What Features to Look For in a Gaming Laptop

What Features to Look For in a Gaming Laptop

  1. Processor/Graphics Card
    • First up, there’s the most obvious indicator of what you should be looking for when shopping for your next laptop: the power.
    • Both the CPU and the graphics card you get with your laptop will be the lynchpin of how much it can get done, and of course in this realm, the best cpu for gaming is always the bigger, or in this case, fastest one.
      • Usually, the higher the number you see next to the graphics card type, the faster it’s going to run, and the more games you can expect to run on it at a higher graphical fidelity. I.e – an Nvidia 860M will run slower than a 980M, because the former is one grade down from the latter.
      • That said, there are still some unique cases as far as processors go. For example, if you’re looking at an Intel i5-5500u processor compared to an i7-4710HQ, you would think the 5500 is the better pick, right? Well, not exactly.
        • When shopping for your laptop, you’ll want to pay attention to the “i” rating, either i3, i5, or i7 that comes before the processor type. i7s are generally considered the best for multi-tasking, while i5s are known more for offering the best balance of budget and gaming performance together.
  2. RAM
    • Almost just as important as the processor and graphics card, the amount of RAM you get with your gaming laptop should be a paramount concern.
      • In any laptop that takes itself seriously, you shouldn’t be shopping for anything less than 8GB of DDR3 RAM at 1600MHz. Most of the recommendations we have listed here hit that mark, if not go well over it (16GB DDR4 2133MHz in the case of the MSI Dominator GT72)
  3. Screen
    • It’s important to remember that although this is a gaming laptop, it’s also a laptop laptop.
    • A good screen can make all the difference between getting eye strain after an hour or 24 hours of continuous use.
    • As far as resolution goes, the absolute minimum display you should accept is 1920 x 1080.
      • The best gaming laptops these days come equipped with a screen that’s at least capable of full HD, while a whole new breed of premium laptops are beginning to roll out screens that quadruple that up to 3200 x 1800 resolution, otherwise known as “4K”.
    • Finally, when it comes to the whole “glossy vs. matte” debate, it’s pretty much a non-issue in the gaming world. No respectable laptop maker worth their salt would be caught dead putting a glossy finish on their machine’s screen, as the gloss creates far too much glare in ambient light which can make it harder to see where the enemies are hiding.
  4. Keyboard/Trackpad
    • But all the power in the world won’t do you much good if you don’t have a solid keyboard to slam commands into or a trackpad that can keep up with even the most clickiest Starcraft commanders.
    • A solid keyboard can make or break the difference between getting a kill streak or getting yourself killed on the virtual battlefield.  And although there aren’t many gaming purists out there who would be caught dead gaming on a trackpad, you’ll still want to keep an eye on this for purposes of general browsing and internet usage in the off hours.
    • On the whole, the only two stats you’ll really want to pay attention to when choosing your next laptop are the spacing between the keys (how comfortable it is to type for different hand sizes), and how much diagonal width you’re going to get with the trackpad. These two numbers will indicate how you can expect the laptop to “fit” while you’re using it, whether you buy your gloves in extra large or fit just fine in a small.
  5. Cooling/Fan Noise
    • Plan to get a little gaming done on a long-distance flight? If your gaming laptop sounds like an air raid siren every time you turn on anti-aliasing, there are probably going to be a few people in coach that take offense while you’re fragging away at half-past midnight.
    • None of the laptops we’ve selected here are absolutely silent when the graphics card ramps up and really starts pumping out the pixels, but most can still keep their components cool without raising their decibel profile too high above a low hum in the process.
  6. Build Quality
    • Next there’s the overall build quality of the laptop, which at least in the tiers we’ll be talking about, shouldn’t be much of an issue.
    • While you might run into a low-end Windows laptop feeling a bit plasticy around the edges or cheap on the inside, when it comes to gaming laptops you can be sure that almost every pick we’ve listed here backs up their serious specs with an even greater dedication to design quality.
    • This also includes the weight of the laptop, which in our collection can range from a feather light four pounds all the way up to a lap-crunching nine pounds. If you plan on taking your gaming show on the road often, even though you might have to sacrifice a little power, a lighter laptop will usually pay off in spades for the long haul.
    • Overall, you want to be sure that the laptop has a strong enough build quality that it will be able to stand the impact of a drop from a counter or tabletop, but not so much that the heft of the case adds too much extra weight or width to the overall profile of the system.
  7. Hard Drive
    • When checking out the hard drive configuration of your laptop, there are two main indicators you’re going to want to keep an eye on. The first is whether it offers an SSD (solid-state drive), an HDD (hard disk drive), or some hybrid combination of both.
    • SSDs are faster, lighter, and more reliable than their HDD cousins, but also come at a much higher price to compensate. In general, it’s a good idea to have your operating system and vital programs installed on an SSD for fast access, while loading your gaming library onto an HDD that’s got plenty of extra space to spare. Anything that comes in a 120GB/1TB configuration or higher is usually enough to handle anything you might be able to throw at it.

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