Update: When buying a gaming laptop now–in Q3 2011–it should definitely be built around a 2nd-generation Core processor from Intel (Sandy Bridge). These CPUs are built with a 32nm manufacturing process and offer the best overall performance as well as the best performance per Watt. AMD machines based on the new A8 Fusion APUs are also an interesting alternative for gamers on a budget–particularly if equipped with the new dual graphics solution (integrated + discrete). The latest news in the graphics department is the AMD Radeon HD 6990M, which is the fastest mobile GPU at the moment,closely followed by the NVIDIA GTX 580M.
The latest top GPUs are available as an optional upgrade for the Alienware M18x (GTX 580M SLI or HD 6990M in CrossFireX) and M17x (GTX 580M), all laptops from Origin PC (GTX 580M, single/dual or 6990M), the MSI GT780 (GTX 570M) and a few others. ASUS’ latest iteration of its popular 17-inch Republic of Gamers laptop–the G74Sx–with the GTX 560M GPU from NVIDIA is also available now.
The high-end alternatives in HP’s Pavilion lineup, the dv6t and dv7t Select/Quad Edition, are still viable options for gamers when configured with the Mobility Radeon HD 6770M graphics card. HP has also added a 1080p panel option for these laptops that lets them compete with similar high-end offerings.
Current Alienware Coupons:
1. Take an additional $50 off any Alienware laptop configured at $999 or more (that would be pretty much all of them) with the coupon code: BHW1L0MX0D?MCX
If you are looking for the most powerful laptop in the known universe, there is no doubt that the Eon 17 from Origin PC is it. However, you will have to account for the fact that it’s just barely a laptop–it is based on the Clevo X7200 and uses desktop processors, so you can equip it with a hexa-core (12 threads) desktop Core i7 Extreme Edition and up to 24GB of triple-channel DDR3 RAM. On the graphics side you can configure this monster with dual Radeon HD 6990M’s in CrossFireX or Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M GPUs in SLI.
The most powerful mobile GPU solutions on the planet in combination with desktop processors make this laptop’s performance unbeatable, with the rather obvious downside that it will only run for up to an hour on battery. Other than that it also has room for three hard drives or SSDs in RAID 0, 1 or 5. It’s a large, heavy, and if you want all the bells and whistles, very expensive machine, but this kind of performance comes at a price.
The Alienware M18x is now available with dual NvidiaGTX 580M graphics cards in SLI or dual AMD Radeon HD 6990M GPUs in CrossFireX. Simply put it’s an exceptional gaming laptop that will handily defeat quite a few gaming desktops in terms of frame rates and visual bliss. Either of these solutions will let your games run at the 18-inch display’s native 1080p resolution with most or all of the details maxed out.
It can also be equipped with other GPUs in CrossFireX/SLI or a single video card. It comes with a choice of 2nd-generation, quad core Intel Core i7 CPU, the fastest of which is a factory overclocked i7 Extreme Edition that runs at 4GHz in Turbo Boost mode.
Other features include USB 3.0, 1600MHz DDR3 memory, the usual AlienFX back-lighting artillery, as well as optional WirelessHD that lets you stream lossless Full HD video and audio to an external HDTV or other setup. The base model starts at $1,999 and includes a 2GHz quad core Core i7 and a single GTX 460M.Note:
Use the coupon code BHW1L0MX0D?MCX to take an additional $50 off the price tag.
The M17x has also been given the GTX 580M treatment, although this smaller (relatively speaking) Alienware gaming machine can only house a single GPU configuration. Pretty much every component in the M17x is configurable.
There’s a choice of high-end Nvidia or AMD GPUs, up to 16GB of RAM, various quad-core Core i7 processors, 1600×900 or 1920×1080 panels and dual hard drives or SSDs in RAID 0. It is also available in a 3D version that includes the mandatory 120Hz panel and Nvidia 3D Vision kit.
The base model ($1,499) includes a GTX 460M, but from a price/performance perspective, the Radeon 6970M upgrade is very attractive. This GPU is not quite as fast as the GTX 580M, but considerably faster than the GTX 460M. Unfortunately it is not eligible for an Nvidia 3D Vision upgrade.
Use the coupon code BHW1L0MX0D?MCX for an additional $50 off.
The brand new 17-inch EON 17-S from Origin PC is now available with either of the two fastest mobile GPUs ever–the GTX 580M from Nvidia or the HD 6990M from AMD. The engineers over at Origin PC have also managed to get the latest quad-core Core i7 Extreme Edition to run at up to 4.8GHz in Turbo Boost, thus beating even the mighty M18x in the CPU department. In combination with the fastest single-GPU graphics solution on the market and (in its class comparatively) lightweight chassis (8.6lbs) this is a very desirable laptop.
If you don’t want to pay a premium for the fastest of everything, you can also opt for the base configuration, which includes a capable GTX 460M. The EON 17-S has four memory slots with room for up to 32GB of DDR3 1333MHz or 16GB of DDR3 1600MHz. Moreover, it has room for dual hard drives or SSDs that can be configured in RAID 0 mode. Or you could use an ultra-fast Vertex 3 as the boot drive and a secondary 7,200rpm hard drive for storage.
The Asus G74Sx is a high quality gaming laptop; reasonably cool and quiet, and not as bulky as many 17-inch desktop replacements tend to be. Moreover, it is relatively inexpensive compared to the closest competitors, but still delivers more than decent gaming performance thanks to the new GTX 560M GPU from Nvidia with higher clock speeds and better power management compared to the GTX 460M that it replaces.
