Some Random Guide to a Cheap Gaming Laptop
*This guide is not yet finished, but still has a wealth of knowledge for those looking to buy a laptop that can play all of their games on very high settings while saving as much money as possible. Perfect for the college gamer*
Table of contents:
Section one: overview
Section two: where to buy
Section three: software (includes upgrading windows for cheap and overclocking/other optimizations)
Section four: hardware (includes mods and upgrades)
Section five: performance benchmarks
Section six: conclusion
Section seven: other resources/misc
Intro: How this guide came to be-
This guide will focus on acquiring and optimizing a laptop for minimal cash, but optimal performance. This guide was inspired by a lot of footwork and research I’ve been doing over the past few months on my search for a laptop that would meet all of my gaming needs, but could be purchased using my limited “starved college student” budget. I will now share what I have learned.
SECTION 1: OVERVIEW-
When you look at the progress of technology, one thing to notice is that lately gaming requirements have been slowing down. Look at the game Crysis. Other than Metro 2033, it has stood as the game with the highest requirements for years now. In fact, Crysis Warhead and Crysis 2 both have lower requirements than the original Crysis. Also, most games that come out are made to look the same on PC as they do on consoles, which have very outdated hardware. Bethseda has been quoted as to wanting their next game Skyrim to look the same on all consoles. There is still no official word on the next generation of consoles. At this point I believe that it is safe to say that if a PC can master three specific games (Metro 2033 and Crysis for GPU, and GTA IV for CPU), they should be able to master games for a couple more years. At the very least, they should be able to play future games on candy settings, even if they don’t max them.
With these performance measures in place, the next goal is to find the most affordable laptops that can pass the set measures. Fortunately for us, due to a few variables, we can get just that. Asus has focused on making high performance gaming laptops for budget gamers. Add on the fact the previous generation of Asus laptops still rock today’s games, and that these last generation laptops can be found refurbished quite easily(refurbished laptops are basically new, and come with warranties), budget gamers in need of laptops can rejoice.
The generation of laptops I refer to come in 4 sizes: 15.6”, 16”, `7.1”, and 17.3”. The various sizes carry either a GTX 260m (the faster of the two GPUs) and the GTS 360m (the newer, but slightly slower GPU). The laptops with the 260m come with Core 2 Duo processors(some models even come with quads), which still provide excellent performance for daily use as well as games. The GTS 360m laptops come with the new generation of processors(i3,i5, or i7).
The GTX 260m laptop models include: G51vx, G60vx, G71gx, and g72gx.
The GTS 360m laptop models include: G51jx and the G60jx.
This guide will mainly focus on the G51vx and G60vx due to the unbeatable price/performance ratio. The main differences between the G51vx and G60vx is that the G51 has a white mecha lcd backplate while the g60 has a blue one, the g51 comes with vista(students can upgrade to windows 7 for $30 bucks) and the g60 comes with windows 7, the g60 has a processor that’s .12ghz faster than the one in the g51, and of course the g60 has an lcd that’s .4” larger than that of the g51. Everything else is the same.
SECTION 2: – WHERE TO BUY
As of right now, Newegg still sells the G60jx and G72gx. Tiger Direct sells the G51vx. There are some other places to look, but these are the most notable. Another good place to look for recertified Asus gaming laptops is Ebay. Two companies that are rated top sellers by Ebay are Fastasset and Asusnow. Both Ebay companies go through quite a few recertified laptops, so if you cannot find these laptops elsewhere, searching on Ebay is a good bet, although I recommend sticking with top rated sellers.
I personally bought a G51vx from Fastasset for $530.
SECTION 3: SOFTWARE-
After acquiring the laptop, the next step is to optimize, first with software. If your laptop came with Vista you have a few options. Vista had most of its quirks worked out, so it’s not quite as notorious as it once was. That being said, you can do a few things to make it feel more like windows 7.
Here is a link to making vista feel like windows 7:
Make Vista Look & Behave Like Windows 7 | I'm Just Being Manan
For the students out there, if you have a school email address you can get an upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 Professional for only $30. Here is the link to that:
Windows 7 Student Discount
Overclocking. At the very least these laptops can be overclocked to a point without generating more heat. They can be overclocked even more beyond that with proper cooling measures. This provides a free substantial performance increase! There are also ways to optimize battery life. Here is a great guide to doing just these things:
An Optimization Guide for the Asus G51
Here is a video of someone playing Crysis on Very High settings smoothly while running fraps. This is not the only time I’ve seen evidence of the GTX 260m running Crysis on very high, nor is this the highest overclock I have come across. There are many people who have overclocked their GTX 260m and Core 2 Duo quite a bit without any problems. In the video he has his P7350(2ghz stock) running at 2.55, and he has his 260m running at 590/950/1550 (500/799/1250 stock).
SECTION 4: HARDWARE –
First off I will touch home with a cooling mod for the g51 and g60. This is an easy to do mod that will dramatically decrease your temps and allow for some major overclocking. This is done by cutting out the fake subwoofer that’s located directly under the fan, replacing it with a grill, and in some instances cutting the blue pwn wire which makes the fan run 100% at all times.
Here are a couple of guides to doing just that:
ASUS G51 Cooling mod
Also, for further cooling, replace the stock thermal grease with artic silver 5. Remember, if you find anything with a cooling pad instead of thermal grease; replace it with a copper shim in between two layers of AS5, as there will be extra spacing to fill up. I’ve seen some impressive results just by replacing the thermal grease.
Other ways to optimize performance include upgrades. The best way to do this with the Core 2 Duo models is to upgrade the processor. Ebay has some very cheap processors. Just make sure you get a processor that fits into a P socket. You can find the x9100 Core 2 Extreme for around the same price as the rest of the mobile Core 2 Duos, so I would recommend that, especially if you did the cooling mod mentioned previously.
Other upgrades to consider are getting a SSD hard drive(remember, most of these
laptops can hold 2 hard drives), or upgrading to a larger battery(easy find on Ebay).
SECTION 5: PERFORMANCE/BENCHMARKS
I will fill this section in more in the future, as of right now here are the links to give you a general idea to the two GPUs performance.
GTX 260m - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M - Notebookcheck.net Tech
GTS 360m - NVIDIA GeForce GTS 360M - Notebookcheck.net Tech
SECTION 6: CONCLUSION
From beginning to end, you can buy a cheap gaming laptop, and optimize it to play all of your games on the highest settings for your resolution (or at least for the g51vx and g60vx, have not done research for the higher resolution 17” laptops or the GTS 360m laptops) as far as dx10 wise(most of these laptops don’t support dx11 anyways).
An example of this optimization:
Buy a refurbished g51vx for $530. Upgrade to windows 7 professional for $30. Upgrade to an x9100 Extreme for $200(Ebay)(optional – you will do just fine with the original processor). Replace the original thermal paste with AS5, complete the cooling mod by creating a direct vent and cutting the pwn wire, overclock the CPU and GPU as well as remembering that games can be optimized(Crysis can be optimized for a “cheap” very high mode that gives an extra several fps). You now have a super gaming laptop for $780 with the upgrades processor or $580 without that can play the lasest games on
very high settings. Congratz.
SECTION 7: MISC
Free software guide: Windows Starter Kit - Download.com
Free security software: Security Starter Kit - Download.com
All credits go to the linked sources. I could make a list, but there are too many to keep track of.
Feel free to distribute or modify this guide.