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gameteacher

Best laptop for game development?

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I figured I should start a new thread for this question.

 

I was in the process of ordering a class set of Macbook laptops for the game development class I will be teaching. I found out recently that Game Maker, the program I was planning to use (due to it's popularity and seeming ease of use) is not available on Macs. HUH???!!! Bad move on their part.

 

Anyway, going with a PC order will open up a can of worms as now there are dozens of choices. What do you all recommend? Keep in mind I'm not a techie so please don't use acronyms. I need a reliable name brand (Lenovo, Dell, HP, whatever) and the minimum amount of memory and processor speed to run Game Maker, Blender and maybe something else. I suppose the price range can be anywhere from $500-$1000 per laptop.

 

Any suggestions?

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I figured I should start a new thread for this question.

 

I was in the process of ordering a class set of Macbook laptops for the game development class I will be teaching. I found out recently that Game Maker, the program I was planning to use (due to it's popularity and seeming ease of use) is not available on Macs. HUH???!!! Bad move on their part.

 

Anyway, going with a PC order will open up a can of worms as now there are dozens of choices. What do you all recommend? Keep in mind I'm not a techie so please don't use acronyms. I need a reliable name brand (Lenovo, Dell, HP, whatever) and the minimum amount of memory and processor speed to run Game Maker, Blender and maybe something else. I suppose the price range can be anywhere from $500-$1000 per laptop.

 

Any suggestions?

ASUS or MSI would be my personal suggestion. They have solid products and I've had no issues with either manufacturer in the 10+ years I've been building computers. You should be able to find laptops from those brands with Intel i7-6700HQ processors, 16GB RAM, and Nvidia GTX 960m dedicated graphics for about $1000 (maybe a touch more). That would be more than plenty for basic-intermediate game development. I currently use an MSI GE72 2QF Apache Pro for when I am away from gaming/workstation rig and It works flawlessly.

 

As far as the whole mac thing. You're a getting a ton more value for your money with a non Apple machine, they're way to overpriced for what you get. I also can't really blame the Game Maker devs for not supporting it as a Mac user base would be limited at best for a mountain of work that would be needed to port it to another platform. If you just take steam statistics for the amount of people who use Macs for gaming is currently at 3.32% of the steam user base. 3.32% of 13M peak users is only 431600 users most of which will probably never touch game maker. Unfortunately Windows is here to stay.

Edited by tragic

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I would chime in with the ASUS recommendation, but specifically on laptops/convertibles they've failed me twice in a row. I'll still be buying ASUS graphic cards, but not going to buy a laptop again.

Ordered a 17'' ProBook from HP in that price range just this week. HP has never failed me (printers scanners). My wife's been using laptops from the HP professional lines for like 15-20 years, never a problem either. They're primarily intended as "offic" machines, so somewhat on the weak side CPU-wise (6500U rather than 6700HQ, thus only 2 cores, not 4), but that's kind of sufficient either way (CPUs are pretty fast nowadays, and it's a laptop, not a workstation, heh). Some AMD mobile graphics card, whatever... for running Blender once in a while it's way enough.
Not the biggest beast alltogether, but who cares as long as it doesn't give you headaches. They do sell 6700HQs in the "Envy" ( = gamer) and "Pavillon" ( = home user) lines with GTX950 or such for the same price. More CPU/GPU bang for the buck in exchange for service level agreement and liberal warranty (on the professional lines you are allowed to open the case, and keep your warranty, which came as a big surprise to me). I'll stay with reliability.
Also, the gamer/consumer lines come exclusively with Windows 10 Home, and that's so absolutely not what I want. The "ProBook" and "EliteBook" lines let you have Windows 7 Professional, if you want that.

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Call me biased, but I think buying a Mac for a game development machine makes sense if you want to create games for Mac OS or iOS. IMHO, Macs have good displays, but sometimes lag behind other brands, in regard to the hardware you can get for the same price. Since you are going to use it for a development machine, pick no less than a 17" display. I find the keyboards of the 15" models too small for real coding and I can't see the text very well at high resolution on such a small display, but it might be just my vision. Another very important thing, make sure you have an SSD with an adequate size. I would go with a minimum of 240 GB SSD or larger. Models with only a HDD are really crippled-down by it performance-wise. A good combination of CPU and GPU can help, but do not go with the overpriced models having a GTX980 or something like that, unless you really need that much power. Pick something with an i5 and GTX950/960 and at least 8 GB of RAM. Regarding brands, I would recommend ASUS, simply because they are my favorites, but all major brands have good models, so it is up to you, I guess. Just go to a hardware store and test some of them, to get a first-hand experience and pick the model you like the best.

