Gaming Laptop Guide - Pascal Edition

Discussion in 'What Notebook Should I Buy?' started by Galm, Oct 10, 2016.

  1. Galm

    Galm "Stand By, We're Analyzing The Situation!"

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    Other Guides: Aesthetic Quality/Build Quality/Quality Control | Computer Parts | The Reseller Guide

    PSA: New stuff galore! Computex 2017 is here. Nvidia has unveiled Max Q gpus which will screw this guide up quite a bit. They'll be worse versions of whatever cards they're named after (i.e. 1080 Max Q) but fit in crazy thin chassis laptops!


    Hey guys! I thought I'd post my guide to buying a gaming laptop to fit your needs, since I see a lot of the same questions over and over again. If it helps, or you have feedback, I'd love to hear it!

    Pascal gpus are here, and they make a big difference. So if gaming is what your going for I'd strongly suggest saving for at least a GTX1060. They seriously crush the Maxwell series of cards.

    Categories:
    Under $1000
    Under $1500
    Under $2000
    Under $3000
    No Limit
    Portables


    Links to buy, and to owner's lounges (where actual owners of the models discuss their machines) will be linked, though not everything has an owners lounge.

    SALES:

    Microcenter has a P650HS for 1250! With a 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD + 16GB ram!

    MicroCenter has (in store only) the Acer Predator G9-793-78CM 17-inch gaming notebook for $1399 + tax. This is a markdown of $600 from the previous retail price. It comes with an i7 6700HQ CPU, 16 GB of RAM, 8 GB GeForce GTX 1070 GPU, 2x128 GB SSD in RAID-0, 1 TB spinning hard drive, 1080p 75 Hz G-Sync compatible built-in display, and Windows 10 Home.
    (S/O to @saturnotaku )

    Acer Predator 17 with a GTX 1080 for 1999!
    http://www.microcenter.com/product/475582/Predator_17_GX-792-7448_173_Gaming_Laptop_Computer_-_Black

    Asus FX502VM-AH51 - Core i5-6300HQ, GTX 1060, 16GB RAM, 1TB HDD - $879 (note the screen is kinda terrible)

    That being said lets go look at some categories!

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    1000 and under:

    These are the budget machines that will game, but you'll be making sacrifices on build quality, screen quality, performance, storage options etc...

    HP Pavilion 15T - Cheapest 1050 laptop on the market. Base config sports a quad core i5, 8GB of ram, and a 1TB hdd. Has room for an additional pcie ssd for extra speed and up to 16GB of ram. Has a nice IPS panel.

    Dell Inspiron 7567 - Another good budget option. Packs a 1050 (or 1050 Ti), a quad core i5/i7, and a 256GB ssd makes this a great value laptop for gaming on a budget! It's build quality is acceptable, but worse than many of the more expensive options out there. TN panel is poor though...
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    Sager NP6852/Clevo N850HK1 - You'll be making a bigger sacrifice on build quality on this one, but the i7 7700HQ cpu is a more powerful alternative the i5 that comes with the Dell. Has a 1050 Ti. It's also easier to customize your storage and ram than the limited amazon Inspiron configs, letting you put whatever drives you want inside. It also has 3 USB ports (1 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0) and a USB 3.1 type C, which is pretty nice in this price range. This is the choice I would go with if you really need a customized storage or ram config for cheap, otherwise the MSI below is probably a better option. IPS panel.
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    MSI GL62 - A solid budget choice from MSI. Build quality is acceptable, but not great. The specs however are quite good. It packs an i7 7700hq and 1050 plus a small ssd to make boot times quick along with a more standard 1TB hard drive. This one also sports a USB 3.1 Type C USB port. IPS Panel.

    Those are the three main options I would consider right now. Asus, Acer, HP, and Lenovo offerings in this price range are not very impressive, with very few clear advantages over the ones above. As large mostly nongaming companies I really find the quality of their cheap options severely lacking. The Dell and MSI offerings are pretty superior in comparison. Though if you can find any of them sporting a 960m for under 800 paired with an i7, they could be worth considering.

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    1500 and under:

    This is where stuff starts getting good. Now we have some serious gaming horsepower coming into the mix, with the GTX 1060 present in all recommendations. Anything less is not a smart use of money for a gaming machine in this price range. Quality also increases here.

