What is a gaming laptop? A particularly good question, the kind of question that’s been bouncing around the web without any clear, detailed answers.
But would they answer this question, Well, I don’t think they would.
So, here I am, a passionate gamer, and for many years a dedicated gaming laptop user to share my knowledge and answer this question “What is a gaming laptop?”, in as much detail as possible.
After reading my post, you should have a deeper understanding of a gaming laptop. I will break down the important laptop components and features you must consider, focusing on what makes the latest gaming laptops so good for gaming.
Gaming Laptop Features to Consider
- What is a CPU and which CPU is best?
- What is a GPU and which GPU is best?
- How much storage do I need for my laptop?
- Which is better, SSD or HDD for gaming?
- How much RAM is needed for gaming?
Who would have thought “Laptops for Gaming” would evolve into the monstrous ray-tracing gaming machines they are today?
And when I say gaming, I am not talking about classic Solitaire, the game I’m sure we’ve all played at some stage, the game that helped cure the boredom or passed the last hour of your working day.
When I say ‘gaming’ I mean high end, fast action all out wargaming, COD style.
Now, for those who are not sure the meaning of C.O.D? If that’s you, you have been missing out. And no, it’s not the supper we have on a Friday.
C.O.D is short for Call of Duty, which is an amazing first-person shooter game and a story for another day.
For now, let’s take a minute and appreciate just how far gaming laptops have come in just a few short years. We now have so many options, combinations, and gaming laptop specifications to suit all types of gaming.
Which does make choosing a gaming laptop not so easy unless you are equipped with the knowledge to understand what to look for and understand the most important features to consider.
For starters, a good CPU (central processor), a decent amount of RAM (memory), plenty of storage space (SSD, or HDD), and most importantly for gaming, the GPU (graphics processor).
But then there is the display, the build, the weight and the size. Oh, and then you need to consider which gaming laptop accessories to buy. Like I said, so many things to consider.
One step at a time.
What is a Laptop Graphics Processing Unit?
To understand what is a gaming laptop it’s best to separate the core components and explain in as much detail about each one. The first and possibly the most important component is the graphics processing unit (GPU) and it’s a vital part of any good gaming laptop.
The graphics card speeds up the process when creating and rendering graphics, including videos, images, and animations. A laptops graphics card can be discrete, which means a standalone graphics card. Or they can be integrated, which means they share the same chip as the processor.
The difference between the two is night and day, a laptop with a discrete graphics card would be best for gaming because it has its own memory and cooling. Therefore, can produce much more power and process much more data than any other. But will also generate more heat.
Whereas, integrated graphics have limited power because of it sharing the chip with the processor, a laptop with integrated graphics isn’t the wise choice for high fidelity gaming, although a good choice for games like Minecraft and Roblox, also many Steam games.
The market leaders in computer graphics chips are NVIDIA and AMD and they have been for some time.
Although, if you use your laptop for work and playing games, an integrated card will do just fine.
Are NVIDIA’s GPU’s good for gaming laptops?
NVIDIA are the true leaders in the race to be the GPU kings of the gaming laptop world, and top of the tree in 2020 for laptop graphics cards.
The GEFORCE RTX 20 series is currently the ultimate powerhouse in graphics processing for laptops and will help take your gaming to a whole new level, ready for the most advanced AAA games.
However, the NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 16 series GPU’s would also be sufficient, a wise choice if you are using your laptop for everyday tasks, studying and you also play games for fun.
NVIDIA’s GTX 16 series will also cost you less than a laptop with an RTX 20 series GPU.
You would be better to go with the RTX 20 series GPU if you play higher demanding games. Less demanding games you would get away with a GTX 16 series GPU.
It is always a good idea to check the recommended system requirements of the games you play before you make the choice.
You may end up saving money, money you could use for additional gaming accessories.
Is an AMD GPU good for gaming?
AMD’s discrete GPU’s were once rival to a NVIDIA GEFORCE processor.
Although, a battle was fought it does seem AMD have lost and NVIDIA a clear winner by some distance.
