Holiday Buyer's Guide: Gaming Notebooks

Trying to decide what is the right portable PC for your needs can be difficult. Laptops come in many shapes and sizes, and offer a range of features, but generally speaking gaming PCs tend to be beefy machines with the latest video cards, a load of memory and a large hard drive. But what if you want to a mobile—or maybe luggable—gaming experience? You need a gaming notebook.

Here is a look at some of the latest beastly laptops that will let you take your gaming on the go.

Out of this World Deal: Alienware Area-51 5750
Price: $1,349

Alienware is known throughout the galaxy as being one of the premier gaming PC manufacturers and now they might just gain the reputation of offering a quality product at prices mere humans can afford. The Area-51 line features the usual “other worldly” look that can intimidate the competition. And this PC has enough power that it isn’t a mere psyche out either.

The entry level machine has enough power to get you started, with Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, 512MB Single Channel DDR2, 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1800 card and CD-RW/DVD combo drive. The 17-inch WXGA display is good for gaming, movies and work (God forbid you should have to do work while on the road, but at least you know you can get back to the gaming). Upgrading the memory should be considered if you’re thinking of buying this one, and that is certainly worth the extra money. This notebook is a burly 8-pounds, but as with many Alienware PCs is built to last.

The Portable Movie Theater and More: Dell XPS M1710
Price: $3,699

Dell is only the second laptop manufacturer to integrate a Blu-ray drive into its PCs. Sony, of course, was the first, but for the most bang for your buck the Dell XPS M1710 is the way to go. Don’t look for any PC games to support the Blu-ray format just yet, but if you’re a movie buff as well as a gamer this portable might be just the thing to get your game on.

The Intel Core 2 Duo T7600 will handle the latest games with ease, while its UXGA 17-inch LCD screen offers 1920×1200 resolution, so this will look better than many HDTV sets! The laptop features integrated 802.11n wireless connectivity, so the machine is good on the go. At nearly 9-pounds the M1710 is heavy but not outrageous. It is probably best for those who do some traveling, want to watch movies and still be able to handle the very latest games. Just be sure to see if seat power is available on that next flight as the Blu-ray drive will drain the battery before you have time to catch a double feature.

The Traveling Game Machine: Toshiba Satellite P100-ST9742
Price: $2,899

Toshiba has been a powerhouse in the laptop space for many years, and in that time has earned a reputation for producing solid machines that were good for business. As for gaming PCs Toshiba is a fairly new player, but its Satellite line has become well known for providing powerful machines at reasonably affordable prices. The top of the line gaming rig is a new arrival, the Satellite P100-ST9742, which features a 17-inch widescreen with TruBrite technology and Intel Centrino Duo Mobile Technology.

While by no means small, this Satellite is actually slimmed down from the traditional gaming laptop. Housed in a 1.41-inch slim notebook chassis, and weighing just slightly over 7-pounds, the machine features a GeForce Go 7900 GTX graphics card, which does a really fine job of bringing games to life. The battery life offered an acceptable two hour run time in our tests for real-time strategy (RTS) games, and a bit shorter in first-person shooters (FPS). The biggest complaint is that the keyboard is far from ideal, which can affect heated sessions where it is frag or be fragged, but as an all-around, on the go machine this Satellite works well.

Speed Demon with Style: Acer Ferrari 5000
Price: $2,299

Not exactly a true gaming machine, but one that features enough power to handle games and have you looking cooler than the average gamer. Instead of the typical skulls or strange designs, this laptop has the lines of an Italian racer, but what would you expect from a machine with Ferrari’s logo on it!

The new Ferrari 5000 uses technology that was first pioneered in the world of Formula One racing; notably the carbon fiber casing that makes for a sleek and chic frame. Inside the machine is a bit more geek, running with a dual-core AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile Technology processor that uses 64-bit architecture. The 15.4-inch display is a tad smaller than some other machines, but at just 6.5-pounds this machine is also a bit lighter. Available in black or the “Ferrari Red,” here’s the latest machine for computer geeks having a mid-life crisis.

Budget Gaming: Gateway NX860X
Price: $1,299.99

If you’re on a budget you can still get a fairly powerful machine thanks to Gateway, which entered the gaming arena a few years ago. While the cow computer company never went as all out as Dell, it’s managed to put together a solid line of gaming PCs—even if they are a little vanilla in terms of looks. But again, gaming is what you do on the screen, and not necessarily a fashion show.

This 7.5-pound machine features an Intel Core Duo processor, with one gigabyte of DDR2 memory. The 17-inch WXGA display offers 1440×900 maximum resolution, which is good for most games, but a little lacking for any ultra high-resolution applications. With the NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 graphic processor most games will run without issue. All in all, the Gateway is a good machine in a rather plain package.