Gaming Outside the Box . . .

In yesterday’s article, I made the comment that “God didn’t mean notebooks to be mobile gaming machines.”

Why did I say that?

I’ve been looking into new notebooks a lot lately, and it’s pretty obvious that a big chunk of the more vocal would-be buyers are primarily interested in the gaming capabilities of notebooks.

Unfortunately for them, it’s just as obvious that notebooks can’t supply anywhere near a desktop gaming experience.

Top-of-the-line video cards are chewing up 200 watts or more these days. No matter what they do with process shrinks, it’s pretty safe to assume that power use will remain well north of 100 watts for the foreseeable future.

I’m sorry, but you just can’t stick a 200 watt video system into something that:

1) at very best has batteries which only provide a bit more than 100 watt/hr. and, more importantly

2) is encased in a very tight cramped structure that can maybe dissipate 75 watts of power without getting too hot.

For these two reasons, any notebook is going to have rather compromised video performance compared to desktop systems. All you will, all you can end up with is a relatively lousy gaming box which ends up being a lousy notebook too (simply because the beefed-up video system chews up a good deal more power than integrated even when relatively idle, killing your battery life for regular computing activities).

(Yes, AMD does plan to come out with dual video notebook mobos in a few months that will switch between low- and high-end video systems. That ought to take care of the battery drain when doing regular computer stuff, but it doesn’t help the gaming situation.)

Is there a solution? The only way to provide high-end graphics to a notebook for at least the next few years is to literally think outside the box, the notebook box. Concede that nobody is going to do extreme gaming outside of the vicinity of a plug, and create a separate external PCI-E video box with its own cooling and PS to hook into the notebook when it’s clobbering time.

Is it a pretty solution? No. A video box would be a second box that would probably be almost as weighty as today’s typical notebook.

This will no doubt drive those who want pretty boxes to despair, but if you want world-class gaming from a notebook, as Margaret Thatcher once put it, there is no alternative.

Does this option even exist yet? Not quite, but somebody’s working on it:

Their current product is not the answer. It essentially gives you just an external PCI-E 1X slot, and is limited to devices that chew up 55 watts of power. The price tag is pretty astronomical for what little it does.

But they do plan on doing better than that later this year, and they invite gamers on their webpage to join their interest list.

No doubt the follow-up model will be as expensive or more than model one, but at a time when you have 12-20 pound gaming notebooks costing more than a few thousand dollars which still aren’t terribly good for pumping out the frames, this might prove to be a relative bargain (provided it’s any good, of course; seems like the OEMs really need to design an external PCI-E 8X or 16X slot for this to work flawlessly).

If this is the sort of thing you might want to have, well, now you know where to go.


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