This guide is what you need if you’re interested in playing video games directly on your laptop. While it is true that desktop computers are more commonly used for this, laptops offer you greater mobility, comfort, lightness, along with many other advantages.

You might have heard some people claim that the only two differences between a regular laptop and a gaming model are the design and the price. These criteria are certainly the first you’ll notice, but the internal components of the computers are what most matters. We’ll delve into all these aspects in the following article.

Key Facts

  • At first sight, gaming laptops look like any other notebook computer. However, they stand out because they were specifically manufactured to provide an incredible gaming experience to the user. This is where they get their name from.
  • Buying a gaming laptop isn’t an easy endeavor, and much less a cheap one. This is why you need to be well informed and know what you’re looking for. Start off by setting yourself a maximum budget you’re willing to spend. This will make it easier for you to choose a model.
  • You should also know how to compare gaming laptops and gaming desktop computers. Both types offer generous hardware specifications that can withstand the heavy and demanding use of running software, video games, and emulators.
  • The internal components are the most important aspect of these computers, and there are a series of factors and specs that you must be familiar with. Technical criteria such as the graphics card and its GPU, processors, RAM, capacity, and type of storage are all key. Don’t overlook other elements like screen size, keyboard, and manufacturing materials.

Ranking: The best gaming laptops on the U.S. market

Finding the right gaming laptop in physical stores can be a particularly complicated task, since the majority of products sold there are standard laptops. This is why you are recommended to shop online when purchasing one of these devices. Shopping from home is always more comfortable, and you’ll have access to thousands of models, brands, and great deals. Here is our selection of the best gaming laptops on the market:

No. 1: Acer Predator Helios 300

Taiwanese multinational Acer is an industry leader on the computer hardware and electronics market, and their Predator line of product was launched in 2008. The Acer Predator Helios 300 is one of the most popular gaming laptops out there, which is why it has become Amazon’s Choice in the category. This product comes with a 2-year warranty.

The Helios features an Intel Core i7-8750H 6-core processor that can reach a maximum of 4.1GHz and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card with 6GB of dedicated VRAM. Its screen measures 15.6 inches and has a 1080p resolution, with a 144Hz IPS panel for a refresh rate of 3ms. It has 16GB of DDR4 RAM and an SSD of 256GB. The total weight of this laptop is 5.51 pounds.

No. 2: Alienware M15

Florida-based brand Alienware is all about gaming computers and accessories, and their products are famous for their quality as well as their design. The M15 is a thin and light gaming laptop, designed to allow you to play at your liking during all your travels. Weighing in at only 4.78 pounds, this product is the perfect blend of performance and portability.

It integrates an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card with 8GB of GDDR5, and the same processor as the Predator Helios, the Intel Core i7-8750H. Storage-wise, this Alienware comes with an SSD of 128GB and SSHD of 1TB — plenty to keep all your games and data. It also has 16GB of RAM. The M15 is highly customizable and is delivered with the Windows 10 OS.

No. 3: Lenovo Legion Y7000

Lenovo is a Chinese company that has developed electronic devices since the 1980s, and their Legion line of products is the gaming branch of the brand. This particular laptop offers excellent value for money according to past users. It integrates an 8th-generation Intel Core i7 8750H processor with 6 cores, and a 15.6-inch screen with a 1080p and 60Hz IPS screen.

The Legion Y7000 is delivered with a 144Hz Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card of 6GB, and 16GB of DDR4 RAM. When it comes to storage, there’s plenty to work with. It features an HDD of 1TB @ 7,200 rpm and an SSD of 126GB, both of which can respectively be expanded to 2TB and 256GB of SSD. This gaming laptop is another excellent option if you don’t want to choose between performance and portability.

No. 4: ASUS ROG Zephyrus S

If you’re into computers and gaming, you’ve definitely heard of Taiwanese brand ASUS. The ROG Zephyrus S offers incredible performance and it is one of the most powerful models available on the market. It has an Intel Core i7-8750H processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX1070 series graphics card with 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM and the Max-G technology.

The 15.6-inch screen integrates an IPS panel with a 1080p resolution @ 144Hz and a refresh rate of 3ms. The Zephyrus S has a particularly sleek and sturdy design, and there are virtually no games you won’t be able to enjoy with this beast of a computer. It has a total of 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD for storage. Its cooling system is one of the best in the business.

No. 5: Razer Blade 15

Last but not least, we couldn’t possibly have a top ranking of the best gaming laptops without including a Razer model. The California-based company is quite simply one of the favorite brands of professional e-players, which should give you a good idea about their quality. The Razer Blade 15 integrates Intel’s latest generation 6-core processor.

