Laptops

6 Best Laptops For Game Development: Review & Comparisons

Game development has been one of the groups of things many of us have thought about, if not attempted at one point or another.

Many of us continue to drive the future of gaming and create new engines, graphics, and platforms for games to run on.

Having the right tools is crucial to any game developer, whether that is a student, professional, or hobbyist.

If you don't have the right laptop, you won't make it very far in the game development field, which is why I bring you this article. We will cover the best laptops for gaming development.

Image

Product Name

Processor (CPU)

RAM

Display Resolution

Graphics (GPU)

Screen Size

Check Price

Lenovo ThinkPad P73 Home and Business Laptop...

9th Gen Intel Core i7

16GB

1080p FHD

Integrated Quadro P620

17.3-inches

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 – 13.5'...

10th Gen Intel Core i7

16GB

1080p HD

Intel Iris

13.5-inches

Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop, Intel...

9th Gen Intel i7

16GB

1080p FHD

GeForce GTX 1660 Ti

15.6 inches

MSI P65 Creator-1084 15.6' 4K UHD Display,...

9th Gen Intel i7

32GB

4k UHD

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060

15.6 inches

Apple MacBook Pro (15-Inch, Latest Model,...

9th Gen Intel Core i9

16GB

2k UHD

Radeon Pro 560x

15 inches

Eluktronics MAG-15 Slim & Ultra Light NVIDIA...

9th Gen Intel i7

64GB

1080p QHD

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660Ti

15.6 inches


Who Should Invest in a Laptop for Game Development

When it comes to developing games, we are told to start with a clone of the great Pong. It has everything you will ever use in game development. There are graphics, single or multiplayer choices, computer AI, scorekeeping, and on-screen interactions.

However, if you want to program anything beyond the basic game of table tennis, you need better tools and understandings. These building blocks, though, are formulated in various groups.

Programming Students

Students that are learning to program often create games because of the immense capabilities for not only the back end coding but for user interaction or choices.

Game development for a programmer is a crucial aspect of planning for the unexpected and gaining insight on how other programs should operate. The right laptop will catapult your learning to the next level.

Web Developer

Web development and game development go hand in hand. While you can have one without the other, the backbone of both is almost identical. From the server sided coding to the graphical interface seen by the end-user, each layer of complexity is a mirror of web work and game design.

Choosing a sleek and powerful laptop will allow you to see changes in real-time while simultaneously working on the back end.

Software Engineers

Software engineers will use a lot of the same specifications and demands on their laptops as game designers. This is because of the base system the engines are run on. The software must perform at all ranges of capabilities from the lowest settings possible to the best, near-future settings.

Having a laptop that can meet and exceed the system requirements you are developing for is crucial.

Game & App Developers

Of course, the game and application developers need a high-performance machine. From ear-splitting sound effects to Earth-shattering graphics, every nuance of a game must be hand-coded and interpreted in real-time. The perfect laptop will enable you to make changes on the fly and run any software that is needed, regardless of system demands.


Laptop Specifications For Game Development (Buyer’s Guide)

When choosing a laptop for game development, there are a lot of factors to consider. Below is a brief buyer's guide of what you should look for (as a minimum) on many of the specs and features of the laptops.

Processor & CPU

The CPU chipset is one of those things that gets an upgrade about every 6 months. It isn’t highly recommended to go with the latest model. While it may be faster or more responsive, when it comes to game development, you have to keep in mind that the newest technology is only going to have a small footprint in those that view or play your game.

You should look for the Intel i-series CPU with a minimum clock speed of 3GHz. This will be the i5, i7 or i9 8th generation or newer (10th generation is current as of this writing). You will also want at least 4 cores in your CPU, though 6 or even 8 cores are now available.

RAM

Based on the programs you will be running, you need a lot of RAM. The minimum recommended is 8GB. 16GB is about ideal as you will also need RAM for your graphics card (see below) that shouldn't come from system memory.

Some will argue that more RAM is better, and models with a minimum of 32 or 64GB of RAM are warranted. However, programs like Blender, Unity and Unreal run best on 16 to 32GB of RAM and any more is just overkill. While you technically can't have too much RAM, you can spend a lot of money on something that is never used.

Playing the high-end and resource-intensive games may require you to have more RAM, developing the games, or designing and developing VR does not.

Graphics Card

You will need a dedicated graphics card. The integrated Intel 5000 or Intel Iris isn't going to cut it here. Unlike the best laptops for law school, you actually need better graphics. A dedicated GPU will have its own RAM (at least 2GB recommended), so your system RAM is freed up to work other programs and systems.

