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How to Buy a Custom-Built Gaming Laptop

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

There’s a long list of companies that make gaming laptops. It ranges from the standard crew of Dell, Lenovo, HP, other major manufacturers to tiny boutique shops. And that’s not including white box builders who will sell you a laptop without any real brand standing behind it (and with desktop PCs, that includes machines you build yourself).


The primary makers often have a set of configurations that they’ve put together with specific components at set price points. You’ll find them sitting on retail shelves and other online sellers, including the manufacturer’s own website. Maybe you can find a configuration that will work well for you, with just the right mix of speed and pricing. If so, then you’re all set.


But you’re not limited to these standard configurations. There are ways to get a more custom build that more precisely checks off all your boxes. We won’t talk about building your own laptop, because compared to desktops they’re much more tightly designed using proprietary parts that you can’t just buy off the shelf. But short of something homebuilt, you can get a laptop that suits you easily enough. Also, compared to desktop PCs, your laptop choices will be more limited, again because laptops aren’t simply assembled from off-the-shelf parts.


Note that there are two potential downsides to a custom-built laptop. First, they can take longer to get because you’re not picking something up that’s already sitting on the shelf or in a warehouse ready to go. Second, your return options are often more limited, either to no returns at all or restocking fees that may not apply to pre-built machines. Note as well that some companies’ configuration options change often, as do the prices, usually based on sales and component availability.


Use a major manufacturer’s configurator


If you’d rather buy a gaming laptop from a major company, perhaps because you like its brand or you trust a larger company to provide better long-term support, then in some cases you’re in luck. Some of the biggest players have custom configuration options on their web site that let you pick and choose from among various components.


As we’ll see in the “boutique” section below, the options are often relatively limited. But they’re wider than you’ll find if you just pick up a pre-built machine. Unfortunately, the number of companies that provide custom, or built-to-order, laptops, is limited. Examples of those that do include Dell, HP, and Lenovo. Companies like Razer, Asus, MSI, Acer, and others just offer predefined configurations with only a few exceptions, and some of them only sell via retailers.


We’ll use Dell’s Alienware gaming lineup as an example. You can go to the company’s Alienware shop and select from a list of current laptops. If you go to Dell.com and navigate to the Alienware link, the shop is where you’ll end up. You can click on each listing to get more information on the model, and underneath each listing’s header you’ll find a “Customize ->” link.


Take the new Alienware X16 as an example. It’s a new machine with a spectacularly modern chassis and powerful components, and you can find out all about it by clicking on the Tech Specs and Features links. To the right, you’ll find the configurator, which provides a selection of boxes you can check to choose from among various component options.






Dell isn’t offering that many options for the Alienware X16 as this article is being written. You can select the operating system, the amount and configuration of storage, and the display type. But the CPU, RAM, and GPU have no additional options. That could change in the future as Dell rolls out more options.


As you can see from the screenshot, the entry-level configuration for the Alienware X16 costs $2,999.99 and includes an Intel Core i9-13900HK CPU, Windows 11 Home, 32GB of LPDDR5-6000 RAM, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 GPU, a single 512GB SSD, and a 16.0-inch QHD+ IPS display running at 165Hz. Click a few boxes, though, such as upgrading to 4TB of RAID 0 storage made up of two 2TB SSDs and choosing the 240Hz display, and your price jumps to $3,599.99.






Dell only offers its configurator on its web site, so if you want a pre-built laptop you’ll need to go shopping at retail outlets. HP, on the other hand, offers both pre-built and customization options at its gaming store. If you look at the screenshot, you’ll see both “Add to Cart” and “Customize & Buy” options.


Click on one of the latter and you’ll be taken to HP’s configurator for that laptop.







HP’s configuration options for the OMEN Laptop 17t-ck100 are a lot wider than for the Dell Alienware X16. We can’t show you the entire list in a reasonable screenshot, but you can choose the laptop’s color, operating system, CPU and GPU, RAM, storage, support services, and additional software and accessories. For some reason, as this article is being written, HP isn’t listing the laptop’s price. Usually that will be on the page and it will update as you change components.







Choose a boutique shop


You can also find a variety of smaller companies online that will customize a laptop for you. In desktop PCs, these companies can offer a bewildering array of options because they’re essentially choosing components you could buy yourself and building a machine for you. In laptops the options are often less diverse because there’s not a cottage industry of peripheral makers for laptops.


Take CLX Gaming as an example. Choose customizable desktop configurator and you’ll quickly get lost among all the options. The screen below extends pretty far down the page with a staggering number of different machines to choose from.






Its laptop offerings, though, are more limited. There’s really just one machine available, the CLX Anubis, and its configuration options are similar to those you’ll find from the major vendors offering customer laptops. You can choose the display type, the GPU, and the amount of RAM and storage, just as you can with the major companies. But, CLX offers more choices in some cases. For example, you can choose not just the amount of storage you want but the specific SSD as well.






Search and you’ll find it


There are many more companies out there that will sell you a customized PC, so your favorite search engine will be helpful here. But the bottom line is that you don’t have to accept just the pre-configured laptops that are offered on retail shelves and online. Do a little digging, and you can build just the right gaming laptop for your needs.

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