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Need a laptop for gaming and graphic design. Preferably around the $1,000-$1,200 price range.

#1 User is offline W.A.C. 

Posted 28 January 2015 - 11:02 AM

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So about three days before I started my classes at my university, I found out they expect all graphic design students to have a laptop. I initially planned on building a new computer this year because mine is 5 1/2 years old, but those plans have now been scrapped because of my sudden requirement to get a laptop. When I went to Fry's, I was told some of the higher end laptops can also function like a desktop PC by plugging them into a TV or monitor, and that I wouldn't experience any additional input lag while gaming using a monitor. With this in mind, I want to get a great laptop that:

-Can handle an overwhelming amount of modern PC releases at 60FPS at the highest settings. Last thing I want is to have a bunch of newer games run like crap two or three years from now.
-Can run the emulator Dolphin without lag issues. This is huge for me, as I typically prefer emulation over using original hardware and would love to play Project M in HD. That could be extremely convenient when friends and I want to play that game at a person's house or at a gaming club.
-Performs Adobe programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, Adobe Acrobat, Audition, etc, very well to where I'm unlikely to worry about the programs crashing from the computer not handling the software well.
-Performs Fast
-Good sound quality. I currently use a $50 ASUS sound card for my computer and listen to 95% of my music in the FLAC file format, so I don't want a major downgrade in sound quality since this will become my primary computer for all my computer needs.
-Additional input lag from connecting the laptop to a monitor is absolutely unacceptable.
-I'm not picky about screen size (especially since I'll mostly use a monitor at home), but it has to have a 1920x1080p resolution. Larger screens are preferred, but not required as long as it has that resolution.
-Preferably not insanely noisy.
-Must have at least 1TB of space, though I'll consider less space if it has both a SSD and a standard hard-drive.
-Having a solid state drive is preferable, but not required. How much of a difference would it make with game and program performance?
-Ideally, I'd like to still be able to use this laptop five years from now, so try to find something that would most likely still work decently five years from now.

I'm willing to pay around $1,300 + tax if it's an insanely good deal or would make a huge difference by spending an extra hundred dollars. One of my friends linked me to this link and this laptop sounds nice. Does anyone know of any laptops for that price range that's as good or better than that? Also, which brands would you recommend? I hear MSI, Lenovo, and ASUS laptops are really good, and Fry's sells an ASUS laptop for $1,300 that has high specs and a solid state drive. Which is the better gaming laptop brand, MSI or ASUS?
This post has been edited by W.A.C.: 28 January 2015 - 11:51 AM

#2 User is offline Covarr 

Posted 28 January 2015 - 12:03 PM

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View PostW.A.C., on 28 January 2015 - 11:02 AM, said:

-Good sound quality. I currently use a $50 ASUS sound card for my computer and listen to 95% of my music in the FLAC file format, so I don't want a major downgrade in sound quality since this will become my primary computer for all my computer needs.

Assuming you use good speakers or headphones (seriously, internal laptop speakers are shit), you don't really have to worry too much about this. Most integrated sound chips have more than acceptable sound if all you need is stereo out. If you want surround sound, or want to use built-in ports for input, you're gonna have problems, but for pure output I wouldn't worry.

View PostW.A.C., on 28 January 2015 - 11:02 AM, said:

-Additional input lag from connecting the laptop to a monitor is absolutely unacceptable.

I have never even heard of this happening. Using the HDMI out on most laptops is pretty much identical to connecting a desktop GPU to a second monitor. Should not be a concern at all.

View PostW.A.C., on 28 January 2015 - 11:02 AM, said:

-Preferably not insanely noisy.

If you want good specs, this is gonna probably have to be a partial concession. It won't be super noisy like some desktop machines, but don't expect something whisper quiet, at least while the GPU is in high use.

View PostW.A.C., on 28 January 2015 - 11:02 AM, said:

-Must have at least 1TB of space, though I'll consider less space if it has both a SSD and a standard hard-drive.
-Having a solid state drive is preferable, but not required. How much of a difference would it make with game and program performance?

Here's where you're likely to run into trouble. Gaming laptops very rarely have SSDs. I don't know for sure, but I suspect it's because large capacity SSDs are crazy expensive, and there's not room in most laptop form factors for both a HDD and a SSD together. That said, I wouldn't worry about it; a SSD makes a big difference for startup time, both for the machine and for individual apps, and it can help with large file operations and general performance of things like Windows Explorer, but it makes very little difference in-game. The most benefit you might get is stages loading faster (noticeable on Source Engine games, but not super important), or faster texture loading for games with texture streaming (Trials HD/Evolution). A SSD is nice, but I don't think it's super necessary in most cases.

