Help me pick one of the damn laptops for gaming & video editing, please?
November 25, 2016 2:11 PM   Subscribe

I need a new laptop pronto, and I have a bunch of Amazon gift cards to spend! There are a couple of deals on Amazon today, but I've bought some lemons before (curse you, Lenovo!!) and I'm hoping the more computer-savvy folks of Ask Metafilter can help me pick a non-lemon this time. More info below...

So, I plan to do some gaming, animation and video editing and I need a machine with some oomph. I don't care much about battery life (I work from home) or a touch screen, but I really want a decent keyboard. My Lenovo is only two years old but acts like an old clunker, and I want something that will last. I am also not exactly flush with cash and don't want to spend more than $750 or so, but I have some Amazon cards that will save me about $200. My last computer was a Lenovo and I did a lot of research before buying it, but despite good reviews it ended up being a piece of junk with several keys that fell off right away, a bad power supply and a not-great warranty. Here are my current contenders: - MSI GL62 6QF-893 15.6" Gaming Laptop Notebook GTX 960M i7-6700HQ 12GB 128GB + 1TB Windows 10 USB Type-C. This one may be the front-runner, although I've never even heard of this brand before! The specs seem the best, and I really like that it has a DVD drive and two damn mouse buttons instead of those awful little uni-pads. - Dell Inspiron i7559-2512BLK 15.6 Inch FHD Laptop (6th Generation Intel Core i7, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB HDD + 8 GB SSD) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M. Second choice, so far. Good reviews.

Dell 15.6-Inch Gaming Laptop (6th Gen Intel Quad-Core i5-6300HQ Processor up to 3.2GHz, 8GB DDR3, 256GB SSD, Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M, Windows 10)
by Dell. The slightly less souped-up version of the previous laptop, for a little less. Are these specs different enough that I would see a real difference in performance?

I'm also open to suggestions if anybody knows of a better model for my needs, around this price point or lower!
posted by Ursula Hitler to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Just wanted to say, if a nice keyboard is what you're after, it may really be best to buy a separate keyboard (and mouse, possibly). I have never found a laptop keyboard I could stand, but I use a wireless USB keyboard and mouse with my laptop and it's much nicer. Plus, it's easy to replace if needed.
posted by The otter lady at 2:18 PM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Its from last year but id go with the dell inspiron 15 7559, good reviews for gaming and video edits. Helpful review from tekthing podcast #46.
posted by dstopps at 3:18 PM on November 25, 2016

I don't have any specific brand recommendations to make, but I have been planning on a desktop replacement early next year. I do video and photo editing as a hobby. One thing that I've learned is that the new Kaby Lake processors, while not a big boost in general computing, are the bomb when it comes to video editing, playback and gaming. They've just started showing up in laptops and will be making their way into desktops early 2017. Might help you refine your search.
posted by michswiss at 3:19 PM on November 25, 2016

I have a similar Dell model to your Dell Inspiron i7559 choice, purchased for somewhat similar reasons. I wanted a laptop that could actually keep up with a desktop system as far as gaming, video card, and all ordinary office-type uses, like opening giant Powerpoint files, Word files, etc, editing large image files, etc.

So far I have liked it better than any laptop I've had recently, both for the general computing horsepower (it really is a laptop that runs more like a desktop, in the CPU & video card/gaming departments) and the fact that the keyboard & touchpad are decent, if perhaps not quite up to what I would like in a desktop system. Also I like that it has a numeric keypad.

I would maybe not want to recommend this as "best possible computer choice in the universe" but I feel like it is solid, anyway.

FYI I don't do any video editing, so I don't know about that. FYI this is considered a "low-end" gaming laptop (meaning that you can spend $500-$2500 more on better video cards, highest-possible CPU, whatever). And finally FYI I would strongly suggest upgrading to 16gb ram right away, as part of the initial purchase.
posted by flug at 3:53 PM on November 25, 2016

I would add that an SSD drive is well worth it--the performance speed is up quite amazing. The idea is the you have a small-ish SSD and you install your operating system plus a few key pieces of software on that, then everything else goes on your normal hard drive.

It looks like your choice #1 has that SSD option already.

Here is an article about adding the SSD & 8gb extra ram to the Dell options (about $125 extra for both).
posted by flug at 4:02 PM on November 25, 2016

So you don't care about battery life and you work from home, so does it have to be a laptop? A desktop will be far, far superior for your needs if it doesn't. Building one yourself is the best option and will save you money.
posted by hypercomplexsimplicity at 4:13 PM on November 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

You're on solid ground with all of those - no AMD processors, an appropriate amount of memory and decent laptop video card. Thought that said, video editing hits the processor and the memory hardest, so there might be a good case for going to 16 gig RAM as noted above. And SSD for your windows install is surprisingly easy to do and a phenomenal QoL upgrade..
posted by Sebmojo at 4:23 PM on November 25, 2016

Response by poster: Dang it, it looks like I screwed up one of my clickable links! (Maybe I'm still addled from Thanksgiving.) THIS was the frontrunner, which has 12 GB, two buttons on the mouse and a DVD player but comes from MSI, a company I don't know: - MSI GL62 6QF-893

Building my own computer is far beyond my tech skills. The battery isn't so important because while I am fairly mobile working around the house and I do work elsewhere sometimes, I always make a beeline for the nearest outlet.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:33 PM on November 25, 2016

Only thought, is 1Tb enough secondary storage? One cost strategy if the only difference is the size of the storage is to buy the smaller spec'd unit and swap in better drives and memory (generally trivial), although one review the larger is calling the ssd "flash memory" and having the OS on an ssd is really essential. (my old T410 can have the dvd swapped for a hd, laptops should have room for two hd's)
posted by sammyo at 5:08 PM on November 25, 2016

Other though, what's the MAX ram that can be installed?
posted by sammyo at 5:09 PM on November 25, 2016

Any reason you're not going for the current generation NVIDIA video cards? I note both laptops you link use prior generation 900 series mobile cards.

In the past you used to trade off a large amount of computing power to go from a desktop to laptop. For example the GTX 960M is about 30% less capable than the GTX 960 on a desktop.

The new 1000 series cards are a big leap forward not only in design and technology (which moves forward every year anyway) but also in philosophy - they've stopped producing "mobile" versions of their cards and have simply just dropped in slightly modified versions of their desktop class cards into laptops. The GTX 1060 performs very nearly as well in a laptop as it does in a desktop, we're getting close to our dream of getting desktop class performance in a laptop form factor - they're able to do this with recent advances in process manufacturing / efficiency.

posted by xdvesper at 5:20 PM on November 25, 2016

I have that Dell i5, for pretty much the same reason. Had a Lenovo that was a little long in the tooth and wanted something I could play a few video games on. I have been totally happy with the video card/gaming performance, but I'm also not playing any AAA FPS released in the last couple years... It can do something like Kerbal Space Program or Portal without breaking a sweat though, which is about all I need it to do.

One complaint I do have is that the touchpad seems really mushy about where left-click ends and right-click begins. Had physical buttons before rather than zones on a touchpad, though, so that is probably part of my problem. Other than that, I've been totally happy with it.
posted by clockwork at 1:40 PM on November 26, 2016

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