Gaming Laptops Buyers Guide
A gaming laptop is a great alternative to a gaming PC. The two main benefits are size and portability: a gaming laptop takes up far less space than a desktop PC and is much easier to take with you to a LAN party or on holiday. This buyers guide will teach you everything you need to know so you can pick the perfect gaming laptop.
Laptop Graphics Cards
The graphics card or GPU or is the most important component in a gaming laptop. Most laptops that are marketed for home and office use don’t even have a graphics card, instead they have a small GPU built into the CPU. It’s critical to avoid a laptop like this for gaming as they’re not powerful enough to run games smoothly.
Instead, make sure you choose a true gaming laptop with an NVIDIA GeForce graphics card. These are available in a wide variety of models at different prices, with a faster and more powerful graphics enabling your laptop to run more demanding games at higher quality settings at a smooth frame rate.
The NVIDIA GeForce range comprises over half a dozen models. To make the selection process easier, we’ve divided all the GPUs into four main categories in descending performance: High-End, Mid-Range and Entry-Level.
NVIDIA GeForce RTX Graphics Cards
The most powerful and advanced NVIDIA gaming graphics cards belong to the GeForce RTX 40-series. The range comprises close to a dozen models spanning all the way from Entry-Level GPUs costing hundreds of pounds all the way up to Ultra-High-End GPUs that cost over a thousand pounds.
DXR Real Time Ray Tracing
GeForce RTX 40-series GPU are based on the Ada Lovelace architecture. Launched in early 2023, Ada Lovelace enables real time ray traced graphics in games. Unlike traditional rasterised graphics, ray tracing simulates how light beams and shadows actually work, providing far more rich and realistic graphics. While ray tracing as a technique has been used for decades in pre-rendered films, what makes Ada Lovelace GPUs unique is that they are powerful enough to produce ray traced graphics in real time.
The RT cores in GeForce RTX GPUs work with Microsoft DXR to enable stunning ray traced graphics.
GeForce RTX 40-series GPUs also support the latest Microsoft DirectX 12 Ultimate standard, which further improves DXR ray tracing as well as adding three new rendering techniques.
Variable Rate Shading
VRS enables games to dynamically change the rate at which they shade different parts of a scene. For instance, as the human eye can’t pick up as much detail on fast moving objects as slower moving objects, fast moving objects can be shaded at a slower rate than the rest of the scene, freeing up the GPU to render the whole scene faster.
Mesh Shading is a similar concept to VRS and is a way of dynamically changing the amount of geometric detail on peripheral objects, freeing up the CPU to focus on other tasks.
Sampler Feedback is a new method of saving the GPU from non-essential rendering. The concept is that rather than rendering every frame from scratch, there are frequently lots of objects that barely change in colour or size between several frames. Sampler Feedback analysis these objects and cuts down how often they are rendered, saving the GPU from rendering them every frame, and enabling it to focus on more visibly beneficial tasks.
DLSS 1 and 2
DLSS 1 uses a technique called Super Resolution to upscale frames from a low resolution to a high resolution. DLSS 2 employs temporal anti-aliasing upsampling (TAUU) to improve image quality and performance and is supported in hundreds of games.
DLSS 3 builds on these upscaling techniques but is even faster as it can create entirely new frames, interspersed between Super Resolution frames. This new Frame Generation technology uses the Tensor cores unique to NVIDIA RTX GPUs and can even boost the performance in CPU limited games such as flight simulators.
Traditionally the CPU is only able to send and receive data from the graphics card’s memory in small chunks over the PCIe bus. Resizable BAR unlocks the full potential of PCIe, enabling larger transfers and concurrent transfers in parallel. In supported games this can boost performance by as much as 12%. To enable resizable BAR you’ll need a compatible CPU and motherboard, with more being added to all the time via BIOS updates.
RTX Voice is a plugin for popular voice communication applications such as Discord and Skype, and is also compatible with streaming programs such as OBS Studio and XSplit. RTX Voice employs AI algorithms to intelligently remove unwanted background noise, improving the user experience.
