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Old 08-07-2019, 09:22 AM
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Help with a "gaming" laptop purchase


My kid is off to college in a few weeks and I want to get him a laptop to replace his 10-year old Mac. This one will be a PC.

Gaming is in quotes, because he doesn't need to play the newest and coolest games on it, just stuff that will play on my 10 year old PC with two-year-old GPU. So, it should be able to play, for example GTA V or the Batman Arkham games, but not Red Dead Redemption (whenever that comes out for PC).

This will be his only computer and he'll take it to class, etc., so I want it to be light and thin -- even the lightest gaming laptops are around 6 pounds, but those are really souped up. He probably won't have an external monitor, so being able to play at full graphics settings and 4K is unnecessary.

Is there a laptop that can play yesterday's games reasonably well, but is light and thin? I'm willing to pay a fair amount for it, say $1,500 or maybe a bit more.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:40 AM
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I bought an Alienware m15. It's fairly light at under 5 pounds, but probably still bigger than you're thinking. Then again, my 2006 MacBook seemed extremely light at the time and it weighed over 5 pounds, so your (or his) interpretation of light may vary.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:54 AM
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I can't give you a direct answer but look at the GPU requirements of the games you want to play then, taking into account the fact that laptop GPUs tend to have lower performance than desktop ones, if only because laptop GPUs are more likely to be heat-limited, make the GPU the primary consideration. CPU, RAM are of limited value once you have something decent. An i5 with 16 gigs of RAM should be sufficient. It's really about the GPU and in a laptop, GPU heat. I would not get an i9 CPU and Alienware has a reputation for being overpriced for the performance it offers although it does look neat.

Are there cooling devices available? I.e.: Something that weighs a few pounds and does a good job of cooling the GPU when attached but not required for low-performance tasks like taking notes?

You might want to pay attention to the display technology. I can't advise you on that because I'm not familiar with what's available but paying extra for a high-end display could payoff well if it'll be used for gaming with no external monitor.
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Old 08-07-2019, 11:22 AM
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I don't have advice re: brands or spec.s. But once you know what you want take a look at the computer section on woot.com They often have spectacular deals.

Just be sure to check for the loaded software he needs, or make sure you have the discs/codes to transfer your current copies.
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Old 08-07-2019, 12:05 PM
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Since he has a Mac now, I'll have to buy Office Home and Student for him, but that's probably all he needs, and he might be able to get that through his school when he gets there. He can download Steam, GoG, etc., and get all the games we have that way.

So, for the older games, would any laptop with a discrete video card work? Say, a Core i7 and some kind of separate video chip? I'm really at a loss -- it seems like it's either an Ultrabook with integrated graphics or a gaming laptop that ways three times as much.
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Old 08-07-2019, 12:13 PM
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I had a 15" Alienware gaming laptop which served me well for about 4 years. But, gaming laptops tend to not age well (due to the heat issues), and it was starting to crash while playing games. I replaced it last month with a 15" Dell gaming laptop -- it does weigh about 6 pounds, but the case itself is smaller than my old Alienware, so it doesn't seem to feel as bulky.

It's not as cool-looking as the Alienware, but it was also several hundred dollars cheaper than a comparable Alienware would have been.

Also, regarding the heat issue -- I always use a laptop pad with a cooling fan built in. I'm not sure exactly how much it helps, but I figure it's better to be safe than sorry.
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
So, for the older games, would any laptop with a discrete video card work? Say, a Core i7 and some kind of separate video chip?
The way you phrase it makes it seem like the i7 is what matters and the GPU is an afterthought: For gaming, it's the other way around. High-end discrete GPU that's reviewed as running cool (there must be benchmarks for this) and some kind of halfway decent Intel CPU.
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelEmouse View Post
The way you phrase it makes it seem like the i7 is what matters and the GPU is an afterthought: For gaming, it's the other way around. High-end discrete GPU that's reviewed as running cool (there must be benchmarks for this) and some kind of halfway decent Intel CPU.
I was thinking of getting an i7 so that the computer just stays relevant for regular tasks.

So, are there relatively light computers with discrete GPUs? Or, does it immediately increase the weight to 5 or 6 pounds, due to cooling, etc.? Alternatively, are the newest integrated GPUs fast enough to play games from a few years ago?
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Old 08-07-2019, 02:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
I was thinking of getting an i7 so that the computer just stays relevant for regular tasks.

So, are there relatively light computers with discrete GPUs? Or, does it immediately increase the weight to 5 or 6 pounds, due to cooling, etc.? Alternatively, are the newest integrated GPUs fast enough to play games from a few years ago?
For regular tasks, a decent CPU has been amply sufficient for about a decade now.

I don't know if there are light laptops with discrete GPUs. I think there may be a significant trade-off. Perhaps an external GPU could be appropriate? You'd still want the integrated graphics that come with Intel CPUs but wouldn't have to carry around the gaming-grade GPU most of the time https://www.laptopmag.com/articles/best-egpus


Last I looked, integrated GPUs did not handle 1080p FPS games of a few years ago well.
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Old 08-08-2019, 04:51 PM
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How about this one?

https://www.dell.com/en-us/member/sh...0-00087a732fe3

Do I need 16 GB? The better screen? I know I want the larger drive. Do you think the RX Vega graphics chip will work well enough?
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Old 08-08-2019, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
How about this one?

https://www.dell.com/en-us/member/sh...0-00087a732fe3

Do I need 16 GB? The better screen? I know I want the larger drive. Do you think the RX Vega graphics chip will work well enough?
16GB isn't strictly required for games but isn't extravagant.

Unless AMD has changed a lot, I wouldn't get their GPU in a laptop; AMD isn't known for power efficiency or low heat.
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Old 08-08-2019, 05:07 PM
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OK, how about this one:

https://www.bestbuy.com/site/dell-xp...?skuId=6257609

Any way to see what the battery life would be? It's got a 4k screen.

(Also, thanks for all the help!)

Last edited by RitterSport; 08-08-2019 at 05:12 PM.
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Old 08-08-2019, 05:21 PM
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According to this, towards the bottom, it looks like the Vega has lower power consumption (at least when playing Witcher 3):

https://www.notebookcheck.net/Vega-M....247598.0.html
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