This content originally appeared on Mashable for a US audience and has been adapted for the UK audience.
Serious gamers know that PC gaming is the real deal. Because high-end gaming computers pack more graphical and processing power than any home console, and offer a level of freedom in terms of customisation and game choice.
But your first foray into PC gaming can be complicated. Unlike consoles, which you can just pick up and play, gaming computers require an intense amount of research into each and every component. GPUs, CPUs, RAM, monitors, keyboards… it’s a lot to take in. And getting it right will almost certainly cost you.
Desktops deliver the best performance, but laptops fit into the modern lifestyle. A laptop allows you to take everything you want with you, and you can find a laptop that suits nearly any and every type of gamer. Whether you’re looking for a powerhouse that can run VR and 4K, or a budget option, there’s a gaming laptop for you. It’s still a head-scratcher if you don’t know what to look for in the first place. But we can help.
What do you need to know about gaming laptops?
As with any computer — gaming or otherwise — there are a lot of components involved. This is what to take into account when shopping for a gaming laptop:
CPU — Also called a processor, your CPU is basically your computer’s brain, and will dictate how speedy your laptop can process inputs, store data, and execute on outputs. Your processor is in constant communication with the other parts of your computer, so it’s important that the device’s central nervous system is a good one.
Display — That nice GPU will go to waste without a nice display to marvel at. Look for three things: resolution, refresh rate, and size. We recommend going for a 1080p resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate (which means you can run up to 60 frames per second on your screen). The size, however, is up to your preference. Gaming laptops usually come in at 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch displays.
GPU — The GPU (or graphics card) does what it sounds like it does: It ensures that your games can run at their intended graphical quality. The better the GPU, the better your laptop can render details like textures, anti-aliasing, ray tracing, and more.
Keyboard — The keyboard is another vital part of your overall experience. Comfort is a factor, but also decide on whether you want full-range RGB backlight settings, and if you like the layout of the keys. If you desperately need a number pad on your keyboard, for instance, double-check it’s got one — not all gaming laptops have one.
Storage — When it comes to storage, you’ll normally find yourself deciding between a hard drive (HDD) and a solid-state drive (SSD). HDDs can have a higher storage capacity than SSDs, but at the cost of lower performance. The good news is that some gaming laptops come with a dual-storage approach, opting for an HDD as the main storage method, with a smaller SSD built-in for performance-demanding games.
System Memory (or RAM) — Your RAM, like your CPU, is also extremely important in determining overall performance. RAM provides short-term memory storage for applications so that they can access data quickly, storing information that your computer is actively using. Don’t settle for less than 8GB.
Keep these points in mind when shopping around for your next gaming laptop.
What are the most important features in a gaming laptop?
If all those bulleted points gave you a headache and you want an even more simplified explanation, you’ll want to put most of your focus on the computer’s CPU and GPU — aka the processor and graphics card — respectively.
These are the two things that will make or break your overall experience, as they work in tandem to provide a speedy and smooth performance. If you skimp too much on either the CPU or GPU, you’ll get choppy gameplay and plenty of frustration in return, so make these components the focus of your investment.
What is the best gaming laptop?
Whether you’re a budget-focused gamer who just requires the bare minimum, or you’re someone who wants to run your games in 4K with an uncapped frame rate, we’ve highlighted a selection of laptops that will serve you well.
We’ve tracked down the best gaming laptops from top brands, with something for every gamer and budget. We recommend taking your time and considering all of the options, then picking a favourite based on what matters most to you.
These are the best gaming laptops in 2023.