How To Determine If A Laptop Is Good For Gaming

Every aspiring gamer or casual gamer is always met with a dilemma. That is how to tell if their laptop of interest is good or powerful enough for gaming.

No gamer wants to play games on low FPS. Not only that but also on low detail and resolution. Playing games on low detail to maximise FPS or low FPS sours the gaming experience.

Everything is slow. It takes ages to finish a mission or to move from point A to B. This poor performance is even more pronounced if you are running Crysis.

Before you can tell whether a laptop is good for gaming you should be able to know the differences between a gaming laptop and a normal laptop.

Differences Between A Gaming Laptop And A Normal Laptop

A gaming laptop is called a gaming laptop for a reason. Their hardware components are very much different compared to normal laptops and are much more powerful. Here’s how to tell if a laptop is good for gaming.

Graphics Card

This is the easiest tell of a gaming laptop. Gaming laptops have dedicated graphics cards whilst normal laptops have integrated graphics card.

Dedicated graphics cards are much more powerful than integrated cards because they have their own video RAM.

And also were made for the purpose of playing games. Not only that they also perform better at graphics related work. Software like Adobe Photoshop, CAD – to some extent – and crypto mining make use of dedicated graphics cards.

Dedicated Graphics Cards Vs Integrated Graphics Cards

The higher the video RAM the more powerful the graphics card in most cases.

In addition to that, graphics cards that have high video RAM allow you to connect to several external monitors, without any negative impact on gaming performance.

It also allows you to enjoy higher details and video resolutions.

Dedicated graphics cards are made by NVIDIA and AMD. NVIDIA graphics cards are common in laptops. There is the NVIDIA MX, GTX and RTX.

NVIDIA MX cards, for example, the MX150 are entry-level cards that are only suitable for light gaming.

The NVIDIA GTX cards (GTX 1060, 1070, 1080, etc) are powerful cards that can handle most AAA title games on medium to high detail.

The NVIDIA RTX cards (RTX 2060, 2070, 2080) are even more powerful cards that have ray-tracing capabilities.

Ray Tracing

NVIDIA GTX cards will also have ray tracing capabilities when their new drivers roll out.

AMD dedicated graphics cards are more common in desktops than laptops. Laptops with AMD processing units have integrated cards and are called APUs.

The higher-end laptops like the Acer Predator Helios 500 have a powerful dedicated card – the RX Vega 56. It is similar in performance to the GTX 1070.

A lot of laptops come with NVIDIA graphics cards those are the ones you should keep your eyes on. Because laptops with AMD dedicated graphics cards are not common and a lot of people are not familiar with them.

Unless you are already familiar with graphics cards go with NVIDIA when searching for a gaming laptop. The only time you can go with AMD is when you want a cheap gaming laptop.

Cheap gaming laptops below $600 have AMD APUs which perform better in games than Intel’s integrated graphics cards.

Processor/CPU

Gaming laptops have powerful CPUs. You would hardly see a gaming laptop with an Intel Core i3 processor. Most gaming laptops are equipped with Intel Core i5 and i7 processors.

Related: Optimum CPU/GPU Temperature When Gaming On A Laptop

In addition, their suffix ends with U, H, or HQ. This guide perfectly explains the meaning behind the letters in Intel CPUs or their naming schemes.


Intel CPU Letters Explained

The Intel Core i5s and i7s have higher turbo clock speeds, more cores, consume more power and are able to support a lot of RAM.

Few Higher-end laptops have AMD processors. The AMD processors are not the mobile versions but rather desktop versions. Meaning the performance and power consumption is equal to that of AMD processors found in desktops.

AMD Ryzen Explained

These laptops have the AMD Ryzen 7 desktop processors without any suffix. This guide explains the different meanings behind suffixes in AMD Ryzen names. If you ever plan to go for a gaming laptop that has an AMD CPU it will help you to know if it is up to the task or not.

Userbenchmark is also a great website where you can compare two different processors or graphics cards.

Display

Most gaming laptops utilise the same screens or displays as non-gaming variants. But with a few exceptions. Displays have what we call refresh rates.

The refresh rate is the number of times your laptop display is updated with new images. A laptop display with a 60Hz refresh rate is going to update the screen 60 times in a second.


Refresh Rates Explained

A 60Hz refresh rate is common in laptops. If the refresh rate is not provided or given in the specification sheet then it is a 60Hz refresh rate. Some gaming laptops also have a 60Hz refresh rate.

The more expensive ones have higher refresh rates with some being 120Hz, 144Hz and 240Hz. As soon as you see a 120Hz, 144Hz or 240Hz in a specification sheet of a laptop then you are looking at a gaming laptop and a powerful one at that.

