Gaming laptop ~$1600; hordes of questions

cortillaen

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So after spending plenty of time looking at parts and getting opinions here on what to put in a new desktop build, I learned that I will likely not have enough room for a desktop for at least one or two 7-month periods in the next 4 years. I really can't justify putting upwards of $1300 into a system (the remaining $300 was for monitor, keyboard, mouse, and traveling protection) that will be a pain to move around the country (very likely to happen a few times in the same time frame) and that I won't even be able to have with me for the better portion of a year. Ergo, time to look at laptops. Too bad they can't even scratch the performance of the lower-cost desktop build, but that's what one has to put up with when moving about becomes a way of life.

1.What is your Budget?
~$1600 (willing to go a couple hundred higher, but only for very substantial improvement)

2.What is the size of the laptop that you are considering?
17"

3.What screen resolution do you want?
Not picky, but the capacity for 1920x1080 would be nice

4.Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?
Desktop replacement

5.How much battery life do you need?
Not an issue. This will almost always be used near an outlet.

6.Do you want to play games with your laptop? If so then please list the games that you want to with the settings that you want for these games. (Low,Medium or High)?
Starcraft 2, Mass Effect 3, Skyrim, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Shogun 2, etc. Medium or better settings

7.What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop?
Web surfing, web games, the usual office software, and watching movies (but HD is not necessary)

8.How much storage (H.D.D Capacity) do you need?
500Gb or more

9.If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
Looking at Pro-Star and XoticPC right now for customizable performance without exceeding my price range, but any site that is reputable and has what I want at a good price is fine. Falcon Northwest and Origin were recommended to me, but I don't see anything there that would be affordable for me.
The two specific models I'm considering at the moment (open to others; these were just the two that seemed the best fit of features-to-cost of what I've seen) are:
MSI GT780DXR-446US from XoticPC - upgraded 12Gb 1600MHz RAM, removed second HDD, switched ODD to DVDRW/CDRW combo, clean OS install and recovery disc, and rushed assembly (1-4 days) for $1712 -$100MIR, free shipping, and the military discount (anyone know what it is? I'm still waiting on a reply from their supposedly 7 days a week live chat's "nobody's here; leave a message" thingy)
MSI GT780DX-406US from Pro-Star - only has the 1.5Gb 570M (waiting on a reply from them to see if they can put in the 3Gb instead), upgraded to 12Gb 1600MHz RAM, and priority assembly (1 day) for $1606 with no MIR, uncertain shipping, and no military discount that I can see.

10.How long do you want to keep your laptop?
About 4 years

11.What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc?
CDRW/DVDRW combo

12.Please tell us about the brands that you prefer to buy from them and the brands that you don't like and explain the reasons.
I don't trust Dell's quality. Other than that, no particular likes or dislikes.

13.What country do you live in?
USA

14.Please tell us any additional information if needed.
I'd really like to get something with the GTX 570M or better GPU. The 560M seems like it will start to choke on new games, even at low settings, before my expected 4 years of use are done, and I want to at least have new games playable on low settings up to that point. I'd like to keep the RAM at 1600MHz, and 12Gb would be nice (will settle for 8Gb, but most of the systems I've looked at have a minimal charge for the 4Gb step up, like $8 at the Pro-Star link above). If the system comes without an OS (with accompanying price drop, of course), that would be great, too, since I already have a Win7Pro disc on hand.

Questions: I doubt I'll ever be connecting to a really fast network anyway, so is there any point in upgrading from the basic 802.11 Wireless B/G/N wireless card?
How big of a difference would going from the GTX 570M 1.5Gb to the 3Gb version make?
How essential is a laptop cooler pad, and are either of the ones on the build pages above decent deals?
Why does it seem like all of the 17" laptops, especially the ones with GTX 570M or better GPUs, come with i7 processors as the base instead of a top-end i5? I know the i5-2500K (saw the 2550K on sale for $5 less this week, too) is considered the premier affordable gaming processor, so will a sub-$2000 gaming laptop actually benefit any from a more expensive i7?
Is buying the better dead-pixel protection worth it?
EDIT:
Forgot another question: Is getting the better thermal compounds worth it for a laptop?
 

Kiingzz

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cortillaen

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Thanks for reminding me of the one brand I don't like: Dell. Two Dell desktops and one of their laptops have all been of inferior quality for me. The XPS series may well be better than their normal offerings, but I'm not really inclined to trust them. Either way, that laptop wouldn't be in consideration given that it has the GT 555M, which has substantially lower performance than the GTX 560M, much less the GTX 570M. I consider the 570M to be a minimum requirement for whatever laptop I get. A 580 would be awesome, but I can't really justify jumping up nearer $2000 for it.
 

