Gaming laptops are a serious investment, compared to a console or decent desktop set-up, but there are also clear and considerable advantages to a gaming rig you can pick up and take on the move.
While many purists will attest to the power and adaptability of a gaming PC, a good gaming laptop quite literally takes you places your desktop can’t. Even if you just need a piece of kit you can take to a friend’s house or university.
How to buy a gaming laptop
Graphics are king when buying a gaming laptop – at the very least you will want to make sure to buy a laptop with a serious graphics card (GPU) built in.
Nvidia’s GeForce series remains the most popular pick for top devices. You should look for the manufacturer’s latest chips; the new 10-series configuration or, preferably, the latest GTX 2080.
At the same time, the 1080/1070/etc provide better value (and work with games which don’t support ray-tracing yet) and can be upgraded to the 20 series at a later date.
Should I pick a desktop gaming PC or a console for gaming?
There are a few key considerations when it comes to desktop PC and gaming laptop comparisons. Firstly, that gaming laptops can be chunky and often weigh more than two kilograms, meaning some would be especially poor for daily commuting. Making an informed choice is far more important than making a choice altogether.
They are also expensive – often far more so than a customised desktop kitted out for gaming. For between £800 and £1,200 you could buy a powerful desktop rig which offers longevity and interchangeable components.
For virtual reality games you will also have to splash out on the latest gaming laptop technology, compared to the better value you could get from a gaming PC.
Nonetheless, gaming laptops have advantages when it comes to consoles like the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X as they give you access to a far broader range of titles than console-only through services like Steam. The best gaming laptops (listed below) also rival all their desktop competitors in the same price point.
Look out for a laptop with an eighth generation Kaby Lake Intel Core i5 or i7 processor (or better) for great processing power. You should also check the processor count, looking for a quad core build.
For a top graphics card, you should look for the Nvidia GTX 1060 series and better – the latest being the Nvidia GTX 2080.
Screen quality is also a key part of gaming laptops. Most gaming laptops will feature a 15.6-inch screen, while some will have a 17-inch screen (although the latter obviously starts to hinder portability).
Many new gaming laptops are now marketed with Quad HD (QHD) and 4K displays. QHD screens have resolutions of 3,200 x 1,800 pixels while 4K screens have 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. While more pixels can add more detail and depth, it does also mean the laptop will need a more powerful graphics card, which comes at a price.
Other key features:
Screen size: The optimum size for a gaming laptop for portability and visuals is a 15.6-inch screen. Anything closer to 17 inches is likely to weigh more than 3kg, getting to the point where you are sacrificing portability.
Weight: The majority of gaming laptops are heavy beasts. Consider your general use (ie will you want to travel with it once or twice a year or will it also function as your everyday work laptop, as well) to ensure you make the right choice.
Battery life: Gaming laptops are not known for their staying power and many will only last four or five hours on moderate use.
The Zephyrus GX701GXR offers everything a gaming laptop really shouldn’t be able to. Though the super slim panel is a perfect 17”, the whole thing weighs less than 3kg and is incredibly easy to carry. It is also more powerful than you could, arguably, ever need; we’re talking a 240Hz IPS-level display., 9th Gen Intel® Core™ i7 processors, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 GPU, and beyond. This gaming laptop even features the brand’s patented ROG Active Aerodynamic System, which creates extra ‘breathing room’ throughout its thin frame, leaving you with uninterrupted game play that lasts. It’s a true hardware hero.
The world’s first 144hz thin bezel gaming laptop is a bit of a master. Firstly, it’s a looker – its per-key RGB gaming keyboard (by Steelseries) and all 15.6 inches of its body is decked out in gold and black. Inside, it boasts the latest 8th Gen i7 processor, Windows 10 Home or Pro, an eight hour battery life, 360-degree virtual surround sound powered by Nahimic 3, and that all-important GeForcec GTX 1070.
As its homonym might suggest, this gaming laptop is exceptionally tough. Far more so than you’d expect at its price point. Top line, we’re looking at a quad core i5 8300H processor, 15.6-inch full HD screen, and a GTX 1050 graphics card with 4GB RAM GDDR5. The gaming laptop is more than capable to handle some heavy use and its exclusive Anti-Dust Cooling system automatically adjusts its fan speeds (pushing out all dust and grime as it goes) to boost the entire laptop’s performance and longevity.
The best super small (but super tough) gaming laptop
Razer are a brand long-favoured by gaming laptop lovers. They are multi award-winners and the latest version of their Blade 15 – now with the option for ray-tracing – should prove no exception. The thin and sturdy chassis conceals a VR-ready NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card (RTX if you opt for the advanced model), the 8th Gen i7, and complete customisation – from lighting to performance focus – which means gamers and heavy-use tech professionals alike opt for this gaming laptop.
For demanding gamers who aren’t willing to give up a grand, this Predator gaming laptop has everything you could possibly need. Nvidia’s GTX 1050 Ti graphics are smooth as can be, the i5 processor powers through heavy use, the 144 Hz frame rate performs against the most intense first-person shooters, and 1TB of storage (with a 128GB SSD) gives you more than enough room to store all your favourites. The only noticeable cost-driven compromise is battery life, which runs out in around four hours with heavy use.
If you are happy to go for a cheaper gaming laptop you will pay between £800 and £1,000 for the latest processors and the latest generation of graphics cards. However, you will likely sacrifice superior specs for storage, build and screen quality.
For between £1,000 and £1,500 you will want top i7 processors and one of the latest graphics cards. For more than £1,500 you will be looking for an elite machine with huge storage and display technology that pushes it far above the rest.