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Good laptop for game development?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Renin, Sep 16, 2017.

  1. Renin

    Renin

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    Hi all,

    I'm very out of the loop when it comes to current laptop hardware, but I'm in the market for a new one. There are some features and specs that I'm sure I want, but I have no idea what brands are the best or where to start my search! I have no specific budget. A great deal would be awesome but I am willing to pay a lot for something I can use well into the future.

    Here are some features I'm looking for:

    - 16GB RAM (Preferably DDR4)
    - SSD Storage
    - Long battery life
    - At least 1080p resolution
    - CPU at least 3.0GHz
    - GPU able to handle high-end graphics

    I've tried looking at brands online but there are so many that seem to get good reviews, and it's hard to compare from a game developer's perspective. Can anyone help?
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
  2. kburkhart84

    kburkhart84

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    What's your budget?

    I just bought a lenovo ideapad flex(didn't care about the whole touchscreen and flex part though). It has 8GB RAM, SSD, 1080P, 7th-gen i5 @2.5GHz, and an R7 M460. This isn't near what I would call high end, but that can be a good thing for testing since not all gamers have high end machines like some of the devs do. It is also plenty fast enough for development on the go(haven't done too much testing yet though). The good part is that I only paid $650 for it. If I had a higher budget, there are other options I could have gotten, but that was the best deal I could find in the price range I had available. I could have gotten more RAM or HD space, or even a better processor, but then I would have had to deal with only integrated intel graphics....I can't skimp that far on the GPU.
     
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  3. Renin

    Renin

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    That's an awesome bargain! I updated my post with budget info.
     
  4. kburkhart84

    kburkhart84

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    The only issue I see is the fact that you want both battery life and a dedicated GPU. Those 2 things aren't generally compatible, although if you have one like mine you can turn off the GPU when it makes sense to(not very often in gamedev though).

    If you don't mind paying highly, then there are many options for you. What types of games are you developing? In my opinion with a good budget it is easy to find a good machine. It is when you have a limited budget that challenges come.

    https://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod...6&IsNodeId=1&bop=And&Order=PRICED&PageSize=36

    Any of those should help get you started....and set you back quite a bit.
     
  5. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    MSI is generally the brand I recommend when someone wants a gaming laptop. Below is one of their laptops that has a modern Intel i7 processor, 16GB RAM (upgradeable to 64GB), and a GeForce GTX 1070.

    https://www.amazon.com/MSI-GT62VR-Dominator-Powerful-i7-7700HQ/dp/B01MY2NKH1/

    Only problem is, like @kburkhart84 mentioned, gaming laptops almost never have very good battery life. Typically you'll see about three hours and that's it. If you expect to game on it you had better expect a way to keep it plugged in. Or carry a tiny inverter generator like the one below (runs for up to eight hours on 2.1 liters of gas).

    https://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Hand-Tools-Inverter-Generator/dp/B01CVOVLGE
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
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  6. GoesTo11

    GoesTo11

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    I have the dominator pro that is linked to above. I really like it but the battery life is not good. There are gaming laptops that will do graphics switching that will have better battery life. The Alienware 15 that I bought before the MSI was able to switch to the integrated graphics to save power but it also had heating issues so I returned it for the MSI.
     
  7. eXonius

    eXonius

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    Read reviews, check out both MSI and Asus gaming laptops. Remember to read what people says about cooling.

    I have a bit older gaming laptop and it overheats. Very annoying. I have changed thermal paste and cleaned the fan many times but the problem keeps reoccurring.

    So look for a powerful laptop with as good cooling as possible while still fitting your size constraints.

    As already mentioned battery life isn't something you will get with a gaming laptop unless you go for those which are very energy efficient, but those are also quite a bit less powerful. The more powerful the GPU and CPU the worse battery life it will have. The powerful ones are already very heavy and clunky as they are so they can't really have bigger battery either.
     
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  8. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Also worth note is that your laptop will almost certainly not run at full spec when running from battery. (If you look at the capacity of the battery and the maximum power usage of the components this is pretty clear.) That's not often noticeable for a CPU as these days they're designed to seamlessly ramp up and down depending on what you're doing. It is very definitely noticeable in the GPU department, though. If you're planning to run from battery then keep in mind that the beasty GPU under the hood will only be working at a fraction of its usual power.
     
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  9. Conall1992

    Conall1992

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    I'm looking for a laptop like yours and was wondering what did you end up getting
     
  10. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Make sure it has a Intel Core i9 with Hexa Core.
     
