Kotaku Gift Guide: Gaming Laptops

Gaming laptops — are they always a good idea? Some might argue that cost/hardware ratio means that a fully beefed up desktop is always the better option, financially speaking, but there's something about the seamless design of a slick laptop — along with the obvious benefits of portability — that makes a laptop an attractive purchase. We take a look at some of your options.

Money To Burn

Alienware laptops are notoriously pricey, but that's the target market — folks with cash that don't want to scrimp in any area. The MX18 almost cranks the $4000 mark — you could buy a car for this price, but it would be terrible car. This laptop is not terrible, therefore you should buy a ridiculously expensive laptop instead of a crap car — that's just science. Alienware MX18: $3,999

A Man Of Moderate Tastes

This was by far the trickiest price range to deal with. Gaming laptops are either ludicrously expensive or... ludicrously expensive. You can go down to budget laptop range for most PCs, but mid-range laptops are usually mid-range because of the features, not necessarily what's under the hood. Eventually we settled for the HP Pavilion dv7-6b00, mainly because of its beefy processor. HP Pavilion dv7-6b00: $1,799

Cheap, But Still Good!

Gaming laptops tend to be expensive by definition, so if you want to buy a laptop for gaming that isn't expensive, you have to find laptops that provide specification bang for your buck. We believe that the Dell XPS 17 is a decent example of this. You can buy it direct from Dell's website for just over $1000. Pretty decent deal. Dell XPS 17: $1,199

What do you think? Are gaming laptops worth buying? Any suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.


Comments

    you forgot the Asus models, they are pretty good. Problem with gaming laptops are there price: you can get a 2x as power desktop for half the price. And the battery life is crap, you have to be always plugged in or you wont get more than 2 hours outter most.

      yeah the Asus Republic of Gamers range is great, about on par with the alienwares on specs, but >$1000 cheaper. When you buy Alienware, you are paying alot just for the name and fancy lights. (Although, I admit, they are quite nice ;D)

      Completely missed probably the best value for money gaming laptops available in Australia, Metabox or Horize, or any of the custom builds that are based on Clevo hardware. Clevo is an ODM that makes basic hardware for a range of OEM laptop resellers (this used to include Alienware before Dell bought them for the brand recognition), and they produce high quality customisible laptops.

      Example: http://www.metabox.com.au/P151HM1.asp

      This is the laptop I purchased 3 weeks ago, with the basic configuration, cost me around AU$1300. For a Sandy Bridge i7, GT560M and 8GB of ram that is an absolute steal. All other laptops I looked at from the big brands (Alienware, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus) all only had GT555Ms and below in their 'top of the line' machines, which were more expensive. For those not in the know, there is 3 versions of the GT555M, all are vastly outperformed by the GT560M, which is considered the lowest spec of the high end mobile video cards (bested by the AMD HD6990M and GT580M, and SLI versions).

      It runs BF3 on high / ultra settings at well over 30FPS and I haven't had any issues with it at all. Plus the stealth look (Metabox do not put logos / stickers on their gear), it's a very slick piece of hardware.

      My advice to anyone in the market for a gaming laptop: Buy one of these, you will not be disappointed.

        I got myself a Cleveo about 2 years ago and it still runs most games on high. Skyrim on Ultra, The Witcher on high.

    I bought a Macbook Pro in 2009 with the intention of installing Bootcamp so that it can boot in Windows. The graphics card was really sweet, so I thought that gaming on it would be absolutely swell. And then I never got around to buying an authentic version of Windows, and then I never installed bootcamp, and now 2011 is almost over and my Mac is still just a Mac.

    So! Macbook Pros are fine for gaming if you can get off your arse and turn them into gaming machines! Otherwise you can do what I do and just keep using your PC. Alternatively, only play Blizzard games.

      Valve are a big player in pushing gaming on MAC, so you dont even need windows to enjoy the growing number of mac games, but then that number is small compared to PC. But the only thing going for macbook pro's are that they are the best looking laptops in the market by a long shot, they have some of the best battery life and they are expensive, like all Apple products.

