Week in Tech: Desktop Vs Laptop, Kinda

Sometimes, the numbers aren’t enough. When you compare what the new Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M looks like on paper with what it will actually do stuffed into a laptop PC, grudgingly you concede this is one of those times. Nvidia’s latest graphics chip for laptops looked good at launch, but a few weeks later I’ve now had a play and it’s burst right through my cynical, dessicated, world-weary attitude to the technology refresh cycle. This thing takes laptop gaming to a new level. Great. But here’s the real question. Is it good enough to finally put that desktop vs laptop debate to bed? Time to find out…

Now, I know I just said the numbers aren’t enough. But they are a starting point. We’ve been over this before, but for context the GTX 980M is based on Nvidia’s GM204 GPU, which forms the basis of the new GeForce GTX 970 and 980 desktop video cards.

They’re performance graphics boards, but the GM204 is more of a mid-sized graphics chip, rather than the power-hungry GK110 monster that first appeared as the GeForce GTX Titan. That’s important, because it makes it suitable for use in laptop PCs.

It’s also based on Nvidia’s Maxwell graphics tech. And that’s important because Maxwell majors on efficiency more than anything else. Again, ideal for a laptop PC.

Anyway, for context GM204 is cut down from 2,048 of those pixel-processing shader things in this mobile format to 1,536. That’s the same shader count, it just so happens, as the desktop GeForce GTX 680 board, which two years ago was just about the fastest pixel pumper you could buy.

A marketing image from Nvidia, yesterday.

Except, these are Maxwell shaders, not the Kepler shaders of the 680. And that means they do roughly 30 per cent more, er, graphicsing than a Kepler shader every clock cycle. And the mobile 980M is clocked actually a tick higher than the desktop 680, so…

Of course, I knew all this before. I’ve mentioned most of it before, too. But it still doesn’t truly prepare you for seeing proper games rendered smoothly in full detail at 2,880 by 1,620 pixels.

Yes, that’s right, 2,880 by 1,620 bloody pixels in a 15-inch notebook. The laptop in question is the new Gigabyte P35X v3, a full review of which I’ve penned for my long-time benefactor PC Format mag and I am duty bound to say will be on the shelves in a few weeks (other PC magazines are available).

Anyway, it’s not actually the Apple Retina refugee I thought it might be since Apple still does 16:10 screens, and that means 2,880 by 1,800 pixels. But it’s still overkill, right?

I’m not so sure. You see, the pixel pitch is so tight, the need for anti-aliasing is marginal. There’s still a little pixel walk along the edges of some objects. But you really have to be looking out for it. And the 980M, astonishingly, will render GPU killers like Metro: Last Light pretty smoothly at 2,880 by 1,620 so long as you don’t crank up the AA.

Nvidia giveth, and Ubisoft taketh away…

Intriguingly, that super-fine pixel pitch also means you can play at 1,920 by 1,080 interpolated without games looking blurry and washed out. So that’s your other option – dropping down to 1080p with AA enabled.

If you’re looking for specifics in terms of frame rates, well, at 2,880 by 1,620 in really demanding games, most have minimums in the mid to high 20s and averages around 40. Drop to 1080p and add AA and it’s more like 30-something and 50 respectively.

The fact that the 980M can actually handle the higher res of the 2,880 by 1,620 panel is pretty staggering and bodes well for the longevity of the 980M as a gaming chip. Hard core early adopters will love the high res panel and the options it gives you. But I think most people will be better off with a plain 1080p panel in a gaming notebook. Paired with the 980M you’d have a portable that can handle just about anything you can chuck at it today without the need to tune the settings with most games. Just whack everything to maximum.

Including Ass’ Creed Unity? I didn’t try. But that’s a game with frame rates limited more by corporate fecklessness than any technological shortcomings the 980M might have.

What’s more, observe the Gigabyte lappy in question and you might also think Nvidia’s Maxwell architecture is so clever it enables all this in a properly thin-and-light chassis. And it does. But only with a level of fan noise that would wake the dead. In a different time zone. Of a parallel universe. Oh, and also by pumping out air so hot, you suspect that hissing sound is partly electrons fizzing away from atomic nuclei. Well, nearly.

Very thin. Tolerably light. Unbelievably noisy.