View PostW.A.C., on 28 January 2015 - 11:02 AM, said:

One of my friends linked me to this link and this laptop sounds nice. Does anyone know of any laptops for that price range that's as good or better than that? Also, which brands would you recommend? I hear both MSI and ASUS laptops are really good, and Fry's sells an ASUS laptop for $1,300 that has high specs and a solid state drive. Which is the better gaming laptop brand, MSI or ASUS?

I don't have any personal experience with MSI laptops, but I can attest their GPUs are reliable; I'd imagine this extends to all their hardware in general. I can speak highly of ASUS in most cases; I have a small ultra-ish-book that was really great once I swapped out the HDD for a SSD (it was a really cheap 5400RPM drive with no cache; literally anything I could've swapped it for would've been better) as well as a 2013 Nexus 7, both made by ASUS.

That said, the laptop you linked looks like it'll fit the bill pretty well. You might run into some slowdown on Super Mario Galaxy 2 with that thing, and you might need to not max out some settings in Dolphin, but I legit can't imagine getting much better for that price point.

#3 User is offline GerbilSoft 

Posted 28 January 2015 - 01:25 PM

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I always recommend (Lenovo) ThinkPads for everything. They might not be the best at gaming, but they're reliable and they'll last a long time.

The upcoming ThinkPad *50 series has the new Intel Broadwell CPUs, and I believe some models do have nVidia GPUs as well. All are available with either HDD or SSD, plus an optional M.2 SSD.

Also, I'd advise avoiding any store that says that only "some" higher-end laptops can connect to a TV. All modern laptops have one or more of VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort. (ThinkPads usually have VGA and Mini DisplayPort; a passive mDP to HDMI adapter would be required for a TV.)

EDIT: Also, make sure it has an IPS display (or similar, e.g. AFFS, S-PVA). TN panels are "preferred" by some gamers due to lower response time, but they have really terrible viewing angles. Modern IPS displays have sub-16ms response, which is good enough for 60 Hz.
This post has been edited by GerbilSoft: 28 January 2015 - 01:26 PM
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#4 User is offline W.A.C. 

Posted 28 January 2015 - 02:14 PM

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View PostCovarr, on 28 January 2015 - 12:03 PM, said:

Assuming you use good speakers or headphones (seriously, internal laptop speakers are shit), you don't really have to worry too much about this. Most integrated sound chips have more than acceptable sound if all you need is stereo out. If you want surround sound, or want to use built-in ports for input, you're gonna have problems, but for pure output I wouldn't worry.

Only time I would use the built in speakers are in public locations. I usually use headphones at home and use speakers when friends are over.

View PostCovarr, on 28 January 2015 - 12:03 PM, said:

I have never even heard of this happening. Using the HDMI out on most laptops is pretty much identical to connecting a desktop GPU to a second monitor. Should not be a concern at all.

One of my friends told me he had that issue, but I think he might have used Chromecast instead of directing connecting it.

View PostCovarr, on 28 January 2015 - 12:03 PM, said:

If you want good specs, this is gonna probably have to be a partial concession. It won't be super noisy like some desktop machines, but don't expect something whisper quiet, at least while the GPU is in high use.

Some noise is fine, but I hate it when a computer is obnoxiously noisy. My desktop computer is usually fairly quiet.

View PostCovarr, on 28 January 2015 - 12:03 PM, said:

Here's where you're likely to run into trouble. Gaming laptops very rarely have SSDs. I don't know for sure, but I suspect it's because large capacity SSDs are crazy expensive, and there's not room in most laptop form factors for both a HDD and a SSD together. That said, I wouldn't worry about it; a SSD makes a big difference for startup time, both for the machine and for individual apps, and it can help with large file operations and general performance of things like Windows Explorer, but it makes very little difference in-game. The most benefit you might get is stages loading faster (noticeable on Source Engine games, but not super important), or faster texture loading for games with texture streaming (Trials HD/Evolution). A SSD is nice, but I don't think it's super necessary in most cases.

Do you think a solid state drive can make a huge difference with emulators like Dolphin, or little to no difference? That's my biggest concern between getting and not getting a SSD.

View PostCovarr, on 28 January 2015 - 12:03 PM, said:

I don't have any personal experience with MSI laptops, but I can attest their GPUs are reliable; I'd imagine this extends to all their hardware in general. I can speak highly of ASUS in most cases; I have a small ultra-ish-book that was really great once I swapped out the HDD for a SSD (it was a really cheap 5400RPM drive with no cache; literally anything I could've swapped it for would've been better) as well as a 2013 Nexus 7, both made by ASUS.

That said, the laptop you linked looks like it'll fit the bill pretty well. You might run into some slowdown on Super Mario Galaxy 2 with that thing, and you might need to not max out some settings in Dolphin, but I legit can't imagine getting much better for that price point.

