Most great value deals for a gaming laptop comes in small packages with 14-inch screens specified for low to medium HD resolution. Graphics cards that can seem challenged to handle larger screens at high resolution can manage to play demanding games more smoothly on smaller resolution screens.
- Full HD display. At full HD or 1920 x 1080 resolution, 14-inch screens can really look quite brilliant and color-saturated. That’s because you get a higher pixel density when the screen has a high resolution on a smaller screen. A 32-inch HDTV would have just around 84dpi (dots per inch) compared to a 17.3-inch laptop which has 156 dpi when specified with the same full HD resolution. Just imagine the brilliance of the smartphone HTC One with the same resolution at only 4.7-inches. It’s an awesome 468 dpi! But a case can be made that you really won’t need all that high resolution in a 14-incher, as even a low HD resolution at 1366 x 768 looks great. A high powered graphics card that can play games with difficulty.
Table 1: Average or typical pixel densities for a 14 or 14.1-inch display with the three main HD resolutions
- In-Plane Switching or IPS Display. Quite fashionable these days, IPS screens are seen in several popular smartphones pioneered by the Apple iPhone which had stayed with the technology while others like Samsung prefer to AMOLED displays. The IPS display generally has slightly better color saturation and accuracy. Its main advantage is its visual consistency across a wider viewing angle. That means it’s great when you have two or more friends watching a high definition movie on your laptop as even those viewing it farthest from the center position can get almost as good a view as when seated at the center. But it eats up 15% higher power t drain your battery. For gamers, you don’t really need to spend more for a laptop with IPS screen. It’s unlikely you would be playing games watching the laptop screen off center. Gamers seat right in front with eyes glued to the center to the screen right at the center position. A standard TN (Twisted Nematic) screen which has evolved to achieve excellent contrast ratios and response times over their predecessors 2-3 years back is cheaper. A gaming laptop using IPS display will certainly be more expensive, with all other features equal.
- Multi Core CPU. With so many laptops powered by quad core processors, the CPU has less profound impact on the performance of recently released games that harness the multi-threading abilities of these multi-core CPUs. There was a time when there were just a few RPG or FSP games optimized for quad core computing and were used to merely future-proof you laptop investment. In addition, large L2 and L3 caches are also recommended but these days, just about every quad core engine, especially those new 4th generation Haswell engines already have generous cache memory in the 4MB to 8MB range. The perennial war between Intel and AMD has certainly benefitted consumers as the competition has progressively pushed more computing power that gets more affordable on a cost per MIPs basis. AMD wins hands down in terms of overall cost, but Intel still has the edge in computing muscle for the same cost. Dual core laptops can still play demanding games, especially when it uses class 1 or 2 graphics cards. But these days, it gets rarer to see them in tandem with really competent GPUs which are often seen paired with quad core laptops. Will the serious gamer go for the older 3rd generation Ivy Bride multicore CPUs or the recently released 4th generation Haswell multicores? For games in on the market today, it won’t matter much. But having said that, the rule of thumb in laptops is to go for the latest technology if only to future-proof your investment, at least for the next 18-24 months.
- Solid State Drive (SSD). The fastest data storage device in terms of seek and fetch times for retrieving data is not your SATA drive even when running at 7200 RPM. It’s those SSDs which are pure electronics with no moving parts. Serious and professional gamers know how fast games perform with SSDs when launching or loading new game levels and map textures. They would often look for a laptop with one or get it upgraded even with a modest 128 GB SSD. This is a must for most serious gamers. If you hear your hard drive whirl away when load graphics to a new level or while shifting from one scene to the next in playing a game, that means seconds are lost, something you won’t have to suffer when the game is launched from a SSD.
- The Graphics Engine. More than any other hardware feature in a PC or laptop, the graphics engine or GPU determines what games you can play and how good a laptop is as a gaming workstation. The best gaming laptops use the top-tier GPUs in the Class 1 category graphics card from either NVidia or AMD. These are discrete video cards that use their own dedicated video RAM, compared with the integrated GPUs in multicore CPUs that share with the system RAM and fall mostly in the Class 3 and Class 4 categories. Our threshold GPU is the Intel HD Graphics 4000 which are integrated with most i5 and i7 CPUs and provide reasonable gaming experience for casual gamers who don’t mind playing some of the more demanding games in the low game setting and lowest possible HD resolution. But for the best 14-inch gaming laptops, only those using Class 1 GPUs can qualify. These are basically top-of-the-line laptops for any given screen size in a model or brand. There are currently about 60 different GPUS from Nvidia and AMD with the top 1-20 GPUs designed for large 17 and 18 inch laptops, while the rest can be found mostly in 15.6 inch Laptops, the lowest tier Class 1 GPUs are the ones often since in 14-inchers. These are the Nvidia GeForce GTX 764M, 670M, 570Mm 760M, 570M graphics cards from Nvidia, and the Radeon HD 8870M, 7870M, and 6950M from AMD. You won’t find any SLI or Crossfire dual card configuration at this screen size, though it’s possible some models may allow you to configure one as an upgrade.