    Sager NP8156/Clevo P650HP6 (17" version here) - Once you get to the Clevo P series machines, overall quality takes a jump up. The P650 chassis is very well built being all metal, except for the lid, which is the weakest point of the machine. The machine is well cooled, well built, and has some impressive customization options. It sports 2 m.2 drives (1 pcie) and 2 2.5" bays for up to 4 physical drives, along with 4 ram slots (up to 64GB). It also comes with a GSync display. It starts at $1330 right now from a good reseller, and the NP8152-S loadout (16GB of RAM + 256GB ssd), is really a solid overall customization at $1430. Sports 2 USB type C 3.1 ports. RGB keyboard present. (Owner's lounge here)

    I would avoid the NP8151, the garbage TN panel is not worth it. Pay the extra 50 bucks for an IPS GSync.
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    Asus GL502VM - A very solid offering from Asus with a competitive price. Sports a 7700hq, 1060, and 16GB of ram along with a 1TB HDD. I would recommend getting an ssd either through the reseller of your choice, or on your own. Build quality is good, and it isn't plagued with issues like some Asus machines of the past. Compared to the Clevo this one is thinner, lighter, and quieter, but offers less flexibility (only 2 drives and 2 ram slots), is a little worse cooled, and has a very difference aesthetic. Has GSync and a red backlit keyboard. (Owner's lounge here)
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    MSI GT62VR - Another very solid option. This is the "high end" option at this price level. It sports a larger (but better built) chassis that does a superior job cooling its 7700hq and 1060 than the two above. It has only 2 drive slots, but 4 ram slots, and has far superior audio than the two above. It's speakers include a dedicated subwoofer, with impressive oomph. Of course, it also has a GSync display. RGB keyboard present. (Owner's lounge here)

    Again, no other options I consider to be better than the 3 posted here. The MSI GE62 is a notable option missing. I would strongly recommend looking at the Clevo or Asus instead as they are better built and better value options. If you can find an AW machine in this price range with a 1060 and a 6700HQ (not 6820HK see below with AW 15) than go for it! Remember don't buy unreviewed machines! Machines like the Gigabyte P55W aren't necessarily bad, but don't have any advantages that are notable over the above. If you need portable look at the MSI GS43VR. (Owner's lounger here)

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    2000 and under:

    Probably my favorite category, the machines in this price range all sport mighty 1070 gpus. Build quality is still very solid, and higher end cpus and displays become a bit more common. Desktop cpus also start here.
    Sager NP8157/Clevo P650HS (17" version here) - Full diclosure I own this one. It's a pretty great value machine starting at 1600 with a 1070. Options are fully open here. You can get a 4K GSync display, overclockable 7820hk cpu, there are 4 ram slots, and 4 storage slots like the P650RP6. It also has a SABRE DAC which is an advantage over it's little brother. This one is also thinner than the Asus GL502VS which sports a 1070 (1.1" vs 1.2"). Clevo also has access to a lot of resellers, and thermal pastes and the Prema bios mod are available options (with the @Prema bios being a unique bios for Clevo's). It's a lean mean customizable machine. RGB keyboard present. (Owner's lounger here)
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    MSI GT62VR (GT72VR 17")- Huh this seems like a pretty similar list to the 1500 and under... Well that's because these chassis's are all really good. Same deal on this laptop as the 1060 category. I will add though that besides now sporting a 1070, the GT62VR is an MXM-B laptop, meaning it is possible though not guaranteed, to be able to upgrade it down the line. RGB keyboard is present. (Owner's Lounge here)
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    MSI 16L13 - This is an MSI GT62 barebones machine with one MAJOR difference. It sports a full desktop cpu! It also sports a thunderbolt III port. I'm listing this seperately because not everyone needs a desktop cpu, and it comes with a bit of a premium. But this is a cool new option on the market. It also is the only 15" on the market with a GTX 1080! Sold by Eurocom and CyberPowerPC currently. (Owner's lounge here)
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    Sager NP9153/Clevo P750DM3 - This is Clevo's offering with a desktop cpu. Again like the MSI barebones, both the cpu and gpu are changeable. Includes 4 storage options, 4 ram slots, and a SABRE DAC for audio. Will support the Prema bios, and again has an RGB keyboard. Build quality is good, though not quite as good as say the GT62. (Owner's lounge here)
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    Alienware 15 R3 - Stock pricing is awful. Don't buy an Alienware without a discount coupon. Go over to the Alienware subforum to ask about how to do that, it isn't very hard, I doubt many of the veteran AW users there are paying stock prices. Besides that... It's pretty awesome. Build quality is easily the best of the bunch, and the screen is great. 2 ram slots, one PCIe M.2, and one 2.5" bay. Has some pretty crazy Alienware FX lighting if that's your thing as well. Noticeably thinner than the old stuff. Decent battery life as well which is a rarity.

