How To Build A Laptop For Gaming (A Complete Guide)
As most components in a laptop aren’t upgradable, you’d want to make sure you choose the best one according to your requirements. However, plenty of options are available if you look at what’s in the market. So what specifications should you go for to have a great gaming experience?
You can’t build your own gaming laptop, but you can choose some of its components. Depending on the manufacturer, you can decide on the processor, graphics card, memory, storage, display, and OS. Some manufacturers also let you choose the battery size.
I’ve written a simple yet comprehensive article discussing whether you can build a gaming laptop. It also covers topics like what parts you should go for if the manufacturer allows you to customize them.
Can You Build Your Own Gaming Laptop?
If you want to configure your gaming laptop like a desktop, the sad news is that this isn’t possible.
Due to the size and thickness of laptops, most parts are soldered onto the motherboard. As a result, you don’t have much scope for upgradability.
In most gaming laptops, you should be able to add more random access memory (RAM) and storage in the form of solid-state drives (SSD).
You may be able to upgrade the battery to one with a higher capacity, but this is not always the case. Wi-fi cards can also be swapped out for better variants, but only on some laptops.
Framework, founded in 2020, is the only manufacturer currently allowing you to build your laptop from the ground up.
They have a DIY variant, where you can choose the CPU, memory, storage, OS, and power brick to charge the device. You can also decide what ports you need, along with additional storage options.
Once you get it, you’ll have to assemble all the parts. Don’t worry if you have no idea how to build a laptop, as they provide handy guides.
However, the only downside to Framework’s DIY laptop is that it doesn’t come with a discrete graphics processing unit (dGPU).
Instead, it has an integrated graphics processing unit (iGPU), which isn’t powerful. You can run older games at the lowest settings, but it won’t give you the best experience.
What Parts To Choose for the Best Gaming Experience?
Although you won’t be able to build a gaming laptop, you can customize it before it gets delivered to your house. Choosing the components is essential as it determines your gaming experience.
Depending on the manufacturer, you can do this on their website. On e-commerce sites, you may not have this option and have to settle with what’s available.
Here’s our guide on how to choose the best parts for your gaming laptop.
1. Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
The one that decides what settings you can use in video games is the GPU.
Without a GPU, your laptop will struggle to hit playable framerates, i.e., the game will look choppy. Or, it won’t be able to run the video game at all.
There are different tiers of graphics cards depending on their performance.
While the ones in the highest tier give you the best performance, they may not be worth the upgrade.
This is because the performance jump from the previous tier to the top-of-the-line variant is small, especially in the high-end range.
Another factor to remember when choosing graphics cards is their power limit.
Higher power limits give you better performance, but it comes at the cost of heat. Lower power limits don’t produce as much heat, but it also reduces the frames per second (FPS) you get in games.
When choosing the GPU, make sure it’s at the higher end of the power limit range. Look for mid-range graphics cards if you want the best value for your money.
They provide excellent performance, and you won’t feel like getting a new laptop for several years.
You also have to look at how much Video Random Access Memory (VRAM) is available on the GPU. This helps render various textures in video games. Choose a graphics card with 4GB of VRAM if your budget is tight.
We recommend 6GB of VRAM as recent AAA video games are demanding and will only require more resources as time goes on.
If your budget allows it, 8GB of VRAM is the sweet spot. This will enable you to play video games in 1440p resolution.
2. Central Processing Unit (CPU)
Although it is not as important as the GPU, the CPU still significantly impacts your gaming experience.
When choosing a processor, try to get the latest editions, as they will perform better than the previous generations. You can go for an older generation if you want to save a few bucks.
Clock speed influences how much FPS you get while playing various games.
Manufacturers often include turbo boost or precision boost in the clock speed, allowing them to show the highest clock speeds the CPU can hit.
However, the laptop can only sustain the boost if there’s enough thermal headroom.
When the CPU hits a specific temperature, it will often reduce its clock speed to reduce heat. As a result, you may notice a sudden drop in the FPS.
You also need to look at the number of cores on the CPU. How many cores you need depends on how you’ll be using the laptop.
Are you planning on streaming while playing? Do you also want voice apps like Discord to talk to friends and teammates?
In this case, you’ll need a CPU with at least 6 cores and 12 threads. While you can get away with 4 cores and 8 threads, it may start to show its age a few years from now.
3. Memory or RAM
How much RAM you have in your laptop influences whether you’ll have a smooth experience while gaming.
You’ll notice sudden stutters in the game if it is too low. Also, you won’t be able to run applications in the background, like live-streaming your gaming session or using voice chat for communication.
