Table of Contents
- What are the Main Factors to Consider?
- An Overview of Brands
While there are smart and efficient gaming platforms available in the market, some gamers prefer using their laptop or PC instead. It could simply boil down to a matter of personal preference, as they want to develop a connection with their hardware. This personal preference is intensified by the fact that there is a whole world out there filled with various choices of PC gaming hardware which keeps gamers connected globally, discussing and debating their opinions.
If you are a gamer who is trying out laptop/PC gaming and have been looking around clueless and overwhelmed by the amount of options available to you, this article will offer you a complete guide on what features you should look out for and what exactly you should prioritize.
What are the Main Factors to Consider?
Before buying a new laptop or PC, you should keep in mind a few factors that are essential to a good gaming experience. We have listed some of them below:
GPU (Graphic Processing Unit)
The Two Main Choices
The most important question that needs to be answered while setting up your laptop/PC for gaming is which graphic card to use. The gaming world stands divided over two primary vendors: AMD and Nvidia. AMD has been around for roughly 50 years, working to manufacture CPUs and GPUs; whereas, Nvidia is relatively new in the market (17 years) and concentrates on producing graphics cards. Intel is preparing to become a competitor but only time will tell if it’s successful.
The main technology behind the GPU’s working is the API (Application Programming Interface), which provides it with inputs and expected outputs – the calculation is up to the GPU. Both AMD and Nvidia have similar primary calculations; however, they differ in their implementation styles. AMD GPUs have more processing cores, but Nvidia has better clock speed so it practically beats AMD by manufacturing the current fastest GPUs. Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Ti has the greatest speed in the GPU market and produces models like the GTX 1080 Ti and above that are faster than AMD’s GPUs.
What Does That Mean for You as a Consumer Looking to Buy a Graphics Card?
One of the primary considerations while buying a graphics card is to see whether it has at least a GDDR3 Video RAM and supports DirectX 11; these features are a minimum requirement for any well-functioning graphics card and most of them are equipped with them.
As far as affordability is concerned, if you are looking to buy the best graphics card, then Nvidia is the best option in the high-end market. For any card costing more than $350, Nvidia produces GeForce RTX cards that are faster and more efficient versions of AMD’s cards.
AMD is able to compete more in the mid-range market. It can’t compete when it comes to power consumption efficiency, but overall its cards are cheaper and provide greater performance than Nvidia’s.
If you have a mid-range budget, then you will find AMD’s GPUs to be more efficient and faster than Nvidia’s GPUs.
What about Gaming Laptops?
If you are more interested in gaming on your laptop rather than on your PC, then an additional concern is that, while most laptops’ memory and storage can be upgraded, their GPUs can’t be improved just as easily; hence, it is essential to look for a good graphics card before you decide to invest in a gaming laptop.
For a laptop under $800, a good option is an older Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti or a newer GTX 1650 graphics card that performs well on newer graphic-intensive games at medium or high settings. Are you ready to spend $1,000 or more? Then a laptop with an older Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with 6GB of memory or a newer 1660 Ti is a great option for you.
CPU (Central Processing Unit)
After having an efficient GPU, the next most important component to consider is the CPU. The purpose of a CPU is to process the information being provided by a program and then translate and execute the commands. In gaming, it is especially important to have a CPU that is powerful enough to not bottle-neck your GPU.
Important Factors to Keep in Mind About a CPU
- Your processor can be dual, quad, hexa, or octa core. A quad processor and above are generally considered good enough for high-performance in gaming
- For speed, you should opt for a processor that can run at a minimum 2.0GHz, but 3.0 or 4.0 are even better
- Laptop CPUs are not so easily upgradeable, so you need to choose wisely since your decision will affect your use in the long term. A Core i5 processor is good enough, but consider saving a bit more to buy the latest quad or hexa core processor.
So Which CPU is the Best for Gaming?
