Login

The best gaming laptop: we review the most powerful portable computers on the market

In the battle of the beefiest, which gaming behemoth comes out on top?

Traditionally, gamers have looked to hefty, monstrous machines with stylish designs — though some prefer the term “ostentatious” — for their portable gaming needs. Even as other laptops get thinner, lighter, and sexier, gaming laptops remain bulky and incredibly powerful, making them the best option if you’re looking for a portable — well, relatively portable — computer that can handle the latest games in their full glory.

However, wanting to play games doesn’t necessarily mean you want a gaming laptop. In general, they’re not known for being paragons of portability. None have exceptional battery life, and all need to be tethered to an outlet to game for any extended period of time. If you’re looking for a computer to take to work or class every day, or simply want a machine that can play less taxing games like Team Fortress 2, you don’t want a gaming laptop. But if you want to play all the latest, most demanding games on high settings, and only need to travel on occasion — perhaps to a LAN party with friends, home for the holidays, or simply from your desk to your couch — a gaming laptop is probably a good fit.

But deciding that you want a gaming laptop isn’t the final choice — it’s only the beginning. To learn more about the best gaming options on the market, and to find out which gives you the highest performance for your hard-earned dollar, read on.

SLIMMER, SEXIER, SLIGHTER

Razer Blade (late 2012)

Razer Blade (late 2012)


20130123-23040897--razerbladelate2012lead



Razer’s Blade laptop is a fairly low-performance gaming machine wrapped in an impressively slim black aluminum chassis that looks and feels great. The well-designed, sturdy laptop weighs 6.6 pounds and measures just 0.88 inches thick, and the newest iteration — which we reviewed a couple of months ago — has made some significant improvements since the first model. The trackpad, which is located on the right side of the keyboard in lieu of a number pad, functions well except for mild issues with two-finger scrolling. The Switchblade UI — a set of ten customizable LCD keys and an LCD screen beneath the touchpad — is a cool concept, but remains little more than a glorified set of macro buttons until more games support it. The cramped keyboard is shallow and occasionally unresponsive, which is bad news unless you plan to carry a full-size USB keyboard around as a substitute. The 17.3-inch matte LCD screen and revamped speakers provide a reasonably good experience, but nothing exceptional.


Razerblade6


Razerblade5

2012-10-02_02-07-42-1024_verge_super_wide


2012-10-02_00-19-59-1024_verge_super_wide





Razerblade2







Razerblade3





Razerblade1






On the performance side, the Razer Blade really lags behind thicker gaming laptop options. A 2.2GHz Core i7-3632QM processor, 8GB of RAM, and a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M with 2GB of memory may sound impressive, but these specs aren’t exactly the makings of a gaming powerhouse, and are disappointing in a laptop that costs $2,499. The slender machine can certainly still play games — you’ll be able to play Battlefield 3 at 1080p on low to medium settings and The Witcher 2, easily the most demanding game we tested, at 1600 x 900 with medium detail — but it will have a hard time keeping up with the newest titles on full settings. Gaming laptops aren’t future-proof — the processor and graphics cards can’t be upgraded, and in most cases you can’t add more RAM — and with that in mind, you probably don’t want to start out with a machine that’s already behind the curve. The Blade also runs fairly hot when gaming, and the fans can get a bit noisy when they’re running at full capacity.

Razer's Blade doesn't quite cut it

The Blade has a 64GB SSD to speed up frequently-used processes, and a 500GB HDD to store your games. In our Verge Battery Test, during which the machine cycles through a number of popular websites and high-res images with the screen at 65 percent brightness, the Blade lasted 3 hours and 27 minutes — not bad for a gaming machine, but weak compared to most laptops. The Razer Blade is the only laptop in this roundup that doesn’t dial down its graphics performance when unplugged, which is useful for switching between outlets or going very short periods without power. However, in our tests the Blade only managed about 20 minutes of Battlefield 3 before warning us the battery was running low, so even though you can play games without being plugged in, you won’t be doing it for long.