One of the best models to look for is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. The 1070 and even 1080 are great too, but so far, they haven't shown much in the benchmark tests to justify the higher cost compared to the 1060.

Screen Size & Display

Your display size should be a full-sized screen of at least 14-inches. The more screen size, the better your resolution will need to be. Look for at least 1080p FHD, though Quad HD and Ultra HD are recommended.

Storage Space/Hard Drive

You will also need a lot of hard drive storage space. The game files, directories, graphics, sounds, and other files will eat up a lot of space. It is ideal to have at least a 256GB SSD with a 512 – 1TB HDD setup. If you go with a model without a dual-hard drive set up, look to increase the size of your primary hard drive to at least 512GB.

Battery Life

Battery life is also important to the game developer. An “all-day” battery is one that can run for at least 7 hours. Look for the quick charge option as well. Most HP laptops and other high-end laptops will offer a quick charge that gets the battery up above 50% charge in less than an hour.

Design/Portability/Weight

More than with other groups looking for laptops, game designers want a sleek, stylish, and eye-catching design. You may want an RGB backlit keyboard or external peripherals like RGB mice that come packages with the laptop.

You will also want to look at the weight of the laptop you choose. Anything at or below 5 pounds is considered lightweight and should be something you consider. The lighter the laptop, the more inclined you are to pack it up and take it with you.

Operating System

The operating system will be a matter of preference. Windows 10 Pro is the most common for laptops, though Mac computers will obviously run MacOS versions. Which one is right for you is up to debate, and we don't have that much time in this article. There is a section further below to help you pick a side, though.

The main game development programs and languages will work on either platform, so go with the one that is most comfortable for you.

Extra Features

Anytime you can get a discount on price and pick up extra gear, that is a win. Some manufacturers will throw in additional features, or items to sway your purchase. Look for current and updated OSes, mice or mousepads, cables (HDMI and USB), and of course, carrying cases, screen protectors, and other items of interest.

Price & Warranty

Until the game you are developing becomes the next biggest cult classic or is picked up by Microsoft and Sony, you may be on a tighter budget. Not to worry, there is a high-performance laptop in your price range.

Along with staying within your budget, you will also want to look into the warranty coverage as well as a possible insurance policy. Both will protect your investment for years to come and can really save your butt if that soda spills during a 2 am coding session.


6 Best Laptops for Game Development Reviewed

Below you will find the 6 best laptops for game development. Each is reviewed and compared geared towards the game developer or student of game development. Dive in and find your next laptop.

1. Lenovo ThinkPad P73

Lenovo ThinkPad P73 Home and Business Laptop...
  • 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H 2.60GHz Processor...
  • 16GB DDR4 SODIMM RAM; Bluetooth 5.0,...
  • 17.3" Full HD (1920x1080) Display; 6-Cell 99...
  • 512GB SATA SSD; 3xUSB3.1, 1xHDMI,...

Our Top Pick

Processor (CPU)

9th Gen Intel Core i7

RAM

16GB

Display Resolution

1080p FHD

Graphics/GPU

Integrated Quadro P620

Screen Size

17.3-inches

SSD Storage Size

512GB SSD

Lenovo is known for its rugged laptops that surpass even the most rugged environments. Long used by businesses and contractors, the ThinkPad P73 is a game developer’s secret weapon and our top pick.

Hidden behind the plain exterior is a powerhouse computer that, for the money, is one of the most impressive systems around. Of course you continue to get the rugged, durable build of the ThinkPad, but you also get a game developing machine capable of hours of coding.

The 9th gen Intel Core i7 brings you 6 cores of processing power mirrored with 16GB of system RAM for speed, functionality, and simultaneous program loading. The display is a huge 17.3-inch wide-screen format that is powered by an integrated GPU.

Regardless of what I said about integrated GPUs earlier, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Intel GPU. Instead, you get the Nvidia Quadro P620, which is impressive in its own right. Full-color depth and the full 1080p high definition you come to expect from a laptop.

If you decide to upgrade this beast (which can wait a few years), adding RAM, another SSD, or other hardware is simple, efficient, and seamless. It doesn't matter if you are running Unity or playing with an Oculus; this laptop will power you through anything.

Good
  • Ultra-fast boot
  • Durable, rugged design
  • Upgrading is easy
  • Best value for the money
Bad
  • Integrated graphics is a turn-off

2. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

On Sale Today
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 – 13.5"...
  • Clean, elegant design — thin and light,...
  • Choose from rich tone-on-tone color...
  • Improved speed and performance to do what you...
  • More ways to connect, with USB-C and USB-A...

