Unlike their PC brethren, gaming laptops are designed for gamers on the go. They're portable, powerful, and, with the right specs, offer a gaming experience similar to what you would find on a gaming PC. The key to selecting a great gaming laptop is knowing what specs to look for, how those specs align with your own needs, and which specs to prioritize in case you have to choose one over the other. With those points in mind, let's talk gaming laptops.
For gaming laptops, the graphics processing unit (GPU) is probably your most critical piece of hardware. In general, the GPU determines which games and game settings your laptop can adequately handle. For example, less powerful GPUs can support select titles played on lower game settings. Mid-tier GPUs can handle those same titles and more on higher game settings. The most powerful GPUs can handle almost any title on the highest game settings and fully support the most demanding applications, such as VR. One of the best and easiest ways to determine which GPU you need is to look at the system requirements of the titles you’re interested in playing. Most, if not all, will tell you the base GPU requirements.
The display quality can be critical to your gaming experience, especially if you don’t plan on connecting your laptop to a monitor. Unlike the GPU, a lot of what determines a good gaming display is subjective. For example, the size of the display. Not everyone wants or needs an 18″ panel; some users prefer something smaller. Necessary screen resolution, too, can be subjective, though you should never get anything less than 1080p. On the flip side of that, if you’re looking at a gaming laptop with a high screen resolution, make sure it’s got a high enough refresh rate to avoid motion blur and ghosting. And if there’s one piece of advice that’s pretty universal when it comes to gaming laptops, it’s that you should probably avoid touchscreens. There aren’t a ton of gaming laptops with touchscreens out there, but the ones that exist tend to have a glossier display that can negatively affect visuals.
The irony of gaming laptops is that despite their portability, in general, you still need to plug them in. Obviously, they all come with built-in batteries, but the truth is, if you’re playing AAA games on high settings, odds are you’ll burn through your battery power pretty fast. And if a gaming laptop does come with any kind of battery-saver mode, it’s usually enabled by weakening other features, like dimming your display. The point is that battery life probably isn’t going to be a useful indicator for determining which gaming laptops are good, so don’t get too hung up on it.