back to article Graphic designs: Six speedy 17-inch gaming laptops

Gaming laptops have a reputation for being big and heavy and providing battery life that is counted in minutes rather than hours. Slowly, though, increased power efficiency in both CPU and GPU designs has given rise to a new generation of gaming laptops that are at least semi-portable. Designs such as MSI’s 22mm Stealth Pro …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ouch, my wallet hurts.

    1. Lee D

      Quite.

      But I tend to look upon these not as "gaming laptops" but "this is the only PC I'll need for the next few years".

      I've used "gaming" laptops (some with WASD marked out in dots so you can feel them when gaming etc.) as my exclusive machines for years. Buy once, pay over the odds, still load all your games on Steam for years to come and still functions as your primary machine. Mine goes to work every day, all my evening stuff every day, all my gaming stuff every day, away with me on planes to watch DVD's etc. on holiday, and it's the only machine I use for work, play and just browsing. That, and a smartphone for connectivity if I'm out in the sticks.

      I've used both MSI and Samsung laptops intended for gaming like this for the last 8 years at least, and it's great. No bulky desktop but gaming power. No huge screen and speaker setup but can plug into any HDMI TV wherever I am with all my games. No great battery life but enough to last a flight and power enough to do ANYTHING (movie transcoding etc. are greatly helped by powerful GPU's and to have a huge beast of a processor in a laptop just shows up all the Macbook Pro crowd).

      If you buy one of these, you're going to be using it for everything you do. It's not going to be like the gaming machine in the basement that get 100fps but which you can't Google from comfortably and don't want to drag round people's houses for gaming nights. As such, the cost is reflective. £1000 for a laptop seems like the prices of 20 years ago, but the capability to have a gaming rig capable of anything that you can take anywhere, and not even have to sign out of your work account for, is great.

      My MSI gaming laptop lasted 5 years before I broke the hinges. But that was 5 years of morning browsing, then travel to work in the car / on the train, then 8 hours of work, then travel back home, then 6-8 hours of TV, browsing, streaming, downloading, work, gaming (including an over-clock button that voids your warranty and 80 degree temperatures coming out of the graphics card), going on holiday with me, etc. That's a lot to ask of a machine and a £200 Acer just won't cut it for long under that kind of stress. Hell, I used to score the local cross-country runs and swimming galas on it, so it spent a good portion of its life wet and/or muddy. I could do that AND still work on stuff for the schools I worked for.

      I replaced it with an overpowered Samsung that I've still got and which just recently laughed at the Steam version of GTA V - so it's still good going several years after I bought it. And it's got something ridiculous like 12 cores - my compile times are phenomenal compared to what I'd get on a "must slow down because of battery life" laptop.

      Gaming laptop = best of every possible world. Get me a gaming laptop that I can convert to a tablet-size and I'll pay as much again. Sadly, batteries to support that amount of power are never light, nor small. And, notice, these laptops have several hard drives. One of them 2 SSD's and a spinning disk! My Samsung has twin 1Tb drives. That's enough to separate work/games, run RAID, etc. on which is not a normal laptop feature. And proper 1080p. And serious amounts of connectivity. And power enough to do SLI (!) or when you plug into a 36" TV at home.

      Cheap laptops can't get close to this. I've seen laptops costing £400 that can barely run Age of Empires II HD on Steam, and that's a remake of a 15 year old game that doesn't use the 3D card for anything but blitting. To have RAID, SLI, etc. in a battery-backed unit costs - and £1000 is barely the price of a decent laptop from that "other" manufacturer that doesn't have those features.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        To be fair Age of Empires II HD is a poorly optimized and buggy title, although it is fun and the biggest map size is hilarious. Run something like Morrowind/Oblivion on the same machine, then ask yourself why a refresh of a tile-based game from 1999-2000 runs so bad. And it's not just the largest map and population sizes that run bad from what I remember. To use that game to judge the performance of a £200-400 laptop is misleading. Today's £300 laptop is an incredible piece of cheap tech, and both AMD APUs and Intel integrated graphics can tackle many old titles just fine. Games with broad graphics settings help too.

