Game development has advanced drastically over the past few decades. Whereas about 50 years ago you would have needed a dedicated space to place the heavy machinery required for game development, nowadays you can work on a game wherever you are with a high-end laptop. Mobility is paramount in the modern age, and most game developers need to be able to work on their projects while on the go.
There is a specific kind of laptop that is required for game development. Our list of the top 8 laptops for game development will be a great place to start your search, but before you pick something from this list you must first understand the minimum requirements for these machines. We will start off by showing you a handy buying guide that will outline these recommended requirements, although your needs might differ based on the type of game development that you are taking part in. Read on to discover a wealth of information that can make your laptop buying efforts incredibly easy!
Minimum Requirements (What Specs to Look for?)
Here’s the specs you should be looking for a smooth game development in a laptop, for a good budget I’ve highlighted the recommended requirements.
This might be the single most important factor to consider when buying a game development laptop. Since game development requires some pretty heavy programs, your ideal laptop should have no less than an i7 CPU. This will help prevent lag which can greatly delay your project’s completion. Render times will also be reduced, but it is important to note that your i7 chip should ideally offer at least a 3.6Hz overclocking speed. Prioritizing the processor model over the overclocking would result in a rather inferior purchase.
You might assume that game development would require a high amount of RAM, but for the most part this isn’t true. While 8 gigabytes of RAM will probably be pushing it a bit, 16GB is recommended. That said, if you’re trying to save money wherever you can you could very well make do with 8GB as well, although you should be prepared for occasional slowdowns if you make this compromise.
The world has advanced quite significantly when it comes to hard disks, and since game development is a very cutting edge process you would need similarly cutting edge technology to back it up. Most people would recommend getting a solid-state drive, as this can vastly improve the stability of your storage space. If you only manage to find a laptop with an HDD, add an SDD to supplement it.
This is an aspect of game development laptops that you simply can’t compromise on. Unless you’re planning on working on very low spec games, you will need something that can facilitate the 3D game design. With a 4GB graphics card, you’d be able to make changes to your game rather quickly which can help you avoid much of the frustration that comes with slow graphical output.
Screen: A high res display is very useful because hardcore gamers tend to use them as well. You need to test out how your game looks on high-resolution screens, so getting something that offers at least 1080p resolution is pretty helpful. You’d get a clearer picture of any flaws in the game design and you can make changes accordingly.
8 Best Laptops for Game Development
Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop, 15.6″ Full HD IPS, Intel i7 CPU, 16GB DDR4 RAM, 256GB SSD, GeForce GTX 1060-6GB, VR Ready, Red Backlit KB, Metal Chassis, Windows 10 64-bit, G3-571-77QK
ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 15.6” 4K UHD NanoEdge Bezel Touch, Intel Core i7-9750H, 16GB RAM, 1TB PCIe SSD, GeForce RTX 2060, Innovative Screenpad Plus, Windows 10 Pro, Celestial Blue, UX581GV-XB74T
Lenovo Legion Y720 Gaming Laptop, 15.6″ Full HD, Intel Core i7-7700HQ Processor, 16GB DDR4 RAM, 512GB SSD, GeForce GTX 1060-6GB, Windows 10 Signature Image – 80VR0078US
Razer Blade Pro 17 Gaming Laptop 2019: Intel Core i7-9750H, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, 17.3″ FHD 144Hz, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, CNC Aluminum, Chroma RGB Lighting, Thunderbolt 3, SD Card Reader
GIGABYTE Aero 15X v8-BK4 15″ Ultra Slim Gaming Laptop 144Hz IPS Anti-Glare FHD Display, i7-8750H, GeForce GTX 1070, 16G RAM, 512GB PCIE SSD, Metal Chassis, RGB Keys
MSI GS75 Stealth-093 17.3″ Razor Thin Bezel Gaming Laptop NVIDIA GEFORCE RTX 2080 8G Max-Q, 144Hz 3ms, Intel i7-8750H (6 cores), 32GB, 512GB NVMe SSD, TB3, Per Key RGB, Win10H, Matte Black w/ Gold Dia
Dell XPS 15 – 15 Inch FHD+, Intel Core i7 10th Gen, 16GB Memory, 512GB Solid State Drive, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 4GB GDDR6, Windows 10 Home (Latest Model) – Silver
1. Acer Predator Helios 300
This laptop from Acer is in many ways the king of specs in terms of game development. For one thing, you get a top-notch i7 processor which can do wonders for your work processes. The laptop also has top-notch thermoregulatory capabilities which are perfect for game design since most projects require you to work for several hours on end and most machines will heat upon such occasions.
