Gaming laptops are one of the toughest machines to buy as a gamer. The reason why is because they’re expensive and feature-packed. This guide will be going through different factors that can help you before purchasing a gaming laptop.
Note that this is not a hardcore guide, so only read it if you have a little understanding of what makes a good laptop.
This guide is here for those people who want to buy a powerful laptop, but are not sure what they should be looking out for. We will NOT be talking about the specifications of laptops, so please do not post asking what’s the best laptop with GTX 1080 and i7! We will only talk about specs if it is related to reducing heat or noise.
This guide is mainly here to help the new laptop buyers understand a few things, and also a refresher for gamers who have been around for a while. We will only be going through laptops that are currently on sale in Singapore.
First, we will be going through the different categories of gaming laptops. We will then discuss what are the things that you should consider before buying a gaming laptop. After that, there will be another section on how to choose between AMD and Intel, followed by a short conclusion.
First things first, the different types of gaming laptops.
There are 2 main categories of laptops that gamers would buy for themselves:
- Ultrabooks (Intel)
- Laptops with a desktop graphics card (AMD/NVIDIA)
While ultrabooks may be slim and lightweight, they cannot be easily upgraded and their battery life is usually very poor. Despite this, laptops with desktop graphics cards are more likely to heat up due to the large space required for installing such a component.
Based on these factors, we will divide the guide into sections as followed:
- Section 1: General guidelines (Ultrabooks)
- Section 2: Laptops with a desktop graphics card
Before you head over to the section, here are some general guidelines that all gamers should follow. These are no-brainers but not many people seem to follow them.
- Don’t buy an ultrabook (Intel) if you need good gaming performance!
- The laptop MUST have an Intel Core i5 or above.
- Buy the best processor you can afford. For laptops, this would be AMD FX 8350/8370 and intel core i7 (no hyperthreading). If price is a limiting factor, skip to step 5 for intel or step 7 for AMD.
- ALWAYS buy 8GB of RAM.
- Our suggestion would be to get the laptop with an SSD or HDD (preferably both). You can always add more storage space in by buying a 3.5″ external hard drive if you need the extra space.
- Do NOT skimp on the graphics card, single channel memory is fine.
- No more than 2 USB 3.0 and 1 USB 2.0 ports on your laptop, if possible try to avoid it. More is fine though as long as the ports are not in weird spots or blocking where you place your mouse.
- Get a laptop with Windows 10 preinstalled, do NOT install your own copy of Windows.
- If you have to, add a cooling pad.
- Get backlit keyboard if possible.
- Try to get a laptop with relatively narrow bezels, this will reduce the risk of the screen getting damaged.
- Do not buy a laptop that is less than 1 inch thick. Anything thinner is most likely going to overheat.
Now onto the section, you’re all waiting for!
The first thing you should know about laptops with desktop graphics is that they are almost always heavier than ultrabooks. However, despite the larger size, they typically weigh less than a 17-inch laptop for 2 reasons:
First of all, these laptops usually have smaller screens (15 inches) which means they can cut down on weight by not putting in as many batteries or fans. Secondly, of course, the only component they need to accommodate is a single graphics card.
One of the most important features in any laptop (gaming or not) would be the screen. A good 1080p IPS panel with an anti-glare coating will ensure that you can game comfortably even on bright sunny days without too much reflection on the screen.
It is not just the resolution that you should pay attention to, but also the color quality and viewing angles. The refresh rate of at least 60Hz is a must as well since many gamers prefer to use a framerate counter when gaming. Otherwise known as an “FPS counter”, this allows you to monitor your framerate (FPS) which is critical in determining if you can take on a certain game or not.
A higher refresh rate means that your framerate will never drop below 60 FPS which ensures smoother gameplay.
A resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (1080p) is the bare minimum, but you should aim for 2560 x 1440 or 2560 x 1600 (QHD) if possible. 1080p offers better value on the wallet though, so it is up to you if you’re ready to spend more for the QHD screen.
