3D Gaming Laptop: Buy Now or Wait?
The question of whether you should wait before buying a new computer – for the next hardware generation, new feature or new model that is just around the corner is an incredibly common question. The short and simple answer is that there always is and always will be some new technology around the corner.
This is the nature of the computer industry; it evolves continuously with increasingly powerful hardware and new features. It is also for the very same reason that, following this line of thinking, you would have to wait forever before getting that new laptop, desktop, smartphone, tablet or whatever high-tech device you are currently considering.
Are 3D gaming laptops an exception? In some cases I would definitely answer yes to that question. For example, glasses-free 3D technology is simply not there yet – it is a fun feature but it hasn’t had enough time to mature. For one thing, there is barely any support for games on these laptops. That will probably change at some point, but for the time being it is strictly for movies, so gamers should consider glasses-free 3D a bonus feature at most when buying a new laptop.
Active shutter technology using 3D glasses, on the other hand, has been on the market for quite some time and is used in both laptops and stand-alone monitors. The most common solution is NVIDIA’s 3D Vision, but there are other good alternatives as well.
In short, active shutter technology works by using a display with twice the refresh rate (120Hz) compared to a regular one (60Hz) and delivers every other picture to your left and right eye – effectively providing depth perception to your games.
The best part is that it actually works and is compatible with a wide range of games. In the case of 3D Vision, there are also frequent driver updates that add new games to the roster. This technology has been widely adopted, so there is no need to worry about it disappearing any time soon.
There are already lots of laptops available that come with a 3D kit and the mandatory 120Hz display, but not all of them are suitable for gaming. What you need to take into consideration before pulling the trigger on a 3D gaming laptop is that the graphics card is sufficiently powerful to actually play the latest games in 3D. The added special dimension requires about 30% more performance from the GPU to provide adequate frame rates (as in free from stuttering) as it normally would.
Consequently, a mid-range mobile graphics card is not recommended for high-end 3D gaming. This is more or less a universal recommendation, but when using active shutter 3D technology it becomes even more important. How do you tell a mid-range card from a high-end one, then? A simple answer is that all laptops that are branded and sold as gaming laptops are normally equipped with a high-end GPU, such as Alienware and ASUS’ Republic of Gamers laptops.
But to return to the original question of whether you should wait it out and see what happens before you go shopping for a 3D gaming laptop, the answer is both yes and no. For glasses-free 3D it is definitely a good idea to wait for improvements in the current technology – at least if your sole purpose with the 3D functionality is gaming. For active shutter 3D, there is no reason whatsoever to wait. Although this technology is also improving continuously, it is already well established and mature.