Steve Smith explains why laptop gaming doesn't seem to be supported by manufactures, and what it actually means for you, the laptop gamer.
Episode #6-49 released on August 21, 2016
First, how about we address the elephant in the room, the cost of a gaming laptop. You can pay upwards of double, or more, for a gaming laptop over a conventional laptop. This makes gaming laptops part of a rare crowd, because people usually buy desktops or consoles over gaming laptops. This will, however, change as the cost of gaming laptops drop.
But why aren't they supported then? Well, to say laptop graphics cards aren't supported, is not completely true. Some game developers do support them, but you, also, have two kinds of graphics cards used in laptops, the mobile graphics card, and the discrete graphics card. Many laptops that do have a dedicated graphics card, have a mobile graphics card. These mobile graphics cards are usually under powered, and cause significant heat issues, not to mention that the battery life of a laptop while gaming is not impressive. However, battery issues aside, being underpowered and overheating can limit the number of frames per second you will enjoy due to thermal throttling.
Now, newer laptops will enjoy discreet graphics cards that are more powerful, while being more energy efficient which will allow for slightly cooler temperatures and more frames per second. These laptops will easily be supported by developers because they share the same graphics processing units as the desktop counterpart but do cost more than conventional laptops. I am specifically talking about laptops that will be released with the 10 series NVidia Pascal graphics processor. The only issue is that you can expect only about 90% of the performance over a desktop, but why is that?
The other reason why developers may not support gaming laptops, as often, and why many manufactures may not use discreet graphics cards is power. A desktop computer has a power supply that can be swapped for better performing, more efficient, and even more powerful power supply. You cannot change the power supply of a laptop, and the device must be able to run off of a battery, at least for several hours during normal usage before the battery needs recharging. This is why graphics cards in laptops aren't usually as powerful as their desktop counterpart.
This does not mean you can't enjoy games with your laptop, supported or not. This simply means you need to address the game with your laptops abilities in mind. Keep in mind, that there are plenty of settings in games that can be turned down, or off, that will allow you to have more framerate. Things like anti-aliasing do not need to be turned on to have beautiful games. Remember that playing games with the laptop plugged in, is the best way to ensure stable power delivery, which will allow your laptop to run at full power. If cooling is an issue, experiment with cooling pads, and laptop risers. And, of course, for those out there with newer laptops that support the USB 3.1 Type C connector, check with your manual, you just might be able to use a desktop grade graphics card to power your gameplay.
And, another detail before I leave any of your out there with a hard decision, if you haven't bought your laptop of choice yet, do your research, be aware of your intentions. There are plenty of sources of information, reviews, and such from many YouTube, and television personalities who can provide their own points of view of your future purchases. Call up computer stores and ask whether or not they already carry the laptop, or what their impressions are on the laptop itself. Ask about warranties, and past experiences dealing with manufactures in that case.
And, of course, look at whether you need a gaming laptop, or not. You can sometimes have a better experience with an inexpensive desktop that is upgradeable, as well as, a lighter weight laptop. There are, also, software options that let you play games remotely, consider this, if you can stand leaving your gaming PC on, and just logging in remotely, while using your laptop to game in this way. Obviously not a perfect solution, but a less expensive one, indeed. The choice is yours, ask your questions, voice your concerns, and of course, leave me your ideas for laptops you are interested in buying below.
Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions