You purchased an amazing gaming laptop. You spent weeks analyzing powerful specs. But do you know the one feature guaranteed to reward you with the most exhilarating gaming experience? The operating system. This software is consistently overlooked. Yet, if you know nothing else about gaming laptops. Know that no matter how good or bad other all the other components are, a good OS will add unsurpassed performance to every game you like to play. In this article, we’re going to present a brief overview of each OS as it relates to their pros and cons, performance and compatibility. Let’s dive in!
What’s an Operating System?
The operating system (OS) is a program that helps a laptop perform essential functions. Not only does it manage all the hardware and software attached to your computing device. But its responsible for accessing the CPU for storage and memory purposes. But best of all, it helps gamers run fun applications like their favorite titles.
Years ago, the only OS available was MS-DOS. Its complexity led to the push for a better alternative. Now we have 3 main platforms: Windows, Linux and the MacOS which support a more natural interface that’s perfect for gaming.
Each one caters to a different audience with distinct advantages and disadvantages that only become apparent during those brutal, all-out melees on your favorite MMORPG.
Best Operating System for Gaming
Below we list the most popular operating systems for gaming with an overview of their specs along with other criteria like their performance and gaming potential and end with their individual pros and cons.
Microsoft Windows is hands down the most popular operating system in the world. Introduced in 1990 as Windows 3.0, it was revolutionary for simplifying the user interface, which helped bring computers into the mainstream.
Since then, Windows has undergone numerous evolutions, including: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT and Windows 2000 leading up to the beloved Windows XP; this is the era when PC gaming exploded. Then followed the bug-ridden Windows Vista, which was mercifully replaced by the refined Windows 7. After which came Windows 8, then Windows 8.1 which was criticized for forcing a tablet-oriented UI on desktop PCs.
Windows 10 is the latest version, which is revolutionary itself for building and improving Windows 10 with free updates rather than releasing a whole new version every few years. And introducing us to the latest DirectX software.
Windows 10 performance is reliable, in fact it’s the most reliable Windows OS Microsoft has ever produced. As long as you have the hardware to back it up, Windows 10 performs to a high level offering full frame rates on almost every benchmark test regardless of the game you want to play to be far and away the best operating system for gaming.
DirectX 12 is what truly sets Windows 10 apart from rivals. Essentially, it allows you to update your system and get the most out of games by customizing GPU and CPU settings to your heart’s content!
Windows 10 comes preinstalled on practically every Microsoft device because it doesn’t take much to run:
CPU: 1GHz (gigahertz) or faster processor or SoC.
RAM: 1GB (gigabyte) for 32-bit or 2GB for 64-bit OS.
Hard Drive Space: 16GB for 32-bit OS or 20GB for 64-bit OS.
Graphics Card: DirectX9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver.
Display: 1024 x 600 or above.
Windows 10 offers a lot of customizations and tweaks when it comes to display features. For instance, changing the resolution, text size or color scheme of your layout requires pressing Start. Then go to Settings. Then System (a picture of a gear). Then Display. Here, you can choose the scale and layout, display resolution, display orientation and set up dual monitors if you have dual monitors.
When it comes to compatibility, Windows 10 is way ahead of the pack. All the driver issues surrounding its release have been addressed for virtually no compatibility issues. While it doesn’t offer native support for things like old DOS-based games. There’s access to all online repositories and plenty of support for the latest title with the opportunity to play them on the highest settings thanks to DirectX12.
Windows 10 has improved on nearly every aspect of the Windows operating system offering the widest choice of games available of any OS endowing gamers access to over 20,000 titles. And PC gamers can fully integrated games with Xbox LIVE, have full controller support and more. Windows 10 is easily one of the best iterations of Microsoft software since the days of Windows XP.
If you want to side-step the power-hungry features of Windows 10, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using Windows 7. Crucial support from Microsoft will eventually stop to focus on the current OS.
To optimize your PC laptop for excellent gaming potential, you’ll want to ensure that the graphics card, RAM and CPU are all up to date as well.
