Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.
A gaming laptop is constrained by its graphics processor; that’s the component that has the biggest impact on gaming performance, and you can’t upgrade it. Many cheap gaming laptops also lack either a solid-state drive or a roomy hard drive for storage, so you may have to pay extra to upgrade that later. You’ll need to put more money into keeping a budget laptop relevant in the long run—through storage and memory upgrades—than you would for a high-end gaming laptop that already has a solid-state drive and at least 16 GB of RAM (not to mention better graphics). A cheap gaming laptop is a temporary fix for a couple of years if you can’t invest in a desktop or a more expensive laptop (or if you need something that’s moderately portable).
The SteelSeries Sensei 310 is arguably the best gaming mouse for lefties, offering a comfortable design and intuitive thumb buttons, regardless of whether you game with your left or right hand. The Sensei 310's eight total buttons are highly customizable via SteelSeries' Engine 3 software, and the tweakable RGB backlighting is a nice added touch. Most importantly, the Sensei 310 is fast and responsive, making it easy to snipe enemies or command units no matter your dominant hand.
Play without limits thanks to this Logitech G305 wireless mouse. The ultra-fast response time delivers tiny twitches in as little as 1 ms, and the next-generation Logitech G HERO optical sensor produces competition-level accuracy. This Logitech G305 wireless mouse is extremely light at 99 g, and built-in storage lets you stow the wireless sensor safely for transport.
Given that high-end components tend to drain battery life, don't plan on taking any of these gaming rigs too far from a wall socket very often. Cutting-edge ports like USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are beneficial now, and will only be more so down the road, but look for at least two USB 3.0 ports so you can plug in an external mouse and a hard drive for your saved media files. If you mean to attach a VR headset to your GeForce GTX 1060-or-better rig, look for the right loadout of ports to accommodate it; you'll need a well-placed video out and enough USB ports for the hydra-head of cabling. Other video ports, like HDMI or Mini DisplayPort, will be helpful if you want to play games on an external display, but aren't absolutely necessary if your laptop's screen is large enough.
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).
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.
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.
Nowadays, most LCD displays for gaming laptops have a matte finish which makes them less susceptible to reflections. Other factors to consider are a display’s luminosity, color fidelity, and its range of displayed colors. Manufacturers sometimes promote their displays based on these characteristics (however, you should always consult the tests performed by specialized technology reviewers in order to verify the veracity of these claims).
The entry-level Pascal gaming chip is the GeForce GTX 1050, typically found in models starting around $700 to $800. The GTX 1050 is capable of playing most of today's games at 1080p resolution with medium to high settings. Keep in mind that the GTX 1050 may be on the edge of playability at high settings, depending on the game. You may want to opt for the next step up, a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti-based model, for a bit more graphics muscle. The floor on GTX 1050 Ti-based laptops was about $850 at this writing, with models ranging up to about $1,200. These two chips make up the heart of the under-$1,000 budget-laptop market here in late 2018.
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.
Let me say, this is an incredible post, thank you very much for this, I have bookmarked this post for future reference. I have a question, I am considering getting the new Asus gl702vm-ds74, which is the bigger screen (17.3 inch) compared to the gl502vm-ds74(15.6 inch ). Is the smaller 15.6 inch screen going to run better than the 17.3 inch screen because it requires less power to power the screen? I really appreciate your feedback, Thank you!
The G7’s 60 Hz 1920×1080 IPS display was neither the best we tested nor the worst. It made games look good, and the G7’s display looked noticeably better than the G5’s and G3’s screens, which both had a sickly greenish tint. We found that the G7’s screen couldn’t get as bright as those of the other budget gaming laptops we tested, maxing out at 228 nits compared with the Lenovo Y530’s 266 nits and the Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM’s above-average 317 nits. And although it’s not a requirement, we’d love to see a higher-refresh-rate panel available on the Dell G7, since that would make first-person games smoother and more enjoyable.
The 15-inch 60 Hz 1920×1080 IPS display, the blue-backlit keyboard, and the trackpad are all solid performers. The Dell G7 15 Gaming has impressive battery life for a gaming laptop, but it’s a bit heavier than the competition and its fans get distractingly loud during gaming sessions. We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB solid-state drive for around $1,200.
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.
Video memory: Another spec to consider is VRAM—a graphics processor’s dedicated video memory. The GTX 1060 and GTX 1060 Max-Q both come in two versions: one with 3 GB of VRAM, the other with 6 GB. (The GTX 1050 Ti appears to have only one version with 4 GB.) How much VRAM you need depends on the resolution you’re using (1080p in this case), the games you play, and the settings you play them at. Most games don’t need more than 4 GB of VRAM at 1080p, but some games do—and the list has doubtless grown since this 2015 TweakTown article published. Since the lower-VRAM options don’t often cost less, we focused on laptops with 4 GB or 6 GB of VRAM; they’ll play more games at higher settings for longer.