The Verdict

The Razer Blade is a beautifully designed, durable laptop that’s surprisingly thin for a gaming machine. It’s much more portable than the vast majority of gaming laptops, but its poor battery life essentially negates the Blade’s advantage as the only laptop in this roundup that doesn’t throttle when unplugged. Also, its performance flounders in comparison to other gaming machines: we’d expect a $2,500 gaming laptop to be able to play virtually all of the latest games on full settings, but instead, Razer sacrificed performance for size and slapped on a pretty huge price tag. Ultimately, unless you’re absolutely in love with Razer’s aesthetic and the Blade’s thinness, any other machine in this roundup is a better option.

As tested: $2,499.99

6.8 / 10

Lenovo Ideapad Y580

Lenovo Ideapad Y580

20130123-23040897--lenovoideapady580lead



Battery Life
Lenovo Ideapad Y580 4:45
MSI GT70 4:14
Alienware M17x 4:12
Razer Blade (late 2012) 3:27
AVADirect Clevo P170EM 3:05
Samsung Series 7 Gamer 2:32
Asus G75VW 2:15
Qosmio X870 1:18




The Razer Blade's half-price rival



_img_0198
Img_0114


_img_0138
_img_0146
_img_0245


_img_0017

The Lenovo IdeaPad Y580’s dark, brushed aluminum lid and palmrest make for a surprisingly angular and attractive laptop that isn’t as ostentatious as most gaming rigs. Though it’s not as solid as the durable Razer Blade, the Y580 certainly doesn’t feel flimsy or cheap. It weighs 6.2 pounds — almost half a pound less than the Blade — but is nearly twice as thick at 1.4 inches.

The backlit keyboard, which uses Lenovo's typical cupped keys, is responsive and makes a satisfying click-clack when typing. The 15-inch machine has a number pad and full-size arrow keys, but the keyboard is a little cramped and the right Shift key is only half as long as usual — it’s quite frustrating at first, but I got used to it after a full day’s use. The Y580’s palmrest doesn’t taper, which leaves a pretty vicious edge that really dug into my wrists after a few minutes of gameplay or regular computer use.

The entire touchpad dips a little when pressure is applied and it reverberates oddly on tap-to-click, but it’s smooth, responsive, and works well for most gestures. However, the palm rejection software prevents the trackpad from working at the same time as the keyboard — for example, I couldn’t hold down the W key to run and use the trackpad to turn my camera simultaneously. The majority of gamers will be using a mouse most of the time, but you can take the annoying step of disabling palm rejection for the few situations in which trackpad gaming is the only option. Aside from some horrendous glare in direct sunlight, the 15.6-inch screen is sharp and bright, and is generally pleasant to look at. The Y580’s JBL speakers made my Mord Fustang playlist sound great, pumping out deep lows and clear highs.

Razer Blade (late 2012) Lenovo Ideapad Y580
Max Payne 3 1080p, high 1080p, very high
Borderlands 2 N/A 1080p, high
Battlefield 3 1080p, low to medium 1080p, medium
The Witcher 2 1600 x 900, medium 1600 x 900, medium

The IdeaPad Y580’s hardware configuration is nearly identical to that of the Razer Blade — which is impressive, considering that at $1,299 it's only about half the price — with the exception of a slightly more powerful 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM processor and a smaller (16GB) solid state drive. (The Y580 also has a 1TB HDD to cover your other storage needs.) As a result, both machines are roughly equal in gaming performance, with a slight edge to the Y580. The Lenovo runs Borderlands 2 at 1080p on high settings and can play Battlefield 3 at 1080p on medium; it can also handle The Witcher 2 on medium at 1600 x 900, but struggled with the demanding game at 1080p, averaging just 28fps on low settings. The Y580’s fans ramp up during heavy gaming, and the machine gets uncomfortably warm in the middle of the keyboard — right under the WASD keys.

Thanks to the 16GB SSD, the machine boots in 23 seconds and wakes in two, and will likely be even faster on Windows 8. The laptop lasted for a respectable 4 hours and 45 minutes during the Verge Battery Test, outstripping the other machines in this roundup by about half an hour. You’ll need to remain tethered to an outlet in order to play most games, though, since the Y580 throttles its graphics performance when running on battery.

