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A good gaming laptop for a university student

Samazar

Junior Member
May 26, 2018
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0
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My son is currently studying I.T. and I'd like to get him a good reasonably priced gaming laptop that is thin and light without compromise to performance. I sure there are knowledgeable people out here that have compared all the 15-inch and 17-inch gaming laptops and can provide honest insight and valuable advice.

Are there any USA vendors that are known to provide such gear at cutting-edge prices ? I would need to but a gaming laptop, some good games (Please suggest), gaming hardware (Mouse, controllers) and Microsoft Office for Students. He is a student at a reputable university and I'm hoping that he can get a good student discount from the various hardware and software vendors.

Any advice from knowledgeable fellow forum members and gaming gurus will be appreciated. I quite like these reviews on the AnandTech site:-

https://www.anandtech.com/show/12789/razer-launches-the-razer-blade-156

https://www.anandtech.com/show/12797/acer-unleashes-predator-helios-500-gaming-notebook

The Razer laptop seems to be very nice in terms of being thin, light weight and high performance. The price is steep at $2,000 but if it's a nice machine, I'll consider it.

The Asus Rog series seems to be quite popular - any reason for that ?
 

Bubbleawsome

Diamond Member
Apr 14, 2013
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If he’s not doing tons of gaming the Dell XPS 15 is fantastic. I’ve got one and it can runs games perfectly fine at 1080p, while also being a great productivity machine and getting 6-8 hours of battery life if I’m careful. All in under 5lbs. And if you’re careful with how you spec it out you can get one for about $1,200 and then throw in a huge SSD and the whole package won’t be much more than $1,500.

One I’ve seen but didn’t try out is the new Gigabyte AERO series. Very similar to the XPS specs but with gaming cards like the 1060, 1070, and 1080.
 

Samazar

Junior Member
May 26, 2018
3
0
1
If he’s not doing tons of gaming the Dell XPS 15 is fantastic. I’ve got one and it can runs games perfectly fine at 1080p, while also being a great productivity machine and getting 6-8 hours of battery life if I’m careful. All in under 5lbs. And if you’re careful with how you spec it out you can get one for about $1,200 and then throw in a huge SSD and the whole package won’t be much more than $1,500.

One I’ve seen but didn’t try out is the new Gigabyte AERO series. Very similar to the XPS specs but with gaming cards like the 1060, 1070, and 1080.
Thank you very much for your useful and informative input, the Dell XPS 15 is one of the machines on my list.

Advice from other users is welcome.
 

DigDog

Lifer
Jun 3, 2011
11,858
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i'm not a fan of uniting the terms "gaming" and "laptop". it's not just the time wasting, because, well, that happens on all computers, big and small. but just for a matter of efficiency, dedicate your laptop to work, and if you got time to game while going to university, get yourself a desktop, or a console.
 
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Bubbleawsome

Diamond Member
Apr 14, 2013
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i'm not a fan of uniting the terms "gaming" and "laptop". it's not just the time wasting, because, well, that happens on all computers, big and small. but just for a matter of efficiency, dedicate your laptop to work, and if you got time to game while going to university, get yourself a desktop, or a console.
I guess he could get a console too, but getting a gaming desktop and any sort of useful laptop will probably cost more.
 

Mamere782

Member
Oct 10, 2017
58
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Depends on the game. Look on Ebay...good deals there. I personally like Asus (ROG). I do not play on line games, so that is also a consideration as to how much power is needed. Look at the specs for graphic card and CPU.
 

Samazar

Junior Member
May 26, 2018
3
0
1
Thank you very much fellow forum members, I really do appreciate it.

I think I'll invest in a good work laptop like the Dell XPS 15 or an alternative more current laptop by one of the main vendors such as hp, Asus or Acer. I suppose I can get him a gaming console later on, I think that may work out better.

I'm not sure if the 2 in 1s are a better route to take, the Asus ZenBook Flip S has impressive specifications and looks quite nice. Feel free to make suggestions.
 

cmdrdredd

Lifer
Dec 12, 2001
26,829
273
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Is there such a thing? Shouldn't you be studying?!
What? There is actual schooling going on? lol

If you go with the Dell XPS15 then I'd recommend stepping up to the Nvidia GPU for gaming. You won't be gaming at 4k with it by any stretch but the GTX 1050ti is much more stout than the Intel HD graphics in the base model.
 

