Advice Needed: Best Upgrade Path for Gaming in Sager NP8690/8760

Hello everyone:

I am going to purchase a laptop for school and for gaming. I plan on getting either an np8690 or an np8760 from www.XoticPC.com. I spoke to both Justin and Joseph from the website (really, both extremely kind and knowledgeable gentlemen) and got some feedback from them. I will mainly be using them and their inputs as my sources of credibility, along with tidbits of information I have gleaned from google and various forums. It was extremely/monumentally/intensely difficult to come to a decision between the Sager models and the g73jh Asus models, so unless there is some pressing information to add to the debate, please don't try to convince me to consider an asus (I just can't go through the vicious torment again, haha).

That said, here is my question. Ignoring the costs of each path, for now, I have three upgrade paths that I'm considering.

This is the 'default' configuration that I make each time when I customize either model:
- Intel Core i7-720QM, 1.60-2.80GHz, (45nm, 6MB L3 cache)
- ATI Mobility Radeon HD5870 1024MB PCI-Express GDDR5 DX11
- 4,096MB DDR3 1333MHz Dual Channel Memory (2 SODIMMS)
- 320GB 7200RPM (Serial-ATA II 300 - 16MB Cache)
- ADDITIONAL 320GB HDD (Only in np8760 model)

Here are my upgrade paths:
1. Intel Core i7-820QM, 1.73-3.06GHz, (45nm, 8MB L3 cache) with (single or dual) 320 GB 7200rpm hard drives. [Allows for small budget surplus that can be used for notebook cooler, or extra battery, or etc.]

2. Intel Core i7-820QM, 1.73-3.06GHz, (45nm, 6MB L3 cache) with dual 320 GB 7200rpm hard drives in
RAID 0

3. Intel Core i7-720QM, 1.60-2.80GHz, (45nm, 6MB L3 cache) with 80GB Intel X25-M Solid State Drive (SSD2 Serial-ATA II) (with additional 320 GB 7200rpm HDD in np8760 model)

Now, onto the costs and specifics. The paths are relatively equal in terms of cost. Unlike customizing an Asus G73JH, where an i7 820QM upgrade is $575, the i7 820QM upgrade is only $370 with the Sager. This makes for a $230 difference, going up from the core i7. The $230 upgrade is roughly equivalent to the $220 SSD upgrade.

The tasks that I will use the laptop for will be gaming (mainly older games such as WC3, SC, Counter-Strike: Source, as well as a few newer games such as Battlefield: BC2, Crysis, Dragon Age: Origins, Left 4 Dead 2, etc) and school. School-wise, I will be using Microsoft Word primarily, as well as watching movies and browsing the internet.

So, gaming performance is more significant to me than school-related performance (because I know the machine will be able to handle the school tasks with ease) and everything and everybody seems to say that gaming performance is dependent on the CPU, GPU and hard drives. I understand that the word "best" is very subjective. Yes, my "best" is different than anyone else's "best." When I ask for advice on the "best" path, I mean the path that would offer the "best" sort of performance overall and in terms of gaming. I'm absolutely terrible with computers and by and large, the machine that I recieve will be the machine that I use for its lifetime. I'm not adept enough to take apart notebooks/computers and install my own, "newer" hardware. That said, the word "bottleneck" lingers like a stench in my mind when I consider each of these paths, which is why I'm pushing so hard to optimize the system now (in the customizing/purchasing stage) since I won't be altering it later.

When I spoke with Justin and Joseph, particularly Joseph, they recommended that I go with path number 2, a 720QM or 820QM processor with dual HDDs in RAID 0. I have a basic understanding of the RAID configurations, so, needless to say, you need not warn me on the dangers of RAID 0. The "0" in its name haunts me each time I read about it. Since the notebook will also be used for school, I cannot run the risk of losing all my data. Yes, I would be incredibly stupid to not back up all important data, but the thought of either drive failing and potentially causing a hassle troubles me. If I'm going to run the risk of a 640 GB RAID 0 configuration(while still backing up data to external hard drives), would I be better off simply going with the 80GB SSD (of course, still backing up data), even if it has less space (I read that SSDs with less space perform worse than SSDs with more space)? On a side note, space is not a concern for me. My only computer is a 10 year old Dell desktop. I have meticulously managed 10 years worth of files on a pathetic 20 GB hard drive. Justin and Joseph did caution me on an SSD drive. They said that for my purposes, they couldn't see a justification in adding a SSD to my laptop. However, I've read countless posts (including ones from this forum) that list the SSD as more than 40% faster than a RAID 0 setup with posters happy and exuberant over their system's increased performance.

Finally (one last paragraph and I'm done, haha), I know that SSD doesn't help much with gaming. I've read that it helps more with system boot-up, and "read/write" times, but does, regardless, offer improved overall performance. I will be playing MMORPGS, so the SSD would help in load times. If SSD is the way to go, it may be better for me to just get the np8690 with an 80GB SSD for OS, programs and games, and have an external for back-up. It would be a lot cheaper, making the 820QM the 'default,' but I just don't know if its better to have a single SSD with an external(np8690), or dual whatevers(Raid/SSD+HDD) with an external(np8760). Unless there is some overall advantage to either a 15' or a 17', screen size and mobility are irrelevant to me. I have been researching for months and would love to come to a decision today. What with school finals and tests coming up, I need to be thinking more about "modernity vs. postmodernity", rather than "720QM vs 820QM" or "SSD vs HDD." Any and all help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
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  1. Hello and welcome to the forums :)
    I would skip options 1&2 and go for 3 because going from i7 720QM to 820QM won't give you a noticeable performance boost in almost all games/apps
    But with option 3,you can use a SSD as the main drive and HDD for games/apps,also with SSD your boot times,loading times etc are much faster
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