Help Me, LAPTOP: I Want A Gaming Rig Under $1700

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Gaming systems run the gamut from the 11-inch Alienware M11x to the 18-inch Toshiba Qosmio X505 and have an even wider price range. So how much system do you need to run World of Warcraft at maximum resolution? Drew wrote in to ask us exactly that. He also does some work with autoCAD, Google's SketchUp modeling program, and Photoshop so he'd want his system to handle those programs, too.

Drew writes:

I am here to ask you about a gaming laptop.

Budget: I am able to spend is about $1700, I will be using this for a desktop SOMETIMES for work for doing 3D design work and some CAD programing. And also will be replacing my dinosaur personal desktop to play WoW(ohh nose!) and some web browsing.

Laptop must be capable of running WoW at close if not at MAX settings, have a back-lit keyboard(its difficult finding the cheap custom builders with them) and pretty much be able to handle day to day tasks. I will take either a 15" or 17" doesn't matter, but nothing smaller then 15".

Drew also told us that a backlight keyboard is a must have. Since he''ll be spending a lot of money on his system, we definitely recommend future-proofing it by making sure there's USB 3.0 port, full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution, and, if he's okay with trading off space for speed, a solid state drive. While this may sound like a tall order, you can get a lot of notebook for $1700.We suggest looking at the ASUS G73SW, which features an Intel Core i7 processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M graphics card, a 17.3-inch display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, a USB 3.0 port, and a backlit keyboard. While it isn't available with an SSD, it does have two drive bays each loaded with a 500GB hard drive for a total of 1TB of space. When we reviewed the G73SW, our major complaints were the stiff keyboard and short battery life, but those are outweighed by its excellent graphics performance, wide viewing angles, cool temperatures, and excellent webcam. The configuration we tested runs $1784, which is slightly above Drew's budget, but we've seen it for as low as $1655 online.

If the ASUS G73SW's keyboard is a turn off, check out the MSI GT660, which has a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 285M graphics card, and, unlike the ASUS, plenty of pulsing lights around the lid, deck and keybord. Just like the ASUS, it has excellent gaming prowess, plus we found the GT660's speakers to be extra loud and clear. While it features not one, but two USB 3.0 ports for your data transferring needs, its resolution is just 1366 x 768. Other configurations of the GT660 with 1920 x 1080 resolution are available, but we're basing on our recommendation on the model we tested. Although the MSI GT660 was $1849 when we reviewed it, it's now available online for just under $1200.

While it's not cheap, it's hard to resist the appeal of the Alienware M17x. The most recent model we reviewed earned a very rare five star rating and our Editors' Choice. However, it was $3,300 as reviewed and included an AMD Radeon HD 6970M GPU with 2GB of DDR5 memory. The base model of the Alienware M17x starts at $1499, much closer to the Drew's $1700 budget. To cut down on costs, we suggest configuring it with the base quad-core Core i7-2630QM processor, a 320GB 7200 rpm hard drive, a 1.5GB Nvidia graphics card,  and a standard DVD burner instead of a Blu-ray player. Keep the 8GB RAM, and the 1920 x 1080 display that were in the model we tested. We priced out this configuration at $1844 through Dell's site. Bear in mind that dropping down to a different processor, different graphics card, and standard hard drive will impact gaming performance, but it will still be more than enough to play World of Warcraft.

Finally, Drew could forgo a gaming-specific laptop altogether and go with the HP Envy 17. This notebook packs a 17.3-inch 1920  x 1080 display, a quad-core Core i7 processor, and ATI Mobility Radeon graphics. While it can't be configured with an SSD, it does have a USB 3.0 port and a backlit keyboard. When we reviewed it, we praised its strong graphics performance and speedy boot time. It also stays within Drew's budget as the unit we tested was just $1599. While it's not a traditional gaming machine, it does have a separate number keypad for easily navigating in World of Warcraft. Speaking of that game, the Envy 17 played it 1920 x 1080 resolution at 96 frames per second.

World of Warcraft isn't as demanding a game as many others on the market, but it's a good benchmark to keep in mind when looking for a system with graphics oomph and it's one of the tests we run on almost every laptop that comes through our door. If you'd like more information on how we test notebooks at LAPTOP, click here.

We hope we've been able to help Drew make a decision on his next gaming rig.

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  • Davis Says:

    Hey guys. I was wondering if someone could help me out here. I'm looking for a laptop for a gaming rig, but I also want to use it to web browse and run a few programs as well. My budget is around $1500-$1700.
    I'm not talking about the games like WoW or Diablo 3. I'm talking about games from Steam and maybe one or two PC games later on. I want a laptop with 2-3 GHz, a video card with dedicated RAM, a kick ass graphics card, high resolution screen, and at least 4 Giga Bytes, a built in web cam would be cool to but not necessary, and nice speakers. I know that sounds like a lot but I need a laptop that will run like the wind but won't be to heavy to carry. I've had a TERRIBLE experience with this crappy $300 laptop from Gateway that I've had for 6 years now (didn't have a say in the matter) and it won't even connect to the internet anymore. If you have any suggestions that are above my price range, tell me anyway because I'm willing to pay a few more hundred dollars!
    Here's some features that I don't need or care about: a back lit keyboard, (little to no back lights), I don't really need a HUGE screen but something that's still a good size.

