HP launched this updated Pavilion line in April to make a play for those who are maybe interested in gaming, but not willing to go all-in on a laptop from the PC maker's Omen brand. We haven't seen it in person yet, but HP's direct pricing is on par with the competition here. The entry-level configuration is skippable at $680, but you can configure it for $750 with a Core i5-8300H processor and a GeForce GTX 1050Ti or a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor and a 3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 for $920.
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.
Most gaming laptops—including budget machines—have comfortable, deep-travel keyboards that cushion your fingers during long gaming sessions. This Dell model’s blue-backlit keyboard felt crisp, snappy, and responsive but a bit shallow to us, so it was not as comfortable after a few hours of gaming or typing as some of the other laptops we tested. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but we do prefer the feel of the keyboards on the Lenovo Y530 and Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM.
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."
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.
Storage: Hard drive or SSD? Why not both? Some budget gaming laptops will come with only a hard drive (usually 1TB), but the majority of gaming notebooks also include a small SSD to serve as a boot drive. It’s not uncommon to see a 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD working in tandem. If you can get a larger SSD you may see decreased loading times, but that will also cost you quite a bit more money. Make sure you get a faster, 7,200-rpm HDD as opposed to a 5,400-rpm HDD.
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