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Best Laptop for Game Development


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#1 Czar05   Members   -  Reputation: 995

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 03:16 PM

I am currently in the market for a laptop and I am looking for some help.

 

What laptop should I be looking at for game programming?   If you can't recommend a specific model, what component should I be looking at CPU, GPU, RAM, or storage.

 

I plan to get into 3D programming very shortly and I want to start messing around with OpenGl, DirectX, and Unity. I currently use SFML, and plan to incorporate OpenGl with it.

 

Should I stay away from Windows 8 laptops, I heard they are not development friendly but I want to know what you think.

 

I know game development is better suited on a desktop computer, but I want something on the go to increase productivity. In terms of price I  would prefer something under $500, but I understand if that can be a problem.

 

 

 

* Feel free to move this to the appropriate section.*


Edited by Czar05, 06 January 2014 - 04:28 PM.


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#2 richardurich   Members   -  Reputation: 1187

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 04:38 PM

GPU will definitely be the most important consideration, although I'm not sure less than $500 is realistic for a development laptop. Usually you spend extra on development computers so you can save time. Getting a cheaper development machine means you'll need to run release builds instead of debug builds far more often, and that's harder for debugging. You'll also have to optimize earlier and more often, which will probably lead to development effort that later gets thrown away anyways.



#3 ericrrichards22   Members   -  Reputation: 812

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 08:01 PM

I have a very inexpensive Lenovo laptop.  I believe it was <$400 on newegg.  It is now two years old, so I would imagine that they have made some strides in cheaper, more modern hardware since then.  I can run DX 10 graphics at around 60 fps on debug, with several hundred thousand triangles being drawn.  I haven't looked at opengl performance, but I imagine that for most things that a hobbyist would be doing, the hardware is not going to be a problem.

 

My bottleneck when I use my laptop is actually the lack of screen real estate.  It has some kind of oddball wide-screen display resolution, maybe 1366 x 768 on a 15" screen, which is a little tough to use when I am used to dual 1920x1080 displays on 26" monitors on my desktops.

 

Spend an extra couple hundred bucks and replace whatever hard drive it comes with with an SSD.  More often that not, you'll see a lot more benefit from the faster disk read-write than from investing in a faster cpu or memory these days.


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#4 Ravyne   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 8154

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 08:26 PM

Some of the consumer-oriented Lenovos offer good quality and specs for your dollar. Like the Y410p. For sub-$500, I'd probably recommend you to look at AMD APUs, if graphics really are important, or a haswell-based notebook with Iris Pro integrated graphics (The fully-enabled one, not the one with the 128mb cache which is too expensive). Intel's iGPU performance hasn't caught up to AMD's, but you'll get better battery life and more single-threaded performance from the CPU.

 

Other than that, get (or upgrade to) at least 8GB of RAM, and get a display that's a good size for you, and at least 1440x900 resolution, preferably higher. 1366x768 is really too cramped for serious work, 1440x900 is just barely adequate. Try to get a machine that's either entirely SSD, or has a 24GB+ SSD cache.

 

If you have money left over and don't already have them lying around, consider picking up a larger, high-res monitor and a nice keyboard/mouse. Portability is nice, but you'll probably spend 80% of your time wherever it is you sleep, if you've got the desk-space, you'd be wise to make it more comfortable.



#5 Nathan2222_old   Members   -  Reputation: -400

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 11:29 PM

For me. Is the alienware 18 good(apart from price)

¤edit¤ if only i knew why this gets unliked.

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#6 Promit   Moderators   -  Reputation: 7595

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 11:34 PM

A nice GPU (NVIDIA ideally or maybe AMD but not Intel) and lots of memory. Everything else can be compromised in favor of those two.



#7 _greyfox()   Members   -  Reputation: 1134

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 11:46 PM

You're probably not going to do games with crysis like graphics, so GPU is not all that important but it should be fairly modern. I would recommend laptop with atleast discrete GPU. But I think for me the first thing to look in laptop is it's screen resolution. Because I have a laptop with 1366x768 screen resolution and it sucks for programming, I can't fit anything on screen. Even if I open my IDE in fullscreen I still need to constantly adjust the side bars or and toolbar's size so I could fit more code on screen. Get a laptop with 1080p screen. It will be bigger, but much better for programming. If you are going to compile big applications/games then get a laptop wtih SSD, because it will reduce compile time.

