Switching over to Laptop

TLDR: Looking for a $2k or less laptop that gets me in business for gaming and BoXing and MSFSing and DCSing; massive 10 lbs ‘desktop replacements’, need not apply. And yes I know Desktops are more cost efficient, but I now need portability more than economy. Looking like the Nvidia 3070 GPU is the sweet spot, especially when being payloaded by an Asus ROG Zephyrus G15:

https://www.bestbuy.com/site/asus-rog-zephyrus-15-6-qhd-gaming-laptop-amd-ryzen-9-16gb-memory-nvidia-geforce-rtx-3070-1tb-ssd-eclipse-grey-eclipse-grey/6448848.p?skuId=6448848

Open to other ideas though, as I’m ignorant of how good/bad that modern AMD CPU is. The general “Gaming” community says “good”, but simming isn’t quite ‘gaming’ when it comes to modern PC hardware…

Long version:
Back in college I had a Dell XPS 17” laptop with a hot rodded Celeron cpu kicking out two point somthing Ghz out of it’s single (lol) core, a voluminous 512MB of RAM, and the latest mobile 5 series GPU (we’ve wound all the way back around the GPU naming convention since then…). It also featured a surprisingly ahead of the time 1920x1200 screen; (what would be a high water mark until almost a decade later when 1440P screens started to become common place.)

It was a great machine, but a bad idea: at about 11 lbs, it was a “lap” top ironically took up more room on a desk than a KB/Mouse, and flat panel monitor would (flat panels then being a luxury, mind you).

Lets fast forward 15 years. I’ve since converted to the church of latter day desktops, and discovered the joys (and cost efficiency) of building ones own machine. And the nights and weekends spent specing components, building a machine, tuning it, upgrading, etc were fun! …Until I had a kid. Now, I’m thankful just to grab a few hours a weekend to play, as I’m otherwise chasing a toddler around. My in-laws also just bought a lake house and my parents have a very nice in-ground pool, so as my wife said idly one day “you know, we’ll probably not spend a single weekend at home next summer once the lake house is fixed up!”

Now. Mind you. I love my family. And it’s not lost on me my how fortunate I am to have both sets of my daughters grandparents living nearby, and that both have very nice places for us to spend our time.

But this also means more time away from by PC, which is deeply entrenched in my flight sim setup on my desk. I don’t even know what half the USB cables behind it connect to anymore, and frankly I’m scared to find out.

I’ve also been thinking it would be nice to prop up my LT on a table in the family room when, say, my daughter is watching a movie, so I can just be closer to my family.

Those needs collide with modern gaming laptops being (potentially) far sleeker and more manageable than my old school one.

Finally, our aging levovo convertible tablet is about to die, so wife needs a new machine to do occasional work on, as well as attend school board Zoom meetings on. She’s scared of the Obutto and the desktop and the 4K monitor, but the laptop seems more manageable. (I have a Macbook Pro work assigned me, so I’m set on the professional side). Said gaming laptop will also be pressed into service as a photo editing platform when traveling, but I figure that’s going to be covered by being a gaming grade machine anyway.

All of this is a very long winded way of saying “I know desktops are cheaper. Shut up and lets talk laptops.”

As noted in the TLDR, budget is $2k or less. Looking for:
-Ability to play the occasional tripple A console style title (eg. Red Dead 2, SW Squadrons, Mechwarrior, etc), but mainly sims like MSFS, DCS, and BoX, and be ready for Microposes new crop of strategy games (which don’t look too terribly needy). Civ 5, Xcom 2, and KSP are also on the docket
-3070 GPU (anything less seems to lack some future proofing, anything more seems like it’s past the point of diminishing pixel pumping returns);open to counter opinions tho
-16GB of ram or more (fine with 16; tends to be upgradable on most machines)
-1TB SSD. Possibly willing to drop down to 512 gb for a deal, but then would want the machine to have a second slot for an additional drive.
-~15”, 1440P screen. Don’t really want more size in pixels or screen real-esate. 4k seems a tad wasteful on a 15” screen, and 17” screens are getting past portability.
-VR support (specifically for WMR headsets).
-Trying to keep it around 5lbs or less; generally not looking for “desktop replacement” sized machines.

Right now the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 equipped with a 3070 seems the sweet spot; but open to ideas.

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I got an upgraded MSI GP75 Leopard about a year and a half ago for just over $2300.

17.3" MSI GP75, I7-10750, 32gb 32000 DDR4, RTX 2070, an NVME 2TB (system drive) and 2TB SSD

Even with the 2070 in it, it will run DCS between 80-100 FPS depending on how I have the fans set (silent mode does cause some thermal throttling).

So depending on the current vagaries of graphics card prices and general chip prices, I think you can come in around your price point and be very happy.

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I think that @BeachAV8R and @smokinhole may have experience in this space, but my biggest concern will be if the 3070 GPU can support VR and if you can upgrade the memory, because 32GB seems to be the minimum for gaming these days. All else looks good.

