Gaming/Which of these gaming laptops is best?
QUESTION: Hi PC Expert,
I would first like to say that I have had some experience with PC gaming and choosing the laptop appropriate for me; but today I have a challenge and you can be technical with me in your answers...
I'm looking for a mid-level gaming laptop because of budget reasons. I have found 3 potential ones; I have read some reviews and watched some YouTube videos but there are so many mixed opinions and lack of official comparisons. This is where I Need your help.
Note1: I'm looking for a 15" and not a 17".
Note2: The only intensive performance activity I'll be doing is gaming. The rest doesn`t require any heavy CPU requirements.
1. Asus N550JK or G550Jk
2. MSI GE60 Apache
3. MSI GX60 Destroyer
I don't have a problem adding an SSD and extra RAM. I noticed the Destroyer has extra spaces for them.
Thank you for your expert opinion.
ANSWER: In general I'm disinclined to suggest MSI products - my general experiences with them over the years are of incomplete/unsatisfactory products and poor quality support behind them. Asus, by contrast, has a solid reputation for producing reliable and capable equipment (and has been doing so for quite a long time).
I would therefore immediately lean towards the Asus options. At the $1000-mark the N550 is selling at, I would also suggest considering hardware from Alienware (they're part of Dell), as they have a variety of gaming laptop offerings. Of the two Asus systems, I'm not seeing any noticeable difference in specifications - both appear to come with the Core i7 4700HQ, GeForce 850M, and 8-16GB of memory. Their performance would therefore be similar if not identical, so get whichever of the two you can find cheaper.
From Alienware, I would look at the "Alienware 14" series (it's closest to your size and budget desires). The base configuration with an i5 and GeForce 750M won't be terribly behind the curve with the Asus systems (at least today, quad core is still not a substantial benefit to many games, and the 850M and 750M are fairly similar on paper with respect to fill-rate, memory bandwidth, and so forth - finding actual benchmarks of mobile GPUs is generally tricky (you can find benchmarks of complete systems, but being able to do a "straight up" comparison in games between 750M and 850M would be nearly impossible)).
Of the two MSI systems, the "Destroyer" will have an edge with its GPU, but the Intel CPUs in the other models will generally edge the AMD APUs, especially in single-threaded performance (which still matters for many games). Based on that, the "Apache" looks to be a better rounded system.
To give a shorter answer of what I would suggest to buy: Dell offers good support/warranty service, and Alienware will fall under that umbrella - so it would be a "safe" bet. The Asus laptops would likely be slightly faster, and cost around the same, but are also somewhat larger and you will likely have to go through a reseller to purchase them. That doesn't mean Asus is a bad choice; either would be appropriate. I would not suggest the MSI parts.
Having said all of this, what kinds of games are you hoping to run with this machine? If you don't need to run high-demand DirectX titles (for example Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, Battlefield 4, and so on), the higher performance gaming hardware is not really necessary and you can probably save a few hundred dollars and go with a more mainstream ultrabook (modern IGPs have gotten very good, to the point of being able to handle a wide variety of games within reason).
As far as adding more RAM - with 8GB out of the box, I don't see the point. Very few applications will even take advantage of more than 1-2GB, let alone 8GB. There are only a select few games that actually require 64-bit operating system support and more than 4GB of memory, but none (at least of today, and that I'm aware of) that require more than 8GB (usually they will list their requirements as either "greater than 4GB" or "at least 6GB").
As far as the SSD - I also don't see the point, especially if you are on a budget. It will not aid any computationally bound tasks, and other benefits are minor or will be rendered moot due to the nature of a gaming laptop (e.g. battery life savings, but gaming laptops generally don't get excellent battery life due to their dedicated GPUs).
If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Bob,
Thank you for your expert opinion. I am hoping to play battlefield 4, watch dogs, fifa, and the Sims 4 when it comes out. I saw YouTube clips are people posting vids of battlefield and watch dogs on high settings, especially, on the msi machines. This makes it tough. I'll look into the Alienware. I've never really been a fan of their laptops designs. I had Asus laptops in the past and they treated me well.
Battlefield 4 and Sims 4 should both be playable on a fairly wide range of hardware - this does not mean "run at full max ultra settings" on a wide range of hardware, but as they're both very popular titles they should run (there are modern IGPs that can run Battlefield 4, for example; the Sims series have never been absurdly demanding games). I'm unfamiliar with "fifa." Watch Dogs may be the gotcha though - it's system requirements are relatively high, and uses its own (new) engine (which means that any sort of driver optimizations will only work for it, and this can mean that such optimizations are lower priority for nVidia/ATi than engines that run MANY games). Having said that, it should be at least playable on supported hardware (it requires DirectX 11, 64-bit OS, and relatively modern multi-core processor), which all of the laptops mentioned here will be, however don't be surprised if you're turning detail settings or IQ enhancements down to achieve a high frame-rate (resolution especially - running the game at or around 720p, HD+, or WSXGA+ should be possible with modern mid-range hardware; maxed settings at FullHD or 4K will require hardware unavailable in laptops).
I wouldn't be so worried that the only examples you've found show the MSI systems - the Asus and Alienware hardware is not dramatically inferior in any way (the GeForce 860 is not going to be dramatically more powerful than the 750 or 850), and I would generally prefer to trade a slight bit of performance for a known quantity (reliability, good service, etc). If Asus has been a positive experience for you in the past, I would likely suggest going that route.
Again, if you have further questions, feel free to ask.