Because they usually require dual GPUs for the smoothest gameplay at native resolution, 4K gaming laptops are still the exception, and still expensive. And keep this in mind: Only the most powerful graphics cards can render complex game animations at playable frame rates across the full screen at 4K, so a 1080p screen may actually be a better use of your money if all you do is play games.
Budget systems usually reach their attractive prices not just through the balance of build quality and components, but also from bloatware. Having junk like Norton trials and eBay apps pre-installed translates to revenue in the PC maker's pocket, allowing them to hit aggressive prices. So, know going in that you may need to do some uninstalling once you've unboxed it and fired it up.
After picking our hardware criteria, we scoured the websites of major gaming laptop manufacturers like Acer, Alienware, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, and Samsung. We also browsed boutique makers such as Clevo, Digital Storm, iBuypower, Origin PC, and Xotic PC, but few of those sell configurations that meet our hardware criteria and budget; selecting every component can get very expensive very fast, so customizing isn’t ideal for buyers on a tight budget.
These “simple” hardware configurations usually do not feature an RBG backlit keyboard (they usually just have red backlighting), nor do they include a QHD or 4K display or an advanced audio system. Generally speaking, the display on this type of computer is also not G-Sync compatible and only operates at a frequency of 60 Hz (versus the 120-144 Hz of displays used on more sophisticated and expensive gaming laptops). What’s more, during sales events it is not uncommon to be able to purchase an affordable gaming laptop equipped with a GTX 1060 graphics chip for under 1000 dollars.
One of the typical features that sets apart a gaming laptop is a colorful, backlit keyboard. These vary quite a bit from model to model, with more elaborate backlighting going hand-in-hand with higher prices and a higher general level of other components. Almost all budget gaming laptops will employ single-color backlighting (most often, red or white) to keep costs down. The next step up is lighting programmable by zone, with three or four blocks of the keyboard independently customizable in different colors, but this is not common in budget machines. Keyboards with per-key, individually programmable lighting are the province of high-end machines only.
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.
The graphics card is the heart of your gaming experience and is one of the first and foremost things that you need to check out. If you intend to play high-end games at maximum resolution, then choosing a gaming laptop with a powerful graphics card is a necessity. If you don’t need top-of-the-line performance, an entry-level GPU will do the trick. It all comes down to personal preference and the type of games that you would be playing on your laptop. High-end games such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Watch Dogs 2, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Assassin's Creed: Origins, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Battlefield 1 require an advanced and powerful graphics card to play them at maxed-out settings. It helps the laptop handle the intense frame-rate and rendering that such advanced games require. Game makers are constantly coming up with games that are better than the ones that came earlier. With the level of video games’ graphics constantly on the rise, it is essential to get a laptop with a good graphics card to make your games run seamlessly.
ASUS’s budget- concious 2017 Vivobook F510UA-AH51 15.6-inch is a truly capable machine for the price and suited to casual gamers looking to play some modern titles on low settings. It is snappy and responsive thanks to its 8th Generation i5-8250U 1.6GHz CPU and 8GB of RAM, allowing your applications to run comfortably without making the laptop feel sluggish. The design has been improved over to last year’s VivoBook, and it is both lighter and thinner, weighing in at 3.7 pounds, making it highly portable.
Most gaming laptops have a “chicklety” keyboard. If you can’t stand this type of keyboard, your only real alternative is to connect a better-quality external model. However, if you only ever use your keyboard for pressing the ZQSD keys, its quality will not really be an important factor. The same can be said about a computer’s trackpad which can always be replaced with an external mouse for greater in-game accuracy.
The G3 15 has its downsides, including a Full-HD display that isn’t as bright as we’d like, frame rates that struggle to reach 60 fps on top-tier games, and a weight exceeding five pounds (although it’s not as massive as some gaming laptops). But when we compared it to the Acer Nitro 5, another budget gaming laptop we like, with an even lower price point, there was no contest. The G3 15 posted stronger benchmarks and battery life. In particular, its GTX 1050 Ti graphics showed the limitations of the Nitro 5's mere GTX 1050. Nothing wrong with the Nitro 5, but if you can afford the G3 15 we tested, it's the better choice. Read our full review.
