Great Game-Ready Laptops

You want to get your game on. Usually, that means paying for the privilege of playing with power, but not always. Today a wider variety of notebooks is ready to rock your game worlds.


HP's HDX line is fairly straightforward--it courts multimedia fiends. From its double-wide demeanor to all the plugs and ports offered here, the HDX18--a fairly fashionable desktop replacement--will stand out on your desk and let you play games in the process. The HDX18 has some brawn to match its beauty. In our WorldBench 6 tests, HP's notebook scored a solid 102. It's not quite the fastest we've seen, but it's more than powerful enough to play some games as well as video. A 2.8-GHz Core 2 Duo CPU (T9600), 4GB of RAM, and nVidia's 512MB GeForce 9600M GT GPU fuel our review unit. I can spit out frame rates of games like Doom 3 (it ran at a respectable 90 frames per second at 1280-by-1024 resolution), but what matters is that this machine can play this season's big guns without much of a hitch. I tooled around Fallout 3 and Left 4 Dead on the screen's native 1920-by-1080 resolution. Both looked good and ran fairly smoothly. Combine that with the BD-ROM drive (for Blu-ray discs), HDMI port, flashy finish, and neat exterior, and you have an incredibly handsome home solution you wouldn't mind lugging from room to room. PCW Rating: 84

--Darren Gladstone

Eurocom D901C Phantom-X

The Phantom-X delivers power in spades. This bad boy sports a 3-GHz Xeon Quad Core X3370 processor, 8GB of RAM, and two 80GB solid-state drives hosting Windows Vista (and a 7200-rpm, 320GB hard drive provides file storage space). Add to those components a pair of nVidia GeForce Go 9800M GTX graphics processors running in SLI, and you have a devastating gaming combo. It posted a tantalizing score of 133 on our WorldBench 6 performance test suite. That alone makes it a speed king. In Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Unreal Tournament III, this desktop replacement dominated. At high settings and a resolution of 1680 by 1050 pixels, the Phantom-X delivered frame rates of 48 frames per second and 87 fps, respectively. Adjusted to its native setting of 1900 by 1200 pixels, it drove Unreal Tournament III at a respectable 50 fps. Its 17.1-inch screen is bright and clear under typical fluorescent lighting--more than adequate for extended gaming sessions.Thanks to all this power, it should come as no surprise that this unit is among the most expensive desktop replacements, running $5950. But if you're a full-blown gamer that demands performance, you probably won't blink at the price. PCW Rating: 78

--Nate Ralph

Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q708

Toshiba's Qosmio X305-Q708 doesn't do subtle. A flaming red beast of a machine, the X350-Q708 packs a lot of cutting-edge hardware, but some of manufacturer's design decisions are head-scratchers. This $4200 laptop packs a 2.53-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme processor with four CPU cores; 4GB of RAM; and two nVidia GeForce 9800M GTS video cards, each with 512MB of RAM, set up in SLI mode. On WorldBench 6, the Qosmio X305-Q708 scored 100. That's a little disappointing, considering that the HDX18 scored 102 -- and costs less. Nevertheless, the X305-Q708 did a creditable job with Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Unreal Tournament III, cruising through them at high settings and 1680-by-1050-pixel resolution, and managing frame rates of 52 frames per second and 75 fps, respectively. In comparison, Alienware's more affordable M17 (see slide 6)--it costs $2000 less--posted frame rates of 44 fps and 51 fps on the same two tests. Unfortunately, after loading this Qosmio with high-end components, Toshiba skimped on the 17-inch screen. though it is fairly bright, displaying vivid colors and sharp text, its WSXGA, 1680-by-1050 resolution is a bit underwhelming. That said, half the appeal of this machine is in watching it turn heads at your next LAN party. Trust me, it will. PCW Rating: 73

--Kaiser Hwang

Apple MacBook Pro

The newest MacBook Pros shine. The bright, glossy, 15.4-inch wide-screen LED-backlit monitor is pure joy to behold. And these latest machines make a decent go as gaming computers as well, thanks to their GPUs. These MacBook Pros employ nVidia's Hybrid SLI technology--a pairing of two graphics chips, one integrated in the motherboard (a GeForce 9400M) and the other discrete (a GeForce 9600M GT). The machines were tested by MacWorld and PC World; MacWorld compares the latest MacBook Pro to every other MacBook that's come before. If you want to get the full breakdown on the OS X side, check MacWorld's review. For that matter, Game On blogger Matt Peckham also took a very close look at how well the new MacBooks work as gaming machines. For PC World's WorldBench 6 suite to work, we need to run Vista through Boot Camp. The resulting numbers show that the MacBook Pro is a good performer, scoring 93 in WorldBench in high-performance mode. And thanks to the 9600M, it can play Doom 3 at 125 frames per second (at 1024 by 768 resolution). PCW Rating: 69

