you need ridiculous specs to get it to play anywhere near well enough.
You deride the PS3 version as being sub-par, yet the suggestions you make for PC spec (well, the ones Klosteral make in his agreeement with you) won't really generate any better an experience than spending HALF the money on a PS3.
I am personally playing the PC version on 3 screens in eyefinity granted i have a monster rig, the experience is simply epic, thats the thing about PC gaming. As time goes on the experience just keeps getting better. I originally played the game in 1080p 60fps on my older rig, today i am playing it at 5760*1080.
In the long run he wont be just playing 1 game, PS3 games cost too much money. PC games are far cheaper and prices reduce much quicker too specially with steam discounts, which will easily offset the price of getting a PC initially.
I agree with kash on this one. In the short term, consoles are cheaper. But you can do so much more on a computer and the games (as stated above) are actually cheaper. FPS games such as CoD are best played on the PC and strategy games such as StarCraft can ONLY be played on the computer. I once tried playing Halo Wars on my friend's Xbox 360 and it was damn difficult.
The bottom line is:
If you can afford a PC upgrade, then go for it.
If you cannot, and you are fine with perhaps lower image quality and (slightly) more difficult gameplay, then go for the console option.
Generally laptops are not ment for gaming and the ones that are, are a luxury product, a good one will cost you 1500-2000usd. I wouldnt recommend a laptop for gaming, since for a 1/3 of the price you can get a much more powerful desktop computer.
Also remember like i said above for anyone who wants to play lots of games PC is always the superior and cheaper option.
Consoles while good, their software is too expensive and in the long run will end up making the console more expensive then PC. One steam Discount can make the difference, as last year few months after release i bought these games on discount:
Grand theft auto episodes: 7usd
Mafia 2: 14usd
Metro 2033: 5usd
Bioshock 2: 14usd
Dead space: 10usd
Mass effect 2: 5usd
That said there is no way console gaming can compete with PC in terms of price. Console gaming just is expensive. Games can be an investment of 1000's of USDs over time. Buying them for the PC actually allows you to build a library, since they will be playable for a very long time even when you buy new hardware. However with Console you are at the mercy of the Console maker to decide if they want to give you BC on the next system.
As an example PS3 slim doesnt play PS2 games. There is a good probability PS4 may not play PS3 games (Sony may end up charging for remakes they are a business after all). Mean while any game bought on PC will be playable and a library of games can be actually made very cheaply too.
I would highly recommend you build your own desktop PC, there are many of us here to help you in making a build depending on your budget.
I do agree that laptops are not the most preferable devices, but they can be useful for some people.
I know of people who frequently travel overseas, work away from home, or even people with split families who live between multiple home. I myself live only in one home and do not travel too frequently, but I often want to take the power of my desktop around town and to college. That is why I opted for a gaming laptop. For all of these situations, a desktop is not really useful but the user still wants to play their games.
I do agree that there are precious few machines that will have the power and security that the OP may need that will not cost more than $1200USD.
If u just want to play GTA4 on low settings then even a P4 would do that job..... i am saying this on my own experience..
i played half of the game on my old P4 with 9400Gt plus 2 GB Ram.....
later-on i upgraded only my Processor to an Intel Quad Core with total 4 GB of RAM and completed that game on medium settings.......
On a Quad it runs so smooth....