  11. tjlillo

    tjlillo

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    I use surface book 2 15" when I'm doing development on a laptop. Otherwise a built desktop.
     
  12. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    A laptop with an i9 series processor sounds amazing... until you discover that it has serious thermal throttling problems with just about any heavy load. Worse yet it's heavy and has horrid battery life. Like reviewers have been mentioning it's basically a laptop for people who want to treat i9 as a status symbol and don't expect to make real use of it.



    Below is my recommendation for a portable workstation. Just looking at the numbering of the i7-8700 CPU may lead people to believe it's slower than the above i9-8950HK CPU but it has better performance with less thermal throttling.

    Additionally it's only slightly more than half the weight of the i9 series laptop and has about double the battery life.

    https://www.amazon.com/N950VR-i7-8700-i9-8950HK-Notebook-Computer/dp/B079N9ZHKJ
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
  13. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Nice I didn't know 8700 was available as a mobile CPU
     
  14. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    I... uh... assumed that was sarcastic?

    Beefy laptops are awesome, but they're not exactly super portable, and when you're on the go it's not necessarily raw horsepower that's your priority. And even if it was, you're not getting it if you need the battery.
     
  15. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Kinda.

    Like I said it's heavy (~10 lbs) and has horrible battery life (~1% per minute gaming according to one buyer).

    You know I just realized that no one linked the actual laptop in question.

    https://www.amazon.com/Replacement-Unlocked-i9-8950HK-processor-Overclocked/dp/B07CCZZL2G
     
  16. AcidArrow

    AcidArrow

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    The problem is that they all throttle (at least the ones that came out in the last 12 months), quite easily too, making all that horsepower a little less meaningful.

    They are super bulky, they make a ton of noise AND they throttle. Wanting one of those to not be an issue is reasonable I think.

    I think that Intel dropped the ball a little bit with the temperatures with coffee lake and all manufacturers are currently struggling to cool it.
     
  17. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Sorry, I wasn't being clear there. I meant that I assumed the thing you were responding to was sarcastic. I was making a failed attempt at agreeing with you.

    Exactly, that's what I was referring to in my next sentence. If you want the horsepower it's got to be plugged in, which obviously has a huge impact on its usefulness on the go.

    Edit: Wait, you mean thermal throttling on top of not having enough juice for full speed on battery? Yikes.
     
  18. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    I have a beefy Alienware 17 R4 (2017Q4 - I7-7820K, 1440p@120Hz, 32Gb RAM, GTX 1080, a mounth of SSDs). I only use it plugged in, but it is very rare that I want to use it on the go (I don't fly that often, when I go by car I'm driving), when I want to use it I have power, so whatever.
    I don't carry it around daily, when I do, I have a bag so I can. The only thing: I use bean bag holder when it's in my lap because it's getting f***ng hot, but it does not throttle.

    The thing is, it's a desktop replacement. It's better than a desktop, because you can move it more easily and you can use it with or without a desk and monitor.
    But if you want something to carry around all the time and want to work in the park, well, you should choose a less beefy one (and not Alienware at all).
     
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  19. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    I have a small Asus Zenbook Flip 13.3" i7 4C when I'm on the move, dont use it for Unity dev work though. Desktop monster at the office. perfect combo
     
  20. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Nope, completely serious. Though I'm super sensitive for slowdowns when I'm working. And also dont have time for 8 hours of bake time per scene
     
  21. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Even in a laptop, though? If you're after a desktop replacement that's one thing, but in many cases portability is also a concern.

    For comparison, I semi-regularly work on my game from a Surface Pro while commuting. Bake time isn't really a concern in that scenario. Nor is graphics performance, within reason. As you say, combo your laptop with a desktop for the grunty stuff.
     
  22. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    I dont even have Unity installed on my laptop, only VS for standard .NET dev work. I wouldnt bother on anything more beefy then a workstation type desktop :D But I'm really sensitive to wait times. :D

    And I dont really see the need for mobile game dev work in my case, our game is pretty demanding hardware wise so you cant even debug it on a laptop anyway, and you need a VR headset with controls to be able to really test it. (You can offcourse run the unit tests but thats about it).
     
  23. AcidArrow

    AcidArrow

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    Yeah, I meant thermal throttling. I'm looking for a laptop that is fairly quiet at idle and does not thermal throttle the CPU when it's doing stuff for more than 10 minutes.

