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SLI & Centrino 2: Gaming Laptops Battle

SLI & Centrino 2: Gaming Laptops Battle
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Roundups of any sort are always tricky. Matching apples to apples is rarely possible, and the brand loyalists are always quick to defend their build of choice. So we made this roundup easy. We reached out to some of the most prolific names in gaming notebooks and asked them to send us their best and brightest example of a gaming machine. Price be damned, we wanted to see some stunning performance numbers.

Alienware's m17x--sleek and stylish

Four vendors—Alienware, ASUS, Eurocom, and Killer Notebooks—responded to our call. The other big names you might expect to see in a cage match like this all came up with reasons to pass. Dell preferred to have Alienware represent its best efforts (R.I.P. XPS?). VoodooPC’s Envy is armed with Intel’s GMA X3100 integrated graphics core and is not suitable for gaming in any capacity. Falcon Northwest wanted to wait for new graphics adapters, and though they became available toward the tail end of our testing, the show had to go on. And OCZ’s Hypersonic brand didn’t have anything available at retail. Nevertheless, we still managed to round up a motley crew of performance-oriented systems at a number of different price points.

The insides of ASUS' G71V

The first, Alienware’s m17x, got out of the gate before anyone else with Nvidia’s new GeForce 9800M GT graphics adapters—in SLI, thanks to a bridge chip mated to Intel’s PM965 chipset. It also boasts 1 TB of storage, a Core 2 Extreme CPU, and perhaps the classiest chassis design we’ve ever seen. Last month we took a look at Alienware’s smaller m15x. While that notebook was a solid piece of kit, the Area-51 m17x is decidedly more tenacious in its approach to mobile performance.

Next up, ASUS’ G71 represents the first Centrino 2 laptop design to land in our labs. Its hardware manifesto is significantly more mainstream than the configuration that Alienware sent in. However, there’s something to be said for a fully modern notebook with the latest power-saving technology. We expect the G71 to serve up a better balance between price, performance, and battery life.

There's a GeForce 9800M GT under Eurocom's copper cooling

Eurocom’s exotically-named Montebello is the third offering in our line of potent portables. Smaller than the other three contenders with a 15.4” LCD, it effectively hides Intel’s fastest dual-core mobile processor, the latest Centrino 2 platform, and an Nvidia GeForce 9800M GT graphics card inside a fairly pedestrian shell. This one’s probably the biggest surprise in the bunch.

Finally, Killer Notebooks submitted its own weapon of mass destruction, the Odachi. Laden with a 3 GHz desktop processor, two of the fastest mobile GeForces in SLI, three 7,200 RPM hard drives striped together, and 4 GB of DDR2 memory, it’s the gun in this knife fight. But you do give up some aesthetic appeal in favor of all that muscle.

Read on as we introduce the hardware in each notebook, get hands-on with look and feel, and benchmark each machine in our standard suite of tests.

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  • 3 Hide
    kitsilencer , September 24, 2008 9:05 AM
    From a money point of view, it's never going to make sense buying a gaming laptop. Scaled down performance and inability to upgrade are issues.

    But it sure as hell feels good having one ^___^
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 10:57 AM
    Hey, that aint green...
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , September 24, 2008 11:24 AM
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-notebook-roundup,2023-6.html
    "shipped the system with a 64-bit copy of Vista Ultimate (Alienware included x32 Home Premium)."
  • 2 Hide
    ap90033 , September 24, 2008 12:01 PM
    4 Grand? Are you guys nuts? I would say that right there would rule out about 90% of us normal gmaers..

    Besides the gaming scores looked weak imo..

    I personally thought it was a better idea to go get a Gateway P7811FX with a single Geforce 9800GTS. It plays Call of Duty at 1920x1200 max settings around 50FPS. AND it cost me ONLY $1249 (Plus Best Buy let me pick any game I wanted for FREE!)
  • 0 Hide
    jas39 , September 24, 2008 1:01 PM
    what about www.xtremenotebooks.com?
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 1:07 PM
    agree with kitsilencer, gaming laptop is never practical.

    even with a beast graphics card, you'd be pretty hard to get more than 2 hours of shitty performance.

    get a gaming desktop and perhaps an EEE or iPhone for travelling. my iPhone has 20+ games and enough media (don't forget TV connector for watching films in hotels) to keep me busy for more than one week away from my gaming rig.
  • 0 Hide
    ap90033 , September 24, 2008 2:10 PM
    oops cant spell "gamers" lol
  • 0 Hide
    ap90033 , September 24, 2008 2:13 PM
    Not true my "Gmaing Laptop" is great at LAN Parties and I play it for 6-8 Hours straight there...

    I think maybe you had a bad experience with a laptop that claimed to be a "gaming" laptop. I bought one before like that and it have an 8600M Geforce and it Sucked bad... If you get a good laptop with say a 9800gts or so you would be suprised...
  • 3 Hide
    GlItCh017 , September 24, 2008 2:15 PM
    ap900334 Grand? Are you guys nuts? I would say that right there would rule out about 90% of us normal gmaers..

