When I was a kid, I really dug into every PC spec I could. I spent hours building the darn things, and from x486 until about 5 years ago, I would help other people build theirs. It was ridiculous the amount of info required to make that work, especially in the pre-internet days. But then again, most people had a sound card and not a video card – and here we are with the ability to link multiple cards together, and have a hard drive the size of a business card.
Technically, the foundations of PC builds are relatively the same. It’s the extra flavor bits that make it interesting. The video above is both fascinating (200fps is bonkers), and worrying in that the amount of POST/OC config options take an engineering degree. (Side note, the RTX2080ti used in the video goes for about $1200US. There are 2 in this box.)
I’ve mentioned the debate on PC vs laptop a few times now. Laptop just seems the most practical way forward for my particular situation.
Honestly, 95% of this drive is because of the technical issues with Anthem. Sure my rig isn’t brand new, but it was top of the line 3 years ago. I’ve played most anything on ultra/high without problem. Yet Anthem makes CPU/GPUs melt, leverages Denuvo (I think) which makes HDD melt, and pretty much makes any non PC-enthusiast rig look like garbage. Let’s just say that the bar to entry to enjoy Anthem is at the highest I have ever seen. Day 1 patch is trying to lower that bar, otherwise I don’t see how consoles could ever make this work. Reddit seems to think that the patch did address this. Maybe not perfect, but the 90s load times from the beta seem closer to 30s.
Anyways, back to specs. As much as there are advances in the desktop space (PCIe NVMe bridges!) laptops are not that far ahead. The good news is that it’s a simpler affair, with only a few places where it will muck up. Let’s go over the basics.
CPU – i7 Gen 8 – 8750H
There’s very little reason to go i9 on a laptop, as you’re going to end up with a tank of a machine, for minimal value.
RAM – 16GB, DDR4
Most games will take 8GB, so having double and room to expand again is important.
Storage – 256GB SSD boot, 512GB+ NVMe M.2 PCIe
This is really interesting! SSD for boot, I think it a given. Sizes are all over the place, and experience says 128GB is going going to be running near 80% capacity. Active drive is more fun. Traditionally laptops come with a 7200rpm HDD as the 2nd drive, and maybe a 2nd drive for NVMe. The important part here is to note that not all M.2 drives are the same – there are SATA and PCIe variants, with the latter being much faster. GEEK ALERT – SATA3 = 0.5GB/s, while PCIe = up to 15GB/s.
GPU – GTX 1070
While RTX are available, the gains are minimal and only 1-2 games actually support ray-tracing. The question then becomes which one in the GTX10 field. 1050s are too old. 1060s will give 1080p, which in practical terms is going to give you ~60FPS. 1070s will not reach 4K, but they will get you to the 120FPS mark. 1080s are 4K ready and real beasts. Also cost an arm and a leg, and can cook an egg. There are sub variants of GPUs as well here, like a MaxQ. Just don’t.
Display- 17″ with 120Hz refresh rate
17″ screens are found in really small form factors. They also allow for a larger battery. 15″ I find I am squinting for details. The refresh rate is tied to the FPS. Well, not technically but they are close enough that you can map. 60fps = 60Hz. If you can get more than 60fps, then get a better display. Unless you are loaded with money, a 4K laptop is out of the picture.
Networking – Killer
Not much debate to be had here.
Ports – 2x USB 3 + USB-C/Thunderbolt
Need at least 1 port for a cooling pad (with fans) that also acts as a USB hub. Maybe could get by without. 1 port for the mouse. You need powered USB ports! Rest usually works itself out. The USB-C/Thunderbolt port is gravy – massive transfer speeds and is the best way to get a docking station / external monitor to work. This is the hardest bit to find in a laptop, you need to know the exact model you’re looking for.
Ergo/Placement/Battery – Personal
I want a trackpad on the bottom. 17″ laptops should come with a numpad. Speakers should be on the top of the keyboard tray. Cooling is out the back/bottom. Thin is ok, but a “standard” size is fine too. I’m done with the giant 10lbs bricks. Battery life should be at least 4 hours for non-gaming.
I’ll be honest, it took nearly a month to get that shopping list complete, with daily research bits. Finding the exact machine that has all these parts in it… I won’t lie, that is a friggin’ challenge. Right now it looks like a GE73 Raider. Maybe a STRIX/Zephyrus. The Alienware boxes are just too expensive.
Time to set a product watch and wait for a decent deal