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Help an Airman pick out his Gaming Laptop!

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  • Laptops
  • Games
  • Product
Last response: in Laptop Tech Support
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November 2, 2011 10:29:32 PM

I am in the USAF and about to be deployed and need some help picking out a laptop to play games on during my down time!

1. What is your budget?
Under $2200 including tax and shipping.
2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?
17 inch.
3. What screen resolution do you want?
1920x1080
4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?
Essentially this will be my desktop for the next year if not longer. I am in the military and will be deployed.
5. How much battery life do you need?
Not really important because I can just have it plugged into the outlet while I play.
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 I want to play Battlefield 3 with the best settings possible without going over my budget.
7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.)
Just gaming.
8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?
I'd be fine with 1 TB or maybe even 500 GB I do like to download movies and watch them.
9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
I don't even know where to start looking.
10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?
For at least a year I would like it to remain relevant however the only games I believe I will be playing on it are BF3 and SW:TOR, maybe Diablo 3.
11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ?
Just a DVD Burner should be sufficient
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 don't have any experience with certain brands...
13. What country do you live in?
I live in the US
14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.

I think I covered all the pertinent information already.

More about : airman pick gaming laptop

November 2, 2011 10:45:58 PM

When do you need this by?

If you can wait a few weeks, for under $1700 you can get a quad core i7 and 6990m.

Don't know how to link a specific configuration, but go to www.ibuypower.com -> Laptops -> Battalion 101 P150HM
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November 2, 2011 10:52:20 PM

gmcizzle said:
When do you need this by?

If you can wait a few weeks, for under $1700 you can get a quad core i7 and 6990m.

Don't know how to link a specific configuration, but go to www.ibuypower.com -> Laptops -> Battalion 101 P150HM


I suppose I can wait a few weeks. Does this company make reliable laptops? I am not familiar with them at all.
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November 2, 2011 11:02:46 PM

Yeah iBuyPower is pretty good, I've never heard anything bad about them. CyberPower, a competing company, I have heard some bad things about though.
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November 2, 2011 11:18:19 PM

So I am doing this for a friend...he is pretty clueless at stuff like this and I've never built a laptop for gaming. He just gave me some more info. I guess he is going to wait til the end of the month for his next check before he buys it and his new cap is $2200. He wants to be able to play BF3 on the highest settings he can for that price.

Is IBUYPOWER.COM the end all be all of gaming laptops? Is there anywhere else I should be looking?
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a c 572 D Laptop
November 2, 2011 11:35:57 PM

Hello Cru3lty;

IBuypower/CyperpowerPC are just a couple of the custom laptop shops known as boutique builders (smaller companies, specialized offerings). As opposed to Dell, HP, Sony, etc., which don't really offer much in the way of gaming laptops. Alienware started out as a boutique shop before Dell bought them. HP bought Vodoo.
I'd say probably no better than 'average' IBuypower/CyperpowerPC. But very competitive in prices.
Usually the boutique builders are buying the same hardware to assemble to order. Asus, MSI and Sager/Clevo seem to be the prime chassis supplies

Where is your friend stationed? We can probably find a boutique builder who can build a custom gaming laptop for him and he'll avoid paying the taxes on a $2K item.

Some of the other boutique builders you might have heard about:
Digital Storm, Falcon Northwest, Maingear, Origin
A few others that are also good choices:
Malibal, AVADirect, XoticPC and Sager

Several of those shops have military discounts, or discounts for cash and do 'price-matching' with the competition.
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November 2, 2011 11:40:36 PM

Two questions

1.) Is weight a issue?

2.) Do you care if it recertified/open box?

*Edit*

Make that 3.

