What to Look for in a Gaming Laptop? (The Complete Guide)

The high-pitched cry of the mobile gaming industry is still not sufficient to choke the demand for hardcore PC gaming. Though the 2018 VentureBeat report on PC game market share of $37.4 billion revenue in 2021 suggests a 2% reduction on the grip over the Global gaming market from 2019, the revenue still shows rise above $33.6 billion in 2020. The statistics are revealing their color on Google search box too, which is still beaming with the query of what to look for in a gaming laptop.

When most of the brilliant game developers are implementing new ideas every day worldwide, a selection from the infinite range of choices seems a bit difficult. Let’s try to dig it together layer-by-layer.

So, Here’s What you Need to Look for in a Gaming Laptop [Buyer’s Guide]

♦ GPU decides the performance: GPU quality draws the line between a regular and a gaming laptop, as it accelerates the image creation. Since you can’t upgrade it later, you must splurge on them at your best to enjoy the highest settings for a long haul. At least Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 can make a laptop gaming-comfortable. Try having 3-4 GB VRAM along with the GPU.

♦ CPU supports the GPU power: Only a good processor can wring out the best from a gaming GPU. Intel is the necessity here. 6th-gen Intel Core-i7 6700-HQ processor is the minimal requirement to build a gaming laptop. AMD CPUs are not recommended.

♦ SSD lifts the heavy-burden and maintains the speed: As the load time and installation are getting fatter for games day-by-day, the demand for high-speed storage is surging higher proportionately. SSDs cram higher performance than HDDs, but they are pricey. HDDs may work, but no less than 1TB will do.

♦ Keep the option for future brain upgrade: Ogle for a laptop offering 8-16GB RAM and extra space for future RAM and memory upgrade. It saves a bit now but opens the opportunity for future improvement.

♦ Resolution and speed are in different poles: The quickest display of 144-240Hz goes with the resolution of 1920 x 1080p. 4K screen slows down the movement. But less than 1920 x 1080p resolution will hurt your eye-sight while gaming.

♦ Stay away from refurbished laptops: Do you want to risk buying a once-not-working laptop to save so little? We don’t think so.

♦ Touch screens are no good for gaming: It only eats more money and the battery-life both. A heavy-weight gaming display is not expected to behave like a tablet for long.

♦ The more powerful the less portable it is: Since extra space is always good for better temperature control, the thinner laptops always run behind the large ones due to lack of high-end compositions. 17-18 inch displays are the most common choice for gamers.

♦ A good keyboard is a must: A flimsy keyboard can ruin all the fun at the point of sheer adrenalin rush. If possible, try having a backlit keyboard with various key colors.

♦ Consider a gaming mouse or a game controller: No matter how good it is, laptop touchpad can’t cope with your tense fingertips for proper navigation. A gaming mouse or a game controller like XBOX will do the job just perfect.

♦ HDMI 1.3 port for virtual reality games: This will connect HTC Vive or Oculus Rift to make your laptop VR-ready.

♦ Games chew on battery-life: Gaming laptops rarely provide up to 8 hours of battery power. Still, the best performance only comes out while plugged in.

♦ Gaming laptops are only required for high-end games: Don’t waste your money on game-dedicated laptops when you are only interested in less-demanding titles like World of Warcraft or so. They can easily be played over integrated GPUs.


Budget

Though gaming laptops toy around pricey attractions, you may still play a lot without going so premium.

    • Under $1,000: Among the crowd of Core i5 processors, there still left some 6/7th gen Core i7 models with 8GB of minimum RAM. The 1080p display will leave you with medium color rendition and brightness. Small SSD, or 1TB HDD with Nvidia GeForce 1050 or 1050 Ti, 2-4 GB of VRAM will let you play most games on medium settings.
    • $1,000 – $2,000: Here the crowd is marked mostly with Core i7 CPU and 16GB of RAM. 1080p screen and SSD-HDD combo with GTX 1060 or 1070 will lead you to high settings on most games at 60fps rate when storage talks about 4-6GB of VRAM.
    • $2,000 – $3,000: Quad-core i7 CPU starting with 16GB of RAM, PCIe SSDs, 1080p to 4K resolution, SLI dual 1070M or single 1080 graphics chip are going to thrive your gaming laptop on highest settings without any throttling issues. A portable MAX-Q design can also be your option here.
    • $3,000 or More: The fanatic layer of the geek pyramid. Take four SSD alignment in RAID configuration, highest-possible resolution, 64GB RAM, customized paint jobs exhibited by OriginPC or Maingear. How about SLI combination of two 1080 GPUs each with 8GB VRAM? Not to mention Oculus Rift or HTC Vive are waiting for you to enjoy the best-ever performance.

