Advice re new laptop

I am currently looking for a very good laptop computer. Total change of direction for me. Up until now, I have been very PC-centered, with just any old laptop to fill in the gaps. But my wife and I are at the point where we are traveling more than a third of the year, and lugging along a big PC is totally ridiculous. But I am very computer-centered on the road. I spend quite a bit of time gaming, including acting as a commish for an OOTP Baseball baseball league, which is RAM intensive. Also of high priority – I do a large amount of bird photography and video and audio recording and editing (and storage of all this stuff). Plus a wide array of other things. So it is worth it to me to pay for a good machine. My aging eyes require the largest screen possible, which looks to be 17". Don’t care much about weight; if you have been lugging around a PC, then a 10 lb laptop is nothing, and my laptop never goes on my lap, always on a desk. Durability is a high priority, the machine will get heavy use, and breakdowns would be extremely inconvenient on the road. Computer aesthetics mean nothing to me, but quality of graphics and sound are important.

Someone suggested an Alienware 17 R5 which looks like it could be had for around $1600 with an SSD boot drive, 2 TB HHD, and 16 GB RAM. But it is advertised so clearly as a gaming computer, and I wonder whether that implies a weakness in other utilizations that I will only discover later. Also, I read one reviewer on Amazon who made it sound as though Windows updates could be a challenge, something to do with the Alienware skin also needing to update? Really didn’t know what he meant, but Windows updates already cause me problems on my PC, I don’t want to sign up for that kind of problem again.

I’m interested in thoughts from people more informed than myself.

I’ll second the recommendation for the Alienware 17r5. Providing you can put up with the HUGE size and MASSIVE weight there really is no better alternative. It has an internal metal chassis and is built like a tank. There is really no other contender that compares on the market right now. If you want the absolute best performance then a gaming laptop is the best choice - the only downsides are weight, heat and battery life.

Some more tips:
If battery life is important to you then avoid GSync. This feature means that the screen is directly wired to the NVIDIA graphics card. Which results in faster refresh rates but absolutely abysmal battery life. The difference is vast:
With Gsync = 1.2 hours of use (if you’re lucky)
No Gsync = 8+ hours of use

Purchase a DBrand skin if they are available. They are rugged and will protect your laptop from skin oil damage. It’ll vastly increase the lifespan of the outer shell.

RE: Alienware and Windows Update. I’ve never encountered any such issues but If you’re technically savvy then you can install your laptop with just the hardware drivers and no third party applications for the best possible reliability. Less complexity = less bugs.

Be aware that the 17 is so massive and so heavy that I found it impossible to use with it sitting on my lap. It would put my legs to sleep. I ended up switching to the 15 inch version and can comfortably use it for long periods :)

I bought my son a Microsoft Surface book 2 last March as a graduation present. It’s a decent gamer but a really good productivity tool. Screen is gorgeous.

If you have any near you, you may want to check out a Microsoft store. That way you can see a bunch of laptops that run pure windows (no add-on programs). I think they would tend to minimize update issues.

Weight is not an issue, I can carry a ten pound bag in and out of a hotel or rental without any issue. And battery life is not that big a deal because I rarely use a laptop in a place where I can’t just plug it in. However, heat? Do you mean problems with overheating internally, and thus huge problems? Or just too hot for your lap?

I have an Alienware 13, and i like it, but i would shy away from Alienware/Dell now unless you find an especially good deal, as i feel like this last cycle, maybe because Mr. Dell is trying to go public again, but it seems like they’ve almost stopped investing in new computer models for a year or more.

One extremely annoying thing about the recent Alienware laptops is that they’ve eliminated the SD card slot, which is annoying if photo editing is its primary function. They also have a reputation for overheating, paradoxically enough, unless you get a refurb; though, take reddit whining with a sack of salt. The only thing that keeps me in the Alienware family is the higher than normal resell value.

Sadly 17" seem to be a dying breed, and there are far fewer 17" models from any manufacturer. How “essential” is the 17" requirement? Gaming screens also tend to have lower color saturation than other laptops; what’s the importance of gaming vs photo editing to you?

Hmmm, no SD slot. Well, I have often just connected the camera to my computer and transferred photos that way, so I guess that’s not a game breaker, but unfortunate.

The 17’ is a pretty high priority. I’m very spoiled by my nice PC monitor and have barely given up on simply lugging the PC along on trips. I think I am too old to ever get on board with the smaller is cooler trend. :)

Color saturation, I guess it depends on how extreme this is. I mean, I don’t want my colors all bleached out. Based on my son’s preferences, bleached out seems to be in these days, but I like color. But that is not particularly for my photography. I am much more a bird watcher than a photo connoisseur, I take a lot of photos and need to edit them to use them, but nothing fancy or subtle.

The heat thing sounds the most serious to me. Are we talking overheating as in melting the computer innards, or we talking too warm to sit in a lap? And what is this about reburbished being better in this regard. I’m not up on this at all.

What I mean is that gaming laptops due to their performance requirements generate more heat than productivity orientated laptops. This results in increased size/weight to manage the extra thermal output. Components won’t melt, nor will they get too hot for your lap. All modern systems will automatically shut down if they get too hot.