3.) Since he will be deployed.. Will it require a web cam for programs such as skype?
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November 2, 2011 11:46:57 PM

WR2 said:
Hello Cru3lty;

IBuypower/CyperpowerPC are just a couple of the custom laptop shops known as boutique builders (smaller companies, specialized offerings). As opposed to Dell, HP, Sony, etc., which don't really offer much in the way of gaming laptops. Alienware started out as a boutique shop before Dell bought them. HP bought Vodoo.
I'd say probably no better than 'average' IBuypower/CyperpowerPC. But very competitive in prices.
Usually the boutique builders are buying the same hardware to assemble to order. Asus, MSI and Sager/Clevo seem to be the prime chassis supplies

Where is your friend stationed? We can probably find a boutique builder who can build a custom gaming laptop for him and he'll avoid paying the taxes on a $2K item.

Some of the other boutique builders you might have heard about:
Digital Storm, Falcon Northwest, Maingear, Origin
A few others that are also good choices:
Malibal, AVADirect, XoticPC and Sager

Several of those shops have military discounts, or discounts for cash and do 'price-matching' with the competition.


My buddy is currently stationed in Cyprus. You just listed a ton of companies...are they all "good." How do I know who is the best and most reliable? I really want to get the best for my friend.
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November 2, 2011 11:51:05 PM

Declivever said:
Two questions

1.) Is weight a issue?

2.) Do you care if it recertified/open box?

*Edit*

Make that 3.

3.) Since he will be deployed.. Will it require a web cam for programs such as skype?


1. Nope.

2. As long as it has some kind of extended warranty, I don't want to buy something that by chance dies and then he is out of luck.

3. He already has a laptop he can use for that so no.
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November 2, 2011 11:55:43 PM

Dell or Alienware laptops can be customized online and Expedite shipped to you.
Follow their wizard through customizing and include everything you want. If you decide to call Dell, ask them about any sort of 'military discount' which could offset some serious upgrades! Use this link and customize your ultimate gaming laptop but be sure to get your name enscribed on the outside of the laptop. It's a cool option to included. Don't forget the security s/w as well. The starting point I included here is for an i7-based system.

http://www.dell.com/us/p/alienware-m17x-r3/fs
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a c 572 D Laptop
November 3, 2011 12:07:08 AM

Cru3lty said:
My buddy is currently stationed in Cyprus.
What's the state for the shipping address for the laptop. That determines if taxes get paid.

I didnt list anything like the entire list. But they're all pretty much the same.
The premium Asus models have a 2yr warranty and 1yr accidental damage warrany included in the price.
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November 3, 2011 12:19:53 AM

WR2 said:
What's the state for the shipping address for the laptop. That determines if taxes get paid.

I didnt list anything like the entire list. But they're all pretty much the same.
The premium Asus models have a 2yr warranty and 1yr accidental damage warrany included in the price.


He is going to have it shipped to:
PSC 109
APO AE 09818

Not sure what state that qualifies as...
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November 3, 2011 12:22:34 AM

netyoda said:
Dell or Alienware laptops can be customized online and Expedite shipped to you.
Follow their wizard through customizing and include everything you want. If you decide to call Dell, ask them about any sort of 'military discount' which could offset some serious upgrades! Use this link and customize your ultimate gaming laptop but be sure to get your name enscribed on the outside of the laptop. It's a cool option to included. Don't forget the security s/w as well. The starting point I included here is for an i7-based system.

http://www.dell.com/us/p/alienware-m17x-r3/fs


I just went through the wizard and compared to XoticPC they are much more expensive!
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a c 572 D Laptop
November 3, 2011 12:44:05 AM

One of the nice things about boutique builders is you can talk to someone, ask questions and get answers right away. The CEO might be one answering the phone and the CTO might be the one building your his laptop.
http://www.xoticpc.com/ has been around quite a while and has a very good reputation. They're in Nebraska and only Nebraska residents pay sales taxes. And they have military discounts (on select models) and ship to APOs.
And you'll see a good selection of Asus, MSI and Sager/Clevo options on XoticPC.

For BF3 at near max setting and a 1920x1080 LCD screen you want to look for:
Core i7 2630 or 2670QM CPU, 8GB of RAM, and either a GTX 570M / Radeon HD 6990M or GTX 580M, which ever can fit into the budget.