From the research I've done on Newegg with my price range, that seems like my best option for a laptop without an SDD. My best option with an SDD seems to be this laptop. However, it has a smaller screen and a lousy battery life, and it's $150 more, so I'm heavily leaning toward the laptop my friend suggested. Not to mention one of the reviewers later installed an SSD into that $1,200 laptop, so that's always an option I could do in the future if I feel compelled enough to get an SSD.

View PostGerbilSoft, on 28 January 2015 - 01:25 PM, said:

I always recommend (Lenovo) ThinkPads for everything. They might not be the best at gaming, but they're reliable and they'll last a long time.

The upcoming ThinkPad *50 series has the new Intel Broadwell CPUs, and I believe some models do have nVidia GPUs as well. All are available with either HDD or SSD, plus an optional M.2 SSD.

If my intention wasn't to get a gaming laptop, Lenovo sounds like my best option for a general purpose laptop.

View PostGerbilSoft, on 28 January 2015 - 01:25 PM, said:

Also, I'd advise avoiding any store that says that only "some" higher-end laptops can connect to a TV. All modern laptops have one or more of VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort. (ThinkPads usually have VGA and Mini DisplayPort; a passive mDP to HDMI adapter would be required for a TV.)

I initially expressed a lot of concern because of issues a friend had with lag, but I think he might not have used a direct HDMI connection. So I think his intention was to make it clear that would not be a problem with the laptops I was looking at (which were higher end gaming laptops).

View PostGerbilSoft, on 28 January 2015 - 01:25 PM, said:

EDIT: Also, make sure it has an IPS display (or similar, e.g. AFFS, S-PVA). TN panels are "preferred" by some gamers due to lower response time, but they have really terrible viewing angles. Modern IPS displays have sub-16ms response, which is good enough for 60 Hz.

I looked through reviews of the $1,200 laptop and the screen is in fact a TN screen. However, reviews received the screen very well and someone said "the Screen has great viewing angles and color for it being a TN screen," so I'm not too concerned. I also care a ton about input lag in general, so the fact it's a TN screen with great viewing angles sounds appealing. Plus I'll be using my monitor most of the time anyways, and my monitor's viewing angles aren't good. lol >_<

#5 User is offline GerbilSoft 

Posted 28 January 2015 - 02:21 PM

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View PostW.A.C., on 28 January 2015 - 02:14 PM, said:

I initially expressed a lot of concern because of issues a friend had with lag, but I think he might not have used a direct HDMI connection. So I think his intention was to make it clear that would not be a problem with the laptops I was looking at (which were higher end gaming laptops).

Input lag is a property of the display, not the source. VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort should all have zero input lag when using a suitable display. (This includes most DisplayPort to VGA/HDMI adapters as well.)

#6 User is offline Covarr 

Posted 28 January 2015 - 04:12 PM

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View PostW.A.C., on 28 January 2015 - 02:14 PM, said:

Do you think a solid state drive can make a huge difference with emulators like Dolphin, or little to no difference? That's my biggest concern between getting and not getting a SSD.

Nah. I run Dolphin with all my games on my HDD and don't have any issues. There is some extremely minor microstutter caused by shader/texture caching (which goes away as you play due to the nature of caching), but I'm 99.99% sure that a SSD wouldn't help with this.

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Posted 28 January 2015 - 07:45 PM

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As for brand recommendations, I'm in love with my ASUS notebook. This particular model might have an Intel GPU, but it's so solid; stays cool and quiet while working on art and listening to music. The back end's balls are even slightly raised, so air gets underneath the case.

Definitely avoid HP like the plague, if you hate noise. Their newer laptops can last a long time if you take care of it, (Mine's only down right now because of a bricked BIOS. Gotta get that fixed.) but the cooling setup is as bad as a slim PS3's, so the HDD stays warm, and the fan's extremely noisy while doing basic computing. Anything above 15% constant CPU usage kicks up the noise right away. Constant usage beyond 50% makes you wonder if the system's going to melt down, it's so loud. I never played heavier games on it for that reason.

Covarr said:

I don't have any personal experience with MSI laptops, but I can attest their GPUs are reliable; I'd imagine this extends to all their hardware in general. I can speak highly of ASUS in most cases; I have a small ultra-ish-book that was really great once I swapped out the HDD for a SSD (it was a really cheap 5400RPM drive with no cache; literally anything I could've swapped it for would've been better) as well as a 2013 Nexus 7, both made by ASUS.


My cousin has an MSI laptop, and it's been through a lot of abuse, despite looking like it's cheaply made; very solid. The Nvidea GPU in it is nice too, but the CPU's too slow to actually run most modern games, (2.4GHz; a lot of games demand 3GHz.) and it gets really loud. Not as loud as an HP laptop, mind you, but yikes does it get fairly warm, even while playing Minecraft or Morrowind on low settings.

I'm sure more recent models are better than that, at least.

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