Gaming-focused laptops have been around since about the turn of the century, but they’ve always paled in comparison to their desktop brethren. Now, however, the playing field has been leveled considerably, thanks to recent advances in 3D graphics technology. The kind of power that was all but unattainable in a laptop is now within reach.
Provided you want to pay for it.
For years, Acer has been making unassuming home PCs for the family, but when they ventured into the demanding gamer market, they did so with aplomb. They called their uber-powerful laptops “Predator,” complete with a hilariously over-the-top growling tone when they first boot up, and they’re a revelation for anyone who thinks of portable computers all business.
If you’re out of the loop on PC gaming, these kinds of gaming laptops offer the ability to run damn near any game in resolutions up to and including 4K. This is kind of a big deal, because it means these pricey machines attain graphic heights no console—not even the upcoming upgraded PlayStation 4 and Xbox One—can, with smoother overall results.
Really, machines like the Predator 17 offer more power than most people will ever need, but that’s not the point, is it? Sporting high-end specs like 32 gigabytes of RAM, a top-end Intel i7 core and absurdly fast nVidia GeForce graphics, what you’re really getting for almost $3,000 is bragging rights amongst your gaming and geeky friends. Clearly, you have both high-end tastes and money to burn.
Or you’re a professional gamer, which is cool too.
Acer recently upped the ante of ludicrous laptops with a machine sporting two of nVidia’s top-of-the-line 1080 3D accelerators and a 21-inch screen. Calling it “portable” is a stretch but it is, without a doubt, the craziest all-in-one PC I’ve ever seen—a PC gamer’s fantasy machine.
Without a doubt, the Predator is the craziest all-in-one PC I’ve ever seen—a PC gamer’s fantasy machine.
The Predator 17’s keyboard glows with all the colors of the rainbow. In the back, there are two fans that bring to mind high-tech jet engines. But the Predator is remarkably quiet. Even when the fans are churning along to cool down the hardware amidst the action of heated pixel violence, they seldom reached anything more than a mild whirring.
If the Predator 17 isn’t quite ballsy enough for you, Acer has you covered with the ludicrously overpowered Predator 21x. This insane fever dream of a machine sports two of nVidia’s top-of-the-line 1080 3D accelerators, 64 GB of Ram, two damn power supplies and a curved 21-inch screen. It’s got eye tracking to let you aim at on-screen bad guys with your eyeballs. Four speakers, two subwoofers, five coolings fans. It even has a touchpad that you can flip over to discover a numeric keypad. Plus those individually lit keys. It also weighs almost 20 pounds.
Due out this January, the Predator 21x is what you buy when you don’t just want a new computer, but a statement. What that statement is… well, that’s up to speculation. I just know I want one.
If that measly 17- or 21-inch screen isn’t big enough, hooking it up to your big-screen TV with an HDMI cable will turn it into an all-in-one living room entertainment machine. This is especially the case with 4K sets, as the current options for 4K viewing—not to mention devices to stream them from—is still amazingly limited.
There is, however, a practical side here. Going big from the start is always an iffy proposition. In the PC world, much like in cars, depreciation starts the moment you click “purchase.” These machines are powerful enough to be future-proof for a while, though. The 4K VR-ready models will be bringing you high-resolution and VR-filled joy for years to come, simply because the hardware has advanced faster than most games.
If you’re primarily a console gamer, switching to a PC (or merely adding it to your collection) holds a lot of potential, not the least of which is the sheer volume of games and software available. The last 40-plus years of gaming are at your fingertips with these Windows-based machines. Better yet, between online stores like Steam, GOG, Humble Bundle and others, there are constant sales on everything from obscure indie games to major releases.
Xbox One owners in particular can take advantage of Microsoft’s new cross-compatibility feature. If you bought Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, ReCore or newer games from the publisher, you automatically get the game on both the PC and Xbox. Honestly, playing Gears of War and Forza at 4K with the graphic options pumped up is a pretty amazing experience.
And of course, these machines run Microsoft Office like gangbusters, so, you know, they’re totally practical too!
There are quite a few manufacturers who specialize in PCs for gamers—Alienware, Origin, Dell, MSI, the list goes on. For the most part, they’re all pretty impressive, even if I’m partial to the feral-yet-zippy Predator. You can configure them how you want—going lower or higher in power directly affects the price tag—and make that new beast uniquely yours.
Even if bragging rights aren’t an issue for you, there’s a certain sense of security in having a PC that can just run pretty much whatever you want, however you want anywhere you take it without a fuss. Calling these laptops “portable” might be a slight stretch though. Carrying a 10- to 20-pound computer in your backpack can lead to some noticeable pain, but they still take up a lot less space than a traditional desktop PC—without taking a hit on performance.