The Verdict

If you’re in the market for an affordable laptop that can double as a daily driver and a gaming PC, the Y580 is probably your best bet. But it isn’t without flaws: it’s not going to run every game at full settings, and the palmrest can get extremely uncomfortable for both ordinary browsing and long gaming sessions. However, it’s the lightest of the bunch, has the best battery life, and is also the least expensive. When compared with the Razer Blade, the Y580 isn’t quite as good-looking or durable, has a smaller screen, and doesn’t have the Blade’s customizable LCD touchpad. However, with a better keyboard and similar — if not slightly better — performance for about half the price, Lenovo’s offering is a well-made machine that’s definitely gaming-capable.

as tested: $1,299

6.8 / 10

MORE BULK, MORE BRAWN

Toshiba Qosmio X870

Toshiba Qosmio X870

20130128-10422549--img_9622







Laptops in Toshiba’s Qosmio line have always had unique (and occasionally downright ugly) designs. The 7.5-pound X870 model, however, is eccentric rather than hideous — the chassis is dark grey with metallic red accents, and is covered in an unusual scaley pattern. While it may not look terrible, the X870 is made of a thin, brittle material that feels like cheap plastic and the whole machine seems fragile, especially the flimsy lid and screen.

The palmrest and trackpad are covered in the same scaly texture that adorns the outside of the lid, and while the roughness didn’t cause any problems with scrolling or moving the cursor, it feels pretty strange. The red-backlit keyboard is responsive, if a little shallow, but only has half-size arrow keys — a pretty huge oversight on a laptop designed for gaming. Aside from a faint yellow tint, there weren’t any issues with the 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution LCD screen. However, the X870’s Harman / Kardon speakers are really the star of the show. They can get loud enough to wake the neighbors, without sacrificing impressive sound that ranges from deep bass to crisp, clear highs. If I could recommend a gaming laptop on speakers alone, it would be this one.

The X870 comes loaded with software from Toshiba — Norton Antivirus, Toshiba Online Backup, Toshiba Sleep Utility, and Toshiba HDD Protection — and the number of popups borders on infuriating. Luckily, most of these notifications can be turned off. For example, the overly sensitive Toshiba HDD Protection — intended to protect your data in the event of a fall by momentarily locking the hard drive when it detects vibration — can be reconfigured or shut off entirely. The amount of bloatware makes the computer a little slower than it should be out of the box, a problem that could be completely remedied with a fresh install of Windows — though that’s not a step that many are willing (or should be forced) to take. The keyboard shortcuts for muting the speakers and disabling the trackpad have a few seconds of delay between pressing them and anything actually happening, which could land you in a few awkward situations if you’re counting on an instant mute.


Img_9664

Img_0420

Img_0439



Img_9742


Img_9674

Img_9721

Img_9748

I tested the configuration with a 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM processor, 16GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 graphics processor with 3GB of dedicated memory. The combination performs admirably, running Borderlands 2 on high settings at 1080p and Battlefield 3 on medium settings at the same resolution. At 1920 x 1080 with very high settings, Max Payne 3 — which isn't terribly demanding until a number of special effects are enabled —plays well. At the same resolution, the detailed, very beautiful, and exceptionally taxing opening of The Witcher 2 runs at an average of 34 fps on low settings.

Though the fans don’t get too loud, they did cause a pretty serious issue — after half an hour of heavy gaming, I discovered that the machine vents all its heat out the right side, directly onto my mouse hand. I took frequent breaks to cool off, but after about an hour my hand was a mottled red — the beginnings of toasted skin syndrome — and I had to stop altogether. Most laptops vent excess heat out the left, back, or underside for good reason, and the Toshiba’s scorching heat problem is a real dealbreaker for right-handed gamers.

Too hot to handle, literally

This particular configuration doesn’t have a solid state drive — which may contribute to the machine’s painfully long 56-second boot time and overall sluggishness — but Toshiba offers other models with 128GB or 256GB SSDs depending on your needs. The X870 also has the worst battery life of the lot, making it just one hour and eighteen minutes into the Verge Battery test before dying altogether. Battery life isn’t necessarily a deciding point for gamers who will spend most of their time rooted to an outlet, but it is worth nothing that this machine won’t even make it through an average college class.

