It’s one of the long-standing battles amongst gamers: to build or to buy. Many gamers have pledged their loyalty solely to either building or buying desktops because of the undeniable power they pack, but it’s also hard to argue with the fact that they aren’t exactly portable. Enter the gaming laptop, which has really come into its own over the last year. Let’s be clear: this isn’t your nextdoor nerd’s notebook. The more developed games become, the more demanding they are on any system, so you need to get one with the chassis and guts that can keep up.
The variety of options out there ensures that there’s something for every gamer, but it can also make narrowing down the right one an overwhelming, research-laden task. To help, here’s a simplified list of things to prioritize on your search. It doesn’t replace the extensive research you need to do based on your own needs — your budget, the types of games you like to play, etc., but it’s a start. Keep in mind that you’ll need to be prepared to shell out anywhere from $800-$5,000.
Knowing which brands are trustworthy and most worth the money will do a lot to narrow your search right off the bat. From Acer to Lenovo, you’ll hosts of very loyal gamers that back them, and it really is hard to go wrong with a well-known brand. A recent surprise, though, is one name that’s not usually known for its prowess in the gaming world, but has quickly become a top recommendation: HP. Their Omen series laptop is super sleek and impressive spec-wise and worth checking out if you’re not already loyal to a more seasoned player.
Portability & Power
Gaming laptops range from 13-18 inches, so you’ll have to make some decisions based on your lifestyle and whether or not you want more portability or power. The bigger guys in the 17 and 18 inch range bring the extra oomph, and laptops in the 13-15 inch range can be taken just about anywhere, but won’t have the same powerful components.
Display & Graphics
Your display needs to be high-res for the best visual experience that does justice to your games. Don’t go any less than 1920 x 1080, and steer clear of touch screens, which are needlessly expensive and just kill your battery life. Your graphics card, also known as the GPU, takes most of the beating when running games. Make sure your laptop comes with a GPU that has VRAM of no less than 4GB. Check this Notebook article out for a deeper dive.
Next to visuals in importance is of course sound, because gaming is all about the sensory experience. You’re probably thinking well you’ll just use headphones, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on what the built-in speakers are capable of. A top contender is a system with Nahimic audio software, which is known for its surround sound capabilities and host of presets. Other good options include Alienware’s Dell Audio software and Dolby Home Theater v4. Some laptops also come with subwoofers on the bottom.
Last on this list but certainly not least in terms of what you need to research is the keyboard, because as a gamer, it’s basically the equivalent to a musician’s instrument. It needs to feel right to you, of course, but a quality board will give you good actuation force just like the mechanical keyboard of a desktop, so you can be confident that you actuated the key you meant to. If you’re a night owl, consider a laptop with a keyboard that has built-in lighting. You can even snag one with customizable RGB lighting, but you’ll pay extra.
Based on your needs, other things to research include:
- The monitor
- Available ports
- RAM, CPU and storage