Here’s a little secret for you: most online poker software is incredibly easy to run on almost any computer.
Online poker sites have a serious incentive to make their software compatible with even the most antiquated laptops so they can increase their market share.
In fact, we built a premium grinding station in 2009 and honestly it would still play every piece of poker software you could throw at it.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the experience is the same on every computer.
There are a couple features that are particularly important for online grinders. One is screen size (likewise resolution) because you’re going to want to multi-table and another is mobility because most poker players want to travel.
Over the last five years there has been one significant upgrade that will help speed up your poker sessions. That’s the transition from old disk-based hard drives to flash-based solid state drives or SSDs.
SSDs will help you load anything on your hard drive much faster and that includes your poker client. Is it necessary? Nope. Is it awesome? Yes.
Some people will argue about the benefits of a beastly desktop computer brimming with scorchingly-fast silicon. It’s a good choice if you want to play 3D games at max settings but these days it’s hard to see them as anything more than overkill for online poker.
Instead of buying a desktop just attach a couple high quality monitors to your laptop and you are good to go.
Here’s a look at three great choices in 2014 (feel free to add your own in the comments!):
What are Your Options?
By and large you’re going want to go with a Windows-based machines. If you’re an Apple fan you’re going to have a tough choice on your hands because there are still a few sites out there that haven’t ported their client over to OSX. You’ll either be out of luck on those sites or you’ll have to play in a weaker browser-based client.
Finally Chromebooks are dirt cheap but aren’t really a good option for poker players because you’ll be limited entirely to browser-based poker sites.
This depends largely on how many tables you can handle at once. If you’ve been known to 10-table you might want to look into one of those clunky 17-inch beasts.
A 17-inch laptop will significantly cut down on the mobility aspect (try setting that one up in a coffee shop) so 14-15 inches seems like a good compromise. Generally 13-inch laptops are a bit on the small size but if you only play one or two tables at a time they are a good option.
Keep in mind that high resolution displays are extremely helpful for online poker and you’ll be able to make out a ton more detail on a 15-inch laptop with a screen that’s at least 1080p.
We’re going to give you some picks of our own but if you want to pick out your own laptop here are a few of the key specs to consider. There are also a few features that don't add much to the online poker experience: touchscreen (touchpad is better and cheaper), DVD drive (pretty worthless these days in general and weighs down the device) and beefy video cards (online poker software isn't very intense). Here's what you want:
CPU: Anything Dual Core should be fine for playing poker.
Ram: You want at least 4GB of ram.
Battery life: You want at least four hours just in case you’re having power problems.
Hard drive: You don’t need a big Hard Drive for online poker (even 128gb will get you by) but you might want to consider a much-faster Solid-State Drive (SSD), which actually speeds up a ton of real-life tasks.
Three Picks in Three Price Ranges
Without further ado here are three great choices for a poker-playing laptop as of 2014. We’ve broken it down into budget, mid-range and high-end laptops.
Let’s get this straight right away: The only really kick ass thing about the Dell Inspiron 15 is the price. But at the same time you don’t need a lot to run poker software and you could afford four Inspiron 15s for the price of other laptops.
The Inspiron 15 is actually surprisingly competent for the price with a dual core processor and 4GB of ram. The hard drive is a little slow but that’s what you get in a $249 computer. You can get it with a touch screen but that doesn’t add much for poker so we opted to skip it. Same deal with a DVD drive.
What’s nice about the Inspiron 15 versus many other budget laptops is that it’s a little sleeker and actually weighs a little less. It’s also a PCMag.com editor’s choice.
Another good choice is the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 2 14, which has stellar reviews but costs a little more at $580.
- Price: $249 on Dell
- CPU: 2.31 GHz Dual-core Celeron
- Screen: 15.6" (1366x768)
- RAM: 4 GB
- Hard Drive: 500GB HDD
- Awards: PCMag.com Editor's Choice. Four-Star rating over 666 reviews on Dell.
The Acer Aspire V7-582PG-6479 has a long name but it’s worth remembering if you want a blazing-fast laptop for playing online poker.
Compared to our budget pick the Acer Aspire V7 has a faster chip (i5 is better than Celeron), higher resolution screen, twice the ram and a 16 GB SSD boot drive, which really cranks up overall speed.
It also has a reasonably sleek chassis that weighs just 4.85 pounds. It’s unlikely you’ll need it for playing online poker but the Aspire V7 also has a beefy GT 750M if you want to play 3D games.
Despite all the bells and whistles the Aspire’s battery life isn’t terrible and it lasts an average of 6.5 hours between charges.
Acer’s reliability and customer support have gotten much better over the last few years, which is also a nice plus.
For all these reasons the Aspire V7 is arguably the best laptop for playing online poker and has a very achievable price point.
If you want to save a little money you could also opt for the 14-inch version of the Aspire V7 which sacrifices a little screen real estate for less weight.
- Price: $999
- CPU: 1.6 GHz i5-4200
- Screen: 15.6" (1920x1080)
- RAM: 8GB
- Hard Drive: 500 GB with a 16 GB Solid-State Drive Boot Drive
- Awards: Nearly Five-Star rating over 80 or so reviews spread across Amazon
You want the absolute best, most-powerful laptop for running online poker software?
Look no further than the Razor Blade Pro 17”.
This beast of a laptop tips the scales at $2,299 but if there’s one portable machine that can give you a desktop-like experience, this is it.
The Razor Blade Pro has everything including a massive 17-inch HD display that will fit at least four tables on the screen with no problems.
The build quality on the Razor Blade Pro is exceptionally high and it’s actually quite svelte considering the huge screen.
Just take this thing to Thailand and you’ve basically got your own mobile grinding station with no need for an external monitor.
Perhaps the only downside of the Razor Blade Pro is a limited battery life because of the incredibly fast CPU and enormous video card. Expect about four hours while you are playing poker.
It seems doubtful there will ever be a piece of poker software the Razor Blade Pro won’t be able to run (although Virtual Reality Oculus Rift-based poker is a possibility!).
- Price: $2,299
- CPU: 2.4 i7 Quad Core
- Screen: 17.3" (1920x1080)
- RAM: 16 GB
- Hard Drive: 128GB Solid State Drive
- Awards: 4.5 rating on TechRadar
MacBook Pro Retina 15
If you have to get an Apple computer than go with the MacBook Pro Retina 15 base model. You’ll be somewhat limited as far as the sites you can play (although you can dual boot Windows if you’re really want to play the Windows-only sites). We suggest going with the base model, which only has an Iris Pro integrated video card but you don’t really need a super-powered video card to run online poker sites.
It’s worth going with the 15 over the 13-inch model so you can multi-table a little easier.