Getting StartedIt's a common misconception that you need a monster machine to play PC games. If your laptop has an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a 256 MB video card, 1GB of RAM, and about 5GB of free hard drive space, then the odds are good that you'll be able to run most of today's top games. The HP Pavillion DV6 (left) is a good example of a solid computers that goes a step beyond the specs outlined above. It features a (roughly) 16" display, costs about $800, and will meet or exceed the hardware requirements for almost all of today's games. So if you want to play the latest PC games but money is pretty tight, never fear -- you don't need to shred your budget.
However, before you purchase that budget system, bear in mind that a machine like the ones above will be able to play current games, but will come with few, if any, gaming-related bells and whistles. The sound, the speed, and the quality of your games' graphics may be scaled down in order to accommodate the less-powerful hardware inside your machine. And don't forget: The minimum hardware requirements for your games will increase over time. A machine that is average today will likely be inadequate next year. So if you enjoy playing PC games, but you tend to stick with current-generation games (or older), and graphic effects and sound quality aren't a major concern, then you're a perfect candidate for one of the machines I've outlined above.
However, if you want to get maximum performance from your games and you want to ensure not only that you can play today's games at maximum efficiency but tomorrow's as well -- you need a full-on gaming laptop.
If you want a gaming laptop, you can't do much better than the Alienware M17x (left). This machine absolutely blows the minimum requirements away and will easily run the latest games for years to come. Not only that, but it includes a number of amenities meant to enhance your gameplay experience, including a 17-inch glass display and 5.1 surround-sound.
The M17x is an intense gaming laptop; however, it comes at an equally intense price! If you're in the market for something powerful but not quite as pricey, check out the Alienware M15x (a sibling of the 17x), the Toshiba Qosmio, or the ASUS Republic of Gamers line. These are powerhouse laptops that will leave you positioned to play the latest games for years to come.
A few other things to consider: You don't want to play PC games using the touchpad. Trust me, it stinks! You're going to need a solid gaming mouse, and one of the best reasonably priced gaming-mice on the market right now is Logitech's MX 518, an ultra-precise and responsive laser mouse.
Also, your laptop builds up a ton of heat when it runs games, and heat is bad. If you intend to do a lot of gaming, you definitely want to buy a cooling pad. This will ensure that your machine is able to eliminate heat as efficiently as possible, making your machine easier to handle while extending it's lifespan.