Survey results: What features are most important to you in a gaming notebook?
For the original German version, click here.
For over twelve years we have been keeping an eye on the developments in the notebook market. One of the most interesting stories during this period has been the rise of the gaming notebook. Ten years ago, using a notebook as a gaming platform was more or less a no-go. (As a salesperson in an Austrian consumer electronics retailer once said: "If you want to play, buy a Gameboy or a PlayStation") Today, however, it seems as if the notebook might even have replaced the desktop PC in popularity among gamers.
But we are more interested in a different question that we have been wondering about for a few years: Which features are most important in gaming notebooks? Of course, as in all things, there are individual tastes and habits, but you would think that there are at least some general trends and preferences. At least that is what manufacturers like to tell us when we ask them about a certain feature: That their surveys showed that it was a requirement of their customers. Whether that is a keyboard that lights up in all the colors of the rainbow (and more), or a particularly unusual design - it is what the users want. Apparently.
We decided to turn this internal discussion into a public one and have asked our readers - the people who are supposed to actually buy the specially developed products made by these creative manufacturers - what they think. We wanted to have a reliable amount of data and were also interested in any cultural differences.
When we started writing this article, we had reached 2153 fully completed questionnaires in about a week. The questionnaires were made available on our website in German, English and Chinese. The ten questions were always displayed in random order and our participants answered our multiple-choice questions by giving between 1 and 5 points, 1 point meaning "less important" and 5 points meaning "more important".
Edit: By the time this article was published, our database had grown to around 3000 respondents. However, this did not have a very big impact on the observed trends.
74.8% of our participants claimed to be from Europe, 15.7 from Asia and 6.5% from the US, while 3% were from other parts of the world. Only 11.1% of respondents consider themselves rare gamers, while 46.5% said they game regularly and 42.4% use a device for gaming almost daily.
We were also interested in our user's preferred gaming device. 55.9% of respondents said they used a notebook for gaming while 37.6% claimed to prefer the desktop PC and 5.8% use consoles and 0.7% choose to play games on their smartphone.
The questionnaires are still available under the following links:
We will now take a closer look at the answers we have received to the various questions. The order of the questions is random (as they were in the questionnaire). We have access to the entire database. If you are interested in further details, please get in touch.
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In the past years, a large fan base has developed around the subject of overclocking. But it seems that this is not simply seen as a means to an end - in this case gaming - but has developed into a fascinating racing competition of its own. At least this is the impression we get when we look at the results from our survey. 34.2% of all participants gave this question only one point, considering it less important and a total of 76.9% say overlocking capability is not so important to moderately important (1, 2 and 3 points). Nonetheless, 9.9% said that overlocking is an important criterion for them (5).
It is rather interesting to compare the results divided by region: While overclocking capability is less important in Europe and America, the division is not as clear in the respondents who say they are from Asia. Most of them gave this function average importance or higher.
The possibility for overclocking seems to play only a minor role for most of our respondents.
Could overclocking be an important criterion for PC users? After all, a classic desktop computer offers a lot of specific possibilities. Judging by the answers from our respondents who claimed to prefer the PC as their gaming device, it seems as if this is not the case (no regional difference).
A look at our user's habits confirms this impression. Still: Most of the users who said this feature was "more important" also claimed to game almost daily.
Extra Macro Keys
We had the subjective impression that additional macro keys, for example on the left side of the keyboard, had gone out of fashion again. Nonetheless, some manufacturers continue to include them in their devices. Our survey showed that users in Europe, America and Asia do not consider these keys to be very important. 47.5% of all respondents said they were less important (1) while 90% said macro keys have little to average importance (1 to 3 points).
Most gamers consider extra macro keys to be unnecessary. There was no difference of opinion between daily gamers and occasional players.
Our numbers showed that there is no difference between users that use notebooks or desktop computers for gaming. How often the participants actually play video games made no difference either. Therefore, we can safely say that extra macro keys will only attract a very small number of potential buyers.