As far as the family concerns. It gets better. With 3 girls of 8, 8, and 10, they know and respect my dad cave. I let them fly in VR occasionally and they love it. Sim on.

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Thanks guys!

Ram seems to be the tricky part; most laptops pared with the 3070 seem to fall to 16GB of RAM. On many laptops (especially gaming ones), that’s generally easier to upgrade, but on the ASUS linked in my first post, oddly, one of the sticks are soldered. From reading around, it sounds like 24 gigs is the max one can upgrade to with the non-soldered slot.

My current rig is running 16 gigs and has been doing OK though. It’s got an aging but effective i5 (2500k IIRC, circa 2013) with a mild OC into the mid 4 GHZ range, and a 1070. It can handle mid-settings BoX in VR, and DCS in VR with settings pulled back a bit.

@chipwich I don’t know if I’d say 32GB is the minimum yet. Gaming laptops being labeled as “entry” (and credited by professional reviewers as such) are only running 8gigs

@jenrick What resolution is the monitor on your LT? Thats the other issue; it seems lots of LTs cut cost by using 1080P screens, vs QHD.

I’ll see what other models are out there with more affordable upgrade paths to RAM down the line.

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Looking like I’ll need to grow my budget; tough to find QHD laptops (most are just FHD), much less ones with 3070s AND 32GB of ram. Most 32GB QHD machines ship with 3080s. Reviews make it seem like the 3080 in laptops is a pass; too much throttling from thermal/Wattage overheads. In some cases it’s getting lower frames than 3070s.

Alienware allows a build, but it’s a budget buster, and looks to sacrifice portability.
https://www.dell.com/en-us/shop/dell-laptops/alienware-m15-ryzen-edition-r5-gaming-laptop/spd/alienware-m15-r5-laptop/wnm15ryzr5eqdts?configurationid=896fe474-ceb6-43c8-9ccf-b012f61d3afc

That does come back to ASUS ROG Zeph 15, but it’s got tis odd semi upgradeable RAM. One 8GB stick is soldered to the board, with another being upgradeable. A common config is 24GB with a 16 GB stick slotted in, and the internet tells me that yields 16GB of dual channel with 8GB of single channel remaining and used in a “Flex mode”.

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I’m watching with interest. I’ve spent my budget for a while but in due course I’d like to upgrade my non-gaming laptop to something like what you’re aiming for here. Keep us posted.

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It’s a 1080, but I have no complaints. It’s a laptop, not a 36’ pano monitor, there’s a point where cramming extra pixels into the same image is diminishing returns at a massive cost.

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I’d give a good look at the new Razer Blade 14 with the 3070. I have had a razer 14 before (1060) and really liked it. This one is getting great reviews.

Laptops with gaming power will get noisy, that is a fact of life, and basically, for me, the worst part of going mobile.

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Was just looking at that today! Only issue is its 16gigs of ram and NOT upgradable post purchase (soldered ram) :frowning:

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Everything I’ve read about laptops with 3k series GPUs lately says they run HOT.

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Yeah, I figured that would be the case. Reviews I’ve read seem to show the performance gains are real though, especially vs. 1 series cards.

Anyone hear anything about HPs “Omen” line of laptops? Seems they’re going after Dell/Ailenware.

Built something comparabe spec for spec to the Ailenware above:
https://www.hp.com/us-en/shop/ConfigureView?langId=-1&storeId=10151&catalogId=10051&catEntryId=3074457345619921819&urlLangId=&quantity=1&jumpid=ma_omen-gaming_product-tile_laptops_4_28n35av-1_omen-laptop---15t-ek

Bummer is it wouldn’t ship till mid Sept :frowning:

I know this isn’t a laptop but I just randomly watched an Alienware prebuilt video at GN and that was a shocker:

I’d be a bit wary of that brand…

Me too, but how about the controllers? Will you guys just move around all the controllers with the laptop?

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Plan is to ‘dock’ the laptop into a flight sim setup with the big monitor and HOTAS/Yoke/Quad/Pedals, but then play other games when remote. For some light simming might use an xbox 360 controller, or even have an adapter to use my RC radio with a PC.

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Pontifications: I’m still leaning toward the Asus ROG; just seems to be the darling of the gaming laptop reviewing world. Lots of happy people on the dedicated sub-redit for this laptop. Also like that Bestbuy makes a convenient place to take for service if needed.

Also, doing some quick research, it seems single vs dual channel RAM doesn’t yield night/day differences in gaming?Figure single channel RAM is still way faster than SSD based storage (ie pagefile overflow). I don’t know; any thoughts on this?

More I’ve researched, DCS is the real hitch in the build, as it’s so RAM hungry. One reviewer of the Asus ROG Zeph even said “and obviously no game these days really needs 16 gigs of ram, so you’re more than covered”. That does explain why so many main stream systems keep the ram footprint at 16GB.