A good starting place and something you can use for comparison with other sites:
Sager NP8170 (Clevo P170HM 17" chassis)
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November 3, 2011 12:44:46 AM

First, sorry for the wall of text.

As, I look. i am going to put a priority on the graphics card. If you want to play Battlefield 3 on high / ultra on a 1080p resolution.. That is gonna require one beast of a laptop honestly. It is gonna be heavy, hot, and drink power like a f150 drinks gas.. I would recommended a I7 processor with at least 3.0 ghz range, 6 gig of ram and something with dual Geforce GTX 5xxm graphic cards. As we all should know that a Gefore GTX 590 is different than a Geforce GTX 590m.


I would recommended something from these most likely..
Here


I noticed you can get what I would call a virtual desktop replacement. They are heavy, but they run can dual graphics cards for slightly over 200.00 over you limit. They also support USB 3.0, it runs triple channel ram, and can get over a 2.20 ghz i7 which is what I mostly seen on newegg... If I had 2 grand to put into a laptop I would look into these people.. Heat may be a issue depending on where he is located at.

I was looking specifially at this model:
Here

but here are the others:
Here

I liked Alienware before they was purchased by dell. Now I feel they are overpriced. The cheapest thing I can find with dual cards is almost 4 grand as the other is 2.2 grand...

Ibuypower appears to have very similar pricing to the sager notebook website. but no dual graphics card.

Also, I was looking at cyber power pc
Here

They seem to be a little higher than Sager notebook, but are close enough in the price range to where I cannot leave them out as a viable option.


In conclusion, I am going to recommend a $2200 laptop before taxes and shipping. However, at this time it does have $100.00 off on it for buying over $1500.00. So it is just under your budget by about $50.00. If I send it to my zip code it is $2,148.95 with ground shipping and tax. When I customized it the only thing I changed was the video card to "Dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M GPU with 1.5GB GDDR5 Video Memory in SLI Mode".

Here

If you want to go 25.00 over your budget you can purchase Their "Guaranteed no dead or partially-lit pixels for first 30 days of purchasing"

Or you could always just make the hard drive better,.

Or for 10.00 under your purchase you could have them use IC Diamond Thermal Compound.. Which will help keep it cooler..

Hopefully this helps you make a decision.

Goodluck.



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November 3, 2011 12:44:53 AM

Yes but you have a name-brand behind you, practically world-wide whereas the smaller vendors might have limited overseas support. I personally have been using Dell for the last 20 years and I have always been happy with both product and support. I agree, you could get something for less but if you are deployed and need service or support, you might want to be onboard with a proven vendor. Just my 2 cents.
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November 3, 2011 12:51:40 AM

netyoda said:
Yes but you have a name-brand behind you, practically world-wide whereas the smaller vendors might have limited overseas support. I personally have been using Dell for the last 20 years and I have always been happy with both product and support. I agree, you could get something for less but if you are deployed and need service or support, you might want to be onboard with a proven vendor. Just my 2 cents.


XoticPC offered a 2yr warranty with overseas shipping which was included in my price and they were still $200 cheaper than Dell was with a 1 year warranty. This was with the same components. I can also get a military discount with XoticPC which wasn't factored into the price.

I'm not impressed.
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November 3, 2011 1:12:38 AM

Sager support Page
Quote:
Every Sager computer comes with lifetime technical support. If you need assistance, please select the appropriate link to help us provide you with the service and support you need. If you don't find what you're looking for, or if you need to speak with a Sager support specialist, click the Request A Call Back link provided.


Warantl options when buying
Quote:
Sager 1 Year Limited Parts and Labor Warranty
Sager 2 Year Limited Parts and Labor Warranty [+$129]
Sager 3 Year Limited Parts and Labor Warranty [+$249]

All Sager Limited Parts & Labor Warranty covers Three-Day Shipping Both Ways Paid for warranty service return. This applies to
end users in the continental United States of America only (Excluding Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. possessions and territories).

