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Building a Well-Rounded Gaming Laptop: What specs to look for

By midian182
Feb 3, 2016
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  1. There was a time when the phrase ‘gaming laptop’ was something of a contradiction in terms. Back then, very few laptops could manage games more graphically demanding than Solitaire, and those that could run the titles of the day cost twice the price of their desktop counterparts.

    Today, things are different. There are a vast number of quality gaming laptops available that can not only match most home rigs but occasionally outperform them. Additionally, many companies now give buyers the freedom to pick and choose what goes inside their machines. If you’re thinking about going down this customizable route and want to know what components will give you a well-rounded gaming laptop, here’s a breakdown of what’s on offer.

    Read the complete article.

     
  2. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,512   +503

    When I was doing my research for buying a portable gaming beast, this made me sad, AMD is long gone from a probable second into no way josé. AMD normally wins bang for the buck but when going high end, intel and nvidia are the way to go and this is specially true on the laptop market.
     
  3. teddy

    teddy TS Rookie Posts: 57

    At first I look at the cooling system. if it cools under the computer, its not needed to look for anything else. I use asus rog, bc of the way they build the cooling. I think msi is kind of the same, but havent tried it yet. and I change every mechanic hdd in it, to only ssd. I dont like slow system, not matter what. rather take the risk on full ssd in raid 0.
     
  4. H3llion

    H3llion TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,260   +223

    I got a Laptop from PCSpecialists, arrived well and spec wise its pretty strong. The touchpad is bit whack but other than that, a decent purchase.

    So if you are indeed going to be getting a "gaming" Laptop, I recommend these 3rd party vendors rather than something like MSI.

    _____________
    Specs:

    Chassis & Display
    Defiance Series: 17.3" Matte Full HD IPS LED Widescreen (1920x1080)
    Processor (CPU)
    Intel® Core™ i7 Quad Core Processor 6700HQ (2.6GHz, 3.5GHz Turbo)
    Memory (RAM)
    16GB HyperX IMPACT 2400MHz SODIMM DDR4 (2 x 8GB)
    Graphics Card
    NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 965M - 2.0GB DDR5 Video RAM - DirectX® 12
    Memory - Hard Disk
    250GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD, SATA 6Gb/s (upto 540MB/sR | 520MB/sW)
    mSATA/M.2 SSD Drive
    256GB SAMSUNG SM951 M.2, PCIe NVMe (up to 2150MB/R, 1260MB/W)
    Thermal Paste
    ARCTIC MX-4 EXTREME THERMAL CONDUCTIVITY COMPOUND (£9)
    Sound Card
    Intel 2 Channel High Def. Audio + MIC/Headphone + SoundBlaster X-Fi MB3
    Bluetooth & Wireless
    GIGABIT LAN & WIRELESS INTEL® AC-8260 M.2 (867Mbps, 802.11AC) +BT 4.0, vPRO
    Operating System
    NO OPERATING SYSTEM REQUIRED

    Total: £1,149.00 inc VAT
     
    craigcar likes this.
  5. robb213

    robb213 TS Addict Posts: 315   +93

    I try to steer people clear of gaming laptops. I've had numerous friends that go against what I say, and as barely any time passes they get upset with how much they spent when looking at performance ratios. Buyers remorse more specifically.

    Even way back when I wanted one too. All I want now is any laptop with an i3 and above and an SSD, and I'll be a happy boy.
     
  6. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,512   +503

    Had that (Altough it was an i7u line), and a desktop, wanted to remove the having 2 out of the equation, got an alienware and never looked back, 6820hk 980m 16gb and M2+HDD combo (Awesome price on black friday).
     
  7. EvilRebar

    EvilRebar TS Rookie

    Gaming laptops are full of hot components, and a good cooling solution is just as important as your GPU or CPU. All those expensive parts are worthless if they throttle after 15 minutes of play. Good reviewers stress test thermals and record any resultant CPU or GPU throttling.

    Also, I'd strongly recommend against a 3K or 4K resolution display. Those extra pixels really suck power, and it can easily be a 20% hit on battery life. While gaming laptops are meant to be plugged in while playing games, other use cases (e.g. surfing in bed or watching movies on a flight) rely on power efficiency.

