Update: We’ve now added AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 56 to the mix of laptop GPUs

A gaming laptop’s GPU matters just as much as its CPU and other components. Given that any gaming laptop worth the name has some sort of discrete graphics, we’ll go through all the mobile GPUs available and tell you what to expect from each one, and point you to some laptops that carry them. 

This year in particular has yielded a slew of options for laptop graphics. To help you make the right decision, we’ve compiled performance scores from more than a dozen different GPUs and laptops, and then boiled it all down into easy guidelines for every budget.

Laptop GPU performance in a nutshell

laptop gpus IDG

Here’s roughly what you can expect to see out of the various top GPUs in gaming laptops today. Keep in mind that that the older a game is, the less graphics capability it will require. New to our list is the Radeon RX Vega 56.

The chart above breaks down which resolutions, frame rates, and graphical settings you can expect from the most common laptop GPUs in most games people play. In it is everything from Nvidia’s top-end GeForce GTX 1080 to the lowly GeForce 940MX. New to our list is AMD’s hard to find, but very fast Radeon RX Vega 56. It appears to be a near direct transplant of the desktop GPU (You can read our write-up here.)

Want to cut to the chase? Jump below for specific GPU recommendations and laptop examples.

These guidelines are based on Futuremark’s 3DMark Sky Diver benchmark. Though the test isn’t from a real video game, its value actually extends beyond a typical game. Some built-in benchmarks can be influenced by the CPU performance. 3DMark, on the other hand, is inherently a graphics benchmark, and it allows us to focus very narrowly on graphics performance.

best gpu for gaming nov 2018 skydiver IDG

We’ve now added AMD’s rare but fast Radeon RX Vega 56 to the mix

Note that 3DMark’s Sky Diver test is a good indication of what to expect when playing lower-intensity or older blockbuster games. If you put a more intensive graphics load in it, you’ll see cards on the lower end of the power scale fall.

For example, in 3DMark’s Fire Strike test, we can see the margin widen between the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and the GeForce GTX 1050. The older GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 980M also fall behind the GeForce GTX 1060 too.

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