Looking for a new laptop for gaming but are unsure where to start? Fear not, I have put together this ultimate gaming laptop buying guide that explains everything you need to know.
This guide will help you choose the ideal processor, graphics card, adequate amount of RAM and storage, and display. I will also share tips for choosing the BEST gaming laptop brand.
Whether you are a beginner just starting out or an experienced gamer. Keep reading so you can find the perfect portable gaming machine.
Graphics Cards (GPU)
One of the most important things to consider when looking for a new laptop designed for gaming is the graphics card. The GPU is what creates all the images that you see on-screen.
Choosing the right GPU is key to enjoying high frame rates in the video games you want to play. How much graphics power you need will depend on the type of games you play.
For games like Minecraft and Roblox, a dedicated graphics card is not necessary, a more affordable gaming laptop with integrated graphics would be OK. You would only need a gaming laptop with a dedicated GPU if you play more graphically intensive AAA games.
What Are Entry-Level Graphics?
Entry-level graphics typically refer to integrated graphics, such as Intel UHD or AMD Vega. However, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX series are also considered entry-level graphics cards.
Entry-level graphics will provide enough performance for casual gaming and everyday tasks. You will find these graphics cards in budget-friendly gaming laptops. They can run modern games at lower settings while offering a smooth gaming experience.
For gamers looking for an affordable gaming laptop, it will feature graphics cards such as the NVidia GTX series, the GTX 1650 and 1650Ti but they do lack advanced graphics features.
A cheap gaming laptop does not offer as many advanced features, For that you would need a gaming laptop with either an NVidia GeForce RTX 3050 or the slightly faster NVidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. They will deliver advanced features, such as raytracing and DLSS.
An alternative option would be the AMD Radeon RX 5500M. Not quite as powerful but would still be a decent performer. For even more budget-friendly options consider the AMD Radeon RX 5300M or AMD Radeon RX 5400M dedicated graphics card.
Expect to pay between $500 to $800 for a gaming laptop with one of these graphics cards. Generally, they come with 8 GB of RAM and at least a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD). Which is more than enough memory and storage for most casual gamers.
What About Integrated Graphics?
For gamers on a tight budget, a laptop with integrated graphics would be a great option. But they are not the best ror running the latest games at a high level of detail without any lag.
As laptops with integrated graphics offer much lower gaming performance compared to those with dedicated graphics cards but they are much cheaper than one’s with a dedicated GPU.
Mainly because integrated graphics do not require extra cooling to cool the hardware, or have their own memory, unlike laptops with dedicated GPUs, which is what adds to the overall cost.
The good news is that you will find a lot of modern laptops with integrated graphics that can run video games such as Minecraft and Roblox and games on Steam at 1080p resolution.
The best laptops with integrated graphics include either Intel’s XE graphics or AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 11. You can expect to pay around $600-$800 (£500-£700). And you will find some excellent budget laptops at this price point or less.
What Are Mainstream Graphics?
The best laptop GPUs for mainstream gaming, range from the NVidia GeForce RTX 2060 (HP Omen 15 laptop) to the RTX 3060 GPU and will deliver a good gaming performance.
More powerful graphics cards like the NVidia GeForce RTX 3070, the AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT or the AMD Radeon RX 6800 would also make great mainstream gaming laptops.
However, for gaming laptops featuring one of these GPUs, expect to pay at least $1000 (£800). They will typically come with at least 16GB of RAM and relatively large storage capacity (1TB SSD), with wiggle room to add more storage and memory.
What Are High-end Graphics?
Gaming laptops with high-end graphics feature all the latest bells and whistles portable gaming provides to play the latest games at the highest possible settings and with no compromises.
Recently, I grabbed one of the best Razer gaming laptops, the Razer Blade 15, featuring a powerful NVidia RTX 3070 Ti GPU. Boy, this laptop did not disappoint. Powerful enough to run the latest games and applications and streaming with no lag or stutter.
However, the cost of a gaming laptop with the RTX 3070 TI is not cheap (around $3000). Razer laptops are considered expensive compared to other high-performing laptops. However, the build quality and user experience the Razer Blade 15 offers is unbeatable.
Moreover, apart from the the RTX 3070 TI the other discrete gpu for high-end gaming laptops. Include the NVidia RTX 3080 Ti, RTX 3090 and the AMD RX 6800M. Would all run modern games on the highest settings with all added features such as ray tracing and DLSS.
