The high price of graphics cards has made many users opt to buy a gaming laptop because, in the end, its price ended up being more interesting than that of a full desktop computer. This is a reality that, unfortunately, still holds true today, and will not change until the mainstream consumer graphics card market normalizes.
It has also been influenced by the fact that gaming notebooks have improved a lot over the last few yearsand not only in terms of power, they have also evolved in terms of design, dissipation, differential technologies and mobility. Take a look back for a moment and think about how it was not so long ago, if we wanted to buy a powerful gaming laptop we were limited to large “monsters” that easily exceeded three kilograms in weight.
Now, we can find equipment weighing less than two kilograms that are capable of running demanding games without any problemeven at 1440p resolutions, and the advent of specialized hardware and those differential technologies, such as DLSS and FSR, have made it possible to play games at a level we could not have imagined a few years ago.
The huge avalanche of hardware that has occurred in the last two years, coupled with different designs featuring seemingly identical components and the coexistence of different generations of CPUs and GPUs have meant that, in the end, we have a huge variety of options to choose from. This has a positive side, and is that you have many alternatives when choosing your new business laptop, but this has a downside, and is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make the right choice.
For this reason, I wanted to give shape to this article, where you will find a guide that will help you choose the laptop that best suits your needsand your pocket. As always, if you have any questions once you finish reading it, you can leave them in the comments and I will help you solve them. Without further ado, let’s get started, make yourselves comfortable.
How to choose the gaming laptop I need: Aspirations and Budget
The starting point on which you should build your decision will be formed by your goals, i.e. your aspirations, and the money you can (or want to) spend. This will delimit the minimum level of specifications we should be looking forand it will also establish the ranges that we can access. It will also allow us to have clear whether or not we will be able to meet those aspirations with the budget we have.
Let’s look at some examples that will help us better understand what we have just said. Imagine that you have a budget of 600 eurosand that you want to play in 1080p with guarantees In this case, the thing is very complicatedand unless you focus on the second hand market you will be able to find an acceptable option for that money. The closest I have found would be this MSI GF63 for 689.99 euros, a computer that comes with a GTX 1650 and certainly can run games in 1080p, although in many cases you will have to reduce graphics quality.
If you check a budget of 800 euros and you keep the goal of playing in 1080p, things are already looking much better. You will be able to access a wide variety of equipment with fairly balanced configurations, and yes, you will be able to meet that goal. This price range is one of the most popular, and also one of the most complicated when it comes to choosing a gaming laptop, because it includes equipment with very different components, and from different generations. To make matters worse, not all new generation models perform better than the previous generation, which complicates things even more.
A thousand euros already allows us to buy a quite capable gaming laptop
Let’s go with another example. If you had a budget of 1,000 euros you could already have access to state-of-the-art technologiessuch as hardware-accelerated ray tracing and DLSS, without having to give up a balanced configuration and good rasterization performance. For example, with a budget of 800 euros we would ideally go for a gaming laptop with a GTX 1660 Ti because, in the end, this is significantly more powerful than the RTX 3050 Mobile, but with a budget of 1,000 euros we could make the leap to a RTX 3050 Ti Mobile.
From 1,500 euros things get very interesting, and we can buy a powerful and lightweight gaming laptop. In this price range we find the following graphics cards GeForce RTX 3060, Radeon RX 6600M and RTX 2070. With them, we can play with all the guarantees in 1080p, and even in 1440p, although in the latter case we may have to tune the graphics quality a little.
The 2,000 euro range would allow you to get to the high end, and access to graphics cards that move well at 1440p and even 4K resolutionsalthough in the latter case, depending on the model, you will have to end up pulling DLSS or reducing quality to avoid losing fluidity. The Radeon RX 6700M, RX 6800M, GeForce RTX 3070 Mobile and RTX 3080 Mobile are the stars at this level.
If you decide to spend more than 2,000 euros, keep in mind that you are getting into Â “premiumÂ” territory where, normally, you wonÂ’t enjoy a big difference in performance, in fact performance may in some cases worsen if you choose ultra-lightweight designsand you will be making a less wise investment from a price-performance perspective. In your case, I would stay in the 2,000 euro range at most.
In case you cannot meet your aspirations with the budget you have, the best thing to do is to wait, save a little more and get that missing money to be able to buy the laptop that really fits your basic objectives in terms of resolution and performance. Following the basic script we have left you above will make it very easy, but donâ¤?t worry, we will go deeper into this issue in the next section.
Prioritize components wisely: Things you need to be clear about
Within the same price range you will find equipment with very different specifications, even though their price may be almost identical. Thus, two laptops may cost 760 euros, and have the same amount of RAM and storage, but one may have a more powerful CPU and the other a superior graphics card.
We may also encounter equipment that look the same, but are not because their components have different configurationsand because they are also from different generations or different ranges. For example, a GeForce RTX 3070 Mobile can have TGP (total power consumption) configurations ranging from 80 to 125 watts, although some assemblers exceed that figure. Obviously, models with higher power consumption will be significantly more powerful.
