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Gaming laptops have been steadily improving every year and can now even compete with the power of a desktop PC. So, it’s no wonder why more and more people are interested in purchasing a gaming laptop. But are they worth the money?
Depending on your specific needs, gaming laptops are completely worth it. They now have enough battery life to compete with ultrabooks and enough power to compete with desktop-class hardware. However, if you want powerful hardware, great battery life, and a thin and light design all in one laptop, it can get a bit pricey.
What is a Gaming Laptop?
A gaming laptop is a laptop designed specifically for playing video games and rendering heavy 3D images. Playing video games on a laptop requires special, dedicated hardware to be able to render games at fast rates and provide a good gaming experience. Typically, a gaming laptop will have a fast CPU, a dedicated GPU, at least 16GB of fast Ram, and a nice fast SSD for storage.
Gaming laptops also tend to have flashier designs that draw attention to them. However, the landscape of a gaming laptop is changing, and many of them look very professional and could be taken to the office.
Related: 8 Gaming Laptops That Don’t Look Like One
Can You Play Games on a Normal Laptop?
Since a normal laptop does not have a dedicated graphics card and limited Ram, there are very few games that you can play. Even with the lightest new games, you are going to have to turn the visual quality settings down to the lowest possible so your laptop is able to render the game.
Normal laptops will be able to play old games from the GameBoy, GameBoy Color, Nintendo DS, PS1, PS2, GameCube, and Wii era. However, if you want to play anything relatively new, such as the latest AAA titles like Cyberpunk 2077 and Red Dead Redemption 2, you are going to need a dedicated gaming laptop.
How is a Gaming Laptop Different From a Normal Laptop?
The main difference between a gaming laptop and a normal laptop is that a gaming laptop has a dedicated graphics card (GPU) that helps process graphics at a much faster rate than a standard graphics card inside a normal laptop. This allows a gaming laptop to render 3D graphics at a rate several times faster than that of a normal laptop.
Aside from the GPU, gaming laptops tend to have a top of the line CPU (Intel 12th gen and AMD Ryzen 6000 Series is currently the best laptop CPUs can get right now), more RAM that is faster (16gb-32GB at 3200mhz+), and will typically have a fast, large SSD (1+ TB) to hold all your games on.
How Much Does a Gaming Laptop Cost?
A premium gaming laptop that has a great build quality and can run all the latest games at competitive frames per second and high resolutions will typically be $2,000+.
An average gaming laptop will be able to run all the latest games but will lack having either the best build quality or performance compared to a premium gaming laptop and will be roughly $1,200-$2,000.
Budget gaming laptops may have trouble running the latest AAA games but would be great options for esports gamers. These options will typically be in the $600-$1,200 range.
Why You Should Buy a Gaming Laptop
Gaming Laptops are Nearly as Powerful as Gaming Desktops
With the introduction of the laptop RTX 3000 series, gaming laptops have seriously caught up to desktop-level hardware in games. In the graphs below, you can see that the laptop 3060 is actually quite close to the desktop 3060!
|Game||Laptop 3060 Average FPS (1080p, High)||Desktop 3060 Average FPS (1080p, High)|
|Red Dead Redemption 2||78||84|
Battery Life Can Now Last All Day
Battery life in gaming laptops has seen a massive increase lately thanks to more efficient chips from Intel and AMD as well as software improvements. Although battery life while playing games is still going to be quite poor, battery life while doing normal tasks such as browsing the web, writing emails, and watching videos have drastically improved.
Related: 9 Gaming Laptops With Incredible Battery Life
Thanks to a nifty tool called Optimus (or Advanced Optimus), gaming laptops can now switch between using the dedicated GPU and the iGPU. The dedicated GPU will want to use a lot of power, and therefore drain lots of battery. Optimus will automatically switch to the iGPU, which is a lot more efficient and not power-hungry while doing simple tasks that don’t require the full dedicated GPU.
This opens up the possibility to use a gaming laptop as a computer for school and work. Gaming laptops aren’t just for gaming anymore and can bring great value to your school or work if you need to do work all day. With the capability to run demanding apps such as Matlab or Solidworks, having a portable solution can bring great value for doing work on the go.
