If you work for a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) employer, work as a freelancer, or otherwise have a say over what work laptop you get, it’s tempting to get a gaming laptop. However, not every gaming laptop will work well for, well, work. Here’s how to pick the right one.
Look for a Gaming Laptop With Business Features
What really separates a gaming laptop from a “business” laptop? It’s not RGB lights, that’s for sure! There are some features that make it easier to do work and especially when it comes to protecting company data.
A webcam that supports Windows Hello is useful, as is a fingerprint reader. Support for hardware-based disk encryption is also important. However, thanks to Windows 11 requiring this at a minimum, any Windows 11 gaming laptop should have this feature.
Pay Attention to Battery Life and Practicality
Most gaming laptops aren’t so much mobile as portable. The high-performance components they use can burn through battery life in no time at all, and they are really designed to be used plugged in. That being said, modern CPUs and GPUs can scale considerably to conserve power.
Look for a gaming laptop that supports technologies like NVIDIA Advanced Optimus, that automatically switches between the iGPU (Integrated GPU) and dGPU (discrete or dedicated GPU) as needed based on the current task the system is performing. Likewise, some Intel gaming laptops have p-cores (performance cores) and e-cores (efficiency cores), allowing the laptop to perform more like a power-efficient laptop when on battery.
Regardless of the specific tech features in the machine, be sure to look up battery benchmarks for the laptops you’re considering, to ensure that it will last long enough to finish that last-minute presentation in a cab on the way to a conference.
Consider a “Sleeper” Gaming Laptop
While it may not matter in many modern work settings, gaming laptops tend to have a certain aesthetic that doesn’t quite fit a professional setting. Not everyone likes some of the bright and outlandish designs gaming laptops are known for, so there’s a segment of the market that offers “stealth” machines that don’t look like gaming systems at first glance.
MSI Stealth GS66 15.6
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If you need a laptop that won’t turn heads in the boardroom, but will light up your gaming life after work, the GS66 Stealth is the only computer you need.
A good example of this are the Stealth gaming laptops from MSI, which just look like big black metal laptops, but still have nice RGB keyboards that you can put into disco mode after hours.
Consider a Thin and Light Gaming Laptop
Advances in computer technology now allows for “thin and light” laptops to pack a significant amount of power. Gaming laptops like the Razer Blade 14 are as close as you’re going to get to a MacBook Pro while still being a butt-kicking Windows gaming PC.
Razer Blade 14 Gaming Laptop
Crazy specifications packed into a tiny laptop body. There’s a reason Razor rules the 14-inch gaming laptop roost.
These laptops are easy to transport and are perfect if you do the sort of work where you’re always on the hoof. However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Thin and light gaming laptops inevitably perform worse than larger laptops with better cooling, using identical components. That being said, they still have plenty of power on tap, so if you want one mobile monster to do everything, it’s a great option.
Don’t Forget About eGPUs!
There is another path for business laptops to become decent gaming computers. If a business laptop supports eGPUs (external GPUs) you can connect a GPU to the system to make it gaming-capable while docked. Good business-class laptops usually have ample RAM and powerful CPUs, so adding an external GPU can transform them into a decent rig.
However, the most common eGPU connection type is still Thunderbolt 3 and 4, which is quite constrained when it comes to bandwidth, and so any GPU you connect is likely to be choked a little in performance. With the coming of Thunderbolt 5 and alternatives like OCuLINK, eGPUs may become an even better option going ahead, but even today it’s an interesting option. Especially if you already have a work laptop that supports this. In which case it’s far cheaper than buying a whole new laptop!
What to Avoid in a Gaming Laptop for Work
Apart from positive attributes to look for when you want to use a gaming laptop as a work laptop, there are a few things you’ll likely want to avoid:
- Color-inaccurate screens: If you’re a creator that requires a color-accurate screen to do your work, pay special attention to the color specs of the screen in gaming laptops. They tend to favor high refresh rates and fast response times over accuracy. It may be a better idea to go for a gaming/creator hybrid laptop such as the MSI Creator series.
- 1080p Screens: Many gaming laptops opt for 1080p screens, which are perfectly good for gaming on a 15-inch or even 17-inch monitor, but are rather cramped for work. So try to get a 1440p model if possible.
- Mechanical keyboards: Some gaming laptops offer mechanical keyboards as an option. While this can be great for video games, they aren’t always the best for typing, and can be a noisy distraction for other people in co-working spaces.
- Inadequate IO: While gaming laptops tend to have lots of different connections for peripherals they might not offer the right mix of connections for your needs. For example, they may lack SD card readers, or have few it any USB type A connections.
That’s not an exhaustive list of pitfalls (you could always come up with more!), but examples of the sort of thinking you need to do when braving the “one laptop to rule them all” approach to work and play. Now you really can be “business in the front, party in the back.”