Gaming on a Laptop: Is it Worth it?
Maybe, maybe not – it depends on a number of factors. PC gaming isn’t as simple as console gaming. If your laptop was bought on a budget and has weaker graphics, chances are that it might not support the PC games you want. Also, it depends on the PC you’re talking about. How old is it? If you’re using a very old PC, then again, chances are that you might not be able to play the games on your laptop. And, lastly, is it a gaming laptop? Even some of the most powerful non-gaming laptops struggle to support demanding games.
So, the first step is to find out. Is the Gaming Laptop Worth it ?
What graphics hardware is the laptop using?
The first big warning is usually when you discover that your laptop uses onboard Intel graphics instead of NVIDIA or AMD graphics hardware. If this is the case, then it might be impossible to run newer, graphically demanding games.
Unfortunately, that’s the type of graphics you’re likely to find on most laptops. The reason manufacturers prefer onboard graphics in laptops is that they are cheaper and don’t use much power. But the downside is that even the most powerful Intel Graphics hardware could be far slower than NVIDIA or AMD graphics. This may make it impossible to play even the newest games on the lowest graphics settings.
If your laptop uses the newer, more expensive Haswell graphics, then you might be able to play a few PC games. But again, not all the games you might want.
Buy based on graphical performance
Compared to desktops in the same price range, laptops often run slower and most of them don’t have a dedicated video card. In the past, this meant that you couldn’t play any 3D game on a laptop. It’s only in the past couple of years that some of the the best budget gaming laptops have started offering Nvidia or AMD based graphics at affordable prices.
Recently, a few laptops have come to the market with modern processors that include fairly capable video components. You won’t get that smooth gaming experience, but you can run most modern games at stable frame rates.
If you want the best visual experience, however, you have two options. First, get a dedicated gaming laptop. Modern gaming laptops have a separate graphics processing Unit (GPU) alongside the CPU. This means that the CPU doesn’t have to double up running the computer as well as the graphics. It explains why gaming laptops are faster.
Alternatively, use an external graphics card. There aren’t many options in the market though. But if you can find one, it would considerably boost your graphics processing power.
Find games that can readily play on the laptop
If you’re not going to upgrade your graphics performance, then a viable alternative is to play only what your laptop can support. Assuming that the laptop has enough power, you may be able to run a few desktop games, but not all. Re-releases of classics such as Age of Empires 2 can offer gamers hours of delight without their laptops even breaking a sweat.
The main impediment usually lies in control schemes. Most laptops have the touchpad situated in the center just under the keypad. Of course, a few have it slightly to the right; but they are in the minority. With the touchpad in the center, relative inaccuracy makes it very difficult to play genres such as first-person shooters that require fast, accurate control.
To avoid this issue, choose games that don’t rely on fast, precise controls. Slower paced, 2D platformers such as Spelunky that rely solely on the keyboard will work very well on a laptop. The Walking Dead and turn based games such as Civilization will also run smoothly on a laptop.
Invest in a few additions, starting with a controller
A controller would instantly expand the range of games you can play on your laptop. The thing is, most PC games today originate as console titles. This makes a controller a necessity across almost every game. Xbox controllers are generally the preferred choice due to their native Windows support although Steam, PS4 and many custom controllers are also tempting offers.
The controller might not aim as accurately as a mouse, but it beats the touchpad hands down. If possible, combine the controller with an HDMI cable output to your TV to recreate the console gaming experience.
Another alternative, if you’re playing with the laptop on a table, is to use a USB mouse instead of the touchpad.
Lastly, unless you’re happy with the poor quality of audio from your laptop speakers, invest in a pair of gaming headphones or a set of quality but affordable computer speakers from a brand like Logitech.
If you can follow these tips, you may be able to comfortably play a few PC games on your laptop at home or on the move.