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Looking for a gaming laptop

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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January 28, 2011 8:23:30 AM

1. What is your budget?

Up to USD $3500 - can increase to $4000 if the laptop is really worth it.

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?

Weight is irrelevant as long as it does not weigh as much as a desktop, and the screen should be large enough to support a high resolution with crisp graphics.

3. What screen resolution do you want?

At least 1600x1200, would enjoy 1920x1080 (would prefer widescreen support but not specifically required)

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?

I need a laptop that is comparable to a somewhat high-end desktop in terms of gaming performance.

5. How much battery life do you need?

Irrelevant - it will stay on the desk, I just need a laptop to be able to physically move the laptop from A to B without too much hassle as I travel a lot.

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)?

Actual games (2010-2011) and upcoming 2012 games in High/Ultra settings with very good playability. This includes the latest Crysis, the latest GTA, Just Cause 2, etc ... Mostly interested in first person shooters.

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

Surfing, text editing, etc ... everything a gaming laptop should normally be able to do.

8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?

320GB at least, would like a 40-80GB SSD for fast disk access (I can swap games in and out depending on what I want to play for best performance).

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

None, looking for everything available.

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?

I would like to keep it for two to three years.

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

DVD R/W at least, Bluray is an extra (if a laptop meets my requirements and has Bluray as a bonus I will take it). If Bluray, does not need to write Blurays (but needs to be able to burn DVDs).

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 had good experience with Dell but not gaming-wise (read: their laptops never crashed on me or melted), I have no experience with gaming laptop brands, I looked at Alienware laptops but their design seems quite intrusive, I would like to keep it sober - accepting all suggestions though. I have read interesting things on Sager and Asus laptops but that's about it.

I want to avoid HP - according to my research it is a bad brand in general. Same with Acer, the one laptop I bought off them had its memory die in the first few months.

13. What country do you live in?

New Zealand.

14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.

I want to be able to play games in high quality, meaning I do not want to open up my new laptop, fire up my game and see that the highest resolution is 1024x768 with no AA and terrible framerate. Speaking of framerate, I wish to remain above 40 frames per second at any given time while playing my games normally. I would like the absolute best graphics card setup for laptops for my budget range, maybe an high-end ATI Mobility Radeon crossfire setup or the like.
I do not care whether the card is ATI or Nvidia provided it performs well - no preferences here. The laptop must remain relatively cool during operation (I understand that it will heat up, but it must remain minimal).
4GB memory is a must - would enjoy 6 or 8 gigs, any higher is overkill.
A quad core processor is not required, would favor faster dual-core over slower quad-core. If dual core, would like speeds above 2.8 GHz. Will most likely not overclock the CPU (too much heat and probably not possible on laptops).
I would appreciate if the laptop monitor had a high refresh rate such as 100 or 120 Hz, my eyesight is quite specific and does not cope well with the traditional 60 Hz refresh rate. I don't know much about monitors but anything above and including LCD in terms of visual quality will suit me.
Concerning sound, the laptop does not have to be able to output great audio quality directly as I will be using a headset anyway - a good motherboard will do (please correct me here if I'm wrong).
The laptop must have Wi-Fi networking support, but that shouldn't really be a problem.

NOTE : I know laptops are not *meant* to be played on with very high graphics quality, I know I'm asking a lot here but I'm pretty sure there's a laptop out there that's waiting for someone like me to fire it up. Feel free to ask if you need any more information to help me settle on a suitable laptop.

NOTE 2 : there is no notion of upgrade here, the only working laptop I own right now has an excruciatingly slow GMA chipset and a poor processor, so I'm really shelling out the bucks for some insane gameplay.

Thanks for your suggestions!

More about : gaming laptop

a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
January 28, 2011 12:22:38 PM

Does your US$4000 budget include air fare to go pick it up?
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January 28, 2011 8:22:31 PM

Quote:
Does your US$4000 budget include air fare to go pick it up?

No, I will not go pick it up, it would have to be shipped to New Zealand.

Quote:
They offer desktop Core i7 CPUs and SLI GTX 460M up to SLI GTX 485M.
http://www.sagernotebook.com/index [...] mid=NP7280

This laptop seems pretty good, but is the memory up to the task with only 1066MHz? It offers an upgrade to 1333MHz but only if I upgrade to the Extreme intel CPU that costs $800.

Would this work well with modern games (falls way below my budget):

Nvidia GeForce GTX 485M GPU with 2GB GDDR5 Video Memory
Intel® Core™ i7-950 Processor ( 8MB L3 Cache, 3.06GHz, 4.8GT/sec QPI )
12GB Triple Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz - 3 X 4GB
500GB 7200rpm SATA 300 Hard Drive
80GB Intel SATA2 Solid State Secondary Disk Drive in RAID configuration

Or should I upgrade the graphics card to this for an additional $855:

Dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 485M GPU with 2GB GDDR5 Video Memory + Additional AC Adapter & Power Converter Box

Or, should I leave the GTX alone and upgrade the CPU & the memory for +$795 (memory is free, offered with the CPU):

12GB Triple Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz - 3 X 4GB
Intel® Core™ i7-980X Processor Extreme Edition ( 12MB L3 Cache, 3.33GHz, 6.4GT/sec QPI, 6 Cores )

I'm not sure but on the first one the CPU seems to be the bottleneck, but I don't really know how the GTX is going to perform on a laptop. Is it worth it to add a second one in a SLI configuration, or should I instead upgrade the CPU? I could upgrade both but that would be a little bit too expensive ($4800).