As mentioned above, some gaming laptops do not have their refresh rate written in the spec sheet so you have to look at the graphics card and processor to determine if it is good for gaming.

High refresh rates are highly beneficial in gaming hence the reason why a lot of people put emphasis on display refresh rates. Because the refresh rate sets a cap on the frames-per-second (FPS) during gameplay.

Screen Tearing

If your FPS becomes higher the refresh rate your display won’t be able to keep up and there will be screen tearing and stuttering.

Screen tearing and stuttering occurs when your display shows multiple images at once. This can negatively affect the gaming experience.

RAM

RAM is not a direct indicator of whether a laptop is meant for gaming or not.

Because most at times higher-end laptops have a lot of RAM. And you can also choose to upgrade your RAM. The thing about gaming laptops is that their RAM has high speeds.


ram speed
RAM Speed

The clock speeds are in MHz. If you look closely at the spec sheet of a laptop you can find the clock speeds of the RAM. In the picture below, the gaming laptop has a RAM clock speed of 2666MHz. A 2666MHz means that it is able to perform 2666 cycles in a second.

Related: Does RAM Affect FPS and How Much Do You Need For Gaming?

The same applies to 1600MHz. RAM speed is not as important as RAM size or how much RAM the laptop has. This is because insufficient RAM can affect gaming performance. That’s why most gaming laptops come with 16GB RAM right of the bat.

Keyboard And Design

Another obvious tell of a gaming laptop is the keyboard. Gaming laptops have RGB backlit keyboards. Some even allow you to customize the colours of the backlit keyboards.

rgb backlit keyboard
RGB Backlit Keyboard

This gives it a flashy “gamer” look. There are also gaming laptops that have mechanical keyboards. They are high quality and have spring-like mechanical switches under their keys instead of the rubber membranes found in normal keyboards.

They have superior tactile feedback and are comfortable to type on. The downside is that they make a lot of noise when typing.

The design is also another tell of whether it is a gaming laptop. Gaming laptops have that flashy design with stripes or lines running through on the body of the laptop.

Some of the lines are red or green. The body of the laptop also looks aggressive. The exhausts look badass and the edges of the laptop are sharp.

ASUS Strix Scar Design

The design is not always flashy and depends on the model and manufacturer. They have taken the minimalistic approach. They have done away with the flashy designs and opted for the simple designs devoid of lines and stripes.

How To Choose A Laptop For Gaming

The differences between a gaming laptop and a normal laptop have been covered. So how do you choose a gaming laptop?

First of all, you can use Tech Consumer Guide’s Laptop Finder to help you see what laptop best fits you. Our pre-fire deals page also have a list of gaming laptops with ongoing discounts.

You can also check a guide on how to find the best laptop for your needs. It fully breaks down the various components of a laptop and the role they play.

You should determine if you are going to use the laptop for light or intense gaming.

If you going to use it for light gaming, laptops with NVIDIA MX graphics cards and Intel processors with the U suffix will suffice.

If you are on seriously tight budget laptops with AMD APUs will get the job done. But don’t expect stellar performance.

Intense gaming is going to require powerful components so you should be looking at the NVIDIA GTX and RTX graphics cards in laptops.

AMD is a tricky situation. To better understand their gaming performance watching YouTube reviews is a must.

There are also some AMD and NVIDIA graphics card combo in laptops but are rare. Those laptops always have good price-to-performance ratio.

Related: 10 Ways To Increase Your Frame rates (FPS) in Games

For processors, you should be looking at Intel processors that have the H and HQ suffixes. In addition to that, the laptop should have a high display refresh rate of 120Hz or more and the RAM should be at least 16GB.

Keep in mind that the gaming laptops that can run AAA title games on high settings more often than not have bad battery lives. Because of the powerful hardware in their chassis.

You have to make a compromise between battery life and performance. Few exceptions are the Razer Blade, Gigabyte Aero and MSI P-series which are worth mentioning

Why Buy A Gaming Laptop?

Gaming laptops are more powerful than their normal counterparts. There are those that say why buy a gaming laptop when you can build a gaming desktop.

Gaming desktops are superior to gaming laptops in a lot of ways. But you can’t take a gaming desktop with you when you are travelling. With a gaming laptop, you can carry it anywhere with you and game as long as you have a power source.

This benefit makes gaming laptops a much-preferred choice amongst a lot of people than building or buying a gaming desktop.

Final Thoughts

Hardware components basically determine if a laptop is meant for gaming or not. The quickest way to tell if a gaming laptop is good is by reading or watching reviews about your laptop of interest.

Laptops that have dedicated graphics cards are gaming laptops. Although not all graphics cards are equal.

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