Choose a Gaming Laptop
Edited by Batkingnz, Eng, Lynn, Doug Collins
There are many advantages to gaming on a Laptop PC over a home console or even a desktop PC. For starters you have almost unlimited backward compatibility with older PC games, something that consoles aren't even able to do with their previous generation's games. There is also the fact that a Laptop is an all-in-one machine, and it's portable too. If you're planning to buy a Laptop for gaming, there are some key components to take into consideration that will make the difference between a capable business machine and a portable gaming powerhouse. Check the HowTo below for all the details and our recommendations.
Know your components and make the right choice
- 1CPU.The brains of the computer. These days the CPU is no longer the bottleneck in the performance of your computer. Desktop and Laptop CPUs are now mostly based on the same architecture, and are comparable to each other in performance. So as long as you are using a decent graphics card and RAM, then a mid to mid-upper CPU will get you through even the most intensive gaming tasks. When looking for your Laptop, look for something with an Intel i5 or i7 CPU. Even if choosing a fast i7 CPU, you will be looking at laptops in the $900-2000 range, so the savings by going for something like an i3 will not pay off when it comes to performance.Advertisement
- 2Graphics card or GPU.On-board vs. dedicated. As with a desktop gaming PC, the graphics card inside will be one of the most important pieces of your investment. If you are going to do any type of gaming outside of your Facebook and Flash games, then you will absolutely need a dedicated video card. When looking at a Laptop for gaming, check the specs for either on-board or dedicated graphics. If you're in a store, then check with the salespeople. On-board graphics have come a long way in recent years and will give you good results for HD video and light gaming, but for any intensive gaming you will appreciate the graphics quality and frame rate difference with a dedicated video card. Having a dedicated card will also enable you to run your games at higher resolutions like 720p and full 1080p.Advertisement
- 3RAM.RAM is especially important in gaming, as it will affect things like loading times and speed of your games, depending how much information needs to be put across the screen. As with a desktop gaming PC, 4 GB is the absolute minimum, even for gaming on a budget. In today's gaming laptops you will usually see in excess of this anyway, but keep the minimum in mind when selecting a device.
- 4Hard drive.As with most modern machines, we recommend 500 GB as the minimum. Most dedicated gaming laptops will give you more, and even further, some will have a regular hard drive along with an SSD drive. If choosing a Laptop with an SSD, just make sure that the secondary hard drive is still a minimum of 500 GB. An SSD can make a big difference to loading times on your Laptop, as well as reducing power drain and fragility by eliminating moving parts within the drive. SSD drives are becoming more popular with gamers today because of the speed boost and durability of the drive itself. It's OK not to have one, and they do add price, but if you can get a Laptop in your budget which includes SSD, there is no reason not to go with it.
- 5Screen size.This one comes down to preference and practicality. A 14-inch screen might seem small, but the difference in power drain and portability can be the deciding factor. A 17-inch or larger screen on the other hand will mean an overly larger and in most cases heavier Laptop with lower battery life, but it also means that you probably won't be tempted to plug your Laptop into an external monitor at any chance you can. There's a trade-off here, but in the end go with the package that suits your needs most.
- Screen resolution. Resolution is another factor to consider in choosing your gaming Laptop. Smaller screens will usually be in 720p resolution, which is considered HD but not full HD. 1080p Screens are full HD and are usually found on the 15-inch and larger devices.
- Touchscreen. This is a gaming Laptop, so touch might not be a key factor, but it does help you enjoy the Windows 8 operating system as it was intended. Even on a dedicated gaming Laptop, chances are that you will do some web browsing and possibly the odd office work or assignment, so if you can get a touchscreen then do, but don't let it be a deciding factor.
Below are two options on the lower and higher end of the price scale. Each is a capable gaming machine in its own right and they both have advantages and disadvantages over each other. Remember that power is not always everything, especially of you are looking for portability. Use these as a starting point and begin your own search from here.
- 1Alienware 14, USD $1099.This is an excellent choice at a very good price point. It includes an i5 processor, an Nvidia GT750M dedicated graphics card, 8 GB of RAM and a substantial 750 GB hard drive. The screen is 14 inches, a little over 720p resolution (1366x768) and is a non-touchscreen. For everything you get inside the price is more than worth it, especially considering the high end graphics card and Windows 7 loaded. Alienware is also a well known brand, manufactured by Dell, which means proven quality and reliability. Check out the different Alienware models at here.Advertisement
- 2ASUS ROG G750JX, USD $1999.The ASUS is another solid choice at the higher end of the scale. ASUS is a market and innovation leader in computers with a reputations for reliability and quality. Although it's almost double the price of the Alienware, there are valid reasons within. This unit contains an i7 4700HQ CPU, which is one of the best in the business. Complementing the CPU is 16 GB of RAM and a Nvidia GTX770M graphics card with 3 GB of its own RAM, meaning that this Laptop will be able to handle any graphically intensive game that you can throw at it. On top of this, there is 1 TB of hard drive storage, along with 256 GB of SSD storage, so games and OS will load lightning fast. The system is loaded with Windows 8 and is again non-touchscreen. There's a big difference in price, but the feature difference also makes this one of the most powerful gaming laptops available on the market. You can check out all the ASUS models at this site.Advertisement
Tips, Tricks & Warnings
- Cooling mats. The biggest killer of laptops, and computer components in genera,l is heat. Although modern laptops are designed to have as much airflow and dissipate the maximum amount of heat, it can never hurt to use a quality cooling pad to increase the airflow on your Laptop. They also help to elevate your Laptop, which can be useful on a desk or table.
- Graphics card. This one is important, so we will stress it again. On-board graphics and gaming do not mix. Always go for the dedicated graphics card when buying a gaming Laptop.
- If you have problems with any of these steps, ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.