    It has been very challenging. Add that in Greece the selection of available laptops is limited and it becomes impossible.
     
  24. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    I would look into the Dell XPS 15 series, they aren't top of the line beasts, but with okay power, usually they aren't throttling and you can get them on a decent price, especially if you are willing to get a refurbished piece (still with warranty and all). Disclaimer: I owned two before over the past 10 years, now I use my laptop for everything, hardcore gaming, development and all in one, so I decided to get a beefy laptop instead.
     
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  25. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    I blame this absurd thin laptop craze companies have bought into. I remember looking at a thicker laptop design from the Toughbook division at Panasonic and one of their thick laptops isn't any heavier than one of these thin laptops but it makes up for it with an absurd battery life (up to 19 hours) and no thermal throttling.
     
  26. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    I have a HP Omen from about a year ago. It's loud, battery life when gaming / 3D stuff is ~2 hours, but I don't think it thermal throttles. It's possible that it does and I just don't notice, as I assume that most of the stuff I do doesn't require anything close to full CPU utilisation on an ongoing basis.
     
  27. AcidArrow

    AcidArrow

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    That's probably not a coffee lake (and I think the Omen's have pretty decent cooling).

    As I said, Intel probably dropped the ball on thermals a bit with the newer CPUs and laptop manufacturers haven't really accounted for it.

    And as @Ryiah said, we had a bunch of super thin laptops this year, which throttle very easily, but at least here it makes sense, so I guess that made throttling feel more acceptable? Because now even the bulky ones throttle as well.
    We don't have refurbished Dells here. Actually until recently, we didn't really have a store that sold Dells officially. We have 1 now, but the products are kinda overpriced.

    Plus the 1050 is a bit lower than I'd want.
     
  28. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    That's the beauty of the EU. I'm from Hungary, when I had the Dell I was living there. I bought my Dells from the UK (official refurbished Dell reseller who bought them from Ireland - official Dell refurbish-center). One time I got a faulty screen, I had to call the support phone (local phone number), on the next business day, the guy came with the replacement to my house and swapped the screen. Done.

    But yeah, I can understand you don't want a 1050, it may be a little bit underpowered if you want to use it for serious 3D work every day.
     
  29. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    A thin laptop is a must, thin and max 13.3 inch screen. Then you can just have a good looking attache case for it
     
  30. CheddarRat

    CheddarRat

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    Greetings!

    I am also looking for a new laptop, and a lot of the info here has been helpful. I'm hoping I can get some more personally-tailored help though.

    I am a jack-of-all-trades sort of hobbyist, tinkering with Unity, Pro Tools, Sibelius, Photoshop and other programs, but my 2012 iMac isn't very powerful and I should really get a PC for games anyway.

    I'm pretty out of my depth here in terms of knowing what all the specs mean, but my IDEAL setup would be:
    under $2000
    a PC laptop
    powerful enough to run intensive programs like Unity and ProTools (I'm not looking to do high-end stuff in Unity, just relatively simple indie stuff)
    powerful enough for gaming (I don't usually play high-end AAA games but that's half because I don't have a computer that can play them in the first place)
    a touch screen for digital art purposes
    decent battery life, for occasional travel
    able to use my iMac as a second monitor, just for kicks.
    I don't mind carrying a heavier laptop, and I like bigger screens/keyboards.


    Also, it looks like I need to look at cooling, and avoid throttling, whatever that is. Uh, any help appreciated!
     
  31. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    "High end" and "decent battery life" do not go together. Basically, big GPUs require more power than a laptop battery can provide without damaging itself, so they don't run at full speed unless they're plugged in. I've never seen any sales materials mentioning that fact, or even any manufacturer explain it in support materials.

    So, do you really need good battery life, or are you happy to carry the power pack around for when you genuinely need performance?

    I'll let others give recommendations, as I don't keep up with this stuff any more.
     
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  32. CheddarRat

    CheddarRat

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    Yeah, I saw that those two factors seem to have an inverse relationship. I guess long battery life isn't a huge deal but I don't know how much "power" I need to run Unity smoothly and play most games.

    My problem is I don't know what numbers like...
    "- At least 1080p resolution
    - CPU at least 3.0GHz
    - GPU able to handle high-end graphics"
    ....even mean. And I don't know what number ranges would be acceptable for my needs. So I'm really at a loss looking at spec sheets.
     
  33. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    How familiar are you with computers in general? If the answer is either "not at all" or "completely new to them" you will want to start looking up the terms as you run into them or find a book that will teach you the basics. Understanding the basic terms will help you immensely when it comes to making good purchases as well as being useful for developing games.

    This is one of the shorthand terms (other terms for it are "FHD" and "Full HD") for the resolution 1920 by 1080, which is just the number of horizontal (1920 pixels wide) and vertical pixels (1080 pixels tall).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Display_resolution

    This is one of the ways you measure performance of a processor. By itself the number cannot be used to determine the actual performance of the processor, but it can be used to limit the number of devices you waste your time looking at.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clock_rate

    This is the only one that is truly vague, but for the most part you can treat it as meaning you need a graphics card capable of playing modern AAA games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider on medium to high settings with a playable frame rate score (ie 30 FPS or greater).

    For NVIDIA you need a card where the last two digits are "50" or greater like the GTX 1050. For AMD you need a card where the last two digits are "60" or greater like the RX 560 (AMD's cards are generally worse performing than NVIDIA's). Ignore Intel for now. If the laptop only has Intel graphics then it's not capable of "high-end" graphics.

    Let's look at a laptop and compare it's capabilities to an actual computer. Below is a link to the Acer Predator Helios 300 which is one of the more affordable gaming laptops. If you look at the first line you will notice that it's CPU is capable of up to 4.1 GHz, the second line shows it has a 1060 which fulfills the "50" or greater NVIDIA GPU, and the resolution is 1080p (1920 by 1080).

    Be aware though that despite the laptop having "up to 7-hours of battery life", when you need to use the graphics card for intensive tasks like gaming it will only run for about one to two hours off of it's battery. This is a limitation found in all gaming laptops. You can't play or develop games and get good battery life, but most other tasks (eg browsing the web, watching videos, etc) won't be that heavy.

    https://www.amazon.com/Acer-Predator-Overclockable-Aeroblade-PH315-51-78NP/dp/B07CTHLX8C/

    Specs.png
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019
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  34. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Buy a ultra portable notebook for travel, import it has a 4 core CPU many have 2. It's ok enough when you are on the move. I have a i7 Asus flip myself which does the job.

    Than a hefty workstation to do the actual work.
     
  35. CheddarRat

    CheddarRat

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    I'm really hoping to just have just one computer, as I want to work both at home and my coworking space.

    Today I did some research on 2-in-1 and convertible laptops, as I like the idea of using a stylus to draw directly on the screen. But it looks like gaming laptops like this don't even exist, unless you count a $4000 one that's not even out yet: https://mashable.com/article/acer-predator-triton-900-price/#YOVlzVX27iq6

    I'm starting to see the picture of where I'll have to compromise. 95% of the 2-in-1s use Intel.

    Anyway, thanks for the help so far, this was a good springboard to get my mind cranking and actually understanding what I'm looking at a bit more. I'll pick up my research again after the weekend.
     
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  36. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    What if the Caterpillar worker only wanted one vehicle and bought a Porsche?
     
  37. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Yes, this is an annoying limitation of most 2-in-1s. ASUS and Lenovo are about the only two companies that make laptops with AMD/NVIDIA GPUs. They're both expensive and they don't have the best reputations, but there isn't much of a choice if you need a high-end laptop.

    https://www.amazon.com/Lenovo-Yoga-15-6-Touch-Screen-Thunderbolt/dp/B072M22XK8/

    One detail that I forgot to mention with my earlier post is that some of the NVIDIA GPUs have the right number but don't have the performance that number is supposed to represent. To my knowledge all of them can be identified by the "MX" preceeding the numbers. An MX150, for example, is nowhere near the performance of a GTX 1050.
     
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  38. unicaorel

    unicaorel

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    If you want to spend a lot on a good high end gaming laptop, there are no worries because you get what you pay. Now, along with that, you have also mentioned some of the specs you want to have in your new gaming machine. And, as per the specs you disclosed, you can easily get a powerful machine for spending around 2000 dollars on it. Some of the laptops you can go with are new ASUS ROG Strix Scar III, Razer Blade 15, MSI GS75 Stealth-412, and similar ones.
     
  39. ADU93

    ADU93

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    Hi Renin,
    I think that the Dell Inspiron 7577 has all the things that you want in a laptop with 10 hours of battery when you are not gaming and about 4 to 5 hours when you are... the only con for this laptop is the display, its kinda bad, but you can still upgrade it to 4k
    Thanks