Which gaming-laptop is the very best? We've tested six of the craziest machines on the market.
Forget about the gaming consoles you connect to your TV. Their inner workings are often not powerful enough to handle heavy games at an adequate resolution and velocity. Real gamers play on PCs!
Unfortunately, PC gaming also means that you are bound to a large, heavy and noisy case that contains the powerful hardware. The same hardware takes up space, is pretty noisy, and generates tremendous amount of heat, which in desktop computers can be addressed with water cooling and large fans. But what if you don’t want to have a huge, energy-consuming box, are happy to bring things with you, and really just want to be able to play and work on the same machine? If that’s the case, you should consider a gaming-laptop. Several companies are competing for the customers’ affection, and the selection is greater than ever. Unfortunately, you must compromise in certain areas.
Being compact is expensive: Due to its size, the machine becomes considerably more expensive than a desktop in the same class.
The smaller chassis also means that it is harder for the processor, and especially the GPU, to get rid of the heat. It means a lot of fan cooling from small, fast and noisy fans.
And last, but not least, most laptops are an all-in-one solution where everything is integrated into the base card, and where there is little to no upgrade possibility, especially when it comes to the graphics card.
If these limitations are OK for you, there is still plenty to choose from. We’ve tested six different laptops, all of which can both be used as a workhorse as well as a gaming-laptop. All are equipped with newer Core i7 processors from Intel, plenty of RAM, and graphics cards from Nvidia’s latest Geforce GTX 10 series. They are priced accordingly. But let’s go back to the introduction. Why use a PC for gaming at all? There are a couple of good reasons for this.
A particularly important factor when talking about gaming is the image speed, called FPS (frames per second). If the graphics are choppy, it doesn’t just look bad. In 3D shoot ’em ups, this can mean certain death. Most new PC’s have plenty of processing power and RAM. The bottleneck today is the built-in graphics card, also called the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). If you have a powerful graphics card, you have come a long way. Add a little extra RAM, and you’re where you want to be.
Where the latest console generation has not yet settled on Full HD, due to the inner workings simply not being powerful enough, unless we are satisfied with 30 fps, PC games are better accustomed to Full HD and 60 fps. In fact, we are getting there with higher resolutions and are heading towards 4K. There is still some ways to 4K though, and it requires more than a single Geforce GTX 1080 graphics card (the current top model from Nvidia) to run the latest games in UHD. For this reason, we are puzzled that several of the test laptops are equipped with panels that have a much higher resolution than 1080p, but with graphics cards that cannot provide a satisfactory frame rate at these resolutions. If you want to game in 4K, we recommend a Geforce GTX 1080u as a minimum, or possibly two GTX 1080 – solutions which as of right now exlude laptops. At least if you disregard the extreme machines that are as hard to carry as they are affordable.
The games have changed
Fortunately, you can achieve a satisfactory speed on a laptop by adjusting the game’s graphic settings. A lot of things have happened in this area over the last ten years. While there was once a world of difference between the lowest and highest graphic settings in a game, the differences today are far more subtle and lies in the details. The main reason for this is the more powerful hardware. When you turn on the “Very High” and “Ultra”, you get a higher resolution on textures, softer and nicer looking shadows, rounded edges (anti-aliasing), and so on. Normally, we set everything to a maximum when we test a gaming PC, but it is something we have had to compromise. Fortunately, picture quality is not reduced significantly and this issue is only vital for the most demanding games.
Laptop vs. portable
We call them laptops, but a couple of the test’s machines both weigh more and are larger than what we normally associate a modern laptop with. Add to that, several of them simply do not perform optimally if they don’t have a constant power supply. Maybe the term movable is more appropriate. The reason for this is the graphics card, which either cannot draw enough power from the built-in battery, or simply drains it in no time if allowed to do so. Again a compromise that must be taken into account when dealing with this heavyweight class.
Yes, but, what now if I’m not playing games?
If you are not at all interested in games but continued reading until now, the monster machines can thankfully be used for other things. They are modern PCs in the absolute top class, which can handle even the most difficult computational tasks without breaking a sweat. They manage this due to top processors and generous amounts of RAM. However, since you have no use for the graphics card on ordinary Windows graphics, it feels like having a Ferrari just so you can drive down to the bakery on the corner. When it comes to graphics and video software designed to take advantage of the sheer power in the GPU, the gaming laptops come into their own. This applies to for example the Adobe Creative Suite programmes. If that’s the reason (or the excuse) of acquiring a gaming PC, you should look for one that also has QHD or 4K-resolution on the screen.