Gaming On A Netbook? 13 Great Titles Playable At 720p


At low settings and 1280x720, Spore usually runs at a fairly steady 30 FPS. The game is very playable on our netbook, and it's a great sandbox diversion for folks who like to be creative. If you enjoy designing things, from creatures to spaceships, and the idea of watching them come to life appeals to you, you’ll probably enjoy Spore.

Grand Theft Auto III

A sandbox title with equal doses of driving and criminal behavior, this is the game that really set the stage for Rockstar’s success. Despite being more than 10 years old, it still looks pretty good and is packed with fun content. Our netbook runs at around 30 frames per second at 720p. And while it occasionally dips, performance never falls below 20 FPS. Grand Theft Auto III is consistently playable on this entry-level platform.

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2

Whereas Grand Theft Auto is a sandbox game that includes a driving element, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is a pure driving game. It's not a follow-up to the recently-released Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, but rather a 2003 release that followed 1998’s Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit. This game set the stage for the franchise over the decade that followed it, and we still think the title looks good today. We had to run the game in Windows Vista compatibility mode using Administrator access. But that's all you'll need to do to get this one running at 40+ frames per second in Windows 7.

…And The Games That Don't Run Well

For as many games that we found run well on a netbook, several others simply wouldn't, despite our best efforts.

Lord Of the Rings: Battle For Middle Earth
We were able to get this game running in widescreen mode with some tweaks, but performance barely hit 20 frames per second. It simply runs too slow to really enjoy. We're bummed because we really enjoyed this RTS back in the day.

This is another game that runs well on a netbook, but doesn't support 720p. Regardless, it's certainly worth playing despite the stretched 640x480 resolution.

Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic
This is one of our favorite RPGs (and the grandaddy of Bioware's new MMO). But we couldn’t get it to run on Windows 7, despite the helpful tutorials we found on the Web. Even if we could, it appears that there's no way to force 1280x720 satisfactorily without losing elements of the interface. So, it wouldn't have qualified for our list anyway.

Games powered by Valve’s Source Engine (Half Life 2, Counter Strike: Source, Left 4 Dead)
These games enjoy relatively low system requirements. However, our netbook couldn't quite muster satisfactory performance. It was rare to see more than 20 FPS in Counter Strike: Source, the easiest one of these titles to run. First-person shooters demand fast reaction times, and our modest platform just can't facilitate an enjoyable experience.

Civilization V
This game has problems running at 1280x720, and we simply couldn’t get it working at that resolution in full-screen mode.

Star Trek Online
This is one of the best-looking MMOs out there, and has really evolved nicely since its purchase by Perfect World and the subsequent free-to-play launch. Unfortunately, it needs a little more power than our netbook has in reserve.

  • amuffin
    How much does this little thing cost?
  • esrever
    I can't wait to see how AMD's low power hondo platform will perform.
  • superflykicks03
    There are a lot of older FPS titles that play well on netbooks as well, although ive never tested to see if they support 720p. The ones that come to mind off hand are Max Payne (1&2), Half-Life, Unreal Tournament, etc. I played through Diablo II on my netbook and of course it ran great as well.

    Plants vs Zombies is always great as well :)
  • I play Guild Wars on a C-50 based Toshiba netbook - plays well. Will try other titles after reading this article. I chose the C-50 netbook after reading another great article on Tom's comparing the C-50 and E-350. Looking fwd to Trinity ultrathin for the mobile space.
  • ben850
    Not sure why so many people have issues with SW:TOR 1 or 2 and Win7.

    Has always worked right out of the box for me after installing the latest official patch.
  • tacoslave
    *cough* emulators *cough*
  • Luscious
    "Intel Atoms with integrated video will perform poorly in comparison"

    You, sir, have not tried hard enough:

    The N570 is better than you suggest, never mind a Cedar Trail N2800. All rather moot though, as upcoming 11.6" ULV Ivy Bridge flavors will form a new class of netbook in 2012.
  • nitrium
    720p? My netbook (EEE PC 901) is 1024x600. I thought that was the "standard resolution" for netbooks... well I guess it was 3 years ago.
  • jdwii
    Halo 1 will have no issue as well
  • digitalwitchcraft
    there is a widescreen fix for KotOR 1 & 2:

    not sure 'bout laptops, but i played the game on my desktop on win 7