At the top of the gaming laptop pantheon are full-size "luggable" desktop replacement laptops. While these are still laptops in the strictest sense, they are essentially made to be portable desktops rather than lap computers or even a machine meant to be used away from mains power for an extended period of time. This allows them to use component choices you couldn't do in proper laptops, improving performance at the cost of weight.
Simply put: You won't find high-end dedicated graphics in gaming laptops under a grand. But times have changed, and lower-end graphics chips here in 2018 have caught up to most games and to the screen resolutions of most mainstream gaming laptops. With a little compromising, you can enjoy some very respectable gaming at 1080p in machines a notch or two down from the GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 elite, with models starting as low as $800. Budget-priced gaming laptops are now an established category, not outliers, and have been embraced by the major players. We've tested models from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.
G-Sync or FreeSync: Several gaming laptops come with panels that support Nvidia's G-Sync or AMD's FreeSync technologies, both of which are designed to eliminate unsightly graphical tears and ghosting 0n monitors ranging from 1080p to 4K. While 60Hz is the current minimum refresh rate, there are an increasing number of monitors that offer 120Hz, which offers even faster rendering without introducing stutter.
John is PCMag's executive editor for hardware. A veteran of the popular tech site and magazine Computer Shopper from 1993 to 2017, he has covered just about every kind of computer gear—from the 386SX to 18-core processors—in his long tenure as an editor, a writer, and an advice columnist. He served as Computer Shopper’s editor in chief from 2008 to... See Full Bio
If you want our top recommendation, it's the Razer Mamba Tournament Edition (available at Amazon). This mouse strikes a perfect value stance between price and pedigree, delivering professional polish for a very attractive price. We tested a dozen of the top-selling and top-rated mice from leading gaming brands, and while the Mamba Tournament Edition doesn't deliver the most buttons nor the widest feature set, it's the sturdiest, sleekest, and best-feeling pick in the bunch.
After 20 hours of new research and testing—plus 150 hours over the past few years—we found that the Acer Predator 17 G9-793-79V5 is the best gaming laptop for most people because it has the best performance for the price without any major flaws. The Predator 17 stays cool, has a comfortable, responsive keyboard, and sports a great 17-inch 1080p IPS screen with G-sync. Its fans are loud, and that keyboard is ugly and looks cobbled together, but these flaws are worth the trade-off for excellent performance at a low price (for a gaming laptop, anyway). If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative, head over to our budget gaming laptop guide.
As you might expect, a $1,300 gaming laptop won’t perform as well as a top-of-the-line one—but not everyone has $2,000 to spend on a high-end gaming laptop. Our cheaper gaming laptop picks can still play many AAA games on high settings at 1920×1080 resolution, with exceptions for very new or demanding games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider or Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. It’ll serve you well for classic games and less-demanding modern ones like Overwatch, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, or Doom (2016), and you can expect it to play most games on at least medium settings for the next few years.
The 15-inch 60 Hz 1920×1080 IPS display, the blue-backlit keyboard, and the trackpad are all solid performers. The Dell G7 15 Gaming has impressive battery life for a gaming laptop, but it’s a bit heavier than the competition and its fans get distractingly loud during gaming sessions. We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB solid-state drive for around $1,200.
Speaking of the technical details, the Rival 700 is a modular mouse that offers features such as a modular design, RGB lighting, OLED display, adjustable DPI settings with DPI maxing out 16,000 on the optical sensor, and 8,000 on the laser sensor, and yes, you can change the sensor by buying one separately. Sadly, though, as much as we would have wished, the mouse doesn’t come with an ambidextrous design and might be a problem for people who aren’t left-handed. However, that doesn’t mean that the Rival 700 isn’t a good mouse, behind the expensive price lies a really good mouse that fits gamers of all sorts, it doesn’t matter if you are playing an FPS, an RPG, an MMO, the mouse is there to serve, and serve you well.
The Y530’s keyboard is comfortable to type on and responsive thanks to its deep, snappy keys, and its white backlight and perfectly ordinary font are the most tasteful we’ve seen on a gaming laptop. We also appreciate the inclusion of full-size arrow keys rather than the typical half-size ones manufacturers cram in, as on the Dell G7. This does mean that the number pad is farther back and a bit awkward to reach, but most people who play games will use the arrow keys more frequently.
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.
Updated Nov. 25 at 5:45 a.m. ET: You can snag some inexpensive gaming laptops for great prices through Cyber Monday. The Lenovo Legion Y530 is on sale for $100 off from Best Buy, while the 15.6-inch Dell G3 can be had for $649 from Walmart — a savings of $350. The Dell G5 is also on sale for $899 from Walmart ($400 off!) A sale at eBay knocks the MSI GL63 down to $969, for a savings of $229. Check out our Cyber Monday hub for more fantastic deals.