In the end, all of this adds a layer of complexity that could take us a long time to analyze exhaustively. Needless to say, this would be counterproductive because, in the end, you would also have to read more and assimilate a larger amount of information. So I am going to focus on what is important and summarize everything you should be clear about when evaluating the components of your new gaming laptop.
The graphics card is the most important part of a gaming laptop
And for a very simple reason, our goal is to play games, and that component is the one that will determine at what resolution we will be able to play at smoothly, what graphic quality we will be able to use and what technologies we will be able to access. Therefore, we must give it full priority, but without creating any imbalance.
Continuing with the previous example, if we come across a gaming laptop that costs the same as another and has a less powerful CPU, but has a superior graphics card, we should go for it, since will offer better gaming performance, as long as it does not break that idea of balance that we have quoted, and that it meets the minimums that we are going to see below.
Keep in mind that a new generation graphics card will does not always have to perform better than a previous generation card. This is something we have already covered in detail in our desktop graphics card equivalency guide, and it also applies to notebook graphics cards. For example, a GTX 1660 Ti is more powerful than a GeForce RTX 3050 Mobile, and also outperforms the GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Mobile in some cases, although in this case it is more evenly matched, and the latter would be a better choice for its hardware acceleration ray tracing and DLSS support.
It is also important to remember what I said about the power consumption of a graphics card. A gaming laptop that is lightweight will have a low power version, and will therefore offer less performance than a heavier model with the same graphics card but higher power consumption. Before making a decision, find out exactly what graphics card is included in the gaming laptop you are considering buying, as you might be disappointed by the power consumption issue. I am not exaggerating, think that a high power RTX 3070 Mobile can outperform a low power RTX 3080.
What graphics card should I look for for 1080p, 144p and 2160p gaming?
For gaming in 1080p with guaranteesthe ideal is to look for a gaming laptop that has, at least, one GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. This model offers such a good performance that it is capable of running current and demanding games, such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Dying Light 2, in very high quality and maintaining a good fluidity. Its 6 GB of graphics memory is also a guarantee that we will have no problems, even with titles as demanding as DOOM Eternal. The Radeon RX 5600M would be your alternative if we want an AMD GPU.
If we want play in 1440pideally, you should opt for a gaming laptop with a GeForce RTX 3070 Mobile or a Radeon RX 6700M, although the NVIDIA option is more powerful (by 10% to 15%). The AMD solution has the advantage of offering 10 GB of graphics memory compared to the 8 GB of the NVIDIA option, but the latter performs much better with ray tracing and allows us to activate DLSS, a technology that makes a substantial difference when we move in this resolution.
Play in 2160p resolution (4K) with a laptop is not something that many users aspire to, and it is normal because of the huge impact that this resolution has on performance, because of the cost that we must assume and because, in the end, we are putting a huge amount of pixels in a very small screen. However, if you are one of those who want to get to this level, go thinking about an RTX 3080 Mobile or an RX 6800M.
Processor and RAM: second and third on your list of priorities
You already know which graphics card should be in your new gaming laptop, but what about the processor, doesn’t it matter? Nothing could be further from the truth, it matters, and a lot, what happens is that it is less relevant than the graphics card when our goal is to play, and that is why we have started talking about this one.
The first thing that you have to burn into your heart is that the current games prioritize the IPC over the total number of coresand that this is not going to change in the short or medium term. Therefore, it makes no sense to buy, for example, a laptop with a Ryzen 9 4900H when you can buy a computer with an Intel Core i5-11500H. The former has 8 cores and 16 threads, but maintains lower operating frequencies and has a lower IPC than the Intel chip, which means it performs worse in games.
The Intel Core i5-11500H has 6 cores and 12 threads, an optimal level to run any current and future gameand will allow us to enjoy a superior experience from the very first moment. It is a guarantee for the present and future, and is therefore the smartest choice in this example, not only for performance, but also because it is a cheaper component.
So what processor should a gaming laptop have?
The answer is it depends on budget and range, of course. A gaming laptop with a quad-core, eight-threaded processor, such as the Intel Core i7-11370H, may seem ill-advised, but it is not if it makes up for it with a low price and comes with a GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile is a better choice than another computer with a Core i5-10500H (six cores and twelve threads) and a RTX 3050 Mobile. I think the idea is perfectly understandable with this simple example, but I remind you in this regard the review of the ASUS TUF Dash F15.
However, despite this “it depends” I can give you a relation of minimums and maximums that we should always look for in a gaming laptop, depending on the budget and range:
- A quad-core, eight-thread CPU with a high IPC (Core Gen11, Zen 3, Core Gen12) would be the minimum for a good experience in almost all cases. Intel Core i7-11370H would be a good example.
