Most great value deals for a gaming laptops 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:
Here are a few other notebooks that can handle current PC games well, as well:
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Last update on 2023-02-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API