The Verdict

The amazing Harman / Kardon speakers really make the X870 stand out, but the rest of the hardware falls far short of expectations. Although it’s the lightest machine in this tier of the roundup, it feels cheap and brittle rather than well-made and sturdy. In addition, the X870’s heating problems make it uncomfortable and potentially dangerous to game for any extended period of time. Even though the machine’s gaming performance is generally solid, these problems combined with the computer’s general sluggishness — due to bloatware or the lack of an SSD — mean that the Qosmio X870 isn’t the best machine for your hard-earned dollar.

As tested: $1,899.99

5.5 / 10

Asus G75VW

Asus G75VW

20130123-23040897--asusg75vwlead



The Asus G75VW gaming laptop’s wedge design is elegant — I liked it so much I bought the G74SX model, and the newer one's even better — measuring slightly less than an inch at the front and about two inches at its thickest point. The plastic lid is coated with a black soft touch rubber, and silver accents along the sides make the computer appear far slimmer than it actually is. But at 8.7 pounds it’s hefty, and it won’t fit into most bags — not even those designed to hold 17-inch laptops — because of the large vents that stick out at the back.

The G75VW feels like a solid, well-made machine, though the lid and the screen’s bezel are a little bendable and creaky. The palmrest is also coated in black soft touch plastic, but unlike the lid it has a strange, velvety texture. It felt weird at first, but was actually useful in keeping my arm from sticking to it during long gaming sessions. The trackpad works well — gestures are smooth and the independent buttons give a satisfyingly solid click without being loud. The keyboard is decent, if a little shallow. Many keyboards have raised notches to indicate the F and J keys for touch typing, and Asus has also added a small raised dot to the W key to help you keep your place while gaming. While it’s a useful idea, the dot left a mildly uncomfortable dent in the middle of my finger after holding the key down.

Toshiba Qosmio X870 Asus G75VW
Max Payne 3 1080p, very high 1080p, very high
Borderlands 2 1080p, high 1080p, high
Battlefield 3 1080p, medium 1080p, medium
The Witcher 2 1080p, low 1080p, low

The 17.3-inch laptop has a matte 1080p backlit LED display with virtually no glare, but the panel is a little dim, making whites appear slightly grey and blacks a little washed out. The screen also has a noticeable pixel grid, and the limited range of vertical viewing angles means that there isn’t much room to tilt the screen up and down before colors invert. In addition to the mediocre display, the speaker bar above the keyboard produces tinny, compressed sound. While the problem is somewhat relieved by the subwoofer beneath the left side of the palm rest, music still sounded lopsided and echoed oddly whether the computer was on a table or in my lap.

_img_9883
_img_9852

Laptop or fighter jet?



_img_9992

_img_9957

_img_0013

_img_9929


The model we tested has the same GPU, processor, and RAM as the Toshiba, and as a result, performance was even to within a frame or two across every game we tested. The G75VW, however, is strong where the Toshiba is weakest. Rather than getting warm underneath the keyboard, palmrest, or venting heat out the bottom, Asus’ gaming machine vents most of its heat out the back on the right side, so the number pad is the only section of the keyboard to warm up even a little. The laptop’s battery life isn’t spectacular, lasting two hours and fifteen minutes into the Verge Battery test. For non-gaming use, this particular configuration of the G75VW contains an impressive 256GB SSD — the largest in this roundup. Because the Asus was running Windows 8 in our test, it had considerably faster boot and wake times — clocking in at 11.5 and 1.4 seconds, respectively — but many of the other machines in the roundup may see similar performance on the newest version of Microsoft’s operating system.

