Not Your Mother’s Laptop
It’s cliché to say, but true that not all laptops are created equal. Beneath the sleek form-factor and brushed aluminum, some of those PCs are simply low on processing power and memory, not worth much more than typing up term papers and updating your Facebook status. If that’s all you need, then great. But if you’re hoping to play the latest games, with screaming graphics and zero lag, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Gaming laptops are simply in a different class altogether. Whereas run-of-the-mill PCs are built to handle generic, non-intensive computing that the vast majority of users require, a portable gaming rig will have features that aim to make your laptop perform more like a powerful desktop PC. These are just some of the differences you’ll see between a laptop built for a gamer and those intended for civilian use.
The trend may be to smaller, sleeker gadgets, but a gaming machine has to walk the line between being powerful and portable, which is still a challenge in many respects. Gaming laptops tend to be larger, both for bigger, higher-resolution screens and more room for ports and other components. Often, increased cooling requirements necessitate a more powerful fan and more generous exhaust vents. This also means that gaming laptops trend toward the bulkier, heavier side; there’s no sacrificing of power for a slim form-factor with these machines.
Audio and Video Focus
Of course, there’s more of an emphasis on the quality of audio and video with a gaming laptop. Full audio features, including audio in and out ports are desirable because these machines can often support impressive sound and video editing due to more advanced on-board sound and separate video cards. Plus, they tend to be maxed out on RAM, which helps a heap when processing audio and video codices.
A respectable gaming machine should also have better-than-average speakers; you’re looking for an immersive experience, after all. It’d be a shame to spoil amazing graphics performance with tinny speakers.
Of course, the high-performance dedicated graphics card is the prime feature of any gaming machine, especially laptops. Integrated graphics has to share memory with the main system, so it has a hard time measuring up to the benchmarks of machines with a separate graphics card, which has its own memory (VRAM). All of that processing power means you can actually install and run high-performance titles that would stutter and freeze at best on a normal laptop.
Memory and Storage
Your typical laptop has maybe 4GB of RAM, which is plenty for middle-of-the-road performance. But you need 6GB minimum to even get in the door with many demanding games, and it’s not uncommon to see 8GB or more.
A lot of gamers are also looking for solid-state drives (SSDs) to eliminate the traditional disk drive as a performance bottleneck. The increasingly affordable SSDs, which are much faster and quieter, are also shock-resistant, which makes them ideal for a portable system.
Gaming Laptop Comparisons
All of these differences aside, you should really do some benchmark comparisons before you buy any type of gaming PC, or even upgrading components; it’s the robust performance that enables your laptop to support high-end games, not a flashy case or big screen. There’s a real sense with most gaming machines that it’s the real-world performance that matters. Ergonomics, appearance and even ease of portability come in a distant second at best. If your rig can’t deliver when you’re in the middle of a Zerg rush, then what’s the point of calling it a gaming laptop?
About the Author: David Malmborg works with Dell and enjoys writing about technology. In his spare time he enjoys reading, the outdoors, and spending time with his family. You can learn more about Dell’s gaming laptops here.