Can we tell you a secret? You don’t have to have a $10,000 gaming rig to get good FPS. Your budget workhorse laptop can handle a surprising variety of games.
We know why you are here, though. Most low-end laptops struggle to keep up with the high-quality graphics of modern games. Your gaming experience feels jerky and sluggish. Nothing looks or feels smooth.
Well, worry not! If you’re tired of poor graphic performance, read on to understand how to get better FPS on your low-end laptop.
How to Get Better FPS on a Low-end Laptop
Why is My Laptop FPS So Low?
Gaming laptops have come a long way in recent years. Growing rapidly in power, they are able to contend with some high-end desktop PCs. Even so, they still face a few challenges that limit their graphics potential and overall performance.
Most obviously, laptops are limited by size and form factor i.e. a general shape. Engineers designing these computers have to balance compactness and power. This balance also comes at a cost to the consumer’s wallet. Powerful and compact laptop components are often more expensive than their less constrained desktop counterparts.
Additionally, many lower-end gaming laptops use what is called an Integrated Graphics Card. This is a component that does the job of both a CPU (Central Processing Unit) and a GPU. This type of processor is very helpful in saving space but often at the cost of graphic performance.
Another constraint on laptop performance involves heat transfer. In a desktop PC, there is lots of room for air and/or fluid cooling systems. In a tightly packed laptop case, however, it is more difficult to carry heat away from the processing unit(s).
This constraint forces laptop designers to sometimes limit the processing power of a laptop to prevent catastrophic overheating.
All of this becomes an even bigger problem when we’re talking about an older, low-end laptop you have. This, in combination with older hardware, dust, and debris built up inside your laptop over the years, can really make your laptop slow.
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What Affects FPS?
The GPU is the main component contributing to FPS performance. Though the true answer is a bit more complicated than that. A laptop’s FPS is also affected by its CPU, RAM, and screen.
A laptop’s CPU must be able to feed information quickly to the GPU to process images to show your screen. If you have a CPU that is significantly less powerful than your GPU, it won’t be able to feed information to the GPU fast enough, resulting in a drop in frame rate.
We like to think of CPU and GPU’s working together like two people trying to put out a fire with buckets. You have one person scooping water, the CPU, and then passing the bucket to the second person to throw on the fire, the GPU. If either person is slower than the other, then the overall process of putting out a fire is made slower.
Though, this doesn’t really apply to laptops as much, as they usually come with the balanced CPU and GPU combo. However, you may run into this issue if you decide to buy a powerful external GPU and connect it to a laptop with something like a core i3 or older Athlon processors.
RAM (Random Access Memory) also plays a key role in a laptop’s graphic performance. While the CPU and GPU process and share data back and forth, they need a location to store the data for a short time. This is the role that RAM plays. If your laptop has too little RAM, you will notice a drop in FPS.
Finally, the hardware in your laptop screen could limit your FPS as well. This is can be caused by a low refresh rate. The refresh rate is the frequency in which the screen can change what it is showing on the screen.
When considering upgrading your laptop, make sure to check out your screen refresh rate because it may end up limiting your performance even after you upgrade other components.
Say, for example, you upgrade your laptop GPU so that its maximum output is 120 frames per second. If your screen refresh rate is 60 Hz, meaning simply 60 times per second, then your maximum FPS seen on screen will still be 60 FPS.
Overall, when it comes to gaming laptops, there is a plenty of factors that affect FPS. If you’re not happy with your laptop’s performance, the best thing you can do is to identify what’s holding your laptop’s performance back and make appropriate upgrades.
What is a Good FPS for Gaming?
There is so much talk about increasing FPS, but what is a good FPS for gaming? In our opinion, it depends on a few things. What type and level of gaming are you engaging in? The needs of a casual strategy gamer are different from a professional first-person shooter gamer.
It also depends on your budget, as increasing FPS comes with an exponential increase in cost. So if you’re sticking to a budget, you may just have to accept a more standard frame rate.
Depending on your laptop’s performance and your in-game graphic settings, you can game on as low as 20-30 FPS to as high as 144 FPS or more. We suggest shooting for 60 FPS as a good middle ground of performance versus cost.
See below for quick descriptions of different FPS speeds.