What GPU Suits You Best

Graphics criteria are the most crucial part of a game, and hence the GPU is the keynote of any gaming device. Though a few games can run over CPU only, the core games always need the GPU support.

Now, what to choose?

Frankly speaking, the more you can spend the more you get here. If you ask about the brand, Nvidia has earned that crown world wide. It’s the only company until now to provide required driver support along with their dedicated graphics chip used in GeForce GTX 10-series cards, and of course with the latest RTX 20-series with Turing technology for real-time ray-tracing. In 2018, 8th Gen Intel Core processors came out with the collaboration of AMD’s Radeon RX Vega M graphics to speed up 1080p gaming in thin and light-weight laptops. But they couldn’t keep the cost in control compared to similar Nvidia systems. No wonder, most of the gaming laptops still thrive with Nvidia’s offerings.

  • Entry-level Cards: Nvidia’s entry-level gaming cards GTX 1050 and 1050Ti are okay for gaming on 1080p resolution, as the simple modern games like Dota 2, League of Legends stay between 30-60fps frame rates over them. Also, GTX 1660 is a good option for this low-level gaming, while 1660 Ti pours a bit more power than that. GTX 1060 advances to 60-70fps for games like The Witcher 3 and up to 120fps for Overwatch on the 1080p display.
  • Core-gaming Chips: GTX 1070 handles 1440p games perfectly well, and best aligned with the laptops offering high-refresh-rate of 120-144Hz. Also, 4K screen works here too, if not the best. But you should go for GTX 1080 to enjoy complex titles over 4K display. Besides, you may get them all with little compromisations in slimmer notebooks, implanted with Nvidia’s Max-Q design, as it focuses on efficiency over performance.
  • Top Rankers: Let’s come to the RTX 20-series, and you must start with at least RTX 2060 to enjoy the lowest settings for virtual reality games using HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. RTX 2070, however, leads you to higher settings in almost all games. Lastly, if you are planning to surrender your bank account for the sake of the game-life, you may go for the RTX 2080 beast. It’s the Genie who pumps blood to ultra settings in 4K resolution with the fancy of more than 60fps real-time ray tracing rate.
  • SLI Interface: MSI GT83 Titan SLI, Acer Predator 21 X, and some similar giants are even armed with the extra hearts using Nvidia’s SLI (Scalable Link Interface) technology to implant 2-4 GPUs at a time in one laptop.

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Processor & RAM: The Brain Dissection

Let’s talk about the brain, i.e. the CPU who decides how your gaming body will work. Undeniably, it’s essential, as it serves everything except the graphics. Take games, and it’s directly involved in the AI and Physics measurements. Therefore, the weakling of a CPU can frustrate your costly GPU too.

♦ Brand: Now, let’s be clear on the brand, it’s Intel. It is rare to find gaming laptops with AMD processors. Reason? The weakness of the core bottlenecks over gaming performance. Hence, Intel engulfs more than 80% of the CPU market share according to Gamingscan.

♦ Generation: When Intel has already launched its faster, wider 10th-generation CPUs with built-in AI to redefine gaming on portable laptops, and 9th-gen is sparkling over the market too, 8th-generation H-series processors are still the most common option on modern gaming laptops. 7th-gen is also not a bad choice. But less than 6th-gen version of CPUs is of no use on gaming. Also, there are low-powered U-series CPUs to quench the thirst of ultraportable notebooks without breaking your bank.

♦ Core id: Core i7 is a balance between price and performance, yet Core i5 is only the option while dealing with your budget issues. Again, there is the best and richest Core i9-8950HK at the peak of the geek pyramid. Choose wisely, while you can’t upgrade the CPU afterward.

♦ Cores: Quad-core is the balance, while hexa-core is more. Dual-core is not a good choice for gaming. Try ogling on Quad-core i7 models ending with HQ/HK suffixes for perfect equilibrium. Also, the fastest HK cards permit you to overclock the speed using Intel Extreme Tuning Utility architecture.

Read: Dual-Core Vs Quad-Core Processor – Which is Better?

♦ Clock Speed: It defines the performing velocity of the games on laptops. The higher the model number of the CPU is, the faster the speed of its clock. Obviously, the 3.4GHz Core i7 processor will outperform the same model with 2.6GHz clock power.

♦ RAM: In the end, we talk about the hippocampus of gaming laptops, which is the RAM or physical memory. Though 16GB is the most popular choice, starting with 8GB is ideal, as you can upgrade it later.