That’s why choosing to spend your money on a gaming laptop with the NVIDIA GEFORCE integrated graphic card is by far the best choice to make.
AMD may have lost the battle, but have they lost the war?
Maybe not, as you will come across a fantastic range of gaming laptops, combining AMD tech. With Ryzen 4000 series mobile processors and AMD RADEON graphics.
These laptops will allow you to edit videos, stream 4k movies and most importantly give you a smooth gaming experience.
Can you upgrade a laptop graphics card?
Yes, it is possible to upgrade your laptops GPU, you would need to be highly skilled and would be costly to do it yourself.
But in most cases, it’s not possible.
You would be best to go out and purchase a brand new laptop and this time make sure you choose the best graphics to suit your gaming needs.
Note: It’s far easier to upgrade a PC graphics card than it is to upgrade a gaming laptop.
Besides, if you choose the best gaming laptop for your gaming, an integrated GPU should be more than enough for you to enjoy the best gaming experience.
Can you add an additional GPU?
Yes, good news. It is possible to add a graphics card to your laptop. You would need to purchase an external video & graphic card adaptor to plug into your USB port.
However, adding additional graphics to your laptop this way will not be for gaming reasons. The only real benefit would be if you wanted to use more than two monitors.
So, remember to choose carefully, and make sure your graphics card is the real deal, meets all your needs, and ticks the ‘my graphic card is amazing’ check box.
What is a central processing unit and which is best?
Yes, I know we have been here before? Another two-horse race, this time between Intel and AMD.
However, this time the race is much closer.
The central processing unit, CPU for short, is attached to the motherboard.
When I say attached, I mean the CPU is soldered to the motherboard. And you ain’t moving it without your hammer and chisel.
So don’t even try.
The CPU determines how fast and how capable your gaming laptop will be.
Also known to be the brains behind the scenes and performs the calculations for your laptop.
The RAM (memory) will give instructions to the CPU the instructions are then processed, interpreted, and sent to other laptop components to finish the job.
Remember, how many cores your CPU has, will determine how fast your laptop will be able to handle many tasks at once.
It’s crazy to think, such a small piece of silicone is just so wonderfully powerful.
But that is the job of the central prossesing unit for any gaming laptop.
How to choose the best CPU for your laptop?
Your choice of CPU will come down to your budget, and the type of games that you play.
As I have already said, the CPU is soldered to your laptop’s motherboard and would be next to impossible to upgrade.
However, some machines do have interchangeable processors.
With that, comes a price, so expect them to be expensive.
Your CPU will be with you, through blood, sweat, and tears, well at least until you retire from your gaming duties. Or when you go out and buy a new laptop.
So check if the CPU is adequate for the games you intend to play.
Which Processor Brand is BEST for Gaming Laptops?
Intel and AMD make popular gaming products, including the best central processing units for gaming laptops.
To play the latest game titles it requires speed, skill, and quick movement, a fast-capable gaming laptop is a must for every gamer to be competitive.
Owning a laptop with a capable AMD CPU, or an Intel processor would be like having a big fat cherry on the top.
What are the Best AMD Laptop Processors?
AMD Ryzen mobile processors, are known to be the better option for value and for money.
The Ryzen 4000 series are the latest processors for laptops made by AMD. Featuring up to 8 ultra-fast, ‘Zen 2’ Cores, and available on the latest ultrathin gaming laptops.
A Ryzen processor will allow you to play harder, play faster, and play without a fuss to give you an uncompromising gaming experience.
Simple tasks will get done quicker, and starting up and signing into your laptop will be made easy.
The AMD mobile processors 4000 series start from a Ryzen 3 4000 then 5 4000, 7 4000 & 9 4000.
The higher the first number the more cores your processor will have, but will also cost you more money.
The Ryzen 3 4000 mobile processors offer premium performance, completing daily tasks, streaming, and browsing on the go will be easy. The Ryzen 3 is ok for playing less demanding games like Minecraft or Roblox.
