There are not all that many graphics chips to choose from (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050, 1050 Ti, 1060, 1070 or 1080…). Your selection will depend on your particular needs and budget. A GTX 1070 or 1080 would probably be overkill for gamers interested in playing MMORPG games such as World Of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2 and would only prove useful when connecting to an external 4K display. Facing off against the GTX 1050 and 1060 can be found a few computers employing a Radeon RX 560, 570 or 580 graphics chip – but not all that many.
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.
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Display: We focused on 15-inch models for this guide because they strike a good balance between screen size and relative portability, and they fit our budget. Our cheap gaming laptop pick needs a 1920×1080 screen—no exceptions. Lower resolutions look terrible, and higher resolutions aren’t affordable yet. (And our budget laptops’ GPUs can’t play games well at resolutions above 1080p anyway.) Very few laptops in this price range have high-refresh-rate (120 Hz or 144 Hz) panels, but it’s a nice bonus, especially for first-person games like Overwatch or Doom; the higher the refresh rate, the smoother animations appear, as long as the frame rate is also high. IPS screens tend to provide better viewing angles and color reproduction over TN panels, but they can also be more expensive, so we treat them as a preference but not a requirement.
Anti-ghosting and n-key rollover: These are two features that will keep you performing at your best in games. Anti-ghosting means that when you mash on several keys for combos or perform several actions, they will all register. Additionally, n-key rollover means that each key is independent of the others and will be registered no matter which other keys are being pressed.
Once you've come back down to earth, consider Dell's Alienware 17 R5. It's widely regarded as one of the highest-performing gaming laptops on the market, and you can spec it out with an Intel Core i9 processor, a GTX 1080 graphics card, and a staggering 32GB of RAM. The laptop weighs in at nearly 10 pounds, and at max specs, it'll cost you a comparatively reasonable $3,500.
The ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS-DB71 is impressively remarkable and offers about twice the gaming experience of previous single-GPU notebooks, which is terrific. It’s gaming laptop that delivers on point as a result of its quad-core CPU, DDR4 memory, the most recent GPU in its class and a 256GB SSD. Its design is handy and quite portable too. You can get as much as 5 hours of battery life but as a gaming laptop it’s demanding hardware can cause the battery to drain easily but this is no big deal at all
Under $1,000: While you might see a few notebooks with Intel Core i5 processors at this price range, there are plenty with 7th-generation Intel Core i7 CPUs and at least 8GB of RAM. Display-wise you can expect a 1080p display with average color reproduction, accuracy and brightness. Now that SSDs are becoming more commonplace, you can get a solid SSD at below $1,000. However, it's unlikely that it'll be a slower configuration instead of a high-speed PCIe device. Your rig will probably be outfitted with 1TB HDD (usually 5,400-rpm) and a Nvidia GeForce 1050 or 1050 Ti GPU with between 2-4 GB of VRAM. A laptop with these specs can play most titles at a solid frame rate at medium settings, but you can expect some trouble at higher configurations. (See our favorite sub-$1,000 gaming laptops here.)
Wirecutter has spent more than 200 hours over the past five years researching and testing dozens of gaming laptops, and our PC team has more than 37 years of combined experience covering laptops. I’ve personally tested, lived with, and reviewed hundreds of laptops, and I’ve spent hands-on time with countless other models while covering the CES trade show, attending events, and visiting stores. I’ve reviewed most gaming laptops—both budget and high-end—released in the past six years, and I’ve spent thousands of hours gaming on laptops since high school.
It’s great in all other applications, too, with smooth and reliable tracking across the board, and a shape that fit in our hands very nicely indeed. You can even adjust an array of weights for a more tailored experience. There are three zones of RGB lighting that shine bright and vividly, with effects that can be synced across the vast library of Corsair peripherals.
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.
At the moment, the most widely used display panel technology is IPS, which offers better color rendition and better viewing angles than TN display panels. Moreover, while the vast majority of displays operate at 60 Hz, there are a few displays – like the one on the Acer Helios 500 – which operate at 120 to 144 Hz. Some displays are even G-Sync compatible, making them immune to “tearing” effects.
The entry-level Pascal gaming chip is the GeForce GTX 1050, typically found in models starting around $700 to $800. The GTX 1050 is capable of playing most of today's games at 1080p resolution with medium to high settings. Keep in mind that the GTX 1050 may be on the edge of playability at high settings, depending on the game. You may want to opt for the next step up, a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti-based model, for a bit more graphics muscle. The floor on GTX 1050 Ti-based laptops was about $850 at this writing, with models ranging up to about $1,200. These two chips make up the heart of the under-$1,000 budget-laptop market here in late 2018.