The newer GPUs from NVIdia, the NVidia GeForce RTX 40 series, include the RTX 4070, RTX 4080, and the RTX 4090. However, these are not widely available yet and would be extremely expensive. Expect to pay upwards of $4000 (£3200).
For more affordable gaming laptops packing this graphics power, you cost at least $2500 (£2000) to $3000 (£2500) and they typically have 16GB to 32GB of RAM and up to 2TB SSD.
HIGH-END GAMING LAPTOPS
Gaming Laptop Processor (CPU)
The central processing unit (CPU) is the brains behind the scenes. Responsible for taking the data you input and processing it to make your games and other applications run faster. Simply put, the CPU plays a huge role in anything you do.
The two things to look for when choosing a powerful processor is the core count and the clock speed. The more cores the processor has and the higher the clock speed, the more tasks you can do. Such as viewing multiple web pages and word processing documents, all while gaming.
One thing to note, unlike the GPU, the processor is not as easily upgradeable. So it is imperative you choose wisely as it will be stuck with you until you buy a new gaming laptop.
Choosing the CPU will come down to how much you are willing to pay for the extra performance and what other tasks you do on your new gaming laptop such as video editing, and other work.
AMD Ryzen 5 Processors
AMD’s Ryzen 5 processors are affordable laptop processors. They have 6 CPU Cores and will offer great value for the price and will provide you with a good gaming experience.
You will mostly find AMD Ryzen 5 processors in decent laptops like the Acer Nitro, MSI Katana and the Lenovo Legion 5. They are typically paired with the NVidia RTX 3050 or the RTX 3050 Ti GPUs and would make an excellent choice of laptop for gaming beginners.
AMD Ryzen 7 Processors
AMD Ryzen 7 processors are good options if you can spend a little extra, they typically have 8 cores and 16 threads, and can better handle multiple tasks compared to the AMD Ryzen 5’s.
For affordability, a gaming laptop with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H CPU would be an excellent mid-range gaming laptop capable of running games on high settings. For more power, look at the AMD Ryzen 7 6800H CPUs, excellent choices for gamers who want a little more power.
AMD Ryzen 7 CPUs are often paired with higher budget-friendly NVidia graphics cards like the NVidia RTX 3060, 3050, or the 3050 Ti. Making them excellent high-budget laptops for gaming.
AMD Ryzen 9 Processors
AMD Ryzen 9 processors are the most powerful mobile processors AMD has to offer. Ideal if you want to use your new gaming laptop for other tasks like video editing and streaming. However, gaming laptops with Ryzen 9 CPUs are at a premium, with prices above $3000.
The new Ryzen 9 CPUs come with up to 16 cores and 32 threads that will ensure a fast and capable system. The AMD Ryzen 9 7945HX is the newest CPU on the block and is known to be the fastest mobile gaming processor you can possibly have in any gaming notebook.
In the end, the AMD CPU you choose will come down to your needs and budget. If you want the best gaming experiences, you must find the funds to invest in the best AMD has to offer.
Intel i5 Processors
Intel’s i5 mobile processors are all you would need if you only want to play video games. They have around 4 Cores and 8 Threads and are pretty good for multitasking.
Aim for an Intel processor (i5) with at least 4 Cores. No lower than a 10th Gen Intel CPU. These laptops would offer better performance and would be great for school or college students with enough power to handle all day-to-day tasks like creating documents, and spreadsheets.
Intel i7 Processors
Intel Core i7 processors are much more powerful and offer higher clock speeds than the Core i5’s. With between 6 and 14 Cores and are capable of handling multiple tasks without much difficulty.
For a good mid-tier gaming laptop, the Intel Core i7-11800H or an Intel Core i7-11850H would be good choices and affordable. However, the 12th Gen Intel processors are better and will ensure you can fly through heavier workloads like gaming and streaming without any issues.
Intel i9 Processors
Intel’s Core i9 processors are some of the most powerful available. Compatible with all the latest technologies and will handle any programme you throw at them and on the highest pre-set. For the best performance check out either Intel’s 12th gen or the newer 13th Gen Core i9 processors. These have up to 16 cores and 32 threads and can handle the most demanding tasks.
The downside is they come with a higher price tag but would be worth the investment if you want to experience desktop-class performance in a compact and portable gaming laptop.
When it comes to choosing a CPU, you have a plethora of options to choose from. Top brands such as Asus, Dell, and Razer produce some of the best gaming laptops in terms of performance packed with the latest CPUs and paired with top-tier graphics cards.