Edited by vanka78bg

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Another very important thing, make sure you have an SSD with an adequate size. I would go with a minimum of 240 GB SSD or larger. Models with only a HDD are really crippled-down by it performance-wise.
That's very true, having a SSD is more important than having the fastest possible CPU. Although having a normal harddisk for "bulk stuff" is entirely acceptable. It's just the stuff you need to access often and quickly (system files, compiler executables, headers) that really have to live on a SSD. Most other stuff lives on a plain normal harddisk just fine.

On my desktop machine, I even have everything that isn't critical stuff like headers on an iSCSI volume (which is, for obvious reasons, yet much slower than an internal disk) and it doesn't really matter. The big, big, big advantage of that is that the iSCSI LUN does snapshots and backups automatically and invisibly on a regular base, and if you should ever need more space, you just plug an extra disk into the server... which is kinda cool.

 

Alternatively you can use one of those modern "hybrid" drives which are basically nothing but a small SSD and an ordinary disk with some kind of automatic management tucked together. They come in "laptop form factor, too". I've never had one of these, but will probably buy one when I have my new laptop... they're cheap enough so you need not really waste much of a thougth (I think something like 80€ for a 1TB drive with a 8GB SSD component -- 8GB does not sound like a lot, but it should really be enough to keep all your "hot" stuff cached almost all the time).

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Alternatively you can use one of those modern "hybrid" drives which are basically nothing but a small SSD and an ordinary disk with some kind of automatic management tucked together. They come in "laptop form factor, too". I've never had one of these, but will probably buy one when I have my new laptop...

Hybrid drives are a bit of a tradeoff. I have such one at work, so I have a first hand experience. If such a drive is mostly empty, it will perform nearly the same as having an SSD. Filling it with more data than the SSD capacity would cause its performance to degrade. In general, hybrid drives are better than having no SSD, but an SSD + HDD combo would give you the best of both worlds, at a higher price however. In addition to this, having two drives than just one would most likely shorten the battery's life.

Edited by vanka78bg

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That's very true, having a SSD is more important than having the fastest possible CPU. Although having a normal harddisk for "bulk stuff" is entirely acceptable. It's just the stuff you need to access often and quickly (system files, compiler executables, headers) that really have to live on a SSD. Most other stuff lives on a plain normal harddisk just fine.

 

100% this. I had a very fast computer, and it sped up immensely when I put SSD's in it, because file operations are just so slow without them.

 

Of course, then I got a few 2 TB Sata drives for things like movies/small games, then got lazy and ended up installing most programs on it.

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Ok guys, here's an update. Because I work at a school and I have no control over the budget and I need a class set in laptop carts, these are my options:

 

Lenovo L560- 4gb i5 15.6" display

Lenovo T540 (same specs)

HP ProBook 4gb i5 14"

Dell Latitude E5470 XCTO i5 14"

 

If you need more specs, let me know. I know you guys are going to be like, "Seriously? That stinks." I just want to run a couple of game programs, Game Maker and Blender. Maybe one more. This is what I have to work with and I need to make a quick decision.

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Both the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 series and Dell XPS 15 are excellent laptops. The Lenovo Y700 seems to be a great choice as well. In either case, I would opt for a dedicated GPU model if you can. I would not touch MSI again.

 

Of the laptops you listed just now... the T540 has a dedicated GPU so I would probably put that at the top of the list.

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Both the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 series and Dell XPS 15 are excellent laptops. The Lenovo Y700 seems to be a great choice as well. In either case, I would opt for a dedicated GPU model if you can. I would not touch MSI again.

 

Of the laptops you listed just now... the T540 has a dedicated GPU so I would probably put that at the top of the list.

Thanks! Does the other Lenovo (L560) NOT have a dedicated GPU?

How well can these handle Game Maker as far as speed (lagging), saving work and general classroom use?

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Thanks! Does the other Lenovo (L560) NOT have a dedicated GPU?

 

Assuming the other is L540p (couldnt see one without the p), that is correct. Only the 540 has dedicated GPU (you can see this under the "technical specifications" tab, where it says "Graphics" - compare the other differences through this section too).

 

I looked up both thru a GPU review site, and their performance doesnt look that different (dedicated better by a factor less than 2), BUT AFAIK, the integrated GPU will use system RAM instead of its own VRAM. So if youre low on RAM that might be a problem.

 

As mentioned, if you have control over the components chosen for the laptop (it seems like there are multiple possibilities for many components?), try to choose:

-Proper screen (both size in inches, and resolution - 1080p resolution is pretty standard so perhaps not higher than that if the screen itself is only laptop-sized)

-SSD or SSD+HDD hybrid, instead of pure HDD

-More than 4 GB RAM if possible. For basic 2D development with game maker, I doubt you will need more. But its good to have a bit of a buffer. And 3D stuff tends to have higher requirements here.

