What To Look For In A Laptop?

Well, it’s time for a new computer for me, but instead of building a new desktop pc I think I’m going to go with a laptop. I’m looking for an all around workhorse laptop. Something I can use for homework, gaming, internet, and whatever else comes up. It dosent have to be the lightest or sleekest model around as long as it’s dependable.

So what processor should I be looking at? What video card should I be looking for? What companies make a good reliable laptop? I guess I’ll be willing to pay up to $1500 though I’d prefer to keep it cheaper. I’ve never owned a laptop and don’t know much about them other than they seem to be more expensive than their desktop counterparts.


Depends on what is your main focus. Good all around laptop for 1500 will get you a nice laptop for a year IMO.

Unless you need a laptop, I strongly suggest you get a desktop and forget the idea about a laptop. Otherwise it is a waste of money IMO.

If you plan on doing any serious ‘current gen’ gaming on a laptop, plan on replacing it every 12-18 months, with only a serious investment stretching that time.

You really need to prioritize your requirements, knowing that

For example, I am writing this from a Dell Latitude D400 that is over 2 years old and works great for Infinity engine games, Wizardry / Wizards & Warriors, Arcanum, Spiderweb stuff, etc. Try to run anything newer and more challenging than Quake or Jedi Knight on it though … forget it.

So I have my Dell XPS m170 which runs everything, but cost a load.

There is a serious middle ground, but always realize that you’ll get less performance per component out of a laptop than a desktop every time.


Why do you want your gaming rig to be a laptop? I mean, you’re gonna spend hundreds of dollars more for the limited tech laptops offer. Do you split time heavily between two living quarters, i.e your place and your woman’s? Then I could dig it, but it’s still a shot to the wallet to get anything current gen. Unless I’m crazy wrong, and I’d love to be corrected on this account, because I pretty much did what txa1265 did last spring. I bought one of Best Buy’s cheapest Toshibas, a 1.3GHz, 512MB RAM 60GB HD for around $600. It’s for work, but I’ve got IWD, Fallout 1 and 2 and a few stupid adventure games on it.

You ought to think about running two rigs, one for gaming, on for everything else.

You can get a laptop that does both “okay”. I’m typing this on a Gateway M505XL that cost me $1900 about over two years ago – Radeon 9600, Pentium M 1.5GHz, 1GB RAM, DVD-RW, 15.4" screen, 4+ hours battery, and 6.5 pounds. Pretty much perfect for me.

I played all of HL2 on it without any hitches or problems, but obviously I’m willing to make some sacrifices in image quality, but I never really had issues. Not until the very latest gen of stuff (CoD2) has it started gasping and wheezing.

I’m excited about the new Core Duo laptops, because those will be the first new laptops that are tempting enough to upgrade. Laptop manufacturers haven’t really caught onto the fact that there’s a market for “mostly portable, mostly gaming ready”, instead concentrating on the two extremes – lightweight, non-gaming and big ass desktop replacement machines w/ 17" screens.

Alienware has announced something nearly perfect, their MH-12 M5500, but it looks like by the time it shows up the Core Duos will be out in force (like the Sony VAIO FE).

Anyway, at the $1500 mark you should look at the usual suspects and decide where the right mix is for performance vs. portability – that’s a personal call. Some people think 6.5 pounds is heavy, others are happy as long as it’s under 8 pounds. Some people are fine with 1.5 hours of battery life, others bitch if it’s under 3.5 hours.

A couple of things that you probably want to consider…

do NOT get the desktop replacement monsters. Not only are they really heavy (10+ lbs w/ battery) but the battery life on them is horrible. I used to own one and I dreaded taking it anywhere.

That said, I think anything under 8lbs (battery included) is fine…and I think it’s safe to say that the Centrino setup (Pentium M + Wireless) is the only way to go. I like AMD, but their mobile offerings aren’t that great, IMHO.

Oh, and try to get a laptop with a real video card and not something that’s totally integrated. The recent video cards that use Hypermemory and Turbocache gives good price performance .

Thanks for the replies.

To clarify, I’m not looking for a “gaming laptop”. I would like to be able to play games with it but that is not my main focus. I know I won’t be able to play the latest FPS’s with all the bells and whistles and that’s ok.

My reason for wanting a laptop is that I’m back in school adn I’m now working graveyard and usually have a few hours a night with nothing to do but homework. I figure a laptop is going to meet my needs over the next couple of years more than a new desktop would. But I would like to be able to watch a movie or play a game when I’m caught up on the homework.

