What is the most important "optional upgrade" for a gaming laptop?

LCarlson

Staff member
Nov 25, 2019
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I have to balance my frequent travel with a tight personal budget and a need for gaming.

I had to buy a new laptop when my ancient one died on a trip, and was amazed to find that I could actually play my go-to games on it, even though I bought it with standard work-related interests in mind. I also do not want a 15lb traditional gaming laptop beast to lug about, hehe.

I will always have budgetary concerns, so my question is... what is the most important "optional upgrade" for a laptop that will be used for games when my PC is out of reach.
More RAM? Upgrade the video chip (if that's even possible)? I have honestly found that I am playing ok, though sometimes on lower settings, but I HAVE run out of room for patches.
 
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PCG Joanna

Hardware Staff Writer
Staff member
Dec 9, 2019
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RAM is definitely an easy one, although some manufactures like to solder the RAM to the motherboard, so upgrading to a larger SSD is a better option. You can do either M.2 NVMe or SATA, depending on your budget and what can fit into your laptop's configuration. If you're looking for the best dollar for dollar performance for a larger capacity SSD, a 1TB ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro is a great option.
 
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Jan 6, 2020
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The vast majority of laptops won't let you upgrade the GPU. So barring that, RAM and SSD are the top options. SSDs are especially appealing because pricing has come down quite a bit over the past few years. Also, laptop vendors have traditionally been stingy with the size/capacity of the SSD, so if you're only rocking a 256GB drive (or even lower), a 1TB SSD for ~$100 is a solid upgrade.
 
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PCG Jarred

Staff member
Dec 9, 2019
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Assuming you're talking about "optional upgrades" at the time of purchase, these days I'd try and get a 144Hz display, RTX 2060 or better, 6-core/12-thread or better CPU, 16GB RAM (32GB bonus!), and a 1TB SSD. That should be possible in a sub-$2000 laptop that's pretty thin and light.

I think the two most impressive laptops I saw at CES were the Asus Zephyrus G14 (Ryzen 7 4800HS and RTX 2060 Max-Q, 3.7 pounds, 10 hours batter life, 144Hz display), and CyberPowerPC had a lightweight and attractive 15.6-inch laptop -- maybe the Tracer III 15Z Slim? It was light and looked pretty good, for around $1500.
 
Jan 13, 2020
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Gaming or not, I feel like a mouse is sort of a must have add-on for any laptop.

I also don't understand why so many gaming laptops don't feature the trackpad on the right side of the keyboard, under the arrow keys.
 
Jan 17, 2020
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Gaming or not, I feel like a mouse is sort of a must have add-on for any laptop.

I also don't understand why so many gaming laptops don't feature the trackpad on the right side of the keyboard, under the arrow keys.
1000% agree on this point. It's hard to get precision in just one swipe consistanlty. A mouse with thumb buttons is a must. especially when web browsing.

Also
+1 for an SSD and 16GB is good for another 4 years tops
 
Jan 5, 2020
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Besides what was already mentioned, I will add that a cooling pad is very important. My previous laptop was prone to overheating after a few years of use, even changing the thermal paste didn't really help. But it worked good as new after getting a cooling pad for it.
 
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