HeXen

Diamond Member
Dec 13, 2009
7,818
30
91
I really liked the idea of those desktop graphics card adapters. Asus has a laptop that plugs into a charging station that contains a desktop graphics card. Of course your limited to only playing powerhouse games at home or dorm but it's a great compromise imo. There's a few on the market these days, if I was going for the gaming laptop, that's what I would shoot for since gaming on a high end gaming laptop still uses a lot of battery power which more quickly decreases it's lifespan through recharge cycles and I wouldn't trust their hourly life ratings anyway. Once a battery reaches 90% capacity, you can really start to notice it.
 

cmdrdredd

Lifer
Dec 12, 2001
26,829
273
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I really liked the idea of those desktop graphics card adapters. Asus has a laptop that plugs into a charging station that contains a desktop graphics card. Of course your limited to only playing powerhouse games at home or dorm but it's a great compromise imo. There's a few on the market these days, if I was going for the gaming laptop, that's what I would shoot for since gaming on a high end gaming laptop still uses a lot of battery power which more quickly decreases it's lifespan through recharge cycles and I wouldn't trust their hourly life ratings anyway. Once a battery reaches 90% capacity, you can really start to notice it.
Because I am curious what type of desktop graphics are we talking about and for what kind of money?
 

HeXen

Diamond Member
Dec 13, 2009
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Because I am curious what type of desktop graphics are we talking about and for what kind of money?
There are others but this gives you the idea. https://www.asus.com/us/Graphics-Cards-Accessory/ROG-XG-STATION-2/
Supports Geoforce 9/10, Radeon R9/RX and later series. Looks like it comes with a 600 watt power supply and says it pairs perfectly with Transformer 3 Pro and UX series zenbooks. It may work with any laptop that has thunderbolt 3 support, dunno.
*edit, Ah it also says ROG XG Station 2 is a plug-and-play external graphics card dock that turns a Thunderbolt™ 3-enabled notebook or 2-in-1 PC into a VR-ready gaming powerhouse.

I don't know how much they are but I'm sure it's more expensive than laptop graphics cards. I may eventually go this route instead of having seperate dedicated gaming PC and laptop.
 

Bubbleawsome

Diamond Member
Apr 14, 2013
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I’ll say the laptop has to specifically support it I think. My XPS15 only has 2 lane thunderbolt so it doesn’t fully support it.
 

cmdrdredd

Lifer
Dec 12, 2001
26,829
273
126
There are others but this gives you the idea. https://www.asus.com/us/Graphics-Cards-Accessory/ROG-XG-STATION-2/
Supports Geoforce 9/10, Radeon R9/RX and later series. Looks like it comes with a 600 watt power supply and says it pairs perfectly with Transformer 3 Pro and UX series zenbooks. It may work with any laptop that has thunderbolt 3 support, dunno.
*edit, Ah it also says ROG XG Station 2 is a plug-and-play external graphics card dock that turns a Thunderbolt 3-enabled notebook or 2-in-1 PC into a VR-ready gaming powerhouse.

I don't know how much they are but I'm sure it's more expensive than laptop graphics cards. I may eventually go this route instead of having seperate dedicated gaming PC and laptop.
That page made me laugh. They say “you can enjoy gaming that is better than dedicated gaming laptops and many desktop PCs.” Then go on to compare their dock with a gtx 1080 against a laptop running a 1070 and a desktop with a 1070. Of course a 1080 is going to perform better.
 

Mai72

Lifer
Sep 12, 2012
10,626
1,151
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i'm not a fan of uniting the terms "gaming" and "laptop". it's not just the time wasting, because, well, that happens on all computers, big and small. but just for a matter of efficiency, dedicate your laptop to work, and if you got time to game while going to university, get yourself a desktop, or a console.
Get software to block gaming when you need to work? I like using Cold Turkey. It blocks Steam and my games when I need to get some work done. What's really cool is you can set up a schedule to set up your gaming sessions, when to work, etc. For instance, you could block Mon from 9am-5pm, Tues from 12pm-8pm, and so on. There are ways to circumvent it though. But, I try to not go that route. The new version has a chart and let's you know where you're spending most of your time Pretty handy.
 

