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.
We were thoroughly surprised to see the inclusion of the Nvidia GTX 1050 card for a laptop priced just above $500. While it is an entry-level card, it can run current games on lower settings. The GPU is helped along by an equally impressive Intel i5-7300HQ and 8GB of RAM. The laptop is not only a solid choice for gamers, but for users looking to do video and photo editing, and development work, along with other tasks that demand a lot of the systems internal resources.
That said, there are still some basic conclusions to be drawn about graphics performance. In general, the higher the model number within a product line, the higher the 3D performance. So an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 generally produces higher frame rates and higher-quality graphics than an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or GTX 1070. A single high-end discrete GPU will let you play the latest AAA gaming titles on a 1080p screen with all the bells and whistles turned on, and be fine for entry-level VR play. Adding a second GPU (a rare and expensive option) will let you run the latest games more comfortably on 4K and 5K displays, or let you hook up multiple monitors to your laptop.
Time your purchase right and you could land yourself a wonderful deal. You'll find unbeatable laptop discounts during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but you'll also find great deals throughout August during back-to-school sales. Check whether a new model is about to be launched as well because many stores discount old inventory to clear the shelves for newer models. Manufacturers often announce rebate deals on Mondays, so check for these before you buy.
Let's take a look under the hood: The new ASUS Metal is an amazing choice for gaming. It runs all PC games we threw at it flawlessly at medium settings. The laptop is powered by Intel's 6th-generation Core i7-6500U. Of course, you can tune the CPU from 2.5GHz up to 3.1GHz with Intel's TurboBoost for even more performance. The laptop's GPU is a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M. There's a good reason why most budget gaming laptops include this card: It offers a great price-to-performance balance and very long lifespan. The laptop's specs are topped off with 8GB of RAM and a generous 512GB SSD storage. It's a solid combination that runs games well.
It’s no secret that dedicated graphics cards offer far better performance than integrated graphics, however, this doesn’t mean that you can’t game on laptops without dedicated GPUs. This is due to the fact that Intel has come a long way with their integrated graphics and Blizzard have even mentioned that almost 25% of all Overwatch players are playing the game on a system with integrated graphics. While Overwatch is a newer title, don’t expect to play titles such as Mass Effect: Andromeda or Battlefield 1 on high settings or with great frame rates.
The GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor of the HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 15t is available only with 3 GB of VRAM rather than the 6 GB of the other contenders. We found that its display had a screen-door effect similar to that of the Omen—the two HP laptops are likely using the same panel—and its trackpad felt a bit rattly when we tapped it. The fans made an ominous buzzing noise during everyday work, too, and the GPU reached an alarming 203 °F (95 °C) after just 30 minutes of Overwatch on high settings. For comparison, the next-hottest laptop in the same test reached just 174 °F (79 °C). We’ve exchanged our Pavilion 15t with HP, and we will update here once we’ve retested it.
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.
Tom's Guide tests about 30 mice per year, which means we know a thing or two about selecting the best gaming mouse for every kind of gamer. If you want a mouse that can play anything and everything, the Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum ($80 MSRP) is about as good as it gets. With well-spaced buttons, a comfortable design and top-of-the-line software, the Proteus Spectrum is, hands-down, the best all-around gaming mouse on the market. If you don't want to spend quite so much money, the Logitech G300s costs less than $25 and performs beautifully.
Nvidia's G-Sync and AMD's FreeSync technologies are more down-to-earth. They help increase the quality of the gaming experience and smooth out frame rates by letting the laptop screen refresh at a variable rate that depends on the output of the GPU. Look for support for one of those technologies if you're a stickler for perfectly rendered visuals. They tend to be in pricier machines, though, and G-Sync is far more common.
The laptop features a powerful combination of an Intel Core i5 processor and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M GPU. It's a great hardware combination which ensures that you can play most games on medium to high settings. These specs also offer great online multimedia performance. We also really liked the high-quality, secondary features of the laptop: It has a backlit keyboard, very good built-in speakers, and fast 802.11ac WiFi.
