What are you planning to use the laptop for? If you want a good laptop for college that is portable, has great battery life, and has great gaming performance you're looking at $1500-$1600+
1. Schoolwork 2. Photoediting (I am a photographer and I mostly use lightroom and sometimes photoshop) 3. Gaming (Mostly Dota 2, but would like to try more games)
Hopefully something that can last me 3-5 years of use?
If that isn't possible, maybe I'll settle for a desktop instead and just use my iPad for taking notes at school (I don't usually like it because I have to re-do everything when transfering files from pages to MS word)
They just released Word for iPad. Also I think iPad's are better for taking notes since you can handwrite or type. Since you already have an iPad I would definitely recommend just getting a desktop.
The default panel on the MSI Stealth in the last generation had poor colorspace coverage (~84% sRGB and 58% aRGB). http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-MSI-GS70-65M21621-Notebook.102287.0.html
I am not sure if the current refresh improved the panel or not. There are upgrade options if you're buying from a reseller like xoticpc. It's something to consider, since you're a photographer.
As far as I know, Lightroom doesn't take advantage of GPU acceleration, so from that point of view, it doesn't make sense to get a workstation grade laptop. Unfortunately, workstation grade laptops are the only ones that have decent gaming performance and durability.
Take, for example, the Thinkpad W540 with a Quadro K2100 (about $1600) (or a Precision M6800). The W540 has carbon fiber reinforced ABS plastic with Mg-Al plating reinforcing the base. This shell is warp resistant. If you drop the thing, the shell absorbs the impact and chips or cracks the plastic, while the fiber and metal prevent the chasis from warping. This is important for the internal components, because warping is what damages the laptop, while chipping and cracking merely damage how it looks. This is why aluminum chases are not suited for durability, as aluminum absorbs impact by denting, which is significantly more likely to damage the internal components than chips and cracks.
But you're getting what is more or less an entry level gaming GPU (about the same as a GTX 750M) with professional features that you don't really use, so these workstations don't necessarily make sense.
I am shooting for MSI Apache Pro. Only $1200 and it is a beastly system. Just make sure you get it from Newegg.
And I don't understand people who say laptops can't do gaming. They can run most games on high or even Ultra and be perfectly playable. Many games can easily do well over 60fps as long as you don't go too nuts with max settings. They aren't that far behind desktop performance these days. It's like people are thinking about the PC gaming scene in the early 2000s.
Laptops the past 5 years has come a long way.
Rest in Peace, my beloved dog and family member 1999-2011 http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/mppi0/can_you_guess_the_gender/
Yo TC, if you get the msi stealth get the pro. The 860m in the non pro is (last I read) the kepler version of the 860m, and it's not worth that money. The pro's 870m is kepler too but at least its got better performance.
I don't know what size you have in mind, but if you go to xoticpc.com you can look at all sorts of configs and pick one right for you. As far as least expensive 15/17" goes with decent performance, these are the best you can probably do sub 1000$: http://www.xoticpc.com/gigabyte-p27kcf3-eta-april4-p-7047.html http://www.xoticpc.com/lenovo-ideapad-y510p-59390909-p-6353.html
Though they may be a bit cheaper elsewhere. Finally, like I said, anything with an 860m research it and make sure you are getting the maxwell version not the kepler, it is a huge difference in performance and kind of sneaky they share the same name.