    These are the kings for performance in this range. Other options are worth looking at, but not when looking for value for the money. That will come later. Asus models are not present because they have had some quality control issues. They may be less frequent now, but they provide very little other benefits over the options above with one exception and that's noise. If you need portable look at the MSI GS63VR/GS73VR (Owner's lounger here)

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    3000 and under:

    You'll notice I skipped 2500. There isn't much worth buying, except you can cram a P775DM into that budget if you really try. You won't get much real noticeable performance increases until you hit a 1080.

    Here your looking at options with impressive displays, lots of power, and usually the GTX 1080.

    Clevo P775DM - Linked to HID on this one because they offer the 1440p 120Hz display. This has a desktop cpu, and can even support a GTX 1080 desktop card barely within budget. The smart play here is an i5 6600k desktop cpu with a 1080 and 1440p 120Hz display. 4 storage drives, 4 ram drives, huh looks like Clevo keeps winning in those two categories... (Owner's lounge here)
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    MSI GT73VR
    - 120Hz 1080p display, and finally more storage options makes this a solid MSI machine. Though the cpu is still mobile it supports 4 storage drives, and 4 ram slots. Importantly, it can either take a 1080, or 1070 sli. Though 1070 sli is way over 3000 it is something you could consider doing down the line. (Owner's lounge here)

    ...Where is everything else?? Well this is a weird price range. Not much else is even here unfortunately...
    Alienware will probably join soon with the 17 and its 1440p 120 Hz display.

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    No Limit:

    The end all category. Performance here is far better than all but the highest end desktops (Pretty much just Titian XP sli at this point) and build quality is never a real worry. Let's get into it!

    Clevo P870KM - Where is the Sager variant you ask? Not here. If your spending thousands and thousands you should be getting the @Prema bios (Sager doesn't offer it). You should also probably go with a reseller that will delid the cpu like the one I linked to help lower temps. This thing is a beast. A desktop cpu is supported by 2 GTX 1080s in sli, and a 1440p 120Hz GSync display. That's living the dream right there. However, the 4K GSync display is actually a valid option as 1080 SLI will max nearly everything at that resolution. 4 ram slots, 4 storage slots, 2 thunderbolt III ports and 5 more USB ports give this thing a crazy amount of power and flexibility. This is the true desktop replacement king with basically no mobile parts. Of course it also has SABRE audio and an RGB keyboard. Literally everything can be changed. (Owner's lounge here)
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    MSI GT83VR - 1080 sli, 7920hq cpu, and oh yeah a mechanical keyboard. Technically a weaker cpu than the Clevo, this thing is still a beast. 4 drives, 4 ram slots, and an 18" display. Quite a beast. SABRE audio is present, along with impressive speakers for a laptop. Cherry MX switches are on the keyboard. Thunderbolt III is present but GSync ISNT. Very very odd at this price range. (Owner's lounge here)

    Upcoming - Asus GX800 watercooled, and Acer 21X Predator with ultrawide display.

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    Portable:

    No budget but you need it to be thin and portable? Look here:

    But first please note this is with portability as second to gaming. If portability is your number 1 priority Max Q laptops will be a lot more appealing (though some on this list will still be appealing). So things like the Asus Zephyrus, Acer Triton, Aorus X5 MD etc... Though they are expensive.

