Looking for a small, light gaming laptop
June 6, 2006 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Are you an expert on gaming laptops? Help me pick a Windows laptop that's small, light, with decent graphics.

I've read many previous MeFi threads on choosing laptops. I've done a lot of research. Now I'm overwhelmed and have no idea what laptop to buy. I'm hoping AskMe has a few people who love keeping up with the latest laptop hardware trends and can steer me the right way.

What I'm looking for is something like the old 12" Apple Powerbook in size and hardware quality, but runs Windows and has a good gaming graphics chip in it. Under 6 pounds, 15" or smaller screen, with a decent keyboard and heat management. I don't need the latest uber gaming rig; something that can play year old games reasonably well will be fine. (Think Far Cry, Sims 2, World of Warcraft; not Oblivion.) Given a choice between a bargain and a better machine, I'll take the better machine.

I think what I want is a generic laptop manufacturer who can customize the build and serves the gaming market. Dell's new M1210 looks good but I don't want all the extra Dell crap installed and my past experience with Dell laptop hardware quality has been bad. Unfortunately, AlienWare seems all about 8 pound desktop replacements. The new 12" Apple laptops don't appeal to me and I don't want MacOS anyway. So I'm wondering if some unknown-brand assembly shop could do a better job, someone like powernotebooks.com. But I don't know who is reputable in this market. Help!

PS: I found this list of laptop GPUs very useful.
posted by Nelson to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Check Voodoo PC, and if you like it, look for used systems on ebay.
posted by sciurus at 7:47 AM on June 6, 2006

I've been searching recently too, and I came across a really nice deal that has me really excited. ( but I need to ask my parents and family for some money [ graduating hs]).. Slickdeals.com has a nice laptop, dual-core, nice graphics card, tv-tuner optional, ect. for around 1,000. If you want extra stuff it'll be over 1,000 but my friend got the minium (which is still really good) with the tv tuner, and it was like nine-hundred something. check it out.
posted by lain at 8:20 AM on June 6, 2006

The last laptop I had with a decent 3d chipset (GeForce2Go, a mobile GeForce2) played Counter-Strike just fine. It was a Dell incidentally.

I've always been happy enough with Dells for the money. It's easy enough to take off the extras when you get it - recently helped my SO with that when she bought her Dell, and it wasn't so bad. Then again, I don't usually call Dell for support, and shudder at the thought.

Most laptops come with a "decent" graphics chipset these days.
posted by kableh at 8:25 AM on June 6, 2006

Oops, forgot to include this link: AnandTech mobile section

Some good reviews there. If nothing else you could compare the performance in some games.
posted by kableh at 8:27 AM on June 6, 2006

You can run Windows XP on Apple computers now, and the graphics performance is excellent.
posted by Mr. Six at 8:43 AM on June 6, 2006

For my money, I have always been happy with Dell. And their XPS laptops get pretty good reviews especially the new M1210. It has a 12 inch screen, weighs about 4 lbs, the price starts at $1300 and I heard it can run Half-life 2 with high detail. I'm probably going to pick up one as soon as I can scrape together enough money to replace my old laptop.

Also, check out Alienware. Gaming is one of their primary focuses.
posted by coolin86 at 8:53 AM on June 6, 2006

I have been extremely unhappy with my Alienware laptop, for what it's worth.

It overheats so often that I am lucky if I can play WOW for longer than 30 minutes. It also overheats if I'm working on a Word document for too long (meaning 30 minutes).

The battery life is not even 30 minutes, so I'm not sure why it even bothers to have a battery.

All in all, it is the worst computer I've ever owned, and I'm really sorry that I paid all of that money for it. Even though it is less than a year old, I am going to be replacing it soon with a functioning laptop.
posted by ugf at 9:31 AM on June 6, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies, even if some are off mark. I didn't know VoodooPC built laptops, they have some appealing options. Do they make good laptops, or do they suck like everyone says Alienware laptops do?

Still hoping someone here knows about the screwdriver shop off-brand laptop market.
posted by Nelson at 2:52 PM on June 6, 2006

Second the warning about alienware. I'm using it mainly as a desktop replacement so battery life hasn't bothered me that much, but heat (and consequent fan noise) is a serious problem. I have been able to play a recent 3d game for more than 2.5 hours, but I have to point an external fan at it.
posted by juv3nal at 3:23 PM on June 6, 2006

I just bought a Sony Vaio SZ-120P which comes with a nVidia Geforce 7600. Runs Quake 4 just fine as far as I can tell, albeit at a low resolution.

It's extraordinarily light and portable - 13.3" screen-size - and seems to run forever if you switch off the Geforce card.

I got it for about $2k from amazon.com - which is a bargain if you're living in the UK.
posted by badlydubbedboy at 2:49 AM on June 7, 2006

Response by poster: For the record, I ended up buying a Thinkpad T60 with the ATI Mobility graphics. Works great.
posted by Nelson at 9:09 AM on March 10, 2007

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