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Laptop (Work/Gaming)

chrism_scotland

Well-known Member
Folks I'm looking for a little laptop advice.

I'm moving flat and needing to slim down my kit so I'm going to be passing on my current desktop rig to my parents, I'm really looking for a laptop that I can do some work on(self-employed) but also for photo editing and some gaming.

Portability isn't a massive issue although potentially I'd want to pickup an external monitor anyway for days I'm working at home/gaming.

I'd be looking to play most of the games I already have on Steam on my current rig which is almost 3 years old now anyway with an AMD Phenom II 3.2 GHz CPU and an Nvidia GTX460 1GB card which aren't exactly cutting edge now anyway!

The most intensive games I'd be looking to play are probably BF3 and I'd have liked to give Simcity a go.

Not looking to spend more than £1000 but suggestions would be appreciated as I'm a bit out of touch with what kit is good/bad!

Chris
 

Bemused One

Distinguished Member
Hi Chris, :)

The PC Specialist website would be a good place to start if you are looking to buy a laptop. The reason being, they allow you to specify your own components and then build the machine for you. That way you get a custom made system for your particular requirements.

Given gaming is on the agenda, establishing what graphics card would suit you best should, in my humble opinion, be your first consideration. So, do you want to be able to game at full HD 1920x1080 resolution with ultra settings, or are you open to going down a res or two and making do with very high or high settings?
 

chrism_scotland

Well-known Member
Thanks mate I've been looking at the PCS website, I'm totally list where to start.

Ideally I wouldn't mind being able to play at full 1920x1080 but I'm not sure which cards to pick.

I take it Intel CPUs are still preferred for laptops?
 

Bemused One

Distinguished Member
Thanks mate I've been looking at the PCS website, I'm totally list where to start.
Don't worry about that, fella. :) I'm sure myself and others can point you in the right direction. Once you get your processor and vid card nailed down, the rest falls into place rather easily.

For a start, based on what you've already said, I'd say 8GB of memory would be sufficient enough for you.

Storage wise, what capacity were you thinking about?

Do you need an operating system included with the laptop?

What kind of optical drive do you require?

Ideally I wouldn't mind being able to play at full 1920x1080 but I'm not sure which cards to pick.
You'll need a vid card with a bit of grunt then. I'd say you'd be looking at a GTX 670m minimum.

What size of screen were you thinking about?

I take it Intel CPUs are still preferred for laptops?
Correct. :smashin: A quad core processor would be the ideal, especially for Battlefield 3 multiplayer (it's one of the few games that can make use of all four cores), but pairing that kind of processor with a higher end graphics card would push you way past your £1000 budget. A dual core i5 would serve you well however.
 

chrism_scotland

Well-known Member
Thanks again, I'm not against spending over £1000 as it does seem that a little bit more would pay off spec wise.

I've noticed the AMD 7970 CARD seems to be highly rated v the Nvidia ones.

Ideally I'm probably looking for at least 1TB and maybe an SSD but I can add that later.

I don't really need an OS, I've heard W8 isn't wonderful and I've got a disk for Windows 7 so would use that.
 

Spy

Well-known Member
Hi there. As previously states, the choice of GPU is probably the driving choice. Nearly all high end/gaming laptops come with decent quad core processors like the 3630QM. It is the GPU that differentiates many of them.

The 7970 is a great, value for money, high end graphics card but there have been numerous driver issues with it, particularly when trying to take advantage of Enduro to conserve battery life (switching between the nuilt-in HD4000, low power grpahics and the 7970 when gaming). Some manufacturers have got this working better than others. Alienware have done a better job of the 7970M than others.

If you don't want driver issues and better supported mobile GPU then you may need to look at the Nvidia camp. Don't go forthe 660M, this is at the high end of the standard graphics card but not really deemed an enthusiast/gaming GPU. Depending on budget, you should be looking at Fermi 670M or 675M. The next step up would be the Kepler based cards like the 675MX or 680M. The 680M is the top end of Nvidia's laptop GPUs and blows away the ones beneath it. Pretty much any manufacturer's laptop should work well with an Nvidia GPU.

Ultimately it is about budget and trying to get the absolute best spec you can for that budget. Hopefully the above gives you an idea of the pecking order.

If you want to play games like BF3 at High/Ultra settings on a 1920x1080 resolution and have a bit of future proofing (ie play next year's games at High), then you are really looking at the 680M or 7970M.

MSI gaming laptops seem to come mainly with the 670M and the higher end ones have the 675MX and 680M but they would be out of your budget. This really leaves you with a 7970 Alienware (after discounts are applied) or a custom built laptop based on the Clevo chassis. Overclockers, PC Specialist, Schenker etc all make these and you can configure to your hearts content on their website to compare prices.
 
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chrism_scotland

Well-known Member
Thanks again, I'm tempted by the Alienware actually potentially with the 7970 and an upgraded screen but maybe upgrade the RAM, HD and Optical Drive myself.

I've heard that the build on some of the Clevo Chassis isn't as good as an Alienware which puts me off a little when its a lot of cash.
 

