The Definitive Guide to Building a Gaming Laptop

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person playing on gaming laptop with headphones on

Gaming laptops are becoming more and more popular in the gaming community. However, some people might struggle or be hesitant to make the change from gaming PC to laptop.

For most people, gaming PCs are irreplaceable. They provide you with a lot of storage, fast processing, higher frame rate, and a huge range of accessories. But, the main issue is that a gaming PC could be hard to manage – It takes up a lot of space and isn’t portable.

If you plan on taking your gaming to the next level without sacrificing portability you should consider building your own gaming laptop.

A gaming laptop lets you play games on the go and is an incredible machine with high FPS, quality, and graphics giving you an immersive desktop-like gaming experience.

In this guide, I’ll guide you on how to select the best gaming laptop and customize it to your preference so you can take this big leap into a unique gaming experience.

How to Select the Best Gaming Laptop

half shut laptop with colorful display

Gaming laptops have developed to great extent making it possible to buy laptops with high levels of RAM, CPU, GPU, and graphics. However, before choosing a gaming laptop you should look out for these main components:

  • CPU and GPU – There are some laptops that might allow you to replace these but most modern gaming laptops come with a fixed CPU and GPU. This makes it crucial to select a laptop with a good base CPU and GPU so that your games perform the way you want to. These components are responsible for the graphic rendering and overall function of the laptop so be sure to find one that suits your needs and budget.
  • RAM – RAM stands for random access memory and is a physical piece of hardware that is responsible for opening, closing and managing apps for fast retrieval. A higher RAM typically means higher speed. A high RAM is essential for gaming laptops as it is required for games to run smoothly – without lag and tearing. A gaming laptop might require at least 8GB of RAM to run most games smoothly however, if you plan on playing heavy games such as GTA 5 or SIMS that eat up more of your RAM. 16GB of RAM is ideal for running these types of games.
  • Connectivity – Your gaming laptop should have multiple connection options for external displays, hard drives, mouse, keyboard etc. Although many gaming laptops come with USB, HDMI, and Ethernet ports it is important to look for a gaming laptop that has a thunderbolt 3 port. A thunderbolt 3 port can transfer files with a speed of 40Gbps and can be extremely helpful as gaming files, saved data, mods, and resources can really stack up and eat a lot of data.
  • Design – Most gamers, especially streamers and YouTubers, go for a gaming laptop that fit their style/preferences. The design of the gaming laptop depends on your personal taste however, different designs might perform differently as well. When choosing a design suitable for your gaming laptop you should typically go for a slim chassis (outer shell) of the laptop, a durable frame, and thin borders so you could get a more HD experience. Apart from these smaller details one major thing that you should also look for is the size of the laptop. Large screens measuring around 14 – 15 inches might take up more space but would give you a more immersive gaming experience – whereas, smaller screens are easier to move around and manage.

Although many well-known companies such as Alienware, Razor, and MSI are making gaming laptops that fulfil the above criteria it’s helpful to know what to expect from a laptop to get the best gaming experience possible.

Customization Options for a Gaming Laptop

The main disadvantage laptop gamers might see as opposed to PC gamers is the lack of customization options. This is because on PC you can customize almost everything as the PC is created in separate parts but newer laptop models come with many items in-built which means even though you can upgrade or replace some of them, there are certain things you cannot do.

Here are some things that you cannot customize in a gaming laptop:

  • CPU
  • Graphics card or GPU
  • RAM
  • Storage drive or Hard drive

Many modern laptop manufacturers have started to take notice of this issue and started to create gaming laptops that give gamers more control over their gaming setup. Many laptop models come with replaceable RAM which can be upgraded to give users faster performance.

Many laptops are however starting to fix the GPU in place by soldering it to the motherboard of the laptop – this makes it impossible to remove. However, in this article I go over the different ways you can replace your graphics card even as a laptop user.

When it comes to the CPU and Hard drive of the laptop those are still pretty difficult to replace so you have to make sure that before you buy a gaming laptop these components are fulfilling your demands.

Building your Own Gaming Laptop

If you already have a gaming laptop on hand you can start implementing changes to see a boost in performance and create the ultimate gaming desk set-up.

As mentioned before there are some things you can’t replace such as, the CPU or Hard drive but if you have a barebones laptop you can replace almost every component. A barebones laptop is basically a partially assembled laptop meaning all it has is a motherboard, a display, and a laptop case.

Once you have your laptop you might want to purchase a few more things. This all comes down to your own preferences and demands:

  • CPU
  • GPU or graphics card
  • RAM
  • Storage drive – HDD (hard drive) or SSD (solid state drive)

Before starting, you need to check your system’s settings and capabilities.

There are two main ways to do this:

  1. Check the manufacturer’s website and find your laptop model. Once there, take a look at the details and FAQs (if any) regarding your system’s maximum capabilities. If you fear you don’t have the answer you’re looking for you could always chat with customer support and ask them.
  2. Open up your laptop by removing the screws on the bottom cover of the laptop. By taking a look inside you might be able to see multiple slots with different parts attached to them. This is where everything is – including the CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage drive. You can detach these parts and see if they could be replaced with your upgraded parts.

Even though the second option might seem complicated and risky it is the most common way to check and replace components of your gaming laptop. Here’s a YouTube video that will guide you through the process:

Choosing a CPU for your Gaming Laptop

laptop close up of CPU inside of dell laptop

A CPU or central processing unit is a circuit that acts as the brain of the computer and is responsible for all the actions a computer makes by executing instructions to the system.