The Verdict

The Asus G75VW is identical to Toshiba’s Qosmio X870 in both performance and price, but with about an hour of extra battery life, a fairly large SSD, and a cooling system that’s far superior. However, the display is mediocre at best and its speakers are certainly inferior to the Toshiba’s great sound system — both unfortunate failings for an entertainment-focused laptop. While it’s certainly not the best machine in this price bracket, the G75VW is still a sturdy, attractive gaming machine that can definitely push out some impressive performance.

as tested: $1,899

7.0 / 10

MSI GT70

MSI GT70

20130123-23040897--msigt70lead






As we pointed out in our review, the MSI GT70 is not a very stylish machine. While the design may appeal to some, the clunky, angular aesthetic swallows the laptop, making it seem even larger than it really is, and the large bezel around the 17.3-inch screen is overbearing. The 8.6-pound machine is imperceptibly lighter and a shade thicker than the wedge-shaped Asus at its largest point, but seems considerably larger because of its bulky chassis.

The chiclet keyboard, designed by Steelseries, is responsive and has fully customizable LED backlighting — who doesn’t love a light show? The Windows key is on the right side of the spacebar, and although it’s initially jarring, it's nice to not have to worry about getting kicked out of a full-screen game for accidentally opening the Start menu instead of pressing a nearby key. The trackpad’s performance is also solid and responsive, in case you don't have or don't need a real mouse. Sitting above the keyboard on the right and left sides, the speakers work well in tandem with the subwoofer on the underside of the computer. However, the screen is a disappointment, with muddy blacks, desaturated colors, and poor viewing angles.









Chunky design makes the GT70 seem larger than it already is








Msi5

Msi3
Msi1
Msi2

The model we reviewed runs on the same processor, GPU, and RAM as the Asus and Toshiba. In line with the performance of the other machines, the GT70 can render Battlefield 3's detailed war zones and gritty firefights at 33 frames per second on high settings at 1080p, and plays The Witcher 2 on low settings at the same resolution. This specific configuration is no longer available, but MSI also offers another model with a more powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M and 4GB of dedicated graphics memory for $600 more, and we’ll update this guide as soon as we’ve tested it. The GT70’s fans keep the machine cool, but they're quite loud while doing so.

Battery life is quite impressive for this type of machine, clocking four hours and fourteen minutes on our Verge Battery test — though like most every other machine in this roundup, it needs to be plugged in to take full advantage of its dedicated graphics. This configuration includes a pair of 64GB SSDs in RAID 0 alongside a 750GB hard drive, and the GT70 boots in about 26 seconds and wakes in 1.8 seconds.

The Verdict

The GT70 is more expensive but not any better than the equivalent Asus and Toshiba options. It's also even pricier than the more powerful Samsung Series 7 Gamer, which we'll get to in a moment. The GT70's design is bulky and awkward, and the screen leaves much to be desired. However, the battery life is impressive, rivaling the considerably less powerful Lenovo IdeaPad Y580, and you can customize the backlit keyboard to your heart’s content. Ultimately though, you can get a better gaming machine for less from other manufacturers.

As tested: $1,999

7.0 / 10

Samsung Series 7 Gamer

Samsung Series 7 Gamer

20130123-23064646--samsungseries7gamerlead



Dis_sp1_1020_verge_super_wide
Hw_des13_1020_verge_super_wide
Hw_des3_1020_verge_super_wide
Kb_tp_1020_verge_super_wide
Hw_des8_1020_verge_super_wide


2013-01-24_1713




Samsung's Series 7 Gamer has the best bang for your buck

Samsung’s Series 7 Gamer has an understated silver and black design, and provided you consign the 8.4-pound behemoth to a table to avoid its crushing girth, this machine more than makes up for its bulk.

Despite being a little reflective in direct sunlight, the 17.3-inch screen is glossy, crisp, and bright. The speakers sound a little distant at lower volumes — which isn’t great for quiet movies with difficult-to-catch dialogue — but they can pull their weight once turned up. Red rings around the volume and power buttons light up and pulse in time with music and other audio, an effect which you can read more about in our full review of the Series 7 Gamer. The deep, responsive keyboard is the best I tested, and is a true joy to type on. The rounded keys are soft without feeling mushy, and overall it feels more like a dedicated keyboard than a laptop’s. The trackpad is smooth and snappy, and gestures work well without delay.