This is the 980M’s one obvious weakness. It’s incredibly quick, but still not, I don’t reckon, suitable for slim portables despite that clever Maxwell technology. So, the Gigabyte P35X is bloody impressive, but I struggle to imagine how it’s not going to develop cooling problems with use. Just about every gaming laptop I’ve ever had, and there have been plenty, has developed heat management problems over time.

In practice, then, you probably need one of those uber-brick systems to have a hope of containing the 980M’s thermals properly. But they’re barely laptops in portability terms, so you may as well go for a small-form factor PC with a desktop GPU. And then suddenly you begin to wonder what the point of it all is.

Metro at 2,880 by 1,620 on a laptop is quite a sight…

The other problem is pricing. The Gigabyte laptop in questions is £1,600-plus (not clear if it’s available in the US, but must be a roughly $2,000 system) and that puts it out of reach of most of us. I certainly wouldn’t pay that much for a laptop that you can’t upgrade (ie nearly all of them). Actually, I wouldn’t pay that much for any laptop.

For the record, there’s also a slightly less powerful GeForce GTX 970M which I haven’t tried but will allow for slightly cheaper portable rigs. But at best it might shave £100 off when really I’d rather the price was cut in half.

All of which means I’ve started off with boundless enthusiasm and somehow managed to convince myself that nothing has really changed. Gaming laptops are still conspicuously poor value. Desktops still make far more sense as gaming rigs. And Maxwell doesn’t do quite enough to change that.

I’m also uneasy about the sense that Nvidia is increasingly dominating the graphics scene right now. It’s not entirely true – AMD still has some compelling graphics cards for PCs at certain price points. But at the same time there’s a worrying lack of genuinely new graphics tech from AMD. And there’s certainly no denying Nvidia has the performance end of the gaming laptop market sown up right now with these new Maxwell GPUs.

If you’ve money (and upper thighs) to burn, of course, there’s also no denying the new 980M makes for one hell of a gaming portable. You pays your money. You takes your choice.

66 Comments

  1. elmuerte says:

    No. Laptop suck on every level compared to desktops, except for portability.

    • Holysheep says:

      Basically this. Hardware gets more powerful as we are able to fit more things in the same place, via better miniaturization.

      The concept of laptop in itself means “less powerful”.

      Oh sure, CPUs and GPUs are small… except you fit them in enclosed spaces, with different cooling, that’ll never be as good as on a desktop no matter what. the surrounding components are also pretty important.

      Heat is a TERRIBLE problem with laptops….

      Not to mention that you buy a machine that’s not practical to play in if you play with the provided, built in keyboard. They’re also hard/impossible to upgrade properly. You lose space that could be used for many important things in a desktop with the minimal size, the need to fit a battery.

      All this miniaturization, while making it less powerful, also makes it more expensive… and that’s not counting the screen that makes a price difference, and all the stuff you don’t necessarily need… built in mic, bluetooth, esata, card readers, billions of ports, and … well battery, since you don’t play on battery, as it will deplete in no time, since the GPU consumes it atll… or you have to stick to integrated chipsets.

      You also have to force the GPU on a lot of games… Oh, that and, my laptop’s keyboard ctrl key broke. What can I do? Nothing. Too bad for the i5, the 670M, etc.

      Oh yeah and. Want a 780M? While MUCH less powerful than the GTX 780, it costs BILLIONS. And it’ll be outdated faster. *80s cost shittons on laptops.

      I could go on for days, but let’s keep it short, NO. Play on desktops.

      • Melody says:

        If you’re talking about efficiency, you’re absolutely right. A desktop is better in almost every way, and costs less.

        But: You don’t need to be ultra-efficient., and have the best component with the latest technology. You don’t need to have maxed out graphics to fully enjoy a game. This is something that I feel a lot of PC gamers quickly become very elitist about. Sometimes a laptop is just good enough. It’s not the best ever, but it doesn’t matter. Just like I don’t need the precision of a mechanical keyboard to play pretty much any game, unless I’m playing professionally/seriously competitively.

        As for the cooling, perhaps I’m lucky, anecdotal evidence doesn’t prove anything after all, but my laptop used to die whenever I’d use the processor too much. Then I bought a cheap Microsoft cooling stand with a USB vent. Never had any overheating problems since. It’s been 3 and a half years, and a dozen plane trips.

