Gaming Laptop Roundup

by Jarred Walton on August 29, 2008 5:00 AM EST


In our recent mobile buyers guide, we mentioned that we had a roundup of laptops we were working on. As work progressed, we decided it would be better if we separated the roundup into two parts. This first part covers the high-end gaming notebooks that we've received for review in the past several months, including additional coverage of the Gateway P-7811 FX.

In an ideal world, we would have all of the testing complete by the time any of these notebooks were available for purchase. That's easier said than done, but unlike desktop computers notebook components don't change quite as frequently. We do get new things like Intel's Centrino 2 platform, but those tend to provide more incremental performance rather than revolutionary upgrades.

Given that we are focusing on gaming notebooks in this article, we should also mention that all but one of the notebooks use NVIDIA's now "outdated" 8800M GPUs. We expect to see updated models for most of the vendors using 9800M in place of 8800M, but despite the 1000 point increase in model number, 9800M appears to consist mostly of refined silicon that offers better clock speeds. Since the GPU clock speed is only 20% higher (600 MHz versus 500 MHz), there shouldn't be more than 20% difference in performance, and often the difference should be less than 10%.

Again, our recent mobile buyers guide covers many of the items that we think are important when you're looking at a new laptop - whether it be a high-end model, a midrange unit, or even an entry-level system. All of the vendors we are discussing today offer at least some amount of customization, although in the case of Gateway the customization comes in terms of different models. Depending on what components and upgrades you select, you can easily improve performance or reduce costs - whichever you feel is the more important factor. We will look at this important area as part of this review, as well as the more traditional areas like performance, features, battery life, and build quality.

Alienware m15x – Overview
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  • NotebookGamer - Monday, October 20, 2008 - link

    I've been wanting to see a gaming laptops showdown between the Clevo matched up against the m1730.

    I got my NP9262 from Factor Gaming.

  • cg0def - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    Say it ain so! I still remember when Alienware laptops used to look good. What happened guys? Oh, nm dell bough them ... well tough luck ...
  • jfdmit - Saturday, September 13, 2008 - link

    I exchanged my crashing 7811 for another one today, and so far it's working perfectly. No lockups, no webcam crashes, just speed and stability. I can finally see the real potential of this great gaming machine. It really does seem to be luck of draw whether you get a good one or a dud.
  • jfdmit - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    As I noted in the comment I added to your first review of this machine, I've had a pretty bad time with stability. It doesn't matter whether I use the stock 176, or the patched 177.92 or 177.98 drivers, my 7811 is still totally unstable when playing games that even moderately tax the graphics subsystem. Spore locks the machine hard after an hour. Crysis gets about 30 minutes. Thereafter, the locks happen more and more frequently, interspersed with occasional BSODs.

    I suspect the problem is heat. The increasing frequency of the lockups when gaming, coupled with the fact that the machine works fine for non-gaming tasks, makes me think that the machine's cooling system just can't handle the load. I've ensured that there is plenty of room underneath the machine and even set it on a laptop cooling pad, but none of this has made any difference.

    Unfortunately, as it stands, I cannot recomment the 7811 as a gaming PC.
  • Ben - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the article, but I expected more than 3 laptops when I read the title, "roundup".
  • Ben - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    OK, you have 3 models listed on the index, you say 4 in the test setup, and then there's 5 benchmarks.

    I guess 5 is enough for a "roundup" though. :)
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    Four "new" models, and one returning model. This was originally going to be a seven laptop roundup, but the text was already too long. The next three are midrange options.
  • ikjadoon - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    What gives? Overdrive PC overclocks their laptops and Velocity Micro has some fine systems, too..

    Great review, however. :)
  • rvikul - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    I went to BestBuy today to take a look at the Gateway model. thought i'd add a few observations.

    I was surprised by how large the laptop was. The optical drive kept popping out and would not close properly, but that could be due to customer abuse on the display model.

    I am not too thrilled about the form factor - it looks kinda ugly but thats subjective. Ethernet port is on the side which is weird since i would like it hidden behind the laptop. For a gaming laptop I dont see the need for a full keyboard. The arrow keys are really cramped together.

  • nycromes - Tuesday, September 2, 2008 - link

    I actually purchased the P7811fx from BB this weekend. For those interested it is $200 off (at least in my area) and you get a free PC game up to $50 value.

    It does have a large form factor, in fact it wont fit most 17' carrying cases. Sitting on my lap, it feels like a table because it is so large. I don't mind though, I wanted the 17 in screen as well as a full keyboard. Many people want a keypad for uses in things like MMOs, that is a big selling point for me.

    As for the optical drive... it opens easily. Mine will stay closed unless I push on the button (which as indicated in this roundup, is very easy to do just picking it up).

    From what I have read, the lockups on these machines are only affecting some laptops. Many people have exchanged in the 14 day window to get one and their problems have been fixed.

    Oh, the wireless button feels kinda cheap... I will have to see how long it lasts. I look forward to being able to upgrade it in the future (hopefully) and keep this laptop for a long time. Its a good machine, the colors aren't fabulous, but they don't really bother me. Its a great time to get one if you are looking at it since it is discounted right now.

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