Gaming laptops have been frowned upon for a long time, with diehard PC gaming enthusiasts considering it impossible to play latest generation games on a laptop – or at least very difficult to do unless you have a fortune to spend. But the past few years have given us cheaper and cheaper options when it came to gaming laptops, resulting in affordable options for most users, many allowing you to play the latest games on high resolution settings without having to sell a kidney and your parents’ house in order to afford it.
We have already shared with you a good list of great gaming laptops under $1,000 that can handle today’s games without much trouble and last year we shared some really cheap options for those on a really tight budget ($500 and under).
But what if you want to have a bit more freedom and be able to actually choose your own gaming laptop? What should you look for? What makes a laptop a great one for gaming? We’re going to answer all these questions in today’s article and teach you how to choose the best gaming laptop based on your budget. Or just check out our lists I’ve linked to above and you’re all set!
The Graphics Card
This is, in my opinion, the most important thing you have to look for when it comes to gaming laptops: they must have a dedicated graphics card, and the more recent it is, the better your new acquisition will handle current generation games. One of the better options out there – at least at the moment of writing this article is the nVidia Geforce GTX 980 M, but in case you want to have a look and always be up to date with the latest releases – or check out how recent the model you’re considering is, visit nVidia’s official page here and look at the GPUs listed under the Notebook category – the GTX ones are made for gaming, so that’s what you should be looking for.
If you want to know how good the graphics card of your laptop is, simply google the card’s name and “benchmark” (so something like “GeForce GTX 980M benchmark”) and check out the results out there – usually, you will see an easy to read chart that will show you the score of that particular card and you’ll be able to compare it to the best card on the market at that given moment. Of course, the closer it is to that top score, the better the card is.
When looking at the graphics card, check out the amount of RAM it has: the same card might come with different amounts of RAM (2, 4 or more) – always go for the higher values here, but have in mind that usually a card with 2 GB of RAM will be better than an older card with more RAM.
In the end, this should be the major selling point: the graphics card is the most important thing to look at when you buy your gaming laptop as it ultimately decides what games you can play – and at what quality! Also, you should know that normally laptop manufacturers will rarely build a poor product with a very good GPU, but on numerous occasions you could find a laptop with amazing specs BUT the GPU.
The second most important thing to look at is the processor. Many consider it the most important thing, but that’s not the case. The processor is indeed important, but after reaching a certain threshold, it no longer matters as much as your current graphics card for gaming purposes. Of course, the better processor should always be picked, but if your funds are limited and you have to choose between two models, one with a better GPU and one with a better processor, you should normally pick the first.
When it comes to processors, Intel’s i7 series is the latest at the moment, but you can also get decent performance from an i5. If you’re unsure about the performance of the processor of the laptop you’re looking at, Google will help you once more: simply search for the following string: “processor name benchmark” and again look at the numbers. For example, a search for “intel i7 6700k benchmark” will bring up results for that particular model.
As I said before, you will rarely see an amazing graphics card paired with a crappy processor (but often the opposite), so make sure you check out both in order to make sure that you make the best choice.
Well, not so much! Of course, you won’t want to go for 4GBs of RAM, but 8 is still a good number for today’s games. If you want to play it really safe and make sure you won’t have to upgrade for a long time, play it safe with 16, but anything above that is, in my opinion, too much. As long as you have an amazing graphics card and a good processor, RAM always comes in second.
Do you really need a SSD?
The truth is that SSDs are indeed faster and the better option when it comes to any type of computer, but the truth is that it might still not be a good idea to go for a SSD yet. They are more expensive than regular HDDs and you get a lot less storage, so it’s not uncommon to see 256GB options out there and maybe even lower. If you are a hardcore gamer and you have a lot of games installed at the same time, you will soon end up not having enough space for them if you opt for a SSD storage option that offers too little in terms of GBs. Of course, if you can stretch your budget and you have this option, SSDs are the better choice since they are faster than regular HDDs and therefore result in shorter load times, but unless you get a minimum of 512 GB (although I’d go for 1 TB), don’t bother or you’ll soon run into storage space related problems – even though it’s not really important to go overboard either with a HDD like the Seagate 10 that was recently revealed by our friends over at Techosaurus Rex. 1TB is still enough in most cases!
You’ll be tempted to choose resolutions higher than HD (that’s 1920 × 1080), but the truth is that in most cases you shouldn’t because your laptop won’t be strong enough to offer decent frame rates at such resolutions when it runs current generation games. Even a resolution of 1366 x 768 isn’t such a bad choice if you want to keep costs down, and it would result in better overall performance when gaming, so don’t be afraid to consider it as a choice when looking at your next gaming laptop!
Does size matter?
The debate that probably started centuries ago moves into the notebook area as well. I personally don’t think that you should even bother looking at anything lower than the 15.4″ diagonal and, if possible, I’d suggest going for the larger 17″ models. Gaming laptops are pretty heavy and the larger display would make them even heavier, but I always think that a large screen is better when gaming. However, if portability is extremely important to you, you should go for the smaller screen size. Otherwise, I’d go for the larger one!
These are the main things to look at when buying a gaming laptop. Anything else (like backlit keyboard, bells and whistles) is just extra icing on the cake and they should only matter if you want to spend some extra dollars. Between backlit keys and a few extra frames per second I would always choose the latter so always focus on what’s important!
Hopefully you know now how to choose a perfect gaming laptop for your needs and especially your budget, but if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask them below!