Gaming Laptop Roundup

by Jarred Walton on August 29, 2008 5:00 AM EST


In our recent mobile buyers guide, we mentioned that we had a roundup of laptops we were working on. As work progressed, we decided it would be better if we separated the roundup into two parts. This first part covers the high-end gaming notebooks that we've received for review in the past several months, including additional coverage of the Gateway P-7811 FX.

In an ideal world, we would have all of the testing complete by the time any of these notebooks were available for purchase. That's easier said than done, but unlike desktop computers notebook components don't change quite as frequently. We do get new things like Intel's Centrino 2 platform, but those tend to provide more incremental performance rather than revolutionary upgrades.

Given that we are focusing on gaming notebooks in this article, we should also mention that all but one of the notebooks use NVIDIA's now "outdated" 8800M GPUs. We expect to see updated models for most of the vendors using 9800M in place of 8800M, but despite the 1000 point increase in model number, 9800M appears to consist mostly of refined silicon that offers better clock speeds. Since the GPU clock speed is only 20% higher (600 MHz versus 500 MHz), there shouldn't be more than 20% difference in performance, and often the difference should be less than 10%.

Again, our recent mobile buyers guide covers many of the items that we think are important when you're looking at a new laptop - whether it be a high-end model, a midrange unit, or even an entry-level system. All of the vendors we are discussing today offer at least some amount of customization, although in the case of Gateway the customization comes in terms of different models. Depending on what components and upgrades you select, you can easily improve performance or reduce costs - whichever you feel is the more important factor. We will look at this important area as part of this review, as well as the more traditional areas like performance, features, battery life, and build quality.

Alienware m15x – Overview
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  • yyrkoon - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    Yeah, I would not expect my desktop to beat the laptop performance wise(in games), but with what I have for resolution/monitor wise it does perfectly fine for me.

    It is just that lately, since we are going 100% green energy(solar/wind), or as close to 100% as possible, I have been on this power consumption 'kick'. I would hope that the Intel motherboard with the desktop G45 chipset, and x4500HD would use half of what I am using power wise now with my current desktop, but I suspect that I would have to get the laptop based mini itx motherboard/CPU/memory for it to be truly where I would like to see things power wise. Even only 100W is roughly 8.33 amps off of the batteries on a 12v system : / Depending on how many batteries you have, that can be substantial.

    I do realize that gaming on the Intel mini ITX boards would take the back seat because of performance, but it would be a perfect machine for running almost everything except for games. That is, until Photoshop, Illustrator, etc start leveraging the GPU/parallel processing.
  • Oarngemeat - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    Good article - but the Alienware is not the first laptop with dual graphics cards like this. Maybe for a gaming laptop, but my Sony SZ is getting close to two years old and can do the same thing. Sounds like it even does things the same way, I have to reboot to switch graphics. I've seen it average at about 50% battery performance increase too.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    That's why I say the first laptop *we've* tested. Besides, a midrange (at best) GPU that can be disabled isn't quite as useful as a high-end GPU that can be switched on/off.
  • denka - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I liked the article, but I've been looking on the Internet for a review that could tell me how good are ATI's 3650's, of which ASUS seemingly is a fan seeing how they have 5 models for sale on Newegg :)

    Still looking.
  • denka - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    Sorry, must have been a stupid question. Found my answers on
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I've asked AMD to get me a notebook with 3000 series graphics, but no one has been able to do so yet. Outside of the 3870, though, graphics performance will be relatively mediocre. I've got a few midrange notebooks with 9500M/8600M GPUs that I'm reviewing, and one with a Radeon 2600. Performance is around 1/3 of the 9800M GTS in gaming. Many games (GRID, Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, etc.) need to run at 1280x800 and low to medium detail on such laptops before they can get solid frame rates.
  • fabarati - Saturday, August 30, 2008 - link

    The performance of midrange laptop cards go: 9600m GT GDDR3> HD3650> 8600m GT GDDR3> 9600m GT=HD2600 GDDR3>8600m GT DDR2=9500m GS DDR2>HD2600 DDR2. Now there are a few more nVidia cards, just to muddle the waters more, but this should give rough performance estimates. 9500m GS is just a rebadged 8600m GT.

    On my HD2600 DDR2 I play Assassin's Creed with everything on max at 1280x800. On the other hand, my max is for some reason lvl 3 instead of 4. Solid framerates for one person is not the same as for someone else. Some can't stand below 40, som don't see the difference between 30 and 60. For me, over 25 is quite fluid. It helps that Ass Creed has motionblur. That smooths things up.

    Oh, And i've OC'd the Graphics memory a bit. That helps too.
  • flahdgee - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I grabbed an Alienware laptop 3 or 4 years ago, and I expected to be able to game on it. I had the Geforce 6800 Ultra Go put in it and had overheating problems from the start. I had to send it into the company for repairs to the motherboard from various components burning up. Whether I got a defective component somewhere that was tearing it up, I don't know, but it has turned me completely off to laptops, gaming ones in particular.

  • Wolfpup - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I'd just be scared off of Alienware-which I am anyway...

    I'm shocked that even the build quality is garbage. I don't get the point of that 15x thing. Dell's 1730 is SOOOO much better built, and it's higher end, for basically the same price. Those Gateway models seem to be a lot better built too, for at least $1000 less (or worse...)
  • cheetah2k - Monday, September 1, 2008 - link

    Anandtech, you call this a "gaming laptop round-up"??

    Wheres the almighty Dell 1730 with dual 8800GTX's in all its glory? The little girls to scared to come out to play??

    Who wants an Alienware, Gateway or Sagem-blahh??? Build quality and service is just shocking....

    Get a grip fellas

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