Using an Intel Core i7-3610QM processor, 16GB of RAM, and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 675M with 2GB of dedicated graphics memory, Samsung's offering is capable of very strong gaming performance. Unlike the other laptops in this price range, the Gamer can manage Battlefield 3 at 1080p on ultra settings at 29fps — but can also play the game at a solid 40fps on high settings. At 1920 x 1080, Borderlands 2 runs smoothly on full settings with particle-heavy PhysX effects on high, and the machine can handle the grueling The Witcher 2 at 1080p on medium settings.

MSI GT70 Samsung Series 7 Gamer
Max Payne 3 1080p, very high 1080p, very high
Borderlands 2 N/A 1080p, high + PhysX
Battlefield 3 1080p, medium 1080p, high
The Witcher 2 1080p, low 1080p, medium

The Series 7 Gamer solidly outperforms the other laptops in this tier of the roundup, and costs $1,899 — the same as the Asus and Toshiba, and less than the MSI model. It is about a pound heavier than its competitors, but it’s worth the weight for the jump in performance. During intense gaming, the Gamer got a little warm in my lap and under the WASD keys, but not enough to be a significant issue. It lasted for 2 hours and 32 minutes in our Verge Battery test, just slightly longer than Asus’ G75VW but still far from impressive. Samsung coupled the Gamer’s dual 750GB hard drives with an 8GB SanDisk integrated solid state drive, and the machine boots in about 26 seconds and wakes from sleep in about four.

The Verdict

The Series 7 Gamer is flashy without being gaudy, its keyboard is absolutely fantastic, and it solidly outperforms the other gaming laptops in this price range. Although it’s certainly on the heavy side, gaming laptops are generally a far cry from portable anyway. The Gamer is a high-performance machine that looks and feels great, is comparatively inexpensive, and easily carries our recommendation for the mid-performance range.

As tested: $1,899.99

7.3 / 10

HIGH PERFORMANCE, HIGH PRICE

Alienware M17x

Alienware M17x

20130123-23040897--alienwarem17xlead


Alienware’s signature alien-stamped aesthetic is oft-criticized as garish, but the M17x’s black exterior and customizable lights mean that the machine is really only as flashy as you choose to make it. The sturdy, tank-like M17x is the heaviest laptop in our roundup at 10.6 pounds, and isn’t exactly lap-friendly. Alienware’s impressive array of lighting options — customizable backlighting, email notifications, and lighting setups that respond to in-game events — have always been a draw for gamers, and you can read our full review for more details. The keyboard is a little cramped, but very responsive, and the touchpad works without issue. Aside from being overly reflective, the 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution display has bright colors and deep blacks. Without a subwoofer, the M17x’s audio is a little light on bass, but the speakers still deliver crisp sound without distorting the audio.

Lights, lights, and more lights

The M17x has a number of configuration options, but the model we reviewed includes a 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7-3720QM processor, 8GB of RAM, and a powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M graphics processor. True to its high-end reputation, the M17x runs Battlefield 3 at 1080p on Ultra settings at a smooth 44fps, plays The Witcher 2 at 45fps on Ultra without Ubersampling, and was able to handle any other game we threw at it with aplomb. The fans are a little loud during heavy gaming, and the metal plates on the underside of the laptop can get pretty toasty — yet another reason to keep the machine off your lap.

For non-gaming situations, the battery life falls just behind the MSI GT70, lasting 4 hours and 12 minutes in our Verge Battery Test. The configuration we tested resumes from sleep in 1.8 seconds and boots in about 26 seconds. The M17x's 32GB SSD contributes to the boot speed, and the machine also includes a 500GB hard drive for storage purposes. Of course, Alienware also has more storage options for those willing to pay.


The Verdict

Alienware offers the most powerful, well-made gaming laptops on the market — but you'll pay a premium for them. If you want a machine that isn’t likely to struggle with next year’s AAA titles and are willing to pay the price, then the M17x is an extremely flexible and delightfully customizable option. If you’re looking for an even more powerful laptop and a screen bigger than 17 inches — though at that point, you should probably consider building a desktop — check out Alienware’s M18x, which features dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M GPUs and an 18.4-inch screen.