      The hardware in the current Macbook Pros is very good, quite competitive with what's out there. You pay a bit more but the actual case etc is far better built. Generally I use my laptop for more mundane things so mine works out fairly well. It's got the power there if I need it, but if I want to actually play some games, then I have an actual desktop.

        yeah im guessing you dont know much about computers but macbook pros are NOT well built AT ALL. Sure they are the sexiest computer along with its little brother the mac air but they have HUGE heat issues have the crappiest hard drives and generally pretty cheapo ram modules. the last mbpro was running above the max temperature that intel recommends for its CPUs. They also have pretty crappy screen rez. But hey can go past those looks or that keyboard right? BTW i work with macs but use PC at home so im not just a hater just someone with experience. btw dont get me started on osx Lion lol

          oh i also forgot to add that they also have the crappiest harddrive as standard 5400rpm lol 7200rpm minimum 10000rpm or solid state preferred.

    Er no Macbook pro's nor most laptops are ever "good" for gaming.

      Obviously you have not tried since the early 2000s. You can easily game on laptops today.

      I even do so on my MacBook Pro (Early 2011 model).

      You are probably thinking of the clamshell fluro orange macbooks that were around in the late 90's/early 00's. I bought a Macbook Pro in 2008, I use it for work and for a few games (via bootcamp). They are actually pretty sweet machines. It still grinds code just as good as my quad core work laptop that they bought me a few months ago (both have 8GB of memory).

    I use a HP dv6 laptop, got it last year, it's pretty decent. I'm not one of those people that will only play games with every graphical option enabled, so medium quality on most games is perfectly fine with me. I mostly play Source games though and needless to say, every option enabled works easily.

    Never get a Sony. They have the worst support. Two years after buying my Vaio and they still haven't updated their drivers over the bog standard ones it came out with.

    No BF3 :'(

    It's impossible to load the reference drivers because of the Sony proprietory graphics hardware that switches between on board graphix and vid card when needed.

    ARSE!

      Try notebookreview.com

      The community mods the drivers so you can use the latest ones.

        cant you manually update them yourself?

        or is it a sony proprietary gpu?

          The AMD drivers you can get if you can source a mobility version, but the intel drivers requires a custom made one because of the manual switch for the graphics

    "Money to burn"
    >Picture of brink

    Ohhh boy, I've been there.

    Also, I'd rather get coal in my stocking.

    I bought a Samsung with AMD something from JB about 3 weeks ago.
    8 Gig of RAM, another 2 Gig for the AMD video card, 750 Gig hard drive, Windows 7 64 bit, and they threw in a Logitech gaming mouse for $1250.

      $1250? Bloody heck. My mouse was <$100. How much was the laptop then?

      :p

        I maintain the mouse I bought for $15 from dealextreme is one of the best mice I have ever used.

          ... then you should prolly use more mice.

            Eh. It does everything I need a gaming mouse to do- I don't play twitch shooters. I can play starcraft and RPGs, it's comfortable, it has adjustable sensitivity, buttons are all nice.

          I have no doubt that you're right, but I do really like my R.A.T. Most comfortable mouse I've ever used.

    Really glad to see some love for the gaming laptop. Folk who assert they're not good for gaming just don't know how to read specs. If it's got a decent CPU, GPU and enough RAM there is no reason at all it can't game.

    I've got an Alienware M11x. It was around $1,000. It's able to run anything all the way up to new releases (except for one or two that are poorly optimised - but it's got an i3; it can go up to i7). Currently playing Skyrim very well indeed on medium.

      dont you know that if it isn't running at a res of (4x10^12) x (3x10^10) and at 1024x AA then your not really gaming, just pretending to.

        Cool your Jets, Iceman.

        There's a reason we're the Master Race.

        Good point. While we're in full disclosrure, I should point out that I have only ever seen my laptop do like 80fps, and usually it does around 30 to 60fps.

