Putting together a gaming laptop? With hundreds of options out there, picking the perfect gaming laptop can be hard.
Today, we’re going to help make your life a little easier by identifying the best parts for your next well-rounded gaming laptop capable of running the latest games maxed out.
In days gone by, mobile video cards were significantly weaker than their desktop counterparts. Things have changed.
In 2010, for example, NVidia’s Fermi-based 480M GPU ran at about 40% of the capacity of the desktops’ GTX 480.
That gap closed to 60% with the 680M in 2012. Today, the new 980M is 70 to 80% as fast as its mightier older brother, the GTX 980.
If you’re looking to maximize gaming graphics performance on your laptop and price is no object, then the best gaming laptop graphics would be two 980Ms in SLI.
On the other hand, if you’re like most people and want to maximize bang for your buck, then your best bet is to go with the world’s most popular mobile graphics card, the 970M, which is the mobile version of the most popular desktop graphics card, the 970.
If you go with the 970M, then please note that the 3GB offers the best value. Tests have shown that the 6GB version doesn’t make a substantial difference in terms of gaming framerates, so you’re just as well off with the 3GB version.
AMD, on the other hand, offers its own mobile cards like the R9 M395X, which is roughly equivalent to the 970M but offers slightly weaker performance. It’s also harder to find since it’s not offered on a wide range of gaming laptops.
Processors on modern gaming laptops often use Intel’s 6th-gen Skylake processor. These processors are famous for their lengthy battery life and superior performance.
The two most common suffixes for CPUs on gaming laptops are either U (which stands for Ultra-low power) or HQ (stands for High-performance graphics Quad core).
U processors are dual cores, while HQs are quad cores. Quad cores offer better gaming performance and overall laptop performance.
You’ll also need to choose between i5 and i7 processors, like the Skylake i5HQ or the Skylake i7HQ.
The i7’s main advantage is that it has hyperthreading and faster clock speeds.
However, neither of those things make a significant difference in gaming performance on most games. They’re only important if you’re using your gaming laptop for highly-intensive operations – like CAD software, development, or video editing.
If you’re willing to pay a little more for superior performance, the Core i7-6700HQ is a popular option. But bumping down to the Core i5 is a great way to save money without significantly reducing your performance.
DDR4 RAM is what most gaming laptops use today.
The next biggest question is how much RAM do you need.
Typically, you can choose between 8GB and 16GB of RAM on today’s gaming laptops.
TechSpot.com actually compared some modern games to see if 8GB versus 16GB made a difference. They found that FPS counts for GTA V, Batman: Arkham Knight, and F1 2015 were “either exactly the same or a mere one frame per second slower when comparing 8GB to 16GB.”
Of course, having more RAM today is a great way to future-proof your laptop. But it’s not going to make a significant difference for most modern games.
Choosing storage space on your gaming laptop isn’t just about raw space any more: it’s about SSD versus HDD.
SSD gaming laptops are significantly more expensive than HDD gaming laptops. They’re also ridiculously faster, offering Windows startup times of 10 seconds or fewer. Loading times in many PC games simply disappear.
If you can afford it, SSDs are a great way to make it feel like you’re using a really fast laptop. On the other hand, HDDs save a lot of money without impacting performance too badly. Many games don’t rely on the HDD or SSD too much anyway aside from initial loading: so don’t expect a massive increase in gaming performance.
1TB is a good size limit to aim for. With games clocking in at 50GB these days, it doesn’t take too many games to fill up a hard drive.
Hint: Some gaming laptops offer hybrid SSD/HDD configurations that offer the best of both worlds: install your games on your SSD and the rest of your files on your HDD.
Gaming laptop screen size comes down to personal choice. If portability isn’t your primary concern, then laptops with 17.3-inch screens and larger are a great way to enjoy better gaming performance on a display that feels closer to most desktop monitors.
On the other hand, if you want a laptop with a light weight and easy portability, then a smaller screen may work in your favor.
The real question is whether you want to upgrade to 2560×1440 (4K is still out of reach for gaming laptops).
1440p gaming on a laptop works best when you’re using the best possible graphics card (like 980Ms in SLI). Otherwise, you’ll experience a significant performance loss when running games maxed out at 2560×1440.
-Battery Life: Gaming laptops rarely last very long. But if you’re planning on being away from power for 2 or 3 hours at a time, then it’s important to pick a laptop that offers extended battery life (because some laptops only last for 55 minutes when running a game).
-Heat Output: Plan on using your laptop on your lap all the time? Heat can be a major factor. There’s evidence that this heat can lower sperm counts in men. At the very least, it can be uncomfortable. Read reviews online to see if this is an issue.
-Optical Drives: Optical drives may be redundant for you – like if you get all your games off Steam or Origin. However, some people still like optical drives to play older games, or to run DVDs.
-Ports: How many USB devices do you plan to connect? Do you want to connect one or more monitors to your laptop? If so, then you’ll need HDMI ports. What about Bluetooth or wireless connectivity?
By carefully weighing all of these things, you can pick the best possible gaming laptop for your unique needs.