Read: How Much RAM Do I Need for Gaming? [Simple Guide]


Storage – SSD or HDD:

Let’s start with the skinny difference between these two drives. The latest solid-state drive is much faster than the old hard disk drive. And games demand velocity, hence SSD is always a gamer’s choice but at the cost of more bucks. Therefore, the tandem of small SSD of 128GB or 256GB with 1TB HDD is earning more votes day-by-day.

In the era of affordable NAND-based storage technologies, modern NVMe SSD drives with PCIe or M.2 card slots are reaching the top of the popularity ladder. M.2 feature packs high-definition storage in thinner laptops to support PCI Express for a direct data connection. These features fire up blistering speed in data transfer and load games in the blink of an eye. Sometimes you get extra M.2 slot for future addition. Also, SSDs are less prone to hardware failure, unlike physical hard drives. And yet you can keep your games and other media files in enough free space on the inexpensive HDD.

If budget is your issue right now, living only on HDD won’t kill you halfway, if it takes you in a slow ride. Either way, 1TB HDD is the minimum requirement you should consider. Also, snagging a faster 7200-rpm HDD can earn you appreciation from your gaming laptop. Besides, having an upgrade option in your prospective laptop can prove to be a golden opportunity for you, as it will let you toss in larger HDD if needed.

Read: SSD vs HDD: Which One Should You Choose?


Display Factors to Consider

As your health shines through your skin, so it does through the screen of your computer. The razor-sharp graphics technology is only of use with the right alignment of the display. Let’s dissect the facts to make your eye thrilled.

  • Resolution: For gaming laptops, the least requirement of 1920 x 1080p resolution is still holding the largest share, because of its efficiency on FPS (Frame per second) rate. Yet, 3K (2880 x 1620p) resolution is giving it a tough fight these days. GTX 870/880M is suitable for 3K screens. You may also consider QHD (2560 x 1440p) with GTX 1070/1080 to enjoy an eye-candy view within a more affordable price tag. If you are a person of perfection on color and detail, 4K (3840 x 2160) panels are the last words. But not without the company of pricey RTX 2070 or 2080 graphics chips.
  • Size: Though the game-geeks love the gigantic 18-inch display in their muscle books, the largest number of gaming laptops ship with 15-17 inches of screen size. Again, there are a few options left with the 14-inch display. Thin bezel is a smart choice to reduce the overall laptop size.
  • Refresh Rate: Being proportional to FPS, this factor decides the smoothness of fast-paced gaming. Most gaming laptops come equipped with a minimum 60Hz of refresh rate with a 1080p display. Yet, the new variety of 120Hz is gaining more prominence based on its faster rendering speed without any stutters. MSI GS75 and GS65, HP Omen and some others are offering 144Hz with FPS display quality. But the highest of 240Hz has already broken the market with Alienware m15 and m17, Asus ROG Zephyrus, and the thinner versions of MSI’s above-mentioned varieties.
  • AMD’s FreeSync and NVIDIA’s G-Sync: The variable-refresh-rate technology in these two have reduced the time consumption and stuttering problems of the older Vsync mechanism. These features mitigate the issues of ghost points on the screen and graphical tears, as they alter the refresh rate based on your gaming performance.

Audio: Even the Best is Not the Best

Frankly speaking, you can’t expect even the best laptop speakers to provide clear sound all the time. But if your headset exhausts your ears, you may rely on MSI’s Nahimic software for the best available surround sound quality with Voice Clarification technology and Bass Boost. Dell Audio software in Alienware and Dolby Home Theater V4 in Lenovo laptops occupy the other two ranks on the stage.


Keyboard and Trackpad/Mouse

After all, here is where you strike. Admittedly, finding an appropriate rig is not a matter of joke, since anything mushy can’t stand your emotional attack at the time of adrenalin rush. Right?

Let’s get wasted on it.

  • Key Travel: It defines how far you can press on a key. While 1.5mm is the most common measure, 2mm is perfect for gaming, and some laptops provide even more. Hard-core gaming laptops like MSI GT83VR Titan and Lenovo Ideapad Y900 pamper their customers with the bouncy feedback of the mechanical keys buzzing with the loud click sound.
  • Actuation: This measures the force needed to press down a key. Though 65-70 grams are ideal, less than 60 grams will not survive for a long haul.
  • Anti-ghosting: Gamers often need to press several keys at a time for combined actions, and anti-ghosting registers them all. A similar purpose is served by the n-key rollover technology, which recognizes every distinct key press by accepting them all independently. So these are crucial facts for gaming keyboards.
  • Backlighting: Budget gaming laptops only grant red or white LED lighting with a chiclet key set. But the best look always comes with the RGB backlighting. Zone-wise RGB lighting is great, but key-basis customization is cooler than that, and the game-based choices are even more.
  • Macro Keys: Though rare, but some laptops provide desktop-like macro keys in a good keyboard dedicated to gaming. The manufacturers bestow a custom software to program the macro keys into performing your most preferred tasks on associated games more quickly and easily. These keys can also be connected with the custom backlighting profile.
  • Trackpad or Mouse: Even the best-ever Gorilla glass trackpads with Macbook-Esque feeling are not always enough for core-gaming on laptops. Therefore, splurging a bit on a gaming mouse or a similar device like the Xbox Controller won’t be a hike on your already huge expenditure on the gaming laptops.

