I am a nerd and love video games. I looked into buying a gaming laptop, but after researching and talking to some friends who know more about this space than I do, I decided to go a different route.
First, the GPUs they put into laptops are nowhere near as good as the same model GPU you get in a desktop machine. The GTX-980M GPU is nowhere near as good as the GTX-980.
Second, gaming laptops are REALLY expensive. I was tempted to get a top of the line Alienware gaming laptop with a GTX-980M GPU. It cost over $2200. And that’s for a graphics card that won’t be able to handle what I want to throw at it anyway.
Third, I mainly do my gaming at home. If I travel, I don’t want to have to lug around a second laptop for gaming. And competent gaming laptops are really heavy and bulky. I wanted to optimize my gaming experience at home. If I travel, I can “make do” with gaming natively on my MacBook Pro. Bootcamp is always an option too.
What I wanted was a better gaming experience while at home mainly. But I don’t like being tied to a desktop machine, only being able to play from one room in the house. I wanted to be able to play from my laptop, in any room of the house, but to get a better gaming experience than I’m able to get from my current laptop (2013 Retina MacBook Pro). I also wanted to make sure that I bought something that was going to last me for at least the next 5 years. I just about only play Guild Wars 2 right now, but I wanted something that was going to be able to handle whatever I might want to play next.
Last week, I built myself a monster of a gaming desktop rig. I mainly play Guild Wars 2, and this machine lets me run GW2 on absolutely highest settings everywhere. The machine is a beast and I’m thrilled with it. GW2 looks like a totally different game on highest settings.
Then I set up Steam Streaming on the new desktop machine and manually added Guild Wars 2 to it. Now I can start up the Steam client from any Linux, Windows, or Mac laptop or computer in the house and stream the game in highest quality to it. The Steam client also allows me to turn on hardware rendering. This means that since the client machine isn’t doing any of the heavy lifting, and all it’s doing is rendering audio video to the screen, my MacBook Pro doesn’t get hot, and doesn’t use hardly any battery.
Playing Guild Wars 2 natively on my MacBook Pro in OS X is sub-par graphically. I have to turn all of the settings down to their lowest, just about. And the thing gets so hot that I can’t put the laptop on my legs or else they’ll get burned. And I get maybe an hour’s worth of battery life. If I play in Windows 7 in Bootcamp, the graphics look better, but the rest of the problems exist.
But playing Guild Wars 2 through Steam Streaming, the game being hosted on my beast of a desktop machine upstairs, and only rendering on my MacBook Pro through Steam Streaming… the laptop doesn’t get hot, the quality is amazing, and I get hours and hours of battery life.
I have Cat 6A networking running from my upstairs office down to my router in the basement and up again to the living room, where I have a 2012 Mac Mini and a 60″ Plasma TV with surround sound stereo. The Mac Mini isn’t powerful enough to run Guild Wars 2 natively with anything but lowest quality in OS X. However, using Steam Streaming, I’m able to have the highest quality settings and there’s zero visible lag or rendering problems. And with surround sound, it is just an incredibly awesome experience. This is now my favorite way to play video games. This was definitely not the case prior to this new desktop machine I bought, or Steam Streaming.
One thing I was nervous about was being able to play Guild Wars 2 on my MacBook Pro via Steam Streaming, over my WiFi connection. I didn’t really want to have to run Cat 6A wiring to every room in the house I’d possibly want to play from. I have an Airport Extreme upstairs, and an Asus RT-N66U Dark Knight Double 450Mbps N router in the basement. Between the two AP’s, I’m able to sustain between 30 and 60 FPS through Steam Streaming. So yes, you can get the highest of quality from the Steam Streaming server in your house, to your laptop, over WiFi, assuming you have 802.11 n or ac.
Here’s a picture of the parts I bought:
And here’s the finished product:
Here’s the parts I bought, based on this editable list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/mvTWqs:
I spent $1500 for the whole thing. I saved a bit since I already had a spare 2TB 7200 RPM HDD and a 500GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD. I still have a bunch of rebates I need to send in, which will lower the price. And I bought everything from Amazon, since I have Prime, but you could definitely save money by buying from whoever has the cheapest price for the parts you want.
I’m extremely pleased with the way all of this turned out. I was hesitant and worried that I’d mess something up, or that playing via Steam Streaming wasn’t going to be a viable option for me.
I’m very happy to say that I was wrong.
This works beautifully so far and I love it.