While the battery life might not hold up to competitor models, this is only an issue if you need to do most of your work on the go. The 6Gb of VRAM means that you will have optimal image processing and storage capacity, and this will probably make you use far more energy-hungry programs than might have been the case otherwise. Hence, it is understandable that you would lack some battery life here, as keeping the laptop lightweight and portable is a priority that might be compromised by adding a bigger battery.
The thing that makes this laptop stand out the most is the excellent backlit display which can help you get a really clear view of all that you are doing. Bear in mind that you can’t really run too many programs at once on this machine as this will drain its processing power and make it lag just a little bit.
- Excellent cooling
- Solid state drive
- 6gb of VRAM
- Backlit display
- Battery life is an issue
- Multiple programs reduce laptop efficiency
2. Asus Zenbook Pro Duo
The fact that this machine from Asus offers a 4K resolution screen is definitely a major plus point, but you also get a second screen that has touch capabilities and can greatly increase your screen real estate. Maximizing screen space is great, and with this dual-screen setup, you can opt for a more intuitive approach and split your work up so that you can keep an eye on everything at once.
As far as specs are concerned, this laptop is most definitely a juggernaut. The i9 central processor has an overclocking speed of 2.4 GHz which is good enough but if you need to you can bump this up to around 5 GHz as well. If you’re working on a game that requires intensive beam following in its character design, the Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card in this laptop is perfect since it is one of the few commercially available GPUs that can facilitate such processes easily.
This laptop is a strong contender for the number one spot, but two main drawbacks forced us to bump it down a spot. Firstly, this machine is extremely cost-prohibitive so only high-end developers would be able to afford it. Also, the unnecessary weight that’s added to this machine makes it difficult to handle and carry around which drastically reduces much-needed mobility.
- Dual screen
- 4K display
- Mammoth i9 5.0 GHz core
- Nvidia RTX 2060
- Extremely expensive
- Heavy and cumbersome
3. Lenovo Legion Y720
Sometimes all you need is a top-notch graphics card, and the Legion Y720 from Lenovo provides this quite effectively with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060. The latest model of Lenovo’s Legion line is a lot thinner than its predecessors and its fairly lightweight as well which is surprising considering its rather hefty size. A factor that might set this laptop apart from others is its VR support. VR-based gaming has been gaining a lot of traction recently, and if you want to develop games for this booming new field you will need a laptop that’s capable of handling such a thing.
The sleek, aluminum look of this machine is definitely a plus point for the aesthetically minded among you, and you might also enjoy the crisp clarity from the speakers with their subwoofers making each low-end note reverberate so heavily that you’d feel it in your chest! We also loved that you can choose between two SSDs of either 512 GB or 1 TB depending on how much space you need.
Try to avoid spending long periods of time working on this laptop, though. A work session of about 6-8 hours would be fine, but there is a high likelihood that this machine would start to overheat after this. Also, the battery life of just four hours is a bit of a letdown, but we feel that the other features more than makeup for it.
- Top notch graphics card
- Facilitates VR design
- More than enough storage capacity
- Heavy duty speakers
- Tends to overheat
- Low battery life
4. Razer Blade Pro 17
If you want a specs juggernaut and have the money to pay for it, the Razer Blade Pro 17 might be just up your alley. You’d be hard pressed to find specs that are this good, with the eighth generation Intel i7 providing more than enough processing power thanks to its 8 individual cores. You also get 32GB of RAM which might even be more than you require, but there’s nothing wrong with playing it safe since you never know when you’re going to need this much RAM.
Suffice it to say that there will be very few limitations on your game development if you opt for this machine, with the incredible Max-Q GeForce RTX 2080 Super GPU playing quite a serious role in this. The battery life is pretty admirable too, lasting long enough that you can get quite a bit done on the go which is a huge plus point when you look at laptops in this category.
All of these incredible specs and features might have made this laptop a shoo-in for the top three, but we feel like the price is a little too high to allow that. We understand that some truly top-of-the-line specs are being offered here, but most of these specs are unnecessary which makes the over $3,000 and up to $4,000 you’d need to pay for this machine somewhat unnecessary as well. If you’re a high-earning game developer that’s looking to splurge, though, this laptop might work great for you.
