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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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