Always Free To Place a Hit On Someone
Let’s start with that GeForce GTX 970M under the G752VT-DH72’s hood. Though obviously not the fastest discrete module available, Asus connects it to a 17.3” IPS panel with G-Sync support and a 75Hz refresh rate. So, even when the GPU can’t maintain 75 FPS, synchronization in the display subsystem keeps the output smooth. Once you spend time in front of G-Sync (or FreeSync), it’s hard not to notice the artifacts associated with turning v-sync on or off. Particularly at 1920x1080, the technology lets you get away with a less powerful graphics module, ultimately saving some money.
The rest of the platform falls into place nicely. Intel’s Core i7-6700HQ operates at a modest 2.6GHz and only includes 6MB of shared L3 cache. But the quad-core CPU is still a screamer (even if we would have preferred the -6820HQ, which Intel claims is similarly-priced). Sixteen gigabytes of DDR4-2133 memory split across two SO-DIMM slots are fairly standard. If you find yourself needing more, a panel on the chassis’ undercarriage pops off to reveal a pair of vacant slots.Asus smartly built a tiered storage subsystem consisting of Samsung’s 128GB PM951 and a 1TB HGST Travelstar. The SSD, equipped with triple-level-cell NAND, is nowhere near as fast as the flagship SM951. However, it does communicate over a four-lane PCIe link using NVMe. Asus offers another configuration with a 256GB SSD and 24GB of RAM for an extra $200, but enthusiasts looking for more capacity can manually upgrade the 128GB version too (the aforementioned panel also reveals an empty M.2 2280 slot).
We certainly get what Asus is trying to do here. By keeping the G752VT-DH72’s SSD small, yet functional, and its graphics powerful, but not overkill, the company can sell this thing for about $1,650. Six other systems in our round-up cost more. Plugged into the wall, G-Sync keeps the action enjoyable. Away from it, Nvidia’s Battery Boost technology throttles you back to 30 FPS by default. Just don’t expect a ton of game time on the road. Our loop of Unigine Valley at 1920x1080 only lasted 43 minutes before the G752VT-DH72 shut itself off, landing in last place.A somewhat meager battery is but one compromise you make in going the budget route. Asus hasn’t done much to improve its audio over the last Republic of Gamers notebook we reviewed, either. High frequencies lack crispness, while lows sound muddled. Tweaking around in the Sonic Studio II app helps, but you’re going to want a good headset.I’m also not a fan of the updated chassis; it employs more angles, less soft-touch material, and a brushed silver/copper color scheme. Fortunately, none of the surfaces attract finger oils. The top panel does flex quite a bit, and our sample had noticeable gaps between the screen and bezel. There is a smoked plastic window across the undercarriage, which gives you a nice view of Asus’ cooling solution. However, it was already pretty scratched up on the unit we received.
Though several of the G752VT-DH72’s competitors serve up more peripheral connectivity, we didn’t feel like we were missing anything crucial. Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort 1.2, four USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.1 Type C port with Thunderbolt 3 support, digital and analog audio I/O, an SD card reader, and a dual-layer DVD±R/RW drive cover the bases well. You also get a built-in Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 7265 adapter with Bluetooth 4.0, plus an integrated 1.2 megapixel webcam.Naturally, gamers will want to use the G752VT-DH72 with their own mice. But the oversized trackpad suffices in productivity apps. Its right- and left-click buttons have just the right amount of travel and depress uniformly. We prefer this to buttons that are raised on one side. Asus’ keyboard is similarly executed well, though its red backlight doesn’t match the new silver/copper color scheme as well as the old black/red design. Function keys along the top make it easy to adjust backlight intensity, disable the trackpad, switch display outputs, or put the notebook to sleep.
Despite our smattering of critiques, the bottom line is that Asus’ G752VT-DH72 delivers smooth gaming performance at an impressive $1,650 price point. G-Sync technology, a GeForce GTX 970M, the SM951 SSD, and Intel’s Skylake architecture come together in a package that Goldilocks would call “just right.”Remember that scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold receives a yearlong Jelly of the Month Club membership instead of the Christmas bonus he was expecting? That is the sort of thing that can happen when you leave gift giving up to others. If you want to take matters into your hands and treat yourself to something nice, Newegg has a pretty good deal going on for a Gigabyte laptop.It's the 15.6-inch Gigabyte P55Wv6-PC3D featuring a Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) IPS display powered by an Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, 16GB of DDR4-2133 RAM, and a GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of GDDR5 memory for $1,099.On the storage front, this laptop pairs a 256GB SSD with a 1TB HDD. It also has a DVD burner shoved into a chassis measuring 14.92 x 10.59 x 1.08-1.14 inches and weighing 5.73 pounds.