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.
The HyperX Pulsefire FPS Pro has everything an enterprising first-person shooter gamer needs. A coarse, textured grip will keep your hand right where it needs to be, while a smart button layout will put a few extra commands at your fingertips. Even the software is fairly easy to use, letting you customize attractive lighting patterns or adjust the high-quality sensor's DPI range. Compared to similar gaming mice, the Pulsefire FPS Pro doesn't cost much, either, making it the best FPS gaming mouse for those who are just getting into the multiplayer scene.
You'll see both ordinary hard drives and swifter (but lesser-capacity) solid-state drives (SSDs) in under-$1,000 laptops. The occasional 15.6-inch-screen model might offer a small-capacity SSD boot drive alongside a secondary-storage platter hard drive, though this is more common with 17-inch laptops. Opt for this dual-drive approach if you can find it and afford it. The smaller SSD would be home to the operating system and a few favorite games, and the larger, more economical hard drive would host the rest of your games and other programs that don't need quick loading times. (It's indeed possible to split your Steam game library across drives.)
Processor: Your laptop needs a processor that’s powerful enough to avoid bottlenecking the GPU. All of the contenders in our test group have a quad-core Intel Core i5-8300H or hexa-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor or better. The extra cores in that line of i7 processors don’t yet have a significant impact on gaming, so both options are good enough.
In terms of display size, a 15-inch screen is the sweet spot for a gaming laptop. You can buy larger 17-inch displays, but this can jack up the weight to way beyond 5 pounds. We've seen 12-pound "portables" in the gaming sector that will definitely weigh down your backpack. We recommend at least a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-resolution) screen. Larger displays are capable of giving you higher-than-1080p resolutions, but choose wisely, as a resolution of QHD+ (3,200 by 1,800 pixels, and uncommon) or 4K (3,840 by 2,160 pixels, a bit more common) will boost the final cost twice: first for the panel, and second for the higher-quality graphics chip you'll need to drive it to its full potential.
The 256GB M.2 SSD is slightly small, and it is bound to fill up soon if you have large game library, but it is blazing fast, meaning your load and boot up times will be quick. The battery life is disappointing, however, running out of juice after about 3 hours of heavy use. You will need to remain plugged in most of the time, but this shouldn’t come at much of a surprise considering its energy-sapping components.
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).
If you want our top recommendation, it's the Razer Mamba Tournament Edition (available at Amazon). This mouse strikes a perfect value stance between price and pedigree, delivering professional polish for a very attractive price. We tested a dozen of the top-selling and top-rated mice from leading gaming brands, and while the Mamba Tournament Edition doesn't deliver the most buttons nor the widest feature set, it's the sturdiest, sleekest, and best-feeling pick in the bunch.
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Christopher Coke of PC Perspective published his review of the Logitech G PRO Gaming Headset, awarding it PC Perspective’s Gold Award. He shared, “with pro gamers now competing in million dollar tournaments and filling out stadiums of their own, PC gaming peripherals are going to the way of Nike, inextricably tying themselves to competitive gaming with marketing and team sponsorships."
For increased comfort, some gaming mice allow you to customize their actual bodies to your hand. Removable weights, often resembling small steel pills, are common in better gaming mice. Adding or removing these weights from slots inside the mouse body will shift the overall feel and the amount of drag. Some models take this even further, letting you adjust the center of balance, or change the height and pitch of the palm rest.
Nailing down a high-quality mouse sensor is tricky without getting hands-on time with a given mouse. The two key sensor types are "optical" and "laser" sensors, but you can't apply absolutes when judging them. Your best bet is to try out a mouse in person, or to rely on formal reviews like ours, as well as online forums, for the skinny on how a mouse feels in specific play situations.
