What Laptop Should I Get?

Aion on a laptop

Aion running on a laptop? Probably just a screensaver.

It’s that time of life again when hardware starts to die, make strange noises and overheats enough to fry the treasured contents of the lap on which it sits atop. Yep, my notebook is on it’s last legs and it’s about time I got a new one, a matter that I need a bit of help and advice with.

The thing with laptops is that there’s just so darn many to choose from. I’ll immediately narrow the selection down by saying that I need a PC, not a Mac. Not that I have anything against Macs (or the drooling, cardigan wearing yuppies that constantly proclaim their awesome to the masses) but I want a device that I can play some games on. Nothing too fancy but I’d love to be able to run MMOs like WoW, EVE and LotRO and single player games like Starcraft 2 and Civ 5 (and yes, I’m aware of the irony in that most of those games are available for the Mac but acknowledging that would ruin my attempts at bigotry). So unless anyone can put together a truly compelling case for why I should join the Brotherhood of the Mac, I’ll be sticking with PCs for the time being.

Spec wise I’m looking for laptop sized between 13” – 15”, has a decent processor (Intel i5?) and RAM (4GB?), reasonable hard disk space (250GB) and, probably most importantly of all, a good mobile graphics card. The GPU in laptops tends to be overlooked and personally has always been the thing that lets me down for playing games (for instance, I’ve got a great little netbook that can’t even run Doom due to it’s god awful GPU). Unfortunately though I know nothing about what constitutes a good mobile graphics card. As my wife will be using the machine the most, I also need an installation of Windows 7 Ultimate in order to get the Japanese language pack (I’m assuming Win7 is like Vista and you don’t get additional language packs on the Home version). Finally price wise, I’d like to get all of this for under £1,000/$1,500/€1,200.

My current laptop is an old Sony VIAO S-series and it’s been pretty great for the past 4 years. I trust the brand but unfortunately it’s the most expensive, meaning I don’t think I’m going to get the specs I want for the price I want. I’ve been looking around a bit and quite like the look of the Samsung R590 but I have no idea if it’s a good brand or not. I’ve also heard good things about HP and Dell but again, don’t have any personal experience with their laptops.

Of course then there’s all of the upcoming PC slates, Windows equivalent of the iPad, coming out at the end of the year and makes me wonder if I should hang on and wait for one of them. Not sure I could play a MMO on one of them though even though it would be nice to try.

So, any ideas?

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30 Comments

  1. Windsoar says:

    I ran a HP laptop for about 4 years this last go around. The biggest problem is finding them without those wanky Intel Integrated graphics cards which every game in the industry but WoW seems to hate.

    However, I don’t keep up with systems as well as I used to, and I’m sure you’ll find some better advice coming in soon :)

  2. Naithin says:

    Not sure just how pressed for time you are on picking up a new laptop, but if you can at all wangle it, hold off a little bit.

    Yes, yes, I know there is ALWAYS something shiny around the corner and you’ll ALWAYS be outdone no matter when you buy..

    But sometimes it’s worse than others (i.e., I pity anyone who bought a Core2/Pentium CPU right before the Core2Duo’s came out which were lightyears ahead). Now is one of those times, with SandyBridge chips coming from Intel end of this year, likely beginning of next for the mobile versions.

    If you want all the tech details, check out AnandTech, they have a great SandyBridge preview article as they got their hands on one. But in brief, the i5-2 SandyBridge chip they had competed nicely with and on a couple of tests even beat out the current i7 extreme chips.

    Also? More importantly to you? They have what is in the mobile space *amazing* Integrated Graphics. They were able to run Dragon Age: Origins and a number of other recent games that hit both CPU and GPU hard with ‘em.

    So yeah! If you can manage it, this is one of those tech leaps actually worth waiting for!

  3. Amuntoth says:

    If money is no issue then get http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?c=us&l=en&oc=DKPDFV2&cs=19&kc=9&X=9&Y=6

    If money IS a factor like with most of us, just make sure you stick as close to Alienware specs as your price allows and you will be ok. If you can get a laptop with one of their recommended graphics chips in it, you’ll probably be set.

    1GB GDDR3 NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 260M is what I recommend for nice gaming.

  4. Tezi says:

    acer aspire 5740g, i5 with 5650 graphics card, weak points are the touchpad and the glossy screen

    some popular mods are dropping the dvd unit for a ssd case+ssd drive
    and adding a 8800 battery from ebay

  5. Docholiday says:

    I’ve always been pretty partial to Dell, and now that they own Alienware it seems (this could be good advertising on their part) that their laptops have dropped in price a bit. Alienware’s always been one of those “when I win the lottery” kinds of things but never all that practical for me. I’ve also had pretty good success with Dell’s support which for laptops is a bit more helpful since they’re harder to work on yourself.

  6. Magson says:

    Earlier this year I bought an earlier version of this laptop. This newer model now is $730 US at amazon. I have no idea how it translates into pounds at amazon.co.uk. And I got it from Best Buy, not Amazon, but . . you know how it goes. Anyway… I’ve been very happy with it.

