Budding Kid Gamer: the best laptop for work and play?
July 17, 2020 9:25 AM   Subscribe

My 8-year old has been extremely helpful in caring for his little brother during quarantine. We’ve been borrowing a school Chromebook but I want to purchase something that he can use for schoolwork and to play the games he’s recently gotten into. Help me not mess this up!

My 8-year old has been so wonderful with his toddler brother—patient, kind, attentive when I need an extra set of eyes while I make breakfast or use the bathroom, that kind of thing. He’s always that way but being quarantined and dealing with distance learning and his own challenges (ADHD, learning disability, being a little socially awkward so only liking to Zoom with a couple of good friends) has made me even prouder of him. He’s just a really great kid.

Recently he’s really gotten into watching YouTube videos of some games and wants to be able to play himself. He follows the Gaming Beaver and loves the Dino Hunter, Empires of the Undergrowth and Iggy and the Egg games. I also enrolled him in a Minecraft camp for kids.

What laptop will best suit his education and gaming needs? I was looking at the Dell XPS 13—I can make it work but I would prefer not to go that expensive if possible (I also have to squeeze in a couple of Covid-friendly road trips and am still paying 1/2 daycare monthly rate to keep my spot). I like Microsoft Office but he doesn’t necessarily need that since his school uses Chromebooks/Google Classroom. I’ve looked at the system requirements for the games I mentioned but really I just want to make sure I get the right thing and would appreciate some more experienced input. Thanks!
posted by luckyveronica to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add that he has a Fire tablet, but a laptop would be best for the new games he’s interested in.
posted by luckyveronica at 9:35 AM on July 17, 2020

What about a refurbished laptop? Thinkpads are rugged, I recommend them often. This one looks good.
posted by theora55 at 10:20 AM on July 17, 2020

Best answer: The most important thing that differentiates a laptop “for games” from a standard laptop is a device called a GPU (graphics processing unit). The XPS13 does not have a discrete GPU. It has an integrated Intel graphics accelerator (IGP) which might be ok for older games, but won’t play new titles at high resolution/framerate. I’ve played Minecraft on a comparable Intel IGP and it’s ... okay, I guess.

If he’s not going to be taking this out of the home too much (which is when something ultra-portable like the XPS13 becomes worth the price) you might look into low-end gaming laptops. Asus and Gigabyte are good brands I’ve had luck with. Something like a GTX1650 GPU should be fine, you don’t need the latest and greatest RTX20##.
posted by Alterscape at 10:29 AM on July 17, 2020

Of the games you posted, I think Empires of the Undergrowth is going to be the one with the most taxing requirements on a computer. My daughter steals my secondary work computer every night for minecraft every night and reports that it's totally fine, not glitchy, etc. She's been playing for a while so I trust her take on that. My computer is substantially less powerful than the minimum requirements for Empires of the Undergrowth, so I think that's the game you should focus on.

In general with laptops you'll pay more for portability and more for power. As Alterscape says, I'd skip the ultraportables and get something big, you'll get more bang for your buck and he gets a bigger screen to boot. Using the GPU they mentioned I found this from Staples as an example. I think something like that should be more than enough for a budding kid gamer. (Seems like it's much cheaper there than other places, at least right now).

Also I'd recommend you get a mouse, if you don't already have one. Almost all PC games are going to be somewhere between frustrating and unusable with only a touchpad.
posted by true at 3:24 PM on July 17, 2020

Best answer: Yeah, the only really important part of a gaming laptop is that it NEEDS to have something better than "Intel graphics". Basically any laptop that has either an AMD or NVidia graphics card will be fine for games. But, something like refurbished Thinkpad is generally not good for games because it's aimed at a business market.

I recently did research for someone at a higher pricepoint, but at around $1000 I think the cheaper Lenovo Legions would be a better fit than a Dell, and Lenovos have much longer battery life than other game laptops. You cannot get a cheap Dell laptop that is capable of playing games, you need to go way up to get decent performance. Something like this ASUS laptop is about equivalent, although I don't know how high quality the cheaper ASUS laptops are
posted by JZig at 4:33 PM on July 17, 2020

Response by poster: OP here. We went with an ASUS gaming laptop and he’s really happy with it! Thanks for the recommendations.
posted by luckyveronica at 6:19 PM on September 27, 2020

« Older How can I talk to my boss about (lack of)...   |   Aide memoire for the grocery store Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments