Best Budget Haswell PC Gaming Laptops 2014
Haswell's Here, It's Time to Upgrade
We all know that if making your own gaming laptop was easy, then we'd just do that. Think of the customization and freedom that that would give us. It would allow us to build them in much the same way as gaming computers. Unfortunately customization for laptops is not simple and very prone to errors when it comes to compatibility and installation. So, while I always build my own gaming pc, I focus heavily on performance, value, and customization when searching for a pre-built gaming laptop.
This post I'll focus on Haswell laptops which seem like a worthy upgrade if you're looking for performance and better battery life.
What Processor Should You Choose?
Haswell Vs. the Previous Ivy Bridge Laptops
With Intel's recent release of Haswell in May of 2013 should you worry about having a 4th generation Intel processor is a 3rd or 2nd generation "i" series processor ok?
The answer to this may have to do more with battery life than anything else. An i5 or better processor for any of these generations is certainly good enough to run today's latest games without CPU bottlenecking. Haswell does have better integrated graphics, but for a gaming laptop that's not much of a concern.
It Comes Down to Battery Life:
That being said Haswell is said to give you substantially more battery life at the tune of 2 to 3 hours.
If you end up going with a 4th generation processor, then be prepared to spend a little more to get an equal or better graphics card. Sometimes deals arise with older generation laptops that have high performance graphics cards on the cheap.
So, if you game with your laptop plugged in most of the time, then you may find better value in a laptop that's last year's model. Otherwise, go with the new Intel Haswell processors.
Best Mobile Graphics Card for Gaming in 2014?
GeForce GTX 700M Line Details
657MHz + Boost
850MHz + Boost
811 MHz + Boost
823 MHz + Boost
Up to 2GB GDDR5
Up To 2 GB GDDR5
Up to 3GB GDDR5
Up to 4GB GDDR5
Memory Bus Width
GK 104 or GK 106
GK 104 or GK 106
It's no secret that with each generation of graphics card you get better performance. NVIDIA's new GTX 700 series follows that trend and is featured in many of the newer Haswell gaming laptops. A GTX 760 will give you 660 TI-like performance so when comparing across GPU generations, be sure to keep real world benchmarks in mind.
In addition, I've added some key charts and performance comparisons in the charts below. View the thumbnail to see full-sized versions of each picture. That being said the "game" performance charts can be a bit misleading as NVIDIA appears to have changed the in-game settings.
Final Thoughts Before Haswell Laptop Comparison:
With better battery life and laptops that most likely include a newer generation of graphics card, more-than-likely you'll be better off with a 4th generation Haswell laptop. I'll feature a few of my favorites that you should compare below.
CPU: i7-4700MQ GPU: NVIDIA Geforce GTX765M Hard Drive: 750 GB SATA 7200 RPM Ram: 12 GB DDR3
Best Budget Haswell PC Gaming Laptops Under $1,500
As you can see in the charts above the difference between a GTX 760M and 765M is minimal. That being said there's about a 25% increase to the 770M and another 33% from there to the 780. This is, perhaps, a better indicator than the other charts given, simply because as I mentioned before settings have been changed for each GPU to reflect FPS.
Below I've listed 11 new Haswell gaming laptops from manufacturers Toshiba, MSI, Alienware, and Asus. For each I've shown specifications including their processor, graphics card, hard drive, and ram. While this certainly doesn't show all the intangibles you may get from each of these laptops, it's an easy way to compare pure performance by looking at hardware.
CPU: Intel i7 4700HQ GPU: Nvidia GTX765M Hard Drive: 1024 GB 5400 rpm Ram: 12 GB DDR3
Intel i7 4700MQ Vs. Intel i7 4700HQ
You'll see that some of the laptops below use the HQ processor rather than the MQ. When comparing these two on Intel's site they appear to be exactly the same except for the max graphics frequency being listed as 1.2 GHz for the HQ and 1.15 GHz for the MQ. For a gaming laptop, these two processors should be treated exactly the same.
CPU: Intel i7 4700MQ GPU: GTX 770M Hard Drive: 1000 GB SATA 7200RPM (Dual 500GB) Ram: 16 GB DIMM
My Haswell Gaming Laptops Review on YouTube
$1500 Budget Gaming Laptop Comparison
As you can see the race is pretty even this year. It seems like in year's past there was additional disparity between each of these competitors; however, other than Alienware, specifications seem to be much the same. For pure value the MSI G Series GT70 2 seems to be a winner while it may be worth it to step up to the Qosmio X75 for the additional ram.
Of those shown below I actually like the Asus design the best. So, if you're willing to sacrifice a little in graphical performance for the ROG feel and style, then it's a good option as well.
Best Budget Gaming Laptops Under $2,000
In the under or around $2,000 category manufacturers seem to have carried the same competitive pricing tend. As you step up from each price point you seem to gain something. The MSI, Toshiba, and Asus laptops all have Solid state drives at this point, while the MSI GT60 jumps up to the GTX 780M at the $2,000 price point.
Overall it's a pretty competitive race that may come down to laptop design, functionality, and personal preference.
Does Alienware Quality Merit the Price Hike?
When I was doing research for this article the Alienware laptops truly shocked me. While I understand you're purchasing a quality product with Alienware, as far as components you're getting a little bit better for a lot more money.
CPU: Intel Core i7-4700HQ GPU: Nvidia GTX770M 3G Hard Drive: 1024 GB Ram: 16 GB DDR3 256GB SSD
$2400 Alienware ALW18 Budget Gaming Laptop Vs. the MSI GT70 $1300:
Looking at the $2400 Alienware laptop you get an i7-4600QM processor, Dual GTX 770M, 750GB Hard drive, and 8GB Ram.
Compared to the MSI GT70 at $1400:
The GT70 gives you a i7-4700, a single GTX 770M, 1024GB hard drive, and 8 GB of ram for $1350. As you can see the specifications are, for the most part, exactly the same except the additional graphics card. Is it really worth $1,000 for an additional GTX 770M?
Compared to the Razer Blade Pro:
Another pricey laptop is the Razer Blade Pro. I get what Razer was trying to do here by introducing a gaming laptop that's thin and easy to take with you; however, I'm still left wondering if gamers worried about performance would go for a model that costs twice as much, but gives you less graphical performance.
Has Alienware priced itself out of the market in 2013?
What do you think?
As I mentioned previously I think you're better off going with the newer technology in Haswell and the GTX 700 series line if you're buying a new gaming laptop in 2014. Alienware laptops perform well, but seem a bit pricey, while MSI and Asus gaming laptops continue to hold their appeal. What do you think? Let me know in the open discussion area below.
Also, if you've enjoyed this post, then take a look at the my profile as well as the posts below for more PC gaming tips and information.
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© 2013 Brandon Hart