March 3, 2011

Gaming Laptops: Because Every Hardcore Gamer Needs One

Every year, there appear to be fewer and fewer differences—in terms of capability, at least—between laptops and desktops. Until recently, we never took notebooks seriously as gaming platforms; their smaller size generally limits the space for components and cooling—two things no true gamer should ever be without.

With high-performance dual- and quad-core processors, high-end graphics cards (some with two), plenty of memory, and speedy hard drives, today's gaming laptops prove that gamers need not be tethered to their desks (or desktop PCs) to engage in high-performance gaming. And the best part: they're not all ridiculously expensive.

This list is based on either actual or estimated gaming performance, factoring in the hardware specification (especially the graphics card,) relative to the laptop’s size. We also look at the price/performance ratio. Consider it a rough guide to what’s out there as of early 2011.

1. Alienware M17x R3

Alienware has been around for more than 10 years and is now firmly established as the #1 gaming PC brand, much thanks to its recognizable Area-51 alien head logo. It is now owned by Dell, which continues to serve gamers worldwide with configurable and funky-looking Area-51 laptops. The latest version of the M17x comes with a choice of quad-core Intel Core i7 (Sandy Bridge) processors and a Radeon 6870M or GeForce GTX 460M GPU, the latter with Nvidia 3D Vision support. While we lament the apparent loss of SLI graphics, we like the fact that the updated base model now starts at just $1,499.

2. ASUS G73 Republic of Gamers

The Asus G73 is still one of our favorites; it’s a high quality gaming laptop, reasonably cool and quiet, and not as heavy as most 17-inch desktop replacements tend to be. Moreover, it is relatively inexpensive compared to the closest competitors, but still delivers excellent gaming performance. It is now available in a third generation; G73SW with Intel Sandy Bridge CPU, dual Seagate hybrid hard drives and a GeForce GTX 460M. But the older G73JH (Mobility Radeon HD 5870, check out our full review here) and G73JW (also GTX 460M) are still in the game.

3. MSI GX660

Today you don’t have to go with a 17-inch or larger desktop replacement to get good gaming performance. Case in point is the GX660 from MSI, which comes with the high-end Radeon 5870 graphics card previously only found in larger and heavier laptops. It’s available with both the more power efficient, dual-core Core i5 processor (with Hyperthreading), as well as a GX660R variant with a quad-core Core i7 CPU.

4. Asus G53JW Republic of Gamers

When Asus updated their excellent G51JX and G51JX 3D with the DX11 capable GeForce GTX 460M graphics card, it became an even more attractive option in the 15.6-inch segment. The GTX 460M easily produces a score above 10,000 points in 3DMark 06 and plays any recent game in high resolution. Otherwise, the G53JW is highly reminiscent of the G73 series and comes with a 1080p display and a quad-core Intel CPU. Only this one is smaller.

5. Alienware M15x

The M15x is a trimmed down version of the M17x and looks almost exactly like it, only smaller. Like all laptops from Dell it can be customized with a wide range of components, including a Core i7 Extreme CPU with four cores and eight threads. In the graphics department, there’s a choice of Nvidia or AMD graphics cards; the GTX 460M or Mobility Radeon 5850. Other options include a 1080p WLED monitor and a fast 256GB Samsung solid state drive. The base configuration includes 6GB of DDR3 RAM, upgradable to 8GB.

6. MSI GX740

For gamers on a budget, the GX740 from MSI offers an excellent FPS/$ ratio. The base model comes with an Intel Core i5 CPU and the same powerful graphics card as several other laptops on this list–AMD’s Mobility Radeon HD5870 with 1GB of DDR5. At 7 pounds, this 17-inch gaming notebook is actually lighter than the 15.6-inch Alienware M15x, if portability is an important factor. It is also available in a slightly more expensive version with a Core i7 CPU.

7. Toshiba Qosmio X505

Toshiba is not as well known for gaming laptops as some of the aforementioned manufacturers–rather for building good quality but boring business laptops. A notable exception is their high-end Qosmio desktop replacements, which are more than capable of playing a few games. This is especially true for the latest versions of the 18-inch X505 (model numbers Q892, Q893, Q894 and so on), which come with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M and 1.5GB of GDDR5.

8. Clevo X7200 (AVADirect)

Clevo is the Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) behind brands such as Sager, AVADirect and others. The X7200 is probably the most powerful laptop in the world right now–mainly because it uses some desktop hardware. This 15-pound beast can be customized with a 6-core (12 threads) desktop Core i7 Extreme, 12 gigs of triple-channel DDR3 RAM, three hard drives/SSDs and dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 480M–the fastest mobile GPU at the moment. If portability isn’t that important for you–and you have about $5,000 to spare–you can become a proud owner of this colossus.

9. Acer AS8943G

The 18-inch desktop replacement from Acer with the colorful name AS8943G is a very nice looking aluminum laptop with capable hardware. It has a 1080p Full HD display, Intel quad-core CPU and last but not least a Mobility Radeon HD 5850 with 2 gigs of GDDR3. Due to slower memory and clocks, it is not quite as fast as the HD 5870, but still fast enough to play all of your games.

10. HP Envy 17

HP’s Envy series was probably not built with gamers in mind first and foremost, but the Envy 17 should have no trouble running the latest games at fluid frame rates. The sleek, MacBook Pro-inspired 17-inch Envy is equipped with a Mobility Radeon HD 5850 and configurable with a Core i7-720QM (1.6GHz quad core) and other high-end Intel CPUs.

There are lots of factors to take into consideration when choosing a good gaming laptop; hardware, build quality, features you value personally, and of course the price tag. As for the hardware, the graphics card plays the key role in a gaming notebook. Sure, the processor is very important for overall performance, as is the hard drive (or preferably: SSD), but at the end of the day the graphics card is what determines the frame rate and whether your games are playable.

To play the latest titles at high resolution with all the detail knobs turned up, you are going to need a powerful GPU. Both AMD (formerly ATI) and Nvidia have highly capable mobile video cards on the market. In bigger, 17-inch plus laptops, you will also find them in dual GPU configurations–called SLI or CrossFire for Nvidia’s GeForce and AMD’s Mobility Radeon series, respectively. The fastest mobile graphics card at the time of writing is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 480M, followed by the Mobility Radeon 6870 from AMD.

Credits: CNet, ComputerShopper, BestGaming Laptop

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  1. Wish i had more money to buy one of those but all of them are way to expensive :(

  2. Hey Paul. They may be expensive but they're all worth spending your money on. :)

  3. Your post is really good providing good information.. I liked it and enjoyed reading it. Keep sharing such important posts.
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