 

There are other nuances when choosing a laptop, but that's all time I have for now. Good luck.


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#8 Uberwulu   Members   -  Reputation: 164

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 12:28 AM

Laptop?  But why?!  I need at least 3 monitors to program comfortably.

 

In any case, for consumers, I recommend AMD video cards.  For developers, I recommend nVidia but ONLY because nVidia is harder to develop for (you can get away with a lot more from AMD cards where nVidia would otherwise crash).  nVidia makes cards more geared for gaming, but it doesn't matter how much performance you squeeze out if your game crashes, which is also more likely on nVidia.  Be sure to get a graphics card and monitor that supports the range of resolutions you intend to develop for.  Beyond that, there isn't much to recommend other than the usual trusted manufacturers (Corsair for memory, western digital for hard drives, etc.).  I'd say go no less than 4GB of RAM and no less than 1GB of graphics RAM and 500GB of hard disk space to fit all the software tools and assets on.  Screen real estate is a big issue for me, as I usually have multiple files open at once for editing, so I'd go for the largest screen you can afford, unless of course you have a handful of extra monitors you carry around with you.


Edited by Uberwulu, 07 January 2014 - 12:30 AM.


#9 Czar05   Members   -  Reputation: 995

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 12:47 AM

Thank you all for your input, they are very insightful. Just curious why everybody here is favoring AMD, instead of Intel. I asked my brother for his input and he said intel, but I am eager to here your opinions on the matter.

 

@_greyfox Lol thanks I'm gonna need it.



#10 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 21000

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 01:22 AM

 

GPU will definitely be the most important consideration, although I'm not sure less than $500 is realistic for a development laptop. Usually you spend extra on development computers so you can save time. Getting a cheaper development machine means you'll need to run release builds instead of debug builds far more often, and that's harder for debugging. You'll also have to optimize earlier and more often, which will probably lead to development effort that later gets thrown away anyways.

 

Fully agree with this. +1

The GPU might not be the most important piece, but it's definitely important. The other points richardurich made are also true.

 

Thank you all for your input, they are very insightful. Just curious why everybody here is favoring AMD, instead of Intel. I asked my brother for his input and he said intel, but I am eager to here your opinions on the matter.

 

Intel makes fantastic CPUs. But when it comes to GPUs, NVidia and AMD have always dominated.

 

Many many laptops come backed with Intel GPUs, which are usually the bare basic 'Yes I have a GPU' card checkbox. Unfortunately, they are pretty poor chips that are integrated into the motherboard directly and very underpowered. Intel might make more expensive GPUs as well, but the built-in GPUs on laptops are infamous - which isn't a problem for web surfacing, emailing, and word processing that most consumers do (though I find on cheaper laptops they tend to overheat when watching Netflix for extended duration).

 

As a matter of personal preference, I prefer desktops - but other developers find laptops to suit them just fine.

I'm not very well versed on hardware - recently my brother asked me to find one for him, so I got one on sale at Newegg Flash for $600 (25% off). Others give their advice and opinions in this thread where I was asking about it.

 

When developing games, you don't need a super-duperly expensive videocard, but you should at least get a real videocard in the laptop instead of an "integrated" videocard that, as I mentioned, overheats when running videos too long. Unfortunately, that does increase the cost of the laptop slightly, and you might be hard-pressed to find one for sub-$500.

 

A good amount of RAM is important - but it seems like RAM is one of the marketing points for laptops these days, so even cheap laptops have plenty of RAM (most I see have 6-8GB in them) - if you have more than 4GB, that's fine for basic game development as long as you aren't doing heavy video editing and things like that. I only have 3 GB, without any problems - except when editing images with huge resolutions (10,000 x 10,000 and multiple layers - but that's unusual unless you are an artist working in really high definition).


Edited by Servant of the Lord, 07 January 2014 - 01:28 PM.

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#11 KaiserJohan   Members   -  Reputation: 1235

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 01:31 AM

Be mindful if you buy a laptop with intel GPU, their OpenGL support is years behind. My 1-year old but rather fancy at the time laptop only supports up to 3.0.



#12 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 19351

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 02:24 AM

Apart from the features mentioned above, I like to make sure I have a proper full-sized keyboard -- if you're going to be programming that means a lot of keyboard usage, so you'll want something nice and comfortable.  A decent amount of screen real estate is also very desirable.  As covered above, you'll want plenty of memory, a decent processor, and most likely (unless you're sticking to simple 2d games) a good GPU.



