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How to buy the perfect PC gaming laptop

Gordon Mah Ung | Nov. 21, 2014
Desktop diehards and the Reddit build-it crowd might scoff at the very concept of a portable PC gaming machine, but the gulf between gaming desktops and gaming laptops has narrowed considerably over the years. Today's laptops can play modern games at 1080p and higher with few to no compromises in graphics settings. And that's not bad.

And that's ultimately the rub: The more portable the laptop is, the less likely it will crank out super-fast frame rates. This is unlikely to change until there's some breakthrough in physics. So for now, just resign yourself to compromises.

Heat and acoustics

Gaming notebooks may be physically huge, but those large chassis sizes can allow for more efficient heat dissipation. The manufacturers can pack in larger heat pipes as well as larger fans running at slower RPMs. This delivers sufficient cooling with less noise.

But you never really know what you're getting until you run a hardcore game for more than 10 minutes. So if you have the opportunity before buying a machine, put it under a real-world gaming stress test. Does the laptop get uncomfortably hot? Or does the machine stay cool, but sound like a hovercraft because its fans are spinning in overdrive? This is a problem you may encounter in some of the thinner gaming notebooks.

Upgradability: Almost off the table

This last point is probably the stickiest. For the most part, gaming laptops have fairly limited upgrade options. You'll probably be able to drop in more RAM, or a larger SSD or hard drive. You might even be able to swap out the wireless card. But don't expect to upgrade the CPU or GPU without some serious warranty-breaking surgery.

I won't say it's impossible, as it can be done. But counting on an upgrade path in a gaming laptop is a fool's errand. Just buy the laptop and be prepared to live with it for the next few years.

See why the gaming desktop has an advantage?


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