The storage and memory in the Y530 are upgradable, but it’s a pain in the butt to do so. In contrast to the Dell G7’s and G5’s convenient access panel held in by a single screw, the Y530’s design requires you to remove 11 screws and the entire bottom of the chassis to get inside. And although it’s possible to wedge a small flathead screwdriver into the seam, spudgers will likely make the job easier and reduce the risk of your gouging the laptop. Once inside, you can replace the M.2 PCIe drive or the 2.5-inch hard drive, or add another stick of RAM. The memory is hidden beneath a tiny metal house; our recommended config comes with one 8 GB DIMM and one open slot.
Nowadays, most LCD displays for gaming laptops have a matte finish which makes them less susceptible to reflections. Other factors to consider are a display’s luminosity, color fidelity, and its range of displayed colors. Manufacturers sometimes promote their displays based on these characteristics (however, you should always consult the tests performed by specialized technology reviewers in order to verify the veracity of these claims).
When it comes to GPUs, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 10-series have made it possible for manufacturers to trim down the overall size of gaming laptops without sacrificing features like battery life, making them powerful and portable. AMD's also basically non-existent in the mobile space these days too, so if you're shopping for a cheap gaming laptop you're probably getting one with an Nvidia GPU under the hood.
The TUF comes in four different configurations that are similar to the Acer Nitro 5, but has a better keyboard that's cushy for long gaming sessions and Asus says is extra durable, lasting for up to 20 million key presses. However, we found the cheapest configuration's display disappointing with poor off-angle performance and at $699 with a GTX 1050, it was pricier than the Acer, too. Bumping up to its $899 configuration gets you a better display, a 1050Ti, dual storage drives and a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H.
A few less common items are worth looking for if you're a serious mouse tweaker. The software might control "lift distance," or how far you can raise a mouse off the pad or desk before it stops tracking. A slider or, better, a wizard-style setup function will dictate this in the utility, if present. Another feature is surface calibration, in which the mouse software runs a routine that optimizes the mouse and its sensor for the texture and traits of your mousing surface. On the even more esoteric side: support for angle snapping (a movement-compensation feature that helps you move the mouse in straight lines) and for designating different resolutions for the X and Y axes (say, for faster tracking only sideways, to traverse a vast landscape in an RTS world).
Acer’s Predator Helios 300 is a budget-oriented Predator model with great parts at an affordable price. It sports an Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, GTX 1060 GPU, 16GB DDR4 memory, and a 15.6-inch full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 display. A laundry list of ports, including HDMI, will ensure you have enough room to plug any accessories or peripherals into the Predator.
First of all, you have a quad-core Intel Core i7 7700HQ instead of a Core i5. This means those of you into streaming your gameplay have a leg up over the rest of the systems here. The standard 8GB of memory is present, though it is DDR3 and not DDR4. You also get dual drives -- a 128GB SSD + 1TB hybrid drive handles snappy OS duties and offers plenty of deep storage for games and video. Nvidia's GTX 1050 Ti is on board as well as an excellent Steelseries keyboard featuring red lighting. I've used this exact keyboard before and it's a joy to type and game on.
For only $11.99 per course, you can train yourself in tools, software, and programming languages specific to the gaming industry. There are thousands of course to choose from, and many of them are from accredited instructors that supply you with tutorials, training videos, assignments, and more. Taking the courses in school could costs gobs of money.
Matt Clark of IGN reviewed the Logitech G305 LIGHTSPEED Wireless Gaming Mouse, awarding it an “amazing” 9.2 out of 10 star rating. Overall, he concluded that “while the Logitech G305 won’t win any awards for being the flashiest, most extreme gamer mouse, it does its job amazingly well. Perfect response times, flawless connectivity, extreme accuracy, and all of that for about half the price of other wireless gaming mice. If you’ve been on the fence about a wireless mouse, this is the mouse that'll make you want to join the club.”
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.)
Of course, the more a computer’s components heat up, the faster its fans will turn and the more noise it will generate. If you prefer to wear headphones when gaming this increased noise should not be much of a problem. However, if your computer’s temperature increases too much, a throttling mechanism will activate, reducing its CPU and GPU frequencies in order to protect them; this will reduce your computer’s performance in the process. This is one of the aspects that we pay the most attention to during our testing of gaming laptops.
In case you are wondering why this list is being made, well that’s because the market is saturated right now, and every other company is releasing a gaming peripheral including keyboards, headsets, and mice. While it may seem like a walk in the park for hardcore consumers, for people who don’t have a lot of knowledge about these gaming peripherals, things can somewhat difficult.
Why a laptop right now? With both desktop graphics card and RAM prices still inflated well over MSRP, the notebook space has never looked more attractive. A year or two ago, the price gap between desktops and laptops with comparable performance was significant. That's changing, and now we're paying an almost insignificant convenience tax to have desktop performance in a portable form.