        Wow, wtf is this: "On April 15, 2015, developer Ryz0n announced a new expansion for the game." Maybe there's hope yet.

  2. Sir Sham Cad

    Razer Blade Pro - HOW MUCH?

    According to Bezos' Bargain Basement Bazaar, a Razer Blade Pro will set me back well north of 2 grand! The Gigabyte reviewed here looks a proper bargain compared to that.

    Not that I can afford any of them but one can dream.

  3. Ian 62

    Resolution?

    Are they all really only 1080 native screens?

    With the power they're packing, and that they're 17" screens, would actually including a better panel increase the PRICEY price tags any much higher?

    1. Inspector71

      Re: Resolution?

      That's exactly why I am clinging on to my Thinkpad W700 for dear life. Call me a 16:10 diehard.

    2. Banananas

      Re: Resolution?

      I've been waiting for 3K screens for well over a year but there dont appear to be any panels available yet. Annoying as the 15" versions all have 3K and 4K options

  4. IsJustabloke
    Meh

    There is nothing stealthy...

    about a bright red lappy.

    I dunno but I really don't think these things represent good value for money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is nothing stealthy...

      Maybe not good value compared to an entry-level basic 15" laptop (or even a 17" one if you can find one). Compare their spec and price with an Ultrabook and although they can't match the weight and size, they are considerably more powerful and reasonably priced... Compare them with a MacBook and they're a bargain. And upgradeable.

  5. Jim 59

    The other thing gaming laptops are good for - apart from gaming - is just to be a desktop PC replacement. Smaller laptops, "notebooks" and the like, apart from lacking power, don't have the hardware and ports needed for general computing life. Eg DVD, USB, ethernet, VGA (for multiple monitors or overhead projectors), SD reader and so on.

    Yes, you might argue DVD or whatever isn't needed, but life is simpler if you have it.

  6. John H Woods Silver badge

    My son's Bargain Gaming Laptop ...

    1) an old T420 from fleabay with a decent i7, 16GB RAM, 128TB SSD for OS and 1TB Hybrid SSHD for Content (£300 + £100)

    2) a Village Instruments eGPU box with a PCI-E interface (£100)

    3) a decent PCI video card for the above (£200)

    4) (optional) external monitor (£200)

    Not only does he get a cheap, tough laptop with decent battery life, but when plugged into the other stuff, back at the dorm, he gets framerates that challenge your average gaming laptop. Feeding the video back into the laptop, rather than an external screen, it's eminently playable (60fps on fairly high graphics settings for many games), but on an external monitor, the frame-rate for any given graphics setting is approximately double (I presume the constraint is the speed of the PCI-E).

    Not as portable as any of these covetable boxes, but pretty good going for an impoverished uni student who is away from his home gaming rig for whole WEEKS at a time :-)

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: My son's Bargain Gaming Laptop ...

      "128TB SSD "

      ?

      1. Anonymous IV

        Re: My son's Bargain Gaming Laptop ...

        I think the "128TB SSD" is what we techies call "a typo".

        These are often discerned and silently compensated-for by the intelligent mind.

        1. Ragarath

          Re: My son's Bargain Gaming Laptop ...

          128TB at that price bargin!

    2. Naselus

      Re: My son's Bargain Gaming Laptop ...

      I still use a T420 as my backup machine for when I'm away from the ninja-bastard desktop, too. It's a damn good baseline machine considering how cheaply you can find them nowadays; it runs Microstation and 3DsMax quite happily for work purposes and runs most of the heavyweight games at reasonable resolutions. Considering it only set me back about £300, it's proven a very sound investment.

  7. Kane Silver badge
    Joke

    Yes, but...

    ...Can they run Crysis?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yes, but...

      More seriously, if any of them can run 'Planetary Annihilation' smoothly I'll be impressed. Its big on GPU processing, requires several gigs of DDR3+ ram on the video card and the latest spec hardware OpenGL support.

      Sadly my trusty old Mac Pro workhorse, which has 8 x 3GHz cores, a ton of memory and what was once the nearly top of the range GeForce card just can't cope with this game, despite happily playing team Fortress, Borderlands, etc perfectly fine.

  8. breakfast
    Mushroom

    LeNOvo

    If I was reading this with a view to buy, the Lenovo would certainly seem like a good buy, until you realise that as a non-business user they're going to be spying on you with their pre-installed spyware.

    1. Lee D

      Re: LeNOvo

      Your OEM licence from MS explicitly gives you the right to wipe and reinstall a clean OS.

      Maybe you can't with the restore disks supplied, but anyone with a brain enough to know about the Lenovo debacle and be worried about it can easily do a clean install of Windows on their fresh machine with the same licence.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: LeNOvo

        As an owner of a Lenovo Thinkpad Edge, I highly recommend rebuilding the machine from a clean OS to get rid of all the shit that Lenovo have bloated and corrupted the OS with.

        Never mind the Ts and Cs, just do it. You paid enough for the machine - screw em.

  9. Mayhem

    Clevo laptops

    The other trick if you are in the market for a gaming laptop - do it yourself.

    Clevo is a Taiwanese company that specialises in designer laptops, that are rebadged and sold through OEM partners like Sager, Schenker or Eurocomm.

    You can literally specify what hardware you want in the chassis size you like, and prices are surprisingly reasonable, probably due to the order and then they build it philosophy.

    It is also a good source if you are looking for a high res matte screen on a business laptop, instead of the lousy glossy 1440x900 rubbish we tend to see today.

    1. Vector

      Re: Clevo laptops

      I just recently picked up a Clevo w230ss and, so far, it's been quite nice. It's little (13.3 inch, I'd been looking for a small gaming rig) yet still packs gaming laptop specs (core i7, Geforce 860, FHD screen, couple of mSata slots) all for about US$1000. It runs a little hot (not much space in the case for airflow) but not unbearable.

      I certainly won't own another ASUS rig for the forseeable future. Nice specs, nice price, horrible quality control. I had a G53sx that I had to crack open and re-paste the entire GPU board. Then the center pin of the power port broke off (had that happen on 2 different ASUS machines). Finally gave up when the GPU shot craps.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clevo laptops

        Had problems with Asus with the G75VW range (Nvidia 670m). Asus just aren't doing a good enough job with their customer service. Hell no one in the PC arena helps anymore.... What can gamers do?

        1. danwat1234

          Re: Clevo laptops

          My Asus G50VT gaming laptop is still going strong; running seti@home on the 9800m GS video card nearly 24/7 along with the CPU for years now and no failure. Though the main screen backlight went out but that was cheap to replace.

  10. danwat1234

    It's too bad most of those don't have upgradable CPUs

    All or almost all of the laptops including the latest MSI and Asus laptops just offer soldered CPUs, not socketed. This means you cannot have a 4940MX Haswell Extreme CPU in these laptops, which offers wicked fast X86 performance especially when you overclock with Throttlestop. Asus used to have a socketed CPU in their top of the line gaming laptop, I think the Asus G75, but after that, soldered.

    MSI's GT60 and GT70 laptops, which are only a year or two old, heck even has Intel Haswell inside, has a socketed CPU. But their newest laptops like the GT72 and the GT80 (Which is marketed to be super upgradable) does not!

    It's a trend, and I think it is via pressure by Intel. These big computer companies won't admit to that but what other reason is there?

    It is nice to be able to have a high end gaming laptop, which can also have superior x86 computing power, or offer a chea[ performance boost via a CPU upgrade when the laptop gets to be older.

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