For Canada customer wishes to purchase Ground Shipping Both Ways Paid coverage in additional to the Sager Limited Parts & Labor
Warranty please select the Add-on option below.


Warranty Page


Honestly it is up to you to decide what your gonna buy.. good luck
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November 3, 2011 2:56:17 AM

Declivever thanks for the great information!

There seems to be a ton of issues with the Nvidia 5m series and BF3, lots of stuttering as the GPU heats up and it throttles back performance. For that reason alone I am leaning towards the 6990m. It has comparable performance, is cheaper and draws less power. It is capable of playing the game on ultra around 20-30 fps but really does well on high. Some people get it to run around 40-50 fps on ultra with a small OC.

So in short I think a single 6990m as the GPU, would be the best choice.

My main question is what processor should I be looking at?

Intel® Core i7-960 (and subsequent processors) vs the i7 2630QM (and subsequent processors)
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a c 572 D Laptop
November 3, 2011 3:10:09 AM

I've always liked the 6990M from a price/performance perspective.

Either Core i7 2630 or 2670QM will be fine. If you have room in the budget $50 isn't a great deal extra. Make a decision when all the other options you want are covered.
The next question. RAID0 (2x500GB HDD) or 80GB SSD boot drive and 750GB storage drive. Again - let your budget goal decide after you've pinned down all the rest of the options you want.
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November 3, 2011 3:14:54 AM

For optimal performance you may want to look into a i7 960 hexa-core. The 2.0 ghz i7 quad cores may only just be enough.

So IMO i7 960 + 6990M, should be around $2200
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a c 572 D Laptop
November 3, 2011 3:43:44 AM

gmcizzle said:
For optimal performance you may want to look into a i7 960 hexa-core.
When did they add two extra cores to the i7 960?
How much better is the over all performance?
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a c 572 D Laptop
November 3, 2011 3:52:14 AM

You can look at some standard synthetic benchmarks comparing the Core i7-960 and Core i7-2670QM here:
Comparison of Mobile Processors (CPU Benchmarks)

i7 2670QM actually comes out ahead in a few benchmarks - 3DMark06 CPU & SuperPI 32M, plus a couple others.

Uploaded with ImageShack.us
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November 3, 2011 3:59:51 AM

My fault, I thought the 960 was a hexa-core. It's the 980's and above that are the hexa-cores. I agree with WR2.

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Best solution

November 3, 2011 4:40:22 AM

As a comment after I've written this, this was mostly me spacing out after a stressful day (I tend to write more the less I pay attention, rather than the opposite), so sorry for the verbose post. Hopefully it will help you to make an informed decision about what models and upgrades you would find most worth it (at least, to the best ability I have to inform) without being too daunting?

I'd recommend a Sager build (or any other Clevo-based model, really: many resellers price match), personally: they have a great price to performance ratio, some of the best cooling in the desktop replacement industry, and don't have that overly bulky, trying-too-hard, and quite frankly ugly (in my personal opinion) appearance of certain brands like Alienware and Asus. In addition, they're comparatively simple to upgrade down the line. And, as you've already seen, it's hard to want an Alienware when you can see how much more you can get in a Sager for the same price. Specifically, I'd recommend you look at the Sager 8170 (Clevo 170HM). If it turns out that your friend wants a smaller 15" laptop for its more manageable size, the 8150 is certainly serviceable as well, and offers most of the same upgrades. I'll recommend what upgrades I would include were it to be my laptop for that budget (if only). You'll see conflicts with what Declivever recommended, but I'll explain the benefits as I go.

Firstly, I'm basing this off of the upgrades available for the 8170 on Xoticpc. Different resellers may have different available upgrades. It should be noted that I actually recommend against the desktop CPU SLI GPU model Declivever recommended: in almost every instance, I'd strongly recommend a single GPU against SLI GPUs of the same power (which is to say, given the option between either a 580m, 6990m, or SLI 560m, I'd choose the first two over the last one every time). Support for SLI GPUs can be finicky and lacking, and it's simply easier to get a single GPU. Even when they are entirely possible to make, upgrades to laptop GPUs are so expensive after the fact due to the almost complete lack of an aftermarket that it's not as though you'd feasibly upgrade to a higher-powered SLI GPU later. In addition, these laptop models run quite hot, and have basically functionally zero battery life.