Next up, the Ryzen 5 4000, a big step up from the Ryzen 3, and would make a good mid-range gaming laptop, with 6 Cores, 8MB Cache with MB 4.0Ghz.
The Ryzen 5 processors would be ok for most AAA games on low settings, you may not get the frame rate you would need to get the best out of your gameplay.
The Ryzen 7 & 9 4000 processors are the big boys in mobile CPU’s, they offer the ultimate gaming performance, with 8 Cores, 2.9Ghz/3,3Ghz, and MB 4.4Ghz.
A gaming laptop with either a Ryzen 7 or a 9 4000 mobile processor will give you an excellent gaming experience and allow you to play the latest games on relatively high settings.
But that’s not all.
AMD Also Produce Ryzen 4000 H-Series Processors
Now, let me take it up a notch, if you are all about fierce gaming, and would like your CPU to pack a punch like ‘Mike Tyson’?
You would need to choose a gaming laptop with an AMD Ryzen H-Series mobile processor, with Radeon Graphics.
A superb combination to satisfy your thirst for fun and will easily go ten rounds with Tyson.
Would it be worth it? Without any shadow of a doubt, the H-series processors from AMD will give you an uncompromising performance for your gaming.
And one of the most advanced laptop processor/graphics combinations on the market to date.
What Are The Best Intel Laptop Processors?
Next Up, Intel ICore processors.
I know, I did mention ‘Mike Tyson’ earlier. But the battle between AMD and Intel is an all-out war, a war even ‘Tyson’ himself would probably loose.
Just recently Intel released the 11th Gen Intel Core mobile processor, and the very latest edition to their mobile CPU range.
Intel states: ‘The latest 11th Gen mobile processors are by far the world’s best for Ultrathin laptops, with major advances in every department. Your connectivity will be better, wired, or wireless, amazing charge time, ultra-quick start-up time, and advanced AI capabilities’.
Now, if that’s not the sound of kicking ass, I am not too sure what would be.
However, the 10th Gen Intel i Core processors are more readily available.
Intel’s 10th Gen i5, i7, and i9 are all capable processors, again which one you choose will be down to your needs and of course your budget.
And the further up the list you climb, the better your gaming laptop will perform and of course, the higher the price will be.
A gaming laptop with an Intel i Core 5 processor should cost you no more than £1000, more around the £900 mark. Although a capable processor that will allow you to enjoy a mid-range gaming experience.
Intel’s i7 mobile processors are the next step up, coupled with a decent graphics card you would have the tools to enjoy a comfortable gaming experience.
Obviously, you would be paying a little more than with an Intel i5 processor, and you should find a decent gaming laptop for less than £1500.
And finally, if you strive for a top-level gaming experience and your budget can stretch then you need to go for an Intel i9 mobile processor.
Depending on the graphics card you would have to pay well over £2000 for your gaming machine. For that you will get more cores, more threads and maintain higher frame rates during you gaming.
A gaming laptop boasting an Intel Core i9 mobile processor would allow you to push the boundaries and enjoy an incredibly good gaming experience.
How much RAM do I need for my Gaming Laptop?
System memory or RAM, short for ‘random access memory’. Another crucial part of your gaming laptop.
The RAM stores data, albeit on a short-term basis.
The RAM allows your CPU to access data much faster than if it was to fetch the data from your other storage devices. Like your hard drive.
Your laptop will already have memory built into the system, attached to the motherboard.
Unlike desktop computers who have 4 memory slots, most laptops will have 2 memory slots.
The laptop’s memory is one of the most affordable ways to improve the performance of your computer.
What is a memory module?
A memory module is a circuit board that holds the memory components and gold pins provide a connection to the motherboard.
The type of memory module used in laptops is called a SODIMM (small outline dual in-line memory module).
The latest standard of a memory module is the DDR4, which delivers the highest possible performance.
And the latest ultrathin gaming laptops use the DDR4 type memory module. Older laptops will have the DDR3 standard.
How much RAM will I need for Gaming?
There are two main factors to consider when looking at your laptop’s memory spec.