Currently, the fastest processor for gaming is the Intel i9 9900K. This is a great option for you if you are looking to buy this for gaming, streaming, and other heavy duty tasks. However, if your sole concern is gaming, then consider the Intel Core i7 9700K which is hexa core like the i9 and has similar clock speeds of up to 5 GHz, but is priced $100-150 less.
Other than Intel, AMD also produces high quality CPUs and its Ryzen 9 3900X is priced similar to the Intel i9 9900K but boasts 12 cores as opposed to the i9’s 8; however, when it is tested for gaming performance, it gives 8 percent slower results. If you are not a professional gamer, then this 8% slower performance can be ignored, as it is only really observed at a lower resolution.
For budget-friendly options, Intel’s core i5 9400F is a reasonable buy, given that it costs the same as an i3. Another competing choice is AMD’s Ryzen 5 3600, which performs 40% faster than the i5 9400F but is priced more as well.
AMD produces Ryzen 5 2600 for people on a tighter budget and it has the same number of cores as a 3600 but of course lower clock speed. It does though satisfy your budgeting needs because it is priced lower than the 3600.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
The RAM in your system is the hardware that provides CPU with the data. The bigger the RAM, the faster the data is used, which leads to programs running faster. As far as gaming is concerned, a laptop/PC needs to be equipped with at least 8GB of RAM for the games to function efficiently.
When buying a RAM, an important aspect to research and educate yourselves about first is the individual requirements of the games you will be using it for. Since each game has different needs, it would be good to first know how much memory each game needs and then base your decision on how much memory your laptop/PC needs.
The good news is that memory can be upgraded later, so if you are not able to buy the RAM you want right now, you can save up to improve it later.
The motherboard is the hardware that houses the CPU, memory, and graphic cards; therefore, you need to consider one that has multiple RAM slots for the amount of memory and size of video card. Another important consideration is to ensure your motherboard supports multiple graphics cards configurations; the technical terms for these in the market are SLI and CrossFireX (by AMD and Nvidia respectively).
In the gaming world, having a large storage capacity is essential for your laptop or PC. It is important to have a huge hard drive that has enough storage capacity to download and then later upgrade your favorite games.
When it comes to buying a hard drive, there are two options available for you: traditional (HDD) or solid state hard drives (SSDs) – the latter are more expensive but are more efficient since they present faster boot times and transfer files at faster rates. The best SSD to buy would be one that has at least 256 GB of memory.
An HDD is also fine to get by if your budget is not allowing you to buy an SSD, but be sure to check its RPM (rotation per minute) that shows how many times the platter rotates in a minute. The faster the RPM of the hard drive, the better. A minimum of 7200 RPM is good enough for gaming.
Another option to consider would be to use a cheaper SSD simultaneously with an HDD, if you are unable to buy a more expensive SSD; this is meant to serve as a boot drive and will improve your gaming experience.
Your laptop or PC’s screen is essential to your overall gaming experience and hence should not be ignored. We have listed below some of the important points you need to keep in mind about the screen:
You might find it tempting to simply pitch in more money and buy the highest resolution screen available, but something users often tend to overlook is that higher resolution requires faster graphic cards for gaming. The standard native resolution is 1080p (1920×1080) that provides sharp images at 24 inches and below. For a screen size larger than 24 inches, the 1440p display is recommended.
Higher refresh rates are preferred for gaming, since they provide a smooth viewing experience. Standard screens support a refresh rate of 60 Hz, which means the screen is redrawn 60 times in a second; however, even refresh rates of 144 Hz are not enough for gaming. There are many new technological features that improve the gaming experience, such as the strobe backlight which aims at creating a stable image. A strobed 120 Hz screen is more blur-free than a 144 Hz non-strobed screen.
G-Sync and Free-Sync
Nvidia and AMD have created two similar technologies to tackle the problem of tearing (which happens when the GPU sends an image to the display before it is finished displaying the current one). Nvidia’s solution is far more expensive than AMD’s; therefore, AMD is a more affordable choice.