    99.90%
  • 2 Hide
    ap90033 , September 24, 2008 2:22 PM
    PS gaming laptops hold value much better than desktops. I had one I paid 1250 for, had it for a year, then sold it for $1100 and bought the newer "upgraded" model that just came out for $1250. I got an Upgraded CPU (From Core 2 1.67 GHZ to Core 2 Centrino 2 2.26 GHZ), Memory (from 3 Gigs DDR2 667MHZ to 4 Gigs DDR3 1066MHZ), Hard Drive (faster), Video Card (from 8800gts to 9800GTS), Screen (from 1440x800 to 1920x1200) and OS (From 32 bit to 64 bit). Not bad upgrade for $150 or so!
  • 4 Hide
    frozenlead , September 24, 2008 2:43 PM
    Yeah, I'm a student at a university, and I find my laptop invaluable. Saves tons of space on my desk, and can play any game maxed out - save crysis, where I have to lower the res - with 60fps or more. I payed $2500 for it, too. It gets 2 hours on the battery. I haven't ever run into a situation where I needed it and it was dead.
  • 1 Hide
    groo , September 24, 2008 3:50 PM
    There are many types of people that I can think of that would be better off with a gaming laptop.
    Truck driver's, students, profesionals on the move or frequent travelers.
    then there are people who like low electrical bills.

    and most of these people can use thier laptop plugged in.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 5:00 PM
    "Although they come from a previous generation of named graphics processors, the GeForce 8800M GTX GPUs used in Killer Notebooks’ Odachi are actually better than the 9800M GTs used in Alienware’s m17x. Again, chalk it up to poor naming on Nvidia’s part.

    From an architecture standpoint, the two mobile components are similar. Both center on the G92M GPU manufactured at 65 nm. Both include 96 unified shader processors fed by 512 MB of GDDR3 memory on a 256-bit bus. Where the components differ is clock speed. The 8800M GTXs boast 560 MHz clocks, 1,400 MHz shaders, and 900 MHz memory. All three figures are faster than what you’ll get from the 9800M GTs."

    These are overclocked, it has nothing to do with poor naming by Nvidia.
  • 1 Hide
    theworminator , September 24, 2008 6:07 PM
    Gaming laptops have their niche in the computer world. It's obviously not as big as a gaming desktop, but it's definitely there. This is also a competition of which laptop is the best (in performance, value etc), not if gaming laptops are viable.

    Either way, it's always fun to watch Alienware's overpriced creations get thrashed. Go Killer Notebooks :D 
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 6:48 PM
    Well, the review does a great job of pimping Alienware & one of the most expensive Clevo resellers (Go KillerNotebooks? They're way overpriced too). You can get equivalent ones cheaper at other resellers, and no, it's not $4k at these places, for the same notebooks.

    Try $1800ish for the 15inch Montebello equivalents (same as Eurocom's price or thereabouts), with a much better cooling design than cheaper systems (Gateway 7811x's - which should have also been reviewed in here, as well as a few others). Ah well.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 6:54 PM
    Base price for the D901C at other resellers (Power Notebooks, XoticPc - Sager resellers, ProStar, Lynnbay, Eurocom) is $2090 starting. Sure you can put in overpriced (currently) dual cards and tack on $1200, and put 3 overpriced RAID'd hard drives and pay a lot more, or you can do it yourself, save money and/or put one card in and upgrade later. So yeah, pretty over the top pricing estimates (And I've priced KillerNotebooks, at least for the M860TU 15.4inchers, and they've come out to $700 more - ouch).

    Decide what's worth the price. $850 extra for an extreme CPU? No.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 8:31 PM
    Um, isn't the point of all this to build the fastest notebook? Money no object?

    Well Done Killer Notebooks!

    The Silk Pigs

  • 0 Hide
    radguy , September 24, 2008 8:55 PM
    Its nice to see these charts but I watched prices at bestbuy on the gateways P-6860FX all summer and picked it up when it hit 1150. I wanted something that could play games on the go and I think the 1000-1500 dollar gaming notebook range is about to really open up. As price is really an issue for most of us and while they sacrafice some specs they can play games. Maybe we can get some more reviews on cheaper gaming notebooks hint hint.
    Side note: I really wanted something smaller so I'm hoping that the 15.4 inch gaming notebooks become more affordable.
  • 0 Hide
    Luscious , September 24, 2008 10:34 PM
    The Gateway P-7811FX is a useless piece of trash. I went through 5 bad units from two different BB stores because they would all lock-up and freeze 5-20 minutes into any game I played.

    About the only positive I could say about it was that the CPU, RAM, HDD and optical drive were all user-replaceable. The WUXGA screen had backlight bleeding problems and the GPU gave decent framerates in Crysis at 1920x1200, until the damn thing froze...

    I find it difficult to see that there is no viable option between a $1300 Gateway and a $4000 boutique build. $2000 could get you all the parts for a top-performing 17" gaming laptop. Why those wingnuts haven't figured it out yet is beyond me.
  • -1 Hide
    jtnstnt , September 24, 2008 10:45 PM
    Well the 6860-fx is now $809 dollars at select best buys with 1.83ghz dual core and 8800gtx gpu and a 320gb hard drive
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