Gaming laptop: Help my head stop spinning

I’m about to bite the bullet and get my first laptop, but I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve spent a fair amount of time shuffling blindly around various coupon sites, not to mention customizing laptops at Dell and then wondering if I’ve loaded it up with more than I need. Do I need one of those XPSs, or is an Inspiron 1505 good enough? What’s with the 6-cell vs. 9-cell batteries? Do I want the ATI hyperthreading or a GeForce Go? And is there something better and cheaper lurking just out of view at goapex? Ugh.

I’ve been out of the laptop loop for so long. All I want is something that a) is beefy enough to play Civ IV, and b) has a reasonably long battery life. I’m willing to pay whatever something like that would cost, but I’d rather not throw away my money. For instance, I’m guessing a $2200 Dell XPS is overkill, right?

Can anyone make a specific ‘Here, dummy, you want THIS’ recommendation?


As long as size isn’t an issue, a Dell 1705 with a 7900GS video and (probably) the high res screen. Go for the cheapest processor and hard drive and everything – I got one in a deal awhile back for ~1300. You can max out the ram later if need to. Battery life is not great on any gaming laptops though – the e1505 with whatever the best ATI card it comes with might be better for that, and will be beefy enough for Civ4 at least.

Okay, I found a 20% off coupon, which brings this laptop to $1523:

Inspiron E1705
Intel® Core™ Duo T2250 (1.73GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 533 MHz FSB)
17 inch UltraSharp™ Wide Screen UXGA Display with TrueLife™
2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz
256MB NVIDIA® GeForce™ Go 7900 GS
80GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
8x CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) with double-layer DVD+R write capability
Integrated Audio
Intel PRO/Wireless 3945a/g card
6-cell Primary Battery and 9-cell additional Lithium Ion Battery

Any second opinions? I’m about to pull the trigger.


How laptoppy are you wanting it to be? Meaning, are you going to be carrying it around a lot, or just plunking it on the table at home with a cup of coffee? That thing is going to be heavy. That’s the only useful input I have, to consider the weight, if you plan on carrying it frequently.

macbook pro

I’m guessing weight and performance are a pretty significant trade-off, right? Are there lighter notebooks that will run something like Civ IV?

I don’t mind a bulkier laptop, but I am accustomed to a really tiny featherweight Jornada from, I dunno, decades ago. What sorts of systems do you guys use for gaming laptops?


P.S. Rimbo, I can’t take your post seriously if you’re not going to use capital letters. Also, everybody knows Macs can’t run Civ IV!

I’ve been contemplating this notebook from Asus:

but am still looking around for other non-Dell notebook options.

I just got an HP nc8430. However I had some problems with it so I am waiting for my replacement unit. It is less powerful as the 17" you are looking at, and a lower, but seemingly capable video card.

It’s a 15.4" widescreen (1680x1050, you can get the 1440xsomething as well), ATI x1600. It’s fairly small and light (thought the mac is definitely smaller). 8 cell battery. Battery life at DVD playing is roughly 2.5 hours according to my research.

I wanted the 7200rpm hd version but couldn’t find someone who had it in stock for the price I wanted.

I considered the Mac but the thing has an underclocked video card. I also confess I have an irrational dislike of fruity pcs.

HP has weird model numbers. I got the RB554UT#ABA. It’s about $1650. If you buy from a reseller instead of HP direct you can avoid sales tax.

It’s two DIMM slots of 512mb each. I wanted to upgrade but HP wants a ridiculous amount of money. Instead, I grabbed 2 1GB dimms from Newegg at about $100 each and I guess will give these 512mb’s away to someone.

Google for the exact spec I got: RB554UT%23ABA&start=0&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official

Metalinky for reviews I looked at:

A 17’’ laptop would crush and burn your lap if you actually tried to use it on top of it.
And unless you are like 8’ tall you will look like a gnome stealing some giant’s laptop when you try to drag that thing around.
My parents have one and the recurring sentence is “How I wish I had bought a desktop”. Because the thing sits there forever, on top of a desk, huge, noisy and unconvenient.

Hell even some 15.4’’ laptops are too heavy. And some of the powerful ones make you drag around a huge power brick. And games still play on the crappy side.

I can’t wait for mine to finish burning its own guts so I can trick the wife and get a Macbook, to get things done with it. Games deserve their own dedicated machine.

Intel macs with either Boot Camp or Parallels can in fact run Civ IV.

Tom, my old Dell first gen XPS notebook (P4 3.4 GHz, 2 gig RAM, ATI 256 Radeon 9800 Pro) is significantly lower powered than what you’re looking at, costs $3400 when I picked it up in 2004, and runs Civ4 (and other games such as Oblivion) just fine. So that one should do everything you need, easily.

