THE ONLY ONE GAMING LAPTOP BUYING GUIDE 2016 THAT YOU’LL EVER NEED
If your hobby is playing PC games and tend to mobile or travel a lot ( like me ) then you might be consider buying a gaming laptop. A gaming laptop is a laptop that is different, for example, than an office or multimedia laptop. They usually have high specs from fast CPU, high end graphic card / GPU, a lot of RAM, SSD (Solid State Drive) etc. A gaming laptop also has a lot higher price mark than gaming desktop.
For example, for a 600$-700$ budget you can have decent CPU that can handle most of games but for a gaming laptop you’ll end up in low-entry system. Another example, a 1000$ desktop usually has lot better specs than a 1500$ laptop. If you want to calculate your budget according to your games, needs and style of playing you could end up spending 600$-4000$ for a machine. There are so many options available in market right now but don’t be confuse, with this Gaming Laptop Buying Guide 2016 we hope we can give you some quick guidance before choosing and buying a gaming laptop.
IMPORTANT TIPS BEFORE BUYING GAMING LAPTOP
- Only use your laptop for office, simple multimedia or play low spec games? Don’t buy a gaming laptop.
- Bigger monitor screens size equal to more weight. Consider this if you prefer portability or to mobile a lot. A 13” is small screen but lightweight while 17” is more fun but heavy.
- For a budget, laptops with Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M GPU is decent enough to play latest games at 30-40 fps. If you have more cash to spend, choose GTX 970M for more powerful options or even more costly GTX 980M to play at 4K resolution
- For processor, Intel core i5 is good for budget but if you want to be serious about gaming, get at least Intel Core i7-6820HK processor.
- For now, avoid touch screen laptops. They’re power consuming, more expensive and has no effect for your gaming experience. For resolution, avoid laptops with display less than 1920 x 1080.
- Wanna try Virtual reality games with HTC Vive or Oculus Rift? Get laptop with HDMI 1.3 port
- Get laptops with at least 8 GB of RAM. 16 GB is great but only for future, its rather overkill for today standards of games.
GPU GPU or graphic processing units is the core component for the gaming laptop. This component is mainly handle graphic such as games, 3D rendering etc. For a GPU you must choose laptop with dedicated GPU and VRAM, mainly manufactured by Nvidia (Geforce) and AMD (ATI). There are a lot of options available in the market, but we recommend Nvidia as the majority of brands use them. And for VRAM (video memory), you should be OK with 4 GB of VRAM. There are some Nvidia card that we recommend, while we use The Witcher 3 as a benchmark:
- Nvidia GTX 950M: this card will provide solid frame rates for most games at medium setting, according to notebook check benchmark it can handle game such as the Witcher 3 with ~30 fps @medium setting 1366 x 768 resolution. This is a newer version of GTX 850M with the same specs only with higher clocks ( 916 vs 876 MHz). Though it can handle most games, don’t expect too much from this card.
- Nvidia GTX 960M: a step higher than GTX 950M. This can handle The Witcher 3 @high setting 1920 x 1080 resolution at around 24 fps. This is a newer upgraded version of GTX 860M.
- Nvidia GTX 970M: here is a very powerful card that can handle most games on high resolution with high or full settings. As a step below GTX 980M, to run some of the latest games with good fps special settings must be turned off or the resolution lowered. It can handle the Witcher 3 @ultra setting 1920 x 1080 with ~25 fps
- Nvidia GTX 980M: the top tier card from Nvidia. it can run most games with full settings, for the Witcher 3 @ultra setting 1920 x 1080 we can get around 33 fps, and 22 fps at 4K resolution.
- SLI : SLI or Scalable Link Interface is when you put two identical Nvidia card together to produce an increased performance thus increased fps. It can be GTX 970M SLI or GTX 980 SLI. Some of examples of SLI laptops are MSI GT80 Titan SLI and Aorus X7 Pro Sync.
The complete result of this benchmark can be found on the witcher 3 notebookcheck benchmark
PROCESSOR / CPU
Some years ago, I had thought that good processor or CPU is not necessary for games, I thought what’s matter the most is the GPU. But now, as recent games’ complexity increase thus demand more resources, the CPU also plays an important role. It also depend on the games, there are games that rely heavily only on GPU while the others also required heavy CPU processing (usually RPG and RTS). The CPU mainly handles all the thing that not directly correlated to graphics such as non-playable characters (NPC) behavior and game physics calculations.
To choose the right CPU, there are some things that you need to understand. In desktop, we can find Intel and AMD CPU. But in laptops, you may only find and should choose Intel because AMD laptops is not for gaming. Intel is way ahead of AMD in laptop’s CPU. And for Intel there are also many options available. Intel Core i7 is the flagship, followed by i5. There are also core i3 for lower options but for gaming laptop avoid that. For gaming a core i5 is the minimum. Next, choose the latest generation of Intel CPU’s, the 6th Gen core. You may know the Gen by the model numbers, 6th Gen model begin with 6, for example Core i5-6500. The older version of 5th Gen begin with 5, for example Core i5-5300U. If you have more budget you can step up to Dual-core Core i7 or even a quad core i7 for even more budget. Just so you know, Quad core i7 have suffixes HQ or HK for example Core i7-5850HQ.
And last but not least you must know is the CPU Clock Speed, as higher clock speed equal to faster performance. Between the same Core i5, the 3.5 GHz clock speed will perform faster than i5 with 2,7 GHz.
RAM For gaming, RAM is used to store temporary items instead of hard drive because it is intended to store temporary items, since you start the game in your PC. The bigger and faster the RAM, you can store more store temporary information, and it can be read and written faster. The bigger and faster RAM will lead to faster loading times. As important tips above, get laptops with 8 GB of RAM. 16 GB is great but only for future, its rather overkill for today standards of games and not as important as GPU or CPU. Instead of getting 16GB RAM, invest your money in GPU and CPU.
OTHER IMPORTANT PARTS:
DRIVE For hard drive, choose the one with minimum 1TB of disc space. Less than that, you HDD can be out of capacity fast, because latest games can take out 20-50 GB of your space and could be growing for expansion pack or save games. In addition, we recommend to use both HDD and SSD (Solid-State Drive) configuration. SSD is much faster than standard HDD but usually with lower capacity and more expensive than a HDD. This extra speed converts into faster loading times in gaming. This way you can save and load games at SSD and other files in HDD.
DISPLAY / SCREENS For display, the small screens and bigger screens have their own advantages. Small screen (13”and 14”) and you get a small display but lighter in weight and less power consuming thus better portability. Bigger screens (17.3” and 18.4”) you’ll get big display thus better gaming experience but heavier and more power-consuming. For the resolution, we recommend a 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080). Anything less and you’ll get muddy graphics. A step up is the 4K resolution (3840 x 2160). Now the laptop with 4K starting to become more common, but its costly and demand powerful hardware.
BATTERY LIFE If you plan to travel a lot and play without plug into electricity then the battery life should be your consideration, especially if you like to play games in the highest setting. A bigger battery translate into more heat and weight. But despite bigger capacity, gaming on highest setting still can run out the battery in an hour or so. For standard a gaming laptop should be able to last 3-4 hours in normal use.
AUDIO For audio, it is more fun to just plug in your headset or connecting to external speakers for gaming experience rather than using the laptops’s speaker, but that is your preference. If you do care to play with laptop’s speakers you can choose gaming laptops with good built speakers, but this is pretty rare.
Also to Consider.. One of your consideration should be keyboard and track pad. You will want really comfortable keyboard because that where most of your button for gaming is. Also, don’t forget some consideration before buying a gaming mouse. You must look for size and shape that fit yours. Most of gaming mouse is wide and bulky, and not everyone is comfortable with it.
Well, that’s our guide right there. We will update this guide if there’s any useful information that we didn’t cover yet. We also glad to hear your opinion and also experience in choosing the right gaming laptop. And feel free to comment below!