As we noted earlier, 15.6 inches is the general size rule for most under-$1,000 gaming laptops. This size is a good compromise in ways that extend beyond cost. Sometimes, gaming on the biggest laptop screen possible—and with a few exotic exceptions, that's the 17-inch class—is the way to go. But if you've ever tried carrying one of these machines, or shopped for a laptop bag that can fit both it and its gigantic power adapter, you may have second thoughts. Most of these notebooks weigh eight pounds or more.
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ROG Zephyrus computers bring together high-performance characteristics and good portability (with a chassis that only weighs 2.2 Kg despite incorporating a 15.6″ display). The display used on these computers is G-sync compatible and operates at a frequency of either 120 or 144 Hz. The Zephyrus’ high-end components (6-core Intel processor, Max-Q graphics chip, etc.) are well-suited to any type of usage – even to playing the most resource-intensive games (see the test of the ROG Zephyrus M GM501).
Alienware laptops are known for their cool designs and high-end specifications which deliver a superior gaming experience. It features an Intel Core i7 7th Gen processor and 8 GB of RAM, along with a 6 GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card which runs almost all the advanced games seamlessly. Its 1 TB HDD and 256 GB SDD provides ample space to store your pictures, videos and music.
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.
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.
The Predator Helios 300 boasts a rather aggressive exterior, replete with red highlights and conspicuous geometric details. And much like the MSI GV62, the keyboard comes with a red LED backlight. This clearly establishes its identity as a gaming laptop at the very first glance, though what’s under the hood doesn’t disappoint either – and we should hope so, considering the price tag.
The first gaming mouse on our list is the Steel Series Rival 700, and for those who don’t know, the company’s Rival series is perhaps one of the most popular series that is currently under Steel Series, as for Steel Series itself, the company is the favourite among pretty much every single professional e-sports gamer, and has earned itself a lot of reputation among the most passionate gamers there are.
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.
$1,000 - $2,000: In this price range, there are still a few Core i5's hanging around, but the majority of the configurations will have quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU with 16GB of RAM and a 1080p display. Most notebooks will feature both an SSD and an HDD (with a bump from 5,400 to 7,200 rpm) and a Nvidia GTX 1060 or 1070 GPU with at least 6GB of VRAM. You can play most games on high and clear 60fps, but adding special effects can hamper the experience on 4K resolution.
A 15-inch gamer still won't be an ideal daily traveler, but most are a lot more manageable than their larger kin. Also, today's 15-inch gaming rigs are better suited for use in true mobile fashion—that is, off an AC power plug—than those of past years. We've seen a few hit six or more hours of battery life, albeit in everyday productivity use or playing back video; gaming will trim that number considerably. (See our picks for the laptops with the best battery life.)
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And for those who have heard about Nvidia’s headline-grabbing “Turing” RTX graphics cards, the bad news is that the company hasn’t yet released any mobile versions of cards like the RTX 2080 and RTX 2070. For now you’ll have to stick with 10-series graphics options, though we do expect to see 20-series laptops in (hopefully early) 2019. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a deal on a current-generation gaming laptop, keep an eye on our Best Tech Deals page. As new Nvidia laptops get closer to reality, the prices of existing models are sure to fall.
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.
Following this logic, we have witnessed the introduction of many relatively inexpensive gaming laptops such as the Acer V Nitro (later simply called Nitro), HP’s Omen, and Lenovo’s Legion computers. Retailing for around 800 to 900 dollars, these “entry-level” gaming laptops are equipped with a Core i5/GTX 1050 graphics chip/processor combo that is powerful enough for gaming (if you are not interested in playing the very latest games or are willing to trade some display quality for greater gameplay fluidity).
Look for Intel Core i5 processors in midrange systems, with Core i7 U, HQ, and HK processors in higher-end gaming laptops. The H-series processors are higher-power, and tend to show up in bigger, thicker laptop models, while the low-power U-series chips are designed for thinner, more portable machines. They are quite different, in terms of thermal profile, as well as overall performance potential; a U-series Core i7 processor may not even have the same number of processing cores as an H-series Core i7 chip.
When it comes to customization software, I'm a huge fan of Razer's Synapse 2.0 app. It lets you create profiles for all your compatible Razer hardware (mice, headsets and keyboards) in addition to turning your keyboard into one hell of a light show. And if that isn't enough you can access your creations via the cloud on any laptop. For creating a kick-ass show on your keyboard, I'm fond of both Alienware's FX software and the SteelSeries Engine, which also keeps track on your keystrokes. That comes in handy if you're trying to keep track of your kill rate or some other important input stat.
Compete in game tournaments or simply experience fast responsiveness with this Logitech Chaos Spectrum gaming mouse. The optical sensor delivers on-time tracking to keep up with even high-action sequences, and you can tune the sensor to your surface. This Logitech Chaos Spectrum gaming mouse is lightweight for easy movement without compromising on stability.
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.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080: This is the card to beat. During our testing, gaming laptops outfitted with a 1080 GPU routinely top the category average on high-end games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto V with the special effects settings and resolution turned all the way up. And of course, Nvidia 1080 can easily support all your virtual-reality adventures. Just be prepared to shell out a pretty penny, since 1080s are only found in high-end systems like the Razer Blade Pro or the Acer Predator 17X.
That said, a maxed-out Core i7 CPU is less crucial for gaming than it is for processor-intensive tasks such as video editing and media-file production work. With current-generation Intel CPUs, you'll get plenty of pep even from a four-core "Coffee Lake"/8th Generation Core i5. A Core i7 of the same generation is actually a hefty six-core/12-thread processor that, we'd argue, is overkill for casual gamers who need to mind what they spend. So, our bottom line: Opt for a Core i5 or i7 chip with four true cores if you can; a six-core chip is gravy.
As far as RAM is concerned, there’s really not all that much to be said. Entry-level laptops generally have 8 GB of RAM which is enough for gaming. More expensive computers are often equipped with 16 GB or 32 GB of RAM which could be useful if you are a frequent user of graphics design or video editing software. With the exception of EVGA models, no laptop is able to adjust its RAM frequency beyond JEDEC certification limits.
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.
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.
If an SSD is out of your budget, we highly recommend purchasing, at least, a 1TB hard drive with a 7,200-rpm speed. However, instead of an either/or situation, we recommend choosing a configuration that has both an SSD and a hard drive. That way you can load your games and important files on the speedy SSD and have plenty of room left for everything else.
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