At the mid-range we see laptops with either the NVIDIA GTX 1060, or for a bit more money, a GTX 1070, both of which are a powerful gaming GPU in a mobile form factor. ASUS offers the Republic of Gamers branding Strix lineup, and the GL504 model is their 15.6-inch range. Featuring the GTX 1060 in the GL504GM, and GTX 1070 in the GL504GS models, there's a wide range of performance here depending on budget. ASUS offers either the Intel Core i5-8300H quad-core, or the Core i7-8750H hex-core CPU, and up to 32 GB of DDR4 RAM support. There's a full range of SSD choices, and you can of course also fit it with a HDD for extra space.
We put the contenders through much of the same rigorous testing as we do with our best gaming laptops. We tested each by playing half an hour of Overwatch on high settings—a popular game, but not too taxing—and then tested our finalists with a more graphically demanding game by playing 30 minutes of The Witcher 3 on ultra with VSync off. We also played Overwatch and Doom extensively to test how our finalists held up during longer gaming sessions.
Powering it is an 8th generation i5 CPU with four cores and eight threads, much like the one found in the Acer Aspire E15, though this one is a bit faster and can reach higher clock speeds. Then there’s the 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and storage that is handled a bit differently. Namely, the GV62 combines 16 GB of Intel Optane memory with a 1 TB hard drive, balancing the performance of SSDs with the capacity of HDDs quite well.
It is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 quad-core processor clocked at 2.0 GHz and is paired with a 8GB of RAM. Storage department is handled by a massive 1TB of HDD which offers ample space to store all your games and other data. It doesn’t have a backlit enabled keyboard, but it does come with dedicated number pad and generously-spaced keys for comfortable typing experience.
Although dedicated graphics are always the dream, not all of us can afford to splurge. There many options out there with integrated graphics that will play many of the most popular games on the market on top of every golden oldie under the sun. HP is known for their line of budget laptops, which are popular with budget-conscious buyers who are after laptops that offer more than just word processing and Internet browsing.
Given that high-end components tend to drain battery life, don't plan on taking any of these gaming rigs too far from a wall socket very often. Cutting-edge ports like USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are beneficial now, and will only be more so down the road, but look for at least two USB 3.0 ports so you can plug in an external mouse and a hard drive for your saved media files. If you mean to attach a VR headset to your GeForce GTX 1060-or-better rig, look for the right loadout of ports to accommodate it; you'll need a well-placed video out and enough USB ports for the hydra-head of cabling. Other video ports, like HDMI or Mini DisplayPort, will be helpful if you want to play games on an external display, but aren't absolutely necessary if your laptop's screen is large enough.
Although the E15 comes with a Full-HD IPS display, some have noted that it is fairly dim compared to higher end displays. Regardless, you will get decent viewing angles and the matte finish will prevent any potential glare. It has a solid battery life of around 8 hours and 30 minutes, with Acer even claiming up to 15 hours of battery life, though heavier applications and games will drain its battery life a lot faster. The NVIDIA GeForce MX150 is by no means a beast compared to higher end cards, and most modern AAA titles will struggle somewhat, but lowering the graphics will afford you some playability even on next-gen titles.
Almost all gaming laptops have a backlit keyboard in order to allow users to game in low-light conditions. Entry-level gaming PCs tend to offer variable intensity red or white backlighting while more expensive computers are generally equipped with RGB keyboards. An RGB keyboard gives greater control over the color of its keys (which can usually be adjusted via an application). For example, the Asus ROG Zephyrus allows users to assign different colors to different keyboard zones whereas some MSI computers and the Gigabyte Aorus X7 allow users to set a different color for each individual key.
Know that the presence or absence of a dedicated control utility is a big differentiator between low-end and high-end gaming mice. Some cheap gaming mice will come with no software of their own. Without such a utility, you'll be able to customize mouse commands only within a game (via its in-game menus) or in Windows' own mouse settings. That's not necessarily a bad thing; just know what you are getting, or not getting.
This price range has some reliable standards. You'll get a 15-inch 1920 x 1080 display (in many cases a crisp IPS one), an Intel Core-5 CPU, a 1TB hard drive, medium- sized SSD, or a hybrid 1TB drive. Graphics card choices will be mostly limited to an Nvidia GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti; the latter represents a 15 to 20 percent performance uplift over Nvidia's entry-level GTX 1050 and AMD's Radeon RX 560. It's worth the extra money if you're willing to spend it. All GTX 1050 Ti cards also includes a satisfactory 4GB of VRAM versus the normal 2GB present in most GTX 1050s.