    I myself own a MSI GS60 Ghost Pro (GTX 870M), and it's a bit of a mixed bag. Performance is great (albeit without really punishing games, as I usually play DOTA 2, Diablo 3, and the like), but battery life - even just browsing around - is exceedingly short. If I was to make a purchase today, my list would be as follows:
    -No throttling/good cooling solution
    -GTX 965M or better
    -At least 6 hours wifi surfing time per charge; more is better
    -Good build quality
    -Professional looking laptop (I can't take something with lights and sharp edges to a client meeting)
    -<6 lbs
     
  8. Julio Franco

    Julio Franco TechSpot Editor Posts: 7,059   +646

    I think Rob wanted to make this piece manufacturer agnostic since there are many to choose from and we have full reviews of individual laptops for that (Razer, Origin, MSI, Alienware, etc... glaringly missing Asus ROGs since they won't send us samples).

    With that said, I think he nailed the "well-rounded" part by recommending the GTX 970M, hinting on what to look for in CPUs, and avoiding 4K gaming laptop displays for now. Now, I've seen two opposite sides of gamers buying laptops, some don't mind the 17" beasts that weight a ton, others prefer a laptop they can use and carry around often without the bulk.

    I personally side on the latter, so going with Rob's advice and my own needs, the Razer Blade likely gets closer to what I would buy (4 lbs!)
     
  9. fps4ever

    fps4ever TS Booster Posts: 80   +59

    I have an HP w/Intel 6300HQ cpu gaming laptop upgraded to 16MB and a Samsung 250GB EVO. Best upgrades you can do for a laptop. I also opted for a combo laptop cooler I can set on my lap while gaming. Really helps keep temps under control and isn't to big and bulky. I do agree with the 970M minimum as the 960M you will have to turn settings down in some modern games at 1080P. Just don't go cheap on the GPU part and you should be OK.
     
  10. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Enthusiast Posts: 62   +39

    The problem is gaming laptops are not an answer to gaming or portability but rather a settlement. It fails to work as well as a similar priced desktop for gaming and lacks the portability of an easy to carry laptop. I also tell people to steer clear of them unless the gaming laptop truly delivers for someone's specific niche.
     
    robb213 likes this.
  11. deemon

    deemon TS Addict Posts: 206   +48

    A laptop today without 3G/4G modem and GPS is complete failure. Gaming or not.
     
  12. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 866   +277

    Um... Why on Earth is that a necessity in today's data-tethering world? Especially if you have a hulking gaming laptop that probably isn't moving THAT often - wifi (if not wired) internet will almost certainly be available...

    And almost all locations where one would be gaming (we're not talking just net-surfing here) are going to have internet!!

    Lastly, pretty much everyone these days has a cell phone - so if you actually find a place without wifi, you can always tether your phone to your laptop.
     
  13. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 866   +277

    Quite the costly laptop to only stick a 965 inside....for those specs, I'd think a 970 would be bare minimum, if not the 980...

    I purchased a refurbished Alienware 18 just about 2 years ago for $500 (pretty sure the guy on eBay meant to type $5000 as he was selling a bunch of others for 5k) - Dual 8GB 880s (the 980 didn't exist yet) and 32GB RAM...Was sad when it got discontinued, but I would still recommend a laptop that offers dual graphics cards if you're going gaming laptop.

    Clearly I'm on the "giant beast" side of the gaming laptop debate, but I rarely travel and use my laptop in only 1 or 2 places...
     
  14. cldmstrsn

    cldmstrsn TS Booster Posts: 101   +51

    Damn. This had me excited that I could finally build my own laptop. oh well.
     
  15. Cameron Cooper

    Cameron Cooper TS Rookie

    Any one know where I can buy parts to make my own laptop ?
     
  16. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 866   +277

    It really depends.... Most laptops you simply have to buy - then u can put upgrades in (either 3rd party or offered from the specific retailer).

    For any upgrading not via retailer (that is, buying an upgraded CPU from Dell for an Insipron, etc) eBay, newegg, amazon, BestBuy are good places - If you have any PC shops nearby, they can be goldmines as well...

    If you have specific parts in mind (like, I want a 980MX, etc), Google could be your friend... Honestly though, the pain and aggravation of building a laptop from scratch is almost certainly not worth the bother - just buy one the way you want it... or really close and make easy upgrades like RAM or SSD....
     