- Excellent specs
- Beautiful aesthetics
- Solid battery life
- Fan can get noisy
- Prohibitively expensive
5. Gigabyte Aero 15X
A lot of high-end laptops offer excellent screens but they have very thick bezels which greatly reduce the real estate that you can work with. The Aero 15X from Gigabyte offers no such issues, with the extremely thin bezel providing maximum real estate which is great for game development and the like. One problem here is that there is no bezel space for the webcam which means that it lies under the screen, something that really reduces video quality. Some game developers need to coordinate with other members of their team via webcam so this can be a bit frustrating, but for the most part, it’s not really relevant to actual game development in and of itself.
Another thing that makes this laptop a great buy is the 10-hour battery life. Most laptops in this category can manage about half of that so this is great for people that want to be able to do extended development sessions remotely. This laptop is perfect for people that are looking into mid-tier game development thanks to the 8th gen i7 core and Nvidia GTX 1070 Max Q, but some might find that this machine lacks power in certain respects. Also, the sound quality can be awful at times which can be a major downside for game developers that like to listen to music while they work.
- Tiny bezel maximizes screen real estate
- Very long lasting battery
- Attractive, lightweight design
- Not suitable for high end game development
- Poor sound quality
6. MSI GS75 Stealth
This fantastic laptop from MSI is a great gaming computer, which means that it would be suitable for most forms of game development as well to a certain extent. The high frame rate stands out here since viewing your renderings at 90 fps is a great way to see any glitches or bugs that you might have otherwise missed out on.
When you combine the frame rate with the 144Hz refresh rate, you get a very smooth visual output that can really help you make the perfect games. Visuals matter quite a bit when it comes to gaming, after all, so you would need something that’s capable of optimizing it accordingly, and the 17-inch screen is large enough to give you a good view of all the moving parts as well.
The battery life is pretty reasonable too, lasting about 5 hours with heavy use which is good enough for most projects you’d want to complete on the go. However, we feel that the asking price which can be well over $2,000 is a bit steep when you compare it to other models. Given the steep and often prohibitive asking price, G-Sync compatibility should have come standard with this machine since the lack of this support can make screen tearing a lot more likely. These drawbacks forced us to bump this machine down a few places, but it’s still a decent option for game developers.
- High frame rate of 90 fps
- Decent battery life
- Large display
- Lacks G-Sync compatibility
- A bit too expensive
7. Dell XPS 15
The importance of a good keyboard cannot be ignored, and the great thing about the XPS 15 from Dell is that it offers a very roomy and ergonomic keyboard that can save you from carpal tunnel if you work for long periods of time. The trackpad is quite large too which makes it easier to control the various elements that you are incorporating into your game design. The fact that you’d get multiple different types of input ports including Type C and Thunderbolt means that you can add a lot of external hardware to this machine as well which boosts its capabilities.
This laptop is also a great example of bezel-free design, and it implements this design philosophy better than perhaps any other kind of laptop out there. This gives you pretty much nothing but screen save for a thin outline around it, but it’s a little disappointing that you don’t have a graphics card that can take advantage of this much screen real estate. All you get is a GTX 1650 Ti which won’t help with high-end graphics development for games. There’s also the pesky overheating problem that plagues a lot of these kinds of laptops, so bear this in mind if you want to buy this machine.
- Ergonomic keyboard and large track pad
- Bezel free design
- Plenty of input ports
- Underwhelming graphics card
- Overheats pretty quickly
8. HP Specter X360
Developers that prioritize mobility above all else will love this laptop from HP. The Specter X360 weighs less than three pounds so it feels almost weightless inside of your backpack. The Intel HD 620 graphics card is not exactly top of the line and it limits your ability to develop games with cutting-edge graphics, but mobile and tablet game developers can do just fine with this.
Also, while the screen is rather small coming in at 13.3 inches across, the visual output is quite beautiful and clear. Mobile game developers usually don’t mind smaller screens since their end products will usually play on even smaller screens eventually.
The graphical output is further hindered by the fact that all processes are performed using the 16 GB of RAM that comes standard with this machine. The lack of a VRAM can be a limitation that most game developers would not be willing to contend with, but this is still an affordable laptop and it can help you get started with the basics. All in all, we feel like people who are just starting out in game development can do a lot with this machine. After all, your limited skill set wouldn’t allow you to take advantage of high-end specs anyway, so you might as well save some money and get a laptop that you can use to make smaller games as you work your way up the ranks.
- Beautiful visuals
- Extremely lightweight
- Suitable for tablet/mobile game developers
- Limited graphical performance
- No dedicated VRAM