Gamers should focus on the cores and frequencies of their laptop’s CPU. Many laptops nowadays have the ability to run multiple cores to achieve faster processor speeds. You might have heard terms like, multi-core, quad-core, and hexa-core. The cores of your CPU focuses on carrying out tasks more efficiently – meaning the more cores you have the more responsive and thus efficient your laptop performance will be.

The frequencies indicates the speed of the processor, these frequencies are part of the CPU’s clock speed and is measured in gigahertz. A frequency of 3.5 to 4GHz is generally considered and ideal range for fast processing of gaming laptops.

By choosing a high frequency processor with a well-balanced and efficient core you can expect to avoid lag.

Another thing to look for when choosing a CPU is its cooling capabilities which can be checked by looking at the thermal design power of the laptop. This is important to check as longer gaming sessions or heavy-duty games tend to worry gamers and think why their gaming laptops heat up so fast.

By having a good look of the thermal design power of the gaming laptop you can determine how fast it would heat up and how long it can run.

Choosing a Graphics card (GPU) for your Gaming Laptop

gaming laptop Nvidia graphics processing unit or graphics card

A GPU, graphics processing unit, or graphics card is the second most important component of a gaming laptop and is responsible for rendering the graphics that you see on screen.

When purchasing a graphics card you need to make sure the refresh rate and resolution match the specs of your laptop screen otherwise it could lead to incompatibility problems.

If you plan on playing high-graphic games such as, Call of Duty or GTA 5, you may need a graphics card with at least 4GB of video memory however, if you plan on streaming your gameplay for Twitch or YouTube you’ll need higher amounts of memory to run both operations simultaneously.

External GPUs

Another recent development in the gaming industry has been the creation of external GPUs to provide laptop users with the same gaming experience of desktop players. These big machines are plugged into your laptop using a thunderbolt cable and can give you a major boost in performance. However, one main downside of this is that it is quite big and has to be connected to the laptop at all times to keep working meaning you won’t be able to move your laptop around as much.

Choosing RAM and Storage Drives for your Gaming Laptop

Image showing internal drives - RAM and Storage side-by-side

Many newer laptop models allow users to upgrade their RAM by having replaceable internal drives meaning you can pop out the old one and replace it with the new one.

When building your gaming laptop you should aim for 16GB RAM however, if you are on a tight budget than you need to have at least 8GB of RAM as it is the minimum requirement of most games.

As for the storage drive you have two options to go with – an HDD or SSD.

A storage drive is part of the laptop’s internal drive in which all the files and data are stored. By installing a storage drive into your gaming laptop you increase the amount of space in your laptop which will come in handy considering the amount of space of the latest games.

SSD or solid state drives are usually better than HDD or hard disk drives – they are faster, more spacious, and more reliable than their counterpart. Many next-gen consoles also utilize the power of SSDs making them the industry-standard for gaming whether that be on consoles, PCs, or laptops.

However, that doesn’t mean that an HDD is entirely useless. The main advantage an HDD has over a SDD is its price. Typically you might find SSDs with the price of 9 cents per GB whereas an HDD can be as low as 2 cents per GB. So if you’re on a budget then a HDD might be a better choice.

Check out our guide on how much storage you need on your laptop.

Once you choose your RAM and storage drive of choice, flip over your laptop taking off the cover and install it in there. As for the storage drive some laptops come with an extra slot so you can add that there so you have two storage drives which you can use.

Install an Operating System

After you have finished building your gaming laptop, the final step is to install an operating system such as, Windows or Linux, to make the laptop fully functional.

Additional Accessories for your Gaming Laptop

full desk setup of gaming laptop with multiple accessories

If you plan on taking your gaming experience to newer heights you can combine your laptop with a few additional accessories. Most gamers prefer the following accessories for their gaming setup:

  • External display – An external monitor can increase the size of your screen and also give it a higher color range, image clarity, and resolution which all add up to a much more fun and immersive gaming experience.
  • Headphones and speakers – Having surround sound speakers will give you a much more fun experience but having good-quality headphones with a clear mic is essential for most FPS shooter games. Games such as, Fortnite, COD, CS:GO and PUBG, expect you stay sharp and listen closely to enemy footsteps and the environment. A good quality mic also goes a long way allowing you to communicate clearly with your teammates.
  • Gaming mice and keyboard – Another essential tool for most gamers are a high-quality gaming mouse and keyboard. You need to look for a gaming mouse that you can rest your hand on comfortably giving you a good grip and more control over your movement. For a keyboard, you should go with one that is responsive, durable and offers consistent performance. Back-lit or macro keys might add a bit more flair to your keyboard but aren’t entirely necessary.

These accessories aren’t necessary but would really add to the fun when gaming on your laptop.

Conclusion

Many people prefer the desktop gaming experience as gaming PCs are highly customizable but they don’t offer any portability. If you are a gamer on the go you can build your own gaming laptop or upgrade you’re current one. Gaming laptops are starting to become popular in the gaming industry and can offer a desktop-like gaming experience. To build your own gaming laptop you would need a barebones laptop along with a high-quality CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage drive.

If you want to take your laptop gaming experience even further you can combine with a huge range of available accessories like, external displays, gaming mice and keyboard, and speakers.

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