  17. madd0g17

    madd0g17 TS Rookie

    I found a pretty sweet spot with the Dell Inspiron 7000 (15") series! It has a i5-6300HQ, 8GB DDR3L, GTX960M (4GB GDDR5), 74WHr battery, 1080p screen, and a backlit keyboard. While it does have a few downsides (DDR3L vs DDR4, hybrid HDD, only the 960M), for only $780 (including tax + shipping) you really can't beat it! I can easily swap out the HHD with an SSD I had upgraded to in my old laptop. It also has bluetooth 4.0 which is nice for using some headsets on the go. Best of all, it can double as a "work" laptop since it's not an obnoxiously "gamer"-style laptop. And even while gaming, the battery lasts 7+ hours!
     
  18. H3llion

    H3llion TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,260   +223

    No other Laptop on the market had the required cpu/ssd/m2 setup at 17.3" so I opted in for this custom built which is pretty decent. I understand the 965m isn't the cookie cutter card, not anywhere near however for what I play (my main rig handles everything at 1440p other than Star Citizen) is more than enough. That is, Dota 2, CS:GO, Rocket League and light GTA5.

    I am eyeing out a Surface Book for next year but we'll see. I think the build you have purchased was still outside of my budget (easily £1.6k in UK).
     
  19. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,512   +503

    Of course you can build an awesome $1500 desktop, but that is not the point here. To me it's the answer to both gaming and portability, and will be even more so when the new 13" alienware gen hits the market.
     
  20. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Enthusiast Posts: 62   +39

    Then you are part of the niche who need a laptop but also want to game on it.
     
  21. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 866   +277

    Well yes... I believe that's the entire point... that "niche" is driving a fairly profitable market....hence all the gaming laptops for sale :)
     
  22. evolucion8

    evolucion8 TS Rookie

    Around late 2011, I purchased myself an Asus G74sx and had serviced me well but aged fast on the GPU department as it had the GTX 560M which was the best bang for the buck as the GTX 580M would consume twice the power and only offer a 30-40% performance boost while killing the battery much faster. Plus it came plagued with issues like the PROCHOT bug that would downclock the CPU to 800MHz when the GPU was working at 100% and hardware assisted encryption which was also disabled (Asus after sales support is a joke). Searched on a forum and flashed a modified BIOS that allowed me to disable PROCHOT (It would throttle down the CPU even at 60C for no reason) and had hardware assisted encryption. Later on I sold it and bought an open box Alienware 17 R1 which has a Core i7 4710MQ and a Radeon R9 M290X (Decided to ditch nVidia as their current architecture reliance on driver patches to perform makes them age too fast) and I am very satisfied with the performance. It comes with a 1080p panel and I was able to max Fallout 4 and runs like nothing, some Enduro issues every now and then like one or two games running on the Intel IGP but nothing is just easy to fix by forcing the game to launch on the Radeon. Also it gives me full 3 hours and 15 minutes of web browsing and videos and around 45 minutes of gaming. I have a gaming desktop but for those days that I want gaming on the go or just be on my bed gaming, gaming laptops are a good alternative and I only paid $850 on a bid lol.
     
  23. Aindreas

    Aindreas TS Rookie

    Ive been running an rog g750 series laptop for over 2 years now. Ive never felt any form of heat from it (other than from the air at the back). Compared to my previous laptops where frying an egg while playing was a serious option this is bliss. And as far as I know less overheating results in a much longer lifespan of the laptop.

    Also, I took it apart to install more ram the other week and thought to myself 'I might aswell clean the dust', as my room is a little dusty. Well, to my surprise, no dust. 2 years of having and fans spinning and there was only one tiny speck of dust in a corner (where there were no components). This is a sweet bonus of having a well designed dual fan setup. I can only strongly recommend the g750 series, but would advise to get nothing but a dual fan system when thinking of getting a gaming laptop.

    One last note, if looking for one amazon sometimes have unbelievable offers on laptops (though usually not from amazon, but from the 'new and used' section). But beware, if you see a brilliant offer it may be gone by the time you refresh the page...
     
    teddy likes this.
  24. teddy

    teddy TS Rookie Posts: 57

    yeah I had g75 and now a g750 :) just wish asus put the disc drive on right side and stick on left side :p instead of usb/lan/hdmi on right side, where the gamer has its mouse. but for the cooling, I never had or have any heat troubles :) intel and nvidia ftw :) amd would proberly burn bc of its heating problems and high temp.
     

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