Display: Screen Resolution
Most budget laptops will have a Full HD (1080p) display resolution. These days anything less is not worth considering such as 720p. However, gaming laptops with a higher resolution, such as QHD (2560 x 1440) resolution, have become increasingly common.
That said, a 1080p screen resolution is still the go-to res for most gamers because it provides the best balance between graphical quality, gaming performance, and price.
What’s more, the higher the resolution, the more pixels the graphics card has to render. So more power is required, which means more heat for the cooling system to contend with.
You can also find top-end gaming laptops with 4K (3840 x 2160) screens. The only problem is running games in 4K uses a lot of power, again creating heat. So you may have to adjust the graphics settings to get the best possible performance.
What Screen Refresh Rate is Best
Choosing the right screen refresh rate is about what works best for you. A higher refresh rate can enhance your gaming experience, but the laptop will come at a higher cost. If you have a tight budget, don’t worry, most budget gaming laptops have a refresh rate of at least 144Hz, which is plenty for a fantastic gaming session.
While more expensive gaming laptops feature faster screens with 165Hz, 240Hz, 300Hz, and 360Hz refresh rates and are great options for speedy gaming. Moreover, it would also depend on the type of games you play as to what refresh rate is best.
If you play fast-action first-person shooters like Call of Duty Warzone, Fortnite etc. It would be beneficial to have a refresh rate of 144Hz or above.
If you tend to play slower games that require slower frame rates, then the minimum would be a display with a 120Hz refresh rate and therefore a much cheaper laptop would do.
QHD or FHD or UHD, Which is best?
The difference between QHD and FHD laptop display is very noticeable. So is the difference between QHD and UHD? Generally speaking, the higher the resolution, the better the image quality but also means more graphics power is required to render the game or video at a high resolution.
FHD (Full High Definition) refers to a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels and is the most common resolution for laptops. It offers a good balance between image quality and performance and is suitable for most everyday tasks and general use.
QHD (Quad High Definition) refers to a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels, which offers a higher pixel density and sharper image quality compared to Full HD (FHD). But requires more processing power and can affect battery life. A QHD display is best for users who demand higher visual quality for design, video editing, or gaming purposes.
UHD (Ultra High Definition) refers to a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels and provides the highest image quality, with four times the pixels of FHD. It does require the most powerful hardware and can have a significant impact on battery life. It is best suited for those who demand the best image quality for professional content creation or high-end gaming.
Ports and Connections
The more I/O ports the gaming laptop has, the more you can expand on its functionality. Most modern gaming systems will usually have a variety of ports and connections for connecting additional devices and transferring files and other data, such as video.
Most budget laptops will have at least one USB Type-A port, a USB Type-C port, and an HDMI. More than enough for super-fast data transfer speeds, charging devices and connect your gaming peripherals. The HDMI port will also allow you to connect an external monitor.
This is where more expensive gaming notebooks can be beneficial. As they will mostly have advanced ports such as Thunderbolt 4. That will allow you to connect a more advanced monitor or two and offer a much better picture quality compared to using an HDMI port.
In addition, Thunderbolt 4 ports will also offer faster data transfer rates and enable you to charge your devices, such as mobile phones and IPads much quicker.
Generally speaking, the more ports the laptop has, the more expensive it will be. However, if you are short on ports but you have a USB Type-C port with the gaming laptop. You can invest in an external HUB or a laptop docking station. However, docking stations or USB HUBs are not the cheapest accessories but they will help to extend on the ports your laptop has.
Gaming Laptop Memory (RAM)
When choosing a gaming laptop, the amount of RAM (Random Access Memory) it has is an important factor to consider. The RAM directly affects the performance of the gaming system.
RAM acts as a temporary place for the operating system and games to store and retrieve data quickly. The more RAM a gaming laptop has, the more data it can store and access quickly, leading to improved overall performance and a smoother gaming experience.
A minimum of 8 GB of RAM is recommended for most modern games, and 16 GB of RAM is ideal, especially for demanding games and other tasks such as video editing. The good news is that most budget gaming laptops will have at least 8 GB of RAM.
8GB of RAM is enough for most AAA computer games that recommend having between 8 GB, but some need 12 GB of memory. While less demanding games, you can get away with less. But you may have to close some programmes to keep the game from lagging.
16 GB, on the other hand, is a better option all around, especially if you’re using graphics editing software that requires a lot of resources. If so, look for gaming laptops with at least 16 GB and room to upgrade to 32 GB in case you ever need more.
