PAX East: Visits With Samsung and MSI

Ramon Castillo, national training manager, Samsung, shows me around the booth at PAX East. photo by Corrina Lawson

I headed to PAX East this year with one overriding mission: check out the gaming laptops on display.

My younger son has been in the hospital the past month with a nasty gastrointestinal infection. Naturally,  egged on by his Slytherin-sneaky brother, my son decided to milk the admittedly serious illness for the possibility of getting a gaming laptop.

For research purposes, I made appointments with Samsung, who have just unveiled their first entry into the gaming laptop market, and MSI Computer Corp, already a leader with all types of equipment needed for PC gaming. This was Samsung’s first appearance at the event, as they debuted their gaming PC at CES this year.

But the two tech companies were not alone. Also present at PAX East were Dell and its subsidiary, Alienware, and Logitech, all displaying gaming-oriented PCs (laptop and desktop) and equipment.

Both my sons prefer PC gaming now over the traditional consoles (hence, my son’s interest in a gaming laptop rather than the new Nintendo Switch). Why? STEAM. My older son says the games available on STEAM are cheaper, more creative, and more diverse than anything he can buy for a console. Currently, Undertale is his favorite. Indeed, I bought him an Art of Undertale book at the Fangamer booth.

So how do the gaming laptops look?

My younger son sent me to PAX with his specs: minimum 8GB of RAM, a hard drive with 500GB storage but 1 TB would be preferable, and a discrete graphics card because, he said, the integrated ones are usually underpowered. I realized, after talking to those with gaming computers, that these are base level specs. But considering a base-level gaming computer is in the $1,000 range with others that can cost over $3,000, I decided to stick with those, especially given how hard my kids can be on laptops.

I booked booth interviews with Samsung, a relative newcomer to the gaming laptop market, and, MSI, an industry standard.

My first stop was at Samsung to check out the Samsung Notebook Odyssey. Specs: Windows 10 Home, 7th Gen Intel® Core™ i7 Processor, 15″ LED Display (full HD at 1920×1080), 1TB HDD + 128GB SSD Storage, a NVIDIA GTX 1050 graphics card with maximum graphics memory: GDDR5 2G. (Full specs at the link.)

What I liked? First, the price tag: $1.199.99. It’s not bad for a gaming laptop with those specs and, indeed, it’s cheaper than many new MacBook models. (Apple is seriously behind in this market, offering not much bang for the buck lately even for regular laptops. But that’s another article.) There have been some reviews that have said Samsung’s Odyssey does nothing unique for gamers, and not having bought a gaming laptop before, I can’t refute that. However, as a parent, for what’s included in that price, it’s definitely intriguing.

Ramon Castillo, national training manager for Samsung, also showed off another feature of the  Odyssey, the HexaFlow Vent for cooling and ventilation. It can be removed with three screws to allow for quick upgrades of memory and graphic cards. Castillo also showed me a 1080 HD curved gaming monitor at a price of $450, for those who prefer desktops.

MSI Camo innards, photo by Corrina Lawson

Lenny Tang, Associate Marketing Manager at MSI, gave me a tour of their booth laptops, with an emphasis on the Camo Limited Edition GE02, and I learned about M.2 slots, something unknown for those working with base-level laptops. We talked about MacBooks versus PCs, and gaming laptops versus consoles, and he allowed that he uses a MacBook for basic functions but, of course, switches to a gaming laptop for those higher functions.

Like my son, Tang likes being able to game on the same device that can do other things, rather than needing a separate dedicated gaming console. This may well be the wave of the future, given the plethora of STEAM games I saw showcased at PAX East and how crowded the Indie Games section was at all times. (My sons are not alone in their love of PC games.)

MSI is, of course, a leader in this field. This particular special edition goes for $1,699. (Again, full specs at the link above.) Quite a bit more than the Samsung but also, if you look at the specs, perhaps more loaded. Other MSI models are as low as $849, or so Amazon has them today as I type, but I worry that those would be underpowered and perhaps their screens would be too small. I know 17″ inch laptop screens are probably where most gamers would start but, again, we run into that parental budget, and the fact that this would be something of a “starter” for a gaming computer.

Of course, the ancillary equipment in PC gaming is also important, particularly the mouse, which can run anywhere from $60 to over $200. Plus, keyboards for desktop models. All these things add to the budget.

My tours at Samsung and MSI gave me a nice overview of the basics of the gaming laptop market, but my conclusion is that more research is needed before investing at least $1,000 for my son. I want him to be there to check out keyboards and mice himself, and to see if he insists on the larger-screened laptops or if he’d change his mind to prefer the desktops which can be connected to curved monitors that offer even better graphics.

But at least I now have a place to start. I would urge other parents who are not video gamers to do their research, as compatibility with keyboards–laptop and desktops–are key with gaming computers, and memory and graphic requirements may change depending on the types of games being played.

Writer, Mom, Geek and Superhero. though usually not all four on the same day. Author of the award-winning Phoenix Institute Superhero series and the steampunk novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract.