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Budget Gaming Notebook: Acer Aspire 5740G-6979

This one wound up being a very easy choice; a quick run through Newegg was evidence of that. Our budget gaming machine is the Acer Aspire AS5740G-6979 we reviewed a few months ago. The intervening period has seen new notebooks from many other manufacturers, but none has managed to hit the staggeringly low $750 price point Acer did. It is simply the most gaming notebook you can get for the price, and one of the cheapest notebooks equipped with a Mobility Radeon HD 5650.

For those needing a refresher of the Aspire AS5740G-6979's specs, it comes with a robust Intel Core i5-430M chip running both cores at 2.26 GHz, 4GB of DDR3, and a 500GB hard drive. In our own testing, we found the 5650 to perform quite well at the low 1366x768 native resolution of the AS5740G's screen. Just about every game we tested was playable at high settings, though DirectX 11 support wound up being more of a checkbox feature than something useful in practice.

There's very little to say about this notebook that we didn't already cover in our review, but if you're on a dire budget you aren't going to be able to find more power than this for $749, and the fact that it's sold out on Newegg at the time of this writing should give some indication as to the kind of borderline-Faustian bargain the AS5740G-6979 (complete with catchy title) provides.

Update: The 5740G-6979 appears to have been so popular that it is now sold out and discontinued! In it's place you can readily find the 7740G-6364 with similar components but a 17.3" 1600x900 LCD for $800. We've listed a few other alternatives in the comments, but really nothing comes close to the price/performance of the 5740G anymore. The updated 5740G-5309 is less expensive but comes with an HD 5470, so it's a big step down in gaming potential.

Budget Gaming Runner Up: MSI GX640

Let's be honest: $1100 doesn't exactly qualify as “budget”, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a GPU as powerful as the Mobility Radeon HD 5850 in anything cheaper than the MSI GX640. The 5850 is easily one of the fastest mobile GPUs available, and MSI makes great use of it with a high-resolution 1680x1050 screen. We weren't hugely impressed with the notebook's looks or its keyboard, and the price is a major jump from our primary recommendation, but again...it's awful hard to beat a Mobility Radeon HD 5850—a card powerful enough to actually make use of DirectX 11—for $1100.

Budget Performance Notebook Video/Multimedia Workstation
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  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    If you're willing to spend up that much, Sony's 13.1" Z series can be upgraded to a 1080p screen. :) Reply
  • bji - Thursday, July 01, 2010 - link

    Thank you for that information. I was unaware of that model and it looks very interesting. The only drawbacks are the glossy screen and the non-fanless CPU. But it's definitely got the weight and the pixel count going for it. I wish it were 14 inches ... Reply
  • hko45 - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    The Dell Studio 17 might be okay, but for a DTR graphics WS, I'd take the Precision M6500 any day. Besides having the i7-920XM, up to 16 GB of RAM, USB-3, Nvidia Quadro FX 3800M card, and WUXGA RGBLED, you can also use the available E-Port Plus docking station when you're at home base with its 2 DVI and 2 DP ports for multiple displays. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    The Precision M6500 is a huge step up in price, mostly because you have to go with higher end options. I would agree build quality is better, but for many multimedia people the Quadro cards aren't necessary. You can get the RGB LED 1080p on the Studio 17 with 720QM for ~$1300 with a 3-year warranty. The cheapest quad-core M6500 is going to run upwards of $2500. Worth it for some? Definitely. But you want to make sure you really need those upgraded components. Reply
  • hko45 - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    The real selling point for me is the availability of the E-Port Plus docking station for the Precision lineup. While I may be willing to make-do while on the road, coming home to two calibrated monitors to do my main PhotoShop post processing is the deal maker. I do my "dream" shopping on the main Dell site to see what configuration options are available, and then I keep checking on the Outlet page until something acceptable comes up.

    Incidentally, another reason to go with the Precision (or Vostro or Latitude) is ProSupport, which I don't think you can get on Dell's consumer side. Give me real English-speaking NA support any day.
    Reply
  • hko45 - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Jared,

    I forgot to comment on your Quadro remark. Ever since CS4 (CS5 now), PhotoShop takes full advantage of the (Nvidia) GPU. Apparently Adobe worked quite closely with Nvidia so any on my WS configs will only use Quadro boards.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    True... CS5 is CUDA accelerated while CS4 was OpenGL. I haven't done testing enough to say how much difference a fast GPU makes in Photoshop, likely because I just don't do enough complex editing. I also don't know if Quadro makes a difference relative to regular GeForce. Anyway, the M6500 is a good workstation with an awesome RGB LED display, but it's expensive. If you want the extras, though, I have no complaints with it. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    It honestly doesn't, really, at least in my experience. It's also my understanding Photoshop CS5 is still just OpenGL accelerated (a run through the settings didn't have anything CUDA on it, just OpenGL which is improved further still here); Premiere and After Effects have some CUDA acceleration, but those two are my babies, and the CUDA-accelerated processes are fairly specialized. I use a Radeon HD 5870 in my main workstation, and not having CUDA functionality isn't keeping me up at night.

    The primary use for workstation-class graphics is still going to be Maya and similar software.
    Reply
  • hko45 - Thursday, July 01, 2010 - link

    I turned off the use-GPU setting in PhotoShop just to see whether I'd notice the difference. Big difference. It also doesn't hurt that it's able to take advantage of all the RAM you can throw at--the case for 64-bit OS (and the M6500 can give you 16 GBs). Don't you get tired of water twirly things marking the passage of time?

    Again, I especially like the Precision Mobile WS because it can use the E-Port Plus which has the two DVI and two DP ports for my dual monitors. Admittedly, biggest bang for the GPU capability comes with the Mercury engine in video processing (and who's to say that I won't get more serious with video). However, I've seen enough of what Adobe has done with PhotoShop's ability to use the GPU to bet on the direction its going in its close relationship with Nvidia.

    I don't know about you, but I'd prefer to buy a mobile WS that won't get too outdated within three years.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, July 01, 2010 - link

    Yeah, but remember, in Photoshop it's just OpenGL and largely dependent on available video memory. No Nvidia secret sauce there.

    We have a GTX 480M notebook getting reviewed right now, I'll check to see just how big of a difference the Mercury Playback Engine might have (if it can be enabled on the 480M at all), but I can tell you I don't feel like I'm missing anything using Premiere on my Radeon, and Premiere IS my bread and butter.
    Reply

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