The new Dells are a lot cooler than the old ones like mine. My pants regularly catch on fire while playing Oblivion or even Dom3 - my wife doesn’t even look up from the paper any more, she just tosses a glass of water in my lap. And mine is so heavy that, after carrying it through many airports, I can tie my shoes with my right hand without leaning over.

Seriously, a top end Dell XPS notebook, fully tricked out, is about $3200, and the video card you’ve got on that one is almost as good, and the CPU is only a little better on the higher end ones. Sounds like a deal. The only thing you might check before pulling the trigger is Toshiba’s offerings:


Compal and ASUS have decent offerings as well. Tom, if you narrow down your weight, battery, and cost requirements I can give you very specific recommendations.

The big problem with most gaming laptops, even the lightweight ones (like my ASUS A8Jm), is that you lose battery life tremendously. I’m lucky to get 3 hours out of this, whereas my older non-gaming Acer got 4 hours easily.

I would definitely say that X1600, X1700, GF7600/7700 are minimum spec if you want to run modern 3D games. If you don’t care too much about that, an X1300/1400 or GF7300/7400 is fine.

This is the one I just bought

Processor Brand: Intel
Processor Class: Core Duo Processor
Processor Number: T2250
Processor Speed: 1.73 GHz
Bus Speed: 533 MHz
Mobile Technology: Centrino
L2 Cache Size: 2 MB
Memory Technology: DDR2-SDRAM
Installed Memory: 512 MB
Maximum Memory: 2 GB
Memory Slots Total: 2
Memory Slots Available: 0
Hard Drive Capacity: 80 GB
Drive Controllers: SATA-150
Rotational Speed: 5400 RPM
Optical Drives: LightScribe Double Layer DVD+/-RW SuperMulti Drive:
Sound Support: Digital Audio (16-bit)
Video Chipset Brand: NVIDIA
Video Chipset: GeForce Go 7400
Installed Video Memory: 128 MB
Shared Video RAM: 128 MB
Resolution: 1440 x 900
Display Size: 17.0 in

Its listed on their site as a 7400 but its actually a 7600 and it does not share memory it has 256 of dedicated ram. I added 2 gigs of ram to it and it runs like a dream. Its a little heavier then I would like but for the price IMHO you can not beat it. Its a major pain to try and find a laptop with any decent video card for less then a grand and IMHO this one is perfect.

It also has a spot to add a second hard drive later on if you want.

Another option would be to play the Mac version of Civ IV.

I got a Dell xps m1210 a short while ago, and I think it’s a great machine. Hey, it runs NWN2 and if it runs THAT, it can handle anything.

I assume this laptop will be a companion to your gaming desktop, as opposed to usurping the spot as your primary gaming rig? I’m only asking, because you’ll probably want to poke your head in on some DX10 games next year, and there won’t be any laptops with DX10 supported video cards for at least a couple of months.

If DX10 isn’t an issue, the laptop you spec’d seems fine. I picked up an XPS M1210 earlier this year, with a Geforce Go7400. It played Company of Heroes, albeit with low gfx settings, so you’ll have no problems with Civ IV on a 7900GS. I have 3 of the 9-Cell batteries and they got me through a 14 hour flight from Tokyo to NYC, with wifi activated the entire trip.

Be very careful when buying heavy/large laptops. These things are supposed to be portable, remember? I’ve lived with both kinds, and I’m much more likely to carry and use the 3-4 lb lightweights than the aggravating 7+lb super-size models.

Going with a 15" screen might help. Unless you’re buying a desktop replacement, I am unconvinced that the massive size and weight increase is worth the nominal increase in screen size.

I play games under bootcamp on my MacBook Pro. It plays Company of Heroes without any trouble at the native resolution (1440x900) and it looks fantastic. I regularly use it for EVE online on the go and even 2 EVE accounts sometimes at home. At one-inch thick, 5-something pounds, and near silent opperation plus the ability to have access to both mac and windows software, hard to resist.

I really haven’t run into any game it can’t run well. Battery life isn’t too strong though, 3 hours or so, probably less if it is really demanding. Still, it is damned sexy looking.

edit: I have a 15.4 inch, not 17

Actually, good advice wumpus. I don’t really need a big screen, and smaller is fine by me.

Hmm, looking around on Dell, I don’t see a 15" display that can take a good GeForce. They’re all using those hyperthreaded ATIs, which worry me a bit (I read somewhere that “hyperthreading” is a euphemism for offloading some of the graphics processing to the CPU).

Anyone know of a good 15" laptop that’ll take a good videocard? I’ll go poke around some more. Bacon mentioned his lightweight ASUS. Maybe I’ll see if I can find one of those. Bacon, I couldn’t make heads nor tails of all those numbers at the end of your post. ASUS model numbers?

Damn, I knew this would happen! Why couldn’t someone have just told me, ‘Hey, buy this!’ and then everyone else could have agreed?


boot camp

(capital letters are unnecessary when your responses only require two words)