Buying a gaming laptop can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure what to look for. In this article, we’ll go over some key factors to consider when shopping for a gaming laptop, as well as some helpful tips to make the process as smooth as possible.
- Determine your budget: The first thing to consider when shopping for a gaming laptop is your budget. Gaming laptops can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, so it’s important to have a rough idea of how much you’re willing to spend. This will help you narrow down your options and focus on laptops that are within your price range. Keep in mind that sometimes it is worth spending more to get a better product, and it could be worthwhile saving a little more money to get something that will last longer.
- Graphics (GPU): The GPU is responsible for rendering the graphics, which makes it an important part of the experience. Look for a laptop with dedicated graphics, such as NVIDIA GeForce or AMD Radeon. These are specifically designed for gaming and will provide the best performance. Each brand has different options that offer different levels of performance, check my laptop reviews to get an idea of what to expect from different GPUs.
- Processor (CPU): The processor (or CPU) is the brain of your computer. The GPU starts to matter more when gaming at higher resolutions, particularly at 1440p and above. Some games depend more on the CPU than GPU, it varies based on the resolution, settings and game engine. Look for a laptop with a high-performance processor, such as an Intel Core i5/i7 or an AMD Ryzen 5/7 from the last 1-3 years. These processors will provide plenty of power for even the most demanding games.
- Memory (RAM): You’ll want to make sure your laptop has enough memory (RAM) to handle the demands of modern games. 8GB of RAM is a good starting point, but 16GB or more is ideal and worth the extra money if you can afford it. Dual channel is also important for increasing FPS in games, basically this means 2 memory sticks installed instead of 1.
- Storage: You’ll want a laptop with a solid-state drive (SSD) that is at least 512GB, but 1TB is preferable. With the size of games these days, it’s really not worth getting anything smaller. A laptop with a spare M.2 slot for an extra SSD upgrade in future would also be nice to have.
- Size and weight: If you plan on taking your gaming laptop with you on the go, you’ll want to pay attention to the size and weight. Laptops with 15-inch or 17-inch displays are the most popular for gaming, though 16 and 18-inch are becoming more popular in 2023. If you’re looking for something more portable, consider a laptop with a 13-inch or 14-inch display, but you may want to plug in an external monitor for gaming. Keep in mind that powerful tech gets more expensive at smaller sizes!
- Screen: A bright screen with a high refresh rate will improve your experience while using your laptop. Laptops start at 60Hz refresh rate, but this should only be considered when on a tight budget. 144Hz displays are generally better quality in terms of brightness and color gamut than 60Hz or 120Hz displays. Response time is also an important part of the story. Also consider the resolution. 1080p is fine on a smaller display, but 1440p is preferable on displays that are bigger than 15-inch. At the moment, 4K displays are less common and require too much GPU power to run smoothly and are not worth considering unless you’re prepared to spend for the best.
- Keyboard and touchpad: A comfortable and responsive keyboard and touchpad are important for any laptop, but the keyboard in particular is important for gaming. Playing most games on a touchpad will be difficult, it’s absolutely worth buying a mouse, or otherwise using a controller. Also consider whether you want or need a numpad, as not all laptops have them. Look for laptops with backlit keyboards and large, responsive touchpads. It’s ideal if you can try some out in-store first to get an idea of what you like, as everyone is different.
- Ports: Some laptops come with a lot of ports, and others come with much fewer. Think about the amount of USB-A and USB-C devices you might need to connect, as well as Ethernet and SD card slots. Even the position of the ports needs to be considered. Are they fine on the sides where your hands might sit, or would you prefer them on the back with cables out of the way?
- Battery: A larger battery will generally offer more run time than a smaller one. However, this can affect the size of your laptop with more space needed for larger batteries. If battery life is important, it may be beneficial looking for a laptop with an AMD processor, as they tend to last longer when compared against Intel based laptops. Be aware that game performance is typically far lower when playing on battery, and is generally not recommended for a number of reasons. The battery will most likely last less than two hours.
- MUX switch: A MUX switch allows you to switch between using both integrated and dedicated graphics. When gaming, having the screen connected directly to the dedicated graphics can lead to an FPS boost. So, if you’re playing a game where high FPS matters, then it would be worthwhile buying a laptop with a MUX switch. Newer features like Advanced Optimus are icing on the cake, and will automatically swap between the GPUs for you without the need to reboot the laptop.
- Reviews: Reviews are your friend! Even though many laptops come with the same specs, the way they perform can be different. So, you need to do your research before making a purchase. Check out reviews from trusted sources. YouTube is a great resource for this, and is where you can find my gaming laptop reviews.
Looking for more in-depth info on buying your gaming laptop? Check out this video on How to Pick a Gaming laptop. Ready to buy your new gaming laptop? Be sure to check out our current gaming laptop deals.