Ask the Laptop Advisor: Do I Need a Gaming Rig?

Do casual or even somewhat serious gamers need a multi-thousand dollar, water-cooled rig? Probably not.
By , Last updated on: 12/3/2014

Thanks for your patience during the Memorial Day layoff -- the Laptop Advisor was busy grilling wieners and drinking beer. Back to it. Our question today comes from Sanjid:

“I wish to become a gamer, but I would like to know: Do I really need such an expensive Alienware machine to do so?”

I love my XBox, but also understand that there’s a whole ‘nother world out there in PC land. Maxed-out frame rates, beta releases, hacks, LAN parties, Mountain Dew and hot pockets -- it's a different vibe entirely.

Anyway, like so many other questions that I get, a lot of this depends on what kind of gaming you plan to do. MMORPGs like World of Warcraft run on most any basic setup. Take the money you’ve saved by buying a cheap computer, and bring a nice girl out on a lavish date before you dig into the game -- it’s the last time you’ll see a female for a while.

More serious software, like the PC versions of PS3 and XBox games, are still surprisingly easy to run on average machines. Alienware even capitalized on this new revelation with the mainstream m11x model. It’s an ultraportable machine with a truly ho-hum Core 2 Duo processor. But it’s so purpose-built, that even with such modest hardware, it can still run games like Portal 2 or the latest iteration of Call of Duty.

There’s a dead-horse meme, Can it Run Crysis?, referring to the notoriously resource-heavy first-person shooter from a few years back. I’m not sure what the latest top-of-the line game is, but to run the cream of the crop at a high frame rate with the full-on effects, you’ll need something serious. 

The most serious machines are usually custom built -- the biggest enthusiasts piece them together on their own, often complete with water cooling systems to keep the powerhouse processors from going all Chernobyl Fukushima in the middle of an intense gaming session.

Failing that, the Alienware m17x and the Asus G series are specialized, off-the-shelf gaming rigs. All you have to do is find one that fits your budget on Amazon.com (or even better, the dedicated Alienware and Asus G websites), wait for it to arrive, and you'll be banging out the latest games in no time. They're pretty cool-looking machines too, if that matters.

Some little-known companies specialize in custom gaming rigs, too, so there’s always that option if money is no object for you (though since you’re asking about the necessity of Alienware, I assume that it is). But if want to pay somebody to build you a serious machine, check out XoticPC and Sager Notebooks.

Cheers,

~ The Laptop Advisor

Do you have a question for the Laptop Advisor? Please feel free to submit it in the comments section below, or to editorial@digitaladvisor.com. We can't send personal responses, but we may select it for next week's column.

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5/9: Which Specs Are Important?

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