There are plenty of thinks to look for in a respectable gaming laptop. You need a capable main CPU, a graphics chip to keep your games shiny, enough system RAM to keep applications stored in memory, sizeable and fast drives to store games and other files, a great screen to view the action on – and a good chassis to bear all these components.With that in mine, we've broken down our buying advice by component to help you figure out what to look for - though you can also just skip straight ahead to our review round-up.Oh, and if you're open to buying a laptop that's not been designed specifically with gaming in mind, check out our guide to the best laptops for 2017.
Which processor is best in a gaming laptop?
From Intel, the sixth-generation Core series processors (codename: Skylake) are well suited to the CPU task, but the latest seventh-generation (codename: Kaby Lake) are even more power efficient while getting the same amount of work done. You don't need a Kaby Lake chip, and it's better to go for a laptop with a more powerful processor from the previous generation (say a 6th-gen Core i7) rather than a lower-specification 7th-gen chip. As ever, our benchmark results in each review will tell you how quick a particular laptop is at various tasks.
Which graphics card should I choose?
The graphics chip is arguably the most important component of a gaming laptop, as it does most of the work when you're playing a game. Unlike a desktop PC, you usually can't upgrade the graphics card in a laptop, so it pays to get the best you can afford.Laptops with Nvidia GTX 1080, 1070, 1060 and 1050 graphics chips are currently the ones to look for. Unlike the 900M-series chips in older laptops, these new GPUs are not cut-down versions for laptops: they're the same as their desktop counterparts.The new GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti are found in slightly cheaper gaming laptops. We were expecting to see much lower prices (around £600-700) but as of yet, such laptops are still around the £1000 mark. But if you can't afford £1,000, there are still good deals to be had, so read our reviews to find out if gaming performance is up to the level you require.
What screen size do I need for a gaming laptop?
Laptop screens have improved in recent years, with screen resolutions now settling at full-HD, 1920 x 1080 pixels, and using better technology than the basic TN type found on cheap portables. Look out for IPS panels which offer wide and consistent viewing from all angles, better contrast ratio and wider colour gamuts.Don’t be misled by boasts about screen brightness – contrast ratio, especially at lower brightness settings, is far more important than dazzling your eyes with 300cd/m2 figures.
It’s also easier to find screens now with more practical anti-glare finishes, reversing the trend of high-gloss reflective panels that were once unavoidable from most brands.And you can usually ignore the trend for greater-than-HD resolution, since graphics processors struggle with UHD (4K) screens. For most gamers, 1920 x 1080 is a happy compromise between glorious on-screen detail and playable framerates.
How much storage do I need?
For storage, a solid-state drive will greatly improve the user experience when it comes to booting a PC, launching programs and opening and saving files. It won’t make your games run faster, although it may reduce any loading times between levels, and they should start up faster.
Nevertheless an SSD is always recommended, with the option of a second, traditional capacious hard disk inside to keep your games stored.
Do gaming laptops have better sound?
Some gamers like to use headphones or headsets, especially in multi-player settings, but if you don’t anticipate spending your time donning ear defenders you should still find that modern gaming laptops run quieter today. Which means you may get to appreciate the built-in stereo speakers.
Some sport brand badges to suggest bespoke audio systems – we’ve seen B&O, Dynaudio, Harman, Klipsch and Onkyo put their names to tinny laptop speakers recently – although in our experience, these are more window dressing, with some of the best sounding laptops bearing no fancy badges.
Battery life and other considerationsBattery life is perhaps less a concern for a desktop-replacement type of gaming laptop, although that’s more a historical resignation caused by the long-standing difficulty in combining fast graphics with svelte and mains-dodging laptops.
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