Spy

Well-known Member
Thanks again, I'm tempted by the Alienware actually potentially with the 7970 and an upgraded screen but maybe upgrade the RAM, HD and Optical Drive myself.

I've heard that the build on some of the Clevo Chassis isn't as good as an Alienware which puts me off a little when its a lot of cash.

The Alienware is an attractive package, although to some, the design is a little OTT.

The issue to consider and decide on with the 7970 is its Enduro issues. I believe that the reason the Alienware has fewer issues is because users have switched off Enduro, which you can do in the AL but not the Clevo P1x0EM. The down side is that the battery life is heavily impacted.

Don't forget to factor in the 10% discount coupons doing the rounds and Quidco cashback if going down the AL route
 

chrism_scotland

Well-known Member
The design is certainly OTT but it does seem like they are built very well.
Is it easy to get access into the Alienware to add/upgrade bits like the HD?

I'll need to take a read over some of the Enduro stuff and see what the state of play is.
 

Spy

Well-known Member
The design is certainly OTT but it does seem like they are built very well.
Is it easy to get access into the Alienware to add/upgrade bits like the HD?

I'll need to take a read over some of the Enduro stuff and see what the state of play is.

Yes, I believe adding or swapping HDs is fairly easy on these high end laptops.

Have a read - you will find loads of threads on the Enduro issue as it has been going on a while. I believe the issue has improved but not completely solved, even with the latest drivers.
 

chrism_scotland

Well-known Member
Having looked closely at the AW I think its going to be just too expensive to spec the way I want.

I've read a few reviews of the Clevo P170EM and it seems to be very well regarded build wise so may look at that instead, its going to be much cheaper via either OCUK or PC Specialist.

Would like to see if I can find a bit more about the 15.6" screened ones too though as I'd maybe rather have a smaller screen.
 

Spy

Well-known Member
I agree on cost Chris. I spec'd the same Clevo P170EM and Alienware m17xR4 and the Alienware came out to £800 more expensive :eek:

I got it down to a £600 difference with a 10% off coupon code and if I tried hard and haggled, I may get it down a further £200, making the price difference £400. The problem is that £400 is still a massive premium for the Alienware, especially for something that depreciates like a snow avalanche. The new Haswell CPUs and Nvidia 7xxx series GPUs are due this summer, which will just add further momentum to the depreciation.

As regards the Clevos, the P150EM (15.6") and the P170EM (17") are very similar and even share the same manual, collectively referred to as P1x0EM chassis. I believe the main difference is that the P170EM has an extra SATA III port fro storage drives.

In terms of size difference, the image below should give you a better idea. The picture on the bottom right shows them usefully laid over the top of each other. You can also get an idea of the width difference by looking at the space either side of the keyboard.

wTMav.jpg


Personally, I was looking at the 15.6" but have read that it is no ultrabook and actually quite bulky and heavy. Given that, I figure that if it is not that portable and I will have to put up with its the bulk, I may as well look at the 17" and get the benefit of the bigger screen for video editing and gaming :devil:

The problem with the Clevo is getting to see one. I know that Schenker (mySN UK | XMG | by Schenker Notebooks) are at the Gadget Show this week where they will have their Clevo based laptops on demo for you to try, as they did at the Christmas Gadget Show. They won't win a beauty contest but on the positive side, are understated so may not attract much attention, just packed with tech. Also, their non-descript looks won't look out of place in an office, although you may need one of the rolling laptop cases :rolleyes:.

In terms of build quality, I have heard good and bad things for both Clevo and Alienware. In my mind they are pretty much on a par in this respect. There are lots of reports on the internet where people have had to send their Alienware back a number of times for a variety of issues. This can be a pain and will quickly sour the Alienware experience but on the positive side, their support is very good, it just means you have to fork out for the expensive 3 year warranty for peace of mind. There are also people who have had issues with Clevo laptops therefore it is important to purchase one from a reputable builder/supplier who can offer a good warranty and won't go bust. In this economy that can be a bit of a crap shoot but there are some companies who have been around for some time, such as PC Specialist, Overclockers and Scan.
 
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chrism_scotland

Well-known Member
Thanks again that's a great comparison and does show that bulk wise theres not much in it, I was planning on buying an external monitor but I think with the 17" I'd probably just use that certainly for the moment!

Will have a ponder and probably re-visit the Alienware again too.
 

Spy

Well-known Member
Hi Chris,

How is the laptop hunt going ?

I thought I would let you know about this cracking deal PC Specialist are doing at the moment for a 17" P170EM based chassis with the i7-3630QM and Nvidia 680M GPU. I don't believe anyone can match it at a price of £1,279: http://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/includes/review_order.php?id=109

Here is the review for it: Gadget Corner: Vortex III 680 Gaming Laptop Review | SlimGamer.com - Slim Means Nothing, Gaming Is Everything

Alternatively, if you want an Alienware, they have these Easter specials: Dell's Best Gaming Laptop & Gaming PC Deals | Dell UK

With Alienware, you should be aiming for an additional £250 (approx.) discount (over the Easter discount) and free delivery.
 

