Making the Jump

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
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.


Mason_M's picture

I commend you for buying a nice laptop, that actually has some specs to back it up. My first laptop was a HP G60 w/ 3GB of RAM, a shitty 2.00 GHz Dual Core Processor, and only 256MB of dedicated video memory, with a 675MHz Memory clock.

And I expected to game with that thing.

I hope that you do realize though that even a nice laptop will always fall behind a desktop, especially for a gamer and engineering student. For gaming, nothing beats a desktop GPU (I personally run a HD Radeon 6970 with 2GB GDDR5 memory @ 4000MHz memory clock) and for work multiple monitors are great.

As someone who will be taking civil engineering courses the next school year following this one, and a slightly more than casual gamer, I have to say that the core i7 and multiple monitors, along with high performance graphics card are a almost a requirement.

Then again, I've paid about $2200 CAD including the new GPU and monitor, and I've kinda shot myself in the foot with portability, but I stand by my previous statements.

iWINuFAIL's picture

Of course a desktop will give me better performance.  Had I gone into this with the INTENTION of becoming a PC gamer, I would have gone with a desktop, or at least an Alienware laptop.  In a few years, when I need a larger CPU to run design software, I will probably go with a nice rig that I can really sink my teeth into (gaming wise).

However, for my first few years my major focus is on portability and versatility.  The ONLY reason I ever even bothered with a videocard was because 3D finite element software can seriously eat up slower cards.  My dad (who uses them for Biochemistry) needed to upgrade the card on his supercomputer in order to even run them.

Once I became aware that I needed some type of decent card, I was committed to finding one that could deliver at least moderate gaming performance.

MarioDragon's picture

I have a really really REALLY good desktop (6GB RAM, i7, SLI GTX 550's, 2TB's in RAID) for gaming and other system intensive softwares, and a Macbook for school. I'm happy since I only buy laptop's every 5 years and continuously upgrade my desktop, and I hate Windows. With a passion. But it's the best OS out there, everyone knows it, so I'll have to live with it.

explicit_baron's picture

Nice laptop, my laptop is good all around, not amazing but, good for me. I'm a console gamer.

My specs

4gb ram

Dual Core 2.00 Ghz

Can run Half Life 2 on highest settings but, Call of Duty 4 and Crysis 2 on lowest settings.

Jevrio's picture

Mac is expensive as shit.. you didn't know that before now?

About laptops, I love my ASUS X53SV.

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