College laptop

I am in the process of looking for a laptop to take to college. It will be my second laptop, but I haven't owned one in 4 or 5 years, although I have used many.

I currently have a desktop with an i7 920 and GTX 480 that I use for gaming, but I won't be able to take it to college, so I need a laptop to replace it. I will be gaming and taking it to classes.

I am liking the idea of having switchable graphics, using Intel HD Graphics for battery life, and the dedicated card for gaming. I would like to avoid NVIDIA Optimus, though, because I have heard it is very buggy right now.

I would also like to avoid ATI's switchable graphics method because it requires the manufacturer to turn it on in the drivers. I don't want to run into a situation where I can't update my graphics driver anymore because the manufacturer stopped creating new drivers for that laptop. I do, however, like that the laptop automatically switches to integrated graphics when running on battery, and dedicated graphics when plugged in.

I am mainly wanting battery life and gaming performance, and switchable graphics seems like the way to go if there is a good implementation. Having a button to manually switch is also fine. I have no problem doing small things like that manually.

1_What is your budget?
A loose $2000.

2_What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?
Around 15"-16", but 17" is ok if it would be needed for my requirements.

3_What screen resolution do you want?
1080p, but it's not too big of a deal if it's a little lower.

4_Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?
Desktop replacement, but needs to be portable since I will be taking it to classes.

5_How much battery life do you need?
4 hours running Microsoft Word.

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)?
Company of Heroes, Call of Duty 4, Bad Company 2, GTA IV, Men of War, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Medal of Honor (the new one that's coming out this fall/winter). Preferably high settings. I won't be looking for battery life when gaming, as I will be plugged in when gaming.

7_What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo / Video editing,watching movies, Etc.)
We will be using AutoCAD. I also like to Fraps games and edit the video using VirtualDub.

8_How much storage (H.D.D Capacity) do you need?
320GB. Just room for games. If it comes with anything slower than 7200 RPM, I will replace it with a 7200 RPM drive, in which case, initial size doesn't matter since I wouldn't be using the drive.

9_If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
Anyplace that's reputable.

10_How long do you want to keep your laptop?
3-5 years.

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

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.
I've heard good things about Asus.

13_What country do you live in?

14_Please tell us any additional information if needed.
Basically, I will be doing word processing in class (battery life), AutoCAD (performance), and lots of gaming (performance). eSata would also be nice to be able to store Fraps videos on a large external drive with reasonable transfer rates, because laptop hard drives are not really big enough for me.

Edit: Forgot to mention that barebones/whitebooks are ok. I have no problem working inside laptops, and actually enjoy it.
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  1. Best answer
    "Desktop replacement, but needs to be portable since I will be taking it to classes."

    seems like you've got a problem there, lol, you basically want both worlds.
    For all you're gaming and CAD requirements, you need a big and powerful computer, and while you can get that in a laptop, it will only be "portable" in the sense that, "hey, its easier to move than a desktop and can be set up other places"

    Anyways heres an Asus that seems to be packing top grade components (i7-720QM, 8GB RAM, HD5870)

    you can also check out mobile workstations from companies like Dell. Although the focus for workstations will really be on CAD work and not so much games, but games will still work
  2. I do have a problem there, lol. I am willing to accept lower performance for portability. I still want to be able to play games at medium-high settings, though.

    My college said a Core 2 Duo, 4 GB of RAM, and integrated graphics would be enough for my major, so the AutoCAD shouldn't be too intense, but I definitely don't want a system with specs that low.

    That Asus laptop is definitely a gaming desktop replacement. The battery life and weight are terrible, but that's to be expected. I could buy 2 extra batteries and be good to go. LOL.
  3. I've seen taht same laptop for $1400. Best buy has an eddition for $1200 with a lower resolution screen for $1200
  4. Yea, I just did a quick browse. I don't think you'll find a gaming laptop with actually good battery life.

    To solve that issue, though, you could consider getting 2 laptops. It would be pretty pricey (say 1400 for the gaming machine, and another 300/400 for the netbook/cheap laptop)
    this option would give you the best of both worlds, power in your dorm, battery and portability in class

    if you don't wanna go that route, then I would say look into Sony, they've got high end power with battery life
  5. I'm wanting to stick to 1 laptop. I don't want to leave any computers in the dorm, and carrying 2 would get tiring.

    The most powerful laptop Sony has uses a 330M GPU. I would like something more powerful than that. It would also cost $1800, which is the equivalent of the G73JH, but with less power. Also, the battery life seems low for the power that you're getting.

    What about the Asus G51JX-A1 with the extended battery. It seems decent, except it seems really difficult to find the battery, and I've heard some comments about cooling issues with that one. Any knowledge about those issues? Maybe the Sager equivalent would be a better choice?

    Also, are CyberPowerPC and iBuyPower reputable? I am looking at their laptops.
  6. I don't have any experience with CyberPowerPC and iBuyPower, but they seem reputable

    the Battalion 101 W860CU Gaming Laptop can be customized up to 8 GB of RAM, 500 GB HDD, an extra battery, and 1080 resolution, while remaining under $2k
  7. After some research, I've found that people have had lots of bad experiences with CyberPowerPC and iBuyPower in terms of customer service, so those are out for me.

    The brands I'm currently considering are Asus, Sager, and Digital Storm. I've looked at lots of others, but ruled them out.

    Opinions on which brand would be good for me? The $2000 is a soft budget. I can go over. I would just like to stay around there.
  8. I've never heard of Sager. Asus is a good brand, and once again, no experience with Digital Storm, so you would definitely want to read up on reviews of them.
  9. Best answer selected by cmasupra.
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