Input Latency refers to the lag caused after the video signal leaves the GPU and before it is displayed on the screen. For gamers, it is important to choose a display hardware that reduces this post-processing. AMD’s Free-Sync 2 monitors and Nvidia’s BFGD are great options to consider for this.
You need to have a good keyboard to ensure that your gaming experience is not ruined by stiff fingers. Before you buy a keyboard, keep the below-mentioned points in mind:
Backlighting is an important feature for gamers and most laptops designed specifically for gaming possess it. If you are buying a budget-friendly keyboard, the backlighting will probably be restricted to simple red or white. If you are able to invest more money, then there are more expensive keyboards that use RGB (red green blue) lighting for a more exciting experience. Some laptops even provide the option to customize backlighting by keys or by specific games.
Macro keys allow gamers to customize certain tasks they want to perform through specific keyboard keys and the manufacturer usually provides custom software for this.
Anti-Ghosting and N-Key Rollover
The Anti-Ghosting and N-Key Rollover feature allows gamers to mash different keys without the trouble of being registered. Moreover, the N-Key Rollover feature also allows each key to be independent, which means each key you press will be registered regardless of any other keys being simultaneously pressed.
While choosing a laptop for gaming, it is very important to know what its key travel is. Key travel refers to how far the key is pressed down. A minimum of 1.5 mm is preferred but 2 mm is even better.
Make sure to check what the actuation rate for your laptop is; this simply means how much force you need to press a key with. 65-70 gm is preferred in general, which results in the keyboard keys being not too soft or too hard to press down.
It is vital to remember that some gamers are willing to sacrifice on buying a high quality keyboard and settling for something lesser because they want to invest more in the graphics card or the processor. Your priority will determine whether you can forego a smooth keyboard experience; in that case, you can easily disregard the above-mentioned factors.
For gamers, as far as battery life is concerned, their system needs to be plugged in at all times for the graphics card to fully function and perform well. If you want to carry your gaming laptop around and play on it without having to fear the battery running out, then there are not many options available unless you decide to play with a lower quality display. Of course, settling for a dim and inaccurate display will considerably worsen your gaming experience, so we would suggest you to simply keep the power plugged in and enjoy your gaming without relying on the battery life.
An Overview of Brands
After having a look at the essential components you need to take into account when buying or building a gaming laptop or PC, you need to go over the available brands and how far they incorporate these features into their laptops.
Below is the list of all the main competing brands and what they specialize in:
Acer is well-known as an affordable brand when hardware is concerned. Some of its products have incorporated other sleek gaming features as well, such as in the Nitro 5 that has an incredible display of 17.3 inches. Its Predator series falls in the more expensive category and boasts many cutting edge features such as a curved display and mechanical keyboard in the Predator 21X. In the more budget-friendly market, Acer provides the Aspire 5 and houses Nvidia’s MX250 as a reasonable graphics card that gives a good enough resolution at medium quality settings.
Dell produces a gaming powerhouse in the form of the Alienware Area 51m; however, this belongs to the high-end market as it’s more expensive. Cheaper options are the 15.6-inch m15 R3 and the 17.3-inch m17 R3, which have some same features but not all processor and graphics options such as the Area 51m’s. For even more budget-friendly options, Alienware is launching newer versions of Aurora, with 10th generation Intel i9 processors.
Asus has a special Republic of Gamers (ROG) brand that has developed wonderful gaming laptops like the Zephyrus. The ROG software shares device information such as temperature, storage, and RAM usage and it has another customized program that allows for RGB lighting in the keyboard.
HP produces gaming laptops under its brand Omen. It provides customers with affordable choices, such as the solid Pavilion Gaming 15. Additionally, the Omen Command Center provides device information such as GPU and CPU usage and RAM utilization; it even includes a network booster that prioritizes bandwidth.
Gigabyte and Aorus
Gigabyte provides cheaper options whereas its sub-brand Aorus produces more expensive models which are also thinner and aesthetically more appealing. Aorus even includes Command and Control for over-clocking.