- Capacity or Memory Size: the amount of data your RAM will be able to handle at any one time. The latest gaming laptops will have at least 8GB pre-installed.
- 8Gb is the recommended minimum for the latest game titles.
- 16Gb is a sweet spot for gaming.
- 32G is good for multitasking, i.e. listening to music, streaming while playing games.
How much RAM you need for gaming will depend on how much gaming you do and your workflow.
A nice sweet spot would be 16GB, adding extra memory will cost you a little more, who wouldn’t want to improve the overall performance?
Because adding additional memory will improve your gaming performance.
If you already own a laptop and your laptop has started to slow down, you can check your memory stats using the task manager available in the Windows operating system.
Speed and Latency: The speed and its latency will affect how fast your memory operates.
- The speed or frequency is measured in MHz (How many data transfers per second), the higher the number, the faster the memory will be.
- The latency affects how quickly data is transferred from the RAM. Also known as CAS.
What does CAS mean?
CAS, short for Column Address Strobe, means the number of clock cycles it takes to send a request to read a memory location, then out through the output pins.
The main thing to remember is, the smaller/lower this number (CAS) the better your laptop will perform.
Just remember unlike the CPU, you can add additional RAM to your laptop. And a good starting point would be 8GB.
Next up, storage.
How Much Storage Do I Need For My Gaming Laptop?
An important thing to remember, especially for gamers, is top-end AAA games can take upwards of 30Gb of storage space when downloaded.
And you will even come across games requiring over 100GB of storage space, huge numbers, I agree.
So, before you decide on which laptop to purchase, you would need to consider the storage capabilities. How much do you need? And does the laptop come with SSD or HDD, or both?
If you are anything like me, you may also use your laptop for work, therefore, space for your files and folders, then your family, wedding and crazy party photos, space for videos, space for software, space, space, space.
I know, I sound like a broken record.
But, it’s a fact, and why you need to make sure the laptop storage size meets your gaming needs.
The good news is you can upgrade your laptop storage and add additional storage later down the line if needs be.
Why Storage is Important for gaming?
Just imagine, your laptop crashing halfway through the best gaming hour of your life and your pride and joy go’s Bummf!
FYI, Bummf is another way of saying ‘Oh my God, my laptop has crashed’.
I know I wouldn’t be happy, If I had to hazard a guess neither would you be.
How much storage you need will be down to how many top end games you play and how much work you do.
And why it should be a priority to ensure the laptop you buy has the required storage and memory capacity you need.
An example for gaming.
Up to 500Gb, SSD or 1Tb HDD would be ok if you play games casually, work, and watch videos. Again, you can add storage as your gaming escalates.
You can buy additional storage with 1, 2, and 3 terabytes of space. You will find a solution for almost every need.
The Best Storage Options For Gaming Laptops?
Which is better an SSD or HDD for a gaming laptop?
An SSD would be the recommended storage solution for a gaming laptop. An SSD is short for a ‘Solid State Drive’ also known as the ‘Solid State Disk’.
You will find the latest ultrathin gaming laptops will come equipped with an SSD drive, with at least 250Gb of storage space.
An M.2 SSD is known as the next-generation form factor and is designed to enable higher performance.
M.2 solid-state drives are tiny compared to any other form of the storage device, and an M.2 drive would use less power, and read-write your data much faster.
Better still, an M.2 SSD with NVMe will increase your storage drives overall speeds even further and will also reduce latency.
To show you just how much more powerful an M.2 Drive is than a standard SSD. An M.2 drive can handle over 60,000 commands per queue.
Compared to older SATA drives which can handle only 32 commands per queue.
So if your budget can stretch to buying a laptop for gaming with an M.2 SSD with NVMe protocol, your money will be worth spending.
HDD’s Still Good For Gaming Laptops?
Hard disk drives (HDD) do still have the edge over an SSD, on price and the capacity.
Because HDD’s still offer more storage for less money than an SSD.
Although your laptop would be slower and you would use more power. Your laptop battery would also suffer more than it would with an SSD.