Its graphics card is an Nvidia Geforce 2070 RTX Max-Q with a maximum speed of 4.5GHz. The 15.6-inch screen offers full HD resolution, and you can log into your laptop with Windows’ facial recognition software. This computer is easily customizable, and it includes 16GB of RAM and an SSD of 256GB. Keep in mind that the RAM and storage memory can be upgraded.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about gaming laptops

As we mentioned earlier, it’s not easy to buy one of these computers. You need to be familiar with the topic and in particular the technical specifications of these devices, which are very different from when standard computers. This is why we’ve answered the most frequently asked questions in the following section.

Gaming laptops are built for unparalleled user experience.
(Source: Rommel Canlas: 90394530/ 123rf.com)

What is a gaming laptop exactly?

Finding the right definition for a gaming laptop can be complex, since its configurations can be similar to that of a standard computer. However, there are at least three features you can immediately identify: its robust size, its ventilation system, and its keyboard. However, they are very different inside.

Having said that, we can define these computers by their characteristics since they stand out by having incredible specifications. This is particularly true when looking at their power and the technologies used to achieve optimal performance. Gaming laptops are extremely efficient to run games and emulators, but also all types of other audiovisual content.

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Did you know that Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney were the creators of one of the very first video games in history in 1971? Called Computer Space, the game had the player control a space rocket.

Various aspects are responsible for this performance: high-resolution graphics, utilities that provide better network connections, the best GPUs (graphics cards) out there, and high power processors. The increasingly large storage capacities, as well as very efficient cooling systems, heat-resistant materials, and high-quality keyboards also play a role.

Should I invest in a gaming laptop even if I don’t play?

On top of being powerful and sturdy, gaming laptops are very expensive computers mainly designed for heavy or demanding uses. However, the fact that they are intended for gamers doesn’t mean that only gamers can benefit from them. Keep in mind that their characteristics make gaming laptops suitable for any use whatsoever.

You can find many ways to make the most of these devices without playing video games. You can, for instance, use professional image or video editing software. This means that you’ll find gaming laptops very useful if you’re a content creator, engineer, architect or designer. These devices can easily run the programs that you use for your work.

Gaming laptops offers an excellent resolution.
(Source: Tero Vesalainen: 95852619/ 123rf.com)

However, we don’t recommend buying one of these computers if you’re not a video game player, and if you don’t need to use design, editing, or content creation programs. You won’t take full advantage of their features, and you will be investing more money than necessary.

Which are better: gaming laptops or desktop computers?

The more radical gamers will tell you that laptops and gaming simply don’t go together. In this article, however, we’ll try to convince you that gaming laptops are indeed better than desktop computers. Why? Quite simply because gaming laptops will never be able to surpass desktop computers.

We know, this sounds strange. But this is due to their core characteristics: the space they take and their portability. However, these very aspects can actually be a major advantage, although this will depend on your personal needs. If you need portability and travel frequently, then a gaming laptop is your best option.

A gaming laptop won’t be able to perform certain tasks with the same power as a desktop one, which is why it cannot match or exceed the latter’s performance. However, having a beast of a machine sitting on your desk won’t be of much use if you need to take your gaming computer from one place to another.

What are the differences between gaming laptops and desktop computers?

The market has seen an incredible rise in the sale of gaming laptops. This fact has led many newbies and veterans to wonder if they are indeed worth it, or even a better option. The truth is that manufacturers have placed a bet on a gaming laptops and therefore tried to reduce the differences, although these remain significant. Here are a few of them:

Advantages Disadvantages
Gaming laptops Greater portability. Greater lightness. Convenience to have all components in a single device. They heat up more than desktops. Processors up to 25% less powerful. Only RAM and storage can be increased. Limited CPU overclock capacity. Limited screens, from 13 to 18 inches.
Gaming desktop computers Wider variety of prices according to the components. They heat less (more efficient fans). Processors up to 25% more powerful. Larger improvement capacity. Greater CPU overclocking capacity. More and better sound options. Much larger screens. Zero portability. All components are heavier. Each component must be purchased separately.

As you can see, the advantages of a desktop computer in terms of performance, price and upgradability are much greater. Their size is logically responsible for this phenomenon. However, portability is an aspect that comes first for many people who often have travel and like to be able to play during their trips.

Either way, opting for a gaming laptop doesn’t mean that you’re buying a much inferior device. As we mentioned earlier, these devices are still built to work in the most demanding conditions. Simply remember that they have a couple of limitations, but their price will also be more accessible than desktop models.

Gaming laptops are more convenient if you’re often on the go.
(Source: Asife: 37880791/ 123rf.com)

What features make gaming laptops stand out from standard laptops?

While the inequalities between these devices are quite obvious, you should know how to differentiate the two. One simple way to put it is that a gaming laptop is an incredibly superior version of a regular laptop. While traditional models can only handle a moderate use, gaming laptops are specifically designed to push their limits to the max.

