How To Choose The Right Gaming Laptop
Performance and specs: The most important specs to look for on any gaming laptop are the processor , which carries out general tasks, and its graphics card , which renders those advanced visuals that allow your games to run properly. Gaming laptops can come with a few different combinations of CPU and GPU usually an Intel or AMD processor, and an AMD or Nvidia graphics card.
AMD components have grown pretty competitive with their Intel and Nvidia counterparts as of late, so choosing between the two largely comes down to some small performance differences. Many games are optimized for either Nvidia or AMD graphics cards to take advantage of special visual effects , so youll want to check each manufacturers list of optimized titles before you take your pick.
A good entry-level system for solid 1080p gaming usually has some combination of an AMD Ryzen 5/Intel Core i5 processor and Nvidia RTX 3060 or AMD RX 5700 XT graphics, and can generally be found for $1,000 to $1,500. Midrange gaming laptops tend to pack Nvidia RTX 3070 or AMD Radeon RX 6700M graphics, with prices hovering between $1,500 and $2,000. And if you want the best performance possible, look for an Intel Core i7/i9 or AMD Ryzen 9 processor and Nvidia RTX 3080 or AMD 6800M graphics just be ready to pay upward of $2,000 to $3,000.
A Winner On Portability Power And Price
There’s a lot to like about the Predator Triton 300 SE, and little to complain about. The design is sleek, stylish, and compact without compromising on essentials like ports or battery life. The general performance really only trails the larger, more expensive gaming laptops you’d expect it to, and even then it holds its own in some cases. The Acer’s RTX 3060 graphics raise the bar for 14-inch machines, making gaming on the go that much more plausible.
Our only real quibble is the 512GB rather than 1TB SSD given the size of some modern games, but you can make do by keeping just your favorites installed and skipping some of the more massive “living” games. If the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 set a new bar for 14-inch laptops last year, the Triton 300 SE has climbed over itâwith a list price $50 less. While we admire the G14’s elegant design and superior AMD processor, the Acer’s new GPU and longer battery life give it the edge in the race for our Editors’ Choice award.
How Can I Use A Monitor With My Laptop
On thinner models, look out for Thunderbolt ports thatll let you plug in a display adaptor. Make sure the port has enough bandwidth for higher resolutions, however. Although its getting rarer, some laptops still rock a good old HDMI port for a fast connection to your monitor.
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Phil is the latest addition to our hardware department, and a retro enthusiast with previous bylines at TechRadar, Den Of Geek, MSPoweruser, Bloody Disgusting, GameByte, Daily Star, and the BBC.
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Why Buy A Gaming Laptop
Gaming laptops have never been better. Theyre thinner, sleeker, and more powerful than ever. Although gaming laptops are not cheap, you have more options than ever for what type of gaming laptop you can buy.
Theres been a rise in smaller, thinner gaming laptops like the Asus ROG Swift X13, which is no bigger than a standard 13-inch laptop. Then, theres the Razer Blade 14, which is a compact laptop even though its RTX 3080 and Ryzen 9 5900HX are extremely powerful.
We are even starting to see more gaming laptops that double just as well as standard work or content creation laptops that rival those you can find in Black Friday laptop deals. For example, the Surface Laptop Studio comes with an RTX 3050 Ti and a 120Hz screen, while the MSI Creator Z16 increases that to an RTX 3060 and a Core i9 processor.
Beyond that, gaming laptops are the best way to get into PC gaming right now. The GPU shortage is making upgrading or building your own PC a complete disaster right now, putting all the lovely tenets of PC gaming in 2021 out of the reach of the average gamer.
Gaming laptops are now powerful enough to support higher resolutions and refresh rates, as well as ray tracing. Thanks to the RTX 30-series graphics cards and excellent gaming processors from Intel and AMD, gaming laptops can be plugged into external monitors and peripherals to recreate the larger format experience of PC gaming as well.
Which Gaming Laptop Should I Buy
Buying a gaming laptop is quite an investment. Possibly more so than buying a regular laptop. The internal specifications have to be more powerful than your regular word processing computer.
But that doesnt mean you will have to invest your lifes savings. Rather you have to compromise on different features to a regular laptop. Rather than a touch screen laptop that is thinner than a pencil, a thick laptop with a dedicated GPU may be more preferable. Maybe even the ability to use VR.
Thats not to say that all gaming laptops are thick these days. Thick laptops and gaming laptops for a long time have gone hand in hand. But now you can buy slim gaming laptops. The sacrifice for this sort of laptop are plenty. Mechanical keys can not fit in a thin laptop. Heat dispersion is harder in a small laptop body, the thicker the better air flow, although some slim laptops have got around this issue by expanding the chassis when lifting up the lid. And you also have to compromise on internal specs as well, some big gaming laptops have desktop grade specs. We have added in a mix of thick gaming laptops and more travel capable thinner gaming laptops.
