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, at least 4GB 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 the latest discrete GPUs from ATI or Nvidia, 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. The 18-inch Alienware M18x is also worth looking at if you are willing to go all in with dual-GPUs.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,499 ($1,699 as configured)
Processor: Intel Core i7-2630QM 2.0GHz Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6870M 1GB
Memory: 8GB DDR3-1333 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 640GB 7,200RPM HDD
Display size: 17.3" (1600x900) Optical: Blu-ray reader
Weight: 11.6 lbs Battery: 9-cell

Clevo X7200

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. AVADirect is one of the first such vendors taking orders for systems equipped with dual Radeon HD 6990M GPUs, which is faster and cheaper than Nvidia's GeForce GTX 480M.

Starting at $2,120 their Clevo X7200 Gaming Notebook is based on Intel's X58 platform and supports four- or six-core desktop-class processors, up to three 9.5" hard drives or SSDs, and up to 12GB of RAM. Some notable features include a 17-inch 16:9 LED Display (1920x1080), a Bigfoot Killer Wireless-N 1102 internal Wi-Fi adapter, two USB 3.0 ports and HDMI.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $2,120 ($2,737 as configured)
Processor: Intel Core i7-960 3.2GHz Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6990M 2GB
Memory: 12GB DDR3 (3 DIMMs) Storage: 120GB SSD, 500GB HDD
Display size: 17.3" (1920×1080) Optical: 8X DVD Dual Layer Burner
Weight: 12+ lbs Battery: 8-cell (~2 hours)

Asus G74SX

Asus' newest powerhouse, the 17-inch G74SX-A2, is a well specced gaming notebook powered by a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 12GB of RAM, discrete Nvidia graphics with 3GB of RAM, and a 1.5TB HDD -- with the option of throwing in an SSD for some added responsiveness as well as a 3D display for an immersive gaming experience.

Like its predecessor, the G74SX design was inspired by sharp polygonal shapes, but this time inspiration came from the US Navy’s Sea Shadow stealth ship and modern day aircraft carriers. Other specs include a full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution display, Blu-ray drive and a decent assortment of ports, including one USB 3.0, three USB 2.0 and HDMI. The system supports 3DTV Play from Nvidia, which projects HD graphics from the notebook to any compatible 3DTV via HDMI 1.4.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,800
Processor: Intel Core i7-2630QM 2.00GHz Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M 3GB
Memory: 12GB DDR3 Storage: 1.5TB 7,200 RPM
Display size: 17.3" (1920×1080) Optical: BD Combo
Weight: 9.4 lbs Battery: 8-cell (~2 hours)
Other noteworthy options for gaming

Alienware M11x and M14x

A gaming-capable machine that you can easily take on the go. These 11-inch or 14-inch systems combine the same 'Stealth Black' looks of their bigger brothers with a second-gen Intel Core processor and Nvidia graphics with Optimus technology to improve battery life.

Price range: $700 - $1,100