The great thing with RAM is it is one of those components you can easily upgrade. Adding more memory is a great way to increase the performance of your laptop.
So before deciding which gaming laptop to buy, check how much RAM it has and how much it can take. If it can max out between 32 or 64 GB of RAM, it would be a great choice.
Gaming Laptop Storage
Storage refers to the amount of data a gaming laptop can store, either a hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD). Storage is a crucial factor to consider when choosing a laptop because it directly affects the performance and overall functionality of the system.
Games are becoming much bigger in terms of file size with advancements in AI, Ray Tracing and other technologies. So, it is imperative that you have enough storage space. This ensures you can install many computer games without running out of space.
For most users, a 256 GB SSD will be enough. If you play larger games such as COD Warzone you will need more and a 512GB SSD would be best. In addition, having an SSD can massively enhance the performance and speed of the system.
SSDs offer faster read and write speeds compared to an HDD, leading to quicker game load times, improved system boot times and a more responsive experience. It is also recommended to choose a laptop with M.2 slots. This way you can add a second SSD if you ever need more storage.
Pro Tip: it is best to have an SSD as your boot drive and a second SSD as your secondary storage. This will lead to a much faster gaming laptop, especially with the new PCIe x4 SSDs. That will make light work of your file transfers and is also great for battery power.
Gaming Laptop Keyboard
While RGB mechanical keyboards are not necessary, they can provide some advantages. Allowing you to customize the backlighting to match your gaming setup. The keyboard lights can also help you better find keystrokes and improve your gaming in low-light conditions.
Other keyboard features to look out for include anti-ghosting and n-key rollover technology to help register every key combination, essential for first-person shooter games. The key-travel distance is also matters. Between 1.5 to 2 mm would be good.
Also, check if the keyboard has mechanical keys (more expensive) or spongy-feeling keys (less expensive). Look for other advanced features such as per-key macro functions, which will enable you to record and reply to sequences more quicker.
Microsoft Precision Touch is another feature that benefits gamers as it allows them to use a three-finger tap to snap, which is ideal for taking screenshots or quickly recording video clips.
Size & Weight
Gaming laptops are available in, 14-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch sizes. Laptops with 17-inch footprints offer the most variety of specs. They tend to run the coolest due to having more space inside the chassis for a more impactful cooling system. But, are usually heavier.
Gaming laptops with a 15-inch screen size, offer a good balance of features and portability. They also have a longer battery life, making them a good choice for gamers on the go.
Whereas 14-inch laptops are generally the most portable but offer fewer options for specs. Despite this, a 14-inch gaming notebook is still an excellent option if short on space.
If you want something a bit more compact, you will find some excellent 14-inch gaming laptops. Like the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 and the Razer Blade 14 AMD-based gaming notebook. Both gaming laptops are extremely powerful, considering their smaller size.
So, before choosing the size of your gaming laptop, ask yourself, do you travel a lot? If so, choose something smaller as they weigh less and take up less space. The same can be said if you have limited desk space. If you want the most power, opt for a 17-inch model instead.
Gaming Laptop Cooling
The cooling system is also an important factor to consider because high-performance components generate a lot of heat. If the cooling system is unable to properly dissipate the heat. It can cause the laptop to either shut down or experience performance throttling.
Most laptops still utilize traditional cooling methods with copper heat pipes. Yet, the most advanced system to watch out for is the vapour chamber cooling system which is more efficient at dissipating heat and is overall quieter than traditional cooling methods.
You will find some of the best laptops with the best cooling feature the advanced vapour chamber cooling. Such as the Razer Blade, Alienware, and some of the newer ASUS models. But expect to pay a higher price for these particular laptops.
It is important to note that, a gaming laptop with a reliable cooling system ensures stable performance and a longer lifespan as it can run for longer without thermal throttling.
Gaming Laptop Brands
Choosing a gaming laptop brand will be dependent on your taste and budget. If you have a tight budget? Then Acer, ASUS, and HP would be good choices. For something a bit mid-tier, you should look at ASUS, HP, MSI, or Lenovo.
If your heart is set on top-of-the-line performance, there is no better place to start than with Razer. If you are wondering? Why are Razer laptops so expensive? Read this post. In the meantime, the Dell Alienware line-up and the ASUS ROG series are also impressive.
Razer is a brand built by gamers for gamers and has a reputation for supplying some of the best gaming laptops. The Razer line-up includes the Razer Blades 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18. All offer top-level gaming performance packed inside a sleek, stylish aluminium chassis.
