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Gaming Notebooks Hardware Field Guide

The specs you will need for the ultimate gaming laptop experience.

Buy The Ultimate Gaming Notebooks

gaming laptop components buying guide











We detail exactly what you will want to look for in a gaming laptop in order to enjoy the best mobile gaming experience.

If you are not aware already, gaming notebooks are growing in popularity at an alarming rate, and the processing power in mobile gaming machines is simply astonishing.

The sheer size of the entertainment industry, ever increasing demand for gaming & entertainment on the go, and lower than ever prices is driving this laptop gaming revolution with a golden hammer.

While this is sweet music to gamers ears everywhere, we advise you to not run to your local etailer or retailer with money in hand just yet.

Ultimate Gaming Gear Preperation:

Trust us, we've seen individuals all too often purchase a laptop with a specific purpose in mind like gaming, to only fall over backwards in disappointment as they fire up their favorite first person shooter or sports title for the first time.

Our goal here is to help you purchase the perfect gaming notebooks so that you stay on your feet and have the best laptop experience period. 

If you want to play in the big leagues, you are going to need the right gear to compete, and we are going to show you what to look for.

Once you finally pick the perfect hardware you will be off on your way to what we like to call gamers delight.  So let's move on, shall we?


Gaming Hardware 101

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Video Card:

ati nvidia logos

Hands down the most important component in kickass gaming notebooks is a powerful graphics card. 

Games in general are some of the most graphic intensive applications out there, and an integrated graphics card just won't cut it.

Look for a dedicated NVIDIA or ATI graphics processor with an absolute minimum of 512MB of dedicated onboard graphics memory. 1GB or more of graphics memory is preferred however.

Absolutely do not overlook a video card when looking for a gaming notebook or you will pay the ultimate price. In the gaming world that ultimate price is the frame rate, and without it you will get fragged.

As of this writing we recommend you purchase an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 400 series or ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5800 series graphics card equipped laptop computer. On the other hand many entry-level gaming systems will have slower chips, so if you are not an extreme gamer, you may be better off saving some cash and buying a mid-range graphics card equipped laptop instead.

And for ultimate performance there is nothing better right now than an NVIDIA SLI dual-card equipped laptop. But since laptop graphics cards are so powerful these days, an SLI rig may not be worth the price premium, especially since a single card system will power through many if not most of the hottest 3D games on the market.

All NVIDIA 400 series cards and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5800 series cards are also compatible with Microsoft Windows 7 DirectX 11 technology so you can take advantage of all the sweet new eye candy features in the latest 3D games.

To narrow down the perfect gaming laptop graphics card, read professional and user reviews and pay special attention to real world gaming performance references. User reviews are a very good gauge, for often a user who bought the laptop is going to critique the real world performance of their favorite games, games you may also play yourself. 

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Processor:

intel logoFast my friend, fast as you can afford! The processor is the second most important feature to pay attention to when searching for the best gaming notebooks. Definitely do not overlook a fast processor for you will need it to crunch all that in game AI.

As of this writing we recommend at the minimum, a powerful Intel Core i5 or better. The Intel Core i7 processor is the most powerful laptop processor by a long slide so if you want the best gaming performance, look for an Intel i7 equipped laptop.

The Intel i7 currently offers the most insane performance for games and multimedia tasks. Remember when pricing your ultimate gaming rig to definitely put processing speed up on your list of musts alongside the graphics card.

Intel i7 processors are stacked with features. Besides containing multiple powerful processing cores, the i7 also have built-in memory controllers, large caches, and Turbo Boost Technology. Intel's Turbo Boost technology maximizes speed for demanding applications by dynamically accelerating processor clock speed. Basically the i7 is a bad ass processor, point being.

You can't go wrong with an i7 processor based gaming notebook. Paired with a high-end NVIDIA or ATI graphics card, and all your games will come to life with a new found realism. 

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Memory/RAM:

memory logoGet as much as you can afford. Memory is on the top list of must buys along side the video card and processor. All are equally important for gaming notebooks.

If you want to play with the big boys, don't be left in the dust with a gaming laptop without enough memory. Without memory you games will come to a crawl.

We recommend at the bare minimum 4GB of DDR3 memory for entry and mid-level gaming rigs, and 6GB or more is ideal for a high-end gaming rig. 

If you can afford more than 4GB of memory we highly recommend you cough up the dough. Windows 7 which is bundled with most systems these days uses by itself a large chuck of memory, so 4GB or more will do your mobile gaming rig well.

Today's 3D games are more demanding than ever too so you will want a lot of memory so you can turn all the in game eye candy features up, game textures, special effects etc.

If you have a choice for memory speed when customizing gaming notebooks, the rule of thumb is usually to get the fastest speed that they offer. Speed on the other hand isn't always in your control when shopping for a gaming notebook, but if you have the option, faster is better.

There's a catch though, definitely do not spend the cash if the premium for faster chips is too high, for this extra money may be better spent on more memory instead, or even another component upgrade such as a faster processor.

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Storage/Hard Drive:

hard drive logosA must for any gaming or multimedia rig is a large fast hard drive. Games themselves are huge and will require gigabytes of storage, and when it comes to speed games are demanding so a hard drive with a fast spindle speed is a must.