Found this thread over at the ED forums:

And posted a bump inquiring as to how things worked out for the poster in the end.

https://www.sagernotebook.com/home.php

One of the companies that actually make laptops for the companies that stamp their names on them.

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Just got back from Bestbuy.

I am…annoyed. A few observations:
-the Asus G15 Zeph is indeed ‘the’ laptop. RAM be damned, I like it. I like how it looks, how it feels in the hand, it’s overall size, and surprisingly, it’s trackpad. It reminds me in a lot of goodways of my Macbook Pro. Impressive for $1800.

-Problem is, the display model is apparently the last one on earth; Bestbuy is now sold out. Not sure when they’re coming back, and their product page isn’t very helpful.

-I was also idly considering it’s little brother, the G14. It has the same SDD, RAM, and (critically) CPU as the G15, albeit in a 14" chassis. It’s also $400 cheaper. I was concerned about going to 1080 on the screen and stepping down to a 3060 though. Ultimately for $400 less, I’d live with those compromises in a laptop that is otherwise the G15 but smaller. The hang up I didn’t see coming till I was 'test driving: the trackpad is notably smaller, and in the few minutes I was using the machine, I was already at “this is annoying” levels of disinterest. A shame, as BB literally had some in stock to walk out with. You might be thinking “ok, but just use an external mouse”, and sure, that’s the plan for some titles. But the track pad on the G15 is so good I could easily chill with some Xcom or civ 5 with it. Why bother having to bust out another mouse all the time?

-MSI doesn’t exist anymore. Apparently. None of their (good) laptops seem to be available anywhere. Next!

-Sadly, no Razer display. Bestbuy rep told me they stopped paying for the retail space (a foolish move when you’re positioning yourself as a premium brand). At this stage I could consider ponying up for a Razer 14, but for that much I’d need to get hands on before pulling the trigger. I might venture out father to see if the Microsoft store an hour away has some on display.

-HP Omen was comparatively bulky and too plastic-fantastic for me. Lack of online reviews benchmarking how it handles a 3070 are also reason for pause.

-Alienware X15 was also on display. Not a version I’d spec/buy, but enough to get a feel for the all-important chassis. I was impressed. It looks much bigger/bulkier in pictures, and is surprisingly lightweight. I could see going this way if the G15 stays out of stock for a while. Concerned at the intel CPU line though; apparently for LTs AMD is winning this round?

So at this stage I’ve discovered based on my needs and wants, it’s either wait for the G15, or pull the trigger a more premium offering that ups the budget. Hmm.

Welp, I’m typing this from my new Razer 14!

Ryzen 9 5900, 3070, 16G Ram, 1TB HD, and QHD screen. DCS and a slew of games are downloading as we speak. other than some heat and low fan noise, you’d not know it’s dutifully downloading/unpacking/installing games in the background. I’m impressed! It’s completely silent for general web browsing/emailing/ streaming.

Several factors lead to this choice:
-The razer is generally celebrated by reviewers, and praised for being essentially the most powerful 14" laptop you can get right now.

-It offers portability not found in the 15" class; it indeed reminds me of my mackbook pro. a tad hefty, but compact and sleek, and very solid feeling.It feels like serious, premium hardware.

-I do NOT agree with reviewers that state “you can get these components in laptops costing hundreds less”. Not in stock, you can’t, at least as of this writing. Plus all the stats listed above are rare even if laptops were in stock. Ultimatly when you account for ebay/amazon reseller scalper inflated prices, biying the razer off the shelf isn’t really a price premium. And it has a sleek, one piece AU chassis to boot. It basically looks like my macbooks evil cousin.

-The UDH screen (most machines are still FHD) is better for photo editing, giving the machine more longevity as a traveling photo edit rig; useful as wife and I like to go scubadiving for vacations and underwater photography is part of that. The units slim 14" packaging gives it some 'future proofing" here that a 15" would be less likely too; It’s really not any larger/thicker than an ultrabook.

-While the ram is not upgradeable, and even more painfully it lacks a slot for a second HDD, I can ultimately look past that. This will serve as my ‘front line’ gaming/simmin machine for a few years, but then retire back to supporting ‘the rear line’; acting as a portable gaming machine for non flight simming (of which these specs should keep it in the fight for a good 3-5 years) and more as a casual gaming rig. As a simming rig, I plan to get a high speed external hard drive and “hot swap” in the larger titles (eg. trade the guts of the DCS folder for the guts of the MSFS folder) for now. in a few years I’ll overhall my desktop anyway, so for simming this is an interim solution.

-It will pull double duty for my wifes work on her schools teachers union, where she’s by charter not allowed to use her school issued laptop and chrome book. This machine seems powerful enough to handle that work a decade from now.

Of course, I’ve not run any games on it yet (DCS was the first, only by technicality; I needed to run it to get to the modules!), but from what I’ve read and seen, I’m not worried. More feedback as I dive deeper into this machine.

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