Midwayman

Diamond Member
Jan 28, 2000
5,723
325
126
i'm not a fan of uniting the terms "gaming" and "laptop". it's not just the time wasting, because, well, that happens on all computers, big and small. but just for a matter of efficiency, dedicate your laptop to work, and if you got time to game while going to university, get yourself a desktop, or a console.
Absolutely. 'Gaming' and 'Laptop' are at odds with each other design wise. If you get a laptop that's okay at gaming you end up with something that is 'meh' at gaming vs a desktop half its price and practically useless as a real portable device. Considering this is for college, and presumably he'll be lugging it around to class everyday I would focus solely on the laptop side. Good battery, light, good keyboard and screen. Get a console for gaming. You can probably buy a good laptop + console for the same price as a 'gaming laptop'.
 

nakedfrog

No Lifer
Apr 3, 2001
51,213
3,781
126
I like gaming laptops, I've been using them for over a decade.
If you're okay with spending the money, that Razer should be a very nice unit indeed.
My Dell XPS17 I bought in 2011 is the last Dell laptop I will ever buy, every single Dell laptop I've owned in the past 15 years started developing problems after only 2-3 years. Could call it bad luck, but my Gateway P6831FX ran perfectly for the 4 years I had it, and my current MSI GT70 similarly has given me no issues in four years.
There is merit to the laptop & console idea, depends on how much of premium space is in his living situation.
 

HeXen

Diamond Member
Dec 13, 2009
7,818
30
91
That page made me laugh. They say “you can enjoy gaming that is better than dedicated gaming laptops and many desktop PCs.” Then go on to compare their dock with a gtx 1080 against a laptop running a 1070 and a desktop with a 1070. Of course a 1080 is going to perform better.
It's not a lie though. Using a desktop card like that is better than the mobile laptop cards. http://gpu.userbenchmark.com/Compare/Nvidia-GTX-1080-Mobile-vs-Nvidia-GTX-1080/m165564vs3603

Most people with gaming PC's have fairly weak hardware. https://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey/Steam-Hardware-Software-Survey-Welcome-to-Steam?platform=combined. You can see that only 3.57% of gamers have a 1070GTX with 1060 being the most popular at 11.88% while Intel HD Graphics 4000 is pretty high at 1.35%. While it all sounds trivial, it's a large number considering the PC gamers that participate.
And finally it would be obvious due to the bandwidth that you would need a 1080 in a laptop adapter like this to get 1070 performance from a dedicated gaming PC.

For what it is, it's pretty nice and if it likely makes having your hands on the KB a lot more comfortable without all that extra heat from the laptop not to mention the fan noise. Then you also should consider lifestyle differences. While many here are no doubt fine having a dedicated desktop setup on a desk, possibly with their own dedicated room, a lot of people may need a laptop for the go and save desk space for a dock that allows them more gaming power when at home. It's not convenient or necessary for everyone to have dedicated multiple machines for every little thing. IN fact I would say that more and more people as time goes on, are going to use single devices that do many things just like their phones do now.
 

Aikouka

Lifer
Nov 27, 2001
29,913
579
126
One thing you may want to look into for a gaming laptop is features that can help longevity. When I bought my gaming laptop about two years ago, I was a few months off the introduction of G-Sync into the same laptop. Frankly, I would have much preferred having G-Sync in a laptop, because it can help the laptop stay a bit more relevant as its hardware begins to age. To be clear, G-Sync won't give you a higher framerate or anything like that, but it can give you an image free from display artifacts such as tearing. It's not too hard to find a laptop around $1200 with a 120Hz panel, but you have to look a bit harder to find one with an adaptive sync (i.e. G-Sync) feature.