NVIDIA Reflex delivers the ultimate competitive advantage.
The lowest latency. The best responsiveness. Powered by GeForce RTX 30 Series GPUs and NVIDIA® G-SYNC® monitors.
Acquire targets faster, react quicker, and increase aim precision through a revolutionary suite of technologies to measure and optimize system latency for competitive games.
NVIDIA Broadcast is a new software suite aimed at streamers offering AI enhanced features designed to set your broadcasting apart. Firstly, removal of background noise from your microphone feed, be it a dog barking or the doorbell ringing, ensures a clear transmission. You can also create a virtual background - removing the natural backdrop of your camera feed and replacing it with game footage or other imagery. Finally, the auto frame function zooms in on you and uses AI to track your head movements, keeping you at the centre of the action even as you shift from side to side. With these three great features, NVIDIA Broadcast is like having your own professional studio and cameraperson.
NVIDA RTX IO is a suite of technologies that enable rapid GPU-based loading and game asset decompression, accelerating performance for NVMe SSDs. When used with Microsoft’s new DirectStorage for Windows API, RTX IO bypasses the CPU and RAM, delivering data directly from the SSD to the GPU VRAM, improving frame rates and enabling near-instantaneous game loading.
NVIDIA Omniverse Machinima ensures creating rich and compelling machinima content has never been easier. Through NVIDIA Omniverse, creators can import assets from supported games and many third party asset libraries into the platform. Tools for character posture, voice and facial construction work seamlessly with background and scene creation facets to result in physically accurate and dynamic content.
Powered by AI Dynamic Boost 2.0 intelligently manages power between the GPU and CPU to improve performance
Powered by AI Whisper Mode 2.0 adjusts GPU and CPU power consumption to provide greater fan control and lower noise.
NVIDIA Graphics Card Summary
Still not sure which NVIDIA GeForce graphics card is right for you? This table shows the key characteristics, rated out of 10, of the main models.
|RTX 3080 TI
|RTX 3070 TI
|RTX 3050 TI
*Laptop also has to support VR, not just the graphics card
Size & Weight
The next decision you need to make is what screen size you want in your laptop. The two most popular sizes are 15.6” and 17.3”, with a handful of smaller and larger sizes also available. While a larger screen is obviously more immersive for gaming, it does come at the expensive of weight, so if you’re going to take your laptop around with you a lot a smaller screen is advisable.
It’s also a good idea to look at the weight and thickness of the laptop. High-end laptops tend to be made from lightweight metal, whereas cheaper laptops are made from heavier plastic. You’ll also pay a premium for thinner laptops versus a thicker bulkier laptop.
This table compares the key physical specs of two 15.6in laptops from the same manufacturer, the laptop on the left is the standard Raider model, with the premium thin and light Stealth model on the right.
Laptop Screen Resolution
It’s also worth thinking about the screen, after all you’re going to be staring at it a lot whether you’re working or playing. We wouldn’t recommend a laptop with a screen resolution lower than 1920 x 1080, also known as FullHD, as anything lower than this will look pixelated and blocky. However, its equally important that the graphics card is powerful enough to run games smoothly at the screen’s native resolution. For instance, we’d only recommend a 4K screen with a high-end graphics card.
Most gaming laptops also have at least one graphics output for you to connect external monitor(s). Check out the Specifications tab on the product page on the Scan website to find out how many DisplayPort and HDMI ports each laptop has.
Laptop Screen Refresh Rate
The higher the refresh rate of the screen that faster is redraws the action. This is essential for fast paced competitive online games such as CS: GO and Fortnite which tend to run at a high frame rate, but less critical for high fidelity single player games which tend to run at a lower frame rate. The bare minimum in terms of screen refresh rate is 60Hz, with different manufacturers offering a multitude of higher refresh rate screens such as 120Hz, 240Hz and 300Hz.
The video above shows the benefits of a higher refresh rate, with the game running at 60Hz on the left side of the screen and 300Hz on the right. Note how much smoother the game appears at 300Hz.
