My Laptop buying strategy

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Laptop is one of the most useful tools in today’s modern world. A few months ago, I’ve decided it was time to upgrade my good old laptop, following the major upgrade I went through with my desktop.

I knew that the hardware in my laptop will be of a lower level than that of my desktop, for simple reasons of cost.

If you take the same (or as similar as possible) hardware and check the price of a desktop configuration vs. a laptop configuration, the cost of the laptop variety will always be higher as a whole. Some components will be cheaper, but generally it will cost you much more if you’ll look for the replica of your desktop gaming rig.

Why? many reasons. For one, in some ways laptop/portable technology is not at the same level as desktops, towers, or servers. It is always a step or half a step behind. Even when you look at the latest Intel processors – the number of cores on the flagship laptop CPUs is always lower than their desktop counterparts. It’s mostly due to issues of heat dissipation, power consumption, and cost/efficiency.

There have been and still are instances where desktop level hardware is implanted into desktop replacement laptops. Those are heavy monsters which may look like laptops but they are almost as far from portable as a 12 KG tower desktop. Their token battery cannot keep them running for more than 30 minutes of real world conditions, and as such – they are no longer laptops.

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Laptops come in all sizes and weights

So how do I go about choosing a laptop that fits my requirements?

First, you need to define what are your uses. For me, it’s gaming, surfing the web, Photoshop, photography and some 3d design. I also want to be able to take my laptop on overseas trips and use it to watch movies on the go.

When you define your needs clearly, your options become fewer and you’re not overwhelmed by the multitude of choices out there.

I also knew that my laptop, as powerful as it may be, must be light and portable as possible. A part of portability for me is at least a few hours of light usage without external power.

This is where the difficulty comes. Laptops more than any other PC are always a game of compromise. A compromise between weight, power, energy and price. Even if you have plenty of money to burn, you’ll still have to put some thought into it because it won’t make the laws of physics any different.

As I mentioned before, you can get gaming desktop level performance in a so-called laptop. Only it won’t exactly be a laptop any more. It will weigh like a ton of bricks and it will be portable and usable on the go also about the same.

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Yes, it’s a desktop replacement. No, I wouldn’t call it portable. Acer Predator 21x at 8.8 KG!

On the other side of the spectrum, there are the ultra-books. Those are definitely portable. In fact they are more portable than anything else. They are light as a (under 1KG) feather, small, cute and can run on their battery for up to a day. The compromise? they aren’t exactly monster trucks when it comes to performance. They’ll let you use office, surf the web, watch videos and even play a few casual games, but that’s it. Their ultra-low energy CPUs are just not built for anything more, and they are always limited to on-board graphic chips. They also offer very few options to upgrade, and are more difficult to repair (their size and weight means that components may be glued together inside or simply very hard to pry out safely). Even replacing their battery may be impossible (or next to).

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And this is one of the Lightest Ultrabooks in the world, Lenovo LaVie Z at 860 grams!

That’s good, because we already know (most of us anyways) that we’re not going for either of those extremes.

My previous laptop was a light gaming/business notebook which weighed 2.4 KG, had a lovely 4 speaker sound system and a discreet video card which was fine up-to and including games such as Far Cry 3. (though it definitely run hot when trying those)

I knew that anything I buy must be an upgrade both on performance and on lightness categories. But when you go towards 2 KG and lower, prices tend to jump exponentially – and I do have a budget. So I wasn’t looking for anything lighter than 2 KG, but also nothing higher or even at 2.4 KG. That already wipes out a lot of options.

I knew I want a discreet video card that can handle as much as possible, and Nvidia’s GTX Series 10 was just the ticket. It comes in many flavors – from GTX 1030 to GTX 1080, and is more than capable of running all modern games.

When I buy a piece of technology, I plan to use it for years. With smartphones, maybe 3 years is the right number (though I try for 5), but with laptops 5 years is the magic number for me.

My previous laptop was bought on 2013 and was replaced this year (2018). My new laptop should serve me at least as long – especially as laptops are less easy to upgrade.

For the same reason, my philosophy is to get the best configuration I can get within my budget, so the room for upgrade is smaller and the usability is longer.

How did I find the right fit for me?

There are many manufacturers of laptops out there. But I always rather go for the branded ones. They have a history, a whole service department and post-sale support that can give solutions to most if not all issues that may arise.

I was looking at laptops from Asus, Gigabyte, Acer, and yes, MSI – all from the gaming section and all around 1000-1500 USD price tag.

Asus has several gaming laptop lines led by the ROG series. Those are expensive but usually well designed laptops.

Gigabyte is a bit new in the gaming laptops market but offers the excellent Aero line which gives Asus a run for their money

Acer used to be a cheap manufacturer with not super-reliable PCs, but in the gaming laptop section they offer the Helios Series (300, and now also the 500 models) which offers a pretty great cost/performance ratio, but also weigh a bit more than I specified.

And then there’s MSI. MSI is a Taiwanese manufacturer which has several lines of PC hardware products. My previous laptop was from them and it served me (mostly) well.

So how do I choose? keeping to a budget actually makes it much easier. If you already know you have X amount of money, and put a lower and upper limits on your flexibility in price, it’s only a matter of checking what’s the best configuration at the right weight that can check all the boxes.

For me it was this: MSI GP62MVR 7RF Leopard Pro gaming laptop. It weighs 2.2 KG (200 grams lighter than my previous laptop) but that’s misleading since the external power supply weighs about 500 Grams more. (but that’s true for most if not all gaming laptops)

It carries a 7th generation (8th generation CPUs were either not available or much more expensive when I bought it) 4-core i7-7700HQ CPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060 3GB video card (which is mostly fine with the FullHD panel in this laptop). As for storage, it comes with a (cheap) 128GB M2 SSD (although the laptop supports faster PCI-E based NVMe M.2 SSD) AND a 1 TB standard  7200 RPM mechanical hard drive. It means that the laptop boots up fast, but even though general performance is good, it can get better by replacing the mechanical HDD with a SSD.

Would you like to buy the same model as I did? that’s a bit tricky since this specific sub-model seems to have gone missing from the big online stores. But I found a very similar model with the same weight and even slightly better specs (comes with 16GB while I added 8GB to the existing 8GB, and the graphics card is the model with the 6GB over mine with 3GB) – and it comes for 1278 USD (excluding shipping and taxes): MSI GL62MVR 7RFX-1044

This price, for this configuration (not the newest mind you, since now there are 8th gen processors with 6 cores) at this weight – is a winning deal in my eyes.

I’ll be happy to read some of your own experiences with choosing your own laptops. What made you pick your specific model? What was your budget? Did you manage to stay within it? Are you happy with your purchase?

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