Thanks again, and keep the suggestions coming.

I’m going back to school in June! I hope my brain doesn’t esplode >.<

If you’re not set on a PC, the 15" G4 Powerbook is RAWRsome! I upgdraded from a first gen iBook and it’s amazing. I can’t think of anything I need it to do that it doesn’t provide. I know folks who are thrilled with the 12" but I needed the extra width.

Good luck, mate :)


I agree - my three main computers are the D400 (work primary), XPS (work & home) and Powerbook 15 1.67 (work & home). If I could do everything on the Powerbook I’d toss the other two in a second. But I definitely thought that implicit in the first post was a need for a PC … and frankly, since Half-Life & Jedi Knight & Gothic & on and on … have never come to Mac, serious gamers need a PC even if they have a Mac.


Oh, and if you don’t mind an OEM solution, I would go with


You can save a bundle :)

Yeah, the Apple’s are cool but they are a bit pricier than I would like and I do want the ability to play games when time permits.

Right. Sorry. I’m an Apple zealot :p

Good luck with school!

Thanks and back at 'ya.

Well, it came up in the thread about the new Apple systems, but the Acer laptops sound as if they’re what you’re looking for.

The one I use, the Travelmate 8104, has been spotted for sale now at around $1700 USD. It’s not the new hawtness of the 8204 that’s arriving next month with its Core Duo and it’s sweet X1600 256MB of RAM ATI card, but it’s an amazing “last gen” system that will just barely break your price point.

I can play HL2 at native resolution (1680x1050) at pretty much max detail, though I’m not a big framerate noticer, and I also don’t even dream about turning on AA.

The Acer TM 8104 that I bought comes with 1GB of DDR2 RAM, a 2.0 GHz Pentium-M Centrino processor, a good 15.4" widescreen, and the 128MB ATI X700 Mobility which is what allows current generation FPSes to run just fine. I’ve used to for work, gaming, and travel (it’s only 6.6 lbs) and I’ve been really satisfied with it. It’s got built in 802.11a/b/g wireless, as well as built in Bluetooth. Lots of other features, too, like a dual layer DVD burner and Gigabyte ethernet.

I went this route because I do exactly what Bill describes, I commute between two cities regularly and I like to be able to game wherever I go.

Poke around, and see if it meets your needs.

I bought dell’s ultraportable 700m, which weighs about 4 lb and has integrated video, and was shocked by how well it ran recent games. This was a year ago, however, and I haven’t tried anything newer than Rome: Total War on it.

Sweet. A similar place I’ve seen is Power Notebooks, not sure how they compare on price.

Just an offsetting opinion, but my Acer TM was a decent notebook except for completely crappy video from the VGA output. This was a very significant problem since I spend the bulk of my time with a second monitor attached.

When I called Acer about this, they said it was a “known problem”, blamed ATI’s graphics, and then said there was nothing they could do. I was like “Well, this is a problem, my unit is broken”.

And then they said, no shit, “We do not consider poor quality a defect”. WHOA. I was pretty irate, asked to talk to the lady’s supervisor, she then started raising her voice with me, I asked her to stop screaming, then she hung up on me. No shit.

I was then stuck with a shitty notebook that the manufacturer admitted was fucked up but wouldn’t do anything about, and CompUSA was going to charge me a 15% restocking fee since “it worked fine”.

So, in the vernacular, fuck Acer.

I’ve ordered from both sites before and I prefer Discount Laptops, partially because they offer a bigger variety of resellers (Powernotebooks is mainly a Sager reseller, while Discount Laptops sell Sager, Chembook, and Asus) and it’s easier to cross-reference the actual OEM manufacturers on Discount Laptops.

IE. Places like VoodooPC, Alienware, etc just take your typical OEM Laptop from Clevo ,Compal, or Asus and give it a custom paintjob + some mods. Discount Laptops makes it also gives the OEM model so you can do the comparsions easily.

Pricewise they’re very similar. Personaly if I had the money I would buy something like



Give Gateway’s TabletPC line a shot. Tablet’s are way awesome, they’re pretty affordable now, and they’re super handy for school and whatnot.

Toshiba’s tablet PCs are also awesome - lighter and sleeker, but they don’t have optical drives so you have to buy an external USB drive for that functionality. I’ve got a Toshiba M200 that I got a bit over a year ago and it’s a phenomenal machine.

Its not much of a gaming machine really. I can run WoW on it but its not really playable, even with 1.2GB of ram.