#13 Unduli   Members   -  Reputation: 1059

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 03:16 AM

First of all there is nothing wrong about Windows 8 (if you don't have prehistoric tools that might refuse to work), you can get classic desktop environment if you want (like I did to certain extent)

 

Although I think a decent panel (IPS or VA) is a must if you create visual output but $500 isn't helping in that case. I'd recommend iPad Air instead if wouldn't be ridiculous, but if has to be x86 then I appreciate Lenovos.

 

But as you mentioned , laptop isn't a good environment for game development, saying this as a previous owner of an 18.4" , dual HDD, high-endish GPU laptop.



#14 Ravyne   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 8154

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 06:32 AM

To be fair, intel's integrated graphics have come a long way. The Gt3 in the haswell based chip isn't that far behind AMD' last-Gen Llano APU in performance. Feature set could be a different story, but I think they advertise Dx11 support.

In the strictly sub$500 market you're not gonna get a discrete GPU, and if you do find o e its going to have only ~96 shaders, a low clock, and narrow memory bandwidth. Discreet graphics are preferable, but in this case new integrated graphics would be as good or better.

If you can spend $600-$700, then you can get a decent Intel CPU with a worthwhile NVIDIA gpu like a 650m or 750m.

#15 serumas   Members   -  Reputation: 730

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 06:37 AM

Most important for me

 

laptop - portable to hub to jams  and so on

full hd screen - must be lots of space to work

solid comfortable keyboard with ability lightening in the dark

not the best video card - it just for me better to make game and see performens ishues and optimization effects and so on with card most users have



#16 jtobler   Members   -  Reputation: 111

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 12:36 PM

I use, and recommend, the Lenovo Y580.  At roughly $850, it costs a bit more than your $500, but here's the deal:  you get a rocking processor {3rd Generation Intel® Core™ i7-3630QM (2.40GHz 6MB Cache)} and a realy nice graphics processor {NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX660M 2GB with DirectX® 11}. You also get plenty of hard disk and an SSD drive.  Make sure the one you buy has these specs, though.  It's plenty powerful for most development work and the GPU is one of the best you'll find in a moderately priced laptop.



#17 BitMaster   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4431

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 05:39 AM

For me. Is the alienware 18 good(apart from price)

¤edit¤ if only i knew why this gets unliked.


Let me take a few guesses.
1) You don't even bother writing complete sentences. This is not a grammatical quirk that might have been excusable by a non-native speaker, what you wrote makes no sense. One can only guess what you might want to say.
2) Maybe 'For me: is the Alienware 18 good?' because you want to know what system might be good for you. In this case people are annoyed because you hijack the thread and you do not even specify any further information.
3) Maybe 'For me the Alienware 18 looks good'? In this case you make a blanket statement without specifying any information how the statement was reached. Right now it's just 'person who has a history of bad judgments makes another judgment without any facts to back it up'.

#18 Subtle_Wonders   Members   -  Reputation: 225

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 01:39 AM

GPU will definitely be the most important consideration, although I'm not sure less than $500 is realistic for a development laptop. Usually you spend extra on development computers so you can save time. Getting a cheaper development machine means you'll need to run release builds instead of debug builds far more often, and that's harder for debugging. You'll also have to optimize earlier and more often, which will probably lead to development effort that later gets thrown away anyways.

 

 

To help provide guidance:

The only time a GPU becomes essentially important is when you are considering cross platform support or are pushing graphics to the very limit of it's hardware capabilities. For example, when tackling code in a Mac/Linux/UNIX environment, OpenGL will be used, over DirectX, Direct3D which is exclusive for Windows. This fundamental difference would decide whether or not it would be safe to go ATI or nVidia alone. When pushing hard on graphic hardware, that'll narrow the choice of the GPU even further. However, for a lesser hardware critical game, it's better to go toward a middle ground, such as an Intel or nVidia simply for the sake of compatibility. Computer animators on the other hand, have a vigorous requirement, but that's a different subject altogether.

 

Now, while a GPU can be the most important feature for gamers, and are important for programmers, it is not the most important role for developers. In fact, if we had to talk about hardware at such a low level, I would say, in that low level requirement, a CPU and associated BUS on the mother board would hold a greater importance because of the compatibility needs of the compiler. But frankly, even that's not true for a higher level design paradigm because essentially, the OS takes care of almost all of that for you, even on Linux.

