A Week With: The Gigabyte P2742 laptop

 

Price: From £929
Operating system: Windows 8
Processor: 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM
Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
Memory: 8GB DDR3 RAM
Storage: 8GB SSD or 128GB SSD paired with a 750GB or 1TB hard drive
Screen: 17.3in; full HD 1920x1080

What is it?

A powerful gaming laptop that won't break the bank, which is a compelling proposition when you consider that up until a year or two ago, affordable yet portable PC gaming was unheard of. Until then you either bought a monstrously expensive powerhouse – such as Dell's Alienware M18x – or settled for a mid-range PC notebook and stuck to playing graphically undemanding web-based titles such as FarmVille. So a hearty welcome to the P2742: a well-specced laptop from Taiwan-based PC manufacturer Gigabyte that promises to blast through the latest heavy-duty titles such as Crysis 3 at a price below average for this class of computer.

What's under the bonnet?

Gigabyte is aiming to hit the specification/price sweet spot here by coupling a speedy 3.4 GHz Intel i7-3630QM processor and a full HD screen with a gaming-worthy graphics card – Nvidia's Geforce GTX 660M – all for around a grand. The other innovation at this price point is the pairing of a large, spinning hard drive with a secondary storage component, a lightning-fast SSD (solid state device) for swiftly loading the operating system. This allows the laptop to boot up into Windows 8 from cold in 15 seconds.

How does it play?

First the good news: once you've downloaded and fired up the free digital copy of adventure game Assassin's Creed 3, the levels load up swiftly, with the gaming world smoothly rendered in glorious high definition. This rig even plays the notoriously resource-hungry, first-person-shooter, Metro 2033 – albeit with graphical settings dropped down a few notches. Movies run well on its crisp 17.3in screen too.

How does it look and feel?

Its understated jet-black chassis is a welcome change from the garish, architectural monstrosities that usually blight the designs of hard-core gaming laptops.

Any downsides?

While this laptop could be a contender for cheapest super-sized gaming rig in town, it's also marred by several shortcomings: push the laptop to its performance limits and its normally whisper-quiet cooling fan erupts into a distracting roar. And while the built-in speakers jut out impressively, the sound is tinny and weedy. It's also hard to overlook that fact that, as 2013 gathers pace, more and more Windows 8 PC devices feature a touch-screen as standard, which this device, like most gaming laptops right now, doesn't feature.

Is it worth the money?

Certainly not if you're just going to use it for a spot of Facebook trawling or YouTube browsing. But remember that true gaming grunt doesn't come cheap: you can easily blow two grand on a gaming rig from laptop specialists such as Origin. So if you can overlook the limitations, the P2742 represents good value for anyone keen to play the latest PC games away from a desktop. If that still feels like too much – and you're willing to take a further hit on gaming performance – Dell's £810, Inspiron 17R Special Edition laptop is worth a look. Available to pre-order on amazon.co.uk.

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