iRacing is one of the most realistic sim racing games on the market. Its subscription payment model sets it apart from most other sims, and it’s worth making sure your PC can handle it before you try and install it. This is especially true if you want to run iRacing on a laptop.
You can run iRacing on a laptop, but you will need to have at least the minimum recommended specs. In order to get decent framerates and a stable playing experience overall, you’ll want to have at least a 6-core CPU and 16GB of RAM, along with 4GB of VRAM.
iRacing suggests some minimum and recommended specs on their website, and I’ll go through them below. But it’s also worth doing some real-life testing on a laptop that sits in the middle of some of these recommendations, so I’ll discuss my own experience on my own non-gaming laptop too.
iRacing Minimum And Recommended Specs
iRacing helpfully outlines their minimum and recommended specs on their website. They offer up an absolute minimum set of specs, and it is worth reiterating that these are the lowest that you should even consider having at your disposal to play iRacing.
Sim racing is all about making for a fun and realistic sim racing experience. If your PC or laptop can’t provide a steady framerate and struggles to keep up with the game, it’s going to be neither fun nor realistic. This is worth bearing in mind before playing any fairly intensive game, but for sim racing, where a few skipped frames could mean you’re in the wall, this is even more important.
In terms of your processor, you’re going to need at least 4 cores of Intel i5/AMD FX/Ryzen 3 at your disposal. I won’t go through the specific processor models as they have long and confusing names, and you can see the specifics on iRacing.com. However, it’s recommended that you have a 6-core i7 or equivalent, with a clock speed of 3.7 GHz being ideal.
As for graphics cards, there are so many that will be capable of playing iRacing, but at a minimum you’ll need one with 2GB of VRAM, but more ideally, you’ll have 6GB. The lowest end models you’ll get away with are the Nvidia GeForce GTX660/1050, the ATI Radeon HD 7850 and the AMD RX550.
If you want a more optimal experience, then something like a GTX 1060 from Nvidia or the AMD RX580 is what you want to have. As for pixel and vertex shaders, 5.0 is the minimum and 5.1 is recommended for both.
RAM And Storage
For RAM, you need at least 16GB, and this applies to the minimum and recommended spec sheets. The game needs 25GB free storage to install, and 50GB if you want to download all the cars and tracks too. Finally, you’ll also need a sound card, and a 64-bit operating system. But what if you really want to get the most out of iRacing?
iRacing Optimal Specs
The optimal set of specs that iRacing recommends is for those that want the smoothest experience possible on the highest graphics settings. For your CPU, you want an 8-core i9 or equivalent, and an RTX 2080Ti graphics card or equivalent. 8GB of VRAM is favored here, with 32GB of RAM being optimal in the memory department.
iRacing On HP Spectre 2020 Laptop
My current laptop is the 2020 HP Spectre x360 15-eb0003na, with the 4K screen (but playing on my 1080p TV). This particular model has a 6-core Intel i7-10750H processor with a clock speed of 2.60 GHz. It has a GTX 1650Ti Max-Q graphics card with 4GB of VRAM, and it has 16GB of DDR4-2666MHz RAM. These specs put the laptop firmly in between the minimum and recommended specs for iRacing.
For some extra context, this laptop runs games like Forza Horizon 4 and Forza Motorsport 7 on the highest settings with smooth enough frame rates. I don’t monitor them, but it’s more than playable anyway and I’ve never noticed any frame skipping or quality dropping. It also handles other beefy games like Assassin’s Creed Origins on fairly high settings, but it’s by no means a gaming laptop.
However, I wanted to give iRacing a go to see how it copes with it, and to see if it really is best to just save up for a proper gaming PC or if iRacing can work well on a laptop. So, below I’ll go through my experience with iRacing on this laptop, so you can hopefully gauge whether or not you should try it for yourself.
So Far So Good
My first experience with iRacing on my laptop was great! I had the settings adjusted to best graphics performance and I was seeing a solid 84 FPS (capped in iRacing itself). This is already more than the 60Hz refresh rate of the TV I was playing on, so there wasn’t much point in taking the cap away. However, more important was the fact that over several races I never noticed any frames dropping.
