Help picking the new computer

I give. Don't seem to be able to sort everything out myself while shopping for a laptop. Any help is appreciated.

14_Please tell us any additional information if needed.
Sorry, this will be wordy and out of order, but I think it might be helpful to have the info early. Currently the only computer handy for me is my 5 year old laptop. The desktop just completely crapped out and was due for a complete rebuild anyway. My intention is to get a new laptop which will serve as my primary computer for about 2 years at which point I expect to either replace with a newer laptop (seems that the rate of change is increasing rapidly enough to support that) or purchase a new desktop which would relegate the laptop to secondary usage. As it relates to this questionaire, I'm looking with the intent to buy a laptop, however I'm not opposed to purchasing a new desktop to act as my primary and then picking up a netbook or slim laptop for mobile use. From what I can gather, this would eliminate the need for a video card in the laptop and would probably make that search much easier.

[Edit] - This may be more appropriately classified as "Do I want a laptop?". In light of the info above and the specifications laid out below, please focus on whether I should be pursuing the laptop route or the desktop with supplemental mobile machine.

1_What is your budget? $800-$1,200. It seems that my basic criteria, as noted below (with the additional requirement that the processor be an i3, i5, or i7) comes up with a number of machines in the $850-$1,000 range. While I would go to $1,200, I'd want to be able justify the increase. Maybe what I need is in that higher range, but it feels like everything I put together over $1,000 is slightly better in 1 are but equivalent or worse in the others.

2_What is the size of the notebook that you are considering? 15.6 - 17.3 (Prefer 16.4-17.3 but the 15 range is acceptable)

3_What screen resolution do you want? 1600x900. 1920x1080 is obviously acceptable, but not required and would only be desired at 16.4 or larger screen size. 1366x768 is not acceptable. I want more information than that on the screen and the zoom feature for IE looks like crap in my experience.

4_Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop? Technically probably a replacement

5_How much battery life do you need? 2 hours

6_Do you want to play games with your laptop? If so then please list the games that you want to with the settings that you want for these games. (Low,Medium or High)? I know this won't help, but the games I have upcoming are: Starcraft 2, Civ 5, and The Old Republic. Would like no less than medium settings. Trouble is that these are upcoming and I can't pin down the system requirements. Don't do much in the way of shooters. If an ATI 4570 or 5470 should be sufficient for these, please let me know. The apparently poor specs of those cards have eliminated a lot of computers from my search.

7_What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo / Video editing,watching movies, Etc.) Video watching, office, web browsing

8_How much storage (H.D.D Capacity) do you need? 320 minimum. I'm not opposed to expanding with an external drive later for additional storage.

9_If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
Links are primarily from Newegg because that's where I typically shop. I'm not opposed to purchasing from other locations and have been searching other sites frequently. These links are based on the system configuration. Once I pin that down I can search more effectively. These items are based on the criteria above and are specific models that are available. I have also gone through custom build options with Sony, Dell, and Sager. These tend to fall into the discussion about paying a whole lot to improve a single spec.

Acer - i5 430m, ATI 5650 Seems to be the most bang for my buck. General reviews of Acer seem questionable though. If this is an acceptable quality machine I'd probably lean in this direction right now.
Asus - i3 350m, NVidia 325m Appears acceptable. I question the i3 since the benchmarks appear to indicate a big jump for the i5. I recently posted here regarding I5 Mobile Turbo Boost Mechanics which was related to this laptop. Based on those responses, I guess I'm not sure how much degredation I'd see in performance from the i3. Obviously this one is a trade off of processor for gpu (see next). Also, while portability is not a major concern, I'm thrown off a bit by the weight on this was at >9lbs. Does include a 2 yr warranty and USB 3.0.
Asus - i5 430m, ATI 5470 Compared to the other Asus, the processor should be better but the gpu is worse. Also comes with a shorter stock warranty (1 yr instead of 2) and no USB 3. Not sure if I have need for the faster USB, but it is a noted feature of the other system.
Samsung - i5 430m, Nvidia 330m Model from Best Buy. Looks similar to the Acer. I'm not familiar with Samsung laptops. Appears to be a great deal but I can't find the model in stock anywhere. Likely not an option at this point, but it is another reference for something that was out there.
Sager - i5 520 or 540m, ATI 5650 More expensive that the other systems noted but the company seems to have a strong rep for build quality. I don't think the 1920x1080 screen is that useful on a 15.6 model, particularly without Blu-Ray (which I don't need). Would actually rather have 1600x900 for this screen size or a bigger screen. $1,100 with an i5 540m processor which would certainly be more powerful than the others here. However not sure if my needs described above would require the additional power.

10_How long do you want to keep your laptop? 3+ years useful life. At least 2 years as a primary computer.

11_What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ? DVD writer

12_Please tell us about the brands that you prefer to buy from them and the brands that you don't like and explain the reasons.
Prefer: Asus, Toshiba, Sony
HP - Appear to have the poorest reliability from surveys linked here. For some reason the track pad on their machines doesn't work well with my least for the models that I've been able to play with locally.
Gateway - Poor personal experience

13_What country do you live in? US

Hope that isn't too much information. I've been searching for almost 2 months now and just can't find the right combination of screen, processor, gpu, and quality. I appreciate any help that can be offered.
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More about help picking computer
  1. Best answer
    rub2106 said:
    I'm not opposed to purchasing a new desktop to act as my primary and then picking up a netbook or slim laptop for mobile use.
    You're overall budget is very close to allowing you to do exactly that. Especially if you already own a LCD monitor that you're happy to use for gaming.

    As you've found out a gaming laptop is a series of compromises, not the least of which is the price, and most especially, in gaming.
    An ATI Radeon 5650 Mobility (Passmark GPU rating=611) isn't nearly as powerful as its 5670 (Passmark GPU rating=1226). And in terms of price the upgrade to a ATI Radeon 5650 Mobility is usually around $150 and for that you can get an Radeon HD 5770 (Passmark GPU rating=1548).

    How would you feel getting an HP Mini 311 $400 (12" netbook) and putting $800 toward a gaming-geared PC? Something along the lines of this recommendation: TechReport's Utility Player PC. That list could easily be trimmed to get it under $800 without losing any gaming performance.
  2. Looking at just the laptop option, your gaming goals and your budget here are a few more options to look at for desktop replacements.
    Asus G73JH $1200 @ BestBuy Core i7 720QM, 6GB DDR3 RAM, 17.3" 1600x900 LED-LCD and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 graphics.
    Toshiba Qosmio X505 $1100 @ BestBuy Core i5-430M, 4GB DDR3, 18.4" 1680 x 945 LCD and GeForce GTS 360M graphics.

    edit; AnandTech review: ASUS G73Jh: Today's Top Gaming Laptop
  3. Thanks WR2. That's very helpful.

    I didn't realize the mobile graphics cards lagged the desktop counterparts by that much. If I go with the 2 machine option, I'm not necessarily constrained as much on the $1,200 limit, although staying in that ballpark would be nice. The PC build that you linked is well within my range. What I didn't want to do was buy a laptop for more than $1,200 with the intent to replace it in a relatively short time span. Desktop avoids that least for a while. I kept upgrading the old machine until the motherboard/cpu/gpu setup was completely outdated.

    Also don't think I'd seen that Asus at Best Buy last time I looked. Looks like that fits my criteria nicely.

    I'll update the original post to reflect a request for comment about which setup to move towards.

    I'm going to leave open for a few additional comments if they're out there, but thank you again for the input. I'm probably leaning in that direction now.
  4. Best answer selected by rub2106.
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