As tested: $2,599

7.5 / 10

Alienware_2

Alienware1

Alienware3

Alienware4

M17x_misc7_1020_verge_super_wide



M17x_hw_des1_1020_verge_super_wide


AVADirect Clevo P170EM

AVADirect Clevo P170EM

Clevop170em_product_lead





While it may lack design flair, the Clevo P170EM from AVADirect is, for the most part, a sturdy machine. The black metallic lid does flex slightly under pressure, and I found the lid to be a little difficult to open and close because of the stubborn hinges. It works, but the 1.8-inch thick chassis is blocky and clunky, and feels more like a box made to hold the graphics card, processor, and hard drive rather than a designer product crafted to look and feel good for the user. Even though the Clevo is lighter than both the Alienware and the Samsung at 8.6 pounds, the presence of brittle plastic feet on the underside of the laptop make it quite uncomfortable for lap use, so you’ll probably want to keep this one on a table as well.

The speaker bar is set at an angle beneath the screen, and produces flat, compressed sound that gets really distorted at higher volumes. The 1920 x 1080 display is bright and crisp, but has a slightly blue tint and a fairly limited range of viewing angles — tilting the screen just a few centimeters up or down leads to colors at top or bottom of the display inverting.

Alienware M17x AVADirect Clevo P170EM
Max Payne 3 N/A 1080p, very high + tesselation
Borderlands 2 N/A 1080p, high + PhysX
Battlefield 3 1080p, ultra 1080p, ultra
The Witcher 2 1080p, ultra 1080p, ultra

What the Clevo lacks in attractiveness, however, it more than makes up for in performance — this machine is a true workhorse, ready to give even some desktop towers a run for their money. The configuration we tested contained an Intel Core i7-3740QM processor, 12GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M with 4GB of dedicated graphics memory. It’s important to note that the Clevo P170EM is the most customizable of the bunch, and you can spend less or much, much more depending on the performance you’d like to get out of the machine.

With our configuration, Borderlands 2 looks like a completely different game, running at about 56fps on full settings with PhysX turned all the way up at 1080p. PhysX effects, though biased toward Nvidia graphics processors, make the environment feel even more realistic with dynamic, tearable cloth and particle debris spawned from anything you can shoot — that’s everything, by the way. Max Payne 3 broke 100fps on very high detail, though additional eye candy took a toll on the framerate — even the Clevo couldn’t handle cranking up every setting without dropping to an unplayable average of 20fps. Both Battlefield 3 and The Witcher 2 run smoothly at 1080p on Ultra settings.




Amazing performance in a terrible package
Img_0320

_img_0307

Img_0341

Img_0372


_img_0326
_img_0288

The machine gets a little warm under the WASD keys during heavy gaming, and got even warmer on my lap because my legs were blocking one of the vents on the underside. Also, the fans got pretty noisy no matter what surface the computer was on, but never enough to drown out gameplay or music. The Clevo lasted 3 hours and 5 minutes in our Verge Battery Test, about an hour less than the Alienware M17x. The configuration we tested used a 750GB Seagate Momentus XT hard disk, which includes 8GB of solid state memory to speed up oft-used processes and give the machine boot and wake times of 26 and two seconds, respectively.

The Verdict

AVADirect’s Clevo is neither as well-built nor as stylish as the Alienware M17x, and the issues with the keyboard and speakers actually hinder the machine’s gaming performance. However, it's the most customizable of the lot, and ends up costing a few hundred dollars less than the Alienware for the same performance. If you’re specifically looking to customize a laptop in ways that Alienware doesn’t offer — and for a lower price — then this is a good option, but it may be better to spend the extra for Alienware’s sturdy M17x or just build a desktop.

As tested: $2,089

6.6 / 10

Our picks

Our picks

Everyone’s looking for something different from a laptop, and each of the machines in this roundup have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some users prize a good set of speakers above all else, and some gamers are particularly choosy about the keyboard they use. However, as a whole package, some machines will stand above the rest. Here are our picks for each of the performance levels:

Low-tier

Lenovo Ideapad Y580

Lenovo's versatile Ideapad Y580 is the best gaming option that can double as a regular laptop, and it's also a great budget option. The manufacturer kept the price relatively low at $1,299 without making any major sacrifices, and produced a solid machine capable of both moderate gaming and everyday use.




