To the Game-Debate Staff:
I know this is a bit long (sorry), but I wanted to share my story of how much Game-Debate helped me in making a frustrating and very expensive (for my budget) laptop purchase. I used to be a pretty avid PC gamer back in the day when 256MB video cards were absolutely top end tech few gamers could afford. Even before the Xbox 360 and PS3 came out, I was beginning to migrate away from the PC as a gaming platform (I even went Mac for a little while), and ended up mostly just playing on consoles. Since the next-gen consoles are right around the corner (and unlikely to be backward compatible), I wanted to get a decent laptop so I could amass my favorite current-gen games on the PC and not worry about having to keep a 360 around when the next Xbox launches. Skyrim, Batman: Arkham Asylum/City, the Mass Effect trilogy, GTA4, Dead Island, Fallout 3/NV, BioShock 1&2, Crysis 1&2, and Metro 2033 are all long-term keepers for me. Not to mention Max Payne 3, Far Cry 3, Crysis 3, BioShock: Infinite, and Metro: Last Light, none of which are even out yet.
My Toshiba Satellite from 2010 had a wimpy dual-core i3 M350, 4GB RAM, and only integrated graphics. I use a virtual electric guitar software suite called Guitar Rig 5 for recording, and as that application continued to evolve and get better, my laptop was quickly losing its grip on its ability to run GR at a decent level (especially when used as a plug-in to recording software). I wanted to get a laptop with a very nice CPU since Guitar Rig is very CPU intensive when you run a lot of echo/reverb/delay effects that rely on time calculations. I also figured it would be nice to fire up some of my old games again. I work for a company that allows for HP product discounts when ordered directly from HP. I ordered a 17” Pavilion dv7t with an Intel i7-2670QM, 8GB RAM, and a 2GB Radeon HD 7690M XT GPU. I figured I’d be prepared for about anything, but since I had been out of the PC hardware world so long, I found out the hard way that I did not do enough homework.
Battlefield 3 and Skyrim ran surprisingly well (almost maxed, even with mods running over Skyrim), but a couple of games would not play at all, including RAGE and Metro 2033… I’d get a variety of errors and crashes before even getting to the menus. The Witcher 2 would only give me a somewhat playable frame rate on low settings (despite my system exceeding recommended specs), and the same thing happened with Batman: Arkham City.
After doing some Google research, I found a thread on HP’s own user forums filled with a lot of very angry people who own this Radeon GPU in HP laptops and had similar problems (the thread is currently over 40 pages long and I, along with other members, have been banned for speaking out about this issue and arguing with the moderator). It turns out that the drivers for the GPU that HP provides are from 2010… yes, you read that correctly: 2010. It also is coming to light that there might be severe problems with the external/internal switchable graphics utility wreaking havoc with some games. AMD’s web site had no drivers at all for this model (even old ones), and their auto-detect utility (it scans your computer to check what kind of GPU you have and sends you to the correct driver) would not even detect the card at all. According to some forum members who went back and forth with HP and AMD, HP support reps claimed it is up to AMD to provide drivers, and AMD points customers back to HP claiming that since it is an HP-proprietary card, HP is responsible for the drivers. One of the forum members (after explaining the situation to a bunch of different levels of HP support and management) was rudely told by an HP rep that it was his fault for buying a laptop “that doesn’t fit his needs.” HP support reps across the board either refuse to admit there's a problem, or simply do not understand the concept of a driver. They see the situation as binary: either the GPU works or the GPU does not work. They do not understand that a GPU “operating normally” might still have a problem if the drivers are woefully out-of-date. HP's only form of recompense for this fiasco is to have customers ship their laptops to their service department where they can be checked out, which, in all likelihood, means they will find that the GPU is operational, claim there is nothing wrong, and the customer is back where he started, except he's been without his laptop for several weeks.
Thankfully, I was on the 21st day of HP’s 21-day return policy window (*whew*)
. I sent the laptop back to HP for an exchange for one of their brand new Pavilion dv7t models with a 3rd-gen Intel Ivy Bridge chipset, and now, NVIDIA GPUs (HP changed GPU vendors, which also seemed to maybe
be another warning sign). The new laptop was essentially the same, but had an i7-3610QM and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M. I was thrilled at first until I started educating myself on the GT 650M. It seems this GPU, while adequate for medium-level gaming, was still not that impressive. Some Game-Debate and Steam forum members pointed out that this GPU might eventually just disappoint me in the long run. And you can’t simply swap laptop GPUs.
With a lot of thinking, and a TON of help using Game-Debate’s Premium Member tools, I was able to directly and objectively compare what kind of system components would be best for me.
I decided, after much internal debate, to cancel the replacement HP, get a full refund for everything, and invest some more money into a laptop with better components, and which would stay relevant much longer than the HP… more money spent now probably means less money spent in the future.
I just ordered a Samsung Series 7 Gamer laptop, and I have to say, it’s pretty impressive (to me, at least), and has everything I’m looking for. It’s a good $500 more than the HP, so I hope it will be worth it in the long run:
• Intel Core i7 3610QM
• 16GB DDR3 RAM (not sure if it’s 1333MHz or 1600MHz, but at this price I’m hoping for 1600)
• 2GB GDDR5 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M (supposedly a huge upgrade from the GT 650M)
• 17.3” LED display @ 1920x1080
• 1.5TB 7200RPM HDD with 8GB ExpressCache
• Blu-ray reader/DVD writer
• USB 3.0
I wanted to thank you for Game-Debate. It really was an excellent tool for helping me learn about the differences between GPUs, and gave me a useful resource for not only comparing the performance specs of the various systems I was considering, but also letting me browse the games I want to play to see how well they’d cooperate with the potential systems I was shopping for.
I also really love the user profile page that allows you to list your rig’s specs, submit articles, and create a game library. It also has all of the small tech details I love to see when I’m researching games and hardware. Plus, your site also has a great community to reach out to for help.
I cannot wait to get my new laptop and to fire up some games on it! It should be in my hands tomorrow thanks to Amazon Prime. Thanks again, and I’ll be a Game-Debate member for life!!!