Connectivity consists of 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, three USB 3.0 ports (Type-A), a single USB 3.1 Type-C port, VGA and HDMI outputs, and separate microphone and headphone jacks.Other features and amenities include an SD card reader, two 2W speakers, full-size backlit keyboard, HD webcam, and a 6-cell battery.Finally, the laptop comes with a mousepad and free gift from Nvidia, that being your choice of one of three games: Maize (indie), Redout (indie), or Raw Data (VR).Before we start, let me put this big disclaimer out there: I'm testing preview code, which is incomplete and very likely not fully optimized. Things might change by the time Civilization 6 launches on October 21, though the things I'm about to test are probably not high on the priority list. So, can you run Civilization 6 on a laptop with integrated graphics? The minimum system requirements are pretty tame:
A 1GB discrete GPU from AMD's 5570 class or Nvidia's 450 class? Yeah, just about everything should be at least that fast these days. But what if you're using an older system—how do those stack up against a three-year-old laptop? I've got some bad news for you. Even a rather anemic HD 5570 is going to be faster than Intel's HD Graphics 4400, by about 30 percent, though newer laptops with 5th and 6th gen Intel Core parts are probably close to the HD 5570. AMD's APUs should fare better, with the 2013/2014 chips delivering roughly HD 5570 performance.I don't have all of those parts sitting around for testing, but what I do have is a modern quad-core i7-6700HQ notebook. Sure, it has a beefy graphics card as well, but I set Civ 6 to use the integrated graphics. Intel's HD Graphics 530 in this case is a moderately potent graphics solution, likely better in some ways than an HD 5570, and I wanted to see what it could do.
Let's start with image quality, because that's going to be key. I selected the Medium preset first, created a new game, and was promptly greeted by 15 fps. Nope, that ain't gonna cut it! This is the start of the game, with one settler and one warrior unit on the screen and a bunch of stuff hidden by fog of war. Dropping to the Low preset (which is really minimum quality—everything is turned off) helped immensely, giving me a solid 30-35 fps. Here's what those two settings look like:The drop in image quality is pretty noticeable, but shadows are the only real difference. Everything looks a bit flat without the extra shadowing, but if it means double the framerate and potentially opens the game up to non-gaming laptops, it's not a terrible price to pay. (If you're interested in the other image quality presets, the High and Ultra settings mostly increase the amount of geometry relative to Medium. The jump from Medium to High basically cuts performance in half yet again, give or take, but from High to Ultra is only about a 10 percent dip.)So, 30-35 fps while zoomed out, but that's at 1920x1080 and only at the start of a new game. Fast forward to 575 BC when there's more going on and performance while zoomed out was noticeably slower—around 20 fps—but zooming in a bit could get me back above the 30 fps mark. Also, Civilization games aren't about twitch reflexes, so even 20 fps was manageable in a pinch.
In most games, performance for integrated graphics ends up limited by the number of pixels you render, so I figured dropping from 1920x1080 down to 1366x768 would provide another boost to performance. Only rendering half the pixels ought to help, but in this case it didn't seem to matter much—I gained maybe 1-2 fps. It looks like the biggest bottleneck with Civ 6 on low-end graphics solutions (especially Intel) is going to be geometry throughput. What will that mean for other Intel GPUs? None of them are officially supported by the game, and apparently with good reason. If HD 530 only hits 20-30 fps, and that's still relatively early in the game, I suspect the late game on larger maps will absolutely choke lesser graphics chips. I checked another laptop with Intel's HD Graphics 4600 (Haswell) and found framerates in the mid-teens, and on Ultrabooks it would be even lower. On the other hand, the same laptop using a GeForce GT 750M did OK, pushing 30-40 fps. Update: There's another option for playing Civ6, and that's the strategic view. The problem is that you're left with icons for everything, so figuring out the units can be a bit difficult, but frame rates at least aren't a problem. Intel's HD Graphics 4600 was able to push 80+ fps in strategic view. That doesn't say much about the time between turns, though strategic mode also tends to speed up movement in my limited experience.
It's not the ideal experience, but if you really want to play Civilization 6 on your laptop's integrated graphics, it's possible. You can either stick with the Tiny map size, try not to zoom too far out, and bring a jug of patience, or you can play from the strategic view and forget about all the fancy graphics.
We have been keeping our eyes peeled for deals throughout this holiday season and will continue to do so for the next few weeks. What we found today is one of the best prices to date on a laptop wielding a GeForce GTX 1060 GPU.It's the MSI GP62MVR Leopard Pro-248 and it's currently marked down to $999 on Newegg. That's $300 off its normal selling price, plus there's a $100 mail-in-rebate available that brings the price down to just $899.What you get in return is a gaming laptop with a 15.6-inch Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) IPS display, Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. Obviously a solid state drive would be preferred, but at this price you could always add one in and still have yourself a high-end laptop at a great price.
External connectivity consists of a single USB 3.1 Type-C port, two USB 3.0 ports, and a USB 2.0 port. The laptop also has HDMI and mini DisplayPort outputs, a headphone amp, four 2W speakers, Killer Gaming E2400 LAN, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Blueooth 4.0, 720p webcam, and a Steelseries keyboard with backlight.This is today's "Shell Shocker" deal on Newegg and is good until midnight (PST) tonight. Go here to check it out.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are officially in the rear view mirror, but the deals keep on coming. To keep the momentum going, Microsoft today kicks off its annual 12 days of deals event, which is exactly as it sounds—daily deals on different items from now until December 16 at the Microsoft Store.Today's focus is on Intel PCs, the vast majority of which are laptops and 2-in-1 devices. Microsoft's pitch is that you can save up to $1,000 on select computers, though there's just one system that is marked down by a grand. It's the Alienware 15 Touch Signature Edition, today priced at $1,497 instead of $2,499.The Alienware features an Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor paired with a last-generation Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M GPU, which is a bit of a buzz kill since there are systems in this price range rocking a GeForce 10 series GPU.