Apr 072012

So you’re looking for a good gaming laptop? There are several options out there built specifically for gamers and then there are the cheaper options! What’s the difference?

Gaming laptops are built with a purpose, usually that purpose is the highest framerate possible so when you’re rushing enemy strongholds in your favorite FPS you can’t blame your machine for when you don’t make it within 100 yards of the spot(the internet connection is always to blame) or when tackling that dragon with 3 dozen of your friends you’re not the one staring at the ground and squinting at the map in the corner… unless you’re a healer… just do your job!

The high end models and desktop replacements from various well known manufacturers have performance and specifications almost as good as the purpose-built gaming laptops but lack the final touches such as a slick paint job or game specific software and hardware fine tuning. The lower price of these high end laptops can make up for not having the absolute best available gaming laptop.

What to Look for in a Gaming Laptop

Not just any laptop will suffice for a gamer, we will need a powerhouse to be able to handle the graphically intensive 3D games of today. Some sacrifices will have to be made but they are sacrifices any gamer must be willing to take to be able to frag in convenience! Most notably battery life, weight, and the all important money factor.

The most important requirements for a good gaming laptop include:

Laptop Gaming Processor

There’s several options here but you’re looking for performance right? Pure speed or gigahertz is still paramount for games, whether or not the processor is dual core or quad core or even six core isn’t quite as important unless the games you play actually take advantage of multiple cores.

On a budget? Consider a slightly lower end processor in favor of a higher end video card. Most 3D games are limited by the video card much more than by the processor. Finding such configurations might be little bit trickier since performance parts are usually paired with other performance parts or system builders favor the laptop’s CPU over GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).

Laptop Gaming Video Card

Your laptop ‘s ability to handle graphically intensive FPS games falls heavily on the type of video card it has. It is the deciding factor for gaming performance especially if it has a full HD screen or if you like to use an external high resolution monitor frequently.

Laptop video cards, like their desktop brethren, come in all flavors from the (s)low end of the spectrum all the way to SLI/Crossfire configurations (two video cards!) housed in rather large chassis’. Choose wisely based on your budget and gaming needs.

Laptop RAM

This is easy. Get as much as you can afford at system purchase, if there isn’t an option to upgrade the RAM at purchase then later upgrade to as much as you can afford in a pair(2) of memory sticks of the fastest ram the laptop supports and/or as much as the laptop and operating system can use.

Games, operating systems, and software in general work better when there is lots of memory to play around in.

There is normally only 2 available slots inside so not much room for upgrades. If you happen to find more than 2 slots the same idea applies, fill them with as much as the laptop or operating system can support!

See Laptop Memory Guide.

Gaming Storage and Accessories

A massive hard drive to fit all those huge games is a must and you can even add a second drive if there is room. Many gaming laptops use 7200 RPM drives but some may even have 5400 RPM to save power *gasp* so upgrading may or may not be immediately necessary. Perhaps an SSD for your operating system and main games and a regular one for the rest of the games you installed and never play.

No one likes to play games using that little square touch pad so make sure to pick up a nice external USB or wireless gaming mouse to make beating your friends(or co-workers) easier. On a similar note check the keyboard size and layout to make sure the keys aren’t too small or too close together, some system builders think it’s a good idea to resize/reposition keys so they can fit a calculator button or email button or something else entirely useless.

Other Important Considerations

  • Due to power requirements to run games at full speed you will probably not be using battery power while gaming on your laptop. If you plan to play games on battery alone don’t expect full performance since most laptop battery settings lower the speed of the CPU and video card and if overridden to use “full performance” the battery will not last very long.
  • Laptops built for gaming are usually a bit heavier than usual and most are considered desktop replacements. Expect weight in the range of 7-10 pounds or more.
  • Last but definitely not least. Get a nice or decent pair of headphones since the built in speakers of most gaming laptops will pale in comparison to a good set of headphones.