Gaming laptops are rarely a good investment; unlike a custom desktop, manufacturers design the hardware to work only with that particular model, or a one of a similar series. While a console has a limited use cycle before full replacement just as a laptop, those often cost less than a quarter of the price of a full gaming rig. On the other hand, consoles and desktop rigs are not self-contained, and you will need at the very least an external monitor or TV and controllers of some sort to be able to do anything. Moreover, neither a desktop or console will run on batteries. For the person travelling, deployed, or with limited space, a laptop capable of playing the latest games while doubling as an everyday rig is the better option desirable, but it is the cost that is a concern.
The MSI GX70 Destroyer is one item that you should consider. With enough screen size, storage space, and graphics power to handle everything you want to throw at it. I recently took one of these for a spin, and I have to say that I am impressed.
The first thing you notice about the GX70 is the size. Featuring a 17.3-inch diagonal widescreen monitor, the GX70 is huge and weighs in at at 8.6 pounds; you do not want to drop this thing on your foot. At its thickest, the base of the GX70 is 2.17 inches.
Overall, the monitor has a max resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and the insides carry the AMD A10 Series 2.5 Ghz quad core APU with 12 GB of DDR3 1600 RAM. The APU allows the laptop to switch between its on board graphics and the dedicated AMD Radeon R9 290X 2 GB GPU. Storage should not be a problem with twin 500 GB hard drives in a RAID 0 array. The BD Combo drive allows for burning of DVDs and CDs and the integrated card reader supports SD (XC/HC) cards of any size.
Other features include a Killer Gaming NIC for Ethernet and a Realtek Wireless NIC, twin speakers and subwoofer with Creative Sound Blaster Cinema, a VGA and HDMI port for external monitors, Bluetooth 4 connectivity, twin USB 2 ports, three USB 3 ports, an integrated 720p Webcam, microphone, and the usual inputs for external microphones and speakers. The backlit keyboard I mentioned is by SteelSeries, and features configurable lighting schemes with various colors to suit your preference.
There are other features I could mention, like the Windows 8.1 64 bit OS, or the cooling which allows you to select a higher fan speed during intense use, and many more, but unfortunately space is a consideration so feel free to head on over to the product page for greater details.
Well, it is a laptop. You turn it on and it either works or you RMA it.
I am not a fan of Windows 8, but it is the standard now so I have to get used to it. There were a few updates required out of the box, as there would be with any PC, but overall it is pretty idiot proof. You have to watch out with removing bloatware on this one however, as one program is necessary for you to use the backlit keyboard with any customization. One annoying product registration reminder isa bit hard to remove, and the program does not uninstall even after you register, so grab your favorite all in one cleaner to remove it and go to town. For my personal preference, I use CCleaner.
I am a big fan of performance, but not of the tendency to design performance rigs so that they look gaudy. None of the MSI Gaming Series notebooks will be neon yellow, or glow in the dark. The GX70 has a simple shield logo and the company name on its brushed black aluminum lid. The default keyboard setting is that of a wave pattern or colors ranging from red to blue, but you can change that or turn it off completely. I opt for a single color solid pattern, but the other styles look equally nice and I like being able to change it when I desire.
The GX70, and really all of the G Series by MSI would fit equally well in a LAN party or a professional demonstraton. A few folks may comment on the size, but hell it is meant to be big.
I put the GX70 through its paces as both a business class rig and a gaming platform; it performed remarkably well for both. The GPU is capable of handling the current generation of games, and will probably hold its own for a few years. (Side note: If you do buy a laptop for gaming, max out the graphics and processor as much as possible. These components will be the most difficult and expensive should you try to do a manual hardware swap; the money will be well spent).
My previous gaming laptop, also a MSI G Series but on the Intel/Nvidia platform) had a battery life of only about 2 hours. The GX70 lasts over twice as long when you use the configurable graphics option in Catalyst to use the APU over the GPU, so for common tasks you will have plenty of power.
Overall, the GX70 does everything you need it to do, and excels in many categories. The monitor is not touchscreen, so Windows 8 loses some of its appeal but I really do not like having to clean fingerprints off my gear every five hours, anyway. There are a few ways to leverage webcams to track movement and emulate touchscreen functionality, but that is beyond this article. When you are playing games, make sure you select options that do not call for touchscreen compatibility; some games will default to it otherwise.
While the lid of the GX70 is of a high quality, metallic and heavy plastic construction, the body (particularly the underside) feels less sturdy. Since this laptop is designed for gaming, heat is a concern, and there are many slotted vents and screens on the underside. These areas are particularly vulnerable to dirt, small debris or even breaking if you apply too much pressure. Similarly, other areas will bow slightly when you press on them so you need to be mindful. That being said, if it were constructed of sturdier material, a significant increase of weight would be the result. Besides, if you care for your gear you will likely not be place significant weight or pressure on it to begin with.
Prepare for sticker shock…
Most gaming laptops easily sell for $2000 or even up to $4000 in some cases. The GX70 starts around $1300, which places it on level with most gaming desktop rigs. Some outlets are not stocking the GX70 right now, but you can find it certain custom shops like Xotic PC, where you can customize it to your liking beyond what the shelf models will offer anywhere else.
The price savings comes from the AMD hardware, other G series offer Intel/Nvidia platforms, but the prices increase significantly. An alternate model is the GX60, which has nearly identical specs but with a 15.6 diagonal widescreen monitor and can cost $200 less.
The big consideration here is going to be product longevity. At some point, your laptop (any gaming platform, really) is going to be too old to run the current generation of software and games. For a desktop, it is a simple matter of opening your case, and begin the never-ending process of piecemeal hardware upgrades. For a console, you take the old one and trade it in for 15 bucks off the current generation. For a laptop, you can do some hardware upgrades but eventually you will reach a point where upgrading the motherboard is your only option, and those will cost nearly as much as a new laptop. GPU upgrades on a laptop are tricky, but possibly and sometimes require a little creative modding.
I will not tell you that a gaming laptop is a smart, or necessary purchase. You always have other alternatives out there, and it is simply a matter of which suits you the best. For the balance of a professional appearance and excellent gaming performance at a cost drastically less than you would pay for other models, the GX70 Destroyer is the one to beat.