As time progresses and technology advances, the act of buying a Gaming Laptop has gotten more complicated. However, there is no need to fear: if you have a basic understanding of what each component does then you can easily find a pre-built PC that will work well for your needs. There are a few important things to consider before you purchase one- mainly, where your money will be best spent. This article will explain how to buy a gaming laptop in 2021 so that you can avoid common mistakes and get something high-quality without spending too much money.
What to keep in mind when buying a gaming laptop:
Get a good GPU:
This is the most important part of your laptop. If you buy a shitty GPU, the rest doesn’t matter as much.
Consider upgrading later:
Most laptops can be upgraded if they support it. Just because you buy a laptop with 12gigs of ram today, doesn’t mean it won’t support 16 or 32gigs tomorrow. Check for this before buying.
Pick resolution or speed:
This depends on what you plan to do with your laptop. If you want high resolution, go for a 4k laptop, but if you plan to play at 60fps or higher, consider a 1080p laptop with a high refresh rate.
Get a good keyboard:
This is mostly personal preference, but having a nice keyboard can make your life easier when playing games. It also helps if you plan to type often on your laptop (writing articles for example). Or even just want it to feel nice.
Battery life will probably be bad:
Laptops are not known for lasting long on battery, so don’t expect them to last very long when playing games.
Q) What kind of GPU should I get?
A) This depends on the other parts of your laptop. If you have a good CPU and a decent amount of ram, you can get an 8 or 9 series NVIDIA. If you have a crappy CPU or not enough ram, go for a 7 series GPU.
Q) Should I consider getting an external GPU?
A) Maybe, this is going to depend on your laptop. Some laptops work well with eGPUs, others don’t. Do your research before buying an eGPU.
Q) How do I upgrade my laptop’s RAM / HDD / SSD?
A) This is going to depend on your laptop and what you want to add or replace. You can find the answer by searching google/youtube, or asking someone who has owned a laptop like yours (or similar).
Q) My laptop’s battery life sucks, what do?
A) Buy an external battery pack. It will probably help. Be sure to read reviews before buying though, since there are a lot of shitty ones out there for cheap breaks.
What GPU do you need?
Any modern eGPU setup will meet your entry-level gaming needs. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a laptop with an integrated GPU or not, just buy yourself an external GPU and plug it in when you need more pixels.
The entry-level options are still available for mainstream gaming but don’t expect to be able to play any brand new games in high settings. If you have a laptop with an external GPU, you can use it here too!
VR and the Highest Settings:
For VR gaming or playing the latest AAA releases, you’ll need something in between mainstream and enthusiast levels. You will need to buy your own external GPU, or buy a laptop with an external GPU in it.
What other specs should I look for?
Do you prefer Intel or AMD? If so, choose your preferred brand and model. Otherwise, look for the highest frequency in the given price range.
Do you prefer 8 GB or 16 GB RAM? If so, pick a number in that choice. Otherwise, go with 4 GB if your budget is low and don’t exceed 16 GB.
M.2 SSDs are the best and should be your first choice. Unfortunately, you can’t get them in laptops less than $500 USD, so your second choice will have to be a traditional hard drive or hybrid hard drive (which is just a regular hard drive with an SSD cache).
What should I look for in a display?
As technology advances, so does the quality of gaming laptop screens.
First off, size is an important factor. The larger the screen is physical, the bigger drawing space you will have for your games. If at all possible, opt for a 17″ or larger display if possible to maximize your game’s potential on your current machine.
As mentioned before, the larger the screen is physical, the bigger drawing space you will have for your games. The size of a laptop’s screen typically remains constant throughout all models.
If you are looking to play any type of action or FPS game on your laptop, then resolution takes precedence over everything else when it comes to selecting a good laptop for gaming. If you are running a game at lower than 1920×1080, all your in-game textures will appear blurry and pixelated no matter how high the texture quality is set to in the game’s settings.
1920 x 1080 is not just the most common resolution for gaming laptops, but it is also the most recommended as it is the highest resolution that corresponds with most LCD monitor and TV screen sizes.
If you want to play something like Sims or Minecraft, then a laptop with at least a 1366×768 resolution would be plenty.
No matter what kind of game you will be running on your laptop, it’s suggested to go for a screen that has a refresh rate of 120+ Hz. A higher refresh rate will provide you with better fluidity, making everything look smoother and more dynamic.
The standard refresh rate range should be anywhere from 60 to 80 Hz, but screens with a rating of 120 or 144 Hz are becoming more common.
For gamers who want as much screen real estate as possible, a 1080p resolution with a 16:9 aspect ratio is the way to go.
Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync:
Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync are essentially synchronizing technologies that allow your graphics card to communicate with your monitor. Both do the same thing but work slightly differently.