RGB Keyboard Backlight
Overclocking and macro keys do not seem to be the latest trend, according to our survey. But what is it that the users want then? Maybe RGB keyboard backlighting? That must be the case - after all, this feature is included in almost every top-range gaming notebook. Well, we asked over 2000 readers how important a keyboard with RGB backlighting is for them.
The result is somewhat disillusioning. The majority (36.7%) gave this feature the lowest priority and a total of 55.2% consider an array of colors on their keyboard as not very important (1 to 2 points). On the other hand, 22.9% said that RGB backlighting is reasonably to very important to them (4 to 5 points). It is interesting that the number of people who gave the question 3 points (average) is higher than those who gave a clearer answer with 2 points (not so important) or 4 points (slightly important). You could say that this group (22%, after all) does not dislike the colors, but does not consider it to be a must-have criterion.
The RGB keyboard also seems dispensable, particularly among those who game regularly.
European and American users clearly disliked the RGB backlighting more than our readers from Asia, whose answers seem more balanced.
Another interesting point is that this is the first time the group of regular players has given maximum points more often than the group of "hard-core gamers" who play almost every day. It seems that professionals would rather leave out a colorful keyboard than miss the overclocking capability. However, these comparisons are based on very small statistical differences.
We did not notice any differences between users that used different gaming devices.
Here we go. A mechanical keyboard is a clear must-have. After all, it is simply impossible to game properly on a simple rubber dome keyboard. You do not agree? In that case, you belong to the 33.7% of our participating users who considered this equipment as less important. A total of 80.3% consider it less to averagely important (1 to 3 points).
Whether you require a mechanical keyboard seems to be a personal preference. We could not discern a general trend towards a mechanical keyboard - rather the opposite.
Even the group of daily gamers does not seem to consider a mechanical keyboard as an essential basic. Only 8.8% of the "almost daily" group gave it highest importance.
A look at the data sorted by preferred device shows a slight change in the minimum (1) and maximum (5) rating among desktop computer users. Both the tendency to reject and approve are considerably lower than among notebook users. A possible explanation for this might be that it is very easy for desktop users to simply change their keyboard while notebook users are stuck with the same provided keyboard for the entire period of use of their device.
Network Optimization (e.g. Killer)
Half of the respondents considered tools for network optimization, which, for example, help you prioritize data connected to online gaming, as rather less important (1 to 2 points), but 26.2% did give this feature average importance. It is interesting to compare this with the group that ticked Asia as their home region. Here, we noticed an opposite trend for the first time. Perhaps this is based on different user behavior, such as extreme multitasking, which would make managing data transfers very useful.
While western users are not quite sure about these tools, users in Asia seem to be quite happy with them.
Again, it seems that users who spend a lot of time gaming are more likely to recognize the advantage of such optimization, although their proportion of about 10% of all "almost daily" players is still quite low.
There were no differences between the various devices used and the answers given to this question.
Synchronizing the frame rate with the frame-output of the graphics card prevents graphic errors and juddering and offers a noticeable advantage when playing with high graphic details and high resolutions. This advantage seems to be recognized by the majority of participants in our survey. 68.6% gave this technology average to high importance, about 20% even considered it to be very important (5 points), 73% gave between 3 and 5 points.
Particularly passionate gamers seem to value G-Sync.
G-Sync seems to be a technology that is most important to users who game regularly or daily. While participants who only play occasionally tended to give 3 points, those who play a lot tended towards considering it important and very important.
Both notebook and PC gamers seemed to see G-Sync in the same way.
Slim and Lightweight Case
Our participants clearly confirmed that thick and heavy cases are out. More than a quarter of the respondents gave this question the maximum 5 points, 76.6% considered this kind of build to be reasonably to very important (3 to 5 points). The trend is even clearer among the participants from Asia: 33.8% gave it 5 points and 82.1% considered it to be worth between 3 and 5 points.
Thick and noisy gaming notebooks are definitely not fashionable anymore.
It is interesting to analyze how gaming habits influence user's answers to this question: It seems that a slim and light notebook was a little more important to those who claimed to play rarely to regularly. Naturally, notebook gamers are more likely to prefer a slim and lightweight device than participants that claimed to use a desktop PC as their main gaming device.
