When looking for a new gaming laptop, the first thing to realise is that there is no single best machine. The best computer for you depends on a number of factors, balancing needs against cost.
The starting point for choosing a laptop has to be the type of games you want to play. So ask yourself, are you a casual, or a hardcore gamer?
As a hardcore gamer, your ideal laptop will be fast, responsive and powerful to meet the extreme demands of the newest releases. If you want a smooth, intense experience when playing games like Fallout 76, Battlefield 5, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Far Cry 5 or Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, you will need a very powerful machine.
This checklist will help you narrow down the available options to find the best gaming laptop for you:
The CPU provides the raw power for gaming. The more powerful the processor, the higher the performance of games - and anything else you use your laptop for.
For a good gaming experience, you should look for laptops with a minimum of a 6th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU. But if you can afford it, go for an i7 or i9 processor.
The GPU does the grunt work of rendering graphics and animations on screen. The more powerful your GPU, the smoother and more responsive the gameplay. For a gaming laptop, there are a number of factors to consider.
Ideally, you are looking for a GPU capable of delivering 60 FPS (frames per second) or more – 40 FPS is acceptable with a few trade-offs. The card must also be capable of delivering a resolution of 1080p (HD) or higher. For the very visual best experience, consider a GPU that provides 4K output.
In terms of specifics, the minimum GPU capable of delivering a hardcore gaming experience is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050M. As always, if you can afford a higher spec GPU, you should do so.
RAM is crucial to improving the overall speed and performance of your gaming laptop, The more RAM you have, the faster your machine will respond during gameplay. Although many of the top games state that 8GB of RAM is sufficient, you should choose a machine with at least 12GB. Again, stretch your budget to 16GB or more if possible.
The latest games tend to require a lot of storage – Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey needs 46GB of free space for instance. Your ideal gaming laptop will have a relatively large disk. To shorten loading times and increase performance, you need a laptop that comes with faster SSD drive technology.
Despite being a laptop, portability is probably the least important factor in your purchasing decision. Because of the temperatures generated by high-end CPU and GPU, most gaming laptops are relatively large and bulky. And if you choose a machine with a larger screen – 17” or larger – the physical footprint will also increase. But on the plus side, you do have a lot more screen real estate to play with when on the move.
For casual gamers, the best gaming laptop doesn’t need to be hugely powerful. But that’s not to say that any machine will do. A casual gamer’s laptop will still need more grunt than one used for social networking, or general work for instance.
The following checklist will help you find the right laptop if you want to play popular casual games like Fortnite, The Sims, Minecraft, FIFA 19 and Grand Theft Auto IV.
Again, the CPU is the brain of your laptop, providing the raw power behind gameplay. A casual gaming laptop must have a minimum of a 6th Gen Intel Core i3 processor. And if you can afford to buy a more powerful machine, you will have the option to play more demanding games in future too.
Casual games tend to have simpler graphics requirements that place smaller demands on the laptop. But that doesn’t mean you won’t need a slightly meatier graphics card for smooth gameplay.
A high frame per second output is always useful, but not essential for most casual games. Your best gaming laptop will also be capable of 1080p HD display output as a minimum. At this level, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX MX150 represents the minimum viable spec for your gaming laptop.
The amount of memory (RAM) installed in a laptop has a direct effect on the speed and responsiveness of the system as a whole. The more RAM you can afford, the better overall performance you can expect. For a casual gaming laptop, you should budget for at least 8GB of RAM.
Casual games can still quickly consume disk space, so choose a laptop with a larger hard drive (1TB+) if you plan to play several titles. Because loading times are less of an issue, you can choose a machine with cheaper hard disk drive (HDD) technology.
It is unlikely that your laptop will be used solely for playing games, so you need to consider how portable it must be. You must decide whether you need a light, highly portable machine (which will probably be more expensive), or a bulkier, heavier unit that may come with a larger screen.
Bonus question – what are the best gaming laptop brands?
When choosing a new laptop, how much should brand influence your decision? Although some companies have established their gaming credentials, the reality is that the internal components between machines of similar class/cost are very similar.
Never forget that it is the laptop internals that determines the gaming experience, not the name printed on the outside of the case.
Ready to find the best gaming laptop for you? You can start your search here.