  • Gaming laptops have very sophisticated designs. You can tell they’re special devices simply by looking at them.
  • Gaming laptops have tailor-made cooling systems and high-speed fans. This allows them to work more efficiently and avoid overheating linked to the demanding tasks they have to perform.
  • They have high-end dedicated graphics cards, while regular laptops have integrated graphics cards.
  • Gaming laptops sometimes feature special LED-backlit keyboards that you can customize to your liking, and high-quality displays. Some even have mechanical keyboards.
  • Their processors have a greater power consumption, since they are more powerful and faster than standard computer processors.
  • Gaming laptops also have a larger RAM storage capacity and a VRAM (dedicated only for videos).
  • Due to the high energy consumption of the processors, the battery of gaming laptops won’t last as long as that of a traditional laptop. You may need to have one or two external batteries on hand.

There are many more characteristics that we could name, but what you need to know is that a gaming laptop exceeds regular models in every single aspect: size, capacity, speed, and power. It only trails when it comes to battery autonomy, but this is a necessary evil if you want your computer to perform at such demanding standards.

Shopping Criteria

Since buying a gaming laptop is quite an investment, you must be familiar with a variety of different aspects, features, specs, and characteristics. The different manufacturing components of a laptop will ultimately determine its level of performance in the most demanding conditions. In the following section, we will look at the most important criteria:

  • GPU and graphics card
  • Processor
  • RAM
  • Capacity and type of storage
  • Screen
  • Frame rate
  • Type of panel and refresh rate
  • Resolution
  • Keyboard and trackpad
  • Portability
  • Price

GPU and graphics card

The GPU (graphics processing unit) specifically refers to the core of the graphics card. This is why you shouldn’t confuse these terms, nor use them interchangeably, as they are not the same. The GPU is generally located on plug-in cards, on a set of chips on the motherboard, or on the CPU chip itself.

This element is perhaps the most important component of gaming computers, since the main function of this unit is to carry out all the mathematical calculations needed to reproduce images on the screen. The more sophisticated they are, the higher the resolution, speed, and fluidity of games, video or film images will be.

Gaming laptops have powerful cooling systems to avoid overheating linked to the demanding tasks they have to perform.
(Source: Ymgerman: 54430038/ 123rf.com)

The most commonly used graphics cards are the Nvidia products. If you want to really play, we recommend you to have at least an Nvidia GEFORCE GTX 10 series. The brand recently launched its new GTX 16 series, which is naturally more powerful. Their GTX 20 series is currently the most powerful graphics card on the market, but it is very expensive.

Processor

The American company Intel dominates the processor’s industry for gaming laptops, but this doesn’t mean other manufacturers like AMD don’t have quality products. However, you will barely find any gaming laptop with these processors — just like Nvidia dominates the graphics card field. On the other hand, many desktop computers integrate excellent AMD components.

That said, you want to focus on Intel and its high-end Core processors, currently in their ninth generation. You are advised to opt for at least seventh or eighth generation and, ideally, start with an Intel Core i5 processor. If you want the latest generation, the 6-core and 6-thread i5-9400F and the 6-thread i5-9600K are both high-quality models.

If budget isn’t really an issue for you, you can even choose to go for an 8-core, 8-thread Intel Core i7-9700K processor or a 6-core, 12-thread i7-9750H processor. The latest and most powerful innovation is the Intel Core i9-9900K, with 8 cores and 16 threads. Launched in February 2019, the new Alienware Area 51 integrates it.

RAM

As you know, the RAM is the main memory of a computer, where all your data and programs are stored. This is why you can’t really go wrong with this component: you need to enough for your computer to carry out the demanding tasks you will ask of it.

In that regard, we advise you to choose a model with at least 8GB of RAM and 2GB of VRAM. This capacity is the minimum your laptop needs to have to run games smoothly. However, this may not be enough to execute various programs simultaneously or for multithreading. Don’t forget that playing is one of the most demanding tasks a computer can do.

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The ideal RAM capacity is 16GB or 32GB, since your laptop will therefore pack enough power to run several threads at once. That being said, don’t worry too much if you only have 8GB. The RAM is one of the easiest components that you can expand, and it’s not very expensive.

Capacity and type of storage

More is always better for this criterion. Currently, the vast majority of gaming laptops are sold with 1,000GB (1TB) of storage. This is fantastic, but you do still find models with 256GB or 512GB. In that case, we encourage you to opt for 512GB. Either way, this type of storage memory is another component that you can quite easily increase.

Regarding the different types of storage available, your best bet will be a combined capacity: an SSD of at least 256GB, and another HDD of at least 7200rpm. The SSD is used to speed up the system booting, while the HDD is designed for storage. The most affordable models on the market only offer an HDD. Again, most models give you the possibility of expanding or modifying this.