Runner Up

Processor (CPU)

10th Gen Intel Core i7

RAM

16GB

Display Resolution

1080p HD

Graphics/GPU

Intel Iris

Screen Size

13.5-inches

SSD Storage Size

1TB SSD

I know the first two laptops have integrated graphics. I let this slide for the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3, which is the runner up for best laptop for game developers. While the 13.5-inch beast uses the Intel Iris, you can upgrade to the 15-inch for the much better AMD Radeon RX Vega 11.

That aside, this laptop is a monster. You get an easily upgraded Surface laptop with state of the art internals and hardware that rival anything in a higher tier as far as performance is concerned.

The downside here is the relatively small screen size. If you are happy with a smaller display, this might be the top pick for you. However, the 13.5-inch screen is why it is the runner up here.

Using a 10th gen Intel i7, you can overclock with turbo up to 4.5GHz and 6 cores to maintain all of your programs and simultaneous uses. You can even switch from programing to playing without having to close anything down.

The biggest draw here, though, is the battery. In quite a surprise, you get 11 hours of playtime on the battery, and when it does eventually die, the Microsoft laptop has quick charge to boost your battery back to 80% charge in just under an hour.

If that isn’t enough for you, how about a 1TB SSD preinstalled and ready to go, pushed by 16GB of RAM, which you can upgrade to a maximum of 32GB if you decide you need some extra oomph.

Good
  • Sleek and portable
  • Huge storage space
  • 11+ hours on a battery
  • Quick charge to 80% in less than an hour
Bad
  • Intel Iris is outdated

3. Acer Predator Helios 300

Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop, Intel...
  • 9th Generation Intel Core i7-9750H 6-Core...
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Graphics with 6 GB...
  • 15. 6" Full HD (1920 x 1080) Widescreen...
  • 16 GB DDR4 2666MHz Memory, 512GB PCIe NVMe...

Best Laptop For Gaming And Development

Processor (CPU)

9th Gen Intel i7

RAM

16GB

Display Resolution

1080p FHD

Graphics/GPU

GeForce GTX 1660 Ti

Screen Size

15.6 inches

SSD Storage Size

512GB SSD

It wasn’t long ago that carrying an Acer laptop got you the same looks as that kid in 3rd grade that wet his pants every day. Now, Acer is a powerhouse in the computing world and the envy of most who don’t own one.

If you like to play games as much as you like to develop them, this is the laptop for you. With a dedicated graphics card, you get full HD at 1080p without much sacrifice. The GTX 1660 Ti has 6GB dedicated RAM, so the 16GB system memory isn't affected.

This allows you to maintain all of your programs and coding while other applications make demands on the display and graphics drivers.

The only downside here is that the Acer Predator Helios 300 has a refresh rate of 144mHz. This can cause a bit of screen flicker or pixel spotting when you are using a graphic-intensive application. For day-to-day operations and coding, though, you won't have any problems.

The Helios 300 also comes with your choice of a backpack, mouse, headset, or a projector. However, none of the add-ons are free. Acer will charge you for each one, but the bundle prices are reasonable. It is just too bad they don’t bundle all of them together.

Good
  • Dedicated GTX 1660
  • Turbo clock speed over 4GHz
  • Ideal for gaming or building games
Bad
  • Refresh rate might be too low
  • All add-ons are at an additional cost

4. MSI P65 Creator-1084

On Sale Today
MSI P65 Creator-1084 15.6" 4K UHD Display,...
  • Display 15 6" Uhd (3840X2160) anti-glare wide...
  • Processor intel core i7-9750h 2.6 - 4.5ghz
  • Graphics NVidia GeForce RTX 2060 6g gddr6...
  • Memory 32gb (16 gram x 2) ddr4 2400mhz 2...

Best Laptop For Unity Game Development

Processor (CPU)

9th Gen Intel i7

RAM

32GB

Display Resolution

4k UHD

Graphics/GPU

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060

Screen Size

15.6 inches

SSD Storage Size

1TB SSD

If you enjoy game development in Unity, the MSIO P65 Creator is the laptop for you. Everything about this laptop is serious business, and you won't want to be without it. From the 1TB SSD to the dedicated 4k graphics card, game development has never been so seamless.