To muddy the waters, Nvidia in 2017 introduced a technology called Max-Q Design that squeezes a slightly detuned GeForce chip into thinner and lighter notebooks than would normally be possible, at the expense of 10 to 15 percent of the chip's performance. Because Max-Q tends to be implemented in thin, premium machines, it's seldom a factor among the under-$1,000 brigade, but it's good to know what it is, in case you encounter the term when shopping. (A few models just above the one-grand line incorporate the tech.) You may be interested in a Max-Q rig if maximum portability—not a trait usually associated with gaming laptops—matters to you.
Of the gaming laptops we researched and tested in 2017, the Acer Predator 17 G9-793-79V5 has the most powerful specs for the price, without any dealbreaking flaws. The Predator 17 keeps its WASD keys, underside, and components cool, and it has a comfortable, responsive keyboard and a great 17-inch 1080p IPS display with G-sync. Its biggest flaws are loud, distracting fans and an ugly, haphazard-looking keyboard. Most important, the Predator 17 will be able to play most modern games on ultra settings—it offers great performance for the price. (If you want to know how it will handle a specific game, take a look at Notebookcheck’s benchmarks database.)
In the process of writing this buyer’s guide, we began by searching for manufacturers that offer one or more gaming laptop product lines. Next, we selected the computers that have the best price-performance ratio (based on tests conducted by a number of online websites such as Tom’s Hardware and LaptopMag). Finally, we organized these computers by brand: Acer, Asus, Dell, Gigabyte, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.
Compete in game tournaments or simply experience fast responsiveness with this Logitech Chaos Spectrum gaming mouse. The optical sensor delivers on-time tracking to keep up with even high-action sequences, and you can tune the sensor to your surface. This Logitech Chaos Spectrum gaming mouse is lightweight for easy movement without compromising on stability.
MSI have had a 'warranty void if removed' sticker under their machines for years. Check before you buy as it can make upgrading painful. Forget about spindle drives, get a smaller SSD and just use an external drive if you have to. Loading a spindle drive just chews power, slows everything down, and makes noise and heat. They are the suck. Higher res screens require more powerful GFX cards due to the higher resolution. Think carefully about the 4k screen if you're only getting a low end GPU. Get a low latency wireless network card that supports the highest wireless range you can get. There's no point limiting your new machine to last years bandwidth. Think about a game controller to save your keyboard from being mashed. Replacing a laptop keyboard = expensive. Buy a decent mouse as well, SteelSeries and Razor make some great units. Lastly, think about the life cycle of your laptop : they do not last forever so work out when you'll likely want/need to sell it and buy a new one. You want to do that while it's still worth something. You also don't want to be stuck with a high end laptop thats out of warranty which developes a problem. Selling it while it's still valuable means your new machine costs less.
Boasting a full HD 15.6-inch 1080p display, 128GB SSD plus 1TB HDD, and an Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB GPU, the Inspiron 15 7000 is capable enough for a casual PC gamer that wants both a gaming machine and a laptop for school. There are models with a GTX 1050 GPU on the lower end, and a bigger SSD on the higher end, with all its hardware tucked into a flashy design that's just one inch thick. At close to 6-pounds you’ll notice when it’s in a bag or backpack. If you're mostly looking for a daily driver and also want to do some casual to medium gaming, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 is the best cheap gaming laptop option around. See it on Walmart with free shipping.
If I was buying a gaming laptop I would buy one with a great screen and a fast CPU with an integrated GPU. Then buy one of those separate External Graphics Card Docks. You can put whatever GPU you wanted in there and could readily update your GPU. This would give you a great laptop for everyday use and when you thought you needed to game somewhere you could bring the External Graphics Card Dock.
Like the Logitech gaming keyboard of the same name, the Logitech Pro mouse is a simple and intuitive product. Despite its feature-heavy nature, it's very newcomer friendly: the lower central button adjusts DPI presets, while the standard center button toggles the mouse wheel between loose and granular. A handsome, detachable braided cable is a nice touch, making it easy to bundle this mouse up for traveling, if you're so inclined.
Gaming laptops are special because of the performance they manage to pack in a small body. You not only have to consider how they perform now, but ensure they’re future-proofed for at least a couple of years. Unlike desktop PCs you can’t easily or cheaply upgrade the specification of a gaming laptop. Paying for that extra performance now is often sensible in the long term.
The Dell G7 15 is a mid-size gaming laptop with middle-of-the-road GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics, middling battery life, and—you guessed it—a mid-range price tag. But this system boasts a stellar feature that sets it apart from the crowd: a six-core, benchmark-crushing Core i7 processor that’ll thrill content creators. Indeed, the G7 15’s overall performance is only a step or two behind that of our current top pick among 15-inch gaming laptops, the thinner and lighter MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RE—and it costs about $600 less. Despite a dim screen and an occasionally too-hot chassis, this is still a worthy contender.