Alienware had manufacturing issues at the beginning of their last generation (2016 maybe) which resulted in overheating but these have long since been resolved. However if you’re buying any gaming laptop from any manufacturer then there is a small risk of getting one that overheats. It’s just the nature of the beast - what you’re buying runs hot and there may be manufacturing defects that causes overheating (which results in system shutdown). If this happens then you RMA (return to manufacturing) the unit and get a replacement.

If this is a large concern then a productivity focused laptop might be more of interest. These have less performance so they are smaller, lighter and generate less heat.

HP Omen 17T – 144 IPS GSYNC, really nice display. Everything else is adequate:

And there is current deal on it:

I will concur with edging away from Alienware/Dell. The driver support was terrible and short for my m11x (still a great little laptop, but Dell stopped supporting it with drivers really freaking soon). Look for something with less proprietary drivers, I’d say.

I’m actually leaning towards the Surface Pro as a laptop/tablet replacement. Thinking Black Friday deals this year. YMMV, especially due to the video/audio editing requirements. My laptop gaming tends to be more strategy oriented anyways.

Another possibility is something like an Alienware Alpha. It’s not a laptop but it is small and easy to transport. The only problem is you need to drag around a monitor too, but depending on how long you stay in one place that might not be so bad and you might enjoy a bigger screen anyway.

You could complement the Alpha with a good Chromebook that is ultra light. If you are just staying overnight somewhere maybe you don’t even bother with the Alpha and use the Chromebook.

My fear with gaming laptops is they will end up heat-damaged. Everything’s close together and the graphics card generates a lot of heat at times.

Anyway the Alpha weighs about 4 pounds and is quite a bit cheaper than a good gaming laptop. Monitors are cheap now too. You can get a 24 inch monitor for $120 now.

That doesn’t seem right. My wife and I both have near-identical Metabox (ie. Clevo) laptops, both with a GTX 1060, mine has a GSync display, hers does not (they added it in the 3-week interval between us ordering them). Battery life between them is indistinguishable under normal use (generally around 5-6 hours in power saving mode, around 2-3 hours in normal mode). Games obviously suck battery a lot faster (which obviously depends on the game) but I can’t say we’ve noticed much difference when we’ve been gaming with them at the same time when stuck in airports or on planes. I’m sure it’s there to an extent, but I’d definitely have noticed such a dramatic difference. Besides, if it’s an issue you can easily turn GSync off globally or for specific games under NVIDIA Control Panel.

Ah that’s interesting. This has not been my experience with GSync at all. Based on my understanding of how GSync works if you have GSync then this removes your ability to use Optimus because the display is hard wired to the NVIDIA graphics card. This means that It’s impossible to use the onboard Intel graphics card to increase battery life - it becomes permanently disabled. It’s possible to disable GSync but the system would still use the discrete NVIDIA graphics card at all times. Your battery life under such conditions is really impressive. If possible please could you link your laptop make/model and specs?

Ok, I did some research. If my Googling is correct, the Metabox isn’t using Optimus, it’s using a MUX switch instead. You’re right, GSync disables integrated graphics, but their solution is to disable GSync entirely when in low power mode which allows the onboard GPU to be used. That explains why I’m getting 5 hours of battery life with GSync laptop. I’m not sure if this is a Metabox thing or a Clevo thing.

So when I’m enabling / disabling GSync with the NVIDIA Control Panel (in Discrete mode) this sounds like the driver turning the feature on, it has nothing to do with battery life. But when I’m on battery power I tend to switch to low performance mode anyway.

Still, having said that, keeping the GSync active generally gives me around 2+ hours battery life, and if I set it to low performance without disable the discrete GPU I’m still getting nearly 4 hours out of it (although it’s noticeably more sluggish, and I have to turn the display brightness down to get away with it). All in all, power management on this laptop has been extremely impressive (in fact the whole laptop has been).

They don’t make this model anymore, but here’s the specs on the box (sorry I can’t be bothered to type all this out!).


Apparently the integrated GPU on there is the HD 530.

Ah that’s really awesome - thanks for the info. I hope other manufacturers follow suit and implement MUX switches for their Gsync models also. It’s great to be able to have the best of both worlds i.e. both Gsync and a low power option in the same box.

Very happy with my ROG STRIX Hero 2. 15", full 1070, flashy doodads, minimal bezels, relatively light.

I appreciate all your comments. Gives me lots to think about.

I have RoG Gaming laptop. It’s been excellent, Over 3 years old now has a GTX980M in it, performance has been great and continues to be.

Downsides are it’s heavy and the battery lasts about 90 minutes. TBH I play it plugged in.

I have a 5 year old Asus RoG laptop that still runs ok. I did have to get a new battery last year and it only has a 660 in it but it’s held up very well. It is a 17” so it’s big and heavy like others have mentioned and I’ve pretty much always used it plugged in so battery life isn’t an issue for me.

Edit: Costco always has deals on newer versions of these. I would have gotten one if I didn’t decide to go desktop on my last purchase.

You might want to look at the Maingear Nomad 17.

I’ve recommended Maingear PC’s for gamer friends because 1. They are really impressive on build quality and extras and 2. Their support is the real thing. They answer the phone quickly and they know what they’re talking about. Usually you get patched over to the guy who built your particular rig. So I don’t have to provide support for friends 8)

Can anyone recommend a sub $500 2-in-1 laptop? The Chromebook ones are interesting, but I need MS Office for a class, and will probably need Windows and/or Linux in the future. Also, how well do you think VirtualBox or VMWare will run on one of these things? Thanks.