        • Holysheep says:

          I’m not the best ever either, but when a game, even at low settings, starts overheating my PC, and I gotta play on an unproper keyboard, and I gotta enable the GPU before, and I can’t kill anyone in Semi/fully realistic sims because I can’t see shit on my 17″ while the other guy sees me miles away with his 24″ screen, and so on… It’s starting to be a lot of things.

          I have a cooling plate too, but these don’t reduce it enough. On Elite for instance, it’s just pointless… And while I run it at max on my main, I run it on low on my laptop (I can sacrifice quality for framerate. I used to play quake a lot after all) and… not only I can’t have the quality, but also I can’t have the game in general, really… Don’t see as much, controls are worse, overheats even in low settings in games that are demanding in terms of CPU, and so on… heh….

        • SuicideKing says:

          I’d argue that unless mobility gaming is a requirement, a gaming laptop will be much more expensive than an equally capable desktop, and I’d rather build a gaming rig + buy a work laptop if it’s an option.

        • JonWood says:

          I’ll second this. When I was in the market for a new laptop last year my requirements consisted of if having to be a pretty powerful machine for work, and a nice to have of it being able to run Civ V in a playable manner. When I got to actually researching this it turned out that for the price of a reasonably speced MacBook Pro I could get a laptop which completely demolished my gaming desktop, and so at least for now I’m doing all my gaming on a laptop (although often plugged into a keyboard, mouse, and monitor).

          No doubt at some point technology will catch up with me, and it’ll be time for another refresh of my gaming rig, at which point I’ll put together a desktop again and use Steam Streaming for playing downstairs on the big TV, but for now I’m loving it.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            When I got to actually researching this it turned out that for the price of a reasonably speced MacBook Pro I could get a laptop which completely demolished my gaming desktop

            One suspects the gaming desktop which was “demolished” by this brand new laptop was most definitely not a fair comparison.
            A 15 inch macbook pro is £1600, same as the laptop in the article. You could spend half that on a desktop & have comparable if not better performance at present.

      • aldo_14 says:

        I could go on for days, but let’s keep it short, NO. Play on desktops.

        Well yeah, but it’s not quite the same thing.

        The argument for a gaming laptop is one of portability; that doesn’t necessarily just mean taking it on holiday, but also if you have a tiny tiny place that only has room for putting a laptop (even if 17″) on the table between meals. I like my desktop, but the size of the thing has become an issue.

        (I did have a moderate spec gaming laptop, which was handy for work/study/trips away, but also ran hot enough to fry eggs)

      • Coinfish says:

        No, the concept means portable PC, hence the lap for putting on your lap..duuuh.
        At the same price? Sure, ow plenty of laptop can beat desktops.
        You also lose room space when using tower, monitor, speaker, and peripherals.
        Plug in keyboards…?
        If it’s powerful enough, it’s good. Some of us don’t need double titans.
        Money is a factor to you-but those who has these laptop-it’s not.
        So pc players, keep gaming on laptops if it suits your needs. Don’t let elitist cloud you so.
        And i’m still going to build a new rig eventually,

    • Caiman says:

      While this may be mostly true (laptops look much sexier, frankly), portability is huge. So big it overshadows a lot of advantages of desktops for some of us. We sacrifice power for portability, but the alternative is no PC gaming at all when we leave our home office desk. I’m not willing to go that route, so laptop it is. Also, buying the latest and greatest really isn’t necessary. My 2-year old i7 with a 640M GPU is hardly state of the art, but it’ll play most things at low to medium settings quite happily (anything over 2 years old is generally high settings, including Skyrim which was my minimum performance criterion at the time), and after installed an SSD it even feels great to do work on!

      • B.rake says:

        ^This. Portability is king for me. I went 7 or 8 years without my own PC, but affordable gaming laptops give me a PC, a gaming rig, and plenty of power for things like photoshop and whatnot.

    • Coinfish says:

      That’s a narrow-minded view on laptops. Get to traveling several flights frequently then maybe you’ll ‘get’ it.

  2. Soulstrider says:

    I have played for the past 6 years in a laptop, mostly due to having entered university and being constantly moving between my hometown and my uni city. Both performance and graphical wise I felt that laptops have done a pretty good job for me, though clearly not as good as a Desktop.

    Since recently I finished my master’s and got a real job, I have been thinking of getting back to Desktop gaming since I dearly miss it, that said even now laptops portability is still an huge plus for me.

