The Quest for a Gaming Laptop…
Several weeks ago, my friend asked me to recommend a good gaming laptop, that will be able to run modern next-gen 3d games. Most games now require shader 3.0 enabled GPU (graphics processing unit) as a minimum. So, it’s undeniable that one of the most important factor is of course the GPU. Next, your CPU (central processing unit), your memory (random access memory a.k.a RAM), and Hard drive (hard disk drive a.k.a HDD).
Make sure you go with a dedicated GPU, instead of integrated ones (like Intel GMA solutions). I’m not saying that Intel GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) can’t perform well, they are good with graphics for productivity applications, but when it comes to gaming, it will hurt your heart out. I’ve played “Titan Quest” on Intel GMA X3100 laptop, and *ouch* the frame rate gave me a headache. Apple’s recent “upgrade” in their MacBook line, by switching from Intel GMA to nVidia’s GeForce 9X00M GPU, is a testament to my last statement. One biggest disadvantage of laptop’s GPU is that you can’t simply upgrade it like their CPU counterparts. You can’t just unplug your GPU like you unplug your PCI-Express or AGP (accelerated graphics port) graphics card off your desktop PC motherboard. That’s why it is very important to choose the right dedicated graphics from the start.
nVidia and ATi are the best dedicated graphics provider at the moment, and they have produced graphics solution for laptops. ATi’s Mobility Radeon, nVidia’s GeForce Go are most well-known. I own a ATi X700 Mobility Radeon laptop and got nVidia GeForce 8600GT on my desktop PC, so that makes me neutral to both camps. As for Q4 2008, nVidia’s latest GPU for desktop PCs and laptops are the GeForce 9X00 generation, ATi’s latest is the HD 4XX0 generation, but I haven’t seen laptops with these GPU around. Most comes with HD 3XX0 inside.
Recent product lines: nVidia’s 9800, 9600, 9400 and ATi’s HD3800, 3600, 3400. Based on my experience, correct me if I’m wrong, your safest bet when choosing a GPU is to go with the middle number if you want your GPU to be able to play games with near-high setting and to play next-gen games up to two or three years from now. So it’s either 9600 or 3600, your choice, ah, and don’t forget about the suffix, too. Additional GT/GS, XT/X/X2, or any alphabet do make a difference, so make sure you check out online reviews and online graphics benchmarks.
Next is how much video memory dedicated to your GPU, as for now, most Shader 3.0 games requires a minimum of 128MB VRAM, so you probably want to go higher than that. 256MB is the recommended for most games right now. If you could afford 512MB GPUs, go for it because three years from now, this might become the minimum.
The big players are Intel and AMD. Both companies offer multiple-cored CPUs: Intel’s Core2Duo, Core2Extreme and AMD’s Turion X2 Dual-Core, Turion X2 Dual-Core Ultra. Right now, I guess I like Intel-powered laptops more, so go for Core2-powered laptops. If you are wondering what’s the difference between Core2 and Centrino2, Intel website states “Centrino 2: Experience the ultimate in mobile performance, battery life, and wireless connectivity”, so there you go, it’s basically more power-efficient and has the combination of Intel chipsets and Intel’s wireless network module inside.
Most laptops come with 1GB standard DDR2 memory nowadays, or even DDR3. You should be able to bargain for another free additional Gig during promotion or exhibitions. 2GB RAM for Windows XP is great, but if you are using Vista, it should be adequate by now but you should plan to add more RAM modules in the future. Keep in mind that most laptops come only with two memory slots, so make the most out of them by purchasing the bigger memory per slot rather than the same amount total in two slots. Vista users might want to go for 4GB, either 2 x 2GB or 1 x 4GB if it’s available. Do check for the prices, if the price difference is too high, going for 2 x 2GB is not bad. But if the price difference is acceptable, going for 1 x 4GB is a good investment IMHO.
Both HDD’s capacity and rpm will affect your laptop’s performance to a certain degree. GTA IV PC (4DVDs), released on December 2008, requires 16GB of HDD space to play. You can probably guess the space requirements of future games, could be more than 16GB. Most laptops now come with 160GB or 250GB HDD, even 320GB, too. It should be sufficient, should you need bigger capacity, you could always upgrade your HDD with new 2.5″ drives in the future, even perhaps with new Solid State Drive (SSD). Gamers will benefit more from higher rpm drive. 5400rpm is OK for most, but some might want to go with 7200rpm drives. The drawbacks are heat and power consumption, of course. Right now, I’ve settled with my 5400rpm 2.5″ Maxtor HDD in my laptop.
That’s all Folks…
NOT! That’s not all…
How deep is your wallet?
Actually the most important factor for you is your budget! Most laptops that come with a dedicated graphics solution are above the $1000 (USD) mark. Is it worth the buck to have such expensive laptop? With the same amount you could buy a high-end gaming desktop PC. Don’t forget about your battery life. Most game demand lots of power so your battery will take its heaviest toll. If you are a hardcore gamer, you’d probably spent hours and hours on games, IMHO it’s wiser to buy a powerful PC instead. Unless you can’t resist the temptation to boast your powerful laptop and show off your gaming skills when you are on the road, go for it.
To Mac(book) or not to Mac(book)?
Don’t forget the Apple (Mac) factor, too. The “to Mac or not to Mac?” question. Apple is best-known for their innovation, cool and great-design factor. With their ultra-cool “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” marketing hype, and their “Mac OS vs. Vista” campaign, you should consider MacBook or MacBook Pros in your equation. These Mac babies can run both Windows and Mac OS since Apple’s move to use Intel processor. Gaming on Macs is in.
What the future holds
On June 2008, ATi announced external graphics solution for notebooks, called ATi XGP (eXternal Graphics Platform) Technology. nVidia, to-date, hasn’t come up with a competitive product to go head-to-head with XGP. This is an interesting technology, all you need is a notebook with external PCI Express connector to be connected with XGP to boost your laptop graphics performance. You can also connect it to a variety of devices. It even supports ATi CrossFireX multi-GPU capabilities. Imagine the possibilities!
Remember, the technology is still new, you should always wait for it to mature. So far, I haven’t found any review on this baby yet.
Remember, laptops are best bought for their mobility, if you need gaming while you are on the road constantly, there you go. If not, it’s just too pricey, and as far as I know, you can easily upgrade your graphics card in your desktop PC with far lower prices than buying another brand new laptop for far more powerful GPUs. It’s just a no-brainer. So if you don’t really need to play those next-gen 3d games on the road (which probably you won’t have much of the time to), strictly buy a laptop that suits your needs and then buy a good gaming desktop PC with the rest of your budget. Voila! You get the best of both worlds! Think about it.
Part two: read about the 2011 edition here…
Beberapa minggu yang lalu, teman saya minta rekomendasi untuk memilih laptop yang dapat digunakan untuk main game-game 3d terkini. Kebanyakan game baru sekarang membutuhkan chip prosesor grafis (GPU) yang sudah mendukung shader 3.0 sebagai kebutuhan minimum. Jadi sudah tidak bisa ditawar lagi kalau salah satu faktor terpenting untuk laptop gaming adalah GPU. Berikutnya adalah prosesor (CPU), memori (RAM), Hard drive (HDD). Penjelasannya (versi bahasa Indonesia) akan menyusul kemudian (berhubung postnya sudah sebegini panjangnya) pada post selanjutnya. Harap maklum.