College gaming laptop - Asus vs MSI vs ???

Page 2 - Seeking answers? Join the Tom's Guide community: where nearly two million members share solutions and discuss the latest tech.


Jun 22, 2012
Hey guys,

I'm going to be a freshman this next semester at a state school, so I am in the business of shopping for a laptop. I know I can get a great college laptop for a very low and reasonable price, but unfortunately, like many teenagers, I can't give up my video gaming pastime.

I thought for a while I would build my own desktop for gaming, and just use an old laptop for school, and I even built one through, but I realized how impractical a hefty desktop is for college life.

In fact,even now I realize how impractical it is for a college student to carry around a beast of a machine like most gaming laptops are.

Which is why I set off to find the perfect balance between weight and power.

I want to be able to play Guild Wars 2 on Ultra settings when it comes out. It is not a terribly demanding game, so this should be feasible. Other potential plays are games like Skyrim, Civilization V, Mass Effect 3... etc. It would also be nice if the machine could handle some early 2013 games and perhaps late 2013 games.

Also, i am a college student, so the machine has to be relatively livable. Battery life is pretty important, so the machine can't die on me after a mere hour of casual use. I WILL be buying a spare battery with my laptop, so I was thinking I could make do with 3-4 hours of casual battery life, maybe a tad less.

Build quality needs to be... decent at worst, as it will have to be quite mobile, however this is the area I'm most willing to sacrifice if needs be.

And I need to tote the thing around, so my soft weight limit on a laptop for college is 6 lbs. I might tolerate 7, but i would much rather only lug 5 lbs around.

I want to keep the price range around in the area of $1500.

After researching video cards, I would like something about the quality of Nvidia's GTX 660m. I know the GT 650m is also very common, and I believe it to be comprable (please inform me if this is no the case.

After much browsing of the internet, I have found 2 laptops I like pretty well, but I am torn between the two. These are: MSI's GE60 0ND-042US, and ASUS's N56VZ-DS71.

Both base models list prce at around $1200, however I am planning to use to do some upgrading to whichever I choose.

They are both 15.6" machines, which is about the size I am looking for (considering weight). I don't want to go much smaller.

specs on the machines after my upgrades are as follows:

CPU- 3rd Generation Intel® Ivy Bridge Core™ i7-3610QM (2.3GHz - 3.3GHz, 6MB Intel® Smart Cache, 45W Max TDP

GPU- nVidia GeForce GTX 660M 2,048MB

RAM- 8GB DDR3 1600MHz Dual Channel Memory (2x4GB SODIMMS)

mSATA-120GB Mushkin Enhanced Atlas Series mSATA III (Primary Drive w/ O.S. Installed) *I truly love this machine for its mSATA port, as the ASUS lacks one and I would need to sacrifice either the HDD or the CDD for a SSD*

HDD- 750GB 7200RPM 16MB Cache Buffer (Serial-ATA II 3GB/s) *this would just be a storage drive, of couse. the SSD would take the OS*

Optical Drive- 6X Blu-Ray Reader + 8X DVDRW/CDRW Super Multi Combo Drive * I really do want to keep this optical drive, as carrying around an external would frankly suck imo*

CPU- 3rd Generation Intel® Ivy Bridge Core™ i7-3610QM (2.3GHz - 3.3GHz, 6MB Intel® Smart Cache, 45W Max TDP

GPU- nVidia GeForce GT 650m 2,048MB

RAM- 8GB DDR3 1600MHz Dual Channel Memory (2x4GB SODIMMS

mSATA- None ( as far as I know, there is no mSATA drive on the N56VZ-DS71, which is my only issue with it, but a big one at that, because there is also no second hard drive bay, meaning I would have to go with only 1 massive SSD *cough cough* expensive! *cough cough* or kill the optical drive...)

HDD- Like I just said, this is where I'm stuck with this machine. I can't afford a $1000 500GB SSD, but it seems very necessary to me.

Optical Drive- 6X Blu-Ray Reader + 8X DVDRW/CDRW Super Multi Combo Drive


So there are my two machines as of now.

