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Gabe / on Mon, May 26 2014 at 10:52 am

A Tale Of Two Laptops

A while back I was asking about laptop advice and I got a lot of it. My needs are a little different because I wasn’t really looking for a portable computer in the sense that I needed a machine to haul around with me everywhere I go. The Surface Pro fills that role for me. I wanted a machine primarily for playing video games, that I could put out on my kitchen table when I wanted to play and then tuck away in a drawer when I wasn’t using it. I don’t really have a dedicated space for a desktop computer anymore even though I know I could get more bang for my buck going that route.

Like I said I got a lot of advice and recommendations. One machine that kept coming up was the Asus X750. I kept hearing that this was a great gaming machine with a 17” screen and best of all you could get it for just under a grand. I had been looking at higher end options like the RazerBlade Pro and Alienware but these are both expensive machines and so I decided to give the Asus a try. I ordered one from Amazon (looks like it is on sale right now. It’s $100 cheaper than when I got mine.)and I just did not like it. The old saying you get what you pay for is true in this case. The build quality isn’t great with a lot of bits feeling loose and cheap. The worst offender though is the screen. While it’s true that it is 17”, the max resolution is only 1600x900. In the age of beautiful retina displays this thing looks like garbage. It’s not very bright, has washed out colors and doesn’t do any of the games I ran on it justice. The model I got had a GeForce 740m in it which ran most stuff decently but still struggled significantly with Wildstar. The screen really killed it though as even if the games ran like glass I wouldn’t want to look at them on that screen.

Asus has a higher end model with a better screen and more robust insides but it’s about $2300.00 and now we’re in the same price point as the RazerBlade Pro.I thought about this model as a replacement but I was so disappointed with the build quality and screen of the budget model that I was nervous about replacing it with another Asus. In the meantime I was contacted by Razer and they offered to send me a loaner RazerBlade Pro. I quickly signed the loaner agreement and faxed it back, while they fed-Exed me the new 17” Blade Pro.

I’ll start with the good stuff:

When the Blade arrived I was immediately impressed by the way the machine felt. It’s like a black MacBook Pro in terms of its build quality. It’s slim,solid and every piece of it feels thoughtfully engineered. The screen was another “WOW” moment. It’s bright beautiful and all the games I threw at it looked fantastic. I tossed a bunch of stuff on it like World of Warcraft, Borderlands 2, Wildstar, Diablo 3, Transistor, Crysis 3 and a few others. Everything I played ran great and I found myself jacking up the settings trying to get the games to stutter. I turned everything to “ultra” in WoW and still managed 90 FPS out in Panderia. I honestly didn’t know WoW could look that good.

Wildstar was still a challenge even for the Blade. I ended up with a mixture of medium and high settings. The game ran smooth and looked fantastic but I wasn’t able to crank everything up like the other games I played. I’m not sure if this is just because it’s a beta build or if the game is just that demanding, but either way I was satisfied with the results I got. I played it for hours and the Blade felt comfortable, never getting too hot. I even used Nvidia’s ShadowPlay to stream some Wildstar and didn’t notice any performance hit at all.

I honestly didn’t see many negatives. I wasn’t really sure what to think about the Switchblade UI. This is the little touch screen and customizable buttons to the right of the keyboard. The touchscreen functions as the machine’s only touchpad which took some getting used to. Honestly I don’t like it as a touchpad. It’s sort of sticky and using it to control your mouse isn’t the best. Luckily for me, 99% of the time I’m using the Blade I have a mouse plugged in. I can imagine someone who is looking for a portable work machine not being very happy with the touchpad though. It’s other use is as an actual little screen. You can use it to display everything from a web browser to custom content for games you’re playing. I didn’t see much point to it until I was playing Hearthstone against an opponent who was taking forever with their turns. I looked down there and tapped the Gmail button. I checked my mail and even answered a few while I was waiting. Next time it was his turn I used the browser to check out Reddit. It’s not a super compelling feature in my opinion but it’s not as worthless as I originally thought. If they can continue to build more custom apps for it I can see it getting cooler.

The only other issue I had wasn’t really with the Blade itself but rather the ShadowPlay functionality of the GeForce 860M. I was really interested in using ShadowPlay to stream gameplay to my Twitch channel. The problem is that streaming from Laptops is still not 100% supported. It worked on a few of my games but most of the time it didn’t. Wildstar streamed just fine but Hearthstone didn’t. I’m hoping this is something Nvidia can fix in the future. I will say that when it worked it was ridiculously easy to set up and seemed to have zero effect on my game’s performance.

So I ended up checking out two different laptops on completely different ends of the price spectrum. Honestly if you don’t want to spend more than 1k I can see the Asus as a decent option. It ran most of my games well even if they didn’t look so hot on the monitor. On the other hand the RazerBlade Pro is a kick ass machine. It’s incredibly well built but It’s also pretty damn expensive. All I can really tell you is that if you are willing to drop that kind of cash on a laptop, I don’t think you’ll have any regrets after getting your hands on the RazerBlade Pro.

I hope all that was useful to someone out there. I’m not a professional reviewer but I do like sharing my thoughts on this stuff with you all. 

-Gabe out

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