The mouse, as the name suggest, does come with the RGB lighting that can be conveniently controlled through the Corsair’s customization software. The software itself is easy to use, although, it may require some learning curve, but that’s okay. You obviously get buttons to adjust the DPI to your liking, some customizable buttons, as well as a very, very handy weight tuning system that allows you remove some of the weights and put them away in order to make the mouse lighter. Now in case you are wondering, a lighter mouse means your hand will have an easier time gliding it, something a lot of FPS gamers are looking for.
Asus: Branded under the company's Republic of Gamers series, the company's laptops have a sleek, stealth fighter design with an impressive set of specs. However, Asus doesn't offer much in the way of customization. As far as the warranty, the Taiwanese tech giant typically offers a 1-year international with accidental damage coverage and a 30-day zero-bright dot protection with 24/7 tech support.
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.
At 6.3 pounds, the G7 is the heaviest budget gaming laptop we tested this year, but several others came close, weighing between 5 and 6 pounds. The G7 measures 15.3 inches wide, 10.8 inches deep, and 1 inch thick; its deep fans can make it difficult to fit into some backpacks, but the size and weight are unfortunately necessary trade-offs for a laptop that can both play games well and keep cool. The G7 isn’t unreasonably large for a 15-inch gaming laptop—most of the other contenders have similar dimensions.
IMO the Roccat Kone is a great mouse. Comes with weights to make it heavier if you don’t like how it feels, the XTD version comes with OLED strips on it that are customisable to 4 different colours (two on each strip one top one bottom on both sides that blend together in the middle) and they have just released the LEADR which is the wireless version.
Dell is back in the market with their latest notebook in the form of Dell Inspiron 5575. This is an interesting variant from the Inspiron series of laptops from Dell, as it offers a very good set of specifications for the asking price. It sports a large 15.6-inch full HD display which is decent for gaming, and it is anti-glare so playing games for prolonged periods wouldn’t be stressful to your eyes. Moreover, it is fairly lightweight machine weighing just 4.8 pounds which is very good considering the kind of performance it offers.
The Y530’s keyboard is comfortable to type on and responsive thanks to its deep, snappy keys, and its white backlight and perfectly ordinary font are the most tasteful we’ve seen on a gaming laptop. We also appreciate the inclusion of full-size arrow keys rather than the typical half-size ones manufacturers cram in, as on the Dell G7. This does mean that the number pad is farther back and a bit awkward to reach, but most people who play games will use the arrow keys more frequently.
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.
Shane Roberts of Lifehacker reviewed the Logitech G560 PC Gaming Speaker, inviting readers to “come for the sound, stay for the light show.” Calling the Logitech G560 “feature-packed,” he shared that the “most notable is the side and rear-firing game-driven four zone RGB lighting that extends the scene from your monitor to the rest of your gaming space,” noting he “had even more fun with the music visualizer option.”
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.
To maximize your gaming PC setup, you may wish to carry the capability and style of your chosen mouse to your other gaming accessories. Gaming speakers will fill the room with sound, or you can look at wired or wireless gaming headsets for private yet intense audio. And if you've opted for RGB lighting, you can typically find gaming keyboards and gaming headsets with matching effects.
Razer isn’t exaggerating when it calls its Blade 15 (available on Amazon) the “world’s smallest 15-inch gaming laptop.” While it’s impressive to get a six-core 8th gen Core i7-8750H and GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q performance into a compact chassis, note that it’s densely packed and feels heavy for its size. If you can deal with the additional weight, the payoff may well be worth it. Read our review.
While Alienware has laptops built like tanks (yes, I view this as a positive feature), customizable bling and high-end specs targeted at gaming enthusiasts, Dell has been quietly improving their more modest consumer offerings. While not new, the Inspiron 15 7567 has a lot to appreciate about it. Visually I appreciate the black design with red accents, giving it an understated but classy look without screaming "Hey I'm a gamer!"
These affordable gaming laptops may not be able to play the most modern games on the highest settings, but that doesn’t detract from the glory of being able to game on the move without coming even close to breaking the bank. Either way relative to the amount of games out there (golden oldies and recent titles included) you’d be surprised how the amount of games you can play stacks up against those that you can’t. These top gaming laptops will cruise through popular games like Minecraft and DOTA 2 without breaking a sweat as well as many newer titles.
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.
$2,000 - $3,000: When you're spending this kind of money, you'll definitely get a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with at least 16GB of RAM. You'll find configurations with the new PCIe SSDs for lightning-fast game installs and loads. Screen-resolution options include 1920 x 1080, 2560 x 1400 and 3840 x 2160. Regarding graphics, you can get a laptop with a single 1080 or dual 1070M in SLI configuration. You can also snag one of the new lightweight Max-Q laptops at this price range. Ultra smultra, with these kinds of specs you can play any game at the highest settings without fear of lag or ugly tearing.