Laptops and gaming don’t traditionally go together, because of the innate limitations of notebook computers. Laptops have long been the equipment of choice of businesspeople, students and professionals who are always on the go. Their needs mostly lean toward battery life and portability, rather than performance. However, in recent years, the computer industry has seen a rise in gaming laptops, which are powerful gadgets that have bigger screens, more memory, faster video cards, and bigger hard drives. Oftentimes, this would come at a tradeoff, which usually include increased bulk and weight and decreased battery life.
Several laptop manufacturers now cater to the gaming crowd by offering beefed-up notebooks that can outrun even desktop computers in terms of performance. Here are a few things you should look for when looking at gaming laptop reviews, to determine if that gaming notebook you’re eyeing is worth it.
- CPU speed and architecture. Most laptop computers are optimized for cool and quiet operation, designed with a balance of power and battery life in mind. Therefore, the architecture of mobile CPUs would not focus too much on raw processing speed, but rather more efficient power utilization. However, if you intend to use a notebook computer for gaming, you would want the fastest CPU possible, and one that can handle the processing loads required by any modern game.
- The graphics chipset. A computer’s graphics card would not only determine how sharp images will be on-screen, but will also have a direct effect on how fast video playback will be. Low- to mid-range notebook computers will usually include an integrated graphics chip, which means the graphics processing capabilities are shared with the computer’s main CPU. Gaming laptops should have a discrete graphics chip, which will take the processing load off the CPU, resulting in a faster, more efficient video gaming experience. The most popular brands of discrete graphics chipsets are those from NVIDIA and ATI. These have their own memory, and will not eat processing cycles or memory off from the computer’s main CPU and RAM.
- Memory. The computer’s random access memory or RAM would determine how much data it can process at any given time. Most modern laptops have around 1 gigabyte of memory or RAM, but if you want to run a game at the highest possible resolution with the best gameplay possible, you would be better off putting in as much RAM as you can. Most review magazines would rave about laptops with up to 4 gigabytes worth of memory (usually the maximum that most 32-bit operating systems can handle). If your computer doesn’t have enough RAM, gameplay might be slowed down, because the computer will be swapping memory to the hard drive when the physical RAM runs out of space. It’s also important to consider the speed and technology of the RAM. Most newer laptop chipsets come with faster RAM speeds, which can significantly enhance performance.
- The screen size. Laptops come in different form factors, from netbooks that are nine to 10 inches in screen size, to gigantic 17 and 19-inch laptops. Most gamers would require a wide field of vision, to be able to see everything that happens onscreen. Also, laptops meant for gaming have higher-definition than the usual laptops meant for word processing and Internet browsing.
In general, laptops meant for gaming are more expensive than regular notebook computers meant for light document use. In this particular niche, performance takes precedence over portability and battery life. Therefore, you sacrifice some features in favor of others. Notebook review sites like notebeookreview.com and reviews.cnet.com feature different categories of laptops, and these usually include notebook computers aimed at the gaming market. Brands of note are the Dell XPS and Alienware brands, which are considered to be high-end and high-performance computers. Whichever choice you go for, be sure you purchase according to your needs, and according to your budget.