Screen: most certainly upgrade the screen: you've got room in that budget to spare, and the upgraded screens are supposed to be amazing. Matte or Glare are really up to your friend's personal preferences (glare will have clearer, brighter colors whereas matte will, of course, be useful outside or in any high-light glare-inducing environment). You might even consider the 3D screen upgrade just for the 120Hz refresh rate, entirely disregarding the 3D capability (or not: that would be up to your friend), but they come with the major drawback of necessitating NVidia GPUs: which may or may not be a problem depending on how you intend to distribute the budget.

For Processors, in my opinion, the 2760qm qualifies as a worthwhile upgrade, but beyond that the diminishing returns make them not worth it (plus, most of the things your friend will be doing will be GPU limited rather than CPU limited, so even this qualifies as overkill, but it has support for some features that the entry-level quad core does not). At the LEAST, be sure you get the refreshed processor (i.e. the 2670 rather than 2630. Because some resellers may or may not still offer pre-refresh processors, if you go with the 2760, be sure to get the 2760, rather than the 2720)

Thermal Compound: From what I've heard said, upgraded thermal compounds reduce the heat of the system by a few degrees Celsius. While this may not seem like much, additional cooling never hurts, especially with the high-end, heat-producing parts you will no doubt include (it would be difficult to build a Sager for that cost without including high-end components). Help keeping your components cool also means you are less likely to overheat and damage the components, helping the laptop's longevity. Essentially, with that budget and the upgrade being only $40, it's basically a "Why not" (though it may or may not be free with the CPU upgrade, I'm not quite sure: I'd ask an Xotic rep).

Definitely upgrade the GPU. The 6990m and 580m are at roughly the same level performance wise and the two highest performing single-card mobile GPUs on the market at the moment. The 6990 is significantly cheaper, and the 580 offers some extra features. The difference in cost, however (the 6990 is on sale right now for $145 for the upgrade, the 580 upgrade is $475: a total difference in cost of $330, pretty much the cost of a SSD boot drive an a storage HDD), makes you question what value those features have for you.

As for Ram, 8gb should be more than plenty for your friends needs, and even that much should actually be in excess of his needs for most games. Gaming, by and large, is not the most ram-intensive task for a computer (in comparison to, for instance, video encoding). However, I'd keep with the two SODIMM version rather than the cheaper four SODIMM 8gb, simply to make it easier (and cheaper) should he desire an upgrade to 16gb down the road. The 1600MHz is also unnecessary: ram clock speed has a negligible effect on performance in comparison to other upgrades, so it's not really worth the money, to me at least.

The 8170 has two hard drive bays (as opposed to the 8150's single). This allows for a SSD as a boot drive and a larger, slower HDD for a storage drive. The Sager bios apparently has some issues with Sandforce-based drives, hence the lack of widespread brand availability for upgrades (at least, on xotic's site). The 120gb 510 6gb/s drive should prove more than sufficient as a boot drive (and for those more loading-screen-intensive games), while still remaining at a comparatively reasonable price point. Don't go for the 320 series, as they are slower 3gb/s drives. As for the second bay, I remember HDD upgrades in it being cheaper than that, which is odd and could just be a fault with my memory. At the moment, it's about the same price to find an aftermarket 2.5" 7200RPM 750gb hard drive as it is to have xotic install one, so it's up to you which you prefer (the advantage of an aftermarket being that you can choose the specific brand and the drive often gets an independent warranty, the disadvantage being that you have to install it yourself).

While there's a little wiggle room in your budget for Blu Ray should your friend want it (or not, depending on other choices), I don't personally find it necessary or even useful. But then, I have a PS3 to handle Blu Rays...should I ever get one.

