Hello again Blokes, this week I’m not looking at any particular gadget. Rather, I am looking at a class of gadgets. One that we have been asked time and again to provide more coverage on by you, our readers. It’s incredibly difficult to condense a subject which is so varied right down to just a couple of paragraphs! So, without further ado, here’s a NZBLOKES lowdown on Gaming Laptops.
Firstly, as a class of devices, they are some of the fastest evolving products on the market. A strong consumer desire for portability has led to the rapid evolution of a set of high-performance, low-power consumption portable devices which, whilst not cheap, are closing the performance-per-dollar gap to the more traditional PC Desktop.
In the last 24 months particularly, we’ve seen the rapid evolution of the “slim and light” gaming laptop: Devices such as the Razer Blade, Origin EVO15-S, Maingear Pulse 15, CyberPower Zeusbook Edge X6 (which is hard to say after a couple of cold ones) and Alienware’s upcoming 13-inch device are all boasting maximum thickness of under 1 inch, and a marked decrease in weight versus a lot of existing 15-inch laptops. These devices are at the top of the price scale, frequently sitting north of $3,000 but are able to boast some seriously impressive specs for their dimensions. Naturally, some of these devices are up-and-coming, and even fewer are available in New Zealand, but there’s still no shortage of options.
The serious considerations, and ultimately a couple of our recommendations will be covered over the coming weeks. Here’s what you can expect to read about:
• General considerations (This article)
• Component selection
First and foremost, $3k + is an awful lot of money. If you’re considering a gaming laptop, you should know that this isn’t even the most that you could spend on one, it’s actually what you should expect to pay for something that will last you for about 2-3 years. Heck, I just spent 5 minutes looking at the Alienware 18 and managed to rack up a price north of $8k by making 3 changes to their recommended options (CPU, GPU, and Windows 8.1 Pro). This is obviously a particularly extreme example, but it’s the kind of thing that could catch you by surprise if you’re just having a look at what’s out there.
So, what form factor should I choose?
This is a tough one to answer outright. There are so many more choices for the gaming laptop buyer these days than 5 years ago. Before you settle on a form factor, there are 2 or 3 things you should seriously consider.
1) How important is portability? It may sound dumb to consider this, after all, it’s a laptop! But, it is also much easier to lug around a 13-inch screened slim and light laptop than it is to carry an 18 inch screened beast. You will have to compromise on thermal capabilities(which equates to noise generated when gaming) and internal hardware selection (pure performance), but it won’t cause you a backache.
2) What games will I be playing on this and at what settings? If you’re hoping to get a 3k screened gaming monster and want to run upcoming games at max settings in native resolutions, you’re pointing straight to the top of the market. You will spend a lot of money. If you don’t have the budget to accommodate your ambition, you’ll still be able to find plenty of highly capable mid-range gaming notebooks.
3) What do I want it to look like? Odd as it seems, laptop manufacturers tend to go fairly extreme when they’re releasing their gaming notebooks. You’ll end up making your decision based almost as much on how your laptop looks as well as what’s under the hood.
Okay, but why should I expect it to last only 2-3 Years?
Well, laptops are almost always an absolute pain to upgrade. Component layout isn’t standardised, and most manufacturers will make it very difficult for you to do any custom upgrades outside of new Hard Disk Drives, or upping the RAM of your system due to how they fix components in place on their laptops. You’ll often find your big performance pieces, such as your CPU and GPU have been effectively glued into place on your laptop, and cannot be removed or upgraded. Since the price of upgrading the system board would add up to effectively buying a new laptop, then most manufacturers would rather just sell you a new laptop. There are some exceptions to this, particularly if you invest in a laptop which has a MXM based Graphics card (I’ll cover this a bit more in the manufacturer / Component selection pieces) but again, you’ll pay for this privilege.
Okay, so what does 3k buy me?
Depending on where you look, heaps!
For a start, here’s one from Asus’ Republic of Gamers line of laptops, the G750-JS. It’s packing a 17.3″, 1080p screen, a mid-range Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, and a very capable Nvidia GTX 870M Graphics card. It’s available for slightly under $3,000 if you look around some NZ-based vendors.
Alternatively, you could pick up an top specc’d Alienware 14 for the same price. For your money, you get a smaller form factor, a weaker graphics card (GTX 765M vs GTX870M, which is about a 40% performance drop), but the rest of the hardware is pretty comparable.
If, however, you’re looking at something relatively small, with a high end graphics card, then you could always look at something like this: the MSI GS60 2PE GHOST PRO, which is about $3.4k. You’ll get the same CPU/GPU combo as per the Asus, with the benefit of a slim and light chasis, and a pair of SSD’s in a RAID configuration (it’s super-fast to load up Windows, and any games you load onto the SSD’s).
These are just 3 of the options.
Unfortunately, we don’t get many test samples through here (We’re working on that though! – Ed), but I do make it a habit to keep up to date on what’s happening in notebook tech-land.
In the next part, I’ll talk about some of the manufacturers that you can choose in New Zealand, their relative merits and what you can expect to get for your money.
Thanks for reading, and please leave some comments / feedback if you currently own a gaming laptop, are thinking of buying one, or just want to weigh in on this subject – alternatively, you can reach me at: Dave@theempire.nz