Student needs laptop for gaming and 3d rendering

I'm buying a laptop for the first time, all the ones I've had before have been gifts (nice, but very inadequate).

I'm going to be using it for: 3d rendering in Zbrush and 3ds Max, needs to be able to handle high poly in zbrush at least. Large photo editing and painting jobs in Photoshop and Corel Painter. I also want to be able to play games that are less than 10 years old for once, specifically, Fallout 3, Oblivion, and StarCraft 2. (no crysis though :p)

I was looking at the Alienware M15x, my favorite feature of that computer is how you can change the colors of different groups of keys. If it's possible to configure an m15x that can do what I need, and isn't too far over 2,000$, that would be awesome.

If that's not possible, then is there another laptop that does that, but cheaper? If not, then the computer MUST have a back-lit keyboard, at least. Also, the laptop I'm using now has sever heating issues (Hp tx 2000), and I would like to avoid that again.

1_What is your budget?

No more than 2,500$.

2_What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?

No smaller than 15", no larger than 17"

3_What screen resolution do you want?

1080p, but I'm not sure how much the dimensions matter. I plan on using a 24" external as my main monitor when I have it at my desk.

4_Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?

Both, but mostly desktop replacement.

5_How much battery life do you need?

At least one hour, but it will be plugged in most of the time.

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)?

Yes, the games I mentioned above at low or medium resolution.

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

3d modeling and digital painting will be the most strenuous tasks next to gaming.

8_How much storage (H.D.D Capacity) do you need?

no more than 300 gigs, I have a few external hds.

9_If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.

10_How long do you want to keep your laptop?

At least 3 years.

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

Basic dvd reader/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.

Preferably Alienware, Acer, or Asus, they seem to have the best reputations. I REFUSE to own another Hp, the laptop I'm using now was faulty from the start, and Hp refused to do anything about it. The one my brother got had a recall... they just seem to really suck lately.

13_What country do you live in?


14_Please tell us any additional information if needed.

Um, the only other thing I have to say is, I've been looking into the newest Intel processors, and I really have no idea what I need. Would the i7 840qm be enough? And what kind of video card would go best with that? And what about the memory? Do I need more than one gig of DDR3?

Also... this isn't really a big deal, but my room and all of my electronic stuff so far is black and blue, so I was also kind of looking for a computer that at least had all blue function lights. And, I use the touch pad a lot, so I prefer one with very little friction. My mom's is smooth plastic, and it really sucks. The one on my current computer is honeycombed, I think. It's like a grid of dimples. I really like it.

Thanks a lot :)
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  1. I'm British and our range of laptops is alot more limited and a bit more expensive in relation to the US Dollar.

    However since your budget is high enough to get a high powered laptop, i'd reccomend you either the new HP Envy series which come equipped with i7, ATI 5830, and 4 - 8gb of RAM, which is pretty much as good as it gets and could run most games on high settings.

    Also give MSI a look, their high end laptops which are customisable in spec via their American website are also, very high specced and i believe they are around 1.2k Dollars, similar to the Envy's
  2. The m15x should easily be customizable to fit your needs given your adequate budget. You can probably find some better bang-for-buck laptops from asus Republic of Gamers series, but i don't think you'll get some of those nifty little extras, like the backlit keyboard, i'm not sure about that though.

    Here is a possible M15x build (i just customized the main hardware, and their are some variable options like 2 core vs 4 core that cost the same):
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