Avro Arrow

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Well since you cannot justify going over $2000 (and you shouldn't) and your minimum requirement for the GPU is the GTX 570M (extremely powerful), then I would recommend the MSI G Series MSI GT780DX-277US:
http://us.ncix.com/products/?sku=64815&vpn=9S7-176112-277&manufacture=MSI%2FMicroStar
Powerful as all hell, looks damn good and is $145 under budget.
Now you said that you were willing to go slightly higher if you thought it was worth it so another possibility is the MSI GT685-818US:
http://us.ncix.com/products/?sku=66029&vpn=9S7-16F211-818&manufacture=MSI%2FMicroStar
It has an i5 instead of an i7 but it has the GTX 580M instead of the GTX 570M and it's only $1603.75, right in the target range you're looking at. The i5 with the GTX 580M will game better than the i7 with the GTX 570M because neither processor is weak enough to bottleneck the GPUs. It all depends on what you are looking for.:sol:
 

franktastic4

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Did you look at http://www.xoticpc.com/force-1761-msi-1761-p-3152.html? Its 1000 with 570m 600 dollars under budget, and 1300 with a 580m. Upgrade to a i7 and get IC diamond for about 75 more. Its 1920x1080 and Matte!
 

erikalikesfire

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If you want an i5, try starting with this as the base. But the desktop and mobile processors aren't exactly the same. The mobile i3, i5, and i7 (without a q) are dual-core with hyperthreading, like the desktop i3; the desktop i5 is a quad-core without hyperthreading, with no mobile analogue; and the mobile i7 with a q in the model name is a quad with hyperthreading, like the desktop i7. The mobile i7 is closer to the desktop i5 than the mobile i5 is.

If you want to use 1600 MHz RAM, you need at least an i7-2760qm processor. The 2670qm, 2630qm, the dual-core i7 processors, and everything below only support up to 1333 MHz.

Dead pixel protection is, what, $40? I'd say it's worth it. Better than having to live with a bright green stuck pixel ruining every dark scene in a movie for the next 5 years.

Much more important than the compound is whether or not it is correctly applied. The difference between the highfalutin stuff and whatever their standard compound is is probably like two degrees, as long as they aren't using peanut butter or something.

I know people are always talking about the next big thing in computers and if you keep waiting you'll never get anything, but Sandy Bridge came out 15 months ago and Ivy Bridge is due out next month. Nvidia and ATI have both just started dropping their next gen cards on the desktop. The laptops you're looking at today are 90% of the way to being outdated. If you can wait a couple of months, you can probably get a significantly better system for the same price.
 

Avro Arrow

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^^^ Gotta admit, that looks mighty tempting! Good find! :D
 

Kiingzz

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This laptop has fantastic specs, and also I have to disagree with you about Dell. A few years back they were hopeless probably the worst brand on the planet, but recently they have come good the last year or so.

Anyway check this out:

http://www.malibal.com/boutique/pc/configurePrd.asp?idProduct=247


Graphics isn't the best but is still very good and can run most modern games on high easily.

The cpu is extremely powerful it whoops ass compared to what other people have posted.
 

cortillaen

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Avro Arrow and franktastic, those are definitely worth a closer look. While I would like to stick with a 17", it's not as important to me as the GPU.

Any thoughts on the difference between the GTX570 1.5gb and 3gb models? Also, do you think dropping the RAM back to 1333MHz (and accordingly decreasing the processor a little) would be worth the upgrade to the GTX580? I really appreciate the input.
 

dontqqnub

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Hello Cortillaen,

I was actually in the market of buying laptop and looked at the MSI 780 series. So many people complain that the keyboard doesnt register keystrokes on a regular basis... While gaming you NEEEEED every keystroke to be registered.

You mentioned you will most likely be moving across the country, and you recognize that high end laptops are on par/below mid-range desktops.
SO if you are not on 100% down for a gaming laptop, i recommend a desktop.

I am sure you could get a small case like the Antec Lanboy Air.(That case if meant for easy travel)

If you are positive you don't want a desktop. I will help you further on finding a gaming laptop.
 

dontqqnub

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The gtx 570m 1.5gb & 3gb will not matter on a laptop, although if you decide to hook up monitors to it and run surround then the 3gb will come in handy.

It is really a marketing scheme.
People that do not know a lot about computers think more vram = better the video card, or 1.5gb is less than 3gb... so its better!
 

whyso

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At 1080p and with a mobility graphics card almost every game that will run will use less than 1.5GB of vram. I would not pay extra for 3gb as it will rarely, if ever be used (games will run out of gpu performance before they run out of vram).