 

Also get everyone a mouse if they dont bring their own  :)

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Thanks! Does the other Lenovo (L560) NOT have a dedicated GPU?

 

Assuming the other is L540p (couldnt see one without the p), that is correct. Only the 540 has dedicated GPU (you can see this under the "technical specifications" tab, where it says "Graphics" - compare the other differences through this section too).

 

I looked up both thru a GPU review site, and their performance doesnt look that different (dedicated better by a factor less than 2), BUT AFAIK, the integrated GPU will use system RAM instead of its own VRAM. So if youre low on RAM that might be a problem.

 

As mentioned, if you have control over the components chosen for the laptop (it seems like there are multiple possibilities for many components?), try to choose:

-Proper screen (both size in inches, and resolution - 1080p resolution is pretty standard so perhaps not higher than that if the screen itself is only laptop-sized)

-SSD or SSD+HDD hybrid, instead of pure HDD

-More than 4 GB RAM if possible. For basic 2D development with game maker, I doubt you will need more. But its good to have a bit of a buffer. And 3D stuff tends to have higher requirements here.

 

Also get everyone a mouse if they dont bring their own  :)

 

So would you say I should go for the slightly cheaper L560 over the T540? I certainly don't want to lose RAM (4gb, right?). What's the advantage of having a GPU with it's own VRAM? What does the GPU do?

 

I actually have Wacom Intuos 4 tablets and pens, so I don't need to use mice (is that the right term for plural?). On that note, is there an advantage to using pens/stylus's over a trackpad or mouse? The stylus's seem awkward to me but they are professional. Are they used in making games?

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The advantage of the Lenovo T-series of their L-series is that of fit and finish.  An L-series is great laptop for home use, assuming it never leaves the home and gets cherished and respected.  The T-series is built to put up with every day use by a travelling professional: its hinges and connectors are just slightly more solid and rebost.

 

I'd recommend the T-series for classrooom use.  Those laptops are going to see some hard times.

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L560 over the T540?

 

No, just an observation I made. The dedicated GPU is better, but not by a massive factor (Not taking the RAM/VRAM thing into account). So I wouldnt rule out the L560 based on that only (compare the other differences).

 

 

 


What's the advantage of having a GPU with it's own VRAM?

It wont have to share memory with the 'regular' system RAM (a lot of the 'graphical' data like textures/meshes will probably go to VRAM [V is for video], leaving more space for running the programs themselves)

 

 

 


I actually have tablets and pens, so I don't need to use mice

I meant for non-drawing related tasks.

Game development software (like any complex software) generally has a ton of buttons / sliders / keyboard shortcuts and functionality that uses all the mouse buttons/scrollwheel.

Having a proper mouse available will make it more natural to use the (non-art) software, simply because thats the interface it was designed to be used with.

Maybe you can start with a few cheap mice available and get more if people seem to prefer them over the trackpad or whatever is the alternative.

Edited by Waterlimon

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I meant for non-drawing related tasks.
Game development software (like any complex software) generally has a ton of buttons / sliders / keyboard shortcuts and functionality that uses all the mouse buttons/scrollwheel.
Having a proper mouse available will make it more natural to use the (non-art) software, simply because thats the interface it was designed to be used with.
Maybe you can start with a few cheap mice available and get more if people seem to prefer them over the trackpad or whatever is the alternative.
So stylus's are useless for game development?

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Have you asked the school's IT department for their advice, yet?

They may have computers they are not using or planning to replace.

 

As for deciding what you need; GameMaker and Blender list both the minimum & the recommended system requirements on their websites.

 

A stylus is preferred by artists.

 

Also, are desktops an option?

It may be cheaper.

 

GPU stands for Graphics Processing Unit. It is used to handle 3D graphics.

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Have you asked the school's IT department for their advice, yet?

They may have computers they are not using or planning to replace.

 

As for deciding what you need; GameMaker and Blender list both the minimum & the recommended system requirements on their websites.

 

A stylus is preferred by artists.

 

Also, are desktops an option?

It may be cheaper.

 

GPU stands for Graphics Processing Unit. It is used to handle 3D graphics.

Thanks. No other options for computers.

By artists you mean people drawing/painting digitally, like for character design?

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There are plenty of talented artists (really illustrators) but what I am looking for is people who work in the intersection of critical theory, visual culture and art history, so I can find a model of how to dissect the visual language and visual codes of video games that are current and also those that are historical.

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Definitely don't get a lower graphics card than that or it will be outdated quickly. The 960m is way less powerful.

 

It doesn't matter what you buy it will be outdated quickly.

 

That is the nature of computer hardware.  Use it because you need to use it.

 

Unlike certain fine art and collectables, computer hardware does not increase in value over time.  For office-based businesses it is one of the fastest depreciating items.

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