Gaming Machines

Serious gamers will lean toward desktop computers for their flexibility when it comes to upgrading and the sheer power of their components. However, if mobility is a priority, there are some solid choices in this category. Intel's Core i7 processors are recommended for gaming, as well as a top-of-the-line discrete GPU from ATI or Nvidia, 4GB to 8GB of RAM, and up to a terabyte worth of storage.

Similar to desktop replacements, most gaming laptops are large, heavy and usually lack in the battery life department. There are a number of specialized brands and boutique shops that will let you customize their products with all the latest components and even tailor their looks to your taste. Naturally they'll also charge a nice premium for it.

Alienware M17x R3

Alienware's range-topping M17x was updated with a second-gen Intel quad-core processor and AMD Radeon HD 6970M graphics, while also receiving some styling tweaks to refine the overall appearance. This resulted in a slightly thinner and lighter form-factor compared to its predecessor, but it's still massive as far as notebooks go.

The M17x starts at $1,499 and the price ramps up quickly as you start adding options. If you're willing to part with the cash, you can add a solid-state drive, up to 24GB of RAM, Blu-ray drive and Nvidia's 3D Vision support. The M17x also has a built-in WirelessHD transmitter, which lets you beam movies, games, and anything else you want wirelessly across the room to a big-screen TV.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,499 ($1,649 as configured)
Processor: Intel Core i7-2630QM 2.0GHz Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6870M 1GB
Memory: 4GB DDR3-1333 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 320GB 7,200RPM HDD
Display size: 17.3" (1920x1080) Optical: DVD burner
Weight: 9.4lbs Battery: 9-cell

Maingear Titan 17

If you don't mind stretching your budget to well over $2,000 for a few extra perks and top notch personalized service, there are a number of boutique PC shops waiting to take your order. Over at Maingear, for a hefty $2,799 you'll get a 17-inch gaming beast with two of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460M in SLI mode plus a desktop-class Core i7-960 CPU running at 3.2GHz.

You can opt for Intel's fastest desktop processor, the Core i7-990X Extreme Edition, up to a pair of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 485M graphics cards and up to three hard drives or solid-state drives. Some notable features include the 16:9 LED Display (1920x1080), a Bigfoot Killer Wireless-N 1102 internal Wi-Fi adapter, two USB 3.0 ports, eSATA and HDMI ports, and a FireWire port.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $2,799
Processor: Intel Core i7-960 3.2GHz Graphics: 2x Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M 3GB
Memory: 6GB DDR3-1333 (3 DIMMs) Storage: 500GB Seagate Momentus XT 7,200 RPM
Display size: 17.3" (1920×1080) Optical: 8X DVD Dual Layer Burner
Weight: 12lbs Battery: 8-cell (~2 hours)

Asus G73SW-A1

Asus' stealth fighter-inspired gaming notebook recently got the Sandy Bridge treatment. A minor variant from the G73Jw in our past guides, the G73SW-A1 boasts an Intel Core i7-2630QM processor clocked at 2.0GHz, Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M graphics, 8GB of DDR3 memory, a Blu-ray disc drive and a full terabyte of storage capacity.

Other specs include a full HD (1920 x 1080) 17-inch display, a backlit keyboard and a decent assortment of ports, including one USB 3.0, three USB 2.0 and HDMI -- but still no eSATA. The system supports 3DTV Play from Nvidia, which projects HD graphics from the notebook to any compatible 3DTV via HDMI 1.4. If you are really into the 3D thing, the $2,000 G73SW-3DE variant features a 3D display and comes bundled with 3D Vision Glasses for you stereoscopic enjoyment.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,794
Processor: Intel Core i7-2630QM 2.0GHz Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M 1.5GB
Memory: 8GB DDR3-1333 Storage: 500GB 7,200 RPM with Hybrid SSD x2
Display size: 17.3" (1920×1080) Optical: BD Combo
Weight: 8lbs Battery: 8-cell (~2 hours)
Other noteworthy options in this category

Alienware M11x

A gaming-capable machine that you can easily take on the go. This 11-inch system combines the same 'Stealth Black' looks of its bigger brothers with an overclockable Intel CPU. The M11x is due for an update early April, but in the meantime older models are still being offered at a hefty discount.

Price range: R3 model TBA / R2 going for $600