Also look at the key layout. Models with an isolated cluster of arrow keys or well-defined WASD keys get bonus points, in our book. Also, because most budget gaming laptops are 15.6-inch models, check for a dedicated number pad to the right of the main key area, if you prefer to have one—or not, for that matter. Some machines of this screen size will have one, some won't. (A 17-inch laptop almost invariably will, however.)
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.)
All the way thru our review and usage, we never noticed eve a bit dim on the ASUS FX502VM display. Bright, filled with color, alive vivid look and wide angle viewing display is a rare feature. On our light meter during benchmarking, ASUS’s notebook detected an average brightness of 289 nits, which for a laptop from this class is an awesome leap from the others of the same class.
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.
The next gaming laptop we have lined up comes from none other than MSI, and it is the GV62 8RD. Unlike the above Acer laptop, this one you can tell is a gaming laptop from the get-go, all thanks to the red LED keyboard backlight and the conspicuous MSI Gaming logo on the back. But what’s really great about this laptop is how it packs some important gaming features into an overall fairly affordable product.
The G7—along with the Dell G5, Dell G3, and Lenovo Y530—kept its GPU among the coolest, measuring 162 °F (72 °C) during both our Overwatch test and the more demanding Witcher 3 test. Both Asus TUF Gaming laptops kept their CPUs the coolest at around 183 °F (84 °C), but the Dell G7’s was still on the lower end of the models we tested (and within expected range) at 203 °F (95 °C). The trade-off for these cool temperatures, however, is significantly loud fans. We’ll address this topic more in the following section.
Simply put: You won't find high-end dedicated graphics in gaming laptops under a grand. But times have changed, and lower-end graphics chips here in 2018 have caught up to most games and to the screen resolutions of most mainstream gaming laptops. With a little compromising, you can enjoy some very respectable gaming at 1080p in machines a notch or two down from the GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 elite, with models starting as low as $800. Budget-priced gaming laptops are now an established category, not outliers, and have been embraced by the major players. We've tested models from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.
Still, depending on the kind of games you play and how fussy you are, sometimes a laptop doesn't have to pretend. On some level, almost any recent notebook PC can work as a gaming laptop. Current laptops using Intel's 7th or 8th Generation ("Kaby Lake" or "Coffee Lake") Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, or AMD's less commonly seen A10 or A12 chips, can play basic game titles passably if you roll back the screen-resolution and graphical-detail settings far enough. These chips have modest graphics acceleration built in, and that's all you need for casual or Web-based games. Plants vs. Zombies, here you come.
There are currently many different types of displays on the market; however, the standard remains the 15.6″ or 17.3″ Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) display. Some manufacturers, such as Dell (Alienware) even offer 13.3-inch displays. There are even a few QHD (2560 x 1440 pixels) displays on the market (Dell Alienware again) as well as a few 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) displays.
There are also advanced features you won't find in a regular mouse. Look for additional buttons that can be programmed for specific PC games. Many gaming mice — both optical and laser — offer multiple DPI (dots per inch) settings to control the sensitivity, and some of them even allow you to adjust the DPI on the fly, so you can switch between settings without pausing your gameplay. And not only are these models the coolest mice when it comes to their standard look, a growing number of gaming mice boast RGB lighting for customizable effects in millions of colors.
If you're aiming to game professionally or just want a leg up on the competition, a dedicated gaming mouse is the way to go. Way beyond a Microsoft "Comfort Mouse," today's gaming mice take the cheese—er, cake—where extra features, tailored designs, and sheer horsepower are concerned. Additional buttons and hyper-accurate laser optics are a given on gaming mice—the best also deliver strobing lights, customizable weights, and more buttons than a Men's Wearhouse.
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You'll want to make sure you get the most graphics power you can afford from the start since this can't be upgraded later, unlike memory or storage. If you're on a strict budget, go with one of Nvidia's Geforce GTX 1050 or 1050Ti graphics cards, which will give you good performance on newer games at medium or high settings with prices starting down around $600. If you can afford to spend closer to $1,000, you'll be better off in the long run getting a laptop with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max Q with 6GB of memory.
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.