The wireless card is definitely something you'll want to upgrade: the stock card is supposed to be problematic (as is any stock card), and any of the upgrades will be more than sufficient. Personally, I'd advise the 6230 for its bluetooth capability (and that few if any situations will truly take advantage of the 6300/1103).

The only other (internal) choice is OS: you can get it without an OS installed if you can find Windows 7 for cheaper than $80. Otherwise, Home Premium should be completely fine for gaming, the only limitation really being the limitation of a maximum of 16gb of supported RAM, but I cannot see that as truly posing a problem.

Any remaining room in the budget you have after making it this far can be sunk into a warranty or pocketed, or you can go back over and see if there are any fluffy upgrades that would be nice, but unnecessary.

Simply for the sake of comparison, the closest comparable Alienware m17x (some upgrades are not even potentially available as Alienware upgrades, such as the high color gamut screens) costs roughly $3000, and you can't configure an Asus to have this level of graphics performance.

Wow...This ended up being really long. @________@ Tldr: get a 8170 and make it awesome.
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November 3, 2011 6:02:10 AM

Best answer selected by Cru3lty.
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November 3, 2011 6:02:51 AM

Thank you WR2 and Aeir, together you guys have helped me reach a conclusion on what I should be looking for!
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a c 572 D Laptop
November 3, 2011 10:33:20 AM

Which is?
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November 3, 2011 1:03:42 PM

WR2 said:
Which is?


A Sager barebones with a 6990m, 8 gb of ram, two 500 gb hdd in raid 0 (SSD scares me in a laptop) and an i7 2670 QM.

Most likely it will be a SAGER NP8170 as that meets all those requirements and is eligible for the $35 military discount at XoticPC (not a lot but better than nothing).
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a c 572 D Laptop
November 3, 2011 1:09:11 PM

I guess the discount covers a beer call or two.
Definitely got the the go-fast parts covered.

Any other options? Where did the final cost end up at?
Now that you have a final spec and a price - you can look around and see who might have a lower price and see if Xotic will match.
(But for pricematching, I think you lose any discount options.)
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November 3, 2011 7:28:48 PM

There aren't any other options unless I step up to the 580m or SLI the 560m or 580m. The 580's aren't worth the price to performance and SLI seems to be a huge hassle for minimal gain in a laptop.

Besides I was able to pull up this test of BF3. Which these settings and frame rates are just fine.

Radeon HD 6990M Stock
CPU: Intel Core i7-2670QM
Memory: 8GB
OS: Win 7 64bit
Driver: ATI Beta 11:10

Settings 1920x1080
Texture: Ultra
All other settings: High
HABO: On
AA: Off
AF: 16x
Motion Blur: On

Average: 40-45 fps


So price wise with the 2 year warranty it is looking at about $1820

That was with:
17.3" FHD 16:9 "Glare Type" Super Clear Ultra Bright LED Glossy Screen (1920x1080)
2x 500GB 7200RPM (Serial-ATA II 300 - 16MB Cache) in Raid 0
8GB - DDR3 1333MHz Dual Channel Memory
ATI Mobility Radeon™ HD6990 2048MB PCI-Express GDDR5 DX11
i7-2670QM

It also included an aluminum laptop cooler with dual fans that he can have the laptop rest on to keep it cool for his lengthy gaming sessions.
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a c 572 D Laptop
November 3, 2011 7:37:30 PM

Those are great results in the benchmark you found.
And that - is a great price for 'near desktop' gaming performance in a laptop.

Actually..... I was asking about the lower end options.
Premium thermal compound, accessories, things like that.
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November 3, 2011 9:50:05 PM

WR2 said:
Those are great results in the benchmark you found.
And that - is a great price for 'near desktop' gaming performance in a laptop.

Actually..... I was asking about the lower end options.
Premium thermal compound, accessories, things like that.


The price included the premium thermal compound and them overclocking the GPU for me. I also upgraded the wireless card but the rest of the accessories seemed useless minus the cooler.
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