Diet gaming laptops for casual Witcher 3 gameplay

There were times when new Microsoft Windows version required you to upgrade your whole PC. Nowadays newer Windows versions require less resources and don't really force into upgrades. In 2015 something did required some GPU upgrades, it wasn't Windows 10 but Witcher 3 Wild Hunt.

So what if you want to play Witcher 3 on a Laptop. You don't want to use/buy a gaming PC, Xbos or Playstation or a full blown gamin Laptop. What are the options for cheapest laptops that can run Witche 3 at somewhat good, but not high settings?

Hardware requirements

The game states Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 or AMD Radeon HD 7870 and quad core Intel Core-i5 2500K as minimal requirements. YouTube test gameplays shown that the game can be run on weaker hardware although in many cases the gameplay won't be fluid and thus playable (or annoying). In my MSI GP70 laptop I have a GT 740M GPU and according to some gameplays I can get around 20 FPS (but those gameplays were done with weaker Core i5 U/M CPUs where I have quad Core i7).

So if you and I want to play Witcher 3 from time to time without investing in any gaming rig what are our options? One is to just play in a good old games like Baldurs Gate I which has whooping requirements of GeForce 2 MX 100/200 32MB or find the most price/performance optimal laptop out there.

Wild laptops for a diet-wild gameplay

As my GT 740M is to weak I went to some shops and sorted by price some laptops looking on the GPUs and price below ~$1000 / 980 EUR / 700 GBP (or 4000 zł). Among newest models Nvidia GTX 960M was available in that price limit and by looking on GPUBoss you can clearly see that it's much stronger than GT 740M.

So let us start with GTX 960M laptops. Currently 15,6" Lenovo Y50-70 and 17,3" Lenovo Y70-70 seems to be the cheapest ones. Depending on model they may have either Core-i5 or Core-i7 and 4-16 GB of RAM so pick the right model by looking at the specs. Some older generations under the same name also use older GPU so look out for that too. Those laptops get quite good reviews. The downside is a slow HDD (you can swap it or pick a SSD variant) and some throttling when the laptop gets hot (so a cooling pad may be needed for intensive gameplay). There are reviews on YouTube where you can admire the red glowing keyboard and other features.

Lenovo Y50-70 trying to shine with its plastic-brushed body

Depending on your location you may find in local shops some other models too. I've notices ASUS N551JW-CN149D with the same GPU, although I can't find it on Amazon or Ebay (it's not Asus ROG which costs more).

When it's about gaming laptops then Clevo must show up. This vendor through his resellers offers many gaming and alike laptops that you can thoroughly customise it before you but one. CPU/RAM/GPU/WiFi/storage and other things can be customised (depending on model). With GTX 960M we have 13,3" W230SD or 15,6" N150SD. They barely fit under the price cap. The extra thing is that while Lenovo Y50 and Y70 support only one drive those support more. The 13,3" laptop can handle one SATA drive and up to two mSATA SSDs. Check your local Clevo reseller for prices (either under clevo or own name like Sager, Hyperbook, Schenker).

There also big Dell Alienware gaming laptops, and some sales on ebay and alike may fit within lower price limits. New ones cost much more. Not that there may be also a lot of old generation Alienwares that will be just to weak for this and other modern games.

Refurbished and upgraded

Some older laptops maybe upgraded. Some gaming laptops with Sandy/IvyBridge CPUs that once where expensive top shelf laptops now are bidded at low prices. Some of them have replaceable GPU in a form of a MXM 3.0b GPU card. If the model is recent enough and the vendor wasn't to lazy it will support much newer MXM GPU cards. This can apply to some Clevo, Alienware, MSI and alike laptops. Before going on shopping check and re-check compatibility with the hardware you want to use (like some older SandyBridge Clevo won't handle newer GPU due to old BIOS). Modern GTX 965M MXM board will cost some money, but there maybe older, yet strong MXM GPU cards on sale on ebay - from tear down laptops or replacement units from vendors.

If you wan to upgrade and refurbish an old gaming laptop check his specs. Some are quite old and have pre-SandyBridge CPUs that may be just to weak. Like Core i7-720QM isn't as strong as nowadays quad core mobile Core-i7 CPUs.

In the end

Using a laptop will still be more expensive that for example PS4 + Witcher 3, but a laptop is more versatile and you can take your Witcher gaming experience into an ancient and dark oak forest...

From new laptops cheapest will be quite likely new Lenovo Y50-70 or Y70-70, and if you need something more custom then Clevo. If you want to pay more then there are many much stronger models, but that's not the point of this article. You can try to refurbish some slightly older gaming laptops if you can get the required parts in a good price and you have some experience with replacing laptop hardware and compatibility issues. Laptops with MXM GPUs will cost more but you will be able to upgrade GPU without the need of replacing the whole laptop.

What are your diet-gaming-laptops for Witcher 3 and friends?


Games, 31 May 2015

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