User-friendly, stable, top-shelf performance; future-proof compatibility; access to an extensive library of online games
Security issues with all new releases; breakdown issues; some older games only available with integrated software
When Windows 10 was first released, there was only a 1 to 2% improvement over Windows 8. Not only that, but it offered superior compatibility with most games over its successor.
While the standard interface makes Windows 8 good for running games. Over time, with Windows 10 undergoing a wide variety of improvements, Windows 8 just isn’t as robust. For example, since DirectX12 is only suited for the newest operating system, you don’t get full access to DirectX.
Surprisingly, game companies and developers still develop games compatible with Windows 8. However, Microsoft and game developers could cut support for Windows 8 at any time making obsolescence more than a clear and present possibility.
For the time being, Windows 8 still offers comparable performance to Windows 10. You get high frame rates (for most games) as long as the hardware is up to it. Overall performance is acceptable for all current games. But as time goes by, this is likely to change.
Furthermore, the only other downside is that specific graphical programs like DirectX can’t progress, which means you don’t get full access to it as stated earlier. For example, DirectX12 isn’t available on Windows 8, this lack of support means you won’t be able to play on full spec mode. Otherwise, you can still play some rather impressive games.
These are the minimum specs required to run Windows 8.1:
CPU Speed: 1GHz or faster processor.
RAM: 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit).
Graphics Card: DirectX9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver.
Pixel Shader: 2.0.
Free Disk Space: 16 GB available storage space for (32-bit) or 20 GB for (64-bit).
The primary improvement to Microsoft’s operating systems prior to Windows 8 was the emphasis on supporting the use of multiple displays. And you still get all the great standard options of changing the text size, scale of everything, resolution and more.
Currently, Windows 8 is compatible with most modern games. As more games move on to DirectX12, this will be less the case. But for now, not that many games make use of that technology yet. There are a range of games that can only use DOS systems. Like Windows 10, Windows 8 has the resources to play these games.
Since Windows 8 has been out for a while, all the driver issues have been handled; all drivers have software that ensures their hardware works perfectly with the product. But as less hardware is shipped with Windows 8 drivers available, this may change in the future since hardware is optimized to work with newer OS options.
Windows 8 offers a variety of games like Windows 10; gamers have access to over 20,000 games. However, there is a small minority of games that either flat out aren’t available to play on the Windows 8 software or won’t work to their full capacity.
Windows 8.1 is still available for purchase at a fraction of the price of the current iteration if you really want access to it. But it wouldn’t make much sense since most new devices come preinstalled with Windows 10 and because Windows 10 is optimized for gaming.
Highly stable; user-friendly; full drivers for all hardware; wide variety of playable games
The curtain is closing; DOS-based games need additional software to play
Linux is an army of operating systems all based on the open-source kernel. The one that makes the most sense for gamers is Ubuntu.
It might be the best operating system for your gaming (if you know what you’re doing). However, seat time quickly reveals that it’s not as user-friendly as Windows or the MacOS. And perhaps due to its esoteric nature, it doesn’t receive the same support for game development as Windows or even the MacOS.
The Ubuntu GamePack is a Linux distro that’s perfect for gamers. Based on Ubuntu, it comes preinstalled with the Steam client, Wine, PlayOnLinux, and Lutris.
In a sense, it’s a hybrid OS where games on Linux, Windows, Console, and Steam collide. And since it supports Oracle Java and Adobe Flash, you have over 6 thousand online Linux and Windows games at your disposal.
Linux aims at the professional and enthusiast crowd. And it’s the preferred choice for security conscious PC users. What Ubuntu does, it does well. But it can’t hold a candle to Windows.
Performance levels are significanly lower than Windows (by as much as 40% for Windows 10 and 20% for Windows 8). This is of course due to the fact that Linux drivers are not optimized for gaming like Windows. The ports not being of as a good a quality as Windows. And having to use middleman software to run Windows games.
Since it’s not optimized for gaming, you won’t like downloading and playing heavy titles, like Assassin’s Creed.
Processor: 2 GHz dual-core CPU.