The MSI P65 Creator is easily the best laptop for Unity game development. Not only does every bit of hardware meet Unity recommended specs, but it also often exceeds them. The 1TB SSD is ultra-fast, resulting in enough storage space for all of your game files as well as a 20 second boot time.

The Intel Core i7 has 6 cores and 12 threads for speed, optimization, and enough resource dependency checks to monitor multiple applications running at the same time. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 gives you ultra high definition 4k, which makes 3D and VR game development spring to life.

Get real-time feedback on your programming as you immerse yourself in the sounds, sights, and design elements of your project. The MIS Creator is also VR ready, which means you can connect the Oculus, code snippets or programming functions without any additional installation steps needed.

With Windows 10 Pro installed and updated, you won't be without your added security. Just in case, there is also a fingerprint scanner built into the trackpad for instant log in or waking, as well as online shopping security.

Good
  • VR ready
  • Meets Unity’s strictest specs sheet
  • 1TB Teton Glacier SSD
  • Ultra-fast boot time
Bad
  • May be too much for beginners

5. New Apple MacBook Pro

Apple MacBook Pro (15-Inch, Latest Model,...
  • 9th-generation 8-Core Intel Core i9 Processor
  • Brilliant Retina Display with True Tone...
  • Touch Bar and Touch ID
  • Radeon Pro 560x Graphics with 4GB of video...

Best Apple Laptop For Game Development

Processor (CPU)

9th Gen Intel Core i9

RAM

16GB

Display Resolution

2k UHD

Graphics/GPU

Radeon Pro 560x

Screen Size

15 inches

SSD Storage Size

512GB SSD

For game developers that prefer the Mac environment, the new Apple MacBook Pro is the best Apple laptop for game development. The True Tone color display gives you a full 2K resolution (2880x1800) for ultra-high definition.

You also get the 9th generation Intel Core i9. This will give you near 5GHz clock speed (turbo) for rendering your projects faster than ever. With 8 cores, you can run multiple programs all at once without any lag whatsoever.

The storage can be tricky, though, so make sure you order what you need upfront. Adding more internal storage with a MacBook can be a royal pain. The ideal model comes with 512GB SSD, but you can opt for up to 2TB of storage if you prefer, though this will add significant cost to the overall price.

In an ideal environment, you can run Unity, Blender, browse the web, and listen to your music all at the same time. The MacBook Pro is that ideal environment. With up to 11 hours of battery life, you won’t miss a beat, no matter where you are coding from.

What may not impress you is the final price. Macs are always going to be more expensive than their Windows PC counterparts with similar specs. However, for those that choose the Mac side, there is no going back, and the value is worth it at any cost.

Good
  • Ultra-fast and responsive
  • Run multiple applications at once
  • Ultra high definition display
Bad
  • Most expensive
  • Must choose upgrade before purchase

6. Eluktronics MAG-15 Slim

On Sale Today
Eluktronics MAG-15 Slim & Ultra Light NVIDIA...
  • Designed in collaboration with Intel -...
  • Intel Core i7-9750H 6-Core Processor (Up to...
  • 6GB GDDR6 VRAM NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti...
  • 15.6" Full HD (1920 x 1080) LED-backlit IPS...

Best Portable Laptop For Game Development

Processor (CPU)

9th Gen Intel i7

RAM

64GB

Display Resolution

1080p QHD

Graphics/GPU

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660Ti

Screen Size

15.6 inches

SSD Storage Size

2TB SSD

For those that want to step out on the wild side, the Eluktronics MAG-15 is the best portable laptop for game development. Not only is it full of features and hardware, but it also bundles with exclusive items not found anywhere else.

Let's look at the insides first. You get the 9th generation i7 with 6 cores and 12 threads to run any program with ease. However, you should note that the overkill on system RAM (64GB) can make the processor skip, meaning that multiple programs may not run as fluidly as you like.

The GTX 1660 produces Quad HD visuals and uses a dedicated 6GB memory, so it doesn't take away from the system performance. It also has it’s own dedicated cooling system to help the laptop perform well at any temperature.

You won't have any storage issues, either. With a full 2TB SSD, your system will boot in less than 30 seconds, and each click will be as responsive as the last for up to 10 full hours. You can program on the go, in the office, or anywhere else you would like.

But what about the extras? How about a 10-foot HDMI 2.0 cable, a headset with microphone, wired mouse, and mouse pad? If that's not enough, you can also get a full copy of Red Dead Redemption at no additional cost.

Program your games and take a break playing one of the highest rated FPS games ever made. What else could you want?

