Modern integrated graphics solutions are much more capable than in the past, but still share memory with the rest of the computer system. While that's fine for most everyday computing tasks, intensive gaming and high-end graphics work demand something a little more powerful. To fill that need, gaming-oriented laptops almost always sport a dedicated high-end video card that includes a powerful graphics processing unit (GPU) and RAM that's dedicated to the display, which enables rapid on-screen motion to look natural. Drawbacks common to gaming notebooks are their heft and bulk, as well as their tendency for very short battery life.
Dell consistently earns positive reviews for its Alienware gaming laptops, and the latest reincarnations of the Alienware M17x (*Est. $1,500 and up) remain the overall favorite. Reviewers give the 17.3-inch laptop near-perfect ratings and say it will impress even the most hard-core gamers thanks to its powerful internals, comfortable keyboard and touchpad, vibrant audiovisuals, and abundant ports and upgrade options.
One downside is that the M17x is rather bulky to tote around. If you're looking for something a bit more portable, experts say the 6.5-pound Alienware M14x (*Est. $1,000 and up) -- informally called Revision 2, or just R2 -- is the best lightweight gaming notebook available. The inclusion of Nvidia's Optimus graphics switching technology helps it last far longer on a charge than most gaming laptops. However, its smaller size introduces thermal issues that limit the M14x's upgrade options compared to its line-mates. Even so, NotebookReview.com says the M14x has "'good enough performance' for most serious gamers while on the road," a comment echoed by others.
The innovative and elegant Razer Blade (*Est. $2,500 and up) charges an even bigger price-to-performance premium and can't be configured as powerfully as the Alienware M17x, but offers a uniquely slim and portable design at 0.88 inch thick and 6.6 pounds. The multi-touch LCD touchpad serves as a secondary screen, complete with multiple apps; 10 dynamic tactile LCD keys sit above it, offering customizable functionality and light-up icons.