My dilemma- I love the MSI, it has everything I want ( minus a backlight keyboard... DANGIT ALL! XD), but I havent heard too many great things about the manufacturer. Also I've seen in reviews that the 100% plastic frame leaves a tad to be desired in sturdiness. My question to you experts out there is "are these issues too big? Will this MSI die on my in 9 months?" besides my hesitations with the company, I do like the specs.

The Asus is the other side of the coin to me. I don't love the specs as much, but I DO love the company. ASUS makes a lean-mean-machine. My biggest issue with it is the lack of a mSATA drive or a second hard drive bay. So my question to you would be " how bad do I really need a SSD? can I get buy without it? or will I bottleneck the CPU and GPU?

Speaking of the GPU, I also would like to ask if the GT 650m found in the ASUS really IS comprable to the GTX 660m found in the MSI.

And lastly, I understand that you guys probably know infinitely more about this than I do. If I have missed a great alternative laptop or have overlooked an easy solution to my problem, please don't be afraid to shoot your ideas.

Thanks so much,


Agree! I suggested a refurbished $250 to $300 laptop for general college use (different post). If it gets lost/stolen, not a huge problem.

And build a 3rd gen desktop for around $1,200 for gaming plus college work.

Jake, what's the major that you are persueing?


Jun 22, 2012
Sorry for the delay in response, but I've been down at college orientation.

Anyways, I'm following a hybrid program that takes elements of Pre-Med and also standard Phd courses in hopes to one day be a cancer researcher.

No i really don't need this laptop for 3D engineering software.


Jun 22, 2012

honestly this laptop is closer to the multimedia genre.

Like before mentioned, MMO's are much less visually demanding then other games Like first-person shooters and the likes.

Looks like a good program! Wish you the best!


Dec 19, 2010

haha engineering software isnt really that demanding but i get the point.


Oct 2, 2012
Hi …,

I hope my story, Google search help you to take the right decision.

This is my RMA story.

Every third ASUS laptop is DIFFECTIVE.

I had a custom Asus gaming laptop G51JX-3DE/G60JX ($2351) from I can’t say I have it because it has already been in the Asus repair station for more than 2 months and I don’t know when I will get it back. My RMA status is still the same: "Waiting-[WB1] Wait for Material/Spare Parts". I emailed the Asus representative Mr. Tien Phan and got the response that the issue with my notebook was duplicated, and it was currently at a repair station waiting for the necessary parts to come in.
Because of that I began to initiate some action and look at what I could dig up.
If you look at the Asus website you will see that now it only has 2 gaming laptops G75VW (17’) and G55VW (15’), but there were a dozen different models in 2010.
My friend’s computer market analyst said that the Asus repair station is piled up with defective laptops, transformers, tablets. Almost every third ASUS laptop is DIFFECTIVE.
Since 2008 Asus started to produce their own laptops in huge amounts, though previously it was focused on the production of motherboard and other components. The range of its products increased in many times. They tried to compete even with Apple (Zenbook, Pads). But the Asus team just can’t compete with Steve Jobs’ team. As a result the quality of Asus products begins to fall dramatically. Asus Customer Service just can’t cope with the avalanche of custom claims.

Unfortunately, the quality of the motherboards – diamond in Asus crown – became worse compared to what it was before 2010. I built three rigs with Asus motherboards, last one is P6X58D Premium and I am satisfied with their quality. But now days are different.

Now we need to think seven times before buying an Asus laptop.

Having every third ASUS laptop DIFFECTIVE is too much.



Jun 22, 2012
yes i actually did proceed to buy my ASUS Gaming laptop which is awesome for everything i want it to do. Its solid, light, games like a champ, stays cool, great investment.

Only issue is that every time I print, Some files get corrupted and the computer BSOD.

But thats a driver issue, not a computer issue. (which by the way if anyone could assist me with, i would gladly give u more info in another thread.)

So thank you for your ASUS rant, but I happen to love my ASUS.

Beast of a machine.