Memory: 4 GiB RAM (system memory).
Storage: 25 GB of storage space (or USB stick, memory card, or external drive but see LiveCD for an alternative approach).
Graphics: VGA capable of 1020×768 screen resolution.
Either a CD/DVD drive or USB port for the installer media.
Internet access is helpful.
Some unique features of Ubuntu include the ability to change the ‘temperature’ of the screen, lock screen background, screen brightness and dual monitor support.
While a variety of games can be run using middleman software like WINE, you should expect compatibility issues. Plus you’re going to need third-party drivers for graphics cards and other hardware to get games going.
Every Linux distro including Ubuntu lags Windows when it comes to the variety of games on offer. You’re confined within the margins of just over 3000 games available on Steam for Linux.
One of the things that makes Ubuntu attractive is that it’s always been free to download. Second is the open framework of the OS, which allows for a unique and exciting new computing experience if you want something different than Windows.
Linux is more secure and stable than Windows; open source means it’s unrestricted; robust collection of free software compared to Windows
Lack of compatibility with much of the hardware and software out there; limited choice of games; poor performance compared to Windows
Good news for die-hard Apple fans, the MacOS has become more gamer-friendly than ever!
You’ll only find this operating system in MacBooks. This exclusivity gives it the advantage of being optimized for the Apple environment. But this exclusivity leads to one of its primary disadvantages—the hardware is sorely lacking in raw power, relying on the software to make up for the deficit.
This poses a problem since games are not developed with Mac in mind.
The MacOS is well known for being virtually virus free and great for stretching creative talents. It’s less known for gaming dexterity.
Although games are ported over from the PC market, they perform beautifully on the MacOS making the most of its world-class hardware and software.
However, since the Mac ecosystem doesn’t prioritize gaming, GPU and other crucial gaming hardware are put on the back burner and it shows; performance levels are 2/3 frame rate of Windows. Rendering the OS less than ideal for hardcore gaming.
These are the standard technical specifications for all Macs:
Display: 21.5-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display.
Processor: 2.3 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz.
Price: $1,099 to $1,299.
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640.
Video: Support and Camera. FaceTime HD camera.
Audio: Stereo speakers.
Apple prides itself on an excellent user interface. The resolution quality you can access are fantastic. You get brightness automation, scale and layout tweaking, Night Shift mode, transparency and contrast settings and more.
Along with slower performance, many games just aren’t compatible with the MacOS since the game only have just the essentials to work on a MacBook. Add to this that unlike Linux, the MacOS uses completely different hardware making it almost impossible to run games intended optimized for Windows without extreme slow downs.
There are around 4,500 games available on Steam for the MacOS, which is 1,500 more than Linux. But it still pales in comparison to what you get for Windows 10. And in some cases the variety even lags Linux offerings.
Since you can only us the MacOS on Mac products, the only way to get a hold of this OS is to buy a MacBook. The price you pay depends entirely on whether you’re purchasing a MacBook Air or Pro.
This means it might cost you considerably more to use the MacOS on a MacBook Pro than on a MacBook Air. And since Macs are designed to be compact, there’s little room for a robust GPU or user modifications.
Which means, the only way to get good gaming performance on a Mac is with an external GPU. That’s a pretty tough pill to swallow given the already steep price of MacBooks.
MacOS is simple to use; high-quality graphics and visuals; fewer viruses to contend with;
MacBooks are significantly more expensive than PC laptops; worse performance when it comes to games than Windows; limited choice of available games; diminishing performance with graphically heavy games
Don’t short-change yourself. What’s the point of scrupulously picking all the right components for your fresh new gaming laptop only to be handicapped by the OS? Grab Windows 10 for the most extraordinary PC gaming performance of your life. The most popular Linux distro for gaming is Ubuntu, but the lack of support is a hurdle. The one thing that makes the MacOS a fine choice in almost any other arena is the same thing holding back, exclusivity. It’s just not well optimized for gaming. Choose the right operating system and you’ll be tasting the sweet rewards of victory every time you game.