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Gaming Laptops: Portable Powerhouses

General, Hardware, True Custom


If you want the best gaming performance available on a computer you want a desktop PC. If you want the most bang for your buck you’re also going to want a desktop gaming PC. But what if there was something else that was important you? What if you wanted portability?

Traditionally, computer gaming has been done on desktop computers. Desktops can accept the widest variety of components and are easy to upgrade. Desktops are cheaper than laptops for the same performance specifications. However, that is changing.

It used to be that you couldn’t get desktop processors in laptops. However today, you can get laptops that rival the performance of desktop gaming computers. Sometimes these are called desktop replacements. There are even what are considered desktop workstations that provide the necessary power for AutoCAD, SolidWorks, video editing and other workstation-class applications.

What brought about this change? Well for one, laptops are incredibly popular. By some estimates, laptops make up as much as 80% of all personal computers sold. With this kind of ubiquity it’s not surprise that some consumers are demanding high gaming performance from their laptops.

You may be wondering what separates a traditional laptop from a custom gaming laptop. Just like with desktops, it’s the graphics card. Many computers, both laptops and desktops, don’t have graphics cards and just rely on the integrated graphics on their motherboard. This makes the CPU responsible for all the processing and video rendering. This is fine for most applications.

When you’re gaming, you need lots of graphics power. Integrated graphics may be able to play games that are a couple years old, at the lowest possible graphics quality setting, and then only produce just barely playable frame rates. That is if they don’t crash.

Gaming laptops, just like gaming desktops, have discrete graphics cards (i.e. they are separate from the motherboard). These cards are dedicated to producing what you see on the screen and handle all of the 3D rendering of a video game. Nvidia is the big name in the mobile graphics card market. Just like they have the GeForce GTX 9xx series for desktop graphics, they have the GeForce GTX 9xxM series for laptop graphics cards.

When you’re building a desktop gaming PC you may choose to install two or more graphics cards with Nvidia’s SLI technology. There are gaming laptops out there that have two graphics cards running in SLI, like the MSI GT80 Titan.

Two big trends in gaming hardware right now have to do with the monitor, or display. One new technology is 4K resolution. You’ll need plenty of performance to play games at this resolution! Another is Nvidia G-SYNC technology. There is a special chip on some new monitors that talks to your graphics card. This forces the monitor’s refresh rate to align with the frame rate of the graphics card. This solves the issue of screen tearing – where they don’t align. You’d be surprised but both of these technologies are available on gaming laptops!


I'm a marketing professional who loves to get down to the geeky details. When I'm not studying the latest components or industry news, I can be found biking, hiking or gaming.