Similarly, when it comes to storage space, your choices are rather limited. All gaming laptops are currently equipped with at least a 1 TB hard drive. That having been said, in order to boost your computer’s performance and reduce the loading time of games, you should choose a PC equipped with an SSD. Even a small 128 GB SSD would be good enough for storing your Windows operating system and your main applications. SSDs can reach 1 TB of storage capacity on the most high-end gaming computers.
But if you’re shopping for a gaming laptop, you’re probably more concerned with the graphics card, and the one found here is Nvidia’s GeForce MX150, a true testament to the capabilities of the Pascal architecture. It is almost twice as powerful as the previous-generation Maxwell-based mobile GPUs and leaves Intel’s integrated graphics solutions in the dust.
Like many other top cheap gaming laptops, the MSI GE62 includes the great Intel Core i5-6300HQ Quad Core processor. This CPU works perfect for current games and can easily be stepped up from 2.3 to 3.2GHz, using Intel's Turbo Boost technology. Unlike some other budget laptops we recommend, this one has a more powerful GPU though. You get the amazing NVIDIA Geforce GTX970M with 3G GDDR5. As you can see from the GPU's 3DMark score above, it's a very, very fast gaming graphics card with plenty of room for current games on high settings.
Powered by a 7th generation Intel Core i3-7100U CPU and 4GB of DDR4 RAM, the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM will easily cope with basic tasks such as video streaming, web browsing and word processing. Although most gamers will prefer at least 8GB of RAM for the best performance, luckily Acer have fitted the laptop with an access panel that makes upgrading the RAM a breeze. We recommend installing a second 4GB RAM module which can be done cheaply without much hassle.
Traditionally gaming laptops have been three things: big, heavy, and expensive. That isn't always the case any longer, as components have gotten smaller and more portable, and increased competition has caused prices to fall quite a bit as well. You still generally get what you pay for in terms of performance and portability, but you can get a great portable 1080p machine these days for less than $1,000 — sometimes way less — which was rarely the case just one generation of hardware ago.
I've noticed more companies are starting to embrace the loud, clicky joy that is the mechanical keyboard. Known for their marvelous springy feedback and trademark clicking sound, these keyboards offer some of the best typing you're going to get on a laptop. In addition to the MSI GT83VR Titan, you can also get a mechanical keyboard on the Lenovo Ideapad Y900.
You should definitely consider a system with an SSD, since prices have fallen considerably over the past few years. SSDs speed up boot time, wake-from-sleep time, and the time it takes to launch a game and load a new level. Go ahead and get a gaming laptop with an SSD, but make sure you configure correctly. A small-capacity (128GB to 256GB) SSD with a roomy (1TB or greater) spinning hard drive is a good start if you also download the occasional video from the internet. (Only thicker gaming laptops will tend to support dual-drive arrangements like this.) Higher-capacity SSDs (512GB or more) are available, but choosing one will increase the purchase price of your gaming rig by a bunch. SSDs are very fast, but in terms of capacity, your money goes much further with hard drives.
For a high-end system, we recommend 16GB, so you can have more than one gaming session, your messaging app, several websites, a webcam program, and your video streaming program open simultaneously. A midrange gaming laptop should function fine with 8GB of memory, but be aware that many new laptops are not upgradable. You may be stuck with the amount of memory you order.
For a long time, competitive gamers strongly preferred wired gaming mice to wireless ones to eliminate perceived latency, as well as the possibility of a battery running down in the midst of a heated match. Many serious players still hold that bias, but Razer, Logitech, and others have released higher-end mice of late with low latency ratings that ought to satisfy at least casual gamers.
For GTX 1060-based models close to the $1,000 line, though, you'll want to take note of the amount of video memory that backs up the GPU. You'll see GTX 1060-based laptops with 3GB or 6GB, with the latter obviously preferable and the former obviously cheaper. If you play games with system requirements that demand a certain VRAM minimum, or tend to play games with large texture packs or other VRAM-hungry mods, this could be a difference-maker.
The connectivity, which is of various forms, is superb. The laptop has three USB 3.0 ports, a USB 3.1 Type C, a mini display port, a HDMI port, an Ethernet jack. It also has a mic-in, headphone and line out jacks, and an SD card reader. The system also comes with Bluetooth features and 802.11ac Wi-Fi features for connectivity and a 1.2MP HD camera.
The system is powered by a 2.6 GHz Intel Quad-Core i7-6700HQ (Turbo to 3.5 GHz) processor. It has a 16GB memory on board and this can be expanded to 32GB. The discrete graphics card is the recent NVIDIA GeForce GTX1070 with 8GB GDDR5 VRAM, supports G-SYNC technology; a really impressive GPU that’s coming up in recent desktops. This is definitely a gaming laptop that has it all.
When it comes to gaming notebooks, faster is always better, which is why a lot of people love SSDs, particularly the new PCIe cards, which deliver blistering file-transfer speed. That extra boost of speed translates to faster game load times, as well as reducing hitching — that annoying pause when your drive can't produce assets fast enough to keep up with the game.