    • Ryuuga says:

      It’s great that there are laptops that do decently for gaming. I have had so much fun out of my incredibly heavy Dell which, when I bought it some years ago, had good gfx power enough to run any game I chucked at it. Granted, I do not play these bleeding edge FPS games, but it did Borderlands, City of Heroes, and so on. And the screen was really really nice, good viewing angle. I’ve brought it many places and seen any number of movies on it, and tons of anime, and played many hours of civilization. I love that heavy square lug.

      Still, all that said, it is a good complement to a desktop. The raw power, storage capacity, and so on just blows the laptop away. Then again, I can hardly bring it with me for the weekend. But replace it with a laptop, entirely? Nah, no way.

    • amateurviking says:

      I was in a similar situation, using a fairly chunky (15″) laptop for everything. Since getting an actual job and stuff I’ve built a desktop on the cheap (ish) over a year or two and replaced the chunky ‘does everything’ laptop with a tiny tiny Surface Pro 2 – which is absolutely fine for on the go/at the office and continues to surpass my expectations of intel integrated graphics. Hoping to pick up a 970 while I’m in the US next week and save me about a hundred eurobucks.

  3. Enterprise2448 says:

    “Metro at 2,880 by 1,620 on a laptop is quite a sight…”

    I dunno, man. It’s kinda hard to tell from a 620 by 300 image.
    Don’t you guys have access to 2003’s cutting edge “click-an-image-to-expand” technology?

    • All is Well says:

      To be fair though, anything short of actually seeing the image on a screen of that resolution, on a laptop, is going to fall short of the “real experience”. That said, it *would* be nice if RPS had expandable images more often.

    • Premium User Badge

      -jj- says:

      I agree. Not all images mind… but particularly those referenced in relation to their quality.

      Case in point within this article.

    • SuicideKing says:

      They usually do use expandable images, don’t know why that wasn’t done here…

  4. Asurmen says:

    I’m interested in what the 390X will bring you the AMD table if rumours are to be believed.

    • amateurviking says:

      If it’s priced >$450 then I doubt it’s going to change much.

      • SuicideKing says:

        As long as it’s cheaper than the GTX 980 it’ll be as disruptive as the 970.

      • Asurmen says:

        Why though? Better performance than the 980 but still cheaper. 380X to compete against 970 and cut prices on 280x even further. Win all round for AMD if Nvidia can’t get the big chip Maxwells out at the same time, and even then they’ll lack 20nm and HBM.

        All rumours :)

    • eggy toast says:

      If I had to chose between nothing, and spending hard earned units of fiat currency on AMD hardware, I wouldn’t even have to think about it.

  5. zat0ichi says:

    I don’t understand bleeding edge gaming laptops. If you really want to game then 24inch monitor and decent keyboard and mouse are a must. Gaming laptops end up being a bulky laptop or cramped gaming experience.
    An 800 quid gaming rig and a £200 laptop achieves what a £1000 pound gaming laptop does.

    The P35G with the 860m. That seems a sensible gaming-lite option.

    • JonWood says:

      There’s these crazy new technologies about now known as “USB” and “HDMI” which allow you to connect a laptop up to a proper keyboard and mouse and a 24 inch monitor (I use that setup all day everyday, either in my home office, or in a proper office). The fact my super powerful work laptop also plays games better than my desktop is just a nice bonus.

    • dropbear81 says:

      For about 18 months there I was travelling for work every week, and dearly missed my gaming. So an upgrade to the most powerful gaming laptop was definitely warranted. I’m still working on it now, however I think I’ll upgrade to a desktop in about 6 months as this one is struggling to run Lifeless Planet at “good” level graphics. Gaming lappy’s are a necessity sometimes, but I still miss my old desktop setup. And of course, the heat issues. I had this one repaired twice under warranty for problems with the graphics card, most likely due to heat. Now it sits on my study desk, only moving for when I actually need it for work on the odd occasion.

  6. mlaskus says:

    These articles always seem strange to me. Of course there is a performance trade off when you’re gaming on a laptop.
    For quite a few years already, that trade off isn’t particularly bad though. I haven’t had a desktop computer for at least 5 years or so and I’ve kept buying smaller laptops every two years or so. I’m very glad with my current 13 incher with 840M on board. It’s silent, it doesn’t get hot, it lasts about 10 hours on battery and I have yet to find a game I can’t play.
    Sure, I’m not playing stuff like Far Cry 4 in my native resolution, but it plays smoothly and still looks very well.