--Jackie Dove

Gateway P-7811FX

From Gateway comes a somewhat stylish bargain. Running the P-7811FX is a 2.26-GHz Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU and 4GB of DDR3-800 RAM. In fact, this $1399 machine did a good job of handling WorldBench 6, scoring a decent 90--nothing that tears up the chart, but good enough to handle the current crop of games without breaking the bank. The large, 17-inch screen is a little on the dim side, but the colors pop well enough in still images and, considering this is a gaming machine, look natural enough when you're trying to pick apart the opposing team in Team Fortress 2. Problem is that the glossy coating on the screen will more often than not distract you from what's happening on it. To help you get over that small shortcoming, our review unit sprouts eSATA and HDMI ports, three USB 2.0 ports, FireWire, a flash card reader, and a PCI Express card slot. The P-7811FX offers a healthy balance of satisfying gaming and low cost for those on a tight budget. Gateway's got a good gaming notebook line on its hands. Next time, though, I'd really like to see better on-board audio. PCW Rating: 77

--Darren Gladstone

Alienware m17

When you think of Alienware PCs, the word "cheap" usually doesn’t come to mind. But the m17 is priced fairly reasonably (our review unit sells for $1999)--even while packing 1GB of ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3870 X2 graphics processing power on board. As a result, this monstrous desktop replacement runs modern games at a respectable clip. It didn't exactly blow the doors off WorldBench 6, scoring only an 84. Frankly, between the GPU, the 4GB of RAM, and the 160GB hard drive (spinning at 7200rpm, no less), I was expecting a little better. I suppose the 2.26-GHz Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU shoulders some of the blame, but the good news is that this won't affect your gaming experience at all. Both Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Unreal Tournament III, running at 1680 by 1050 pixels and high settings, hum along at 44 and 51 frames per second, respectively. As a gaming machine, the m17 delivers speed where it counts, but it lags a little in more conventional office-application tests. As if you'll use MS Office. PCW Rating: 73

--Darren Gladstone

Micro Express JFL9226

It's no shocker that Micro Express's octane-fueled JFL9226, packing 3GB of RAM and a 2.53-GHz T9400 processor, whipped through our WorldBench 6 tests. Nothing else could keep pace: The JFL9226 scored a 103. What's more interesting is that this model has the same guts--well, the same CPU and 3GB worth of RAM--as Sony's 16.4-inch entertainment laptop and still comes out slightly ahead. The notebook's 256MB nVidia GeForce 9600GT GPU knocked out reasonably solid numbers in some older games such as Far Cry (95 frames per second at 1024-by-768-pixel resolution). Just expect a little turbulence when playing modern, top-flight games jacked up to the machine's native 1280-by-800-pixel resolution. At first glance, the 15.4-inch screen underwhelms. That is, until I tapped the handy shortcut key atop the keyboard that activates the incredibly handy WoW Video feature. That button quickly shuffles through one user-defined and four preset video modes, boosting the video quality noticeably. In the end, she may not be much to look at, but the JFL9226 has the quicks where it counts. By stacking on enough ports, features, and power for the right price, Micro Express has put together another solid notebook. PCW Ratings: 83

--Darren Gladstone

Dell Studio XPS 16

The Dell Studio XPS line emphasizes style without sacrificing functionality. These multimedia laptops have a bit of leather trim here, a backlit keyboard there--and a whole lot of plugs, ports, and features packed in. Dell's classy Studio XPS 16 starts at $1199, but the blingy, premium version of the Studio XPS 16 that we received for testing offers significantly more at a significantly higher price (our review unit sells for roughly $1804). Inside our Studio XPS 16, a 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU, a 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 graphics processor, and 4GB of RAM run the 64-bit flavor of Windows Vista. That configuration notched a 92 in WorldBench 6, more than enough for everyday tasks--and some games when you're done. Thanks to the capable mobile graphics processor and the laptop's speedy, 7200-rpm, 320GB hard drive, I had little problem playing Fallout 3 and Left 4 Dead at the screen's native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. In short, Dell's Studio XPS 16 is a solidly built multimedia machine that piles on features without breaking the bank. It's a solid choice for gaming and movies, as well as getting the job done, while keeping costs within reason. PCW Rating: 76

--Darren Gladstone

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