 

To the point at hand:

What I would do is focus on something with a strong processor, that has as many threads as you can get, and has a proven track record for reliability. Games are typically designed to be thread dependent. I would suggest an Intel Processor within the i series for the sake of running fast compilations and executions. You want loads of RAM and a fast hard drive because nothing sucks more than a IDE that crawls and crashes. Don't worry too much about HD space though, as you should get in the habit of backing up your data on portable media, a CVS or SVN regularly, all of which should not be on your system to begin with.

 

For a GPU, I would highly suggest staying away from anything that is ATI simply due to cross compatibility reasons. While nVidia is a wise choice for a GPU brand, adding a reasonably good nVidia GPU along side with a i series CPU on any laptop usually brings the cost fairly high because the i series CPU's have built in graphics support, essentially having 2 GPU's in one system (a luxury or in your case, a feature as a programmer depending on your role and needs).

 

For more information on nVidia GPU's, I would suggest visiting this site, and narrowing your search down further to what you need: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GeForce

 

Remember, you want to cross check the GPU you are interested in with any platform you may be interested in focusing on. A simple Google search for a GPU type and a Linux Distribution can bring up a lot of information for you just for developing on Linux alone.

 

For CPU, I recommend an Intel iSeries.  However, you can review a list of CPU's and get a genuine idea of which one ideally works for you by going here: http://www.cpubenchmark.net/

 

I don't do game design, but I do play games, and I do develop code in Java. I wanted a cheap laptop that was a good middle ground for all of this. I found that a AMD A8 Quad Core with a ATI Radeon GPU stood on equal ground for gaming to a i3 and some i5's, met my requirements for coding, and dropped the cost by $300. Plus, I got even more than I could have expected. I honestly thought League of Legends wouldn't run on it, but I was proven horrible wrong when it rocked the game.

 

As for laptop brands, that could be important as well due to driver support and general reliability. In such cases I would suggest a Lenovo, HP or in some cases a Dell. I personally got a Samsung, but my focus is not game development so I can't suggest that.

 

Unfortunately, I can not give you any recommendations on sound support, as that is way outside my support and interest scopes. Hope this helps, best of luck.



#19 Madhed   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3133

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 07:06 AM

For game development or programming in general I'd recommend.

 

Large resolution - You will spend a lot of time looking at code

Ergonomical keyboard - You will spend a lot of time writing code

Fast io aka. SSD - You will spend a lot of time compiling and running code

 

I would not use a laptop as my main development machine though.

Maybe a model with a good docking station could get bonus points though.

 

Also I'd look *especially* into a model with integrated graphics as these seem to draw a lot less power than the nvidia and amd gpus.

Battery lifetime for me is a bigger concern than high performance graphics, and from my experience so far all the mobile gpus don't come close to their

desktop counterparts in performance anyway. Except maybe if you get a bulky 1000$ gaming laptop that also doubles as a mobile electric heater.



#20 skwee   Members   -  Reputation: 341

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 07:54 AM

Game development is no different that general programming. Make sure to get a GPU that satisfies your need (i.e. if you develop AAA titles or similar, make sure to get a GPU that can run your games). If you are just a hobby developer in 2D and basic 3D, you can get the integrated GPU (i.e. Intel Core I{3,5,7} or AMD with ATI in it), but again make sure the needed DirectX/OpenGL is supported, shader models an etc.

 

Apart for the GPU, I highly recommend you to a get a desktop PC and not a laptop.

Laptops have smaller screen, and they are not very comfort to sit in-front of for a long time. You will get pain in the back and neck for sitting very long in-front of laptop unless you have very optimized environment (a good chair and a desktop).

Also having a big screen or even dual monitor setups, have proven to boost your productivity by 20%-30%.

The keyboard on laptops is very generic, its not a full keyboard and not that convenient for typing a lot (today you can get ergonomic, mechanical and split keyboard that boosts productivity).

 

So I suggest you reconsider the decision to a get a laptop unless YOU MUST HAVE mobility.

 

Of course you can get a laptop and connect monitor, keyboard and mouse to it, but usually you can get a better desktop PC for the same price (thus however loosing the mobility).

 

Other than this, guys here wrote a lot of useful information.


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