- Wired and Wireless Data Connectivity Gamers will want to have at least an HDMI 1.4 port to connect their laptops to a more gorgeous 32-inch or larger HDTVs. VGA ports can also do the job, provided your HDTV supports VGA connection. If you are more into online games, a WiFi 802.11 b/g/n will come in handy, or at least a spare USB 3.0 port to accommodate an internet dongle. If your laptop has an SSD drive where you can load the games you want to play while on the road, a Bluetooth connection will come in handy, with the latest version providing faster data transfer rates.
- Immersive Quality Sound When you read the laptop specs that trumpet a Dolby sound system on 2 or 4 THX-certified speakers plus a subwoofer, they only sound good on paper. Don’t expect a laptop even from those large 18-inchers to have the same or even approach the immersive quality sound of your home theater speakers or even powered speakers. At best they can add a slightly fuller body to the typical laptop sound, but don’t bother with it when deciding which laptop to buy, at whatever size. You best audio experience can be achieved with a good pair of headsets or earphones. External powered speakers are great for desktops but you don’t want to lug them around with the laptop.
There are just a few Class 1 category GPUs that power the graphics of small 14-inch gaming laptops. The top-of- the-line graphics engines such as the GTC 780M ad their SLI dual card configuration s are reserved for the largest 17.3 and 18-inch laptops. For 14-inchers the base gaming laptops are often powered by quad cores starting 8GB RAM and graphics engines starting with CPU cards in the mid to lower ranges in the Class 1 category. Don’t be dismayed if the best value for the money comes with low HD resolution of just 1366 x 768. They can be the fastest and most competent gaming laptops for a give price range. With an eye to gaming laptops that use only the fastest Class 1 or top-tier Class 2 graphics engines, we look at some of the best 14-inch gaming laptops in the market today, price no object. Here are some:
Razer Blade 14 Inch Gaming Laptop
Just 0,66-inches thick and weighing 4.1 lbs, you could be forgiven for thinking this faddish Ultrabook that is functionally lightweight, but it’s not, especially at a price that is just a dollar below the $2,000 price point. It is powered by a 4th generation Intel quad core i7-4702HQ clocked at 2.2 GHz than can do up to 3.2GHz on Turbo Boos technology and supported by 8GB DDR3L SDRAM I twin slots upgradable to 16GB. What makes this a mean gaming laptop is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M graphics muscle that occupies the upper-midrange GPUs in the Class 1 category to overdrive a 14-inch display with only a medium HD (1600 x 900) resolution. That means that you can play all the demanding games titles of the last 2 years without any problem at high to ultra high resolution, with the exception of Company of Heroes 2 which plays best at medium game settings at the default resolution. What makes it light and slim is the absence of any hard drive or optical drive. Instead you get a 256 GB mSATA solid state drive that every serious gamer prefers to have on their gaming workstations. You have the usual wired and wireless data connectivity options, stereo speakers driven by a Dolby Home Theater v4 system, and an HD webcam. It also comes bundled with Windows 8 OS.
Alienware ALW14-4682sLV 14-Inch Laptop
With a rather hefty list price of $1,700 ($1,649 for the silver), this Alienware gets the some 4th generation Haswell Intel quad core i7-4700MQ clocked at 2.4 GHz (up to 3.4 GHz with Turbo Boost) with an 8 GB DDR3 DIMM system RAM. The price jump is caused by a more powerful upper-midrange Class 1 category GPU, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M to power is 14-inch display that is better specified as anti-glare IPS display with full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution using IPS. (That’s where most of the higher price goes.) With it , you step up a notch so you can play Company of Heroes 2 at medium settings, while just about the high performance games can play at medium to his game settings at the default or lower HD resolutions. Tomb raider and Dead Space 3 can plat at ultra high settings. Data storage is no different with a 750GB SATA drive running at 7200 rpm Hard Drive, a Super Multi 8x DCD optical drive, 9-in-1 media card readers, and no SSD for its 1.49-inch slim body weighing just 6.4 lbs. you get the same data connectivity options like USB 3 and Bluetooth, along with a 5.1 Klipsch speaker system driven by a Dolby Home Theater system. It comes bundled with the 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium edition.
MSI GE40 2OC-010US Dragon Eyes Gaming Notebook
At a reasonable price of $1,422,49, ($1,439.99 for the 010US model), this MSI G-series gaming laptop is powered by the 4th generation Haswell quad core i7-4702MQ with 6MB cache, clocked at 2.2GHz (up to 3.2 GHz with Turbo Boost) and supported by an 8GB DDR3 system RAM upgradeable to 16GB. Its 14-inch LED backlit matte screen sports a medium HD (1600 x 900) resolution driven by the upper midrange Class 1 category Nvidia GeForce GTX 760M with 3GB GDDR5 video RAM. With the execution of Company of Heroes 2 which is best played at low game detail settings, all the game titles released this year can be played at medium to high game settings at the default resolution. Its slim 0.87-inch body profile weighing just 4.4 lbs houses a 750GB SATA hard running at 7200 RPM, a 128GB solid state drive, an SD card reader, a SuperMulti 8X DVD optical drive, an HD webcam and a host of wired and wireless data connectivity ports. . It comes preloaded with 54-bit Windows 8 OS and enjoys a 2-year limited warranty.
