Buying a computer system/New Gaming Laptop

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QUESTION: I am a pretty heavy gamer and I travel ALOT for work.  I am looking for a 15.6 or 17 inch SLIM gaming laptop.  Something like a Razer Blade, but not necessarily that one, I am looking in a budget around $2000-$2100 with a Nvidia 800 series card, 128gig dual SSD's and a 1TB HDD.  I would prefer Windows 7, but that's not a deal breaker minimum 16gb Ram.  Ideas?  Thanks for yur times.  Oh, and I am coming from a 3 year old Alienware M14x R2.

ANSWER: In general I would probably lean away from the triple-drive configuration, at least as three separate drives - you could install a hybrid drive that would address that desire, but I'm not aware of any OEMs shipping them out of the box. You'd be looking at something like the WD Black2:
http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=1190

Generally going with a singular drive will substantially improve battery life, reduce weight/bulk, and reduce complexity. Alternately get the system with an internal SSD and provide a compact external drive for back-ups and additional storage (this will actually have another advantage - if the machine itself is lost or damaged, the external drive may be spared depending on where it's located at the time).

As far as what to purchase, if you like the Razer, I see no reason to avoid it. It doesn't have some of your desired specifications, but none of it's specifications are deficient (e.g. the base configuration has 8GB of RAM, which isn't a problem for games (16GB+ is generally unnecessary - very few games are even 64-bit applications (which means they cannot use more than 3GB of memory), and the few new titles that are, only require 4-6GB of memory (for the entire system, not that they will use by themselves)). Alternately, you could go with another Alienware - for around your $2000 budget you can purchase basically what you've specified: http://www.dell.com/us/p/alienware-17/pd.aspx

On the nVidia "800 series" - I wouldn't worry too much about that; the more powerful members are still Kepler based, just like the GeForce 600/700 cards, so there will no different in feature support. It's simply marketing. The GTX 880M is the same processor as the GTX 780M, just clocked slightly higher (although the standard memory specification does not improve, so that will be the performance limiter). The lesser models are a combination of Kepler, entry-level Maxwell (first-generation parts, similar to the GeForce GTX 750), and Fermi parts (on the very low end). nVidia has yet to release the "full" Maxwell series with GeForce 900 cards, which is scheduled to happen this month. I would expect follow-on mobile products to be not very far behind, so depending on the urgency with replacing your system, you may want to wait a few months and see what transpires (you will either have option to buy newer hardware, or to get existing hardware at discount as manufacturers and retailers close it out).

Another option, depending on what kind of Internet access you have available while traveling, and what games you play, would be a streaming service (nVidia offers a few options, Steam is also moving towards this) - you would have a desktop system at "home base" doing the actual workload, and a mobile system that you would play the game from while away from the main system. This is still relatively new/cutting-edge functionality, however, so if you're not a fan of being an early adopter you may want to wait another cycle or two to go this route.

If you have further questions, feel free to ask.

-bob




---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: This information was fantastic, but I was wondering if other than the Alienware you could suggest alternative models?  The Alienware is just too big and too heavy.  The Blade maybe but I'm like to have options.  What about Aorus or maingear?  Thanks!

Answer
Honestly you're going to have to "give" somewhere - price, size, or performance. Wanting top-flight desktop performance in something the size of a spiral notebook is unreasonable, even by today's standards (at the end of the day high performance hardware still consumes a lot of power and dissipates a lot of heat, and both of those things mean a larger computer). As far as small third-party boutique manufacturers, I tend not to keep track of them as they're frequently "here today, gone tomorrow" kinds of brands, and in many cases their post-sales support leaves much to be desired (especially the "discount performance" brands you tend to find selling through services like ebay, amazon, and so forth). Many such companies also do not produce or design their own laptops - they buy pre-built (or partially incomplete barebone) systems from manufacturers like Clevo. Alienware (especially being part of Dell) has a solid reputation for not only delivering hardware, but also supporting it. If you'd like to consider other options I'd suggest you look at other reputable/established manufacturers like HP, Asus, or Falcon Northwest.

Of large manufacturers, I would also avoid Acer Group and MSI, as their customer service/support tends to be on the poor side.

If size (mobility) is primarily your concern here, my advice would be to "give" on performance features - depending on what games you're actually playing, and what kinds of settings you hope to run, it may not even be that much of a compromise; many popular games these days do not represent a "challenge" to even semi-modern hardware. Now, a conventional ultrabook may not be suitable, but something "in between" that and a DTR may be.


-bob

Buying a computer system

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Bobbert

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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner.

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I have been an enthusiast of PC's for many years, and can answer questions about the purchase/use of a new computer or the purchase, installation, and use of upgrades for existing computers. There probably isn't a whole lot related to the home computer that I haven't seen over the years.

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15+ years of experience

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