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.
In the process of writing this buyer’s guide, we began by searching for manufacturers that offer one or more gaming laptop product lines. Next, we selected the computers that have the best price-performance ratio (based on tests conducted by a number of online websites such as Tom’s Hardware and LaptopMag). Finally, we organized these computers by brand: Acer, Asus, Dell, Gigabyte, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.
At the mid-range we see laptops with either the NVIDIA GTX 1060, or for a bit more money, a GTX 1070, both of which are a powerful gaming GPU in a mobile form factor. ASUS offers the Republic of Gamers branding Strix lineup, and the GL504 model is their 15.6-inch range. Featuring the GTX 1060 in the GL504GM, and GTX 1070 in the GL504GS models, there's a wide range of performance here depending on budget. ASUS offers either the Intel Core i5-8300H quad-core, or the Core i7-8750H hex-core CPU, and up to 32 GB of DDR4 RAM support. There's a full range of SSD choices, and you can of course also fit it with a HDD for extra space.
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.
Like many other top cheap gaming laptops, the MSI GE62 includes the great Intel Core i5-6300HQ Quad Core processor. This CPU works perfect for current games and can easily be stepped up from 2.3 to 3.2GHz, using Intel's Turbo Boost technology. Unlike some other budget laptops we recommend, this one has a more powerful GPU though. You get the amazing NVIDIA Geforce GTX970M with 3G GDDR5. As you can see from the GPU's 3DMark score above, it's a very, very fast gaming graphics card with plenty of room for current games on high settings.
We’ll be starting the list off with a budget-friendly solution, the Acer Aspire E15. This simple, unassuming laptop may not be the ultimate gaming machine, but it does a number of things right, making it a viable choice for gaming. But most importantly, it is the cheapest laptop on this list, so if you’re looking for an affordable way to play your favorite games away from home, then this might just be the best choice.
There are no longer any gaming laptops using an Intel Core i3 processor. These days, many entry-level computers come equipped with a 4-core Core i5 processor. However, the most commonly found processor in this type of laptop is the Core i7. The 4-core Core i7-7700HQ processor is slowly being phased out in favor of the Core i7-8750H (6 cores at 2.2/4.1 GHz) and the Core i9-8950HK (6 cores at 2.9/4.8 GHz).
Measurements performed by our colleagues at the Laptopmag website show that the MSI Titan achieves a maximum temperature of 59 degrees after 15 minutes of gameplay – which is not too bad. The Asus ROG Zephyrus has a maximum temperature of 67 degrees – which is still OK. However, the MSI GS65 Stealth’s maximum temperature of 90 degrees is likely to be problematic for some users.
Mice aimed at first-person shooters, for one, tend to feature ratcheting scroll wheels—letting you cycle through your arsenal without selecting the wrong weapon—and on-the-fly resolution switchers. The latter will help you snap-change between the broad tracking you need in a frantic shootout and the tight control for lining up a sniper shot. (Sometimes this feature is dubbed something like "sniper mode," and it may involve a dedicated button for getting granular.)
For GTX 1060-based models close to the $1,000 line, though, you'll want to take note of the amount of video memory that backs up the GPU. You'll see GTX 1060-based laptops with 3GB or 6GB, with the latter obviously preferable and the former obviously cheaper. If you play games with system requirements that demand a certain VRAM minimum, or tend to play games with large texture packs or other VRAM-hungry mods, this could be a difference-maker.
We recommend the $1,250 model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive. The G5 is available in black or red, and has a red-backlit keyboard in place of the G7’s blue-accented design. But because of the screen, we recommend the G5 only if the G7 is unavailable.
So far, the best Max-Q machines have been slim and much more travel-friendly than the average gaming laptop, while still allowing for gaming at 60fps or higher on high settings. There are, of course, tradeoffs: The Max-Q-tuned graphics cards are a bit less capable than the standard versions, pushing fewer frames per second while gaming. Also, these laptops tend to be a bit pricier. If you value portability and visual appeal, though, Max-Q is the most consistent method so far for relatively thin and light gaming laptops with top-tier power.
The Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU is more suited to classic games and will run popular older titles such as World of Warcraft and Diablo III. Powering the Acer Aspire E E5-575-53EJ is a seventh generation Dual-Core Intel Core i5-7200U processor and 8GB of DDR4 memory. This will easily cope with everyday tasks and will even allow you to use more intensive applications such as Adobe Photoshop or CorelDRAW. You can upgrade the RAM to 16GB as the Acer Aspire E E5-575-53EJ features an empty slot, however, this is not necessary for most users.
Of the GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti-powered laptops, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is the best-built we’ve seen so far, and it has the best battery life. It stands out in these important areas, and puts in decent gaming performances as well. It’ll manage the latest AAA games at Full HD at Medium settings, and older titles at High. Playing eSports games such as Overwatch? It won’t even break a sweat.
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.
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