When juggling multimedia chores such as video and audio editing a large fast hard drive will be very beneficial to your productivity.

We recommend at the absolute bare minimum a 7200 RPM drive, though if you have the money and option, you may want to go for one with a solid-state drive. Solid state hard drives don't have mechanical parts inside and instead store information on a special type of memory.

Solid-state hard drives are faster than a traditional hard drive but do keep in mind that while they are faster they are also currently limited in storage capacity and more expensive than their mechanical counterparts.  

Now if money isn't an option and you're spending for the ultimate gaming laptop, and multiple hard drives is an option, then you may be able to pick up a solid state as a storage drive for your games. This may not be a bad idea if ultimate performance is your ticket, and being a second drive you won't be hindered by the solid state drives lower storage capacity.

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Screen:

laptop screen size comparisonMany of you are going to be buying pre-configured gaming notebooks these days. Depending on the model these pre-configured gaming notebooks will typically have either a 1440 x 900, 1680 x 1050, or 1920 x 1200 pixel screen resolution.

Because of their pre-configured nature however the screen pixel resolution is determined by the manufacturer and thus you will have limited flexibility. It's either one configuration or another with pre-configured machines, and often there is in fact no choice in between.

With pre-configured gaming notebooks a lack of flexibility is honestly just something that has to be dealt with, though on the plus side the lack of flexibility does normally lower the overall price of the notebook. In the end your wants and needs will be the determining factor when going this route.

On the other hand if you want ultimate flexibility, customizing a laptop is honestly the only way to go. Price does come with this flexibility of course, but for many of you especially all you hardcore gamers the premium will be worth it.

Because you're not limited to pre-configured choices when customizing a laptop of course, you have flexibility with almost every aspect of the notebook including the screen. In fact you may be surprised to find out that a better screen doesn't always cost a fortune either.

For example we configured a custom machine online and for only $100 more we were able to up the screen resolution on a 17-inch laptop from 1440 x 900 to 1680 x 1050 pixels. This is a good price/performance balance in our opinion, especially for a gaming notebook. The top end screen with the 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution was substantially more, but because we were customizing we had this extra flexibility.

On another note, be careful if you are thinking of pairing the highest resolution screen with a lower performing graphics card. Remember, you will need a graphics card powerful enough to drive games at higher resolutions, and honestly the lowest performing graphics card may not perform up to par.

Also, casual gamers you may want to look out for the highest resolution screen for it may not be your best option. On screen elements such as text are going to be smaller and it may be harder for you to read during routine day to day tasks such as word processing and Internet surfing.

If you guys have the option, a mid-range screen such as one with a 1680 x 1050 resolution and a mid-range graphics card may be a perfect balance between price and performance with a gaming notebook.

Of course the choice is ultimately determined by what the manufacturer is offering, but if options are available things will on the other hand be up to you. And balance is often the Key.

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Wireless:

wifi logosWireless networking capability in today's mobile world is a must, and gaming notebooks are no exception. Having a fast wireless connection is great if want to setup a wireless LAN party with friends, play the latest online games, or even download huge game updates & patches to keep your online gaming experience bug fee.

We recommend you get the most 802.11 standards offered by the gaming laptop you are configuring. Standards include 802.11 a/b/g/n, and all are backwards compatible with each other. Wireless N is the newest standard and it offers longer range and faster data rates over previous standards. If wireless N is offered grab it, for the price increase is negligible and it will come in handy when all networks eventually switch over to the N standard.

Bluetooth is also another wireless standard that is a great addition to a gaming laptop if say you want to hook up a high-tech wireless gaming keyboard to give you that competitive edge over your opponents.

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CD / DVD Drive:

blueray logoFor gaming notebooks we currently recommend you purchase a laptop with at least a DVD burner. DVD burners are normally the default optical drive for most notebooks these days including gaming notebooks, but still do not overlook your options just in case.

As of this writing a next-gen Blue-Ray drive is the best option available in gaming notebooks. Since prices have come down substantially on Blu-Ray equipped laptops, it only makes sense to get one since your gaming laptop is already stacked with every other high-end feature.

As of now most if not all PC games as far as we know are still distributed on DVD media, but games in the near future will be Blu-Ray and on top of this you can watch all your favorite Blu-Ray movies via your laptop if you have a built-in Blu-Ray drive.

If you are spending for the ultimate gaming rig and cost isn't an issue, we personally recommend Blue-Ray for it is the dominant next-gen standard that will be here for years to come.

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Final Thoughts:

While we've only touched base on gaming laptop components, we are confident that if you follow this simple yet effective field guide you will be on the correct path to the ultimate gaming notebooks.

As a final note remember while you are shopping for gaming notebooks to never rush into a purchase without doing a bit of research from various sources. All to often we see people fall for the wow factor when in fact there are better gaming laptop deals out there.

Happy gaming and best of luck finding the perfect gaming notebooks.

Be sure to check out our Laptop Ratings and Best Laptop Guide for more important shopping advice.


Gaming Laptop Shopping Deals

Gaming Notebooks, Cool Netbooks, Colored Laptops, Trendy Laptops, Gaming Accessories & More

Online Vendor Shopping Category Vendor Rating
Amazon.com Popular Gaming Laptops A+




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