Are you thinking of buying a gaming laptop? Can we offer a little advice to help ease the process and help you end up with a laptop that meets your needs to a T?
We can help by sharing with you some of the top considerations when it comes to purchasing a gaming laptop. In no particular order, here they are:
One important consideration when choosing a gaming laptop is how portable it is and what your needs are. Gaming laptops are gaming rigs that can be taken on the go. They must be powerful enough to play particularly demanding games, and this often means that they need to have especially powerful processors, copious amounts of RAM, heavy-duty cooling systems, and so on.
This usually means that on the average, gaming laptops are bigger and heavier than regular laptops. And some of the biggest gaming laptops can be pretty massive, mounting 17- or even 18-inch screens and weighing as much as 20 pounds. These are usually the ones that mount top-shelf processors and GPUs and which have cooling systems to match–adding to their heft. Which is all alright, of course, if you’ll only be moving your laptop around occasionally.
But if you want to be able to tote your rig more than just every so often, a smaller and lighter gaming laptop might be best for you (and your back). You can check out medium-sized gaming laptops whose screens are up to 15 inches in size and which are correspondingly lighter and less bulky. And there are also gaming laptops that are even smaller, having 13- or 14-inch displays, and which are correspondingly even easier to carry around.
The flip side of choosing a more portable gaming laptop is of course the fact that you might have to put up with a less powerful CPU and GPU. Vis-a-vis larger laptops, smaller laptops have less of the space that’s needed to dissipate the heat generated by top-of-the-line CPUs and GPUs. The rule of thumb, therefore, is that portability usually comes at the expense of power when it comes to gaming laptops.
Display and Graphics
OK, aside from the display’s sheer size, there are other display-related factors you need to consider if you’re picking a gaming laptop.
The first is the resolution–the minimum you should settle for is 1920 x 1080. 4K screens (3840 x 2160) are extra-cost options on some laptops, but you might need to adjust the resolution depending on the game you’re playing.
Another consideration is refresh rate–most gaming laptops in the market have 1080p resolution and 60Hz displays, which is usually enough for most games and gamers. You can, of course, avail of laptops with higher refresh rates, but these can be pricier and can also require that your GPU be pretty powerful, too. (And speaking of graphics processing, you can also see if the laptop you’re considering supports Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync, technologies that sync displays with graphic cards for improved gaming performance.)
Oh, by the way, a touch screen is superfluous on a gaming laptop. It isn’t necessary for gaming, significantly impacts battery life, and can give the display a glossy look that can really mess up your game.
Your laptop’s graphics card or GPU is its beating heart, one of the components that is directly responsible for a gaming laptop’s performance. Most gaming laptops nowadays mount Nvidia GeForce GTX or RTX GPUs, but AMD also offers some options such as the Radeon RX 5000M series. A new range of AMD discrete GPUs should be released later in 2021, so sit tight.
You’ll need to make sure that the GPU you get is a discrete one that has its own dedicated memory–VRAM. 4GB of VRAM would be fine on the average.
CPU and RAM
Choose a laptop with a CPU that’s got enough power to keep you satisfied, but won’t also make your laptop too heavy for your liking, and won’t cost too much for your budget.
You could, for instance, purchase a laptop with a really powerful Core i7 or even i9 (even one that can be overclocked), or even a laptop with a desktop CPU. Core i5 should be the slowest CPU that you’re open to purchasing, while 6th-gen Core should be the oldest.
Go for quad-core processors at least and avoid dual-core. Keep in mind that clock speed is an important consideration–the higher the listed number, the faster the speed, and the better the gaming performance.
Lastly, let 8GB of RAM be the bare minimum for you. 16GB would be much better if you can find it and/or afford it. Many gaming laptops (not all, though) will allow you to upgrade your RAM later on.
Regarding storage, you can choose between hard drives and SSDs. Hard drives are slower to boot up, relatively speaking, while SSDs are faster. If you can select a large-capacity SSD, you’ll enjoy faster loading times for your games, but these kinds of SSDs can be pricey and may cause you to overshoot your budget.
Most gaming laptops nowadays come with both hard drives and SSDs; they use SSDs as boot drives in order to reduce boot time, and stick with hard drives to reduce costs. Depending on the laptop you’re considering, you might be able to see combinations like a 128GB SSD and 1TB hard drive.
If you’re choosing a hard drive, try and make sure you get the faster ones to maximize performance. Make a beeline for the 7200rpm hard drives and ignore the 5400rpm drives if you can afford to do so.
Keep in mind that storage is often upgradeable after purchase, and you can upgrade at a certain point in the future.
While gamers have headsets (and if you’re gaming in public, you’ll really need to use a headset so as not to disturb other people), when you’re in private or with friends, you might want to use your laptop’s speakers instead.
Try and look for technologies like Nahimic audio software (found only in MSI laptops), Dell Audio software, and Dolby Home Theater. These technologies help ensure topnotch immersive sound to help you enjoy the game on speakers as much as you do with a headset on.
Last but certainly not least of our considerations is the keyboard. Keys need to feel “nice” and not mushy, need to offer top performance that can keep up with a rapid game, and should also be sturdy enough to take being pounded.
Look for keyboards whose keys have 1.5mm-2mm of key travel (and if your budget can support it, try and get a laptop whose keys are mechanical); with between 65 and 70 grams of actuation, which is the force applied to a key in order to press it down; and with features like anti-ghosting (press several keys in quick combination and they’ll all register) and n-key rollover (ensures that each key is independent of the other).
By the way, also check for backlighting. Budget gaming laptops can usually only offer red or white backlighting, while the better laptops will boast RGB backlighting and even customizable lighting.