The G74Sx is also available in a 3D edition called G74Sx-3DE, which is equipped with an Nvidia 3D Vision kit and a compatible 120Hz panel. Both the 3D and non-3D versions have 1920×1080 resolution screens.
MSI’s brand new 17-inch GT740R represents a new direction in design for the company’s gaming laptops. It has a multi-color backlit keyboard designed by SteelSeries that resembles those from Alienware. What makes this and other high-end MSI laptops interesting is the TDE (Turbo Drive Engine) feature that automatically overclocks the CPU and GPU by up to 30%.
The standard issue is equipped with a quad-core Core i7-2630QM CPU, 12GB of DDR3, a 750GB hard drive and a GeForce GTX 560M. However, there’s also a GT740DXR that comes with the considerably faster GeForce GTX 570M.
HP has finally updated its premium Envy lineup with the latest 2nd-gen Core platform from Intel, resulting in both improved performance and less heat. The result is an exclusive machine with lots of customization options including a 3D version with similar hardware but a 3D-ready display.
Both versions also ship with the AMD Radeon HD 6850M with 1GB of GDDR5. This hardware is quite impressive considering the thin and (for a 17-inch laptop) lightweight chassis that surrounds it.
Qosmio is Toshiba’s premium entertainment brand, so the most surprising aspect of the X775 is the affordable price point for the entry models. For less than $1,200 (at this writing) you get a capable desktop replacement with a Sandy Bridge Core i5 CPU and more importantly for gamers–a GeForce GTX 560M to take care of your gaming needs.
There are other and considerably more pricey configurations available though; some with quad-core CPUs and 3D kits, but the base model should hold up pretty well in just about any game thanks to the powerful GPU.
Here’s a laptop that is actually available with the latest Intel platform – the quad-core edition of the HP Pavilion dv7t. You can order it with a range of 2nd generation Core i7 CPUs, and the graphics department is handled by a Mobility Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB of GDDR5 (the latest GPU in the 6700 series).
This gives the dv7t and it’s 15.6-inch counterpart the dv6t plenty of gaming power considering the highly affordable (in relative terms) price tag. HP currently includes the 6770M in the base configuration of the Quad Edition, which is great.
The latest revision of the Dell XPS 17 desktop replacement came with some major upgrades – most importantly the latest Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs. Another nice perk is an included 3D Vision kit from Nvidia (optional), powered by a capableGeForce GT 550M or the faster GeForce GT 555M GPU (same as the M14x).
As usual with Dell, there are lots of upgrades available although the base configuration is quite powerful. But if you want a gaming model, the GPU upgrade to a GT 555M is highly recommended.
The M15x has been decommissioned in favor of a the more portable M14x, so if you want the Alien head logo and all the extras that come with an Alienware laptop, but prefer a more portable version than the M17x, the M14x is a much more convenient alternative. Like all laptops from Dell it can be customized with a wide range of components, including a number of different 2nd-generation quad-core Core i7 CPUs with eight threads.
In the graphics department, there’s an Nvidia GeForce GT 555M with either 1.5GB or 3GB of video RAM. This one isn’t quite as fast as some of the alternatives in the M15x, but it comes in a more portable package. Other options include a 1600×900 WLED panel and a fast 256GB Samsung solid state drive. The M14x also comes with the latest and fastest 1600MHz RAM.
Note: When shopping from Dell, use the coupon code BHW1L0MX0D?MCX for an additional $50 off.
The new GT683R from MSI is generously equipped with very powerful hardware for its size. It has the recently updated GeForce GTX 560M that replaced the GTX 460M and brought some higher clock speeds to the table. It’s also equipped with the standard-issue quad core Intel Core i7-2630QM as well as 12GB of RAM.
Just like the larger MSI GT780 it also comes with MSI’s proprietary overclocking technology TDE that boosts the CPU/GPU clocks by up to 30% with the push of a button. A version with the model name GT683DXR is also on the way, which will come with an even more powerful GTX 570M from NVIDIA.
When Asus updated their excellent G51JX and G51JX 3D with the DX11 capable GeForce GTX 460M graphics card, it became an even more interesting option in the 15.6-inch segment, not least for its attractive price tag.
The GTX 460M easily produces scores above 10,000 in 3DMark 06 and plays any recent game in high resolution. In all other aspects, the G53JW is highly reminiscent of the G70 series and comes with a 1080p display, a quad-core Intel CPU and a backlit keyboard.
HP’s Pavilion dv6t is the more portable version of the dv7t, and just like it’s bigger counterpart, the Quad Edition of the dv6 comes with a choice of the latest quad-core CPUs from Intel as well as a Mobility Radeon HD 6770M GPU from AMD.
This adds up to an affordable yet powerful 15.6-inch laptop, capable of playing all the latest games without breaking the bank. Another plus is that HP has taken the design of their premium Envy lineup and applied it to the Pavilion series. The result is a nice-looking laptop with a lot more performance under the hood than what meets the eye.
The Alienware M11x wins the title for smallest and lightest gaming laptop on the planet. Make no mistake – in spite of its size it clearly qualifies as a gaming machine, especially in its 3rd iteration with brand new low-voltage Sandy Bridge CPUs and an Nvidia GeForce GT 540M. In combination with the small screen and comparatively low (1366×768) resolution it can run any recent game on medium or even high detail settings.
The latest coupon code for $50 off the M11x R3 is: BHW1L0MX0D?MCX
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. No amount of tweaking or optimizing will substitute better hardware. 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 as of July 2011 is the AMD Mobility Radeon HD 6990M closely followed by Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 580M.