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Help picking out a gaming laptop

Last response: in Laptop Tech Support
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February 25, 2012 7:33:18 PM

Well I'm new to the PC gaming world, but would like to join my friends who have all gone exclusively PC. I'm going to be going to college soon, so I need a laptop. Longevity is my primary concern over performance, I honestly don't mind playing on minimum settings at 30 fps or so, I would just like to play the latest games for (preferably) 3-5 years. I wouldn't mind having to upgrade some parts down the line if I need to as long as it isn't ridiculously expensive (more than $500 or so).

General Questions

1) What is your budget? $1500 or less

2) What size notebook would you prefer?

Around 15" but willing to sacrifice for performance or price

3) Where will you buying this notebook?
U.S.

4) Are there any brands that you prefer or any you really don't like?
nope

5) Would you consider laptops that are refurbished/redistributed?
Yes.

6) What are the primary tasks will you be performing with this notebook?
gaming/net browsing

7) Will you be taking the notebook with you to different places, leaving it on your desk or both?
mostly staying on the desk, occasionally taking it with me places.

8) Will you be playing games on your notebook? If so, please state which games or types of games?
The latest games (bf3, etc) and any new games for preferably 4 or 5 years on at least low with 30fps.

9) How many hours of battery life do you need?
Very few, mostly going to be used on wired power

10) Would you prefer to see the notebooks you're considering before purchasing it or buying a notebook on-line without seeing it is OK?
I don't need to see it in person.

11) What OS do you prefer? Windows (XP or Vista or Windows 7), Mac OS, Linux, etc.
windows 7

Screen Specifics

12) From the choices below, what screen resolution(s) would you prefer?
No real preference, top of the line resolution/colors is not really what i'm after. Cost is the biggest determinant for screen resolution.

Build Quality and Design

13) Do you want a Glossy/reflective screen or a Matte/non-glossy screen?
Again, I don't really care much one way or the other, color intensity/contrast is not a huge concern. Probably matte if i had to choose just for flexibility of where I can play.

14) Are the notebook's looks and stylishness important to you?
Not even a little

15) When are you buying this laptop?
next month or 2 unless I can save a lot waiting a bit

16) How long do you want this laptop to last?
as long as possible, at least 3-5 years
Notebook Components

17) How much hard drive space do you need; 80GB to 640GB? Do you want a SSD drive?
not much, 500 GB its probably fine. SSD is not necessary.

18) Do you need an optical drive? If yes, a CDRW/DVD-ROM, DVD Burner or Blu-Ray drive?
Yes, optical drive would be good if I can afford it in my rig. DVD burner is not needed, blu-ray might be nice for future-proofing if games start to be released in that format.

Edit: here's something I dug up, http://www.xoticpc.com/sager-np8150-clevo-p150hm-p-2972...
Is this a decent deal? Or, do you think I could get away with buying http://www.xoticpc.com/force-16f2012-msi-16f2-p-3376.ht... with an i7 2630 and still get the longevity Im looking for, or at least save enough money to make a later upgrade more cost efficient?

here's some new misc questions:
How upgradable are these laptops?
would it be worth getting the upgraded wireless cards if I plan on playing online games using wi-fi?

Thanks for any help!

More about : picking gaming laptop

February 28, 2012 3:45:53 AM

80 page views and no response =/. I could really use some advice here! I'm really starting to lean towards the MSI 16f with an i7 processor http://www.xoticpc.com/force-16f20 [...] figure=yes, I've read a few reviews of such a build and they've reported about 40 fps on bf3 ultra with no AA. I just need to know if that will last me a while for gaming if I lower settings down to min and upgrade it a bit as new games come out (3-5 years?), or if I need to shell out a little more, and if I need the upgraded wireless card for online gaming.
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February 28, 2012 6:38:40 AM

I think if you really plan on keeping this for around five years, you should spend the extra $150 and get the Sager with the 6990m for significantly more performance than the MSI with the 570m.

I read an article comparing a bunch of wifi cards (can't find it now, it was tom's hardware or anand I think) and it began by explaining why it was so hard to come up with good tests that would provide consistent results to make the comparisons meaningful. The Killer card shone if the laptops were running multiple things at the same time (streaming, bittorrent, games). That said, I believe the conclusion was that if you managed your internet usage on the laptop yourself, the Killer didn't have much to offer; if it was other computers on your network using up all your bandwidth, the Killer would do nothing at all; and if you were gaming, you really should just use a wired connection. Still, at the end of the day, the Killer cards were coming out ahead, even if only a little, and if you're going to game wirelessly, I think every advantage helps.
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February 28, 2012 8:23:06 PM

First off, thanks for the reply!
I was afraid of needing to get the sager. Unfortunately the sager is closer to $400 or $500 more than the MSI, which after you add os and word processing software(I had forgotten about those) its really stretching me past what I'm comfortable paying for this. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't it be cheaper to either upgrade the graphics card myself in a few years when the prices are lower on them, or simply buy a whole new laptop since other parts will need an upgrade soon anyway? Paying $500 more for 10%-20% more power in the gpu doesn't seem like a great return. However, if you really think I need the extra power to save money in the long run I'll go ahead and check out some laptops with a 580m or a 6990. Thanks again.
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February 28, 2012 9:17:12 PM

Libre Office is free and will do you just fine for college productivity software. You should only get MS Office if your school is giving it to you for free or if your department/professor absolutely requires it. I got deducted on my history final last semester because Libre Office messed up my footnotes a little when saving as a Word .doc. I still got an A, and I saved $100 or whatever they're charging :D 

I'm seeing $1454 for the Sager:
-100 discount
-50 getting 8gb ram in 4 dimms instead of 2 dimms
killer 1103
windows 7 home premium

and $1297 for the Force
i7-2630qm
500 gb 7200 rpm hard drive
killer 1103 with 3rd antenna
windows 7 home premium

Which makes it a 15% increase in cost for a commensurate increase in performance. Up to you if you want to make that jump or not.

