In 2023, gaming laptops are more powerful and portable than ever before, blurring the lines between desktop and mobile gaming. But with so many options on the market, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. This comprehensive guide will break down the key factors to consider when shopping for a gaming laptop, helping you find the perfect machine for your needs and budget.
Determine Your Budget
Gaming laptops range widely in price, from budget-friendly options around $800 to high-performance powerhouses exceeding $3,000. Set expectations by determining your budget upfront to narrow down your choices.
Here are some general gaming laptop price tiers to consider:
- Budget ($800-$1,200) – Entry-level gaming performance. Best for casual gaming.
- Mid-range ($1,200-$2,000) – Improved performance for smooth AAA gaming. The sweet spot for most gamers.
- High-end ($2,000-$3,000) – Premium build quality and top-tier power for maxed out gaming.
- Enthusiast ($3,000+) – Cutting edge performance and components. Overkill for many gamers.
Key Performance Components
The CPU and GPU are the two most critical components that determine gaming performance. Prioritize these elements depending on your budget.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
The CPU handles critical background processes while gaming. Aim for at least an Intel Core i5-12400H or AMD Ryzen 5 6600H for smooth gameplay in today’s demanding titles. More powerful options like the Core i7-13700H or Ryzen 7 7840H will handle even the most intensive games with ease.
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
The dedicated GPU is vital for rendering graphics and textures while gaming. For smooth 1080p gaming at high settings, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 6600M is a good baseline. For sharper 1440p gaming or higher resolutions, step up to at least an RTX 3070 Ti or RX 6800M for max settings.
Don’t Skimp on RAM and Storage
While the CPU and GPU get most of the glory, having sufficient RAM and fast storage is also critical.
Aim for at least 16GB of RAM to allow smooth multitasking while gaming. 32GB is ideal for juggling live streaming, discord, dozens of browser tabs, and the game itself without compromise.
An SSD is required over a traditional hard drive for acceptable game load times. 512GB is workable for a handful of games, but consider stepping up to a 1TB SSD if building a sizable digital library.
The display has a massive impact on the overall gaming experience. Prioritize refresh rate and visual fidelity.
A higher refresh rate (120Hz, 144Hz, 240Hz, etc.) makes gameplay appear smoother and more fluid. It also minimizes input lag for competitive online titles. Consider your target games, but at least 1080p 120Hz is recommended.
Higher resolution displays offer sharper details and visuals but require more GPU power to run well. 1080p is the most common, balancing great performance for the price. 1440p presents a middle ground for gamers wanting higher fidelity. And 4K panels deliver jaw-dropping detail for those packing top-tier hardware.
IPS displays offer the best all-around experience with wide viewing angles and color accuracy. Lesser TN panels prioritize response time but have poor off-angle visibility.
Battery Life Considerations
Gaming laptops are notoriously power-hungry, but some manage 5-6+ hours of moderate use on a charge. If mobility matters, check battery specs and tweak settings accordingly.
For example, capping FPS, lowering brightness, and enabling hybrid modes can extend endurance when away from an outlet. Just prepare for reduced performance.
Find the Right Fit and Feel
You’ll be interacting with your new laptop constantly, so make sure it suits your preferences.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Look for a comfortable, responsive keyboard and accurate trackpad. Many gaming laptops use RGB backlit mechanical keyboards prized for feedback and customization.
Prioritize these hands-on elements if you’ll use the device for everyday work too.
Weight and Dimensions
Gaming laptops range from thin and light to absolute thicc bois tipping the scales over 10 pounds. Consider your tolerance for heft if mobility is important. Significant performance trade-offs typically accompany trimmed down chassis.
Top Budget Gaming Laptops Under $1,200
Getting competent 1080p gaming power for under $1,200 is very achievable in 2023. These are some of the top options to consider if staying under budget is the priority.
Acer Nitro 5
The Nitro 5 hits the budget gaming sweet spot with respectable performance from 11th-gen Intel Core CPUs and NVIDIA RTX 3050-3060 GPU options. The 144Hz display, RGB keyboard, and aggressive gamer aesthetics complete the package. Battery life takes a backseat, but great value makes this line a perennial best seller.
ASUS TUF Gaming A15
Military-grade durability meets esports energy in the ASUS TUF series. AMD Ryzen chips and GeForce graphics offer rock-solid 1080p gameplay on the 144Hz IPS displays. Improved 2023 models are more portable as well. The TUF delivers outstanding reliability for the price point.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3
Lenovo combines its laptop engineering chops with NVIDIA graphics and high-refresh panels for an accessible gaming machine. Performance opts for a balance rather than maxing out any one spec. And an understated design skips the loud gamer flare. The result is a capable and mature option.
Exceptional Mid-Range Gaming Laptops ($1,200-$2,000)
With a budget between $1,200-$2,000, you can achieve reliable 60+ fps AAA gaming, often at 1440p resolution. These leaders set the bar for well-balanced performance and premium feel.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14
The unique 14-inch form sprinkles in powerful new Ryzen 7000 chips and RTX 4000 graphics for a potent blend of performance and portability. ASUS crafted an impressive 165Hz QHD display into the petite profile as well. Special anime matrix LEDs on the lid let you express personal flair.
Dell G5 15 SE
Dell leverages the might of AMD components like Ryzen 5000 processors and Radeon RX 5600M graphics for smooth 1080p or 1440p gaming. A 144Hz screen keeps the action fluid and responsive. The Alienware-inspired chassis punches above its mid-range price with premium features like a mechanical keyboard.
MSI GF63 Thin
MSI manages to cram RTX 3000 graphics and 240Hz displays into slim chassis no thicker than 0.85 inches. Impressive engineering combines with Intel 12th-gen H-series chips to put triple-A gaming within reach for under $1,500. A subtle design skips the loud cosmetics without sacrificing addictive performance.
Finding Your Next Gaming Laptop
Gaming laptops continue pushing the envelope with stunning displays, desktop-class performance, and innovative designs. Carefully weigh your performance demands, feature priorities, and budget to find the right fit. And with our detailed buying guide in hand, you’re now equipped to discover an exceptional mobile gaming machine for 2023 and beyond!