The CPU and GPU makers
While there are some odd video solutions floating around,
the vast majority of laptops use processing technology from either AMD or
Intel, and video technology from them or NVidia.
A gaming laptop
with video technology from them or NVidia.
Here’s my assessment of each of these choices in the context
of buying a gaming laptop, where GPU power rules supreme.
I’m going to be blunt: Intel is the sickly child of gaming
video technology. What annoys me most about it is that it makes all sorts of
wild claims for its GPU technology, and it even questioned the future of
discrete GPU technology, once its amazing processors get to the level that
CPU-based ray-tracing is possible.
The vast majority
of its Core i3 and Core i5 products use Intel HD Graphics 3000, which was first
introduced in 2006 or possibly earlier.
Well, we’re still waiting for that epochal event, and
frankly I don’t think we’re any closer to getting GPU-less gaming graphics than
when Intel’s people first spouted this rubbish some years ago.
For all its fine words, the integrated video it includes in
its products underperforms ATI and NVidia in all respects, and when you look at
its specification that’s entirely to be expected.
But (and this is where the world is just plain wrong), Intel
actually sells more GPUs than any other company, because 90% of all computers
sold have its integrated graphics. So does that mean it knows what it’s doing
No, that’s not an area it’s remotely interested in. And
because of that, its latest integrated designs are donkey’s years old, and not
actually integrated into its CPU technology in a remotely elegant fashion.
The vast majority of its Core i3 and Core i5 products use
Intel HD Graphics 3000, which was first introduced in 2006 or possibly earlier.
It’s only DirectX 10.1 compliant, although it does have a 4000 model now that’s
supposedly DirectX 11 certified. On the Intel Atom systems, it’s introduced a
PowerVR licensed GPU, but you won’t want one of those, because the CPU
performance isn’t game friendly.
The very best you can hope for is Sandy Bridge HD Graphics
4000, which might have 21.3GB/s of bandwidth, Shader Model 4.1 and a clock
speed of 1150MHz, but that’s only going to be equivalent to the
lowest-specification discrete video card that you’d get on a desktop PC.
In short, if someone tries to sell you a ‘gaming laptop’ and
it has any version of Intel’s Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA), then walk
Interestingly, AMD has two entirely different paths to video
performance, one of which is more orientated towards gaming than the other. Its
integrated offering is built around its ‘Fusion’ concept, where the CPU and GPU
are merged into a single piece of silicon: the APU. It also has discrete mobile
GPUs, which in the context of this article are the ones you want for gaming
That said, some of the APU units using the previous
generation, have both the internal video and an external Southern Islands GPU
working in CrossFireX mode.
Generally, avoid the low-power E-Series, and look at the
A-Series APUs, some of which have decent GPU power alongside their integrated
GPU technology. An even better choice, however, is one of AMD’s dedicated
If you look at the table of Radeon HD 7xxxM Series, you’ll
see that almost every GPU option that AMD makes is better than the best Intel
offering, and the top end ones are actually very impressive. The only problem
is that the laptops with the 7700M or 7800M series video aren’t cheap.
If you’re unsure exactly what power you’re likely to get,
then balance the number coding against what you might reasonably think about
the desktop video equivalent. For example, in desktop video cards a HD 6450
isn’t remarkably fast for games, and neither is a HD 6450M. The translation
isn’t perfect, but you’ll have an idea. In general, if the mobile coding is in
the 6700M to 7700M range or above then you’ll have a better gaming experience;
below those numbers you’ll need to do some testing to find out if you have
sufficient power for your needs. A good rule would be to avoid DDR3 designs, as
GDDR5 models often have double the bandwidth.
AMD makes some good mobile graphics options, and you can get
them on both its own processor platforms and Intel’s too.
This company’s parts have been the mobile gamer’s weapon of
choice for some time, and if you scan through its current 6xxM series
specifications, then you’ll soon see why.
Only its lowest rung, the 610M, is at the level of Intel’s
GMA and AMD’s lesser offerings. Everything else is significantly better, and
its high-end stuff is wickedly quick. The sweet spot in its range must be the
GeForce GT 635M, but depending on the memory used, the 640M LE can also be
The key is DDR3
use, which isn’t a good sign, but GDDR5 is - like that used in AMD GPUs.
The previous 500M series isn’t chopped liver either,
delivering good bandwidth and excellent shader numbers from the 550M upwards.
What you need to watch out for is those parts that,
depending which memory model they use, can either be wonderful or much less so.
The key is DDR3 use, which isn’t a good sign, but GDDR5 is - like that used in
If you can afford a laptop with one of these in, then you’ll
probably be happy with the gaming experience, even if you’re used to desktop