    The New Razer Blade - The Razer Blade is a .71" 1060 equipped laptop that's 4.1 lbs. This thing is thin and powerful. It also looks sexy as hell, and feels just as good as a Macbook Pro with very impressive build quality. Your paying quite a premium for it though. It is not well cooled and will throttle (perhaps heavily) under load. Razer support is also awful which is why I linked to HIDEvolution's site, as they'll protect you from Razer's awfulness. (Also check out the Microsoft Store) Of note is the awesome Razer Chroma keyboard with individual backlighting, and the thunderbolt III support for the Razer Core eGPU. No upgrade-able ram, and 1 drive slot are also large negatives. (Owner's lounger here)
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    Gigabyte P35X V6 - The thinnest 15" 1070 laptop out there at .81" and 5.3lbs Almost stupid thin this thing will definitely throttle, but if you need a 1070 this is the thinnest option out there easily. Build quality is alright, not fantastic. 3 storage bays and 2 ram slots. 4K display available. (Owner's lounger here)
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    Gigabyte Aero 15 - Kicking the Aorus X3 off the throne until it can get its screen updated, the Gigagbyte Aero 15 is one of the new kings of portables. Picture a black XPS 15, but with a 1060. A 15" machine in a 14" chassis. i7 7700HQ, GTX 1060, 2 m.2 slots, and 2 ram slots. This thing is a pretty machine. Performs pretty well too. Build quality isn't up to the XPS, but it's still more than good enough. This is quite the compelling option if you've got the funds. RGB keyboard included with individual lighting too. For now Newegg seems to have the best pricing at 1900 with a 500GB ssd. (Owner's lounge here)
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    Aorus X5 - 15" laptop with a 1070 and 6820hk. .9" thick and 5.5lbs. A whooping 3 nvme drives are present plus a normal hard drive bay + 4 ram slots. Build quality is solid. Has an RGB Fusion keyboard for individual backlighting. Also won't throttle as bad as the Gigabyte P35X. Weirdest screen resolution of all time at 2880x1620. I would recommend the 120Hz option instead, the 1620p one has PWM. (Owner's lounge here)
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    Aorus X7 - A 17" laptop at .9" thick at 7 lbs. Equipped with a 6820hk and up to a GTX 1080 (though that's the DT variant not yet thermal tested). 1440p 120Hz display is another awesome spec on this bad boy. Build quality is solid. Same drives available as the X5 and 4 ram slots. This is easily the thinnest GTX 1080 laptop out, its not even close. Also has an RGB Fusion keyboard. (Owner's lounge here)
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    Clevo P950HP6 - .73" thick and housing a 1060 this is a great new portable option from Clevo. 2 ram slots, and 1 m.2 + 1 sata slot give it decent option while staying thin. Cooling is solid as well as build quality. RGB keyboard and a reasonable price.
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    Alienware 13 - The new king of real 13" laptops (Aorus X3 is barely 13"). It has a quad core cpu now, GTX 1060 , and a 1440p OLED display! I really recommend upgrading to that display because it's a rare awesome option. 2 ram slots, and 2 m.2 bays are a bit limited (it literally can't take an HDD) and the price competes with the Razer Blade when specced out. RGB keyboard, RGB trackpad, RGB everything. Built like a tank. This is a great small option, though it is deceptively heavy.

    There are other more budget thin laptops like the MSI GS series I have mentioned in cheaper categories, but these are the best if money is no object. Note the P37X is .01 inches thinner than the Aorus X7, so its really not better at all unless you want to save... Well like a grand... So its worth considering if budget is tight and you want a 1070 at 17". Will run warm.

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    Well there you have it. That's my current guide to gaming laptops. It will be updated as more stuff comes out most likely.

    For Clevo laptops I'd recommend a Prema partner like HIDEvolution in the U.S. If they cost too much find a cheaper option like LPC-Ditigal (Larry is awesome there) or Prostar, XoticPC, or Eurocom.

    HID, Prostar, and Xotic are also good for other brands as they sell a ton. HID is the only reseller I'm aware of with Razer though.

    There are of course other gaming laptops that could be right for you, but in general these are the best of the best machines out there.

    I have tried nearly all of my recommendations in person (plus the not recommendable). I make some assumptions based on reviews of the machines and if it's just a screen variant (i.e. the P670 is similar to the P650). Notable exceptions are I have not tried a Eurocom Tornado, Aorus X3/X7, Clevo P870KM1, or Clevo P775DM.

    Good luck shopping!
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2017
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  2. Galm

    Galm "Stand By, We're Analyzing The Situation!"

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    I'll reserve this for edits and additions I suppose.

    For now I'll say this:

    Alienware will hopefully be appearing soon. Some of the specs seem pretty good, but price to performance will be key here. They had better be cooled well. I'm impressed with the screen options on the 15" with a 120Hz option available. That would make it worth a bit more in my mind as no one else is offering that at 15" at the moment. (Aorus X5 should have it as well but is even more expensive)

    Acer is now here. Machines are built amazingly, but cooling is kinda iffy.

    The HP omen a decent machine machine for price/performance but it's not well cooled and is pretty cheaply built.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2016
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  3. Galm

    Galm "Stand By, We're Analyzing The Situation!"

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    Does anyone know when the new Alienware line is supposed to be out and reviewed?
     
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  4. ThePerfectStorm

    ThePerfectStorm Notebook Deity

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    Great guide! Just one thing - you might want to put in the GS43VR over the Blade 1060. @D2 Ultima posted a video some time ago that showed the Blade throttling and reaching 93C playing Overwatch.

    Sent from my SM-G935F using Tapatalk
     
  5. Galm

    Galm "Stand By, We're Analyzing The Situation!"

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    The GS43VR wins as a portable option for under 1500. If portability is the #1 concern, over gaming power, the Blade is better. I mentioned that the Blade does throttle, but it will still perform better than say a 980m. My friends Blade also ran extremely hot, but it would still play games well enough. While poorly cooled its easily the most portable gaming laptop on the market. .71" thin with a 1060 is unbeatable. The GS43 is .87" thick which is still portable but noticeably less so.

    It may have changed with the 1060, and I'll update if it does, but the 970m would mostly hold its clocks under gaming load, it was when the cpu load was high as well that it would start to perform far worse.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2017
  6. D2 Ultima

    D2 Ultima Livestreaming Master

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    No it won't lol. Not with the 1060.

    I wouldn't suggest the GS43VR either. I don't like its heatpipe touching the wifi card slot or the I/O ports on the CPU's side of the laptop. I would say the longevity of it would be cut down as a result, easily, even if it performs ok for the most part now. So it doesn't get my recommendation.

    I've seen the GS63VR and GS73VR under some stress where the PCH doesn't get that hot despite the heatpipe from the GPU touching it; indicating probably some kind of TIM between the heatpipe and the PCH, so for now I'll leave these in my recommendations, though they need repasting and possibly fanspeed bumps to perform decently. In this case, I would say these 15" or 17" models are your go-to for the best in portability, if for some reason you can't stand the thought of the P6xxRx series.
     
  7. FredSRichardson

    FredSRichardson Notebook Groundsloth

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    Excellent guide! Thanks for putting this together!

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
     
  8. Galm

    Galm "Stand By, We're Analyzing The Situation!"

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    Running firestrikes on a 970m model would return firestrike results mostly inline with other 970m laptops. That's gaming load... I can easily cripple one with a stress test but claiming it doesn't even work is just lying. I've been following the Razer subreddit with users who already have the machine, and none have reported performance lower than a 980m (One was only 5% above a 980m though).

    That said... The thing runs absurdly hot. It was still mostly holding clockspeeds at freakin 93C. Again, this is not a high performance 1060 laptop. However, regardless of throttling it still performs like a gaming laptop. You'll be able to play any game you can think of on pretty decent settings.

    This thread is showing decent performance and alright temps from the Blade: https://insider.razerzone.com/index.php?threads/razer-blade-2016-gtx-1060-benchmarks.17082/
    The guys is saying its running cooler than his 970m version.

    I know all the performance users here hate the blade, but it is a functional gaming laptop. Just one that's quite hot and will throttle under heavy load.

    15" is already a hit for portability. A Razer Blade is way easier to lug around than a GS63 objectively speaking. In screen size, thickness, and weight.
     
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  9. mishkasm

    mishkasm Notebook Consultant

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    Great job! Really good summary.
     
  10. win32asmguy

    win32asmguy Moderator Moderator

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    Excellent guide! Seeing this makes me wish we had a similar thing for business grade laptops, too. Hmmm.
     
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