If I was to play the game on my 15” laptop screen at 4K resolution however, things begin to change. My laptop can handle pretty intensive games and keep up with the framerate, but it does get extremely hot. This is an issue that I think is exacerbated with my specific model, and so a properly cooled gaming laptop wouldn’t necessarily suffer as much.
The External Screen
But I would never be playing iRacing or any other sim racer just using my laptop as the display. The screen is just too small, and when you take into consideration your peripherals you end up even further away from the screen than for most games unless you have a heavily modified rig. So, sim racing on a laptop without an external display is already going to be suboptimal.
I played around with the graphics settings in-game, lowering them and removing the frame rate cap, and it didn’t make much of a noticeable difference. Things obviously drop slightly as there is more going on in the game, but even full grids made little difference to the framerate. However, the fans on my laptop being so loud does somewhat take away from the experience.
If you browse threads on Reddit, you’ll be able to hear other people’s experience with iRacing on a laptop. Many have far better setups than me, while others with lesser graphics cards and processors also say they can play on their laptop without any issues.
When it comes to recommending playing iRacing on a laptop, I would only say yes if you don’t have access to a dedicated PC that can run it. The need for an external monitor, although not truly essential, almost nullifies the portability bonus offered by a laptop for sim racing. Plus, they’re notoriously loud and get hot very easily, so that’s worth considering.
You Can Run iRacing On A Laptop
However, if your laptop is the only option for you and it meets at least the minimum specs outlined above, iRacing should be very playable. After a long play session, you might start noticing some frame drops and significant heat coming from your device, but you can definitely still run iRacing on a laptop.
What Laptop Do You Need To Run iRacing?
I’ve already listed the recommended specs above, so I won’t go over them again. However, if I wanted to seriously get into iRacing with my laptop instead of using a dedicated gaming PC, there are a few different options I would personally be considering.
ASUS TUF Gaming Laptop
If you’re looking for a gaming laptop on a budget that still has enough power to run iRacing, a good option would be the ASUS TUF gaming laptop. There are various models out there, but some are configurable with a very reasonable 6-core AMD processor. You can also equip it with a GeForce 1660 Ti graphics card with 6GB of VRAM, ideal for iRacing.
The 144Hz screen provides a seamless racing experience in terms of the visuals, and as with most gaming laptops you’ll have some freedom over how much RAM and storage you need. While definitely not the most powerful option, it often retails below the $1000 mark, so could be a good choice for those with less cash to spare.
ASUS ROG Strix 17
A step up in both price and specs would be the ASUS ROG Strix 17 series of laptops. With an 8-core Ryzen 7 processor and a GeForce RTX graphics card, this is a truly beefy gaming laptop. It also has a 17-inch display, which could make it playable without an external display if you either didn’t have the space or the funds for another display.
One important thing you need to consider when buying a laptop for sim racing is the range of ports you have on offer. You need to connect up your peripherals, like your wheel, pedals and gear shifter, and you need a port for your external display as well. This laptop comes with 3 USB Type-A ports and one USB Type-C, as well as an HDMI port, so you should be more than covered.
Acer Predator Helios 300
If you want to really get the best gaming laptop hardware possible, something like the Acer Predator Helios 300 is about as good as it gets. It’ll set you back close to $3000 for the full-spec version, but it might be worth it if you need the absolute best in gaming laptop power. You can fit it with up to an 8-core Intel i7 processor, which is more than enough for iRacing!
You can also get up to 32GB of RAM, and 8GB of VRAM with the GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card. This laptop really is only for the serious gamer, and you shouldn’t go for this one purely to play iRacing! However, this rounds off three of the top choices in gaming laptops if you do want to give sim racing a try and don’t want to go for a gaming PC instead.
You can run iRacing on a laptop as long as you meet the minimum recommended specs. If you have more than that, it will obviously be better in terms of graphics and framerates. But if you have access to a dedicated gaming PC then running it on your laptop is just not worth it. But for those looking to try iRacing that only have a laptop at hand, it definitely can be done.