Is a gaming laptop just a bad idea?
December 3, 2015 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Can one buy a gaming laptop that not overheat on a regular table and still play modern games? (Hopefully for under $2000)

I think I'd like a new computer. I was planning on building my own desktop, but I've been using laptops for 10+ years and I'm just used to them by now. I like being able to move around, take it with me, etc. I also would like to have a computer that can play modern games (FO4, DA:I, Civ Beyond Earth, Gal Civ 3, etc.), as I'm ready to unify my games onto on device (also, mods) and also, some of the newest strategy games have stupidly high graphics/processor requirements.

My current laptop has a graphics card. It also has a bad tendency to overheat unless the fan, which is on the bottom of the case, has enough airflow, which means perching it on my knees or hanging it out over the table on one side. I now run a temperature monitor program that notifies me when the chips are getting hot enough to boil water. I think I damaged the wifi card with the frequent overheating shutdowns. I want to avoid this in the future, and honestly, having a siren interrupt a gaming session and needing to suddenly save and quit is, well, annoying.

From checking other threads, I think I can hit the price point, but I'm more worried about heat. It's not like I can add extra fans to the case and I've never found the fans that you place under a laptop useful at all.

Is this possible? Or should I just buy a lower power laptop, suck it up and buy a PS4/XBone? Or a tablet and a decent gaming computer?
posted by Hactar to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
USB powered laptop cooler mats with fans are available and some people I know swear by them.

As far as machines go, have a look at Sager. They won't win any beauty pageants but we bought 11 of them ( w/970m 3gb GPUs) at work for a demo road show and they have performed well. Granted we run our in-house software, but that's on par with some modern games in terms of GPU load.
posted by Alterscape at 11:49 AM on December 3, 2015

I personally got much more bang for my buck building my own rig. I used to work in the gaming industry and worked on a top-of-the-line company paid for gaming laptop and it was total crap.
posted by raw sugar at 11:57 AM on December 3, 2015

I'm not a gamer but I have been buying gaming laptops for the last ten years because they are more powerful than the usual laptop. I really like the ASUS G-series gaming laptops. The last one I bought was a G75V four years ago which they don't sell any more, and it has excellent cooling even when I'm doing something CPU-intensive (like Handbrake or one of the nVidia gee-whiz demos).

It's something they've been working on over the years; the previous one I owned got too hot to touch. But since they got it right on mine, I assume that they still have it together.

The latest one is $1549, so it fits right into your budget.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:59 AM on December 3, 2015

Option 1: USB laptop coolers like Alterscape mentions. FWIW, I have a Sager with a cooler, and I average 75C-80C for the CPU (i7 quad-core) and slightly cooler with the GPU (a separate nVidia 970M), which is passable. Most modern mobile CPUs should start underclocking when they get close to automatic shutdown temperatures, though.

Option 2: Underclock your GPU and CPU. This requires a bit of know-how, and often a hacked BIOS for either your CPU or your GPU or both. Not recommended unless you know what you're doing.

Option 3: A combination of #1 and #2.

Option 4: Build a desktop and replace your laptop with a low-end laptop, Chromebook, or a decent tablet.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:11 PM on December 3, 2015

I have a set of these which work great. Also nice to prop up the keyboard a bit even when not gaming. Comes with a small drawstring pouch, too.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:25 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Those cool feet are amazing. No matter what, I'm definitely getting them. Thanks to everyone, I'm going to check it the Asus and Sager models. Please, if anyone has any more experience, I'm happy to hear more.
posted by Hactar at 12:32 PM on December 3, 2015

I've had a netbook and currently own a full-sized laptop from MSI, and their stuff tends to be consistently rated pretty well. I love mine - it's rock solid. I don't do a great deal of gaming, but I do a lot of stuff that's moderately computationally intensive. It does warm up, yes, but I've never had overheating problems. The UI has some very nice features that permit the user to manually fiddle the system performance profile to adjust fan speed, power consumption & the like. Their gaming line looks typically robust.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 1:01 PM on December 3, 2015

I use a laptop for all my PC gaming, and I find that I don't use it for portable gaming (unless I have no choice, eg vacation) because it's just a vastly better gaming experience to use when the laptop is in it's docking-bay with a proper screen, full keyboard, mouse, speakers, chair etc. At which point it's really just a weak desktop machine (I can pick it up and take it anywhere which is useful for non-games stuff, but I don't like using it for games anywhere else)

Because of this, I've decided to move the other way - get a more powerful gaming PC for much less money (ie desktop system) to be dedicated to general and high-end gaming, and retain a nice laptop that plays most games well, yet is easily portable instead of heavy and bulky with short battery life.

(The cloud now means that having two machines isn't the perpetual the-file-I-need-is-on-the-other-machine nightmare it used to be.)
posted by anonymisc at 6:53 PM on December 3, 2015

I have an MSI gaming laptop with a 970M and I love it. But it gets extremely hot. I was once using it on my bare legs without a cooling mat--I have a mat but wasn't planning on doing anything that intensive at that moment--and the heat crept up on me when I was very distracted and legitimately burned my legs pretty badly. Now I always use the cooling mat, even if I am working on a Word document.

Worth it to have a laptop, though. I have a desk set up that I jack into half the time, and I am mobile the rest of the time.
posted by TinWhistle at 7:02 AM on December 4, 2015

I'll second the ASUS G-series gaming laptops. My brother had one in the past, and upgraded to a newer model, which he now uses to play Fallout 4. He's always used them on a table, and has never had overheating issues.

That said, with whatever you go with, you could consider getting a laptop stand. They hold the laptop an inch or two off the table, usually at an incline. One with an open or mesh support would greatly help any sort of heating issue. Though note that many gaming laptops are large and heavy, so you'd need to make sure a stand is strong enough.
posted by Skephicles at 8:03 AM on December 4, 2015

Looks like I'm going to get an Asus G-Series (which is also great, as I love how the Asus touchpads feel). I'm prepared to lug around 8.4lbs, so I think I'm set. Thanks everyone.
posted by Hactar at 12:13 PM on December 4, 2015

I think it will come with a bag (mine did) so you won't need to buy a separate one.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:19 PM on December 4, 2015

I bought an ASUS ROG 751JY. I am quite pleased with it, although I haven't tried to take it anywhere yet. It just fits in my laptop backpack.

Thanks to everyone for the advice.
posted by Hactar at 11:19 AM on January 22, 2016

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