        I'm fully aware I'm not really gaming until my fps is AT LEAST 400.

          Pfft. Casual. Anything under 403 fps and your not a gamer. I bet your only playing on Ultra HD rather than mega ultra HD turbo.

            Yes. *I* am the reason there is no creativity in the gaming industry any more.

    You missed out on the Asus Republic of Gamers line. They have identical specs to the Alienware Laptops except they are like half the price. And don't look as flashy, which is good. Unless you like flaunting your money.
    http://rog.asus.com/products/nb/

    Got a decked out Metabox P170HM (17") through work.
    i7 2960XM
    GTX 580M
    16GB RAM
    256GB SSD
    costs about $4500 though but it plays Skyrim on Ultra without breaking a sweat

      I need your address, and a time no-one will be home... kindly leave a crowbar by the back door and some milk and cookies...

    Where's the Clevo Horize laptops, as sold by logicalblueone etc? Leaves these ones for dead.

      Agreed! I got mine from LogicalBlueOne for $1,2999 with a 560m graphics card, you could get a top of the line one for an extra grand if you really wanted to. Highly recommend going for the Clevo/custom ones

        +2 - See my post above about Clevo laptops.

        I got the Metabox version of the Horise P151, and OMFG, it is by far the best money I've spent all year.

          +1 Metabox

          Clevo rebranded laptops are the way to go if you want the bang for your buck.

    The beauty of console games holding the graphics bar up a little is bieng able to play newer games on fairly basic laptops.

      Consoles have nothing to do with it - it is the developers that set the bar.

        That's true, but usually because they're developing with consoles in mind. Can't really blame them and it's not a criticism, just an observation. :D

          I do not think it is even that - these days most people fear risk that is why we have so many "cookie cutter" sequels about the place.

          Things were great back in the 90s when the likes of Nintendo and LucasArts just took a dive and simply learned from their mistakes and games tanked.

        Consoles have a lot to do with it.

          You mean there is a PS3 sitting at the same table as the producer?

          There is a 360 in the same room as the art people?

          There is a Wii in the design room?

          Reality called - you are over due for a checkup.

            There IS a console in the most important room. The board room, right there on the profits chart, next to the label "most of the market". If this fact upsets you, maybe go buy an Xbox or PS3 and realise how much fun they are.

    I don't really like the idea of gaming laptops, for one main reason:

    Upgrades

    Desktops can be upgraded every few years to keep up to date with hardware, for a fraction of the cost of a new laptop. You can't upgrade a laptop (save for perhaps sticking in extra RAM). Unfortunately no matter how beefed up a "gaming" laptop is, the hardware will be outdated fairly quickly. The same thing happens with desktops, but at least with them you can pull parts out and replace them.

    It's also pretty difficult to play games with a standard laptop keyboard and mouse, so you'll need to get yourself a desktop keyboard and mouse anyway.

    That's why I'd never intend on getting a "gaming" laptop. Laptops are fantastic for working on the move but if you're getting one for the sole purpose of gaming you're better off with a desktop.

      Will have to disagree with you there, and I would have thought exactly the same thing 6 months ago.

      Upgrades: the Clevo built laptops are just as easy to drop components in and out as new stuff comes out, due to them being a modular construction.

      KB / Mouse: Null point, you still need a KB and Mouse on a normal PC. Besides, you combine a good mouse and a Logitech G13 gameboard and you're got as much functionality and comfort as you would have on a desktop setup and still have the flexibility of easily packing it away and travelling with it.

        I would still maintain that desktops are much easier and less expensive to upgrade than laptops are. (Thought I replied to you earlier, turns out it was just a general reply).

          Indeed, they both have their pros and cons, and as far as value for money goes, desktops win hands down. When you're doing a lot of travelling tho (about to head over to EU for 2 years), you don't have to sacrifice that much when it comes to laptops, as long as you shop around and do your research, much like you would for a desktop build as well.

