Buying a gaming laptop is a very different shopping experience compared to buying a laptop for regular, every day use. Video games often require high-end hardware in order to perform at their best and provide you with an engaging, fun experience. While many of our guides here will give you great insight into selecting a laptop, I thought it was important for us to take a little time to provide you with a succinct guide of the main things to look for in a gaming laptop. For lists of the top recommended gaming laptops on the market head over to our gaming laptops guide.
While there is still more to the shopping and buying experience that you should discount, this list represents the main things you will need in a high quality gaming laptop that’s capable of running the latest AAA titles such as Far Cry 5 that are released this year and the next year to come by the gaming industry.
1. The Graphics Card
Your favorite games today are highly graphic centric, providing highly realistic 3D worlds that you interact with and explore. These worlds must be rendered by something, and it’s the graphics card that does all this heavy lifting. Your graphics card will process all the code to display the graphics and provide fast framerates that allow you to move around quickly and smoothly. So it makes sense that the better your graphics card, the better your gaming experience. For the best experience, I would recommend something in the NVIDIA GeForce 1080 range at the time of this writing. These cards will provide you with amazing graphics and framerates and many of them are even VR ready, if virtual reality is something you are interesting in trying.
2. The Display
Next we need to talk about the display. I don’t care how good your graphics card may be, if your display is poor, you won’t have a good gaming experience. In today’s gaming world, you need to look for an IPS display with amazing color gambit range along with high resolution. Speaking of resolution, the very best gaming laptops will come with 4K displays, but you may be able to get by with a Full-HD display running resolution of 1920×1080. It really depends on you. I love the 4K experience, but if you plan on connecting external monitors to your laptop when you play, this may not be the most important thing on your list. Still, make sure you have high resolution, good colors, and a good refresh rate of 120Hz. This will ensure that your screen will be able to keep up with the fast paced games created data without any type of tearing or lag. And your games will look good while doing it.
3. The Hard Drive
Now comes the hard drive. Your hard drive will be used to store everything, from your favorite games to productivity apps to your favorite movies, music, and even work files. A lot of data is going to be stored on them. That means you will need a hard drive with a lot of storage on it, but you also want it fast. Ideally, you will need a solid-state drive instead of a mechanical hard drive. Unfortunately, these drives don’t hold as much as their mechanical counterparts. That means, if you can afford it, I would recommend an SSD with 512GB of storage available to it. On top of that, if you can do it, look for laptops that ship with this SSD along with an HDD somewhere in the one to two terabyte range. This setup will give you enough space on the SSD for Windows, all your applications, and all your games, while still giving you tons of storage for all your media files and data that you may need.
4. The Processor
Many of you probably thought I would rate the processor higher on this list than I did. But there was good reason for that. The fact is other components are more important than the processor, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t earn a spot on this list. Just because the video card will be handling most of the graphics processing, that doesn’t mean your game won’t make use of your processor. There are a lot more that go into the game than just graphics, and the processor will be tasked with processing everything else outside of the graphics of your favorite game. That means you need a processor that’s up to the task. I recommend an Intel Core i7 processor, sixth generation or better for your gaming machine. This should give you more than enough power to drive your favorite games, and other applications, with ease.
5. The Memory
Finally, we have your laptop memory. This memory, otherwise known as RAM and not to be confused with the storage space of the hard drive on your laptop, is what allows you to load more at a time without taxing your hard drive. The more memory you have, the more of an application or game that can be loaded into memory. If you have low memory, a portion of your application may be loaded into a swap file on your hard drive. This can negatively impact performance. When selecting RAM, look for memory sizes in the 16GB range, but you may be able to get away with 8GB in some gaming setups. Remember, more is usually better, but don’t go too crazy. Many games won’t make use of more than 32GB at this time, but those laptops are few and far between. Most will fall between the 8GB and 32GB ranges so. If your laptop has too little RAM you can always upgrade it as well for relatively cheap.
These aren’t everything you should consider when buying a gaming laptop. There are other factors that you should take into account, such as design, price, battery life, and even added features such as SD card readers, etc. But, when you are buying a gaming laptop, these are the main things you should consider first when looking for a new gaming laptop.
If you spend your money wisely and find a gaming laptop that excels in all five of these criteria, then you will have a great gaming experience on your laptop. Do you agree with my list? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.
About the author
Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing for LaptopNinja where he enjoys talking about everything tech.