    • Sakkura says:

      I think the more affordable laptops make a lot more sense. Everyone wants something they can use on the go, but the big high-end gaming laptops are not well suited for that anyway; they run out of battery very quickly if you game on them, they’re unwieldy, and who really plays Far Cry 4 on the bus or in a cafe? Oh, and the monitor will be small – yeah the resolution may be great, but it just does not feel the same as the large monitor back home (or a TV for that matter).

      An affordable, lightweight laptop (or hybrid, or tablet depending on preference and usage) combined with a beefy desktop gaming system at home will cost the same or less, will have equivalent or better gaming performance at home, and a more convenient system when you’re on the go.

      • mlaskus says:

        I travel a lot, I often play in the evening before going to bed in a hotel.
        My current laptop is perfect for this. I also would not like to waste any space at home for a desktop PC. I have a convenient setup as is.

  7. K33L3R says:

    I’ve got a Lenovo Y50 with a 860M and it performs really well (plus it looks rather sweet too)
    Can’t recall all the specs, it has some type of i7, 12 GB RAM, one of those okayish hybrid drives

    Anyway for portability its great, I’ve used it to play XCOM and Divinity Original Sin while out and about and it’s superb, got some older games like Bioshock 2, Dishonored, Deus Ex HR that I’ve tested it with and it’ll run them flawlessly too. Anything too demanding I don’t bother with as I have a decent PC anyway

    My point is it’s more than good enough to use while away but it’ll never replace the easy to upgrade, better cooled and damn-right more powerful PC. Besides its mobility the other advantage of this particular laptop is I don’t have to sully my rig with such mundane tasks like web browsing, music/DVD playing and word processing :-)

    • B.rake says:

      Did they fix the abysmal trackpad of previous models? y500 with 750m here, my only computer, quite happy with it (though I miss the build quality and mechanical keyboard of my previous Thinkpad) – Dishonored, Deus Ex and Sleeping Dogs are the most recent graphically intensive games I’ve tried and it handles them quite well knocking down the resolution a notch and/or slightly reducing settings. Also it was rather affordable… I hope it lasts another 5+ years like my prior, but this article has me really looking forward to what will be available by then.

      • K33L3R says:

        Track pad works very well, you can do some of the win 8 touchscreen gestures on the pad (not all) so navigating the start menu, bringing up the charm menu is easier
        Otherwise its no better or worse than any other track pad, it is large which is a boon

    • babbler says:

      I played Bioshock 2, XCOM, and Deus Ex HR with my 5 year old Thinkpad though obviously no where near the highest settings.

  8. Viroso says:

    Why don’t you guys make an article about where our computer parts come from, where they’re going to, who’s responsibly sourcing their stuff, what should we look out for when making responsible purchases, what impacts we cause with our PCs, etc.

    Like, the social and environmental issues regarding computer hardware. I know there are other places to find this sort of info but there are other places to find info on laptop and computers and computer parts and whatever right, and we come here to RPS for a specific reason right.

    I’d like to see RPS talking about these subjects more often. This is important stuff, and even though there’s info out there it is all spread out, sometimes not accurate, sometimes outdated. So it’d be nice to see that on hard choices.

    • All is Well says:

      I’m not sure the main reason anyone comes to RPS is articles about social or environmental issues related to PC gaming (I think we’d all be pretty disappointed if it were, given the frequency of those article), but I think that would be a very interesting topic for a Hard Choices column. Or, y’know, if anyone knows an interesting example of such an article and would like to share, that could work too.

    • B.rake says:

      It would be nice to have a good reference website for ‘responsible’ or ‘sustainable’ computing news and info, though I don’t really expect RPS to cover that sort of thing (might make a good feature though). There are a number of documentaries on thes subject of electronics materials & manufature (Adam Curtis’ All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace had an interesting bit on conflict minerals and gaming as I recall), as well as all the toxic dumping grounds in Africa and India. I’m a total hypocrite caring about this stuff even as I’m an avid consumer (my partial solution has been to buy almost exclusively used and refurbished, it also has the advantage of being cheaper but I’m pretty sure I’m mostly just subsidizing the seller’s gadget upgrades :

      • Dale Winton says:

        Could not care less about that.

