Anybody that has read my blog will realize that I’m a gamer. I enjoy all types of games on all types of systems and that includes the PC. My house has two gaming PC’s in it; my pervious setup and the one I just finished building a few months ago. This allows my family to play games together. Right now my son and I are playing Destiny 2 and I must say, if you’ve never tried it on a PC, you should.
My father has played with us on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One; recently he decided to join us in Destiny 2 and Overwatch on the PC, but he didn’t already own a machine with a GPU. My parents are retired and like to travel in their RV so he wanted something that could go with him. Gaming laptops are tricky to choose. There are a lot of systems out there that claim to be able to handle AAA games, but many really can’t unless you’re willing to turn the graphics down to low and make other sacrifices.
So it comes down to specs, but as usual the marketing people who work for the manufactures know that you’re looking at specs and muddy the waters with a bunch of useless jargon. In the end you’re looking for:
- CPU – The calculating brains of the system. You’ll want an Intel Core i-5 or higher or an AMD Ryzen processor. Celeron, Atoms, and other names are lacking the floating point co-processor, extra cache, and fast lanes that are required to play intense games.
- Memory – You’ll need at least 8 GB of RAM, but I recommend 16 GB if you can afford it. Especially if you want to have YouTube or music streaming in the background or like to broadcast your game play.
- Storage – Modern laptops offer choices between SSDs, Physical Hard Disks, or both. SSD drives are usually lower in capacity but much, much faster than old school hard drives. This means your games load faster and load screens between sections are quicker. Games can be very large though; Battelfield 1 is a whopping 70 GB so capacity can be an issue if you plan on installing more than one AAA title at a time. I like the systems that offer both, you can put the game you are currently playing on the fast SSD and move your others to the large capacity physical drive. To save money get a system with just an SSD and put your own physical drive in it later (requires two hard drives slots).
- GPU – The graphics processing unit is what determines how well your game will look and how many frames per second it can play at. Laptop GPU’s have the same or similar names to their desktop counter parts, but they do not have the same power. A laptop Nvidia 1050 cannot run Destiny 2 in 4k at 60FPS but the desktop version can. I only mention this so your expectations are realistic. You are looking for an Nvidia or AMD GPU and the higher its number the better. Intel GPUs are not suited for AAA games, you might be able to get them to play but only by turning down the level of graphics to their minimums. In addition to the type of GPU, you’ll want to pay attention to how much video RAM is dedicated to it. Aim for 4GB or more.
There are a lot of choices in the market right now. All the major manufactures like Dell, HP, and Lenovo make dedicated gaming laptops and several make business class systems that include a GPU so you can work and play on the same computer. The newly released Microsoft Surface Book 2 can be purchased with an Nvidia GPU that makes it suitable for gaming. Any of them are fine, just watch the specs I’ve mentioned above.
In the end my father settled on the Lenovo Y700; it is a dedicated gaming laptop but isn’t quite as large as some of the other systems. His has and Intel Core i-7, 16GB of RAM, a 250GB SSD, and Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 with 4GB of VRAM. This laptop also has a 15″ 4k screen so it can run some games at their highest resolution without connecting to a TV. It’s keyboard includes a dedicated number pad so if you’re wanting a system that can double as your work laptop this one will fit the bill.
It can easily run Overwatch at 4K 60FPS on medium but I have to turn Destiny 2 down to 1080P to reach 60 FPS. He’s been very pleased with it and the price was exceptional. Most gaming systems with these kinds of specs end up in the $1100 – $1500 price range but he picked this one up at Costco for $800.