If the GPU is the heart of a gaming laptop, then the processor and RAM are the brain and hippocampus. Your laptop's processor (CPU) handles everything that doesn't have to do with graphics, such as performing some of a game's physics calculations and controlling its non-playable characters. It also affects the performance of all of your non-gaming applications, including your browser, OS and productivity apps. When picking out your CPU and RAM, keep the following tips in mind.
After picking our hardware criteria (see above), we scoured the websites of major gaming-laptop manufacturers like Alienware, MSI, Asus, Razer, Samsung, Acer, HP, and Lenovo, and we browsed boutiques like Xotic PC, iBuyPower, Clevo, iBuypower, Origin PC, Digital Storm, and others. Then we put together a list of the laptops that fit our requirements and have positive reviews from trusted sources like CNET, AnandTech, Engadget, Laptop Mag, PCMag, and Notebookcheck, and eliminated those that didn’t.
On the AMD side of the fence, the on-chip graphics solutions in the company's A8-, A10-, and A12-series processors are pretty good (as integrated graphics go). As a result, you'll see almost no AMD-based laptops under $1,000 with dedicated graphics. That's because the presence of an AMD CPU, in the first place, is usually a low-price play by the laptop maker. Adding a GPU would just bump up the price.
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We didn’t test any gaming laptops that failed to meet our specs requirements (see the How we picked section for more details), and we didn’t test any that were too expensive, since this is a budget guide. As a result, we eliminated any laptops with a GTX 1060 or GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU above $1,400, as well as any laptops with a GTX 1050 Ti above $950—at that price, it’s worth getting a more powerful graphics processor instead. Here’s everything we tested against our picks in 2018:
Kicking things off, we have entry-level gaming laptops. The Lenvov Legion Y530 is the second generation of the new Legion brand. The latest models feature 8th generation Core processors up to a Core i7-8750H with six cores, and up to a GTX 1060 GPU which offers plenty of muscle, but the base model starts at just $749 with a Core i5-8300H and GTX 1050. For $100 more you can bump up to a GTX 1050 Ti
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.
A word of warning: in order to reduce cost, some of the graphics chips used in gaming laptops have a reduced amount of memory (2 GB instead of 4 GB for the GTX 1050 Ti, 3 GB instead of 6 GB for the GTX 1060). This can cause complications for playing highly sophisticated games (for example, not being able to run the game with its highest graphics settings due to the lack of storage space for in-game textures).
Along with our quarterly laptop guide, near the end of every year we also like to take a look at the state of the gaming laptop market. With a much more cyclical upgrade cycle, gaming laptops tend to evolve in lockstep with the major components inside them. For the gaming laptop market, this includes not only more powerful CPUs, but also more unique (for a laptop) components like discrete video cards, mechanical keyboards, and perhaps an IPS panel or high-refresh TN display. All of which come together to make a breed of laptop that is very different from the kinds of machines that define the mainstream and professional markets.
As well as nine programmable buttons, the Corsair Dark Core RGB SE serves up an excellent 16,000 DPI sensor. You have full control over the sensitivity and those funky LEDs via Corsair’s excellent PC software. However, the Dark Core’s heavy and rather bulky design won’t suit all tastes, so you might want to try before you buy. Don’t forget, you’ll need to save some cash for that wireless charging mat too if you don’t want to resort to cables when the battery eventually dies.
Whether you’re getting a gaming laptop for the first time or replacing an older model that doesn’t play games as well anymore, you should take a look at what games you can and can’t play (and on which settings) using Notebookcheck’s useful “Computer Games on Laptop Graphic Cards” chart. Our pick has VR-ready Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics, and our budget pick has a GTX 1050 Ti GPU.
Even if you're not familiar with Logitech's standard gaming mouse filigree, the G502 is very intuitive. It features two center/top buttons, one for toggling the mouse wheel between "loose" and "granular" settings, and one for adjusting DPI presets on the fly. This is the case for most Logitech mice, but it's nice to get both options on such an affordable product, and one that also features multiple tunable buttons. The G502 also uses a handy LED-based DPI indicator for various settings—normal, fast, super-fast, and slow—so it's especially good for shooter scenarios where different weapons call for different optimal speeds.
Solid-state drive: A solid-state drive speeds up boot times and reduces loading times in games, so all of our recommendations have SSDs. Some gaming laptops in this price range have 1 TB of hard drive storage and no SSD, but in those cases we recommend adding one yourself. We prefer at least a 250 GB solid-state drive because 128 GB won’t hold more than your operating system and a couple of games.
Theoretically, you may find a gaming laptop with an Intel Core i3 or one of AMD's CPUs installed, but those are uncommon: Systems with Intel Core i3 and comparable entry-level AMD processors are certainly capable of playing many games, but why limit yourself from square one? That said, if you have to make the choice between a high-end CPU and a high-end GPU, go for the graphics. For example, we'd recommend getting a Core i5 CPU over a Core i7 if the money saved could then go toward an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU instead of a GTX 1050. Spending the money on the GPU makes more sense than spending it on the CPU if gaming is your main concern.

As well as nine programmable buttons, the Corsair Dark Core RGB SE serves up an excellent 16,000 DPI sensor. You have full control over the sensitivity and those funky LEDs via Corsair’s excellent PC software. However, the Dark Core’s heavy and rather bulky design won’t suit all tastes, so you might want to try before you buy. Don’t forget, you’ll need to save some cash for that wireless charging mat too if you don’t want to resort to cables when the battery eventually dies.
So, what’s good about the Chaos Spectrum? Well, there are a lot of things, for starters, you can go from 200 to 12,000 DPI on the fly, and that’s really impressive, do keep in mind that this isn’t just software increase, and the DPI is effectively changed across the board, you get the Spectrum lighting, something that is Logitech’s own version of RGB lighting, and you get the legendary software suite that Logitech is known and loved for. The Chaos Spectrum can be used wirelessly and wired, and just like the Ouroborus, does come with an ambidextrous design.

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Starting at $699, it's going to be hard to find a more affordable gaming laptop than the Asus TUF Gaming FX504. For the price, you get an 8th Gen Core i5 CPU and a Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU, which is enough to play most games on low or medium settings. Keep in mind that such a low price point, means that some sacrifices must be made. But if you want to spend as little money as possible for a gaming rig, the FX504 is the way to go.
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