Gaming Laptop Processors
Although of secondary importance to the graphics card, it’s still important to choose a gaming laptop with a suitable processor. There is wide change to choose from but you’ll be fine as long as you choose either a laptop with either an AMD Ryzen 5, 7 or 9 or an Intel Core i5, i7 or i9 processor. For a pure gaming system any one of those processors is more than up for the job, but if you’re going to be using the laptop for other tasks such as streaming, editing videos or the like its worth opting for high-end processor as they have more cores and threads.
MID-RANGE -> HIGH-END
MID-RANGE -> HIGH-END
Gaming Laptop Memory
It’s important to have sufficient system memory or RAM in your laptop, if you don’t games will stutter at inopportune moments putting you off your aim. We recommend the following memory configurations, but don’t forget you can upgrade the memory in most laptops later if required.
(Streaming while gaming)
(Games like Destiny 2 and GTA V )
(Games like Minecraft and CS: GO)
Gaming Laptop Storage
An SSD is essential in a gaming laptop, not just to make games load fast but also because they consume less power than a hard disk, helping to boost battery life and weigh less too. We recommend a laptop with at least a 500GB SSD or larger, as with games taking up more space every generation, you can never really have too large an SSD in your laptop. If you do run out of storage space, many laptops will have a spare M.2 slot or 2.5in bay to add in another SSD. However, this isn’t always possible with thin and light laptops, so check the specs carefully before buying an extra SSD.
Gaming Laptop Keyboards
Every gaming laptop includes a compact keyboard, many of which also include RGB backlighting. Some high-end gaming laptops even have superior keyboards with mechanical switches instead of rubber some switches. While these inevitably won’t provide as much feedback as a desktop keyboard due to the far shorter travel distance, they’re still worth keeping an eye out for.
If you’re a competitive gamer or can’t stomach the built-in keyboard it’s not the end of the world. You can simply plug in any USB keyboard to your gaming laptop. To find out which gaming keyboard is right for you read our Gaming Keyboard Buyers Guide.
GAMING KEYBOARD BUYERS GUIDE
Touchpads and Mice
While every laptop includes a touchpad in front of the keyboard they’re only really usable for everyday Windows tasks such as web browsing and word processing. We strongly advise investing in a gaming mouse to make the most of your gaming laptop. To find out which gaming keyboard is right for you read our Gaming Mice Buyers Guide.GAMING MICE BUYERS GUIDE
Speakers and Headsets
Although every laptop includes speakers, because these are integrated into the underside or sides of the laptop and feature tiny drivers the sound quality and maximum volume usually leaves a lot to be desired. Besides which, if you’re playing online games you’ll want a headset with built in microphone so you can chat with friends and taunt your enemies.BROWSE OUR RANGE OF WIRED & WIRELESS HEADSETS
Gaming Laptop Bags
If you’re planning on taking your laptop with you on the road make sure you invest in a good quality bag. This not only makes carrying the laptop and accessories such as mouse and headset a lot more convenient, but also will protect it from damage. We stock a wide range of backpack and executive style laptop bags at a wide range of price points.BROWSE OUR RANGE OF LAPTOP BAGS
Gaming Laptop Coolers
Finally, if you’re finding your laptop runs a bit on the hot side a laptop cooler could be worth looking into. These slim laptop stands lift the laptop off the desk by a few millimetres and provide extra cooling for the laptop via an embedded fan. As an added bonus, most laptop stands also tilt the laptop slightly forwards, making typing more comfortable. We stock a wide range of laptop coolers in a variety of sizes.BROWSE OUR RANGE OF LAPTOP COOLERS
The Best Gaming Laptops
There you have it, everything you need to know about choosing a new gaming laptop. We sell a wide variety of models from top laptop brands such as Asus, MSI and Razer plus customisable laptops from our very own 3XS Systems.
We hope you've found this buyer’s guide helpful. Don't hesitate to contact one of our friendly advisors if you still have questions on how to select the perfect gaming laptop. If you’re all set to go we recommend checking out these top gaming laptops.