The Best Peripherals for Gaming Laptops

Key Points

  • There are a lot of peripherals for gaming laptops, but not all peripherals are necessary.

  • Solid-State Drives are faster than Hard Disk Drives.

  • Next-generation consoles create controllers for computers.

There are so many peripherals for gaming laptops to choose from – which can be overwhelming. Thankfully, not every one of them is necessary. Accessories like cooling pads, 3D headsets, and laptop stands can be ignored (until further down the road). The best peripherals to get your hands on are the ones that are going to immediately benefit you and your gaming experience.

Getting the basic peripherals for gaming laptops before you branch out to something like a 3D headset is important. Sure, gaming in 3D is fun and an experience on its own, but it’s not going to improve your laptop. You have a laptop because you’re on the move a lot, so it’s replacing a desktop computer. However, you still want to game like you’re on a desktop.

Consider the following as the essential peripherals to pick up for your gaming laptop:

Mouse

The key to gaming on a laptop is the mouse. This is especially true if you intend to play a first-person shooter (FPS) game like Halo. A mouse allows your movement and aiming to function optimally as opposed to the clumsiness of a laptop’s trackpad.

Beyond gaming, a mouse is good for navigating different programs on your laptop. If you’re a gamer, there’s a good chance that you enjoy recording your gameplay and uploading it to YouTube. A mouse makes editing your footage and creating thumbnails for your videos easier.

What makes a gaming mouse different from a normal mouse? A gaming mouse comes with all the bells and whistles. Gaming mice are equipped with red, green, and blue (RGB) lighting and extra buttons out the wazoo. These extra buttons can be mapped to different functions in different games.

For example, you can use one button to activate your microphone to talk with friends in Discord while using a different key to talk with people in a game. A button on most gaming mice adjusts the dots per inch (DPI) your mouse detects which adjusts the speed of the mouse’s pointer.

A good gaming mouse runs between $60 to $150. The price depends on a variety of features such as whether or not it’s wireless.

Gaming keyboard, headphones, mouse, and controller

Wireless

Wireless mice are a commodity because they’re a tad pricier than their wired counterparts — especially when looking at gaming mice. They’re worth the cost, however. You won’t have to worry about the wire getting in the way when you swipe to the left or right in a sudden burst of speed. You also won’t find a tangled mess when you return to your laptop for another gaming session.

Sure, wireless mice come with a cord to charge them, but some brands are developing a mousepad that charges your mouse while you play, eliminating the need to plug it in at all.

Wired

A wired mouse is less desirable due to the restrictive nature of a wire. Manufacturers sell their wired mice with long cords, but the longer the cord, the likelier it is to get tangled with something. Wires simply get in the way.

That’s not to say that a wired mouse doesn’t have its purpose. If you need a gaming mouse and are on a budget, a wired mouse is the way to go. There’s also no need to worry about connectivity issues between your computer and mouse (unless you have a pet that chews on wires). Simply plug in the USB cord and play.

You’ll find the best gaming mice from Logitech, Corsair, and Razer.

External Hard Drive

There’s only so much storage on a laptop. Whether a gaming laptop comes equipped with a 1TB solid-state drive (SSD) or a hard disk drive (often referred to as HDD or mechanical drive), it eventually runs out of space for all of your video games. Don’t forget that the operating system (OS) is also stored on the laptop’s hard drive, which takes up a good chunk of its space.

It’s absolutely necessary to purchase an external hard drive to go with your gaming laptop. The massiveness of every game is growing with each new release, making some games larger than 40GB. If you play enough games, that’s going to add up.

Performance is an important factor for all gamers and storing programs on an external hard drive helps. A computer’s speed is often taken for granted, and people don’t realize that it takes time for a computer to find programs and launch them – not to mention any tasks running in the background. The more you store on an external hard drive, the faster your laptop will run.

An SSD and an HDD are two different types of storage devices for computers. 

Solid State Drives

Unlike a mechanical drive, an SSD has no moving parts, hence “solid-state.” It stores data on interconnected flash-memory chips that retain data even when a computer is powered off.

They're more reliable than traditional drives since there's nothing that can break from mechanical wear and tear. One downside to SSDs is that they usually cost more per unit of storage compared to hard drives. They also have a limited number of write cycles meaning they can only be written a certain number of times before the memory cells start to degrade. For most people, this isn't something to worry about.

SSDs are often used as the main storage device in laptops and desktop computers. They’re used as the storage device for the OS, frequently-used apps, and files for faster access.

