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Apex Legends: Will it play on your laptop?

The new free-to-play battle royale game isn't as easy to run as Fortnite.

If you want to release a video game that a million-odd people will download overnight, then a Fortnite-style free-to-play battle royale game seems like the way to go. Apex Legends, from Respawn and EA, has become an instant hit, thanks to its freemium business model and availability across PCs, Xbox and PlayStation.

For PC players, Fortnite is a great example of a pick-up-and-play game that doesn't need especially high-end hardware to run. But what about the new Apex Legends? We lined up a bunch of laptops for some anecdotal hands-on testing to see how the game plays.

But first, here are the recommended minimum specs from each game's developer:

Fortnite Battle Royale minimum specs

  • CPU: Intel Core i3 2.4 Ghz
  • RAM: 4GB 
  • GPU: Intel HD 4000

Apex Legends minimum specs

  • CPU: Intel Core i3-6300 3.8GHz
  • RAM: 6GB
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GT 640 / Radeon HD 7700

Recommended specs for PC games are not always set in stone. Sometimes the minimum spec is barely enough to launch the game at a crawl, other times you can push the boundaries and play games decently on hardware never intended for it. New driver or game software updates can also make a big difference.

One thing is clear: Fortnite is built to run on almost anything this side of a scientific calculator, while Apex Legends depends at the very least on a discrete graphics card. Here are some laptops in the CNET Labs we ran the game on, and what we found. Frame rates are from the onscreen fps counter built into EA's Origin game launcher. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Huawei Matebook 13

  • CPU: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U
  • RAM: 8GB
  • GPU: Nvidia MX150
  • 18-24fps

Results: At the lowest graphics settings and a paltry 1,200x800 resolution, the game ran at around 18 to 24fps. That made for a choppy experience, but not one that was totally unplayable. In a pinch, you could probably kill some time playing Apex at the back of a crowded conference room. Stepping down even further, to Intel integrated graphics (in a Dell XPS 13), we got 14-20fps by turning every option down to its lowest setting, including the resolution. It's technically playable like that, but don't expect to actually hit anyone. 

Lenovo Legion Y7000P

  • CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i7 8750H
  • RAM: 16GB
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1060
  • 80-90fps

For under $999, you can find many laptop options with Nvidia's GTX 1060 GPU. It works fine with most new games as long as you keep detail levels modest. For a fast-paced shooter like Apex, I kept the resolution at 1,920x1,080 and detail levels at medium-to-high settings, and stayed above 80fps the whole time. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Alienware 17 R4

  • CPU: 2.9GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK
  • RAM: 16GB
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1080
  • 90-120fps

The classic high-end gaming laptop configuration for the past few years. A single 1080 card can still chew through just about any game, and we hit between 90 and 120fps during a live match at full HD resolution and high detail settings. 

Asus Zephyrus GX701

  • CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H
  • RAM: 24GB
  • GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q
  • 90-140fps

The ultimate high-end experience. At the highest detail settings and full HD resolution, the game ran between 90 and 140fps without any hitches or other issues. My biggest problem was getting flat-out murdered over and over (and over) again. It's really way more graphics power than this game needs, but that just leaves you headroom for newer games coming later this year.

Now playing: Watch this: How is Apex Legends different from Fortnite and PUBG?

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