When you hear the term gaming laptop, your first thought might be that well, that doesn’t sound right because how can a laptop handle the kind of gaming I do? The truth is that laptops have come a very, very long way and are now in a place where they can compete power-wise with gaming desktops, except they’re also portable — something a desktop will never be. Even well-known laptop brands who’ve never put out gaming products are, well, entering the game. HP’s new Omen line of gaming laptops is a perfect example of this, which early reviews say is nothing to scoff at. The point being, times are different and gaming laptops are in.
But what about the specs? Are the same kinds of things that are important for desktops important for laptops? What’s the affordability like? Top contenders range in prices from $600 to $2,000 and up, so knowing which features are a priority and non-negotiable will help you find the right system for your budget.
The graphics card (GPU) is number one on this list for a reason — it’s the most important feature when it comes to any gaming experience, so make sure you know what you’re getting in this category when shopping around. When doing your research, you’ll come across the basics like NVIDIA and AMD, both of which have many different specific cards and it can get overwhelming. Lucky for us, Tech Radar just published a list of the best graphics cards, so give that a read. Keep in mind that you can also get a system with multiple, which will be your best bet if you’re looking for something that can handle 4K resolution or multiple monitor gaming.
When it comes to your processor (CPU), a good rule of thumb is to go for later generations, like most things. Intel is absolutely the top of the crop. Your best options are their Core i7, followed by the i5 (which is a solid choice for most gamers) and the i3, all of which are said to leave their AMD competitor in the dust.
Don’t go any lower than 8GB of RAM when spec’ing your gaming laptop. This should be able to give you enough of what you need, but if you’re unsure or if you plan to do other things with your laptop — run other applications, streaming, etc. — go ahead and get 12-16GB. Check to see if the laptop you’re thinking of getting will charge you for customizing the RAM — if so, keep in mind that you can upgrade RAM yourself.
These are the top 3, but depending on your needs, don’t neglect other important features like your drive, screen resolution and size, battery life, heating issues, the keyboard and trackpad and extras like headphones or speakers. In the end, it’s all about what’s important to you and what you’re able to afford.