Screen

As you can imagine, the screen is another aspect that will directly influence the quality with which you can play. If you want to play, edit or create content on your laptop, you are advised to opt for screens ranging between 15 and 17.3 inches. You can naturally find some models with smaller screens, but you might find your gaming experience limited.

This is why we strongly recommend that you opt for at least 15.6 inches, and at most 17.3 inches. Certain models have 18.3-inch screens, but we think that this is a bit too much. Don’t forget that the screen size is proportional to the size of the laptop. Most people prefer sacrificing a little bit of size to favor portability. However, the decision is yours!

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Did you know that Pac-Man was the best-selling game in history? It was launched by Namco in 1982.

Frame rate

This technical aspect is measured in Hertz (Hz) and basically represents the image’s cycles per second. You have to know the frames per second (fps) of your device to truly understand how hertz work. To put it simply, one still and one hertz are equal to one frame per second — a single image.

The image is intimately linked to the screen, and the most frequently used screens on the market right now have frequencies of 60Hz, 120Hz, and 144Hz. However, some manufacturers have already launched laptops with screens offering a frequency of 240Hz. These models are naturally much more expensive than others.

We encourage you to buy a laptop with a minimum of 120Hz or 144Hz if your budget allows it. If you don’t have a budget, then you should buy a 240Hz screen, although the two previous frequencies are very efficient too. While the 60Hz frequency isn’t all that bad, it does provide lower quality.

Type of panel and refresh rate

The panel is another criterion directly linked to the screen and that gives headaches to many users when buying their laptop. In that regard, we identify four main types of panels: TN, IPS, VA, and PLS panels. The first two are the most commonly used, so we’ll focus on them in the following paragraphs.

As always, the use you’ll make of your laptop will play a great role in the panel you need. Note that TN panels are the least expensive to manufacture and therefore the most popular. They’re ideal for anyone looking to use their laptop primarily as a gaming device because of their very short refresh rates — up to 1 millisecond (ms).

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Did you know that the MicroVision was the very first handheld console in history?

IPS panels, on the other hand, are more tailored for people who need to edit images and multimedia content, as they reflect colors more accurately. They are also much more expensive than TN panels, and their refresh rates range between 4 and 5 milliseconds (ms), with the most expensive and sophisticated models up to 3 ms.

Resolution

This is another question many people ask themselves: is 1080p or 4K the best resolution? Some let themselves get carried away by the latest image technology (4K) because they think it just has to be better. The reality is that the resolution you need for your laptop will ultimately depend on your use of it.

If you’ll only be playing video games, a screen with a 1080p resolution is more than enough, and you can buy one with frame rates of 120Hz, 144Hz, or even 240Hz. Currently, the 4K technology can only reach 60Hz, and a 1080p will consume less battery. 4K resolution is recommended for content editing and creation because it offers greater on-screen details.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard is naturally one of the most essential components of gaming laptops. Don’t forget that it is responsible for controlling your computer, and each of its keys has a function. The majority of gaming laptops feature membrane keyboards, which cannot withstand continuous gaming use in the long run.

Mechanical keyboards remain the best available option and the most common with gaming desktop computers. Unfortunately, there are still very few laptop models that feature this type of keyboards. That being said, some manufacturers have begun to use them in their more sophisticated models.

Gaming laptops integrate high-end graphics cards.
(Source: Georgejmclittle: 46461470/ 123rf.com)

Regarding trackpads, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that they are not particularly comfortable to work with, and even less so to play. This is why we strongly advise you to invest in a proper gaming mouse; this will provide greater comfort and efficiency. You can check our guide on gaming mice to find the one that best suits your needs.

Portability

This is less of a technical aspect and more about the comfort your laptop will offer. All aspects and components of a computer somehow influence each other, and in this case the portability will mostly be determined by the size and weight of your laptop. Greater weight and size also means better performance, while lighter, more compact models will be slightly less efficient.

Gaming laptops will always be much heavier and sturdier than standard models, with some weighing over 8 pounds. We think that a medium-sized computer is the best choice. A laptop weighing between 4.5 and 6.5 pounds will include quality components while still being comfortable to travel with.

Summary

The gaming world isn’t an easy one to navigate in. It’s not as straightforward as going to a physical store and shopping for regular laptops, where you can make a quick decision and leave with your new device. Gaming laptops require a lot of information and research before being bought. They have very specific components, and their capabilities differ from one model to another.

We want to remind you that these laptops cannot beat desktop computers when it comes to performance and capacity. The use you’ll make of your computer will determine whether you need a laptop or a desktop model, and the features will naturally be influenced by this.

We hope that we were able to answer all the questions you might have had regarding gaming laptops. If you found our guide useful and informative, feel free to share it on your social media so others can also learn all there is to know about these devices. You can also give us your opinion regarding these laptops that have revolutionized the gaming industry in the comments section below.

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