For years, the idea of a proper gaming computer has conjured up the image of a hulking desktop system, one that towers over the player and hums with the sound of the fans required to cool its powerful components. Notebook computers were always seen as the “little brothers” of their desktop counterparts: great for general computing, word processing, and web browsing on the go, but nowhere near powerful enough to run the same software as your desktop.

Much of this perception has changed in recent years due to the overwhelming advances in micro-computer technology. Notebook computers have grown more and more powerful and advanced even as their size and cost has been reduced. Today, the idea of a true gaming laptop is a feasible one, and plenty of companies have offered their units onto the marketplace as proof of this. While it may not be as convenient as gaming on a dedicated desktop computer, it is now possible to enjoy the latest computer game releases on a portable system.

What are some Benefits of Gaming Laptops?

Why, you ask, should you bother with notebooks for gaming when desktop systems are so readily available? Gaming laptops do have their decided advantages. Obviously, their reduced size can be a huge plus for gamers. By the time you factor in a computer case, monitor, keyboard and mouse, speakers, printer, and other peripherals, a standard-size desktop computer system can fill up an entire desk or table surface. Laptops today have become so advanced that they can realistically be seen as desktop replacements. As everything from speakers to keyboard is incorporated into the body of a notebook computer, the space required for it in your home is comparatively minimal. In fact, a dedicated computer desk becomes largely unnecessary when talking about a system as small as a laptop; any table or surface will do.

The smaller size of laptops also lends itself to their portability, which is another of their obvious advantages. There is something to be said about having the ability to use your computer in any location that you like. Laptops allow you to work or browse the web wherever you like, and gaming laptops take that idea even further by allowing you to play the latest games wherever is convenient. After all, Unreal Tournament is probably a more worthwhile distraction for many people than Hearts. Moreover, the portability of laptops makes them ideally suited for community gaming. As anybody who has ever dragged their desktop system to a LAN party can attest, gaming with other people locally is not always the easiest or most convenient thing to accomplish. Having a smaller-scale, self-contained gaming system makes this process exponentially easier. In addition, the wireless capabilities of many laptops make connecting to other systems locally or online a cinch.

Which Gaming Laptops are Best?

Given the advantages of gaming notebook systems, then, what are some of the more successful entries into the marketplace? Upon first glancing at a laptop’s specifications, it is not always immediately evident whether or not it is suited for gaming. CNET (cnet.com) is widely considered to be an industry leader in terms of computer and technology reviews, and they list several models as the best options for laptop gaming.

– Dell XPS M1710 – Dell’s XPS laptop line was designed specifically for high-end gaming, and the M1710 model is testament to that fact. The XPS M1710, when configured to the highest degree, carries such lofty specifications as a 2.13GHz dual-core Intel processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 512MB mobile nVidia video card. Dell even takes the unheard-of step of including an internal subwoofer to the mix. In terms of raw power, this is one of the most powerful gaming laptops on the market today–and one of the most expensive, clocking it at just over $4000 fully configured.

– Toshiba Satellite P105-S921 – Toshiba’s offering into the laptop gaming fray is priced considerably lower than the Dell XPS, but its performance is nonetheless admirable. At just about $2000, the S921 includes such features as a 1.83GHz dual-core Intel processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 256MB mobile video processor. While the S921’s performance pales in comparison to the Dell M1710’s, it has more than enough power to run the latest games at medium to medium-high graphical settings, and it represents a substantial value at $2000 less than the Dell.

– Alienware m7700 – Though this Alienware model is not listed on CNET.com, and though Alienware itself was recently acquired by Dell, its name has long been synonymous with high-quality gaming hardware. This notebook model is no exception. For roughly the same price as the Dell model, you can take advantage of such features as a 64-bit dual-core AMD processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 256MB nVidia mobile graphics card. Moreover, the external casing of Alienware models is generally quite a bit more interesting than most companies’ offerings. As with the Dell M1710, you will be able to run most games at their highest graphical settings.

So, What’s the Catch with Gaming Laptops?

Surely there are some drawbacks to gaming on laptop computers, right? As you have undoubtedly noticed above, the cost associated with a high-quality gaming notebook is generally quite a bit more than a corresponding desktop. For as much as it costs for the Dell M1710, you could purchase a monstrous, dual graphics card-powered gaming powerhouse. And in most cases, you can easily find a suitable desktop gaming rig for under $1000.

Another detriment of including such advanced technology in such a small package is that gaming laptops tend to be quite a bit heavier than their non-gaming counterparts, and their battery life is generally nowhere near as long. It’s not unheard of for gaming notebook systems to clock in at eight pounds or more, and when you’re toting this weight around for significant amounts of time, it can be prohibitive. Additionally, it is rare for the battery in a dedicated gaming laptop to last for more than a couple of hours; the technology inside puts such a drain on the battery that it usually goes dead within a short amount of time. If you plan on using a gaming laptop specifically as a desktop replacement, this ceases to be an issue. However, anybody who plans on using their laptop exclusively on the go might find the reduced battery life slightly off-putting.