Gaming: Can you use a regular laptop?

Oftentimes, when people think of gaming on a laptop, they think of dedicated gaming laptops that are made primarily for gaming purposes. There are many laptops that are marketed for different primary uses in the market; gaming, productivity, school etc. But does this mean that other than gaming laptops, all other laptops are insufficient for gaming? In this article, we aim to explore the arguments for whether a regular laptop can be used to play the popular games. A regular laptop is one that is not marketed as a gaming laptop. For the purpose of the article, we will be talking about AAA games as they require good graphical capabilities from the laptop and good processors to run smoothly. A smooth framerate will be that of 60 FPS and above.

Why are regular laptops not primarily meant for gaming?

There are a few well-known arguments for why a regular laptop cannot be used to primarily play games. Firstly, the specs of a regular laptop do not tend to be high-performance ones. You won’t see an AMD Ryzen 9 chip hidden in a Dell XPS 13 or a Nvidia RTX 4090 hidden in a Lenovo Thinkpad laptop. Instead, most of the time, regular laptops tend to have CPU chips that are geared towards productivity more than gaming. In fact, most regular laptops contain Intel CPUs just because they have a wider range of chips that are not gaming-focused, unlike AMD.

Secondly, regular laptops include Macbooks as well. Apple’s macOS is notoriously difficult to play games in, even though the company let up a little in the past few years, allowing Macbook users to download certain games off the Apple Arcade (their own gaming e-store). Other popular games such as Valorant and CSGO can be run on the Macbook as well, but not AAA games. The Macbooks are highly geared towards productivity so it makes sense why games were not allowed to run on them. Still, proponents of this argument use Macbooks often to justify why regular laptops should not be used to run games as a primary usage.

1. Regular laptops do not have the ‘gaming’ specs

What are ‘gaming’ specs? Most gamers would namedrop the newest CPU and/or GPU out in the market. However, if a laptop does not have that, does that mean that they lack the ‘gaming’ specs and thus cannot be used to primarily run games? That is not necessarily true.

Popular game websites such as Steam list the minimum and recommended specs that a device should have in order to run a particular game. AAA games such as Red Dead Redemption 2 has the following list:

Image taken from Steam. This is the system requirements to run the game.

Image taken from Steam.

While the Witcher 3, a massively popular AAA game as well, has this:

Image taken from Steam.


What we can see here is as long as a laptop can hit the minimum system requirements, it is able to run the game. However, can it run the game well? This depends on whether the laptop is able to hit the recommended system requirements. In the case of Red Dead Redemption 2, the recommended processor is an Intel 4th Gen i7-4770K chip. Most modern laptops have chips that are significantly more powerful than that. The Dell XPS 13, for example, contains a Intel 12th Gen i7-1250U chip which can hit up to 4.70 GHz. This is way stronger than the i7-4770K, which could only hit up to 3.40 GHz. Hence, a regular laptop like the Dell XPS 13 safely hits the processor requirement to play a AAA game.


What about the graphics? The game recommends the Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card, which is quite old in 2023. Meanwhile, the Dell XPS 13 contains Intel Integrated Graphics, which isn’t really a whole lot better. However, the integrated graphics on the Dell XPS 13 will still bring out some good graphics from the game. It might not be able to handle 4K resolution or the highest graphics setting, but you don’t need that to get good gaming performance from the laptop. As long as the game runs smoothly, it is good enough for most people. So, we can see that a regular laptop like the Dell XPS 13 can run some AAA games pretty well. It is thus not necessary to have a gaming laptop in order to play games primarily. A regular laptop can do it just fine.

2. What about Macbooks?

What about Macbooks? Apple’s laptop line all contain the Apple Silicon chip nowadays, but old Apple fans remember the heydays of the Intel Macbooks. These Macbooks used to contain Intel’s latest chip, from i5 all the way to i9. This makes their processors equivalent to those high-tier gaming laptops like Razer and Dell’s Alienware. But, the Macbook was not meant for gaming. At all. We could see that through various websites that taught us how to install software such as Boot Camp in order to run games on it. All this effort goes to show that Apple did not meant for Macbooks to be used as primary gaming devices.

What changed? Well, nowadays, you can download games (without hassle!) from Apple’s own Apple Arcade, but most of this games are not AAA. But fret not, for Apple now allows Steam games to be downloaded into Macbooks! This is only available from macOS running El Capitan (10.11) macOS version or above, but it’s still a vast improvement.

AAA gaming on a Macbook: Can it be done?

But the most important question still remains: Can we run AAA games on the Macbooks? As we have established earlier, any chip that is better than the recommended/minimum processors stated on Steam would allow the device to run the game smoothly. So, are the Apple Silicon chips better than the Intel/AMD chips stated?

According to LaptopMag, the benchmark score by Apple’s M1 chip was a whopping 5,962 on Geekbench 5. This topples the score of Intel’s 11th Gen chips (5,319). For graphics, Apple’s M1 Max has 32 GPU cores, which makes them seem superbly powerful, and Apple mentioned themselves that the graphics are 3 times better than AMD’s Radeon Pro 5600M, according to Medium. All this suggests that Macbooks are inherently capable to handle AAA games well.

However, the reality is that the Macbooks were just not made to handle games well. AAA titles such as Tomb Raider stayed on 84 FPS easily with the M1 Max, but dipped to 30 FPS during some parts of the testing by PCMag. Medium cleverly quips that this is ‘what happens when you try to game on a laptop that is not tailored for it’.

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While we’ve just seen that the Macbooks, as regular laptops, were simply not created for gaming at all. This is why it was, and still is, a huge hassle to play games on it. However, the Macbooks are special, and its case does not mean that regular laptops cannot be primarily used to run games. As we have seen in the first argument, regular laptops these days have more powerful chips than the recommended system requirements for some AAA games. This means that they can comfortable run such games. As long as they are Windows or Linux-based.

If you have always owned a regular laptop, but feel that it’s not matching up to your desires, worry not! Volta PC offers a huge line of gaming laptops for you to consider. We also have custom-building services should you wish to upgrade from a laptop to a desktop! And if you want pre-builts, our Model V, T and A are also popular amongst gamers! Check out our website here for more details. You can browse through our other articles about gaming, gaming PCs and the like! Happy gaming!

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