Quote:
And they have the SandyBridge quad mobile CPU and GTX 485M laptops as well.
http://www.sagernotebook.com/index [...] mid=NP8170

This one seems a little weak on the CPU with speeds only going up to 2.5GHz, they are quads but do games really take full advantage of quad cores currently? I'm concerned they will only use a couple of cores and then bottleneck... great for multitasking though. This one actually offers 16GB of memory too, that's crazy!

Thanks for your helpful suggestions.
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a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
January 28, 2011 8:32:38 PM

DDR3 1066 @ CAS7 would perform nearly identical to DDR3 1333 @ CAS8.
Either way the difference is so small it's almost never a factor in gaming.
Same for getting 12GB RAM over 6GB.

The i7-950 upgrade to i7 980X hex core is not a good value for a gamer.

How did you figure the CPU was the bottleneck? You have a bottleneck calculator?

Going from SLI GTX 460M to SLI GTX 485M is between you and your budget. But for a gamer it's the best chance at keeping up with the next gen games, 2011 and forward.
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January 28, 2011 8:49:47 PM

Quote:
DDR3 1066 @ CAS7 would perform nearly identical to DDR3 1333 @ CAS8.
Either way the difference is so small it's almost never a factor in gaming.
Same for getting 12GB RAM over 6GB.

Thanks for the tip.

Quote:
The i7-950 upgrade to i7 980X hex core is not a good value for a gamer.

How did you figure the CPU was the bottleneck? You have a bottleneck calculator?

I'll probably upgrade the GPU then, well I did some research and most desktop/gaming laptop owners claimed that their CPU couldn't keep up with the GPU and these guys had state-of-the-art hardware, so I figured the GTX 485M is pretty good by today's standards and so that the CPU would be bottlenecking on this system. But then I guess as you said the GPU is a more important factor for gaming.

I think this is my favorite so far:

17.3" Full HD LED-Backlit Display with Super Glossy Surface (1920 x 1080)
Dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 485M GPU with 2GB GDDR5 Video Memory + Additional AC Adapter & Power Converter Box
Genuine MS Windows® 7 Home Premium 32/64-Bit Edition
12GB Triple Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz - 3 X 4GB
80GB Intel SATA2 Solid State Secondary Disk Drive (Primary)
500GB 7200rpm SATA 300 Hard Drive (Secondary)

Comes out at USD $3854 which is little bit above my budget but seems worth it. Still open to suggestions, I looked at some GPU benchmarks and while the GTX 485M SLI performs well it still isn't the absolute best card for laptops and I'm afraid it won't be able to run all the games I throw at it on high/ultra settings. But again I'm already stretching my budget as it is, so I'm just looking for confirmation that this GPU will perform as expected, I am a novice in laptop gaming.

Thanks for your help.
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January 28, 2011 8:55:02 PM

Sorry, I posted before I could read your last two replies.

Quote:
Here is where a GTX 485M ranks among other GPUs.
Roughly about a Radeon HD 5830 or old GTX 280 desktop cards.

So is that really good enough? It does seem kinda weak compared to the other GPU's. Will it run my first person shooters on high/ultra settings with high FPS? I'm going to be spending lots of money on this laptop so I don't want it to fall short of my expectations. This benchmark didn't include the dual build, assuming dual cards give a 30% performance increase would it work there?
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a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
January 28, 2011 9:00:42 PM

Bacterius said:
So is that really good enough?
It is what it is.
Welcome to the world of gaming with laptops.
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January 28, 2011 9:06:24 PM

I found this:
http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Nvidia-Geforce-GTX-...
(there's a list of framerates for various games at the bottom)

That's for a single GTX 485M card. I'd need to know how much of a performance boost can be obtained with dual 485M's but I'm pretty confident the hardware will be up to the task for at least a couple of years. Do you have any experience with dual cards and how they impact performance, or anything else that I could find useful to know to decide on what to choose?

Once again, thanks for your helpful support.
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a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
January 28, 2011 9:30:46 PM

single GTX 460M Battlefield: Bad Company single 30fps
SLI GTX 460M Battlefield: Bad Company 2 SLI 56.7fps
single GTX 480M Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Ultra single 38fps
SLI GTX 480M Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Ultra SLI 64.7fps

You can check the rest yourself.

Compare with a single $250 desktop GPU like the Geforce GTX 560 Ti
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a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
January 28, 2011 11:15:29 PM

If you're really serious about gaming performance I'm thinking you should also be looking at small form factor PCs.
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Best solution

a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
January 28, 2011 11:16:21 PM

For the kind of budget you're talking about you can get a downright awesome desktop and still afford a middle-weight gaming laptop to go on the road.
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February 3, 2011 8:51:26 AM

Sorry for the late reply. I'll definitely have to consider building my own desktop, not sure if it's a good idea in New Zealand though, component prices are sky-high over here and no-one ships to NZ dammit :pfff: . I'll look into it, thanks for your replies.
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February 3, 2011 8:51:54 AM

Best answer selected by Bacterius.
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