Locating a gaming laptop that suits your needs and wallet is a lot easier now than it was a few years ago. Mobile technology is rapidly becoming smaller and more efficient at the same time, and the best part is that prices are dropping too. Just a few of years ago, laptops that were even remotely capable of gaming would cost a fortune. Even if you had that kind of money to spend on a laptop, it was hardly a good investment. Today it’s not uncommon that even lower-end notebooks come fitted with a decent graphics card that at least lets you play World of Warcraft and other less demanding games at comfy frame rates.
In effect, both supply and demand for gaming laptops is on the rise and you can find a pretty decent portable gaming machine for $1,000 or less. Sure, if you want a fully loaded Alienware gaming monster you will still have to empty your savings account and then some, but thankfully you now have a lot more choices than that.
What’s Important in a Gaming Laptop?
Being a PC gamer who made it to this site, it’s a reasonably safe assumption that you already know a thing or two about computer hardware. Most likely, you are also aware that the graphics card is the engine that drives your games. Laptops are no exception, but the technology is adapted to a completely different setting.
Compared to desktop PCs, the space inside a laptop is extremely restricted. It can be hard enough to move hot air away from the GPU in a full-size tower case, and in the confines of a laptop it gets even warmer. Therefore, laptop GPUs are not only scaled-down variants of their desktop counterparts, but they are also underclocked. For example, the mid-range ATI Mobility Radeon 4650 has chip/memory clocks at 575MHz and 800MHz respectively while the desktop 4650 has 600MHz/1000MHz clocks. Now this shouldn’t deter you from getting a gaming laptop, but it might be good to know that it’s no apples-to-apples comparison.
What About the Rest?
Even though the graphics card is the most important part of a gaming laptop, the rest of the system is no less important. A much too slow processor has a tendency to “bottleneck” the GPU and reduce frame rates in games. The same is true for the memory speeds, but to a lesser extent. For the best possible speed and energy efficiency, Intel is well ahead of AMD right now. And with the launch of the new Core i7 for laptops, the gap will be even larger for the foreseeable future.
Don’t count AMD out, however – historically speaking the semiconductor industry is not easy to predict. Besides the company is doing well enough in the budget segment. If you want a reasonably cheap but fully adequate notebook for gaming, by all means look at AMDs dual-core Turion lineup.
Memory speeds and timings do not have the same impact on the end result (in this case, frame rates) as the CPU. DDR3 is the latest in memory technology, but in laptops it doesn’t make as much difference as in desktops – the clock speeds are generally lower, and so far no laptop can use it in triple channel configuration. Of course, every small speed bump counts, and if you want the latest tech DDR3 is the way to go.