Gaming Notebook: 15-Inch Vs 17-Inch

The Form-Factor Conundrum

Laptops come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny, 7-inch ultra-mobile PCs and 10-inch netbooks, to 20-inch desktop replacements. The most popular sizes are 15-inches and 17-inches, both of which can offer a wide range of performance, features, and portability. Choosing between these two form-factors can be difficult, though, when manufacturers impose a trade-off between performance, size, and portability.

The choice becomes even more complicated when you’re looking for heavy-duty performer that stays within your budget. When all you need is a basic laptop for simple tasks like browsing the web or watching a few movies, you don't need a lot of horsepower. Almost anything with a modern CPU and a dedicated video card will meet your needs, and systems like that are easily found under $1000, 15 and 17-inch models alike.

But what if you want more? What if you want a laptop that lets you surf the net and watch movies, as well as take care of more demanding tasks, like image and video editing or heavy gaming, all while staying within a tight budget?  Suddenly the choices dwindle to just a handful of possible laptops, and you have to decide if you want to sacrifice portability for a larger screen and extra processing power, or sacrifice performance and screen size for the benefit of portability.

We’ve looked at this decision making process from numerous angles, and we’ve found that usually, the decision almost always comes down to the form-factor. It's more expensive to fit a high quality display into a 15-inch notebook, and the small frame means adequate cooling for high-performance parts is extremely difficult.

Yet, 17-inch displays are much easier to manufacture, and the larger chassis leaves plenty of room for aggressive cooling solutions to keep those performance parts functioning properly. In the end, this means that the two form-factors may be similarly priced but offer very different features, and choosing one over the other can be a very tough choice.

We found two aggressively budget-oriented performance laptops made by MSI, which, when looked at side-by-side, perfectly illustrate the drama of the 15-inch vs  17-inch choice that many of us face.

  • quantumrand
    I went back and forth between these two laptops more times than I can count. I'm not a hardcore gamer by any means, but I do like to play the latest games from time to time. In my case, battery life wasn't really a concern since I rarely use my laptop away from a plug, so it was really no holds barred between the two.

    On the one hand, the GX740's quad core CPU with hyperthreading was a huge selling point for me. I do a lot of video converting as well as 3D modeling, so 8 cores is pretty sweet. The size of the thing is pretty extreme though and takes up almost all of my available desk space, leaving little room for my mouse, lol.

    On the other hand, the GX640 is very similar to my current laptop, the GX620. It's the same size, same design, same layout, so switching to it would be very simple. It still has plenty of power to be more than useful, but compared to the GX740 it feels like a big hit to take.

    When it all comes down to it though, the GX640 just offers the best performance per price of anything I've seen. I'm by no means a big spender, so at the end of the day, I have to go with the best deal.
  • Trueno07
    I have an older MSI gaming notebook (it's not really that old, only a year, but they don't make them anymore) and i love it. It hasn't given me any trouble, and aside from some wear and tear on the keyboard (all my fault :D) it's a fantastic performer.
  • stewartwb
    This is an interesting review, but it seems dangerously close to being an advertisement for MSI, with just a token mention of another vendor in the closing paragraph.
  • rohitbaran
    Both the MSI laptops are great performers and coupled with 3 year warranty, they should be giving Alienware a run for their money.
  • cknobman
    Awesome review and comparison.

    Stewart: Although I understand your point I think it would be very hard to find another 15 inch laptop with equipment that high spec for such a low price (and likewise for the 17 incher outside of the asus consideration) which makes it easy to explain why we are only seeing MSI. Not to mention Toms can only review the equipment they are given so if no other vendors offered a laptop for a review then MSI deserves any adverts they are getting.
  • nice advertisement, where are the game benchmarks.
  • quantumrand
    snorenice advertisement, where are the game benchmarks.
    It seems like the content management system doesn't like certain links. The benchmark data can be found here:
  • Tomsguiderachel
    This was not a paid advertisement--the writer selected these laptops to illustrate the 15 vs 17 issue for performance-oriented laptops. Truthfully, there aren't many comparable products in this price range, but if you know of some please feel free to let us know in this comments section. Also, keep in mind that we usually limit our reviews to new products--we were unable to find any recent product launches in the same price range/category.

    Thanks for reading,

    Rachel Rosmarin
    Editor, Tom's Guide
  • ghostofanonion
    Xan I just say the only thing beastly about tuhe i7-720 is the price. It's no where near the makrketing hype. In saying that I'm quite pleased the performance of my system (i7-720, 8gb, 5870) I just didn't see the raw power these reviews are promising.
  • quantumrand
    ghostofanonionXan I just say the only thing beastly about tuhe i7-720 is the price. It's no where near the makrketing hype. In saying that I'm quite pleased the performance of my system (i7-720, 8gb, 5870) I just didn't see the raw power these reviews are promising.
    You're definitely right. In terms of raw power, these laptops certainly don't compare to the possibilities of a similarly priced desktop. No laptop would. Just looking at ATI's Mobility 5800 series makes it plainly clear (the Mobility 5800 is dreadfully similar to the 5700 desktop core).

    But when it comes to laptops, these two systems really stand out, both in terms of performance and price. In my opinion, they're a perfect fit for any serious gamer who likes to LAN it up with his friends.