So with College right around the corner, it was time to invest in a new laptop computer. Originally, I wanted to go with a Mac, as that is what I have been weaned on. Gaming was never a major thought when deciding on a new system, as I have both a 360 and a PS3.
However, as an engineering student, I require a faster processor, much more RAM, and even a decent videocard in order to run several finite element programs. In fact my counselor at orientation even said that prospective engineering students should consider gaming-capable laptops as their best choice. I was stubborn however, and decided to see what Macs gave me the performance I needed.
The only cheapest Mac which came close to what I needed was the 15-inch Macbook Pro. It has 4 GB RAM, an intel i7 dual-core, and a Radeon 6750 1 GB card. For that, I pay $2,050. And that's WITH my student discount.
sexy-but 2 grand sexy?
So I decided to look into some other rigs. My friend recommended HP, so I checked some out. Their highest rated "high performance" model was the Pavilion Dv6t Select Edition. Here are the base specs:
15.6" HD LED Screen (1400x800)
640 GB HDD
Intel i5 Dual-Core 2.3 GHz
6 GB DDR3 RAM
Radeon HD 6490 1 GB Card
Free Upgrade to Blu ray player (students only)
For an extra $25 I was able to swap the basic card for a newer Radeon 6770 (1 GB-Dx11). Though the Processor is weaker, I won't be doing any computing that would require an i7 (only professional engineers do), so it would just eat up my battery life. This entire package cost me (with discount):
wait for it....
Yeah. It's more powerful in every practical way than the Macbook Pro, and is $1,200 cheaper. Once again, the only edge the Mac has is the processor, which I've already explained I don't need. So basically I got a powerful rig, capable of playing higher end games, for less than half the price of what I originally wanted.
As soon as I got it, I wanted to give it a test run. I booted up the Witcher 2 using my friend's Steam account. It ran like butter on medium, and on high I was able to get between 20-30 fps, going down to 18 once during outdoors combat. Not bad considering it's one of the best looking games on the market. I didn't record any myself, but here is a video of someone running it on high with the same card:
I was very happy with the performance, and may consider buying the game if it goes on sale again (it's Steam so it probably will). I ran a few other tests (all with 4x AA):
Bad Company 2 on High: Avg 40 FPS
Shogun 2 on Ultra: Avg 30 FPS (I play on High generally and its over 60)
Crysis 2 on Advanced: Avg 30 FPS
SC2 on High: Avg 35 FPS (When I turned AA down to 2x this jumped to 50)
Based on these benchmarks it promises to be a very sturdy rig, lasting me a few years. I intend to buy BF3, which by all accounts will run just fine. I may need to turn it down to Medium for the 64-player matches, but that is a small price to pay. I've seen alpha footage of it running on low and it still looks great.
I will probably also get Skyrim for it, though that's going to be a bit more demanding. Whatever, so long as it runs.
So there is my rig. I'm very excited, both that I was able to save a boatload of money on a reliable computer, and that I am finally able to experience the highest level of gaming. Please comment and tell me what you think.