While 8GB is the absolute minimum, it isn’t enough, as newer video games will overwhelm your laptop. We recommend 16GB as this allows you to run various applications while gaming.
When choosing RAM, make sure it is in dual-channel mode, as it gives you better performance than single-channel RAM. Dual channel means there are two sticks of RAM instead of one.
If you can only get 8GB RAM, find out if you can upgrade it. This means there’s an additional slot where you can insert another stick of RAM.
One thing to remember is that the manufacturer may solder the RAM onto the motherboard, which means you won’t be able to upgrade. In this situation, you should choose 16GB or higher.
You also have to consider RAM speed as it determines whether you can use your CPU completely. Faster RAM speeds allow the CPU to stretch its legs, ensuring you get maximum performance.
If you have to choose between faster RAM and more RAM on your laptop, the latter is always better.
The type of storage influences how responsive the operating system (OS) is on your laptop, along with how long it takes for games to load.
These days, the standard is solid-state drives (SSDs), which are much faster than hard-disk drives (HDDs).
We recommend you get at least a 500GB SSD on your laptop, as this ensures you have enough space to install the OS and a few games.
However, if you have an extensive game library and like playing new games frequently, you’ll have to uninstall old ones.
As this can be annoying (to do it regularly), try getting a 1TB SSD. Also, if you decide to upgrade in the future, you want to ensure that another slot for installing an SSD is available.
We understand if you don’t want to go with this option, as the final price of your laptop will go up.
If you’re trying to keep costs low, you can get an SSD and HDD. The SSD should be 250 GB, which you can use for the OS and other essential software.
Along with a 1TB HDD, there’s enough space to store your favorite games. Make sure its speed is 7200 rpm, which is better than a 5400 rpm HDD.
When you store games on the HDD, the game load times will be slower than on the SSD.
However, once the game finishes loading all the textures and shaders, there is almost no difference between the two.
Another benefit of choosing an HDD is upgrading it later to a Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) SSD.
While this isn’t as fast as a Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVME) SSD, its performance is noticeable compared to the HDD.
Some manufacturers allow you to choose between different display units on the same laptop. Now, this may be important to you if you use the laptop’s gaming screen.
If you plan on using an external monitor, it won’t matter too much what display you get.
You also have to think about what kind of games you’ll play on the laptop. Choosing a display with high resolution but a lower framerate will work for single-player games. This allows you to enjoy the video game’s visuals as you play.
However, if you want to play multiplayer or competitive games, you’ll need a display with a higher refresh rate.
We recommend at least 120 Hz, if not 144 Hz, as a starting point. For screen resolution, 1080p will ensure you get high framerates in most games.
You can also go for higher resolutions, but it can come at the cost of FPS.
Keep in mind that a higher refresh rate isn’t the only thing that matters. Display response time is also essential as it determines how quickly the screen can change from one color to another.
Lower screen response time is better, as you won’t notice any delay on display.
However, laptop manufacturers don’t often include screen response time. If your laptop is below the mid-range category and comes with a high refresh rate, there’s a chance it will have a high response time.
For single-player games, it is okay to go for a 4K resolution with a 60 Hz refresh rate. But you should make sure your laptop’s GPU can handle this resolution.
Otherwise, you’ll notice significant lag and have to lower the game settings.
What if you’re the type of player who enjoys playing both types of games (like most of us)? Well, you should go for 1440p 144 Hz.
Screen brightness is essential as you don’t want to strain your eyes looking at the display.
Avoid laptops whose brightness is less than 250 nits, as you’ll find it hard to make out anything on the screen if there’s any other source of bright light.
Color gamut refers to a group of colors your laptop can display. A wider color gamut means there’s better color accuracy. For gaming, you should look for screens with 90% or above sRGB.
Although there isn’t anything wrong with displays that aren’t color-accurate, a lower color gamut may make the colors look washed out.
You can customize the battery if the manufacturer allows it on their website. Ideally, you want to go for laptops with larger capacities to help your device last longer.
Don’t expect phenomenal battery life with gaming laptops, as they use power-hungry components.
Also, battery life may not matter as much while gaming. You’ll have to plug in the charger to get maximum performance.
Although manufacturers already determine the ports on the laptop, and you won’t be able to customize it, you should still look at it.
There should be enough ports to insert all your peripherals, like an external keyboard, mouse, monitor, headphones, and microphone.
If you connect a display through USB-C, you should ensure it is either Thunderbolt or Display Port over USB-C compatible.
You now know how to select various parts of your gaming laptop. Use this article as a guide to make the right decisions and get the best gaming experience.
Although you cannot physically build your gaming laptop, you can decide what hardware specs end up going into your new machine.