@HeXen mentioned something that I was going to suggest as well... a split setup with a simpler laptop (with a good CPU) and an external GPU. I'm not as sure whether or not this supports G-Sync, but it isn't as necessary since the (external) GPU can still be upgraded. It's also possible to still get a laptop with a lower-end dGPU (e.g. 1050 or 1050 Ti), and as long as it has thunderbolt 3, it would support the external GPU but still allow for some light or low-setting gaming while on the go.

Also, keep in mind that as you look at laptops, Nvidia's new MaxQ designation can be slapped onto a laptop with a high-end GPU, but it means that the TDP will be lower. So, that same GPU will likely not perform as well as a similar laptop without the MaxQ designation. It's also recommended to go with a laptop based on Intel's newer 8th-generation (Coffee Lake) CPUs. There are sales on the 7th-generation (Kaby Lake) laptops right now and since the laptops are using the same Nvidia GPUs, it might seem tempting to save a little. If we were talking about 6th generation (Skylake) to 7th generation, I'd say to go for it, but the increased core count in Coffee Lake is definitely worth considering. You can tell if it's an 8th generation by looking for i#-8xxx. (There are often letters after the mobile CPUs such as 'H' or 'U'.)

So, to distill this down into bite-sized bullet points...

  • If only going with a laptop with a powerful dedicated GPU, consider G-Sync to keep things relevant longer.
  • If an external GPU is acceptable, consider an external GPU with a laptop with a good CPU.
  • The low-end dGPUs aren't too expensive, so the external GPU route with a weaker dGPU might be a good alternative.
  • Try to go with a newer laptop that has Intel's 8th Generation CPU in it.
As for how to consider these? If he mostly wants a laptop for modest portability, but is fine with just gaming in his room, the external GPU is a good solution. It's still quite portable (meaning he could easily take it home on breaks), and it leaves the laptop as something less weighty and likely with far better battery life, which is helpful for taking it to class.
 
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aigomorla

Cases and Cooling Mod PC Gaming Mod Elite Member
Super Moderator
Sep 28, 2005
18,754
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i am on the fanclub of getting a egpu with thunderbolt.

This way it keeps your laptop light and highly portable for school usage, and when your home, you can connect the thunderbolt to it for egpu performance in gaming.

The downside is, that this solution tends to be a bit pricey.

The good side to it, is that this solution is highly upgradable (you just get better gpus), and you can always take your egpu setup to your next laptop purchase as long as it has a thunderbolt port.
 

Aikouka

Lifer
Nov 27, 2001
29,913
579
126
The downside is, that this solution tends to be a bit pricey.
It's also worth mentioning that the external GPU setup does lose some performance over the same card in a desktop. If I remember correctly, some of the loss comes from how you use the external GPU. If you use monitors connected to the external GPU, you lose less performance than if you have the external GPU use the laptop's screen. (It has to pipe the video feed back over the Thunderbolt connection, so it uses some of the available bandwidth.)
 

aigomorla

Cases and Cooling Mod PC Gaming Mod Elite Member
Super Moderator
Sep 28, 2005
18,754
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It's also worth mentioning that the external GPU setup does lose some performance over the same card in a desktop. If I remember correctly, some of the loss comes from how you use the external GPU. If you use monitors connected to the external GPU, you lose less performance than if you have the external GPU use the laptop's screen. (It has to pipe the video feed back over the Thunderbolt connection, so it uses some of the available bandwidth.)
thats very true, however a 1080ti laptop for example will run you over 4000 dollars.

A 1080ti egpu setup however will probably cost you
1000 dollars for the gpu + 400 for the thunderbolt setup = 1400 dollars.
Then you get a good laptop for around 1600 = 3000 dollars.

1000 dollars less.

With that, you could also upgrade to the 1180, and so on, without having to change the laptop, and resell the 1080ti.
(to me that's a big thing, the ability to upgrade and resell old parts)

You cant really resell a dedicated gpu on a laptop, nor upgrade most of them. I believe they got rid of the laptop form gpu where u could upgrade them.

Finally again, the egpu setups can carry over to the next laptop, and so on.

So unless you the type to be on business away from your house, and you require heavy gpu prowess all the time, i am still on the wagon for egpu setups, as they make more sense financially + practicality for what you pay for them.
 

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