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How to Build a Gaming Laptop and Why You Should

When you're ready to get the most out of your gaming-on-the-go experience, building a gaming laptop is the way to go.

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What's Inside

When you're ready to take your PC gaming to the next level, a computer custom built specifically for gaming is for you. Understanding how a gaming laptop differs from a traditional one can help you decide what you need to build the gaming performance laptop you want.

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What is a Gaming Laptop?

Before you can build a gaming laptop, it is important to understand what it is and is not. This type of laptop looks very much like a traditional laptop. The real difference is "under the hood." Games require split-second response times and sharp visuals that regular laptops cannot match. The intense demand by the system for resources during gameplay requires an efficient cooling system with high-speed fans. The high-powered processors tend to diminish battery-life quickly when playing games, so plan on frequent charging if you choose to use your laptop on the go. The battery life is not an issue if you use your laptop wired. Gaming laptops can be pre-built or custom, which means a customer can pick out each component for their system based on what they plan on playing.

What Are the Components You Can Customize?

When you're ready to build your gaming laptop, there are numerous parts you can customize for your unique style of gameplay. Custom components allow you to decide just how much power you want to get from your system, while also helping you plan your budget. The basics you need are a laptop case, motherboard, RAM, processor, power supply, GPU, HDD/SDD and optical drive.

Graphics Card/GPU

The term GPU (graphics processing unit) can be used interchangeably with the terms graphics or video card. All PCs use GPU to render video and images for display. The difference between a GPU and CPU is a CPU uses a few cores for processing, so doing multiple functions can slow down the system. A GPU can handle multitasking because it has thousands of smaller cores to do the processing.

There are two main types of GPUs to choose from: integrated and discrete. 

Integrated GPUs are resident within the laptop and share the memory with the processor. Discrete-type GPUs operate on a separate card, so the laptop does not have to use the internal memory for graphics rendering and can deliver optimum performance. When considering gaming needs, most games give "minimum" and "recommended" settings. The better your hardware (such as your graphics card) the better performance you'll get, such as more realistic graphics and higher resolutions or frames per second.


Playing games can utilize RAM resources to their fullest, so it is a good idea to have at least 16GB on a gaming laptop for the richest gaming experience. For gaming on a budget, keep a closer eye on the "minimum" requirements. Most cutting-edge games require a minimum of 8GB, but this will come at the expense of performance, so customize your hardware to what types of games you're playing and the quality you want to play them. Additionally, make a note of how many memory card slots your laptop has, memory is expandable in most PCs, so you can usually add another card if you have an open slot.


There are two main types of storage, traditional HDD (hard drive) or SSD (solid state drive). You can utilize both types in your gaming laptop. The faster your HDD spins, the better your performance even with a massive 1TB HDD. This means a 1TB 7200-rpm HDD outperforms a 1TB 5400-rpm drive. SSD has higher overall performance because it works using non-volatile flash memory which has higher processing speed than HDD. These drives can work in tandem using the SDD as a boot drive to decrease loading times.

Optical Drive

The optical disk drive (ODD) is a component that uses laser light to read or write data to or from an optical disc. Examples of optical discs are CDs, DVDs and video games on disc. The faster the optical drive spins, the better the image renders on your display.

Customizing for Game Types

The components you choose for your gaming laptop are unique to the type of gameplay you engage in most often. Modern games with realistic graphics will require more resources that the latest components can deliver, but some games don't require as much demand. Each game has its own requirements ("minimum" and "recommended"), so be sure to research the needs of games you want to play. You should also consider what games you may want to play over the next few years. Better components help future-proof your gaming laptop, so you can continue to play new games as they're released.

Virtual reality (VR) games have a much higher hardware demand than non-VR games. For VR gaming you'll need components that can meet the additional requirements of these experiences. A responsive GPU and a sufficient amount RAM to operate at peak performance should be factored into your laptop build. Be mindful of other hardware needs as well, such as a sufficient amount of USB ports for the headset and any sensors your VR kit utilizes for room-scale gaming experiences.

Now that you know the essential components for building your gaming laptop put together a list of the games and types of video games you enjoy playing most. This list determines the basic configurations you need to put together in a gaming laptop that can perform to your gaming style. If you have any questions, ask an expert member of our CDW team; we can assist you in creating a gaming laptop built to your standards.