AMD FreeSync is usually cheaper than Nvidia G-Sync and works by allowing a range of different monitor refresh rates that matches up with the frame rates your GPU outputs. This allows your monitor to dynamically control the refresh rate of your gaming laptop, which reduces screen tearing.
Nvidia G-Sync is more expensive than AMD FreeSync but works in a similar fashion by allowing your laptop’s GPU to control monitor update rates between 30 and 144 Hz. Since Nvidia G-Sync displays are more expensive, fewer monitors are available to choose from.
Both of these technologies are designed to help reduce screen tearing, allowing for more fluid gameplay with fewer distractions. This can have a big effect on games where you are being shot at or racing around the track.
Avoid touch screens:
The majority of laptop manufacturers include touch screens on their laptops as a standard feature, but this is not very useful for gamers who are playing games with the laptop’s built-in keyboard.
While touch screens have gained popularity in recent years, they are still an additional piece of hardware to buy if you want your laptop to be touchscreen compatible.
Additionally, many gamers who do play games that support a touchscreen will use an external mouse and keyboard anyway, so having a touchscreen would serve no purpose.
What should I look for in a keyboard?
The travel distance a key needs to go down before the switch registers an input. Generally, the longer the travel (depth), the better. Shallow keyboards may be unsatisfactory for gamers, as they can make double-tapping difficult and inaccurate. However, shallow keyboards are ideal for portability and ergonomics.
The force needed to register a keystroke. The lower the actuation, the faster you can press and release the switch. However, it may take time for one’s muscle memory to adjust as many keys will need less force from your fingertips to activate.
Anti-ghosting and n-key rollover:
Certain keyboards have a feature that prevents certain key combinations from being registered as multiple inputs. Anti-ghosting ensures that all keys pressed are registered, even if a maximum of six keys is pressed at once. N-key rollover allows for infinite simultaneous keystrokes with the only limitation being the number of 3.0 ports on your laptop, NOT how many keys you press.
In dimly lit areas, keyboards may be backlit to make them easier to use. This feature comes in different levels of brightness and intensity variability. Some keyboards also allow for custom lighting effects that can sync up with your game or favorite music. These are often seen in gaming laptops but are rarely offered to their non-gaming counterparts.
What do specific brands offer?
High-performance graphics cards, customizable lighting, and an improved cooling system. However, the laptops are extremely bulky to carry around.
Asus -Acer – HP
Intel® Core™ i7-series processor *Discrete GPU with 4GB VRAM or more *Large RAM capacity of 16GB or more *Fast SSD hard drive
In comparison to Alienware, laptops from Asus have a slimmer design. The laptop computers suffer from heating issues, so they are not suited for extensive gaming sessions.
Lenovo – MSI -Razer
Both Lenovo and MSI offer laptops with the minimum specifications required to run video games smoothly. They have a slim design and can be carried around easily.
How About Battery Life?
Gaming laptops, by their very nature, aren’t known for their battery life. But there are still some decent machines out there that can hold the charge long enough to last a few hours unplugged and less than an hour plugged in. And seeing as how most gamers will be keeping the laptop plugged in while they play anyway, it’s not a huge issue once you get used to it.
Battery life is mostly affected by screen size and thickness rather than anything else, although RAM and CPU speed also plays minor roles. A quick online search of your specific model may show you its run time on a particular battery test (if available), but usually, these results fluctuate wildly from real-world experience depending on what you’re doing while running the machine.
#2. Saving Money on a Gaming Laptop?
Do not ever buy a new Gaming laptop, especially if you’re looking to get a gaming laptop. Once you start getting past the $1000 price range (which is still pretty cheap overall), there’s almost always a better deal on last year’s model and some refurbished options as well. The fact is that all laptops depreciate dramatically in value once they are purchased by the original owner – people rarely sell their old laptops for more than half of what they originally paid for them, even when they work perfectly fine.
The major exception to this rule is if you plan to go big or stay small. If you’re willing to dish out around $1500-$2000+ then obviously things look up quite a bit because the relative value of the hardware for your money is much higher. But if you’re looking to stay under $1000, there’s no reason why last year’s model cannot provide the same gaming experience as today’s newest models at a fraction of the cost.
Of course, it all depends on where you buy too – eBay is usually my first stop these days because I’ve had very good experiences with their products and customer service overall (and most likely so have you), but Amazon has also become my 2nd favorite seller recently. And by recently I mean this week, not just now in general :
A Gaming laptop that can play modern games decently is completely doable if you know what to look for; may even last you longer than a desktop that could do the same, but you just have to be smart about it.
The key is to look at last year’s model and get the best deal you can find on it. And don’t worry too much if the specs aren’t exactly what you want – they’re good enough for most people who plan on gaming while sitting in front of a desk anyway, which is basically 95% of all gamers out there 🙂
Charles Grice is a civil engineer, urban planner, and blogger. He is keen on exploring and writing about the technical hacks for iOS, Android as well as Windows.