Please let me know what I have left out, I’m pretty sure I will forget some fairly key detail.
Buying on a budget is about compromise.
1. Decide on your use case beforehand
Are you mostly gaming or mostly working on your machine and doing some light gaming….. In the 2nd scenario you could get away without a dedicated GPU if you buy a newer Intel or AMD mobile APU. Do you need a quiet machine then a that needs to factor in to your buying choices.
Making these decision beforehand helps you decide on the compromises to make.
2. Go by the numbers
Deciding which is the best computer is all about making sense of the numbers. In most cases higher is better. 16GB or RAM is twice 8GB and a 512GB SSD is double the capacity of a 256GB.
I’ve marked which parts are upgradeable or fixed at the time of purchase.
SSD (Solid State Drive) & HDD (Hard Disk Drive) [Upgradeable]
You’ll want both in a gaming machine. An SSD to run your OS and for faster game load times and a much larger HDD for storing your games. 256GB is enough but just remember larger SSD’s last longer and are quicker than smaller drives. SSD’s are 5 to as much as 32 times quicker than traditional HDD’s.
8GB will get the job done but 16GB will give you some future proofing – DDR4 will be the standard across anything you buy in 2021 even if it is a year or two old machine.
For a decent gaming experience whilst maintaining some portability a 15.6″ is ideal. 17″ laptops are better if you don’t plan on moving your machine often. 15.6″ refers to the diagonal measurement of the screen, the same as TV’s.
Do you need a bigger screen for a more immersive experience then buy a desktop monitor and plug it in to your laptop.
Operating System [Upgradeable]
Most likely you’ll be running Windows 10 Home 64-bit. Go for Windows Professional if it is a low cost option. You can always upgrade later.
3. Compare apples to apples
Use tools like https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php to enable you to compare processors. Do a search for each processor and click the >>Compare button when you hover over the processor details ad then click the Compare button or scales in the upper right corner to compare. In the following case I compared the Intel 8300H vs 9400H, 10300H and the AMD 4800H
From the above you can see that the AMD Ryzen 7 4800H is a beast of a processor.
You want the longest warranty possible. I’m yet to be really impressed with the build quality of a gaming laptop. Factor that with the fact that you’ll be pushing the hardware hard in not ideal conditions and you want a warranty to cover any unforeseen issues.
Get onsite warranty if possible – this means after troubleshooting over the phone a technician will be sent out you to resolve the issue.
Go for an anti-glare panel over a glossy panel to give the best experience in the greatest range of settings. Glossy screens reflect light which can ruin your gaming experience.
- Reviews, check out what other people say and if at all possible get your hands on the laptop beforehand.
- Fan noise – can be an issue on some machines, wearing headphones can minimise the issue.