Portability

Are you buying the gaming laptop to pass your time on gaming-while-traveling? Then you just need a thinner one with weight not exceeding 5 pounds. Razer can make you a hot deal with their teeny-tiny models, but going slower than the 14-inch road is not going to feel so cool at all.

Otherwise, we prefer giant gamers with bigger screens for our all-time-favorite options. The big boys like MSI Titan are literally stronger on hardware specs than their “humanly” rivals. Well, the extra muscles do weigh more than 10 pounds in most cases. But, the sufficient space in 17-18 inches laptops or at least 15-inch versions let them tackle heat dissipation more efficiently as well as preventing suffocation on performance. That’s the secret behind their ability to pack tons of power and yet stay cool and durable. Besides, the bonus features of these laptops lay on their extra input-output options for external screen or audio input and different USB ports.

Brand: What’s the Promise

The 2018 standard of Gamingscan proclaims Asus as the number one brand among the hard-core US gamers, although MSI MS-7693 has snatched the most-popular-PC award over the entire gaming population. Yet, the story goes on with the whisper of different special ingredients coming from everyone.

MSI: The big red dragon is known for its game-dedicated enormous 17-inch structures along with the Stealth Thin 15-inch elegant models. Their Dragon Center software offers different performance profiles, system monitoring, keyboard backlight customization and more. The innovative nature is their TRP, which leads you to the power pack of four SSDs alongside, digital touchpad, and mechanical keyboard within a machine with 2 years of the warranty period.

Asus: The sleek design of the Republic of Gamers series and Zephyrous with ROG Gaming Center software are reigning the world. While ROG reveals the device information related to temperature, RAM, and storage usage, Aura Core Program manages the customization of RGB backlighting.

Dell Alienware: The name comes from its exclusive spaceship-like design with unique lighting. The Area-51m model offers the desktop-level power-package, whereas m15 delivers portability within a reasonable price.

Acer: Starting with the budget-friendly Aspire VX 15, you can go for all budget-oriented PCs up to the premium Predator 21X with a mechanical keyboard and an exclusive curved display. Hardware customization became a child’s play here with the help of the PredatorSense app.

Lenovo: The Legion gaming lineage focuses on the minimalistic approach. The remodeling of their Vantage app produces all the hardware info and the option for fan speed booster. They offer plenty of choices with 4-5 configurations per model.

HP: Omen Command Center app in HP Omen gaming lineage is the open book for hardware utilization and network management for bandwidth priority setup.

Razer: Macbook-Esque thin-and-light design is the other edge with its Razor-sharp RGB lighting. And here comes the focus on macro-records with Razer Synapse, programmed for customization of lighting.

Gigabyte and Aorus: Gigabytes offer a range of color variants, while the sub-brand Aorus focuses on portability. Fusion software planted on both of them is responsible for RGB customization. Aorus even supports overclocking with its Command and Control application.

OriginPC: When out-of-the-box design and customization is your thing, come right up here. So many options are available in hardware, overclocking, skin, and paints. Even get the right amount of storage and RAM along with thermal compounds as per your requirements.


Expert-Curated List of Laptop for Specific Games

♦ Laptops for Playing ► Dota 2

♦ Laptops for Playing ► PUBG

♦ Laptops for Playing ► Overwatch

♦ Laptops for Playing ► Minecraft

♦ Laptops for Playing ► Fortnite

♦ Laptops for Playing ► Sims 4

♦ Laptops for Playing ► World of Warcraft


Last Words

Buying a laptop is a rigorous task. But buying a gaming laptop is even more since you are about to spend most of your savings and as well as trust on that. Therefore, take time and choose properly based on your requirements. We hope, you won’t get confused by all the luring after our brief discussion.

6 thoughts on “What to Look for in a Gaming Laptop? (The Complete Guide)”

  1. Good gaming experience requires many details. I’d recommend beginning with RAM. Graphics is essential, but the whole game can be spoiled because of the slow speed of processing.

  2. This review is very informative to me, so I can choose the best one from Black Friday gaming laptops deals. Thanks for this very best review.

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