You would think that choosing a gaming laptop is easy!
You just select your favourite brand, see what you can afford and boom!!! You have a laptop to game on.
However, when you start to do some research you’ll find that there are actually a lot of options and things to look for.
Well, where should you start and what should you look for?
We all know the phrase “ a Gaming Desktop is way better a Gaming Laptop”.
I wouldn’t argue with that, but the gap between gaming desktops and gaming laptops has shrunk considerably over the last 2 years or so.
This is due to Nvidia’s Pascal Architecture for their graphics cards which makes it possible for manufacturers to get more performance with better energy efficiency.
Now, most budget gaming laptops can handle AAA titles with relative ease and the performance gap is getting smaller and smaller with every year.
This post is not about if and or gaming laptops are better than desktops. It’s rather a way to make choosing a gaming laptop easier for people who needs to work on the go, but also wants to play games, like me!
More and more people either work on the go or cannot afford both a gaming desktop and work laptop, so they usually have to game less or give it up all together.
That was a tough choice to make a few years ago when gaming laptops were way too expensive and had very limited performance relative to their desktop gaming counterparts.
I asked myself the question, “will a gaming laptop limit my ability to play the games I want to”, which led me to research gaming laptops aggressively in the last few months.
That’s why I created this post so you can also choose the perfect gaming laptop for you to work and play on the go.
Performance, Portability and Price
The main goal or convenience factor of laptops are the fact that they are portable, packing them up right now and go work in another location. The same goes for gaming laptops, but the most important things to note and consider is the fact that there will be a trade-off somewhere.
The 3 main factors to take into account when choosing a gaming laptop is Performance, Portability and Price. Your decision in the end will be influenced by what you actually need or want.
For example, if you have a very portable and high performance gaming laptop it will have a higher price, or a lower priced gaming laptop and high performance will most likely have a cheaper build quality which can be less portable.
The key is to look at what will benefit you the most and make a decision based on that.
The first thing you should look at are the hardware specifications even before looking at a brand or any other aspect of the choosing process. Deciding what hardware specifications you need before looking at specific models will make the filtering process much easier.
The specifications you should look at are the CPU, GPU, RAM, Storage and Battery life. Each will ultimately have an impact on how you’ll choose your gaming laptop.
CPU – Processor
There are a wide range of different CPU’s to consider, especially if you take into account all the generations, but the most common is the Core i3, i5 and i7 CPU’s.
For entry level gaming, a Core i3 would do the job. For budget gaming, you can either go with a Core i5 or Core i7 CPU, it will ultimately depend on what the rest of the specifications look like.
If you are a hardcore gamer and are in the market for a high performance gaming laptop, you will choose the latest Core i7 CPU’s. The i5 and i7 CPU’s are the most popular for playing games.
The Lenovo Y520 and Y720 comes with i5 and i7 CPU options.
GPU – Graphics Card
Entry level laptops will most likely still have 900 Nvidia Series graphics cards or the latest 1050 2GB range. It will be best to look for a 10 Series if you can, because the value from a price/performance standpoint is much more.
Budget gaming laptops comes with GPU’s that range from 1050 4GB, 1050ti 4GB to the 1060 6GB Nvidia graphics cards. The 1050ti 4GB cards are perfect for people playing largely first-person-shooters, where the 1060 is perfect for people looking to play the most demanding games at around 60 FPS.
If you’re a high-end gamer, you’ll want to look at gaming laptops with the 1070 and 1080 GPU’s, but keep in mind that those are way more expensive than the rest. The whole laptop will be in another class, so expect to break open your piggy bank.
Most of these GPU’s are usually the Max-Q design, which means they are a little less powerful than the real deal, but still pretty powerful relative to their lower tier versions.
For example, 1060 Max-Q design has a little less performance comparing to the desktop version, but are still considerably more powerful than the 1050ti desktop version.
The Acer Predator Helios 300 has a Nvidia GTX 1060 Max-Q with a decent price.
RAM – Memory
You should aim to buy a laptop with DDR4 RAM, which is the latest and the best you will currently get.
The main factor you should look for is the total capacity of the laptop and what is your initial RAM. Most gaming laptops start with 8GB and have capacities to upgrade that ranges between 12GB and 32GB.
8GB is the Recommended requirement for most games, so it’s enough for playing the latest gaming titles.
When you look at storage options, you should take into account how much space you are already using on your current system and roughly what you’ll need in the future.