The answers to this question were unexpectedly clear. Only 2.3% of all participants prefer an aggressive design, while 65.3% gave this matter the lowest possible value of 1. 92.5% gave low to average importance to a device's conspicuous design (1 to 3 points).
It is what is inside that counts; exaggerated designs are rather unwelcome.
We noticed no differences between the various regions and gaming habits.
Quieter Fan Noise
As with the clear rejection of an aggressive design, users also clearly showed their preference of a quiet cooling fan. Our participants all considered low fan noise to be important to very important. 39.2% gave it 5 points and a total of 85.5% gave this issue at least average relevance. This trend is similar among all regions we looked at.
The majority of laptop gamers prefer a portable case AND low system noise.
If you take a look at the results sorted by habit, you can see that the group that claims to play almost daily is slightly less bothered by fan noise. It seems that they would not consider it to be the deciding factor. Nonetheless, they still tend to prefer lower fan noise. We found no important differences considering which hardware is used for gaming.
Serviceability (RAM, Fan...)
First the smartphones started denying users access to their inner parts and now the notebook market is following suit. Our survey shows that users are not necessarily happy with this trend. An overwhelming 59% gave the possibility of servicing RAM and fans maximum importance (5 points), another 24.7% gave it 4 points and 10.4% considered it averagely important. All considered regions showed similar results.
Gamers do not want to have to give up serviceability, even for slim notebooks.
There was not much difference in the answers given sorted by used hardware and gaming habits. However, we noticed one interesting detail: The group of regular gamers considered serviceability to be even more important than the group of daily gamers. But again, the difference is very small.
Let us recap: The overclocking capability of gaming laptops is placed rather towards the lower middle - if at all - on the average gamer's wish list. Asian users do not follow this tendency as clearly. Extra macro keys are clearly even less important. The RGB keyboard backlighting is similar to the overclocking capability. The participants tended to consider this feature as less important, although there is a small difference between the European-American trend and the answers given by the Asian group. According to our survey, only a few users consider a mechanical keyboard to be very important; in general, it does not seem to be a very important feature of a gaming notebook. The question about network optimizing was quite interesting: While participants from Europe and America tended to give this matter low relevance, respondents from Asia seemed to consider network optimization to be more important. These differences could be explained by the different user habits.
A feature that was clearly important to our users was G-Synch or Free-Sync. These technologies for synchronizing the display and the graphics card seem to have found a wide fan base. The clearest approval appears to be coming from the Asian participants. We got a similar response to the question of whether a thin and lightweight case is important - the majority of participants gave this high importance, regardless of what region they were from. Participants of our survey also expressed a clear "no" to aggressive designs, while they applauded low fan noise, again with no difference between regions. Users still seem to appreciate the possibility of doing maintenance work themselves.
The survey enabled to outline some clear world-wide trends as well as some variations among Asian users. Considering that the development departments of most large manufacturers are based in Asia, it is not so surprising, therefore, that the world-wide gaming fan base is being treated with feature-packed notebooks.
Slim and lightweight yet quiet and equipped with a high-quality display and the possibility to do basic maintenance yourself - this combination seems to be most acceptable for gamers.
But what should the perfect gaming notebook look like? According to the data we collected, it should have a slim, lightweight case, but also have low fan noise. The possibility to do system maintenance is very important as well, at least accessing the fan and various exchangeable components such as the RAM should ideally be possible. It should include G-Sync or comparable technology. Overall, this looks like a rather conservative, purpose-oriented setup. Optical features such as an aggressive design have clearly been rejected. Whether gamers prefer using a notebook or a desktop PC for their activity only made minimal differences to their responses.
Overall, we can say that the collected and analyzed data shows a clear demand for simple solutions that improve the user's mobility, image quality and emissions. Some users might consider additional features such as overclocking options, a mechanical keyboard or tools for network optimization to be nice extras, but they must not be used in order to hide possible weaknesses among the more relevant criteria.