Good
  • Speedy boot and running
  • QHD resolution
  • Lots of add-ons including a free game
  • Huge 2TB storage
Bad
  • RAM overkill may actually slow some programs

Game Development Software Programs

It is no secret that there are a ton of game development software programs on the market. Most of them are good enough but are aimed at indie game makers and someone who has no experience. There is nothing wrong with this, but for the serious developer, you will need more.

  • Unity
    Unity is by far the top game development software out there, and one of the most resource-intensive. Unity allows all skill levels to use the software but caters to the professional and those developing games for virtual reality. All of the models on the above list will run Unity smoothly.
  • Blender
    Blender is a 3D graphics software used for programming and development and is arguably the most inclusive graphics software available. Using it alone or with another program is possible and encouraged. With the exception of the MAG-15 above, the laptops here will run Blender and other programs simultaneously without any issues.

One of the first and still one of the best, the Unreal Engine is a game developer's dream. Using real-time 3D, Unreal is an all-inclusive development studio. It does require a lot of resources, and depending on your use, the laptop you choose may not be as smooth as it can be.

Check the current system requirements (they change based on version) to make sure your laptop meets specs.


2D Vs 3D Game Development

Game development between 2D and 3D will always be a considerable debate. Which is better? The answer is neither is superior to the other. Both have a place in the heart of gamers, and in general, it is for different reasons. 3D games allow for much better graphics, creating an immersive world for the player to explore.

On the other hand, 2D games tend to have better storylines, are have overall better gameplay dynamics. This doesn't mean that 2D games don't have great graphics. Nor does it mean that 3D games can't have amazing storylines. However, the two are needed, and developing for both or focusing on one of the two is a common issue new developers have.


3D Game Vs VR Development: Are They The Same?

3D and VR game development are similar but not the same. While the coding languages are the same and you will program in much the same way, there are whole differences from lighting to rendering output that has to be considered.

In 3D, you can stack and layer where a VR world needs this done twice over from two different camera angles (one for each eye). You also have pivoting and particular aspects to consider in VR that doesn't exist in 3D.


Which Is Better For Game Development – Mac or Windows?

Without starting a battle in the comment section, there isn't a clear winner. Which do you like to work with? That is the one you need to work with. If you want to program games for Apple systems, then you need a Mac. Otherwise, most games and systems will use the PC for development.

The Windows PC has a lengthier history with games and development for those games. However, Mac isn't a slouch; you will just need to also code for Windows/PC and use more resources, programs (BootCamp, for example) to get the job done.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

What is the best 3d modeling software for games?

Aside from Blender, one of the biggest names in #d modeling software is AutoDesk’s Maya 3D. This system is used in game development, film animations, and much more.

Why do so many developers use Macs?

Mac OS X is one of the best operating systems around. However, the main reason developers like Mac is that they are better at cross-compatibility, run cooler, and have better displays.

When the gaming industry boomed in the mid-90s, Macs were known for their ability to create and use graphics. Artists and gamers flocked to the systems. PCs were still seen as a business computer. Since then, the levels have evened out, but these old views are still fought about today.

Which processor is best for game development?

The Intel i7 6-core 9th generation is one of the best CPU processors for game development. It offers the clock speed, cooling, and efficiency needed for more intense gaming and coding. It is also cheaper than the i9, which keeps the i7 at the top for most uses.

What graphics card is best for game development?

When developing games, the Nvidia GeForce GTX series is arguably the best. The GTX 160 is the top seller, with the 1050 being the better budget option. Currently, the 1070 and 1080 models are better in all aspects but not enough so to offset the price difference over the 1060.

What are the main differences between cheaper and expensive models on our list?

The main difference is in the storage space and RAM. Both the hard drive and system memory are scale-able and end up costing a lot more when you include the larger sizes. Cheaper models assume you will replace the hard drive and RAM later on as your needs grow, and offer a more affordable overall laptop as a result.

Where is the best place to buy laptops for game and software development?

Amazon is one of the best places to purchase a laptop for game development. You will get your choice of systems, specs and setups. Not only can you get a basic build to get you through, but you can also find a fully-decked system with top of the line everything.

Brick and mortar stores and other online places don’t have the selection or availability that Amazon offers.


Conclusion

When it comes to buying a new laptop for game development, there is no clear winner. Your tastes, needs, and systems will dictate which laptop is best for you.

If you can’t decide, I urge you to revisit the Lenovo ThinkPad P73. While it isn’t the most eye-catching designed laptop, the internal hardware will surpass anything else you can get in this price range.