        • B.rake says:

          Good to know! I will keep that in mind in all of my future posts.

        • Asurmen says:

          Thank god. For a second there I thought we weren’t going to have to bow down to your desires…

    • pepperfez says:

      My understanding has always been that the only way to make one’s electronics purchases ethical is to make them rare, but I would be interested to learn otherwise.

    • Melody says:

      Yes, completely agree. I’d love to see that feature.
      Ethical consumer has several pages dedicated to several different products, comparing brands according to personalized sliders. It’s really well done.
      link to ethicalconsumer.org

      Nothing on the manufacturers of individual components, though, as far as I can tell.
      Unfortunately a few pages are blocked, but the ones on Desktops and laptops are visible.

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      It’s an interesting idea. I can tell you this much: Right now all gaming-spec graphics chips come from a single Taiwanese supplier – TSMC – so there is no choice in that regard. Intel also dominates the CPU supply right now. So for the two most important components, I would argue there is no real choice currently in terms of things like responsible, sustainable manufacturing and supply. If you don’t like the way TSMC or Intel (to a lesser extent as AMD is still an option) makes its chips, you ain’t playing PC games.

      You’re then left with a few pickings at the margins – PSUs, cases, SSDs, motherboards – and in a lot of cases (examples not physical objects!), you probably won’t be able to find out much detailed info. Meanwhile you’ve possibly already compromised your principles with the main chips.

      I suspect a meaningful overview and in turn the ability to make choices that make a difference will be hard to come by. But I will look into it!

      • Viroso says:

        Nice! Even if the reality is there’s not much of a choice to be made, I think it’s still nice to know the consequences.

  9. msing says:

    I’m fine with hearing a desktop whirring away when playing games (within reason, obviously), but hearing my laptop make such noise worries me, and is a little distracting.

    Isn’t really a bad thing, as I bought the macbook for a more work focused device.

  10. Kerr Avon says:

    Good article, Jeremy. By the way, if the noise of the fans is really like being on the deck of an aircraft carrier, or the screen a bit too small, then this shouldn’t be a problem? All you need is a good-quality long hdmi cable and usb extension hub (powered, for the joystick, gamepad, mouse, TrackIR etc.) and leave your loud laptop (or noisy tower / desktop) in another room. So where are you? You’re laying comfortably on your couch at home in front of a nice flatscreen TV (plus home cinema surround-sound system), with no fan noise at all. Now you’re gaming where you should be. And on a proper PC, not console. I’m playing Elite Dangerous, Steel Beasts, TIE Fighter, Steel Fury and Panzer Front Ausf. B like this with the (pretty loud) tower gaming PC I built in another room and it’s awesome. Only caveat: don’t trip over the cables… heh. Obviously run them along the walls or do it proper under the floorboards.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      By the way, if the noise of the fans is really like being on the deck of an aircraft carrier, or the screen a bit too small, then this shouldn’t be a problem? All you need is a good-quality long hdmi cable and usb extension hub (powered, for the joystick, gamepad, mouse, TrackIR etc.) and leave your loud laptop (or noisy tower / desktop) in another room.

      At which point you’ve completely negated any benefits of purchasing a £1600 laptop since you could do the same (if not better) with a <£800 desktop.

      • Initialised says:

        Or you could buy a £200 laptop and run it as a thin (Steam) Client for gaming on the big screen while your £1400 desktop does the donkey work in another room.

      • Kerr Avon says:

        Exactly! Yes, every home should have its underground secret computer network complex + mad professor (think 1970’s Tom Baker as Dr Who) watching over it in the dust-free clean-room, banished in a tornado of swirling ozone and dry-ice, lit only by the ultraviolet wavelength of the spectrum, only occasionally hacked into by Matthew Broderick. Finally we are no longer distracted by our roaring mainframe monoliths burning rocket-fuel into an obsidian night sky. Um, alternatively… headphones are an option. Never used a laptop for gaming myself though, besides chess.

  11. wodin says:

    Desktop everytime..

  12. Zhiroc says:

    Price
    Portability
    Performance

    Pick two.

  13. wengart says:

    Gaming laptops are not really that portable due to the horrific battery life and overall weight. They are also much more fragile than a desktop. If any single piece breaks on it your chances of fixing it is much lower. For all of this prices are also much higher than comparable desktops.

