Out of the Closet

It’s not what you think.

To tell the story, let me begin at the beginning: Christmas Day, 1984. I am 11 years old and my first and only brother has just been born. It is the last Christmas of my childhood in many ways, first of all because for this brief part of my life we are wealthy and second of all because I don’t have to share the holiday yet. The acreage under the Christmas Tree is a testament to consumerism, fat — nay, corpulent — with presents of ridiculous proportions and expense. Between the army of Transformers and Star Wars toys that amass to wage imaginary battle, I have hit pay dirt.

But, the final present is the coup de grace, a large box that has been denied me until the very end. I open it with the copper taste on greedy anticipation thick in my mouth, and I am not disappointed. It is an Apple IIC, my first desktop computer. It is a gift that goes on to define me for the next 25 years as a desktop PC gamer.

Now, a quarter of a century later, all that is about to change.

It’s not what you think.

For the past several months I have been hoarding away incrementally large sums of money for a planned upgrade. It’s been a while – like three years a while – and the time has come to give some love to my long PC gaming addiction.

But recently I was struck with an odd realization. I realized that most nights I got the kids off to bed, almost never with liquor or narcotics. My wife then settled down in front of the television to let the day wash away, while I retired to the dim confines of what passes for our office. It’s barely a room these days, more like a closet where detritus collects and holds secret meetings for equal rights under the baleful glare of unloved books and clothes that don't fit any more. And there I would drop headphones over my ears and immerse myself in nazi shooting or murloc killing until bed and sleep demanded their diurnal sacrifice.

Too often, my wife and I were passing ships in the night. A brief and mournful bleat of a horn on the distant horizon and then sequestered into our equal but separate realities. I have over the past few months grown tired of these dim surroundings. I used to think of it as a sanctuary, but now it feels more like a barrier.

So, I have decided to abandon my desktop and transfer wholly to a portable laptop.

This, I am told, is a decision that scholars of the future will not describe as wise. I am assured by people who like to assure me of things when I am wrong that I will find the tool an unwieldy beast that is not nearly as practical as one might hope, particularly if one is a gamer. I am told that it is an expensive option that marginalizes everything a really good desktop can do. I am told that I will be paying twice as much for half the benefit.

It’s not like I’m buying an Apple, people. As I begin pricing even the upper-mid range laptops, I am shocked to discover that they seem not nearly as expensive as I would have imagined. Hell, I can get a decent enough Alienware rig for $1500, which is obviously more expensive by a third than an equivalent desktop from the same proprietor, but that brings me back to the whole issue of a triumphant return to the living.

I won’t lie, it feels blasphemous to even consider dumping the old standby. I have fond memories of desktop gaming that counterpoint at least a quarter of my life, but that room will still be there should I want to escape. Even if I spend half the time sitting in the same familiar chair, drooling mindlessly to the endorphin firing stimuli of World of WarCraft, laptop plugged happily into my monitor and churning away, having at least the option of breaking free is worth something.

I do not imagine myself a future denizen of the Starbucks glitterati, drinking frapamochas or cappuspressos or whatever the hell that stuff is while writing moody blog posts and ignoring important calls on my iPhone. I’ve just been sold on the idea that maybe being a PC gamer doesn’t mean being a indigent hermit.

Maybe it’s just time to come out of the closet and admit that I’m a laptop guy?

Comments

rabbit wrote:

To me, the best part about PC gaming in the last two years has been the fact that my PC is silent, by virtue of being in another room separated by 30 feet of cables.

Why the hell didn't I think of that? I could just put it in a refrigerator next to some beer and not have to ever worry about it overheating.

Elysium wrote:
The problem with laptop gaming isn't the initial cost, which can indeed be quite reasonable when compared to buying a new pc. It's the non-upgradeability.

I'm terrible at upgrading, in that I just never do it. I built my own desktop twice now specifically to be upgradable, and each time I have not changed one piece of equipment in the entire machine for its life. I just don't want to go fiddling about the fiddly bits.

Amen. Upgrading is a lie. The best way to upgrade a computer is to buy a new one.

I tried the laptop gaming route a few years back, paying through the nose for a 17" Dell XPS system. The heating issues are real, but solvable with a lapdesk. The driver issues can be frustrating but http://www.laptopvideo2go.com/ is a great resource for keeping your video drivers up to date outside of the manufacturers ponderous upgrade schedule.

I purchased my laptop in 2005, and used it pretty much exclusively until this past year when I finally built a new desktop for about 1/4 of what I paid for the laptop. If money is no object you can get a nice gaming laptop that will last you quite a few years. Stick with 15" since 17" lappys are heavy (mine is ~12lbs.), hot, and eat batteries like there's no tomorrow. They also make it harder to mouse since most lapdesks are meant for 15" machines.

*Legion* wrote:

I highly recommend the Sager NP5797 that I got my job to buy for me as my work machine.

IMAGE(http://www.lowlaptops.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/sager-np5797.jpg)

GeForce GTX 280M GPU. Very important.

Or, if you want something smaller than 17", go with the 15" Sager NP8662, which has the GTX 260M.

I have the Sager NP8660 and am in love with it. Cheaper than an alienware and it's cousins, and very durable. Plus, it's got a kick-ass video card. I can play anything I want on it.

Bullion Cube wrote:

Does everyone really believe that current laptops will be obsolete in 2 years? It seems to me that video game makers are trying to make their games more accessible, pushing the graphical envelope less, and that system reqs have leveled off somewhat. With the desire to make games cross-platform they have to make sure the 360 and PS3 can handle whatever they're putting together.

Maybe it's wishful thinking (I plan to buy a gaming laptop when Dragon Age comes out) but I imagine a modern laptop will play any game coming out in the next 3-4 years.

Also, as the father of a 1 year old, I'm happy to bring the laptop out on the couch so I can at least have one eye on the little one as we're both playing. That's harder to do if you're stuck in your office.

Aren't X11 cards due out soon?

wordsmythe wrote:

Aren't X11 cards due out soon?

Yes, but given that DX10 support is still far from ubiquitous, I think it will be some time before DX11 capable games hit the shelves/internets.

Dysplastic wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

Aren't X11 cards due out soon?

Yes, but given that DX10 support is still far from ubiquitous, I think it will be some time before DX11 capable games hit the shelves/internets.

I think that's mostly due to MS deciding that DX10 would be Vista-exclusive (for no reason other than to sell more copies of Vista). I could see a non-exclusive DX11 coming out before DX10 is widely integrated. In fact, I'm a little surprised they didn't just make a non-exclusive version of DX10 and slap an 11 sticker on it. Those sneaky hackers proved that XP can handle it.

Bullion Cube wrote:

Does everyone really believe that current laptops will be obsolete in 2 years? It seems to me that video game makers are trying to make their games more accessible, pushing the graphical envelope less, and that system reqs have leveled off somewhat. With the desire to make games cross-platform they have to make sure the 360 and PS3 can handle whatever they're putting together.

Maybe it's wishful thinking (I plan to buy a gaming laptop when Dragon Age comes out) but I imagine a modern laptop will play any game coming out in the next 3-4 years.

Perhaps it's just me but i think a system that'll last 4 years and play all the games is unlikely to be anything but the most top-of-the-line laptop (considering their graphics cards and processors are always reduced in power) and for me, the cost of those systems is so over the top compared to the equivalent in terms of power in a desktop form-factor. By comparison you can spend the money on a good CPU for a desktop and save it by getting a moderate GPU which can then be upgraded 2-3 years down the line increasing the longevity of your PC.

I think, as with PC gaming, it's better to buy a moderate rig and take the lumps 2 years down the line rather than splurge out and only get something that'll last 3 or 3.5 years at double (or more) the money. Over here that's the difference between an £800 or £1600 laptop.

As for the new games being released.... most games these days are not optimised terrifically for PC. The majority of big-game releases are console ports which generally require more resources to run on PC.... system requirements have still not levelled off - it's only a couple of gaming companies that are doing this - and when the next generation of consoles are released (a good possibility within the next 4 years) they'll likely jump up a notch or two again.

The point, though, is to do the PC Gaming thing while in close proximity to your wife. Yeah, it makes more economical sense to buy a desktop, but that's ignoring the original problem.

As I said, I bought my gaming laptop in 2006 and I've been able to run everything from Crysis to BAA (except for the aforementioned overheating video card I have). Granted, I can't max out settings, but it still looks nice.

I note that no one mentioned dual-booting.

I game on a 2008 15" Mac Book Pro, dual-booting with XP, and do just fine. For general computing I use the OS X side, for gaming (mostly) the XP side. I love it. The best of both worlds. Whenever I'm on either of the Stan's that's what I'm using. I've played most of the latest games on it and had no problems.

As for the laptop/desktop conundrum, laptop all the way. I'm a new media artist/professor and my computer is my life. Plus it's nice to game in the same room where my wife is watching TV, albeit I don't sit on the couch.

Solution:

Gaming recliners.

Put the rig inside the back of the recliner; have a keyboard, mouse and monitor stored in the arms...

Might be pricey depending on what you want as the recliner...hmmm...let me get back to you.

It is an Apple IIC, my first desktop computer.

The first computer I owned was a Commodore 64, but I used the Apple IIC in high school in the 80s when I took a class on BASIC. So exciting!