- Ideally, a six-core, twelve-thread CPU with a high IPC would be ideal (Core Gen11, Zen 3, Core Gen12), as we would be assured of a long lifespan. The Core i5-11500H and Ryzen 5 5600H are also two good examples.
- It is not worth going for an 8-core, 16-threaded processorÂ in a gaming laptop, unless you are going to use it for more than just gaming.
Processors from generations prior to Core Gen11 and Zen 3 still offer good performance, but they usually come in machines that are priced too close to others with the current models, so except in very specific cases they are not worth it.
What about RAM?
It’s a component that can also make the difference between running a game smoothly or in fits and starts, but the truth is that is much easier to choose than the previous two. Today, it is still possible to play well with 8 GB of RAM, but seeing the trend in new generation games, I no longer recommend buying laptops with that amount of memory, except in extreme cases of very attractive offers that justify the “hassle” of having to expand this component later on.
To play with all the guarantees, your new gaming laptop should have 16 GB of DDR4 memory at 3,200 MHzor DDR5 in case it is a last generation model, and this should come in two modules to take advantage of the dual channel. You may be wondering if it is worth having 32 GB of RAM in a gaming laptop, and the answer is very simple, if you are only going to play games, no, it is not worth it at all.
Other things to consider to get your new gaming laptop right
We’ve already touched on the three key components of a gaming laptop, but we’ve still a few things left to cover that we can’t overlook: storage, display, design and what we know as “value-adding aspects”.
It is a fact that games still take up a lot of spaceand they need a high-performance SSD to work optimally, both in terms of boot times and loading graphics elements. All gaming laptops on the market today come with high-performance SSDs, so this is not a problem.
The question is, directly, in the capacity of the same. From own experience, i recommend that you do not go below 512 GBalthough ideally you would like to have a 1 TB to be able to have several games installed without this being a problem. Think that, if you buy a gaming laptop with a 256 GB SSD you could run out of space with only two games installed, since titles like Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War consume 125 GB.
Let’s jump to the screen now. The standard size for a gaming notebook is the 15.6 inchesalthough it is possible to find models with a size of 17.3 inches. The former are lighter, and in general the more balanced option, although in the end the choice of one or the other screen size will depend on our needs and our priorities. The type of panel is also very important, as the quality of the display will depend on it.
Typically, most of today’s gaming notebooks use iPS or “IPS-grade” panels. The latter are somewhat inferior, but they are very good, offering very good viewing angles and more than acceptable color reproduction. However, be very careful with this issue as, in some models, the contrast and color reproduction may be below desirable.
The refresh rate, and Adaptive Sync Technologytechnology, are two other key factors to take into account when evaluating a gaming notebook display. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother the display, as long as your computer is capable of achieving a high frame rate per second. Adaptive Sync technology will synchronize the refresh rate with the frames per second, and will get rid of annoying stuttering and tearing problems.
In a low-cost gaming laptop (less than 800 euros) it is normal to find “IPS level” panels that cover a fairly limited color space, that only reach 60 Hz refresh rate and that do not have Adaptive Sync This is perfectly acceptable as a matter of pricebecause at the end of the day we are moving at a very low level. However, when we move into the 900 euro range or more, we should be more demanding and look for models with iPS panels that have a refresh rate of 144 Hz and Adaptive Sync.
The design of the gaming laptop is another aspect to take into account, although it is so variable and depends so much on the buyer’s taste that I will only focus on what is important the build quality and weight. An inexpensive gaming laptop (less than 1,000 euros) will typically be constructed of plastic, while more expensive models tend to use aluminum or even alloy materials such as magnesium. This influences the quality of feel, and can also affect weight and lifespan.
On the other hand, construction quality must also take into account the cooling system and the materials used. A low-end notebook will typically have a more limited cooling system and use simpler materials, while a high-end notebook will have a more advanced, durable and efficient cooling system and use premium materials. ASUS, for example, uses liquid metal in its most powerful gaming laptops.
As is obvious, this issue depends a lot on the range in which we move, our budget and our aspirations. However, keep in mind that a gaming notebook with a premium finish and a lighter form factor will can be much more expensive than a heavier, plastic-constructed one, and may also be less powerful.
Finally, letâ¤?s look at other aspects that add value to a gaming laptop: connectivity and input devices. In a gaming laptop aspects such as security systems and front-facing cameras have less weight, but the keyboard and connectivity play an important role Most current PCs come with Wi-Fi 6 and have a sufficient range of ports to meet the needs of any user, but keep in mind that less expensive devices, and those of earlier generations, may be much more limited.
As for the keyboard, the quality of the keyboard is related to the range in which we look. Obviously, an 800 euro gaming laptop will have a lower quality keyboard than a 1,600 euro one, but this does not mean that the former will not be able to meet our needs. This issue is also quite subjective, and will depend on our specific needs. All in all, be clear that if you are demanding in this regard, you should set your eyes directly on mid-range and high-end laptops. Some of these models make an important difference, since they use mechanical keyboards.