Headphones, mouse, and keyboard for gaming

Hard Disk Drives

An HDD consists of a spinning disk (or disks) and a read/write head that moves across the disks to access data. Mechanical hard drives are generally less expensive than the alternative making them a popular choice for large-capacity storage in desktop computers and servers.

One of the main drawbacks of mechanical hard drives is that they are slower than SSDs because the drive head must physically move to access the data stored on the spinning disks. They’re also more susceptible to failure due to mechanical wear and tear and are sensitive to physical shocks and vibrations.

Besides storing large amounts of data not frequently accessed such as media files and backups, HDDs are used as secondary storage devices in conjunction with SSDs.

Some key differences between the two are:

  • Speed: SSDs are faster than HDDs — especially when it comes to accessing data. It has no moving parts, so it can access data almost instantly while an HDD has to physically locate the right part of the spinning disk to access data which takes longer.

  • Durability: SSDs are more durable than HDDs because they have no moving parts. This makes them less prone to damage from bumps or drops.

  • Capacity: HDDs are available in larger capacities than SSDs, although this has changed as SSD technology has improved.

  • Price: HDDs are cheaper than SSDs — especially for larger capacities. However, the price gap between the two has been narrowing in recent years.

  • Noise and power usage: SSDs are quieter and use less power than HDDs because they have no moving parts.

Hands down, an external SSD is the way to go if you don’t mind shelling out a little extra cash. If you install your laptop’s OS onto the SSD, you’ll be impressed with the speed at which your laptop powers on and loads games.

Gamer plays with headphones

Keyboard

Do all laptops come with built-in keyboards? Yes. However, laptop keyboards are compact versions of their desktop counterparts and feel constrictive by comparison. A lot of professional gamers find that tilting their desktop keyboards at a certain angle frees up space for their mouse allowing them to lower the mouse sensitivity and improve in-game accuracy.

That’s something you can’t accomplish with a laptop. If you tilt your keyboard, you’re also angling the laptop screen, inhibiting visibility. If you play a lot of FPSs or games that require precise accuracy, this is a valuable technique but not so much for other genres of games.

There are many keyboard styles out there to get your hands on, but you ultimately need to make only one decision: mechanical or traditional? The vast majority of gamers opt for a mechanical keyboard because they sound and look stunning.

Mechanical Keyboards

A mechanical keyboard uses mechanical switches rather than rubber dome switches found in traditional keyboards. The mechanical switches provide more satisfying tactile feedback when the keys are pressed and are more durable than rubber dome switches. Gamers and typing enthusiasts often prefer mechanical keyboards because of their improved feel and responsiveness.

Mechanical keyboards can be further divided into different types based on the type of mechanical switch used. Different types of mechanical switches have different characteristics such as the amount of force required to actuate the switch, the tactile feedback provided, and the sound made when the switch is activated. Some common types of mechanical switches include cherry MX, linear, and tactile.

It goes without saying that if you’re going to purchase a keyboard for your laptop, go with a mechanical keyboard. A traditional keyboard isn’t designed for gaming.

Traditional Keyboards

Traditional keyboards are much simpler than mechanical ones. Traditional keyboards use rubber dome membranes under the keys which are prone to wear and tear. The keys become less responsive the more you use them. This means you’ll need to buy a new keyboard instead of switching out the keys. Traditional keyboards aren’t as customizable as mechanical keyboards

Traditional keyboards also lack the vibrant RGB lighting that you get from a mechanical keyboard. That means no typing in the dark if you’re a night owl.

Webcam mounted to a monitor

Headset

It’s important to tie everything together with a quality sound system. Naturally, you can go with external speakers to fully immerse yourself in whichever game you prefer. You can go with a surround-sound system and hear the faintest of footsteps in your game – while forcing everyone else in your household to experience it too.

Let your family hear jets roar through the air as they rain down hellfire in support of you and your squad causing everyone to think World War 3 has begun. Or you can go with the more popular –and considerate – choice and purchase a headset.

A headset prevents your family from preparing to evacuate to safety, and it’ll let them get a good night's sleep when you decide to stay up late. It also prevents any kind of feedback from reverberating back into your microphone. More often than not you won’t be playing a video game alone and your friends will appreciate not hearing your game over Discord.

A surround-sound system also isn’t very portable and the whole point of a laptop is to be able to haul it around with you which begs the question: wireless or wired headset?

Wireless

Wireless headsets utilize Bluetooth or radio frequencies to connect to devices offering the freedom that their wired counterparts can’t. A wireless headset uses a cord only when charging, so you're not tethered to your laptop unless the headset needs to be charged.

You don’t have to take a wireless headset off every time you need to step away from your computer to grab a snack or use the restroom. There’s no chance of wires getting tangled or you tripping over a cord. One possible downside is that wireless headsets also experience a slight delay (latency) with their transmission compared to wired headsets.

USB dock for gaming laptop

Wired

Wired headsets offer a direct connection to your laptop resulting in lower latency and more stable audio than wireless headsets. This is important for online multiplayer games where fast response times and clear communication are critical.

Another distinct advantage wired headsets have over wireless ones is the price tag. While it’s possible to find wireless headsets with sound quality similar to wired ones, they tend to have a higher price point. A wide variety of wired gaming headsets are available on the market ranging in price and quality. The most popular brands include HyperX, SteelSeries, and Logitech.

Controller

Sometimes a controller is better suited for your gaming needs than a keyboard. Racing and fighting games operate much better under the use of a controller. Controller technology has vastly improved over the years with some controllers coming equipped with keys on the underside putting everything literally in the palm of your hands.

Better yet, next-generation console controllers double as PC controllers. The XBOX Elite controller, for example, comes with interchangeable parts that allow you to swap out the thumbsticks and other keys to completely make it your own.

Microphone

You might wonder why you’d want a microphone when you already have a headset. Yes, a headset has a microphone attached, but they’re rarely as good as a dedicated microphone. The built-in microphone on a headset picks up every little noise in the background and sometimes even catches the audio your headphones produce. It’s distracting to you and anyone you interact with online.

Standalone microphones are designed to minimize background noise. Through a dedicated mic, your voice is noticeably clearer and crisper to viewers and teammates. The options you have for standalone microphones are endless but mainly come in two types: USB and XLR. An XLR microphone is considerably more expensive than a USB-based mic and requires an audio interface, but the quality produced is unmatched. 

Gaming keyboard and mouse peripherals

USB Hub

An often overlooked yet essential commodity on a laptop is USB plugs. A top-of-the-line gaming laptop comes with three USB plugs at the most. Now, imagine every accessory previously mentioned. That’s more accessories than USB outlets for a laptop. A USB hub solves the issue.

A USB hub is a device that allows you to connect multiple USB devices to a single USB port on your computer. It essentially acts as a "splitter" for the USB port allowing you to connect multiple devices that can be used simultaneously.

USB hubs come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can have anywhere from two to several dozen ports. They can be stand-alone devices that you connect to your computer with a separate cable, or they can be built into other devices such as keyboards or monitors. Some USB hubs also come with additional features such as built-in card readers or charging ports for mobile devices.

If you don’t want to unplug and replug devices into your laptop repeatedly, USB hubs are useful.

Peripherals: Honorable Mentions

The following are a few useful items that aren’t as essential as anything mentioned above, but you may want to save your pennies to grab these down the road.

Webcam

Many gamers enjoy recording their gameplay to share online. Professional gaming has become a lucrative business for many and a webcam allows you to put a little extra personality in your videos by sharing your face with your viewers. A webcam is useful in other ways, as well.

Since the Covid pandemic, working remotely has become a popular form of work and a webcam may be required depending on your vocation. Buy a high-end webcam for gaming and it can double as a work accessory. You would have the sharpest image in your virtual meetings since top-of-the-line webcams record in high-definition.

3D Headset

3D headsets provide an immersive and enjoyable experience for gaming, but they’re not a requirement for day-to-day usage. Most newly manufactured gaming laptops even support virtual reality (VR) games, but not every developer creates VR games. This is a purchase that can wait until you have the basics.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are several peripherals for gaming laptops you should get your hands on. Whether gaming or browsing the internet, these accessories improve every experience. A mouse enhances your movements and helps you feel less constrained. Meanwhile, an external hard drive helps free up space on your laptop which also helps it run like it's fresh out of the box.

With the right components, you can design your laptop to be just as versatile and reliable as a custom-built desktop computer. Grab yourself a computer monitor or two along with a docking station for your laptop and your laptop is no different than a desktop tower.

Besides lacking a few customizable options that desktops benefit from, laptops are solid machines. They have enough power to run the most resource-hungry games. If there’s an issue with your laptop, there’s most definitely an accessory out there that will fix it.

Build your ideal gaming machine with these peripherals. They will significantly improve your experience no matter which games you play.