We run this site primarily for the desktop PC gamer, however there is certain subset of the PC gaming landscape who require a portable machine for whatever reason.
Of course, when it comes to performance for your money, nothing beats a desktop PC. But if you're a smart shopper and know what to look for, you can find great mobile gaming machines capable of great performance in the latest games without a ridiculous price tag.
So what's the best gaming laptop, and what are the important specs you should take into account when choosing one?
Glad you asked. In this article we'll cover exactly what you need to know to be able to easily navigate the gaming laptop market with confidence.
At the end of the article we'll also provide our current top 4 value picks as well for anyone who wants to save hours of market research trying to find the best models.
The size of your laptop is obviously one of the main choices you need to make. Avid gamers and those who wish to view movies on their laptop will usually want to get a larger screen because it makes for a more immersive and overall enjoyable experience, but with a bigger screen comes a heavier machine and therefore it becomes more annoying to carry it around with you.
It all comes down to whether you prefer ease of mobility, or you don't care and want to biggest screen you can get your hands on. Also, like a lot of things, the bigger the more expensive, so you could save a bunch of money on your laptop if a big view isn't something you typically care that much about.
Typical laptop screens range from 15" to 20" and above, and for gaming I would recommend at least 17" for an awesome gaming experience. 18", 19" and larger are even more awesome, but like I mentioned they become a pain to carry around if you move it about often. Although if you're the hulk - this is a non-issue.
For gamers the most important spec of a laptop is actually what's inside. The video card, CPU (processor), and RAM (memory) are critical to gaming performance so you've got to make sure this trio of components is good enough to deliver the performance you want.
To keep up with the latest games these days I would say the bare minimum is an Intel Core i5 (or equivalent AMD) processor, 4 GB of RAM, and a capable separate GeForce or Radeon video card.
No, not all laptops have separate video cards - many have on-board graphics (which means the video card is built into the motherboard). Avoid these laptops at all costs because it won't be powerful enough for gaming. You absolutely NEED a separate card.
What video card should you get? Well, there are a ton of different laptop video card models out there, so it's hard to recommend any particular model. Just make sure to do a bit of research on whatever video card is in the laptop that you're considering buying.
Read customer reviews, search for write-ups of the card's gaming performance online, and also definitely check out this very helpful comparison on the latest laptop video cards.
The input capabilities of your laptop is another thing to look out for. The keyboard on your gaming laptop computer should be large enough for you to use it comfortably. If the laptop keyboard area and keys are too small, you may experience stress on your fingers and wrists when typing.
The touchpad on the laptop, which is the alternative to using a mouse, should also feel comfortable to you. Many people dislike touchpads, as they are harder to control than a regular mouse. This may not be a problem for you as it's always possible to plug in your own external mouse for better control.
If you'll be on the move a lot, or gaming on the go, battery life may be an important consideration for you. Make sure to read reviews of your laptop to find out about the battery life, and check the specs of course too keeping in mind that gaming will tear through battery life a lot quicker than other tasks. Most laptops these days use lithium ion batteries. The performance of a lithium ion battery is judged by its capacity, which is measured in cells.
The size of the hard drive may be important to you, especially if you will be installing a lot of games/movies/pictures on your laptop. So make sure you get a laptop with a big enough hard drive, although it's not that much of an issue because you can always buy an external hard drive later if you need more room.
If you want to connect peripheral devices to your laptop, you will need to do so through USB ports. Devices such as printers, scanners, digital cameras, keyboards, and mice all need USB ports, so ensure that the laptop you choose has enough of these ports for your needs.
This article has looked at some of the important decisions you need to make when in the market for gaming laptop computers. Hopefully you now know a little more about what to look for in a laptop, and are better prepared to make a good purchase.
Calm down, fellow warrior. If you want to cut to the chase and buy a great gaming laptop without having to do the extensive, confusing research and wade through all the waste-of-time-grandma-machines, we've put together our current best picks below.
The above are 4 of the absolute best value picks on the market right now for 4 different spending budgets - if prioritizing gaming performance is one of your chief aims (as it should be if you know what's good for ya).
You can read our full breakdown of these 4 laptops here:
To summarize that article, all 4 are well-built from trusted manufacturers, well-designed, contain a nice list of features, and most importantly pack a punch when it comes to gaming performance.
Once again, not as cost-effective as building a gaming desktop, however still very solid purchases and the best of what mobile gaming has to offer right now.