MSI G Series GE40 2OC-009US
With a list price of $1,299, this basic MSI G Series GE40 provides a powerful gaming solution powered by a 4th generation quad core i7-4702MQ, clocked at 2.2GHz (up to 3.2 GHz with Turbo Boost) and an 8GB DDR3 system RAM upgradeable to 16GB. Graphics power that define its gaming prowess is provided by an upper midrange GPU in the Class 1 category, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 760M with 2GB GDDR% video RAM. It powers a 14-inch LED backlit anti-glare screen that is only specified for a medium HD (1600 x 900) resolution driven. You can play all the games released over the last 2 years at medium to high game detail setting as its default HD resolution, with the execution of Company of Heroes 2 which can play only at low game settings. It comes with a 750GB SATA HDD running at 7200 RPM, a 128GB solid state drive, an SD card reader, a SuperMulti 8X DVD optical drive, an HD webcam and a host of wired and wireless data connectivity ports all housed in a slim 0.87-inch body profile weighing just 4.4 lbs. It comes preloaded with 54-bit Windows 8 OS and enjoys a 2-year limited warranty.
ASUS G46VW-DS71-CA Republic of Gamers (ROG) Notebook
Priced at $1,480, this Asus ROG laptop model is powered by a 3rd generation Intel quad core i7 3630QM processor clocked and supported by an 8GB DDR3 system RAM expandable to 16GB. Its 14.1-inch LED backlit non-glare display is specified at a medium HD (1600 x 900) resolution driven by the top-tier Class 2 category Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M with dedicated 2GB GDDR5 video RAM. With the exception of Company of Heroes 2 and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier which only plays a low game setting, and SimCity, Crysis 2 and 3, Max Payne 3, Allan Wake, Metro Last Light, Hitman: Absolution, and the Bureau: XCOM Declassified which can only played up to medium game settings, all the recently released high performance RPG and FSP games can be played at high game settings., It comes with a 750GB running at 7200 RPM and a 3-in 1 card reader, HD webcam, integrated 802.11 b/g/m WiFi and USB 3.0. Windows 8 is bundled and comes with a 2-year global warranty.
Lenovo IdeaPad Y410p Laptop Computer – 59369916 – Dusk Black: DOORBUSTER
Not the best performer for a 14-incher but with its 1TB SATA 5400 RPM hard disk drive complemented by a 24GB SSD, and powered by a 4th generation Intel Haswell quad core i7-4700MQ clocked at 2.40GHz and with 6MB cache supported by an 8GB DDR3L system RAM upgradeable to 16GB, this Lenovo Y-series has to be one of the best value at a mere $879, (Same model, the 59369912 without the SSD is only $769 and the 59369917 with the Blu0ray optical drive is at $1,119.20). The real value comes from its discrete top-tier GPU in the Class 2 category – the Nvidia GeForce GT 750M with its own 2GB GDDR5 video RAM driving its 14-inch low HD (1366 x 768) resolution screen. While you may have some problem playing the Company of Heroes 2 even at low game settings, and that SimCity can only play at low with some stuttering at medium setting, nearly all highly demanding RPG and FSP games released over the last 2 years can be played at medium to high games settings at default resolution. It even comes with an HD webcam and a dual layer DVD optical drive, HDMI and the usual data connectivity ports, all housed in a rather light 5.5-lb body. It also comes bundled with a 64-bit Windows 8 OS.
This model allows you customize the configuration, starting from a $1,199 base which already gives you a 4th generation Haswell quad core i7-4700MQ, 8GB DDR3L system RAM, a Class 2 category Nvidia GeForce GT 750 with 1GB of DDR5 video RAM to drive a low HG (1366 x 768) resolution 14-inch LED backlist display, a 750GB SATA drive running at 7200 RPM an 8x SuperMulti DVD optical drive. But for a top-end configuration that pushes the display to full HD (1920 x 1080) and driven by a more powerful Class 1 category GeForce GTX 765M with 2GB GDDR5 video RAM, twice the system RAM upgradeable to 32GB, and a 256GB mSATA SSD in RAID 0 configuration, you get to shell out $2,049, to make this Alienware 14 model one of the most powerful 14-inch gaming laptops. What this upscale customized configuration buys you is that it can play just about all the recently released games at high to ultra game settings, with just the exception of Company of Heroes 2, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, and Allan Wake which can play at only at medium game settings at the default full HD resolution. The data connectivity ports are standard with 3 USV ports, a Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI, and eSATA ports. It comes bundled with a 65-bit Windows 7 Home Premium edition OS.