Let me start by offering some perspective: most of my gaming is sadly done on a Mac. I have no Mac capable to truly running most modern video games. I always turn the video settings down to just below pathetic, and even then I'm fortunate to get tolerably smooth video. It's just something you sort of learn to accept when you have a Mac. Every game I play on it is just a little short of steller when compared to running on a PC. But my newest Windows capable machine is 3 years old, and a joke by today's standards.
This machine came well equipped: A 3.66ghz P4 w/ 2MB of L2 Cache, 1 gig of 533MHz DDR2 RAM, an Nvidia 6800 Ultra w/ 256MB ram, and not one, but TWO drives, a 60gb 7200 RPM for the OS, and a 100 GB 5400 RPM drive for games. It came in minimal packaging- inside the box was little more than a laptop bag containing the manuals and a few cables. Which is good because all that bloat distracts me from my primary mission: It installed my Warcrack in moments and patched up in probably half the time I was expecting it to take.
With that I hoisted the gigantic beast upon my lap, connected my mouse and began to play. Glorious, lickabley smooth graphics. I turned on every single graphics option and restarted the game, only to discover that there was a level of graphical detail in this game that I didn't know existed. Frames never dropped. Capital cities ceased being slide shows and turned into the bustling metropolis of activity that they are meant to be. 15 man boss fights became liquid fast. In short, having real hardware made my favorite game more fun to play. I'd also like to think it made me a better player, but that might be pushing it.
Likewise the audio gave me a surprising thrill. Walking into rooms and hearing acoustic affects. Voices echoing off walls really give spaces a powerful sense of space. The speakers on this machine are great for laptops. Sure your home stereo sounds better. Hell I bet $50 PC speakers sound better, but for built-ins, it was quite nice.
This new gaming experience does not come without tradeoffs. The first thing you will immediately notice about this monster is the screen. Besides having a 1900x1200 resolution screen, it is incredibly shiny. Frusteratingly so. I found myself closing drapes, turning off lights, and even after that, when I entered a dark room, I'd see my reflection shining back at me. Maybe this is simply a personal preference, but I really struggled to see details in dark scenes. I had to throw the gamma settings way up and sacrifice any contrast to see certain things without straining my eye. This might be the single biggest flaw in the machine.
Next up is weight. This thing is heavy. Everyone I showed this machine to was asked to pick it up. No really, I'd say: pick it up. They'd look at me cockeyed and then comply. Without fail they were surprised at the density of this beast. It was kind of a strange experience, watching people lift and then realize that this thing weighed like 20-30% more than you expect. The website says that this thing weighs 11lbs but it sure felt like more.
The thing is huge. It came with a cheapy little case that fit the laptop quite snuggly, but no other bag in my house came close to carrying it. And I've had some big machines over the years. You should expect to need a custom bag. I never hauled this machine through an airport, but I imagine it would suck wipping this out in security. Even the power cube is gigantic. I've actually had handheld computers about the same size as this thing's power cube.
Also worth noting is heat. There is a giant fan on the left hand side that really does an impressive job of moving the heat outside of the case. And onto whatever is sitting next to you. Let's just say my cats were not so excited to sleep next to me. I've used laptops that were physically uncomfortably hot on the lap, and this machine never got to that point. Instead, it simply would turn off. In the middle of the game. No warning. Very unpleasant. I borrowed a little mini lap desk and then there were no heat problems, provided I left the fans completely unobstructed, and used the machine only on a hard flat surface.
With this giant machine comes a full assortment of ports. And not the miniature custom ports some vendors pass off, but rather full sized real ports without stupid dongles to lose. Of course, since bluetooth and 802.11 is built in, the only port you hopefully will need is power.
The short and long of this machine is that it is heavy and hot. The base model costs $2700 but as I reviewed it, it was more like $3200. And this is one laptop that probably shouldn't be used on your lap: the weight, heat, and random freeze-ups when given improper breathing room pretty well kill that. But if you have the cash to spare, this is a sweet machine. It plays games as well as most any desktop I've seen. It added a level of playability to my favorite game. It has the stones to handle the heaviest 3D games of today, and will likely be able to play the cutting edge games for several weeks into the future. I know most people can't afford a machine like this... but if you can, you'll definitely be envied by your friends next time you haul it out at a LAN party... it's a hell of a lot sexier than lugging around a monitor and a mini-atx based machine. I'm sad to let the review unit go back to WidowPC.