With a sleek, ergonomic design, three convenient thumb buttons and gorgeous RGB options, the SteelSeries Rival 600 provides everything you need to excel at an RTS or MOBA, and nothing you don't. You can use the mouse as-is out of the box, or tweak the options with the robust SteelSeries Engine software. The Rival 600 earns its accolades as our best RTS/MOBA mouse.
True, it’s not the most powerful gaming laptop on this list, but it definitely presents the best value for your money – it comes with a great CPU and a powerful GPU that is more than capable of fully utilizing that 1080p 144 Hz display. Furthermore, while some may find its 256 GB of storage limiting, as mentioned before, it can easily be expanded. All of this makes for a very reliable and versatile laptop that will be a good match for most people’s needs.
The GTX 1050 Ti can turn in more than 60FPS at 1080p with Medium quality settings on demanding games like Gears of War 4, Battlefield 1, Rise of the Tomb Raider and DOOM. For games that don't push the GPU as hard, framerates of 85+ can be achieved, leaving plenty of room to increase quality settings and still stay well above 30FPS. As an example, Rise of the Tomb Raider's Very High setting for the built-in benchmark pushes out around 40FPS.
Many PC gamers rely on a high-tech gaming mouse for fast, precise aim in FPS and other games. These mice can also allow for more comfort than PC gaming controllers during extended game sessions, with less cramping in the hand and fingers, especially when paired with complementary gaming keyboards. And since a gamer mouse is, of course, a mouse, it can also perform double duty for everyday computing.
Refresh rate: Most laptops you’ll see will have 1080p resolution and a 60Hz display. And for many gamers, that’s absolutely enough. Higher resolution displays (2560 x 1440, 3840 x 2160) are pretty, but top out at 60Hz. That’s why for some gamers, 1080p may be the best option. Some vendors offer FHD displays with a faster, 144Hz refresh rate for smoother gaming. Of course, you need a great GPU and to play on settings that emphasize frame rate over graphical fidelity to take advantage.
Its 15.6-inch 1920x1080 full-HD display has a 160-degree viewing angle, which is a little less than some of its competitors, but nothing to scoff at. Compared to the rest of our picks, the FX502 and the Predator (more on it in a minute) are the only two devices to feature an i7 and a GTX 1060 in one package, so they're the best for 60fps 1080p gaming with details maxed.
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.
As far as the gaming performance of this laptop is concerned, the HP 15-ay191ms comes with the 7th Generation Intel Core i3 processor paired with the 8GB of RAM and 1TB of hard drive for storage. Thanks to the integrated Intel HD graphics this laptop can run some of the popular older games at low to medium graphics settings. Moreover, the audio on this laptop is powered by DTS Studio Sound which makes watching movies and gaming on this laptop more immersive.
I’m not a gamer, so I’ve always managed to get by very well with basic rodents that have each kept the treadmill turning smoothly for many pleasingly uneventful years; but I did find the review refreshingly informative – which is a light-year from the response to my very first mousey inquiry. Way back in 1994 when I was researching to buy my first Pentium P series computer, I phoned a well known (in those days) computer dealer to find out which mouse they would recommend. The sales person was evidently dumbfounded – I could visualize her raising her eyes to the heavens as she said, with affected patience, “A mouse is a mouse, isn’t it?”. It’s the kind of remark that has you promptly closing their showroom door behind you, never to return, and seeking out a more inspiring vendor.
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
As far as storage is concerned, hard drive prices have come down compared with solid-state drives, so finding large capacities isn't too much trouble. 1TB of storage and maybe even a small SSD alongside are common in budget laptops. The display will almost certainly be 1080p (1,920-by-1,080 resolution), as 720p is now reserved only for cheap non-gaming systems and increasingly uncommon. The RAM will likely top off at 8GB in budget laptops, but you will find some (more ideal) 16GB laptops in this range.
Gaming laptops need to have the necessary processing power to run high-end games. Laptops with good processing speed help run your games seamlessly without any lag. When it comes to a CPU, the important elements to be considered are the number of cores it contains and its processing speed. A laptop with a powerful CPU ensures a lag-free gaming experience.