In my opinion, Razer is a good brand, not just for laptops, but all their gaming products are top-notch. Razer has been going since 2005, they must be doing something right.
The Razer Blade 15 is the best gaming laptop I have ever used and have been lucky to test. The build quality and user experience it offers is just the best. If you are willing to pay a higher price tag for the best-performing gaming laptop, then you should consider Razer.
Dell Alienware laptops are some of the most-powerful money can buy. The bad news is you have to have a bigger budget to afford one. But you will get something that will offer an immersive gaming experience in anything you do.
Alienware laptops are also some of the most popular for enthusiasts. Due to their powerful components and futuristic designs. Dell also offers a wide range of specs. The most expensive is the Alienware Area-51m which starts at around $2,499 to $3500.
What’s also great with the Alienware brand is you can customize your laptop at the purchase stage. Ensuring you get the best gaming laptop for your needs. Just be careful, as some models have RAM that is not upgradeable. That said, if you want a gaming laptop that will last, Alienware is a brand you should closely look at.
ASUS are a Taiwanese company that has been in the laptop game since the 1990s. Their laptop brand Republic Of Gamer (ROG), offers a wide range of laptops for all budgets.
ASUS has models like the ASUS TUF range and high-end gaming beasts like the ROG Strix and Zephyrus. One of the best things about ASUS is their laptops come with a wide range of hardware options and backlighting features. This means you can tailor the model to your own needs. They also offer a good warranty period and customer service.
Lenovo offers a wide range of laptops. From budget laptops to relatively high-end models. Their gaming brand Legion has become popular and now uses the advanced Vapor Chamber cooling system in their newer Lenovo Legion laptops.
What’s also great, Lenovo laptops come with easy-to-use system control technology, the much improved Lenovo Q Control 3.0, so you can quickly adjust the fan speed to improve frame rates and save on battery power.
Lenovo Legion gaming laptops also feature Dual Burn Support, which pushes the CPU and GPU together. Delivering the best possible performance in-game. Also, Lenovo Legion gaming laptops come with some of the best gaming hardware to easily run all video games. With prices ranging from $800 – $2500. Lenovo is definitely worth a shot.
Acer produces a full range of laptops, from everyday notebooks to high to mid-range gaming laptops. The Predator series is Acer’s gaming laptop brand dedicated to gaming. Offering some of the best gaming laptops with high-end CPUs and graphics.
Acer also has other more affordable options, such as the tidy budget Acer Nitro gaming laptop and the sleeker Acer Aspire laptops, both are great options for light video gaming. Overall, Acer laptops have great specs, including longer battery life.
HP is a go-to computer brand that has been around for decades. They offer great laptops that will deliver a mid-range gaming performance. Their main models, like the HP omen and HP Victus, come with a full range of hardware options for gaming.
HP also have decent laptops in the budget space. Namely, the HP Pavilion laptops are a great choice for gaming beginners. They feature NVidia GTX graphics and speedy Intel Core i5 processors with prices starting around $800.
Lastly, HP also offers a lengthy warranty service, which is perfect if anything goes wrong. Their customer service is some of the best available. So if you want an all-around good laptop designed for gaming, HP is definitely worth a look.
MSI is another talented Taiwanese electronics company that offers a wide range of gaming products for all types of gamers. MSI is most well-known for its high-spec gaming laptops, including the MSI Stealth and the futuristic-looking MSI Raider gaming laptops.
MSI is known for having some of the best cooling gaming laptops, that run much cooler than many others. They also have a fantastic range of thin and light gaming laptops.
With over 30% of the market share in laptops worldwide, MSI must be doing something right. They also feature some of the best gaming software available, like MSI’s Dragon Center software which will help with system monitoring and allow you to control the fan speeds to improve performance.
Gigabyte and Aorus
AORUS is a subsidiary of Gigabyte and offers gaming laptops designed for the most serious of gaming enthusiasts. Their laptops can be easily overclocked for even more performance.
This brand offers laptops with a full range of hardware options that not many others offer. If you want to experience pure gaming power, you get that with an AORUS gaming laptop.
There you go the complete gaming laptop buying guide. It has been a long one, but if you have got this far, you will be well on your way to choosing the best gaming notebook. Remember, it all depends on your budget and the games you want to play.
If money is no object, go ahead and get the most powerful graphics card out there. But, if you are like most people, you will need to find a happy medium between price and performance.
Thanks for reading, Cya Next Time!
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