Bemused One

Distinguished Member
Hello again, Chris. :)

I've been keeping an eye on this thread and I have to say Spy's advice has been outstanding. :smashin:

I thought I would let you know about this cracking deal PC Specialist are doing at the moment for a 17" P170EM based chassis with the i7-3630QM and Nvidia 680M GPU. I don't believe anyone can match it at a price of £1,279: http://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/includes/review_order.php?id=109

A great spot. :thumbsup:

Just my opinion, but if your budget allows I'd jump on this. It's a cracking deal.

With Alienware, you should be aiming for an additional £250 (approx.) discount (over the Easter discount) and free delivery.
Don't encourage them. ;) Again, just my opinion. :D
 

chrism_scotland

Well-known Member
Thanks guys ive been slithering between that exact deal at PCS or a p170EM Limited Edition from OcUk with an AMD7970m....it's about £200 cheaper but I'm not sure if the 680M would be a better choice.
 

chrism_scotland

Well-known Member
Thanks mate, that does suggest its quite close! But it looks like the 680M is a more consistent performer with lower power usage.
 

Spy

Well-known Member
The 7970M is a great processor that is a match for the 680M in game performance. The 680M is more overclockable but this may or may not be an advantage as not everyone wants to overclock.

The issue with the 7970M has been the drivers in relation to the Enduro technology - automatically switching between the on-board intel HD4000 graphics for less demanding tasks such as Word or web browsing and the 7970M for gaming etc in order to prolong battery life. The drivers have improved but people are still having issues. This is particularly bad on the Clevo machines as you cannot switch off Enduro and force the laptop to just use the 7970M. The Alienware laptops suffer from teh same issue but on those you can switch between the internal HD4000 and external 7970M manually and re-booting the machine.

The 680M has an equivalent Nvidida technology called Optimus. This appears to work fine on both Clevo and Alienware.

I hope this helps :thumbsup:
 

chrism_scotland

Well-known Member
Thanks mate, I assume that the Clevo with an i7 also has on-board Intel HD4000 graphics?
 

Spy

Well-known Member
Thanks mate, I assume that the Clevo with an i7 also has on-board Intel HD4000 graphics?

Yes, both the Clevo and Alienware have retained the on-board graphics for use with Enduro/Optimus technology as their laptops are pretty power hungry if you just run with the 7970 or 680
 

chrism_scotland

Well-known Member
Yes, both the Clevo and Alienware have retained the on-board graphics for use with Enduro/Optimus technology as their laptops are pretty power hungry if you just run with the 7970 or 680

Ah right cool, to be honest I think I'm going to plump for the Vertex III, at that price its a good spec.

Looking at the spec is there anything I should be looking to change?

Name: Vortex III 680
Screen: 17.3” Matte Full HD LED (1920 x 1080)
CPU: Intel Core i7-3630QM
RAM: 8GB Kingston HyperX RAM
SSD: 120GB Kingston HyperX 3K SSD
HDD: 1TB SATA II 5400RPM
GPU: 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX680M
ODD: Sony BC-5550H BluRay Combo
Wireless: Intel N135 802.11N + Bluetooth
Battery: 8 Cell Lithium Ion (76.96WH)
Weight: 3.9Kg (inc battery)
OS: Windows 8 64bit
Warranty: 2 Year Silver
 

Spy

Well-known Member
If you are just using it for gaming and not photo/video editing then I think the spec is good as it stands.

The main thing I would change, personally, would be:
- Add the 1 year Dead Pixel Guarantee (£19)
- Upgrade the warranty to a Gold Warranty (£69) - gives you 2 years Return to Base cover

Optional items I would look at:
- Upgrade the SSD to a 250Gb so you can install your OS and programs/games on the SSD to aid boot-up times and then use the Hard Drive to store data
- Upgrade the Hard Drive to a 750Gb WD Scorpio Black (7200RPM) to improve performance
- Upgrade the Wireless card to an Intel Advanced to get 300Mbs instead of 150 Mbs

If you were doing photo/video editing, I would upgrade the RAM to 16Gb (2x8Gb)

If you need upgrades, I would submit an order and before you pay, message them through your online account to add the upgrades.
 

Spy

Well-known Member
I should have said, I think that if you add everything I listed, the price would be a little over £1,400

This unfortunately closes the gap on the Alienware which can be picked up for approx £1,600 (after negotiated discounts and good timing) but you would need to add the SSD and additional memory yourself at a later date.

A 7970M based Alienware would be approx. £1,450 (after negotiated discounts and good timing)

One final thing, in light of full disclosure, the sound on the Clevo is by all user accounts, terrrible. Many recommend an external amplifier if you are using it with headphones.

This came across to me as a balanced review:
 

chrism_scotland

Well-known Member
Cheers again mate,

I would be looking to add the Dead Pixel (1 year) and the Gold Warranty.

I think I actually have a 7200RRM laptop drive I took out of another laptop so could use that although I'm not too worried about adding things in myself as I need them later.

I will be photo editing, would I be cheaper to add the RAM now or do it myself later?

I think even if it does close the gap I'd still rather have the GTX 680M Clevo over the Alienware...
 

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