Entry level and budget gaming laptops usually comes with a small SSD (128GB) + 1TB HDD or a larger SSD (256GB) with an open slot to add another 2.5 inch drive.
High-end laptops can come standard with a SSD and a large HDD, or even 1-2TB SSD’s, it depends on the ones you’re looking at.
There are usually a few options and combinations to choose from. Try to get at least a gaming laptop with a SSD to start with, you can always add another drive.
The battery can be one of the deciding factors in the end and probably has the biggest drawback relative to desktops.
Playing games take a lot of energy and on a battery, the fun could stop pretty quickly if you’re unplugged for too long. Your choice will also depend on your working needs, because the battery is what gives you the ability to work without being plugged-in.
Most gaming laptops will last around 3-5 when doing regular tasks and between 1-3 hours when you are playing games.
Being plugged-in while gaming is almost a prerequisite and understandably so, because we still want that performance, right!
The important thing is to choose a combination that would fit your needs the best. Now that we have gone through most of the hardware specifications, I am further discussing features like build & design quality and other features which is the visual part of the choosing process.
Build & Design Quality
Looking at Build Quality, there are 3 main comparisons you will see when looking at any gaming laptop which will ultimately have an effect on the 3 factors I discussed above (Portability, Performance and Price). A combination of these factors will also determine how strong, durable and pricy the laptop is you’re looking at.
Bulky vs Thin (Slick) Design
A bulky gaming laptop will be thick and have generally more room to keep the system inside cool, but will have less portability. On the other hand, a thin laptop will be easier to handle when moving around a lot. Thin gaming laptops also tend to cost a little bit more and you will have to take better care of them, especially in dusty environments.
Take a look at the bulky design of the ASUS ROG compared the the thin ASUS Zephyrus.
Plastic vs Metal
The second comparison. Is the gaming laptop build with plastic, metal or a combination of the two. This will impact the durability, the weight and look of the laptop. Budget gaming laptop are usually built with a combination of the plastic and metal, usually metal on top and plastic at the bottom. It’s also up to you to know what you want, because every laptops build quality will be a little different.
The more expensive Alienware gaming laptops have more metal compared to less expensive budget gaming laptops.
Ultra gaming vs Simple Design
Gaming laptops usually look different than your regular daily systems and rightly so. Designs can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer where one design has a lot of color and another have a subtle simpler design. The choice comes down to whether you want a flashy ultra gaming type of laptop or a laptop with a simple yet unique design.
For example, the gaming design for this CyberPower PC compared to the simple design of the DELL 7577 Series.
All these factors will have an effect on the gaming laptop you choose and how good the build quality really is. So the best way is to find the best combination for you is to decide what you actually want and need from the laptop you’re looking to get.
The screen are maybe one of the most important parts when looking for the best fit for you and the thing is everyone sees colour differently. What will be the point of having a beast of a gaming laptop, but the quality of the screen can’t relay that quality.
Most gaming laptops have decent screens, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Like with anything I discussed, you have to look at all the factors, rather than one in isolation.
Colour Gamut (sRGB%)
Colour Gamut (sRGB colors %) The more colours a screen can display, the more vibrant the experience will be when you’re using it. I’m not going into the technical details, but the higher the sRGB % for a screen the better.
High colour quality will also come with a price and is where a lot of manufacturers cut their costs to make the entire gaming laptop looks better. You can expect to see entry level from around 70% sRGB to high-end with 95-100% sRGB screens.
The Razer Blade Series has real high quality screens.
Brightness which is measured in “nits” is the ability of a screen to push out enough light so you can see what you’re doing. Any level of brightness will be good enough in a dark room, but what about when you work or play near a window or in a place with a lot of natural light.
This is when brightness starts to play an important role and you can see a clear difference.
Screens range from around 250 all the way up to 500 (which is extremely bright). The best rule to use is to find a gaming laptop with a screen brightness close to 300 nits which is more than enough to use it in brighter locations.
IPS vs TN Panels
You’ve all probably heard or read that IPS panels are way better than TN panels for any gaming laptop screen.
Well that depends.
Until recently, yes, TN panels were really bad and you would’ve always try to stay away from them. So what are the main differences and should you decide what screen would be the best.
IPS panels has a more vibrant colour representation from almost any angle, whereas TN panels are generally more dull with their colours and are not viewable from any angle except when you’re right in front of the screen.