  7. CrazyLikeBusey says:

    Check out powernotebbooks.com. I am very pleased with their products.

  8. Bhagpuss says:

    My year-old Sony XPS runs all the MMOs you mention very acceptably. In fact, it’s almost identical in spec to the desktop I was using until I replaced it this year.

    It’s quite heavy though.

  9. amcl says:

    Dell Alienware definitely! I’ve got my eye on one!!

  10. Jason says:

    Skip Dells. They’re nice, but way overpriced. Asus makes a good laptop for gaming, I know two folks who paid about what you’re looking to spend and got something really top notch.

    http://www.amazon.com/Republic-Gamers-G51JX-X3-15-6-Inch-Gaming/dp/B00361G0ZO/ref=sr_1_2?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1285648195&sr=1-2

    Try that on for size. 15″, Core i5, 4GB RAM, GTS 360M. If you want to spend closer to your $1500 budget, then the following will more than fit the bill:

    http://www.amazon.com/G51JX-X5-Republic-Gamers-15-6-Inch-Gaming/dp/B003BWD0VU/ref=dp_ob_title_ce

    Core i7, 6GB RAM, same video card for $1400.

    So, skip Alienware, they’re stupidly overpriced and buy one of those I linked.

    • Gordon says:

      I’ve been very skeptical about Asus because I never considered them high quality but I’m hearing more and more good things about them. You’ve definitely given me food for thought! Thanks a bunch for the links.

      • Jason says:

        I’ve personally never heard much bad about them. I used to use Asus motherboards in my desktop builds exclusively, but switched away due to higher quality elsewhere, not that Asus was ever slacking. On laptops, I haven’t heard anything bad about them, and recent models are reviewed quite well.

  11. Mojeaux says:

    My boss just picked up an ASUS for photo editing and such, but the machine in my opinion is also a beast when it comes to gaming. In fact she was bragging to me about it because she knows I’m a gamer and the key selling point of the little geeks at BestBuy was that it was a great gaming laptop… might be worth looking at the Asus line.. I think she paid around $1400 for it.

  12. Meg says:

    Most manufacturers probably have something similar, but I’ll tell you what I did with Dell, specifically.

    I figured out exactly what I wanted out of a new system including bells & whistles (Alienware). That ran me about $2,500.

    I then went to their outlet (online) and found something *close* that was in a refurbished category I was comfortable with (I did not want cosmetic blemishes). In my case, the system had been custom ordered, but never powered on, so it was perfectly brand new.

    It was a Studio XPS 16 (1640) with:

    Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 (3MB cache/2.53GHz/1066Mhz FSB) w/2.0MP Integrated Webcam Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium
    8X DVD+/- RW(DVD/CD read/write) Slot Load Drive
    500 GB SATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) with Free Fall Sensor
    Intel WiFi Link 5100 802.11a/g/n Draft Mini Card
    4 GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz (2 DIMMs)
    512MB ATI Mobility RADEON HD 3670
    15.6 inch Edge-to-Edge HD+ Widescreen WLED LCD (1600×900)

    for $1,124.69 after taxes.

    It is an absolute dream playing WoW – I get about 80-100 FPS with low latency. My singular complaint is that it runs hot, but that is managed by keeping it on top of a USB-run cooler.

    • Gordon says:

      The XPS systems are very impressive but aren’t they rather large? How big is yours?

      • Meg says:

        Yes, it’s got the 15.6″ edge-to-edge, so it definitely is on the larger side, but I don’t find it to be overwhelming in weight. I found it t be about as “cumbersome” as a few other laptops I have that have a much smaller screen size. It is something you will want to consider if you’re wanting it to be highly portable, however, I considered it a sacrifice in order to be able to play games remotely. One thing I will point out is that my laptop is a *Studio* XPS – it’s a combination of the Studio line and the XPS line, so it’s not the typical XPS that you might be thinking of.

        Apologies for the delayed reply – I didn’t get a notification of your note. :)

  13. Here is a listing of video card Benchmarks – the highest level “M” or “Mobility” GPU is the ATi Mobility 5870, with a score comparable to a GeForce 8800Ultra or GTX450.

    http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/high_end_gpus.html

    BestBuy in the US has an ASUS laptop with this GPU (and Core i7, 6GB, 500GB) for $1299. (Model G73JH-RBBX05)

  14. Raul TT says:

    One thing you have to consider and which you have not mentioned is how portable you want your lappy to be. If you need to take your lappy with you on trips and to different places issues like battery life, wheight and size becoem very important.

    I myself have an ASUS Republic of Gamers series G51, great laptop for gaming at home and looks great, but the battery life sucks and it is heavy and bulky specially when you have to drag around the AC adaptor everywhere as sooner rather than later you are gonna have to plug it in.

    If mobility is a real issue you should look at Asus U series laptops they come with NVIDIAs new mobile graphics card technology that switches the card on and off automatically depending on what you are doing. This really saves some juice when you are just browsing the net, sending emails or working on a document.

    HP computers look great but they come with a lot of bloatware and are not really optimized for gaming.

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