Whether you travel for work, are planning on doing some globetrotting in the future or just want a smaller machine for your gaming, a gaming laptop is a convenient, portable way to play games and do your work on the same device. But what do you need to look for in a gaming laptop?
When it comes to gaming laptops, there are only four main internal components you should be thinking about: the processor (or CPU) graphics card (or GPU) memory (or RAM) and storage.
The two biggest CPU manufacturers are Intel and AMD. You’ll find that Intel processors are more common in gaming laptops, but there are still some key stats you should be looking at: the core count and the clock speed. The higher the clock speed, the quicker your processor will load individual programs, and the more cores you have, the more programs you can have running at once. Generally, if you know you’ll be running multiple programs at the same time, having more cores and a slower clock speed will be more beneficial for your experience as a whole.
This is the most important part of a gaming laptop, because having a discrete, or separate, graphics card is what lets you run intensive games. You should pick a graphics card that will comfortably run any games you’ll want to play.
For entry-level games like Minecraft, an Nvidia GTX 1650 or 1660Ti will handle pretty much any that you would want to play. For more intermediate games that are more graphically intensive, Nvidia’s 2060 or 3060 graphics cards will do the job just fine, and if you want to play very graphically intensive games, and possibly dip into VR, look at investing in at least a 2070, 2070Ti or 2080.
How much memory you have is more important than its speed, especially for gaming. The difference between 8GB of RAM and 16GB is huge, so you have to make sure you have enough memory for the games you’ll be playing. You’ll want at least 8GB of RAM to play most modern games, but 16GB will let you run at higher settings and run some apps in the background (like voice chat programs or streaming software). If you do lots of resource-intensive multitasking, including content creation, consider investing in 32GB of memory.
There are two main types of storage for gaming laptops: SSDs and HDDs. HDDs are hard disk drives, and they tend to be cheaper, have more storage capacity but they’re also slightly slower because they have moving parts, and they’re bigger. SSDs, or solid state drives, are more expensive, but they’re quicker and much smaller. You’ll often find that gaming laptops come with a smaller SSD (or even an even quicker M.2 drive) where the operating system and key programs are stored and a much bigger HDD for you to store your games on. This tends to be the most effective way to get storage, as games can be very large (Call of Duty: Warzone is over 100GB) so it’s worth having a slightly slower HDD given how much more expensive SSDs of the same size are.
What is the case made of? Gaming laptop cases tend to be made of either aluminium or plastic. Aluminium ones are more durable, meaning your laptop will live longer, and the design tends to be sleeker, so it takes up less space which adds to its portability. The other thing you’ll need to look out for in a gaming laptop case is how many USB ports it has, and whether it has an ethernet port, and, if necessary, an SD card slot. Given how many external peripherals like mice use USBs, it’s important to have enough ports for them.
The keyboard will probably endure the most wear and tear of any part of your gaming laptop, so you have to make sure you get one that is of a high quality. You’ll have to decide whether you want it to be mechanical or membrane. These two types of keyboard have very different feels, and membrane keyboards are more common on gaming laptops. You’ll need to check the distance each key travels when pushed, as the further it is, the better it is for the key. It should have anti-ghosting and N-key rollover to give you the best experience possible as each key will register independently, and more individual keys will register at the same time. You’ll also need to consider if you want the keyboard to have backlighting, and how customisable you want that to be, as that can add to the price of your gaming laptop.
You’ll want at least a 15-inch screen for the best gaming experience, and you should ensure that the refresh rate is enough for the games you want to play – the higher the refresh rate, the more smooth and lifelike your gaming experience will be. There’s no point in having a 60Hz screen if you want to play games and have a CPU and GPU that will deliver up to 144Hz.
This is the border around the screen, so the thinner it is, the smaller the device is overall. This again adds to the device’s portability while maximising screen size.
You’ll need to check where the exhaust ports are on any gaming laptop you’re considering buying. They’re often on the back or the bottom, so you may find you have to keep it raised to enable it to get the maximum airflow. You’ll also want to avoid keeping it on your lap, as your body can make it warmer and make it more difficult for air to flow, and you’ll end up potentially hurting yourself from the extra heat gaming laptops put out. Keeping it as cool as possible will give it a much longer life, which is what you want from any piece of equipment you own.
When it comes to gaming laptops, you need to look at the internal components (GPU, CPU, memory and storage) to ensure you can play all the games you enjoy. You’ll also need to consider things like where the exhaust ports are, or what the casing is made of, can impact the laptop’s performance, lifespan, durability and portability so it’s important to bear all this in mind when doing your research.
Rachel Gowland works at digital marketing agency, Tillison Consulting. She’s a passionate gamer and avid reader who loves to travel, using her knowledge of foreign languages to connect with people around the world.