I would recommend getting a quad core processor (i7) -- the mobility versions are rougly equivalent to i5 desktops (i7-27xxm and 28xxm are roughly equivalent to the i5-2300 and 2400 in benchmarks). Current games are often not coded for more than 4 threads, but four years from now....

That said, i would wait if I can for ivy bridge and the newer gpus from nvidia and amd (if you can).
 

Kiingzz

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Well the 570m is extremely powerful for laptop gaming and if that's your minimum you probably will have to stick with it or get a worse one because anything over 570m you will have to more money.
 

cortillaen

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It's possible that I may end up deployed on a ship for 6-7months, so a desktop wouldn't be feasible to bring with me. It's more a matter of not having a place to set it up than any difficulty in transporting it.


Good to know, thanks. On the other hand, if I could swing the upgrade to a GTX 580M at thexpense of ditching the i7-2760 and 1600MHz RAM, do you think that would be worth it for gaming purposes?

Unfortunately, I don't have time for the waiting game. There are non-gaming uses for which I actually need this laptop as soon as possible. As for the processor, what do you think on the question above? Is that sacrifice worthwhile, or will the RAM or cpu bottleneck the more powerful gpu?
 

Avro Arrow

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Well that really depends. What non-gaming uses do you need it for? The i5 is a plenty capable CPU for most things but I don't know what other things you want to do so I can't really make an intelligent recommendation without that information.
 

cortillaen

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I expect to be watching some shows in a wide variety of file formats (mp4, mpg, avi, xvid/divx, ogm, etc), do some coding in a WYSIWYG environment, possibly work on web site design in Dreamweaver or similar program, and the usual Word/Excel/Powerpoint (this is what necessitates purchase sooner rather than later; I need the capacity to work on documents outside the very restrictive library hours here). I will not be doing any video editing, CAD, or the like.

Also, anyone else notice XoticPC's site disappear for a while earlier? I was getting an unregistered domain page when I tried accessing them up until just now.

EDIT: Here is the system I am considering as my top contender right now. Note that price includes hastened shipping and is before both a $60 military discount (which beats the stuffing out of Xotic's $35 one that can't be combined with anything) and the MSI $50 MIR. Pro-Star also offers 1 day priority assembly for the same cost as Xotic's 1-4 day offer.

There is also XoticPC's Force 1761. Comparing the two fully built with accessories and shipping looks like this: The GT780DX-406US has the GTX 570M 1.5Gb, a 750Gb/7200rpm HDD, and a 1 day build time for $1665 - $60 mil discount & $50 MIR.
The Force 1761 has the GTX 580M 2Gb, a 640Gb/5400rpm HDD, and a 1-4 days build time for $1720 - $35 mil discount.
They both have the i7-2670QM, 12Gb of 1333MHz RAM, no other parts differences, and a 3-day shipping time, but XoticPC lists the 2670QM as "limited availability", which probably means "expect delays".


 

Avro Arrow

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Umm, other than the extra 4GB of RAM, I fail to see how it beats the stuffing out of the MSI GT780DX-277US that I originally recommended from us.ncix.com:
http://us.ncix.com/products/?sku=64815&vpn=9S7-176112-277&manufacture=MSI%2FMicroStar
The specs seem to be completely identical except for 4GB of RAM that you seem to be willing to pay over $100 for. Even if you were going to completely remove ALL the RAM in that system and completely replace it with 16GB (not 12, but 16!), it would only cost you an extra $82:
http://us.ncix.com/products/?sku=47188&vpn=CMSO8GX3M2A1333C9&manufacture=Corsair&promoid=1263
 

cortillaen

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Actually, the system from Pro-Star runs the same price as the one from ncix if you take out the zero bright/dead pixel insurance and rush shipping and ignore the MIR, even with the higher RAM and a mouse thrown in. I'm not familiar with ncix; do they have any sort of dead pixel guarantee?
 

perfectblue

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If you are going for these MSI whitebooks, I think you should consider other resellers too. Head over to http://forum.notebookreview.com/msi/ to find out more.

IMO, A MSI 1761 whitebook with i7-2670QM, 8Gb of 1333MHz RAM, a 640Gb/5400rpm HDD, 120GB Patriot Wildfire SATA3 SSD, Bigfoot killer Wireless-N 1103 (2 antenna) should be the best I could find for $1720 (excluding 2% military discount OR 3% cash discount at http://www.gentechpc.com/config.asp?config_id=MSI-1761

I have nothing against xoticpc, they are very reputable resellers. But customer service from gentechpc has been outstanding in my purchases. Call them up and ask for Ken, he could help :)
 

Avro Arrow

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I don't know about their guarantee but you can certainly call them and ask. They are definitely not some fly-by-night company as I often go to their retail stores to buy stuff. They're a huge company.
 
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