Upgrading laptop video cards isn't really a thing. If you want to get a middling laptop now and then upgrade to another middling laptop in 2-3 years, that will definitely cost more in total, but that cost will be spread out. In 5 years that second middling laptop will be performing better than a 5 year old high end laptop. There are ups and downs to this course of action, but it's definitely viable.

But that wasn't your original question. You said you wanted something to last as long as possible, and that was the criteria I had in mind when I gave my answer.

So I guess now you need to decide which you actually want to do. Do you want something to last you until graduation, or something a little less powerful and a little cheaper to be replaced a couple years down the road?
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February 28, 2012 10:31:35 PM

Sorry for being vague and/or doubling back on what I originally asked, I'm wasn't entirely sure myself what I wanted or needed.

I Didn't factor in the $100 sager discount and the hard drive/ram changes, which would explain my bad numbers. Is there anything bad about sticking with the 5400rpm stock hdd in the MSI besides overall slower load times? Also, is the jump from 570m to the 6990m/580m level cards really significant enough to add 2-3 years of life onto playable life of a laptop(and by playable I mean 800x600 on min settings at 20-30fps) and save more cash in the long run? Sorry for being so annoying about all this I know you said that earlier, but I'm kinda a cheap bastard and really want to be 100% sure before I make a big purchase like this.

edit: I have also heard that AMD gpu's have driver issues, especially for older cards. Considering I'm going to be keeping this a while, will it become and issue for me?
Here's a rough build of what I'm looking at after mulling is over and most likely deciding to go with the sager:

Sager NP8150
15.6” FHD 16:9 LED Backlit Wide screen (1920x1080) Super Clear Glare Type Screen
2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i7-2670QM, 2.2-3.1GHz, (32nm, 6MB L3 cache)
ATI Mobility Radeon™ HD 6990M 2048MB PCI-Express GDDR5 DX11
-Stock OEM Thermal Compound
8GB - DDR3 1333MHz Dual Channel Memory (4 SODIMMS)
500GB 7200RPM (Serial-ATA II 300 - 16MB Cache
Bigfoot Networks Killer™ Wireless-N 1103
~Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit Installed (64&32-Bit CD Included) w/ Drivers & Utilities CD's + Microsoft Office Starter 2010
Any suggestions for this? Especially with your experiences w/ matte vs glossy screens.


Thanks for being so patient and helping me out with all this!

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February 29, 2012 5:09:07 AM

Disk drive: the only difference is speed, but it can be a huge quality of experience difference. Waiting 25 seconds instead of 20 seconds for a level in a game to load isn't much of a difference, but when you're clicking on your browser icon and then staring at your desktop waiting for it to open, eight seconds feels like way more than five. The really big difference comes with the upgrade to a solid state drive; the increased responsiveness and increase in the quality of the user experience, the feeling of speed, is so great that many people say the best upgrade you can get for any computer is a SSD. Honestly, if that were my computer or one I were recommending to a friend, I would get the 5400rpm to use as a storage drive, and start saving up $100 for a 60 GB ssd, but that's my personal opinion.

GPU: Nvidia does have better driver support (if the 580m weren't stupidly overpriced, I'd suggest that over the 6990m in a heartbeat), but both companies start neglecting their old cards when the next generation comes out. The fact remains that the 6990m is enough better than the 570m that the 6990m should still be more powerful. However, if what you're looking for is just playable after 2-3 years, the 570m will definitely work; I only suggest the 6990m if you want to stretch to 4 or 5 years.

Matte vs glossy is a purely personal preference, so you'll have to make that decision on your own.

And don't worry about asking so many questions. I'm just glad you're listening :D  People like to keep their options open, especially when they're not sure what the options are, so a lot of people asking for help can be pretty vague and even contradictory. I still like doing this :) 
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February 29, 2012 1:45:28 PM

Well thanks for all the help, looks like I'm gonna go with the Sager 8150 and save money in the long run, you have really been a life saver in all this. Thanks again. :) 
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March 7, 2012 4:16:05 AM

Sorry if I'm necro posting, but I came back from vacation and before I ordered I saw I could get the MSI w/ a 580m for about the same price if I budget in some areas:
2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i5-2430M, 2.4-3.0GHz instead of an i7,
Bigfoot Networks Killer™ Wireless-N 1103 (3x3) (Includes 3rd Antenna) instead of Bigfoot Networks Killer™ Wireless-N 1103 (3x3)
and 640GB 5400RPM 8MB Cache Buffer (Serial-ATA II 3GB/s) instead of 500GB 7200RPM 16MB Cache Buffer (Serial-ATA II 3GB/s)
so I'm just wondering if the weaker cpu will be a bottle neck for gaming, or if the higher graphics card will give me any performance increase over the sager with a 6990m w/ and i7? And does the 3rd antenna on the wireless card give a significant boost?

edit: I also see that the 580m supports CUDA, which is helpful for programs like matlab which I may be using going into an engineering major. How big of a difference would CUDA make and again would it make the 16f superior to the sager?

edit: It seems the sager 8150 has been taken down from xcotic pc, and replaced with the sager 8151, which is the same thing except the 6990m is swapped out with a 560m. Anyone know what happened/where I can get a 8150? The only place I could find it was directly from sager and they were $100 more than xcotic pc due to less options.
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