What to Look for in a Laptop for Game Development

Game development has become much more accessible with indie game platforms open to uploaders and game jams becoming popular for first-time game developers. This has resulted in the number of indie games growing at impressive speeds. Major gaming distribution platform Steam even has over 40,000 game entries in its Indie category, to date.

While most developers might suggest a PC rig for a more in-depth build that lends more customizability, laptops tend to be easier to use since you don’t have to build it yourself and it has portability. On top of this, a laptop may also be less expensive than certain demanding PC builds. If you’re interested in game development and want to go the laptop route, here are some important things to keep in mind:

laptop table with books and a coffee mug.

Features to Look for in Your Laptop

Your components are integral to your laptop’s performance. Game development can be more intensive, so you want to think about the stress you’ll be putting your laptop’s system under.

More than anything else, you need a laptop that has printed circuit boards (PCBs) with high speed designs. This ensures that it can house powerful components that are being put under an intense workload all at once. A well-designed laptop should already have a good motherboard meant to handle components, even if they might be soldered in. More than simply looking at big-name brands and manufacturers, you want to look at the actual specifications of your components.

Lots of High-Speed Storage

You need enough storage to develop games because of the different types of data and assets that you will be keeping. The more you improve and patch your games, the more you’ll even need to have capable storage drives that are high-performing. Consider the fact that, beyond your base game, you may have to store save data, fixes, inventory, replays, and other scalable assets. Even the game engines you will use take up quite a bit of memory, not counting future updates and added features. For example, Eclipse is around 5 gigabytes and the Unity Game Engine will take up at least 15 gigabytes.

High RAM Memory

Most software requires a minimum of 8 gigabytes of RAM to run nowadays. You can get away with sticking to this base if you only plan to do basic programs. However, the more intensive your game development is, the more capacity you will require. Many users would say getting 32 gigabytes to ensure you can handle multiple high-power programs at once. But you can happily hit the ground running with 16 gigabytes at first.

No Less Than a Quad-Core Processor

The faster your CPU, the better. That is the general consensus. It will ensure that you have less risk of crashes and errors, plus you will get things done faster as it takes less time to compile assets. More than the specific clock speed, you want to make sure you are looking at at least four cores for your processor. This is because processing power is necessary for high loads but having multiple cores will be essential for your performance, productivity time, and running your actual program.

A Powerful GPU for Rendering

Having a capable GPU is critical in game development, and this means using a good graphics card. Your video memory is going to be responsible for rendering all the visual aspects of your game, after all. If you want to create an expansive game, you have to be able to run these renders yourself. Of course, you can get away with lower-end cards if you only plan to make 2D games or simple 3D games but you should still give yourself room to render all the frames and assets in your developed games.

Great Laptops You Can Get Today

If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of models out there that can fit the bill. For the purposes of this article, here are three great options at different price points:

High-End: ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo 15

This is arguably one of the best choices on the market today. Outfitted to be extremely responsive, this pricey model is designed specifically for creative professionals. The steep $3,099 price comes thanks to its durability, secondary display, and efficient processors. If you’re serious about your craft, this laptop will be a worthy workstation for you.

Base model specs include:
Intel Core i9-10980HK
32 gigabytes RAM
1 terabyte PCIe 3.0 SSD
GeForce RTX 3070 GPU

Mid-Range: Lenovo Legion Y545

Coming in at around $999, this is slightly cheaper than its Y540 counterpart, but doesn’t sacrifice performance in the process. The base model of this laptop is able to handle high-definition visuals with crisp saturation that can aid in rendering. What’s more down the line, you can also customize this unit as your games become more demanding.

Base model specs include:
Intel Core i7-9750H processor
16 gigabytes RAM
128 gigabytes SSD
1 terabyte HDD
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU

Budget: DELL G3

This may not be the newest G-series entry, but it is still very capable of performing what you need for game development. Its components are solid and reliable. Because this comes from a slightly older generation, it allows you to get a very reliable laptop for a cheaper price of just under $800.

Base model specs include:
Intel Core i5-10300H processor
8 gigabytes RAM
256 gigabyte SSD
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU

Of course, there are other laptop options that can go below $500. The only issue here is that they may not be able to support the graphic settings you need. It’s a good rule of thumb not to get any configuration that is unable to run Unity 3D as a base point or at least DirectX10. This just ensures you won’t have a hard time developing games for contemporary systems.

With the rise of free programs and laptops capable of gaming development, the video game industry is becoming more inclusive than ever. Regardless of whether you’re looking into development as a hobby or as a possible source of revenue, there is a laptop that can efficiently empower you and the game you want to create.

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