Related: Best Gaming Laptops With Advanced Optimus
High Refresh Rate Laptop Screens Are Mainstream Now
It wasn’t too long ago when the first high refresh rate screen was sandwiched into a laptop. Now, nearly every gaming laptop has a 1080p 120hz refresh or higher, even in budget gaming laptops.
On the premium end, we are beginning to see 4k screens with 120hz and the hardware to push those frame rates in games too. Not to mention that these screens often cover 100% sRGB or 100% DCI-P3 color gamut with 400-500 nits of brightness.
This means colors are going to look beautiful and accurate for anybody that needs a color-accurate panel for photo or video editing. The screen will also have ample brightness to play games or do work in the sunlight outdoors.
Oh yeah, and they are becoming increasingly fast as well. Response times of 2-4ms are quite common in this new era of laptop screens, competing with the best desktop monitors that are currently out there.
Thermal Management Has Improved A Lot
Intel’s 11800H and AMD’s Ryzen 5800H are some of the most powerful chips you could get in a laptop. And yet, we are sticking these CPUs into thin and light laptop designs. This is only possible because the chips are becoming a lot more efficient, and therefore produce less heat.
Gaming laptop manufacturers are also using new and improved thermal designs such as vapor chambers to help cool parts. In combination with liquid metal, which is an improvement over the regular thermal paste, we see that gaming laptop temperatures are consistently getting lower and designs are getting thinner and smaller.
Related: 6 Gaming Laptops That Produce Less Heat
Gaming Laptops Are Getting Thin & Light
A clear advantage a gaming laptop has over a desktop computer is that you can take it with you wherever you go. And gone are the days where gaming laptops had to be massive chonkers that required a strict workout regiment just to carry them around.
There are plenty of portable gaming rigs these days that could even pass as a professional laptop for school and work. With a sleek design, and thin and light chassis you can drop an Asus Zephyrus G14 in your bag and not even think twice about it.
Related: Best Thin & Light Gaming Laptops: 7 Picks
Desktop GPU Prices Are Crazy Expensive Right Now
I mean, gosh…have you seen desktop GPU prices right now?! If you haven’t, take a look at Amazon and you’ll see that prices are astronomical lately, even for “budget” GPUs.
Due to the current supply chain issue, it is looking like the GPU shortage (and increased prices) is going to continue through 2023. Since now is not the ideal time to purchase a desktop GPU for your custom-built computer, it may be time to start looking into a gaming laptop.
Since it is nearly as powerful, you can always purchase a good gaming monitor to plug the laptop into and treat it similarly to a desktop experience. Then, if needed the laptop can be unlocked and taken on the go for a great portable gaming experience.
Gaming Laptops Don’t Have to be Expensive
Who said gaming laptops have to be expensive? In fact, budget gaming laptops have gotten really good lately. You can easily grab a gaming laptop for under $1,000 that will provide a quality gaming experience.
Not only will it come with enough power to run the latest games, but you can find budget gaming laptops with high refresh rate screens, good battery life, and something that isn’t too bulky. Sure, you may have to sacrifice the visual quality of the game. But if you are gaming on a budget, these laptops will provide more than enough of an enjoyable experience for it to be worth it.
Related: 5 Best Gaming Laptops Under 750 Bucks
Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Gaming Laptop
Gaming Laptops Are Only Partially Upgradeable
While most gaming laptops have some components that are upgradeable, there are many components that you cannot upgrade. Typically, you can upgrade the RAM, SSD, and wifi card. However, make sure to double-check with each individual laptop manufacturer to see exactly what is upgradeable.
When compared to a desktop PC, this is definitely one con to owning a laptop. With a desktop, you can upgrade every single piece of hardware (GPU, CPU, motherboard, RAM, etc.). So rather than having to purchase an entirely new computer, you can slowly upgrade what you need over time.
Gaming Laptops Are Loud
Gaming laptops are notorious for sounding like an airplane taking off when you play games on them. This is due to the components becoming quite hot when being pushed hard to render 3D images.