    I did some research on good gaming laptops, a few months back. The best bang for buck I found was a laptop made by Clevo, a Taiwanese manufacturer. They've got a few resellers here in OZ. I bought one online from a place called Logical Blue One.

    For $1,700, you can get a quad core Intel i7 (sandy bridge), Nvidia 485m, 12GB of RAM, and a full 1920x1080 LED screen. There's no other manufacturer that can come even close to this. The looks aren't flash, but that suits me fine.

    Might have been worth including other screen sizes. For instance I have a 13" thats decent for gaming.

    Not exactly a comprehensive look at the available options.

    Was that a Buchanan Group infomercial?

    LOL

    Sony VAIO SA series are some serious gaming machines if you intend to use it that way. Paid $1800 for my SA which was a i7 2620, 6GB RAM, AMD 6630M 1GB in a 13.3" 1600x900 screen, 1.7KG weight and 5+ hours battery life. Not even macbook pro can match that without costing a tad bit more.

    Only annoyance is it doesn't use AMD's switchable graphics (but a little switch instead) and is not part of the AMD drivers program (but you can get the drivers from the community from notebookreview.com)

    I would still maintain that desktops are much easier and less expensive to upgrade than laptops are.

    I want a gaming laptop for LANs but I can't justify spending more $$$ on a worse laptop than my current PC. Plus I'm going to upgrade my GPU once the 7x series comes out, nab two & crossfire 'em :)

    My Hp 'Dragon' still kicks ass. The thing is an absolute beast, 21inch screen, weighs more than my car and dulls all the lights in the house when I fire it up. It's barely a laptop and more a slightly moveable desktop.

    Also of note,STAY AWAY FROM THE HP NOTEBOOKS... I've owned 3 high-end notebooks over the past 4-5 years, at about $2,500 a pop, (mind you i hunt around for the best price like a madman and i drive them so hard the sales people go home crying). Not one of them lasted me for more than 14-16 months because of their shitty soldering... basically they use a crappy solder that creates dry joints over time. The same issue that causes the YLOD on PS3's.. You can perform a BGA re-flow and get them going again, but usually only last for another 1-3 month and it gets to a stage where so many dry solder joints are created that reflow is no longer possible.

    Only real fix is to find a good mate with a reballing station :)

    I ve just bought an Acer, and whilst i wouldnt touch one several years ago, i am so glad i got it. it runs so cool, support is EXCELLENT (had an issue with the screen going white, repair dude came to my work next day and replaced it and renewed my warranty another 12 months). Runs like a dream.

    This article is ordinary at best. Money to burn, MX18, buy it....But why? What are the features of these laptops? I'm sure if someone is going to buy a laptop this article won't be their only resource, but then what is the point of this article? This article offers no insight into what gaming laptop to choose whatsoever.

    For the mid range of $1800 you guys picked a HP dv7-6b00? Talk about bringing an overpriced knife to a gunfight. It's graphics card doesn't even make the top 50 mobile GPU list and it's HDD is only 5400rpm.

    As others have said, look at Metabox or ASUS. Maybe throw in some 15" laptops. When it comes to gaming laptops NEVER go HP. Nothing but overpriced, poorly made trouble.

    I'm sorry we all can't drop 50 g's on a car, Mark, but 4k will get you a decent second hand car if you know how to shop around. My 1997 Nissan pulsar cost just shy of 5k about 2 years ago, and it's still going strong and probably will for some time to come.

    Those Clevo laptops certainly look like something to consider in the future.

    Bought an Alienware m11xR3 a few months back- for me it's the perfect balance of power and portability. Pretty good battery life, and cuts through most modern games. Though that screen is mighty reflective, so it's more suitable in darker areas. Although, I don't believe there are many gaming laptops in sub-13" range, if at all... (since you can't really pack in that much in a sub-13" chassis)

    Also, if you really do have "money to burn", consider Origin PC (not the rebranded EA Download Manager). I believe the USD10k+ Big O desktop was featured on this website a few years ago.

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