Looking for a budget gaming laptop

I’m probably crazy but… Is there a “decent” laptop that can do light to average gaming for under $1000? Mostly looking at running strategy games. Civ 4, Sims 2, The Movies and such. It doesn’t have to be uber fast, just have a video card that can run dx9c. Any suggestions?

Any laptop with an ATI or NVIDIA chipset will handle those games. You can find some in that price range with slighly older (or slower) Radeon or GeForce Go chipsets. If you don’t go nuts with a 17-inch display, you might be able to play them at their native resolutions.

Under $1000, probably not – you’ll be stuck with a Celeron-M, min-spec RAM (512MB of you’re lucky) and/or integrated graphics. Get into the $1300 range and you’ll be much, much happier. You may get lucky with a Dell coupon though, so that might be worth holding out for.

There’s some Dell inspiron coupons on there… look at the 1505 with 1G memory and the Radeon X1400 video card. It’s not going to be the best in the world, but I have one and it runs WoW just fine (at 1680x1050 no less, presumably the non UXGA screen would be better if gaming is a primary consideration). Pretty slick machine too. (Don’t pay for the Soundblaster Audigy upgrade if you go for one though - it’s just extra software, not a hardware upgrade. :/ )

You can save money by skipping the current Core Duo-level machines and going with previous generation ones. Pentium Ms with X600s or 6600s instead of the newer video chipsets.

Even Best Buy has under $1K laptops with Radeon chipsets for under $1K.

I don’t know what is wrong with me. I was looking at this pretty little HP at best buys with an Intel Core Duo Processor T2300E, 1 gig o ram and a Geforce 7900 go video chip for under $2000. Damn sexy. Runs rings out my age amd 64 rig. Ofcourse I realise in a year I will be hurting when the next gen games hit the market.

The Dell E1505 might be what you’re looking for:

I’m going to be in a similar position soon. Are the Intel Integrated graphics cards completely hopeless, or are they just a bit weaker than the ATI and NVidia offerings?


Completely hopeless for gaming. It benchmarks poorly against even fairly old video cards.

If you take that Dell E1505 and bump up the video card, CPU, and RAM, you get something just slightly over $1000. I’m not sure how well the mobile X1400 benchmarks, but it’s gotta be far better than the integrated video. (Edit: Maybe not that much better, though that’s at the higher resolutions.)

Integrated graphics in general suck when it comes to 3D gaming. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get a good video card / chipset for a budget laptop, which usually rely on integrated graphics; you almost always have to step up to the midrange models.

Someone talk me out of this. (or at least point out something that is a big mistake and I should order something else) I’m so close to hitting the order button. This would be my main computer for two years if I dive in…

Dell Inspiron E1705
Intel Core Duo T2400 (1.83GHz/667MHz FSB)
17 inch UltraSharp Wide Screen UXGA Display with TrueLife
2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz
256MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GS
100GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
8x CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) with double-layer DVD+R write capability
Integrated Sound Blaster Audigy ADVANCED HD Audio
(a bunch of other standard laptop stuff)
price: $1,762.90

I’m planning on loading vista on this puppy and playing stuff like Alan Wake and all the other high end games coming out in 07 and 08.

If you can go with the smallest HD from dell and order an after market 7200rpm drive. The speed difference is quite large from a 5400 to a 7200rpm. Tech-report did a comparison not to long ago I believe.

Also Dell’s build quality is not all that great. As long as it just sits on a desk it’s ok, but if you lug it all around the house and outside into the real world they tend to disintegrate fairly fast. My thinkpad on the other hand has survived so many drops, tumbles, fumbles and general mishandling that I am beginning to think it’s indestructible.

Right. Ok, then I’m going with the 60 gig 7200 rpg drive. Its the same price as above.

High-end stuff? Expect to have to turn the details down.

  1. A 7900GS is a prefectly good DX9 card, but it won’t give you any of the eye candy coming in DX10 titles (those “high-end games coming out in 07 and 08”). 256MB of video RAM may be a problem for playing high-end games at their full detail levels, too.