    It makes infinitely more sense to have a dedicated gaming desktop and a portable laptop with some nice build quality. Modern laptops are powerful enough to handle most games that I would play on the go.

  14. Eukatheude says:

    I actually just ordered my new laptop. Clevo P170SM with a 970 and an i7 4710MQ. Paid about 1500 euros including tax, and if I had bough something premade with the same specs it would easily have run me over 2k.
    ANd by the way, this pc IS upgradeable – the gpu is on a mxm slot.
    I think you should write something about barebone laptops, Jeremy.

  15. Sihmm says:

    Would it be possible to do a feature on (or recommend) cheaper laptops which can play games but aren’t necessarily ‘gaming laptops’? I’m a fan of desktop gaming but the reality of my life for the next few years is world travel with severely weight-limited suitcases and cramped accommodation. I don’t really want to be carting a £1000 laptop around the world or be playing Far Cry 4 in a mountain village in Sri Lanka, but it would be great to know what kind of affordable rig could handle older or less intense games like, say, Civ 5, or Mirror’s Edge, or even something indie and new like This War of Mine (which I’m ashamed to say my current poor old laptop struggles to render in high single-digit framerates).

    I’m also unreasonably afraid that if I replace my laptop I won’t get anywhere near as good a screen as I already have. The screen on my current budget lappy has an unusual combination of excellent viewing angles and beautiful colour vibrancy – we actually use it as our main TV/Netflix viewing platform despite it wheezing heavily whenever it has to try to render HD content.

    • eggy toast says:

      In truth, any new laptop with a standalone graphics card will do what you are looking for.

      Lots of “core PC games” completely mis-guess just how much you can play when you are willing to knock things down to medium and appreciate the flexibility.

    • babbler says:

      The hardware requirements you need shouldn’t be that high. I used a Toshiba laptop with an integrated gpu to game when my gaming rig died and it was surprisingly powerful. Now granted I don’t play the newest greatest AAA games and I don’t think twice about lowering my settings.

      I was also able to play Civ 5, Deus Ex: HR, Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and XCOM with a 5 year old Thinkpad.

      If you’re playing indie games and older titles I think a modest system should be perfectly fine.

  16. Geebs says:

    Meh, I was hoping that these new GPUs would have made it into the retina MBP before my old laptop died. Then my old laptop died.

    Still, gaming on a laptop sucks, gaming on a thin laptop sucks twice as hard. Good thing I got the new machine for work, then!

    Also, installing win 8.1 blows all of the goats within a 500 yard radius. I hate Access for doing that to me :-(

    • Geebs says:

      Update: installing Windows 8.1 is nowhere near as bad as actually using it. My God.

  17. Cake Dispenser says:

    I prefer desktops over laptops tho I only use laptops for college purposes.

  18. Initialised says:

    Mainstream laptops tend to over spec the Screen, HDD/SSD, RAM and CPU at the expense of the GPU.

    The ideal gaming laptop comes with an i5 quad, an NVIDIA X50 or X60 1366×768 screen, a moderate SSD and space for an HDD, 8GB RAM.

    Acer come closest to the winning formula of the mainstream lot but you’re better off with a Clevo based unit from a bespoke/boutique gaming PC manufacturer so you can customise it as you see fit.

  19. GomezTheChimp says:

    I once spent £2k on an Alienware laptop so I could take Company of Heroes to work with me at play it maxed out…

  20. EyalLan says:

    I find it increasingly difficult for me to sit down and play on my desktop for over a couple of hours. I only started experiencing this a few years ago, and it’s part of the reason why I mostly game on consoles today. Is anyone else dealing with this as well?

  21. Hannibal_Zee says:

    I’ve been looking at laptops with the 980M and 970M GPUs and actually the 970M is significantly cheaper than the 980M. The Asus G751 with a 980M is priced at $2499 US but the 970M version is only $1499 US. The 980M version does have an added SSD and more RAM but that’s probably only about $300 of the $1000 difference. The G751 is also pretty quiet even under heavy load. It’s certainly not a leaf blower like others but it’s also not as thin (almost 2″ in the back).

    If you want to go nuts, there are SLI 980M and 970M laptops that are faster than a desktop 980. The Aorus X7 Pro does 970M SLI in a thin, kinda light case but you better have some noise blocking headphones if you want to use it for games.