If you want to get out of the dim, isolated office and into the den in order to spend more "quality time" with Mrs. Elysium, I would suggest doing as others have said and just buy a nice, den-worthy desk and move your desktop PC there. But if you're deadset on getting a gaming laptop, I would still suggest having a desk or table in the den so that you can easily and effectively use your mouse, unless you plan on playing WoW with the touchpad (?!) while burning your nuts off, as Certis warned.

So, I have decided to abandon my desktop and transfer wholly to a portable laptop.

As opposed to the non-portable kind? =P

bighoppa wrote:

Solution:

Gaming recliners.

Put the rig inside the back of the recliner; have a keyboard, mouse and monitor stored in the arms...

Might be pricey depending on what you want as the recliner...hmmm...let me get back to you.

Put me down for 2.

Sweet now you can ignore your wife face to face.

Been a laptop gamer for 4,5 years now. I'm on my second machine now, and while I won't be able to run Crysis with full details on my system (Core 2 Duo P8400, Geforce 9600M GT), it runs 99% of all games available just fine. At home I'm always hooking it up to a second screen (22") and am using an external keyboard (as well as a mouse, obviously), so working and playing on it pretty much as comfortable as it would be with a normal desktop PC. Except it's way more silent and consumes way less power than a desktop machine. (And yeah - if you need to keep the PC running most of the time, it does have a notable effect on your electricity bills.)

Future Maximum Verbosity post:

I melted my nads off while playing Bioshock 2.

I've recently (thanks to work) moved on to a crappy laptop. My desktop is just too old and too bloated to run anything acceptably. That's assuming I can get past the 8 minutes it takes from pushing power to being able to actually DO something. The problem is now that this baby's too underpowered to run something like Dawn of War II. Because of this, I've been considering a gaming laptop-- something that would also let me run some video editing stuff reliably.

I'll probably end up with a new desktop, though. The allure of pricing and building things is just too great to pass up.

This isn't going to go well.

Spaz wrote:

I melted my nads off while playing World of WarCraft.

Had to do it.

aandnota wrote:

I note that no one mentioned dual-booting.

And?

My sweet rig:

Toshiba NB205
PS3 DualShock controller
Panny Plasma
www.virtualnes.com

The best part is I'll never need to upgrade.

Rat Boy wrote:
Spaz wrote:

I melted my nads off while playing World of WarCraft.

Had to do it.

This assumes Master Ely is on the WoW hook long enough to run a raid long enough to sterilize his Elysiums.

Rat Boy wrote:
Spaz wrote:

I melted my nads off while playing World of WarCraft: Cataclysm.

Had to do it.

Fixed for better specificity.

MeatMan wrote:
So, I have decided to abandon my desktop and transfer wholly to a portable laptop.

As opposed to the non-portable kind? =P

Luggable?

Aren't real gaming laptops in the $4k+ range?

**cough** nevermind, after playing with the hardware options to come close to my main workstation, Alienware wants me to give them $5200. ><

If that's the case, I've never had a "real" gaming computer of any kind.

I'd be completely satisfied with the things I've seen in the $1500-$1800 range.

I use a trackball for my mouse and usually have on the chair/couch next to my legs. Better for carpal tunnel as well. It does take a little time to get used to it for precision pointing.

based on this the current mobile graphics cards despite their names are closer to the 3 year old desktop counter parts. So in terms of gaming your 3 year old desktop may not be significantly trumped by a $1500 laptop. If mobility is an important requirement then a laptop is the way to go but it seems that a little extra research is required to make sure you know what you are getting.

Perhaps you need a question list for what makes a good mobile gaming rig. I'll start:

1. Will it run Crysis?

(takes cover)

Elysium wrote:

If that's the case, I've never had a "real" gaming computer of any kind.

I'd be completely satisfied with the things I've seen in the $1500-$1800 range.

Just to be clear, I wasn't trying infer any inferiority of the lower price systems - just that the ones usually touted as "gaming" laptops come with a rather hefty pricetag.

The solution to the "mouse and overheating the coming generation" problem:

You need something like this:
http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/pr...
or this
http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/pr...
and then you use a cutting board like this http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/pr... as a mouse pad. Clamp that on the table or put it on the armrest of your couch.

I am currently catching up on old games and after realizing that I still want to spend time with my husband (gasp!) I'm also trying laptop gaming. But I have to admit that I find TV very distracting! Either I 'm really concentrating on the game, then I don't follow the TV at all and answer every comment or question about the current program with a blank stare. Or I'm transfixed on the TV and my game sits in pause for hours. I haven't really found a solution for that problem.

My sister bought a media center laptop with a Geforce 8400 GPU. It runs most games reasonably well including CoD 4 at native resolution.

I think that a 15" media center laptop does a decent job at a decent price and there will be less heartbreak 2 years down the line when it struggles with newer games.

Requirement are also plateauing as PS3/360 graphics become standardised.