  2. That’s a good Core Duo chip, but it’s gonna be a bit long in the tooth in '08. Probably still okay for gaming, but desktop chips will be quad-core in the first half of '07, so again, you’ll be turning some of the details levels down.

  3. You really, really want a 7200RPM hard drive once you start talkin’ about Vista.

That’s a perfectly fine build for a current gaming notebook, but I don’t think there’s a current gaming notebook alive that is going to run “high end games through 07 and 08” without the need to dial things down a bit.

If you’re really gung-ho about loading Vista on your laptop and making it your main gaming machine through the next two years, it’s possible that waiting a little bit could be a good idea. I don’t know how long it’ll be before DX10 notebook parts hit the market, but there’s some advantage to waiting for Merom (faster Intel mobile CPU coming soon) and those notebook hard drives with built-in flash to speed things up and extend battery life.

I would say, if you don’t need a new machine right away, that you’d be better off sussing out the market near the end of the year. DX10 mobile graphics would be a wild card, but you could find affordable (in your budget there) notebooks that have:

  • faster Merom CPUs
  • perpendicular storage mobile hard drives
  • hard drives with big flash caches
  • better graphics (if not DX10, then maybe 80nm mobile parts a step up from that)

Ofcourse I expect to turn things down in the future. I’m just hoping that the 7900gs has another power to push the DX9 path of the Vista only games like Alan Wake and Crysis. I know quad sli DX10 Nvidia Geforce 8xxxx will beat it but I’m not ever going to buy that and I did make it two years with my X800 pro.

However you must realize that DX10 has some special transparencies and effects that will only be available on DX10 cards. As the first generation cards are said to need 300W on their own, it may be till second gen that we see any in notebooks.

It makes exactly zero sense to buy a laptop today for games coming out in 07 and 08. Zero. None. Nada. Laptops are for today, not tomorrow.

If you’re just jonesing to buy something, send me the money and I’ll send you a brick of a Toshiba with a Pentium 60 and 75MB of RAM. Or alternately, go with your original idea, a cheaper machine, maybe one that’s refurbed or a year old, and upgrade in 08 when the laptops will be an order of magnitude faster.

Okay well, here’s another food for thought:

That config you set up is going to have terrible battery life. Is it your plan to have the system be portable, but not necessarily use it without plugging it in?

Currently Nvidia’s Vista driver’s are the greatest. It’s anecdotal, but all the people (even around here) that really gripe the most about Vista Beta 2’s performance seem to have Nvidia cards. ATI’s current Vista drivers seem to be much better, and you (again anecdotally) see Microsoft demoing Vista far more often on ATI cards. While I definitely expect Nvidia’s Vista drivers to improve a lot, there is a possibility that the extra register space and more flexible shader architecture in the X1000 series has something to do with it. I’m not even aware of which notebooks are available with a Mobility X1800 XT in it, but that might be worth looking into, or at least comparing.

That 300W thing is a rumor, and not from the most reliable of places. That would be for the high-end desktop cards, and it doesn’t necessarily transfer straight over to mobile. The peak draw now is around the 200W mark (maybe 210 or so), so the jump to 300W would be big, but not necessarily indicative of the mobile power draw. The mobile 7800 GTX draws a lot less power simply by clocking down a bit and incorporating some additional power saving techniques.

Anyway, it’s a lot more than “transparenices and effects” in DX10. It’s entirely new graphics programming functions that are enabled. Like an integer instruction set, and geometry shaders. Stuff that doesn’t “put A and B on the screen,” but rather very general new capabilities that can completely change the way graphics engines work.

Here is something i just thought of. For those who went from a desktop to a laptop for gaming, did you find it hard to adjust?
I’m use to the screen being at eye level. I’m a tad concerned that having to look slightly down might cause neck pain and I might begin to slouch which might cause back pain. Did anyone have simular issues?