The dominant player in the field right now is Nvidia, which produces discrete mobile GPUs based on its 10-Series Pascal microarchitecture. These mobile chips offer performance close to what you could expect from a desktop-PC graphics card equipped with the same-named GPU. It's worth noting that Nvidia launched desktop cards with its newest architecture, Turing, in September. These cards, with a fresh "RTX" moniker, are expected to make their way to laptops at the end of this year or early next year. For now, though, Pascal still rools the roost. Nvidia's chief rival, AMD, sees far fewer laptops use its graphics technology. A handful of laptops now offer AMD's latest Radeon RX cards, often as an alternative to an Nvidia-based SKU or, more rarely, alongside an Intel processor.
Looking for something more bleeding edge? A new version of the Razer Blade just came out. It features an 8th gen Intel Core i7 processor, and starts at $1,900. In its review of the 2018 Razer Blade, CNET gave the machine an 8.6 overall, bemoaning its high price but saying this rig "moves the bar on slim gaming laptops, with better hardware and a bigger screen."
As for the screen's native resolution, 1,920 by 1,080 pixels (commonly called 1080p) is now the norm in budget-priced and mainstream gaming machines. The more pixels you need to push, the more graphics power you need, and a savvy maker of gaming laptops won't outfit a laptop with a screen whose native resolution the GPU can't do justice. So the absence of higher-than-HD screens in budget gaming machines is no accident. Not only do such screens cost more and sap more battery life, but the graphics chips found in under-$1,000 gaming rigs wouldn't power gameplay on them very well. (Screens with resolutions higher than 1080p tend to look small and squinty at the 15-inch size, anyway.)
Cheaper gaming systems today are equipped with lower-tier cards like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, or GTX 1060, but these modern budget cards are surprisingly effective. You'll be able to play smoothly in HD, just not at the very highest settings in newer games. These may be budget systems, but this generation of entry-level graphics chips is fairly capable, so don't be too worried that you won't be able to play most games moderately well. Virtual-reality gaming may be a stretch in this price range, but the GTX 1060 is the least expensive VR-capable card, so some laptops at the higher end of this price range will (just) get you in the door.
Prolonged exposure to warm laptops can cause erythema ab igne (EAI)—also called Toasted Skin Syndrome or Granny’s Tartan—a blotchy, chronic skin condition that is in rare cases associated with some cancers. We do not recommend using any gaming laptop on your lap for long periods of time, as the undersides of all the laptops we tested regularly measured over 43 °C (109 °F) (the threshold for EAI) during even short gaming sessions.
The connectivity is robust, the keyboard is terrific, but what you're paying for here is the form factor and the build. It has an aluminum unibody design not unlike a MacBook Pro; a far cry from the plastic most budget gaming notebooks offer. Thus, the single storage solution and a GTX 1050 instead of a GTX 1050 Ti. It's on this list because it manages to co-exist as both a stylish daily driver for work, and a competent gaming machine.
You can replace it with an affordable solid state drive, however this will mean sacrificing storage space for speed as a similar size SSD will cost as much as the laptop. Overall the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM is packed full of great features that you would expect from more expensive laptops and delivers the latest generation Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated graphics at the best price possible.
The Razer Lancehead is perhaps the best gaming mouse for Macs, but, in fact, any Razer mouse should do just fine. Most Razer mice work just as well on Macs as they do on PCs. As such, the Lancehead — an ambidextrous mouse that's suitable for both single-player adventures and multiplayer competition — is a good choice for those who swear allegiance to Apple.
Matthew Buzzi is a Hardware Analyst at PCMag, focusing on laptops and desktops with a specialty in gaming systems and games. Matthew earned a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism and interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming before turning it into part of his career. He spends entirely too much time on Twitter (find him @M... See Full Bio
Purists will argue that you need a PC to truly play games, especially if you're a fan of pushing the levels of graphics quality beyond the capabilities of a mobile phone or a mere gaming console. In this regard, the gaming desktop is still king, particularly when it comes to having the kind of components and horsepower needed to run 4K games smoothly and support virtual reality (VR) setups, such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. But if you want or need something you can tote around the house or over to your friend's place, we're here to help you choose the right gaming laptop.
The G7 is super easy to upgrade—just remove one screw, pop off the bottom panel, and you have access to all the drive and memory slots. Our recommended configuration comes with an M.2 solid-state drive installed, a connector for a 2.5-inch SATA drive, and two RAM slots, both of which are occupied in our recommended config. Inside the laptop, Dell even includes friendly instructions for installing a hard drive and a reminder on top of the battery to remove it before working on any internal components. And the single screw stays attached to the access panel, so you couldn’t lose it if you tried.
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