If you are looking for a laptop that is also suitable for work, then be sure to get one with an anti-glare coating so the light won’t keep on reflecting onto your screen. A matte finish will ensure it is less distracting during those late-night gaming sessions.
There are some clear differences between the two that may sway your decision either way. For example, an intel processor typically has better single-core performance while AMD processors are more competitive on the multi-core scale. However, if you are looking for raw power without having to look at benchmarks all day long, our personal preference would be the Intel Core i7 with 8GB of RAM.
If you are not planning on upgrading your laptop anytime soon then you should consider getting a laptop with 8GB of RAM right from the start. You can always add more later on when your needs change, but upgrading is not as easy as adding in a new stick. In fact, many laptops require you to disassemble an entire panel just to get it done.
If possible, go for at least 4GB of VRAM (video memory) and 8GB RAM. This way you can at least level up your graphics settings without worrying about performance issues within the game. What you should aim for is a laptop with 8+ GB of video memory (VRAM) as this will ensure that your computer can handle more intensive games smoothly.
The Hard Drive
This is where things get a little tricky as laptop hard drives tend to be smaller than their desktop counterparts. Unlike desktops which can have multiple hard drives, laptops typically only have one or two.
In the end, you’ll want to install all of your games on the fastest drive possible for optimal performance. However, having an SSD (Solid State Drive) with a capacity of 256GB will be enough to accommodate your operating system and some games.
Most new laptops are starting to include one of these drives, which leads us to believe that you’ll be able to find them very easily on the market. SSDs are still expensive but they do provide more performance than their regular counterparts since solid-state drives have access to non-volatile memory chips.
The Graphics card
This is where things can differ greatly depending on your budget, computing needs, and specifications of the laptop itself. For example, there are laptops that come with an integrated graphics card which will be just fine for less intensive games or casual use. However, if you plan on using your laptop for gaming at all, you should consider getting a discrete graphics card instead. If you think about it, a discrete graphics card is just like upgrading the whole motherboard of your desktop machine.
Discrete Graphics Card vs Integrated Graphics Card – Which Should I Choose?
Laptops that come with an integrated graphics card will be just fine for less intensive games or casual use. However, if you plan on using your laptop for gaming at all, you should consider getting a discrete graphics card instead. If you think about it, a discrete graphics card is just like upgrading the whole motherboard of your desktop machine.
Discrete Graphics Card vs Integrated Graphics Cards: Which To Choose For Gaming?
There are laptops that come with an integrated graphics card which will be just fine for less intensive games or casual use. However, if you plan on using your laptop for gaming at all, you should consider getting a discrete graphics card instead. If you think about it, a discrete graphics card is just like upgrading the whole motherboard of your desktop machine.
If you are a casual gamer, you should not have to spend more than $1000 on a laptop. Otherwise, even if it can play games smoothly, there’s no point in owning a nice system when you could probably use the extra money for other things such as food or other hobbies.
However, if you just love gaming so much that you just don’t care about the money then I recommend you get a laptop with at least 8GB of VRAM (video memory) and an i5 or i7 processor. Also, it would be best to look for something that is easily upgradeable so you can do more research on RAM, HDD, and SSD choices.
Laptop Prices For Casual Gamers
A system with a dedicated graphics card, 8GB of RAM, and an i5 or i7 processor can be found for around $1000.
As mentioned in the section above, you should never pay more than $1500 for a gaming laptop because that price just gets ridiculous when you consider that this is just a computer that is good for gaming.
If you just love gaming so much that you just don’t care about the money then I recommend you get a laptop with at least 8GB of VRAM (video memory) and an i5 or i7 processor. Also, it would be best to look for something that is easily upgradeable so you can do more research on RAM, HDD, and SSD choices.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to the best gaming laptops for 2021. If you have any questions, please let us know in a comment below!