Mid-tier

Samsung Series 7 Gamer

Samsung’s Series 7 Gamer soundly outperforms the other machines in its tier while matching (or beating) them in price. It also has a lovely keyboard, a great screen, and is a well-designed, good-looking gaming laptop across the board.




High-tier

Alienware M17x

AVADirect’s Clevo P170EM is superior to Alienware’s offering in a pure price / performance analysis, but the machine’s overall poor build quality make it difficult to recommend. In this case, Alienware’s M17x is worth the the extra $500 for slightly longer battery life, a better keyboard, and a well-built chassis.

Img_0044
Dis_sp1_1020_verge_super_wide


M17x_misc6_1020_verge_super_wide

Wrap-Up

  • Razer Blade (late 2012)
  • Lenovo IdeaPad Y580
  • Toshiba Qosmio X870
  • Asus G75VW
  • MSI GT70 (2012)
  • Samsung Series 7 Gamer (US)
  • Alienware M17x R4
  • Clevo P170EM

GOOD STUFF

  • Thin and light
  • Slim, sturdy design
  • Customizable LCD macro keys

BAD STUFF

  • Very expensive
  • Runs hot
  • Poor keyboard
  • Switchblade UI lacks game support

THE BREAKDOWN

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • Design 8
  • Keyboard 6
  • Touchpad 8
  • Display 7
  • Performance 9
  • Heat / noise 3
  • Battery life 5
  • Software 6

GOOD STUFF

  • Versatile and inexpensive
  • Good speakers
  • Bright, colorful screen

BAD STUFF

  • Runs a little warm
  • Sharp palmrest edge

THE BREAKDOWN

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • Design 7
  • Keyboard 8
  • Touchpad 6
  • Display 8
  • Performance 7
  • Heat / noise 4
  • Battery life 6
  • Software 8

GOOD STUFF

  • Great speakers
  • Solid display

BAD STUFF

  • Runs incredibly hot
  • Terrible battery life
  • Sluggish performance
  • Lots of bloatware

THE BREAKDOWN

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • Design 6
  • Keyboard 7
  • Touchpad 7
  • Display 8
  • Performance 7
  • Heat / noise 3
  • Battery life 3
  • Software 6

GOOD STUFF

  • Subtle design
  • Great trackpad
  • Effective cooling system

BAD STUFF

  • Dim, muted display
  • Poor battery life
  • Bulky

THE BREAKDOWN

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • Design 8
  • Keyboard 7
  • Touchpad 8
  • Display 5
  • Performance 8
  • Heat / noise 7
  • Battery life 4
  • Software 8

GOOD STUFF

  • Excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • Good speakers

BAD STUFF

  • Lackluster display
  • Design isn't very attractive
  • Expensive

THE BREAKDOWN

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • Design 6
  • Keyboard 9
  • Touchpad 8
  • Display 5
  • Performance 8
  • Heat / noise 6
  • Battery life 6
  • Software 7

GOOD STUFF

  • Stylish design
  • Bright, attractive display
  • Amazing keyboard
  • Great performance for the price

BAD STUFF

  • Poor battery life
  • Limited backlight customization

THE BREAKDOWN

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • Design 8
  • Keyboard 8
  • Touchpad 7
  • Display 7
  • Performance 8
  • Heat / noise 6
  • Battery life 5
  • Software 8

GOOD STUFF

  • Top-of-the-line performance
  • Sturdy, well-crafted design
  • Decent battery life

BAD STUFF

  • Runs warm
  • Expensive
  • Heavy

THE BREAKDOWN

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • Design 8
  • Keyboard 8
  • Touchpad 7
  • Display 7
  • Performance 10
  • Heat / noise 5
  • Battery life 6
  • Software 8

GOOD STUFF

  • High performance
  • Infinitely customizable

BAD STUFF

  • Poor keyboard
  • Mediocre trackpad
  • Sub-par build quality

THE BREAKDOWN

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • Design 6
  • Keyboard 5
  • Touchpad 6
  • Display 7
  • Performance 10
  • Heat / noise 6
  • Battery life 5
  • Software 8
The Verge
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.
Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.