- Under 20 FPS: This feels very jolty and disconnected, considered unplayable
- 20-30 FPS: Right on the edge of ok, depending on your skill and what type of game you’re playing. Fast pace gamers will still consider this unplayable
- 30-45 FPS: A decent frame rate; most people consider this a manageable frame rate
- 45-60 FPS: Nice and smooth, a comfortable frame rate
- 60-144 FPS: Extremely smooth for hardcore, lighting fast gamers
- Over 144 FPS: For gamers looking for top-of-the-line performance
Does Lowering Graphics Settings Increase FPS?
Most PC games nowadays host impressive and beautiful graphics, but processing them is not an easy task. While playing a game with good graphics, your GPU may struggle to process quickly. Your processor, as a result, makes the decision to show you fewer images per second so that it can keep up with your gaming.
By lowering the graphics quality, you demand less graphic processing from your system so it will be able to keep up with a faster frame rate.
Obviously, this is not always the desired solution. Turning down graphic quality can also have a negative impact on your competitive performance and overall gaming experience.
So if your graphic settings are as low as they can go or you want them to go, your next solution for a better FPS lies in upgrading or augmenting your hardware.
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What Should I Upgrade for Better FPS?
As touched on above, your GPU should be the first thing you look at when considering upgrading your gaming laptop. Though when thinking of upgrading, you must consider your CPU, RAM, and screen as well.
These components must all be well balanced in power and performance; otherwise, you may not see an increase in FPS after upgrading a single component.
Make sure when upgrading your GPU that your screen can handle your anticipated FPS. If you want a 100+ FPS output from your new GPU, make sure your screen’s refresh rate is at least 120 Hz.
Also, ensure your CPU has enough power to not hold back your new GPU and that your laptop has enough RAM to handle the increased data stream flowing through your GPU.
If you’re feeling constrained within the confines of your laptop, now may be a great time to consider a budget desktop PC. Either building your own or buying a prebuilt unit.
There are many ways to build your own powerful and affordable PC and tons of good online resources to help you along the way. One great example is PCPartPicker, a site that helps you source and buy PC components that are designed to fit together and provide balanced gaming performance.
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Does Cooling Pad Improve FPS?
If you don’t want to spend a whole lot of money on upgrading your laptop, a great way to increase your FPS and the overall performance of your laptop is by buying a cooling pad for your laptop.
If you are struggling with thermal throttling (your laptop reduces performance due to heat), which all low-end laptops do if you put them to a test, then a laptop cooling pad may help increase your laptop’s performance.
Processors have an effective temperature window they operate best in. An overheating processor not only has reduced performance (resulting in less FPS) but also risks permanent damage to its internal components.
If you are struggling to remove heat from your laptop due to your environment or hardware constraints, then a cooling pad may be a helpful addition to your laptop system.
Cooling pads don’t directly increase FPS, but by keeping your GPU cooler (even by a couple of degrees), they help tremendously with thermal throttling. This is especially true if you play taxing games that constantly push your GPU to the limit.
So, as you can see, cooling pads can most certainly help you get better FPS in some scenarios.
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FPS makes a big difference in a gamer’s experience and skill ceiling, and even with a low-end laptop, there are many ways to optimize your graphic performance.
As you can see, there are several ways to increase FPS on your low-end laptop, and some of them don’t even require you to spend any money.
The quickest and easiest method to improve FPS on your low-end gaming laptop is by lowering in-game graphic settings. If you have already tried that, then make sure to keep your laptop as cool as possible.
Things like keeping the ambient temperature down, only playing on a flat surface, and buying a cooling pad will certainly help your laptop produce more FPS.
If you are still experiencing lower FPS than you consider ideal, you will have to make more serious investments. As we said, first double up on your RAM. If that still doesn’t help and if you have more room in your budget, a powerful eGPU will definitely do the trick.
If you don’t want to take the time and effort to upgrade your current system, you could always spring for an upgrade. If that’s your case, make sure to choose one of our best choices for Best Gaming Laptops Under $1200 or Best Gaming Laptops Under $1500.
Now go forth! To fiddle, tinker, adjust, and upgrade to your heart’s desire. May your frame rate be steady, your ping low, and your games amazing.
Please, tell us now what you think. Did we help increase your FPS? Did we miss something? If so, or if you have questions, be sure to get in touch with us in the comments section below. We love hearing from you!