Buying the best gaming laptop – things you need to look for – words Alan Woods

Gaming laptops are ostensibly different from the typical laptop you buy at the store. They are more powerful, as they have to meet quite demanding graphics needs.

Gaming laptops also come in various shapes, sizes and eye-catching colors. If you are a hardcore gamer, or are planning to become one, you will need the right gaming laptop. While gaming desktops tend to be cheaper and more powerful, laptops are highly preferred for their portability. Buying a gaming laptop will depend on your needs and budget.

Before you go on to buy one, however, it’s worthwhile to sit and ponder whether you really need a gaming laptop. For example, do you want to play World of Warcraft all day? You don’t actually need a gaming laptop for that. Only buy one for graphics-demanding games like The Witcher 3 or Grand Theft Auto V. Finding the right gaming laptop can be a bit tricky. So, follow this guide to choosing the product that best suits your needs.

best gaming laptop

The Graphics Card

The graphics card, sometimes called the GPU, is what sets gaming laptops apart from other computers. Gaming GPUs are capable of rendering high-def images on to the screen. Of course, quality will vary depending on the card you buy. When buying a gaming laptop, the graphics card is what you need to pay the most attention to. Unlike on conventional computers, the graphics card on gaming laptops cannot be changed. So, you must do your research before choosing a product.

You should look for a laptop with a GPU that has its own dedicated video memory, known as VRAM. This lessens the burden on the computer’s RAM so background programs do not slow down the computer. The minimum recommended VRAM is 4GB, but if you are willing to spend money, you can go up to 8GB, or even 16GB.

As for graphics card brands, the battle is between Nvidia and AMD. Nvidia is considered the industry best for graphics cards, while AMD is preferred mainly by budget users. Three are little-known brands that allow users to custom configure the card. But this is only suitable for gamers with technical knowledge. A gaming laptop with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or GTX 1070 is considered quite good. But if you are really aiming for the best performance, you should go for Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, which is also VR ready. Look for the digits on the graphics card. The higher the number, the better the performance would be.

CPU

After the GPU, the CPU and RAM are the most important specs you need to look for. Obviously, you would look for these specs even on regular computers. When it comes to gaming laptops, the choice is largely down to Intel processors. If you are a budget user, aim for an Intel Core i5 processor, which is suitable for moderate gaming. But what you really need to buy is a gaming laptop with an Intel Core i7 processor, the faster microchip for PCs currently available in the market.

You should buy 6th gen Core processors if you are buying this year. It is the latest generation launched in late 2015. Newer chips are more efficient in performance. It’s also important to keep in mind the number of cores. Try to get a gaming laptop with a quad-core processor. The more cores there are, the faster the computer will be. At the moment, Intel quad-core i7 is the best processor for gaming laptops. (Yes, AMD announced the Ryzen processor earlier this year, which is tested to be faster than i7, but you will have to wait another year or two before seeing gaming laptops with Ryzen in them.)

RAM

This is the computer’s RAM, not the video RAM mentioned before. The recommended RAM for gaming laptops is 8GB, and you won’t need more. Having 16GB of RAM can be a plus, not a necessity. Do not buy a gaming laptop with less than 8GB of RAM if you can help it. But RAM is not as important as CPU and the graphics card for gaming.

Drive

You can buy computers with Solid State Drives (SSDs) or Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). HDDs are the traditionally drives available in all computers. SSDs are relatively new and are much faster than HDDs. Therefore, SSDs are the recommended storage solution for gaming laptops. You can enjoy faster loading times and zero lag with an SSD. If you choose to buy a gaming laptop with an HDD, go for one with no less than 1TB of storage.

Display

Of course, you will need a great screen to fully enjoy the speedy graphics the laptop generates. So, aim for a minimal screen resolution of 1920 x 1080, which is rather standard for average sized gaming laptops. For super sharp graphics, you should buy a 4K (3840 x 2160) or QHD (2560 x 1440) capable screen. Some HD games may require these higher resolutions to display in full, striking color.

The matte or glossy finishes of screens do not actually affect graphics display, so this is left out largely to personal preference. A word of caution: avoid buying gaming laptops with touch screens. They are utterly useless for playing hardcore games and tend not to be as long lasting as advertised.

Budgeting

The final aspect you must consider when buying the right gaming laptop is your budget. What you get is really what you pay for. Most gaming laptops cost close to $2,000. However, it is possible to buy gaming laptops for less than $1000. These are considered “budget” gaming laptops.

For under $1,000, you can get a gaming laptop with Core i5 processors, 8GB of RAM, 1TB HDD and an Nvidia graphics card in the 800 to 900 range with VRAM of 4GB or less. Display and other features will be rather standard. Budget gaming laptops are quite powerful, but usually can only play moderate games, and not graphics-demanding games like the Rise of the Tomb Raider. These are not capable of playing VR games either.

For a truly hardcore gaming experience, you will have to be willing to spend at least $1,600 and preferably up to $3,000. For this price range you can get the best processors, the latest graphics cards, up to 64GB RAM, 8GB VRAM, top-notch 4K display, SSDs and VR capability.

Think about the above specs and suggestions carefully. Take time to do your research and set the budget. Only afterwards should you invest in a gaming laptop.

words Alan Woods

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