Take the gaming laptop quiz to find out which one is best for you.
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Aggressive Style: Alienware M15 R6
Dell’s refreshed Alienware m15 R6 comes at you with a bold, mature look that’s undeniably aggressive, and it can be had in either Dark Side of the Moon finish for the magnesium alloy body. If you want your laptop to stand out at the next LAN party, the m15 R6 is certainly a top option.
The chassis measures 0.51 inches at its thinnest point, down from 0.70 inches in the R4 model. It’s still stocked with ports, including RJ45 Ethernet, three USB-A 3.2, Thunderbolt 4, HDMI 2.1, and 3.5mm audio. Basic models start at about 5.35 pounds , putting it in line with most other gaming laptops out there. The comfy keyboard has per-key RGB customizable lighting to get the look you want, and the large Precision touchpad is useful when you don’t have an external mouse connected. Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 is included in all models for fast wireless speeds.
Performance hardware hits the upper limits of what’s available in modern gaming laptops, so this is another solid option if you want the best and have the budget to back it up. Add up to an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11800H CPU with eight cores and a clock speed up to 4.6GHz, 32GB of DDR4-3200MHz RAM, dual 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD, and an NVIDIA RTX 3080 Laptop GPU. There are plenty more configurations available to help you get exactly what you want.
Can A Gaming Laptop Be Used As A Normal Laptop
Gaming laptops can be used as normal laptops. They have all the features you find in normal laptops plus additional features such as dedicated graphics cards, that are needed to do everyday tasks.
However, due to their high-performance parts, gaming laptops have low battery life. They are also slightly less portable than regular laptops because they are slightly bigger and tend to weigh more.
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Asus Rog Flow X13 With Xg Mobile
Asus pairs an ultraportable 13-inch two-in-one that has a relatively powerful AMD CPU with an external GPU dock equipped with a top-of-the-line Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 mobile processor, and the result is an incredibly flexible system for both work and play that outperforms many bigger, clunkier gaming laptops. Because it’s a two-in-one, you can comfortably use an external gaming keyboard without the built-in keyboard getting in the way. The standalone model has gotten an upgrade to an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti since I reviewed it, but the bundle with the XG Mobile still has a GTX 1650.
How Portable Do You Need It
When it comes to gaming systems, there are different levels of portability, ranging from “lift with your knees” to “regular laptop.” Generally, the more powerful the laptop, the less portable it is.
- Minimal Portability : If you plan to keep your laptop in your home and leave it on your desk or just move it between rooms, a system with a 17 or 18-inch display like the Alienware 17 should be fine. Laptops in this size range are usually the most powerful, because they have plenty of room for heat-generating components. However, they’re heavy to carry, a tough fit for most bags and too power-hungry to use unplugged for very long.
- Medium Portability : If you want to use the gaming notebook on your lap and carry it around more often, consider a 15-inch notebook, such as the OriginPC Eon15-S.These systems weigh between 4.6 and 7.2 pounds while lasting an average of 5 hours and 50 minutes on a charge.
- Best Portability : If you’re constantly on the move, you’ll want to consider 13 or 14-inch laptops like the Razer Blade. Notebooks in this size range typically weigh under 5 pounds and tend to have longer battery lives with an average endurance of 7 hours and 38 minutes. However, 13 and 14-inch gaming laptops usually don’t come with the most powerful CPU or GPU, because they just don’t have enough space to dissipate all that heat.
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Who Makes The Best Gaming Laptops
Part of the reason that modern gaming laptops are so exciting is because there is so much competition. There are no longer just a couple of decent brands.
Today, Dell, Razer, Asus and many other top manufacturers offer excellent gaming laptop solutions from desktop equivalents with the most powerful components, to sleek powerhouses with long battery lifeand everything in between. There are even a few stealth gaming laptops that you might be able to buy as part of an office upgrade for some gaming when the work day is done.
How To Speed Up Your Games
The following settings are the most commonly-found in 3D games. Here’s what they do and how to use them to improve performance if your laptop is struggling.
- Frame sync/Vsync: Having this turned on can significantly reduce performance, especially on cheaper laptops. Turn it off for a smoother experience.
- Detail: There are usually various detail settings from Low to High. Turn them all to Low and then turn them up one by one until you’re happy with how the game looks and it’s playing smoothly.
- Anti-aliasing: This settings smooths out jagged edges, but it can be very intensive on your graphics card. Turn it off or turn it down to improve performance.
- Anisotropic filtering: This setting makes things that are far away look clearer. Turn it down or off to improve performance.
- Motion blur: This is a strange setting that most people don’t like anyway. It can slow down your games and makes things look less clear. Turn it off.
