What features are important when buying a gaming laptop?
Buying a laptop is arguably one of the biggest decisions a gamer can make. Since they're not upgradeable and are usually more expensive than comparably specced desktops, it's a big purchase that needs to last you a good few years. So, asking what the most important features to look out for with your next upgrade, is important.
The answer to that question is quite a personal one, with the types of games you play, the type of gamer you are, and your overall budget all important considerations in deciding what's most important for you. But outside of those points, there are some universal truths about a gaming laptop that is worth knowing.
Good graphics are a must
The most important component in any gamer's PC, desktop or laptop, is its graphics chip. That core drives all of the pretty pixels on your display, making it possible to play everything from the latest AAA titles, to pixelated indie games of yesteryear.
But you don't need the best graphics card in the world to play most games, and with game developers publishing minimum and recommended specifications for their new releases, you can tailor your laptop purchase to the kind of games you want to play.
If you only play games that are 10+ years old, or have particularly low graphical demands, you might be able to buy a non-gaming laptop. They often come with decent CPUs and relatively-capable onboard graphics that can handle non-demanding games and there are some that come with entry-level graphics processors (GPU) that can deliver greater frame rates or add a little more detail to your games.
These tend to be lighter and have longer battery life than gaming-focused laptops with powerful GPUs under the hood, too, so can be a more portable gaming solution for those who want to game on the move.
If you want to play modern AAA games, or are interested in higher frame rates (see the display section below for more detail), you will need a more powerful graphics chip. The Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti is a great starting point, offering solid mid-tier gaming performance at a relatively low cost. The Chillblast Defiant 17-inch gaming laptop starts at just £1,570 and comes with that GPU, a powerful CPU, and plenty of memory.
For AAA gamers who want to take advantage of the latest ray-tracing, but don't mind sacrificing a little screen space to do it, there's also the Chillblast Ascension. A 15-inch behemoth of a gaming laptop, it packs the powerful Nvidia RTX 2060 alongside a desktop-grade i5-9600K processor.
The display is (almost) everything
It's no good having a super-powered laptop for gaming if your display is bad. This is where you'll often see budget gaming laptops fall down, as good quality screens are expensive. But if you care about in-game visuals, then getting a laptop with a decent display is of paramount importance.
Although many companies will market the resolution of their display above all, it's not as important as you might think. 1080p still looks fantastic on 15 and 17-inch screens, and 4K is typically a waste at that size. It's also a massive drain on battery life and a big resource hog for your GPU. Sub-4K screens are typically a far smarter buy, although if you also do photo manipulation or want to watch 4K video, then paying for the extra pixels may be worth it for you.
A much more important consideration for a gaming laptop is refresh rate, typically listed in Hz. The average display will run at 60Hz, meaning it can display up to 60 frames per second. Faster gaming displays can reach 144, 240, or even 300Hz on some laptops. While the latter of those is overkill, there's a big advantage in moving to 144Hz over 60Hz. It improves the smoothness of games and desktop mouse movements, it reduces input lag for a more competitive edge, and it can help alleviate visual quality dips with better motion resolution.
If you like your colours to pop and your black and whites to be deep and sharp, then you'll also want to aim for an IPS panel. These don't always offer the same high-refresh rates as VA or TN panels, but there are some out there (we use a 144Hz, IPS display on our Ascension gaming laptops) and they make game worlds, videos, and images look far more rich than their TN counterparts.
HDR support is a nice touch too, but is still quite rare and you may find that support adds unneeded cost to your laptop purchase. Not all games support it and as long as your IPS screen has a decent brightness, 350 nits or above, it should still have good contrast between blacks and whites, and offer vibrant colours.
It's also worth considering whether your laptop supports Freesync or Gsync, depending on your GPU manufacturer. These technologies help alleviate screen tearing and guarantee a minimum quality for your laptop's display. It's not a must, but is often included in well-rounded gaming laptops. If you can get the feature without spending much more, we'd certainly recommend it.
Gaming on the go? You'll need plenty of juice
One of the biggest advantages of gaming on a laptop rather than a desktop (although that debate is far from settled) is that they're portable. That means that whether you're on a train or plane, you can game on the way. And if you're going to a LAN party, you don't need to bring anything but the laptop with you.
But all that can mean you're away from a power socket for a while, and that means you're reliant on the built-in battery to keep you gaming. That's fine if you're gaming laptop has a sizeable battery, but many of the most powerful systems can't last more than a few hours.
Fortunately, many modern gaming laptops are built with portability in mind, which along with lower weight and physical footprints, means that their batteries last longer too. Our laptops have varied battery life depending on the hardware configuration, but all of them guarantee a good number of hours of heavy use away from a power socket, so you needn't worry about your system shutting down at the most intense of times.
Where you buy it from
Buying a laptop is a big decision, no matter how much research you do. That's why where you buy it from can be just as important as what you buy. While we're a little biased, we believe that we offer a unique purchasing experience at Chillblast. Not only can you get expert advice at the point of purchase on what your particular needs are, but we offer unlimited support after the fact too. Struggling to install some software? Give us a call. Need help getting a game working? We're only an email away.
We also offer a five-year warranty on all laptop purchases, so if you run into any hardware issues during that time, we'll be more than happy to help get your system back on its feet again.
If you're ready to buy a laptop, or just want to chat about it some more, give us a call on 01202 068 333, or use the information in the Contact Us menu at the top of this page.