Lenovo produces the Legion series that are meant specifically for gamers. The company has improved its app to focus on GPU and CPU information, along with boosting fan speeds through a button; however, there is much more room for improvement in its design; for example, the Legion Y545 has a responsive touchpad but is not ideal for gamers.
MSI produces laptops that are well-known for their sturdy bodies; however, they have recently manufactured the Stealth Thin as well, which is a sleeker model. Their Dragon Center software has smart features that control the fans and even customize keyboard lighting.
Origin is a really good option to consider if you want a customized gaming laptop. Their laptops allow gamers to choose from different colors, GPUs, over-clocked processors, and RAM.
Razer produces one of the best gaming laptops under their line named Chroma. Their designs are smart and sleek, such as the 17-inch display Razer Blade edition that is quite thin. Their keyboards have RGB lighting and even include the option of recording macro keys.
Samsung produces the Odyssey series for gamers; however, it often feels overpriced to gamers as it has no standout hardware. As far as software is concerned, the Odyssey Control Center shares useful information like GPU and CPU usage.
As a beginner to the gaming laptop/PC industry, the amount of debate and discussion on gaming hardware can be daunting at first; however, you can make smart decisions with the help of all the information provided in this article.
The most important thing to remember while doing your research is that you need to know what your priorities are and what exactly you want to invest more in and why. Once you are clear about your priorities, you can allocate your budget and energy more efficiently on to the hardware selection and upgradation.
To summarize, the following points will help you figure out what your priorities are:
One of the most import points of consideration, as mentioned before, is the graphics card you buy or that comes with your laptop or PC. As this hardware is not so easily upgradeable later on in laptops, it should be your investment’s main focus point. Both AMD and Nvidia produce good quality GPUs which means that, as a consumer, you benefit from the variety available and you also get the power to plan your budget’s affordability and efficiency, given that both have multiple products in the high-end, mid-range, and budget-friendly markets.
It’s All About the Processor
Another piece of hardware that cannot be easily upgraded later on is the CPU, so consider investing in it as well. As far as the CPU is concerned, the speed and amount of cores determines how great your gaming experience can be. Here also, two main brands dominate the market: Intel and AMD. This translates to a variety of options being available to gamers in the high-end, mid-range, and budget-friendly categories. Be assured that you can have value for your money with the multiple choices available for you to buy.
Memory for Games
For the RAM, your research and understanding of different games and their requirement will pay off. Once you know what the exact system requirements for your favorite games are, then you will be able to easily decide which RAM you want to buy depending on how much money you are ready to pitch in for it.
Storage Says it All
For all gamers, the great aspect of storage is the multiple options available that help you increase or improve your laptop or PC’s storage capacity; the two main options available are HDDs and SSDs. While the SSDs are more efficient and expensive, the HDDs are not that bad and prove to be the more budget-friendly option. However, if you still have your eye on an SSD and wish to throw in some money to improve your gaming laptop or PC’s storage capacity, you can also use both HDD and SSD simultaneously.
If you are on a very tight budget, you could choose to ignore the display quality; however, if you are avid gamer, chances are you do realize how essential the display is to your gaming experience. You can also save up and spend some money on the display quality later. This guide has given you the main features to look for when deciding what kind of display quality to opt for: refresh rates, resolution, and how it tackles tearing and input latency.
Again, a keyboard is something you can normally compromise on but we wouldn’t suggest doing so if you are a gamer; this is because as you spend hours and hours on your gaming laptop or PC, you would be ignoring the health of your fingers and hands with a low-quality keyboard. To help prevent hand and wrist fatigue, you could save up and invest in an efficient and sleek keyboard later on. We have also provided the key features you need to look out for while deciding which keyboard to buy: the actuation, backlighting, macro keys storage, n-key rollover, anti-ghosting, and key-travel. We are confident that if you follow the guidelines we have mentioned, you will end up with a great gaming PC or laptop.