- Fullscreen: If you have the option, make sure this is set to ‘exclusive’, which means it’s the only program your graphics card will work on while you’re playing. If it’s not exclusive, you could lose quite a bit of performance.
- Resolution: The easiest way to improve performance. Turn this down and your graphics card will have to deal with fewer pixels. This will have a big impact on clarity, though, so check the rest of the settings first before doing this.
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How To Choose One Of The Best Gaming Laptops
Power or portability? Youll need to consider what type of gaming and where youll be doing it before you decide whats the best gaming laptop for you. Do you plan to mostly play triple-A demanding games at home and on a desk, but have the scope to occasionally move your machine, then a chunkier and more powerful gaming laptop, like the Alienware Area 51m might be best. But if you plan to carry your gaming laptop around a fair bit, say for LAN parties, then a thinner and lighter laptop like the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin could be for you.
Display: These days theres a wide range of display choice for gaming laptops. You can get a standard 60Hz 1080p panel that might come with built-in anti-screen-tearing features like Nvidias G-Sync. But if youre willing to pay more, you can get gaming laptops with high refresh-rate displays, often sitting at 144Hz. But the latest machines can hit 240Hz, with those on the cutting-edge sporting 300Hz displays. HIgh refresh-rate displays are great for people who play fast-paced games such as Overwatch or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. But if you mostly plan to plug in an external monitor, then you might be better off saving money by going for a 60Hz Full HD screen.
Buying The Best Cheap Gaming Laptop
If you’re shopping for a gaming system on a limited budget , you’re going to need to make some sacrifices. Maximizing power while staying within a limited price range is the goal, but you’ll have to accept that some of the components won’t be comparable with the more expensive laptops you’ll see while browsing. That said, $1,200 is a reasonable ceiling for what some buyers are ready to spend on a gaming laptop, and you can still get a solid system for that much or less.
The main drop-off will be the graphics, since the dedicated graphics chip is one of the most expensive components in a machine and the major factor in a computer’s gaming prowess. The graphics chip almost single-handedly defines the class of laptop you’re dealing with, so it’s important to pay attention to that part when browsing options. Fortunately, even the less powerful GPU options these days are quite capable.
Processors are the next biggest difference. You’ll likely get a capable Core i5 instead of a faster Core i7. Still, some of the benefits of an i7 machine aren’t a major factor for gaming, but instead benefit video editing and other creative uses, so an i5 will do the job. The newest generation of these chips is fast and efficient at a base level, and won’t be too much of a bottleneck for gaming.
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Which Type Of Laptop Is Best For You
General laptops: Where the best cheap laptops are found, devices that focus more on practicality than style, portability or power. Thats not to say they cant be fast, but youll typically find a non-Ultrabook clamshell laptop with an HD screen and spinning drive-based storage for less than $600 or £400.
Ultrabooks: Where youll find thin-and-light notebooks sporting SSD storage and display resolutions that exceed 1080p. Paired with powerful, albeit mobile-centric components and especially long battery life, the best Ultrabooks will cost a pretty penny $700 or £500 to $2,000 or £1,800.
2-in-1 laptops: Where notebooks that double as tablets are located. The Surface Book 2 might be a ways off, but many of the best 2-in-1 laptops are available right now. Outfitted with both detachable and 360-degree rotating hinges, these hybrids are the most versatile way to experience Windows 10 on a touchscreen.
Chromebooks: Where youll find the best Chromebooks running Chrome OS. These do much of what Windows and macOS can in the browser, focused on cloud storage over local, while recently getting Android app support for touchscreen models. They generally cost less than $300 or £200 and some can even withstand a slight tussle.
How To Pick A Cpu In A Gaming Laptop
The processor is the heart of a PC, and in most gaming laptops that released back in 2020, you’ll likely find Intel’s 10th Generation Core H-Series processors . You’ll still see plenty of these processors available in 2021 , even though they’re technically no longer the latest and greatest offerings. Intel launched its first 11th Generation “Tiger Lake-H” processors in early 2021 , with some newer, higher-powered chips debuting in May. The first ones “only” included four cores and eight threads, but thanks to improvements in Intel’s manufacturing technology, that shouldn’t always equal lower performance, especially on less multi-threaded tasks. They also have the advantage of using less power and running cooler.
Even better for gamers, that second wave of Tiger Lake-H chips are hitting a range of gaming systems in the second half of 2021. They include enthusiast Core i9 CPUs, Core i7 processors for thin-and-light gaming laptops, and fresh Core i5 chips for budget machines. Unlike the processors from the initial wave, these more potent chips have at minimum six cores and 12 threads, and the Core i7 and i9 units boast eight cores and 16 threads. We haven’t reviewed any laptops with these chips just yet, but should have performance numbers soon.
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