Portable power: What to look for in a gaming laptop

Have you set your sights on the dazzling new Alienware M18 laptop? Purchasing a gaming laptop is not as simple as it may appear. There are many subtle aspects to consider; some of them may not be as self-evident as others.

Through this brief guide, we aim to highlight some key factors to ponder on before taking the jump to purchase, even if you are a newbie in tech buying.

Outlined below are some considerations we believe should be a part of your thought process before purchasing a new gaming laptop:

Important features to think about in a gaming laptop: How mobile do you need it to be?

Laptops are essentially built for portability. But portability often involves trade-offs in other areas of the system such as more compact cooling solutions, low powered components, limited upgradability options, and importantly, higher price to performance ratio. Therefore, ask yourself, is portability really necessary? If your answer remains yes, then read further!

Credit: Lenovo

Ensure the specs align with your gaming needs

The first logical steps involve inspecting the specifications of the gaming laptop you are considering. Does the laptop possess all the necessary specifications for your gaming needs at a desired framerate? Let’s delve a little deeper into this.

Laptop components often have power limits to reduce heat generation and power consumption. So what does this imply for you? This signifies that your bright new laptop RTX 4080 card will perform slower than its desktop equivalent, with some benchmarks showing about a 45% FPS difference at 4K. The same applies to the CPUs in laptops, which perform slower than their desktop versions.

Apart from tolerating lower performance, what about noise? Gaming laptops have a reputation for being as loud as an airplane during gaming sessions. This is because the system needs to exert harder to remove heat due to more compact cooling solutions.

Not everything is bleak though. If you have the right specifications, you can game anywhere you want provided you have access to a power socket and Wi-Fi. If your friend invites you to a gaming session, you can just bring your gaming laptop with you. You don’t need additional equipment like a monitor, keyboard, or an external audio device. It’s all integrated within your laptop itself.

It’s noteworthy how gaming laptops further decrease the power delivered by their components when not plugged in to prolong battery life. 

Credit: HP

Interested in sustainability? Look for upgradability

A significant distinction between laptops and desktops is the potential for upgrades. With most laptops, upgrades are often limited to RAM, storage options and potentially some cooling improvements in terms of thermal paste and pad applications. Laptop CPUs and GPUs are usually directly soldered onto the motherboard. In some cases, manufacturers even invert the motherboard inside the chassis, making even the limited upgrade options challenging to perform.

So, ensure you have a clear understanding of the specifications you need because once you make a purchase, you’ll have to live with the processor and graphics card combination you chose. 

Hefty or lightweight: Watch out for dimensions and weight

When it comes to gaming laptops, the formula is simple – more power usually means more weight and size. Some laptops, like the MSI Titan, can weigh over 7 pounds. Generally, the more robust the components, the more heat they generate to function appropriately. This implies that to balance the increase in heat, the heat sinks are typically larger and more efficient to properly cool the system.

Reflect on the types of games you prefer to play. If your preferences lean towards lighter games like Valorant or League of Legends, then a small, lightweight laptop with an RTX 4060 could be more than enough, saving you the added weight that comes with cooling a more powerful chip. 

Credit: MSI

Want to game without stress? Consider the warranty

This might be the least appealing option, but warranty is crucial for maintaining a functional system. If the hardware in your laptop malfunctions, the options for repair are unfortunately quite limited outside of reaching out to the manufacturer, given that most of the parts are exclusive to the laptop itself. Moreover, since laptops are portable by design, the risk of damage is considerably higher than a desktop.

Our suggestion is straightforward - if you intend to use your laptop for longer than the typical two-year period, it's crucial you get the necessary support with extended warranty periods or additional services like laptop pick-up where brands handle the delivery of dysfunctional laptops, saving you the hassle. 

In conclusion, key to making the right purchase is understanding what you want, knowing your spending limits, and considering your intended use of the gaming laptop. Keep these things in mind, and you will seldom make a wrong decision. 

For more laptop suggestions, check out our top gaming laptop picks here.

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