Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Choose an IPS or OLED screen for good gaming experience with accurate colors and a blur-free display on modern gaming laptops.
  • At least a 15.6-inch screen size generally works well for most gamers, while 144Hz refresh rate and variable refresh rate technology are key.
  • Stick to 1920×1080 resolution for gaming laptops to maintain clear graphics unless using the laptop primarily for work purposes.

Gaming laptops are one of the best ways to get into PC gaming with competitive prices for mid-range systems and a plug-and-play mobile experience. However, your screen choice is far more important in a gaming laptop than usual.

Get the Right Panel for What Gaming Laptop Screen Needs to Do

For a good gaming experience, a gaming laptop screen needs to offer a snappy, blur-free experience. Preferably while offering good color reproduction! In the past, to get that snappy blur-free experience, the go-to panel technology was TN or “Twisted Nematic.” However, this panel technology is known for its washed-out look compared to the more popular IPS panel technology. With advancements in IPS technology, most good modern laptops will come with an IPS screen. OLED technology is also slowly entering the market, and would be the overall superior option on all fronts if your budget allows.

If you’re worried about using a gaming laptop for other types of work that are sensitive to screen color performance, then you should know that most modern IPS gaming laptop screens are often good enough to do color work on, though you’ll have to check the color gamut and calibration of individual models to be sure.

The Ideal Screen Size for Your Gaming Laptop

Gaming laptops generally range from 14-inches for ultraportable systems to 17.3-inches for larger desktop-replacement class systems. There have also been 18-inch, 19-inch, and even 21-inch gaming laptops, but such enormous screen options are rare. Since you can easily adjust how far or close to your gaming laptop you sit, screen size isn’t the be-all it might be with a TV or computer monitor on a desk. However, 14-inch systems are likely too small for most people to game comfortably on, depending on the types of games you enjoy.

As with most laptops for general-purpose use, a 15.6-inch screen will do for most people most of the time. However, that’s only true if you’ll be gaming on an external display or if your gaming laptop is not your main gaming device. If you’re going to be gaming mainly on a laptop and using its built-in screen, then give serious consideration to a 17.3-inch model.

Modern 17-inch laptops aren’t as bulky as you might imagine, and if you’ll be spending a significant amount of time gaming on your laptop screen, it’s amazing how much of a difference an inch or two can make.

Which Resolution Should Your Gaming Laptop Have?

For most gaming laptops out in the wild, you’ll find that 1080p (1920×1080 pixels) is the norm. That might sound quite low by modern standards with current generation consoles targeting higher resolutions, but the most common high-end desktop PC gaming resolution is 1440p (2560×1440 pixels), not 4K.

Gaming laptops now often come with a 1440p option, which sounds like a good idea. However, I’d actually advise against going for a 1440p panel on a gaming laptop if you’re mainly going to game on it, rather than do any sort of serious work. Why? It’s simply that 1440p represents a significantly higher workload than 1080p, and laptop GPUs are comparatively lower in performance compared to desktop GPUs.

Add to this, even a 17.3-inch screen is quite small for 1080p and offers crisp graphics at that resolution. You’d have to put your eyes closer than about 26-inches (based on online “retina” calculators) to the screen to even have a chance at seeing those pixels, and that’s when on the desktop! Not when playing games. Most of the benefits of higher resolutions in gaming are now also offered by modern image processing, so you shouldn’t be seeing shimmer or jagged edges in modern games either. On older titles you can use old-school supersampling to compensate.

On the desktop, however, you’ll likely enjoy the extra real estate of 1440p for work or any task that requires two windows split across the panel. If you opt for a 1440p screen, you can always render the game at a lower resolution and upscale using technologies like DLSS, so that you can still take advantage of higher refresh rates.

Refresh Rate and Variable Refresh Rate on Gaming Laptops

Speaking of high refresh rates, this is a key specification for gaming laptops, and it’s one of the main features that will make games feel snappy. That’s assuming the computer can drive the game at frame rates high enough to take advantage of those high refresh rates. A gaming laptop should have at least a 144Hz refresh rate and that’s likely the lowest refresh rate you’ll find on a laptop advertised as a gaming system.

With mid-range to high-end laptops, you’ll start seeing refresh rates such as 240Hz, or 360Hz. Alternatively, when you’re ordering your laptop, you may have the option of multiple panels with different refresh rates. While there’s nothing wrong with a 240Hz panel, if you’re not playing games that run at 240 frames per second, the benefits are negligible, and even if you do, the difference between 144Hz gaming and 240Hz gaming is much less than the jump from 30Hz to 60Hz, or 60Hz to 120Hz.

If we’re heading north of the 240Hz mark, we’re entering the realm of the elite eSports athlete, and if you’re one of those, someone probably sponsored your laptop anyway.

Perhaps more important than the refresh rate of the monitor is support for some form of variable refresh rate technology. The two important ones are NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync. The laptop manufacturer will match the panels’ variable refresh rate technology with the GPU in the system, so you don’t have to worry about the specifics. This technology ensures that regardless of the current game frame rate, the image will be presented perfectly without “screen tearing.” This happens when the frames are rendered out of sync with the screen’s refresh rate, leading to a situation where one screen refresh shows part of one frame and part of the other.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Gaming laptops come in all shapes and sizes, because gamers come in all shapes and sizes. Which means it’s not possible to offer universal advice when it comes to screen size and specifications. However, I think the vast majority of gaming laptop users would be happy with this general list:

  • 15.6-inch panel size.
  • IPS or OLED panel type.
  • 1920×1080 screen resolution.
  • 144Hz refresh rate.
  • Variable refresh rate technology such as G-Sync or FreeSync.

From here, you can adjust things up or down the scale in accordance with your needs and budget, but it might be a good idea to do a test-run in an actual shop with gaming laptops to get a feel for how the different options look and play. If you want some great choices, we’ve covered the best gaming laptops in detail.

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By John P.

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