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.
Acer’s Predator Helios 300 is a budget-oriented Predator model with great parts at an affordable price. It sports an Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, GTX 1060 GPU, 16GB DDR4 memory, and a 15.6-inch full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 display. A laundry list of ports, including HDMI, will ensure you have enough room to plug any accessories or peripherals into the Predator.
To muddy the waters, Nvidia in 2017 introduced a technology called Max-Q Design that squeezes a slightly detuned GeForce chip into thinner and lighter notebooks than would normally be possible, at the expense of 10 to 15 percent of the chip's performance. Because Max-Q tends to be implemented in thin, premium machines, it's seldom a factor among the under-$1,000 brigade, but it's good to know what it is, in case you encounter the term when shopping. (A few models just above the one-grand line incorporate the tech.) You may be interested in a Max-Q rig if maximum portability—not a trait usually associated with gaming laptops—matters to you.
In our tests, the Legion Y530 kept its WASD keys on the cooler side at 101 °F (38 °C) after half an hour of Overwatch. The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GE-ES72 kept its WASD keys coolest at 94°F (34 °C), but the Y530’s keys didn’t feel uncomfortable for long gaming sessions, just a bit warm. The area where my palm rested near the trackpad reached 105 °F (41 °C); that’s a bit warmer than we’d like, but it wasn’t uncomfortable.
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.
It’s great in all other applications, too, with smooth and reliable tracking across the board, and a shape that fit in our hands very nicely indeed. You can even adjust an array of weights for a more tailored experience. There are three zones of RGB lighting that shine bright and vividly, with effects that can be synced across the vast library of Corsair peripherals.
It sports a 17.3-inch HD LED display with a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels. Under the hood, the laptop is powered by an 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor enabling it to handle most of the games and other essential tasks. For multitasking, the laptop comes with an 8GB of RAM, and for storing data, it comes with 1TB of hard drive. It also has one extra RAM slot to increase the RAM up to whopping 16GBs.
Updated Nov. 25 at 5:45 a.m. ET: You can snag some inexpensive gaming laptops for great prices through Cyber Monday. The Lenovo Legion Y530 is on sale for $100 off from Best Buy, while the 15.6-inch Dell G3 can be had for $649 from Walmart — a savings of $350. The Dell G5 is also on sale for $899 from Walmart ($400 off!) A sale at eBay knocks the MSI GL63 down to $969, for a savings of $229. Check out our Cyber Monday hub for more fantastic deals.