The fans inside gaming laptops are used to help cool down the interior components that get quite hot. This is to prevent thermal throttling, which means the computer will slow itself down to prevent the laptop from overheating.
Although gaming laptops are producing less heat from more efficient chips, they are also getting thinner and lighter. So there is a tradeoff in that the laptops fans will have to ramp up more than normal to help cool the machine down.
Laptop manufacturers have really stepped up their game in terms of cooling systems inside these machines, however, we aren’t at the point where they are considered “quiet” while gaming.
Just to note, almost all gaming laptops have different performance settings that allow you to control the noise of the laptop. By setting it to the “quiet” setting, generally, the laptop will be quiet, even when playing games. This will certainly drop your performance and won’t result in the same frames per second as compared to the “performance” mode. But, if you need a quiet laptop, there will be options to help you achieve that.
Gaming Laptops Are a Long Term Investment
Typically a gaming laptop will last you between 3-5 years. This of course depends on the specs you purchased and what kind of games you like to play.
The relatively new RTX 3000 series in laptops have an astonishing amount of power for a laptop. Combined with Ryzen 5000 (6000 was just announced and should provide an even further boost), new gaming laptops are pushing frame rates unseen before on common laptops.
If you like to play esports titles such as Fortnite, COD Warzone, and Apex Legends, a current gaming laptop can last you 5 years and beyond. Esports titles are typically not very demanding relative to large AAA games such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Red Dead Redemption 2, just to name a few.
If you want to play the latest big demanding games at high resolutions and 60+ frames per second, you will probably have to get a new laptop every 3 or 4 years.
Frequently Asked Questions About Gaming Laptops
Are Gaming Laptops Good For School And Work?
Yes, gaming laptops have more than enough power to tackle any schoolwork or heavy professional programs such as AutoCAD or blender. On top of that, battery life has gotten much better and can provide an all-day battery life experience when performing lighter tasks for work.
Are Gaming Laptops or Consoles Better?
Both a gaming laptop and a console can provide a high-quality gaming experience. Most gaming laptop owners enjoy the freedom a PC brings, as well as you will only need one device to do school, work, and games.
Whereas, if you own a gaming console, you will also need a separate computer to complete any other normal tasks you might need to do in your life. This is reflected in the price of the machines, though, as a console is much cheaper than a gaming laptop will be.
If you travel a lot, you should consider a gaming laptop over a console. On the contrary, if you don’t need a laptop to do school or work, then a cheaper gaming console may be the best option for you.
Do Gaming Laptops Overheat?
Most gaming laptops that have come out in recent years will not overheat. However, there are some ultra-thin and light designs that will not be able to handle the powerful components inside them.
To make sure you get a laptop that does not overheat, check out our list of gaming laptops that produce less heat.
Related: 6 Gaming Laptops That Produce Less Heat
How Long Do Gaming Laptops Last?
A solid, premium laptop will last you between 5-7+ years, depending on the components you purchased. An average or budget gaming laptop will typically last between 3-5 years.
The lifetime of a gaming laptop is determined more by the games you like to play and the settings you are willing to sacrifice than it is by the components in the laptop.
What Is The Best Gaming Laptop?
The writers at Smash Gadget have found the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 to be the best all-around gaming laptop in 2023. It is powerful, has great battery life, and has a thin and light design. Overall, this is the best option on the market for most gamers.
Do You Need A Cooling Pad?
Most gaming laptops don’t require a cooling pad. However, if you happened to get a laptop that has a bad cooling system, or has the most powerful components possible for a laptop, a cooling pad can help regulate temperatures to normal levels.
Conclusion – Should You Buy a Gaming Laptop?
There are so many options for an affordable, quality gaming experience these days. Whether you are price restricted, need the ultimate power, or need a portable gaming solution that doubles for a work laptop.
With gaming laptops lasting longer and longer due to more powerful specs and increased pricing for desktop components due to a supply chain shortage, buying a gaming laptop right now is a no-brainer.
Not to mention the new gaming laptops coming out in 2023 are going to be even better. With more power, better battery life, and potentially OLED/MiniLED screen coming to many lineups, it’s going to be a great year for gaming laptops.