HDD’s also generate more heat for your laptop. Not to mention the noise created from the spinning disks.
Look, I am here to help, I am not trying to sell you an SSD, these are simple facts.
You will still find a decent gaming laptop, that only has an HDD installed. And a gaming laptop with a 1Tb hard drive will be cheaper than buying a laptop with a 1Tb SSD.
A lot cheaper. Again the choice will come down to your budget.
What About HDD and SSD Storage?
Yes, you can buy a laptop for gaming, with both SSD and HDD storage combined.
The SSD will be your primary storage, to carry out daily tasks, booting, opening apps, and storing your operating system.
The advantage of having a laptop with an SSD and HDD is you can save the large files and games you do not play as often on the hard drive.
Allowing the SSD free to boot your laptop without delay.
A combination of both storage solutions would be more expensive than buying a laptop with just the HDD or an SSD as the storage solution.
The larger the storage available on an SSD the more expensive your laptop would be.
A more affordable option is a laptop with a smaller SSD drive as the primary storage, and a 1, 2, or 3Tb HDD as the secondary storage than it would be to buy a laptop with just one large SSD drive.
Another great option would be to purchase a flash drive or use cloud storage to use as your secondary storage solution.
A good alternative if you cannot afford the more expensive laptops with bigger SSD’s.
Why an SSD is Best For Laptop Gaming?
Why? Because an SSD is lighter, has a 2.5-inch form factor making it smaller than the 3.5-inch HDD. And because the SSD has no moving parts, cutting out some of the noise created from the hard drive.
You will also appreciate the added performance, opening files, launch applications, and moving from app to app would be so much smoother and quicker.
Not to mention booting up your laptop, a decent SSD will boot your laptop with the blink of an eye.
Another benefit for using an SSD as your storage solution will be that you can access your games faster, and save your gaming quicker.
A dream for any gamer on the go.
So, for the best performance, an SSD would be the best option.
But remember, a laptop with only the SSD storage, will be more expensive than any other storage solution.
And the overall cost will increase, the bigger the SSD.
Why Choose a Gaming Laptop v’s Gaming PC
The latest gaming laptops have advanced so much in the last few years, laptops built for gaming will go toe to toe with most gaming PC’s.
Why? Because a laptop and a PC share the same types of peripherals, a mouse, keyboard, microphones, speakers, and webcams.
And, both use the same applications and the same operating systems.
And, thanks to the latest technology from INTEL, NVIDIA, AMD. Gaming laptops can now perform so much better, they are faster, and the graphics are superb.
Making your gameplay as good as ever.
And we can play the latest top-end AAA games while on the road, great if you attend gaming tournaments or you work away from home.
Making your gaming laptop your best friend.
So if you are like me, always moving about, and travelling from A to B you can take your gaming with you.
Portability is by far the biggest advantage a laptop has over a PC.
And finally, even though I will defend a laptop for gaming until the end of time.
There are a couple of things I cannot disagree with,
- Laptops are more expensive than the equivalent gaming PC.
- Laptop batteries can sometimes be a problem.
Although laptop batteries have improved over the years, they are now lasting a lot longer without needing to be recharged.
Some laptop batteries will last upwards of 6 hours.
If you do find your battery is not lasting long enough, you can purchase a portable laptop charger to help give your gaming a boost.
There we have it, I have gone through the important features to consider, offering loads of amazing reasons why you need to buy a gaming laptop over a PC or a standard laptop.
And finished with only two reasons why not to buy a laptop for gaming.
Buying a laptop is easy, buying the right laptop for your gaming will need some thought.
A gaming laptop is far more advanced than they were 5 years ago.
The latest ultrathin gaming laptops with INTEL or AMD processors, and superb graphics like the NVIDIA GEFORCE GPU, will set you apart from the rest.
You can play your favourite games on the go, and play faster and smoother than ever before.
I understand that we all like to have nice things, and that includes me.
But, please make sure you consider the laptop specification before jumping in and buying the sexiest looking machine on the shelf.
Because you may end up spending more than is required.
Happy Laptop Gaming!
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