  • Mark B Says:

    Update on the ASUS G73. Now that the G74 is out, ASUS has dropped the price down on the G73. Plus most custom gaming websites have discounted prices to begin with. Got to, choose the G73SW-A1, add the 128 Crucial M-4 Solid State as the Primary Drive for $210. Leave everything else the same. The price will be $1829 total. Now if you pay cash by wire transfer with Pro-Star, they give you a 3% discount. Now your total is $1774.13. Then you also get a $150.00 Mail in Rebate from ASUS. So you final Total will be $1624.13. You can also get an additional $30 off if you are Military or a student. Check this deal out while it lasts.

  • G73jh Owner Says:

    Hello Laptop Mag,

    We are asking if Laptop Mag can help Asus G73jh owners at all by bringing our problems to the attention of Asus in a more public or serious manner to pressure them to resolve some issues. Asus G73jh owners have been suffering with a shoddy vBios from Asus. Upon release, numerous users suffered from Gray Screen of Death issues. This issue lasted nearly a year before Asus finally fixed it. It took almost half a year of complaining before Asus assigned someone to fix the issue.

    The Asus vBios also has a broken PowerPlay. The HD5870M which is also used by competitors MSI, Clevo and Alienware all have proper vBios. Theirs do not suffer from GSOD and also have PowerPlay that downclocks to conserve energy and heat. The Asus while the vBios can be modified to downclock, will constantly flicker as the vBios is incapable of detecting 2D and 3D or High and Low settings properly. The memory will change clocks constantly causing flickering. So this is an issue of PowerPlay unable to detect situations and also causing the entire screen to flicker.

    We know this was a vBios issue, but even desktop board partners released vBios to fix this issue. Asus rep have claimed they were working with engineers to resolve this issue but it was never done. It's been nearly a year.

    Is Kitguru able to put any pressure on Asus. This would also be to ensure new customers of performance laptops from Asus don't suffer as G73jh owners have. This was not the first time Asus let down performance notebook owners with AMD/ATi GPUs down. The Asus W90 with dual AMD/ATi GPU had numerous issues and some that were never resolved. Instead of fixing the issue, they discontinued that model quickly and rinsed their hands of it.

    There are other issues. There are keyboard, trackpad issues. For many owners the trackpad is still unresolved. RMA'ing with Asus involves a tedious long ordeal, with an average time lasting a month. Some have their notebooks returned in worse shape than before. G73jh owners also suffered from terrible thermal issues, with notebooks shutting down from overheating. It was discovered the TIM and heatsink were not assembled properly. Again this took Asus nearly a year to fix which they changed their assembly and TIM on their new model, G73JW. Meanwhile G73jh owners still suffer and are asked to RMA their notebook, relinquishing it for repair that on average takes a month.

    Asus has applied the easy solution to the vBios. The memory clock is fixed for 3D, 2D, UVD (Video), and even battery at 1000. They claim this does not cause significant difference to power or thermals. Users on NBR and other forums would disagree. And we feel we are entitled to a properly functioning vBios since we did spend $1,500 for our notebooks. We have seen for ourselves that MSI and Alienware vBios for the same GPU, HD5870M downclocks as low as 100 core, 150 memory. We also know the Nvidia GPU that Asus utilized in the G73JW model downclocks properly without flickering. It seems they rinsed their hands of this mess with the G73jh by introducing the JW model.

    The sticky on NoteBookReview forums with the list of issues G73jh owners suffer with possible solutions speaks volumes about this situation.


  • Drew Says:

    Hey Laptop!

    Thanks so much for helping me out with my laptop choice! I was trying to consider the ASUS with all I had, then I got my hands on one at BestBuy and didn't like how barren it seemed, though it did have some good fire power behind, just want what I was looking for.

    I went with Alienware's new M17x R3, I got the standard 2630QM, upgraded the GPU to the ATI HD 6970M, and also the screen to the 1920 x 1080 60Hz and also threw in the advanced 1 year warranty(My daughter has now killed 3 of my wifes laptops in the 14 months of her life.. lol) I will be upgrading thr RAM and HDD to a SSD soon. I was able to negotiate quite a bit with my DELL rep and was able to get my new R3 for $1780 OTD. That was with free next day shipping also for my birth day next week. Just keep trying rep after rep till you get a good deal.

    Thanks so much Laptop Mag for the help!

  • Meghan J. McDonough Says:

    @Axial Thanks for pointing this out. We've corrected the post to reflect the AMD card that was in our review.

  • Axial Says:

    The M17x you guys reviewed had AMD's 2GB HD6970M in it, not the 1.5GB nVidia chip. Please fix this, because it is seriously misleading to someone reading this article if they don't read the review for the M17x.

  • Scott Says:

    With a budget of $1700 you can get just about anything.

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