The second major difference is that TN screens are a lot quicker than IPS screens when it comes to refresh rate, which makes it able to push out higher framerates.
The problem is that these high refresh rates are a lot more expensive due to the fact that your system will actually need to push out that higher amount of frames, otherwise it’s useless. Most gaming laptops come with the standard 60Hz screens and at that refresh rate the IPS panels are the best for the job.
When it come to keyboards on any gaming laptop, you basically need to take 3 things into account.
Your choice here will mostly depend on personal preference rather than performance level. You need to have a look at the layout, where most laptops will be slightly different from each other. You’ll have to get comfortable with the layout.
The Keypad for this Lenovo Y720 is just above the arrow-keys.
Key Travel Distance
Also part of the keyboard is the buttons, their feel and travel distance. A higher travel distance is generally better which will have a more tactile and accurate feedback. Thin laptops tend to have a less key travel than your more bulky gaming laptops.
Lightning & Effects
The last thing is totally preference related which are the RGB lightning effect for the keyboard. There are gaming laptop keyboards that ranges from one color to hundreds of combinations, the choice is yours. The keyboard is usually not a deal-breaker when it comes to choosing a laptop for gaming.
There are not a lot to say when it comes to the trackpad, just that it’s probably the least used part on any gaming laptop. You should go with what you’re comfortable with, like having dedicated buttons instead of a tap-only trackpad.
Also make sure the laptop you choose have good drivers, Windows Precision Drivers is always a safe bet and most gaming laptops comes standard with it.
An interesting location for a trackpad on this Razer Laptop, it’s all the way to the right side.
Most gaming laptops comes with the standard set of ports like USB, HDMI, SD card slot and a VGA port. What you need them for are more important, so if you know you use a lot of USB ports, getting a laptop with USB ports are the way to go.
Another important port especially for gaming is the USB Type-C Thunderolt port, which are making the use of external GPU’s possible. They are basically an all-in-one port. This however is not a prerequisite and when you are looking at budget laptops you’ll be fine if yours doesn’t have a USB Type-C port.
Using an external GPU is also quite expensive and the full implementation of USB Type-C will still take a few years to phase out.
More gaming laptops are coming standard with an USB Type-C port.
The ports for the HP OMEN Series, which includes all the most important ports.
Unlike desktops, laptops have to keep their systems cool in a very compact space, which is another issue faced by laptop manufacturers.
More performance equals more heat which could also lead to higher fan noise. The most important temperatures to take note of are when the laptop is idle or under load.
Most gaming laptops range from around 40C when they idle and can go up to 90C under heavy load.
Bulky laptops will also tend to have a bit better cooling and airflow than it’s thinner counterparts. Another thing that affects the cooling capabilities for any gaming laptop is the layout for it’s heatpipes and vents. It’s better to stick with those that are extracting heat from both sides and take it out through the back.
Cooling for gaming laptops performs better when air flows out two ways, like this DELL 7577 laptop.
Finally, price is probably the most important in the whole process of choosing the perfect gaming laptop for you.
It will in the end ultimately depend on your budget and what you truly want. Whether you like specific brands or go on the hunt for the best value deal, when all these factors come together you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
For Entry level gaming laptops you can look between $500 – $800 which will most likely get you an i5 CPU, a GTX1050 2GB or 900M series GPU and 8GB of RAM.
Taking it up a notch, a Budget gaming laptop will be anything between $800 – $1500 which will get you an i5 or i7 CPU, a GTX 1050ti or GTX 1060 Max-Q and 8 – 16GB of RAM.
When you are searching for high-end gaming laptops, be prepared to pay anything from $1500 to $9000. In this price range expect an i7 CPU paired with either a GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 and 16 – 32GB of RAM. Also expect great build quality and high performance.
It’s never easy doing research when buying things like a gaming laptop, due the many factors and options you can choose from.
Hopefully this guide will put you on the right path in finding your perfect gaming laptop so you can Game-On-The-Go.
Now that you know what to look for, the real fun starts when you go through each gaming laptop to ultimately choose your favourite.
Just to recap, I discussed hardware specification options, how build quality & design plays a role, what screens you should consider, keyboard, trackpad, ports, the cooling and finally the price you can expect to pay in each range.
Do you already have a gaming laptop?
Tell me in the comments what are most important for you when considering buying a gaming laptop, even if you don’t have one yet.