Portable Muscle for Taking Your Games on the Road
Last Updated Feb. 12, 2010
By Joel Durham, Jr. No laptop will ever beat a powerful desktop PC as a gaming powerhouse. There have been, however, great strides made in the portable gaming space in recent years. Multi-core mobile CPUs, multiple GPUs, and loads of memory can make any notebook ready to be a contender at a LAN party. Add that to the fact that it’s much easier to carry a 12-pound laptop computer plus accessories to a gaming get-together than it is to carry a 25-pound steel mid-tower desktop. Here are some of today’s most noteworthy gaming laptops. We’ll look at two super-charged, powerful machines that can handle any kind of game you throw at it, whether it's strategy, MMO, or CPU-hogging first-person shooter; and two more affordable models, perfectly suitable for less resource-needy games like World of Warcraft and the like.
Alienware m17x: The Best Money Can Buy
The Alienware m17x is probably the king of the current crop of portable gaming machines. Even the lower-end configurations can handle most of the CPU-hogging games you'll throw at it. This machine starts at $1700 with an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, or $1800 with a Core i5 or i7—and the price goes way up from there. A typical Core i7 system includes Windows 7 Home Premium x64, a minimum of one ATI Radeon Mobility HD 4870 (CrossFireX configurations, with multiple GPUs, are available), 4GB of DDR3 memory running at 1066MHz, a 250GB 7200RPM SATA 3Gbps hard drive, and a 17” 1440x900 display. You can personalize your M17x by color, by the laser-etched details, and more. Alienware even has an accessory store so you can purchase a mouse (essential for any gaming PC—nobody games with a touchpad), a gamer-grade keyboard, a notebook bag, and more.
Falcon-Northwest Fragbook DRX: An Old Favorite
Falcon-Northwest is the oldest name in gaming-specific PCs. The company was building computers for gamers before anyone else thought there was a market for such things. As such, you’d expect the best from Falcon—and it’s rare that the company doesn’t deliver. The Fragbook DRX line is incredible in terms of gaming power. Featuring Core i7, desktop-grade CPUs up to 3.3GHz in frequency, 6GB of triple-channel DDR3 memory, Nvidia GeForce GTX 280M graphics, this laptop line is something to be reckoned with and can easily handle anything you throw at it. The downside is, it’ll typically run you more than $4000. You want the best, you have to be prepared to pay for it.
iBuyPower Battalion Touch CZ-10: Perfect For Strategy and MMO
Sometimes, you don’t want to pay $2000, $3000, or more for a desktop-replacement superlaptop. Sometimes, you only want enough gaming prowess to take on the road, but when you get home you’ll pack up your notebook and switch back to your high-performance desktop. That’s when price/performance models come in, such as the iBuyPower Battallion Touch CZ-10. This notebook has enough muscle for gaming with a Core 2 Duo P8700 2.53GHz CPU, 2GB of 1333MHz memory, and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 graphics. It also throws in the world’s first multi-touch display in a gaming notebook--perfect for controlling real-time strategy and mass-multiplayer online (MMO) games. All this comes at a starting price of $999. No, you don’t always need a second mortgage to pay for a gaming laptop.
Starting at $899, the ASUS G60Vx is a 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo P7450-based gaming rig that you don’t have to feel guilty about purchasing. With a 16” display, up to 4GB of DDR3 1066MHz memory, a 320GB 7200RPM hard drive, and Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M graphics, it’ll run today’s games at its native resolution of 1366x768 without compromising a ton of detail. This is also a gaming notebook you can expect to entertain you for a long time: it features a 9-cell battery for maximum battery life, so you can game as you fly across the country even when there's no outlet nearby. ASUS is known for reliability, and also for packing in a ton of features for the money, so expect big things from this little laptop.
These are just a few of the dozens of capable gaming laptops available. In general, gaming machines really need a powerful processor (Core 2 Duo minimum), a slick graphics card, at least a few GB of RAM, a huge hard drive, nice speakers, and a large screen (though the last two are really up to personal taste). Happy hunting.