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.)
Ever since the 2016 launch of mobile Pascal, gaming notebooks have mostly closed the gap with their equivalent desktop cousins. With Nvidia's previous-generation "Maxwell" architecture, mobile-graphics-chip performance tended to be roughly 70 to 80 percent of what you'd get from the desktop cards they were based on. (See our picks for the top gaming graphics cards for 1080p play.) But the Pascal mobile chips deliver almost equivalent performance to their desktop counterparts of the same name, assuming they are implemented in machines with a complementary CPU, and in designs that do the GPU's thermal needs justice. (Most do.)
But if you’re shopping for a gaming laptop, you’re probably more concerned with the graphics card, and the one found here is Nvidia’s GeForce MX150, a true testament to the capabilities of the Pascal architecture. It is almost twice as powerful as the previous-generation Maxwell-based mobile GPUs and leaves Intel’s integrated graphics solutions in the dust.
Regardless of the low color accuracy (blue cast ex-works), the Full HD panel shows real potential, and the sound and picture quality are also very persuasive. The 120 Hz display refresh rate and the Nvidia’s G-Sync technology combo averts hard to watch tearing and offers much smoother picture. However, the 100% sRGB and 75% AdobeRGB are still kept for workstations and other professional devices only, very suited for design and photo editing.
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.
Such high product churn means there isn’t really a best time of the year to buy a gaming laptop, but here are some things that might be worth looking forward to: Intel’s first eighth-generation Core processor and quad-core ultrabook chips, Nvidia’s Max-Q approach to designing thinner and quieter laptops, MSI’s new gaming laptops, Lenovo’s Legion Y920 laptop, Acer’s Predator Triton 700 laptop, and Samsung’s Notebook Odyssey laptop.
With major advances in laptop CPUs and graphics technologies, you can now get great gaming performance in sizes from slender to huge, and prices from budget to sky-high. That's where this handy-dandy buyer’s guide come in. We’ll name the best gaming laptops currently available, and we’ll highlight what to look for when buying a gaming laptop. (Check back often, as we’ll update this list as new products arrive.)
Although the E15 comes with a Full-HD IPS display, some have noted that it is fairly dim compared to higher end displays. Regardless, you will get decent viewing angles and the matte finish will prevent any potential glare. It has a solid battery life of around 8 hours and 30 minutes, with Acer even claiming up to 15 hours of battery life, though heavier applications and games will drain its battery life a lot faster. The NVIDIA GeForce MX150 is by no means a beast compared to higher end cards, and most modern AAA titles will struggle somewhat, but lowering the graphics will afford you some playability even on next-gen titles.
But we assume you want to do more than harvest potato mines and pea-shooters—you have a Steam account, and you ache to play some of the latest AAA titles: the newest rev of the Battlefield series, the latest Tom Clancy-fest, the newest iteration of Tomb Raider or Far Cry. That's where a dedicated graphics chip comes in. It's the starting point for getting serious about gaming on a notebook.
The Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM 15.6-inch has been a top recommendation in this guide for some time. The Aspire E 15 E5-576-392H is a new addition their budget family, and packs even more of a punch at an even lower price tag. While it features the same Intel HD Graphics 620, it features the newest 8th Generation Intel Core i3-8130U dual-core processor that runs alongside a decent 6GB of RAM.
It is in the graphics department that this RoG Strix laptop has the upper hand, as it comes with a GPU none other than the GTX 1070, a high-end beast that masters 1080p gaming and can handle 1440p more than competently. Sadly, though, the laptop doesn’t come with a 1440p display, as the 17-inch screen really could have looked really good with such a high resolution. Nonetheless, the 144 Hz refresh rate is still here, so nobody will be left wanting when it comes to performance.
The Full-HD display is impressive for its price tag and the fact that you can set it to a maximum of 1920 x 1080 pixels makes it far more suited to streaming high definition media. The Acer Aspire E E5-575-53EJ also features an SSD storage drive, which will mean super fast Windows boot speeds and much faster application loading times than traditional storage drives. However, the installed SSD only features 256GB of storage space, which will fill up quickly if you intend on installing loads of games or if you have a larger media collection. You can upgrade the storage drive at home, however larger SSDs do come with larger price tags and you might instead want to consider a good external storage drive for your media files.
Graphics: You can’t upgrade your laptop’s graphics processor, and if you cut corners you’ll have to shell out for a new computer sooner to keep playing new games. (Trust me, I’ve made this mistake.) Notebookcheck’s tests show the GTX 1060 and the GTX 1060 Max-Q near the 60 fps threshold in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Shadow of the Tomb Raider on high settings, while the GTX 1050 Ti barely scrapes by at 31 fps. But all three GPUs hit at least 60 fps in Overwatch on “epic” settings at 1080p. The GTX 1060 and its Max-Q counterpart support VR, while the GTX 1050 Ti has extremely limited VR support.
The dedicated MX150 is Nvidias latest generation budget mobile GPU with improved performance over the previous generation 940MX. Multitasking will also not be much of problem, as the RAM will allow you to run quite a few applications and browser windows at once, though an upgrade to 16GB of RAM is also possible. It comes with a somewhat small SSD, affording you only 256GB of storage, but you can always add an additional SSD or HDD if needed.
The key thing here is to know what you're getting, and to make sure you have the appropriate port free (or that you have Bluetooth support). If you opt for a cabled mouse, don't forget to check the cable length. Is it long enough to reach from a PC tower on the floor to your desk? Is it six feet long, but only needs to run from your mouse pad to the laptop beside it? Also look at the cable itself. A braided nylon or cloth cover is more durable than a standard rubber coating.
While the Pulsefire FPS's lightweight design is probably great for FPS titles specifically, I prefer a little more weight with my mice, and it felt a bit loose/jittery during a title like StarCraft. Then again, if you're primarily looking for an FPS-focused mouse, the Pulsefire is one of the best options I tested. Just don't expect it to be as good for games across multiple genres.
Matthew Buzzi is a Hardware Analyst at PCMag, focusing on laptops and desktops with a specialty in gaming systems and games. Matthew earned a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism and interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming before turning it into part of his career. He spends entirely too much time on Twitter (find him @M... See Full Bio
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.
The bargain-priced Lenovo Legion Y530 (available via Lenovo) could be a good entry-level gaming laptop if you manage your expectations. It’s impressively portable and has a solid feature set. Unfortunately its middling graphics card struggles to deliver buttery visuals from today’s AAA games, and its performance will only go downhill as more demanding titles come down the pike. Read our review.
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.
It comes with a dual-core Intel i5-7200U, which is a good CPU, and 8GB of DDR4 RAM. This paves the way for a comfortable user experience, but the slower 5400RPM hard drive means slower load times on programs and boot times will be longer than laptops that come with an SSD. Storage space won’t be much of an issue however, since the HDD has 1TB of space. The Intel HD Graphics 620 handles some newer games fairly well on lower settings, such as GTA 5 and Overwatch (check this video out).
Gaming laptops are a tough sell. To provide the power to play games at decent settings, they sacrifice portability, battery life, and value compared to non-gaming laptops. At the same time, a $2,000 gaming laptop is less powerful and less upgradeable than a $1,200 desktop gaming PC. And a $1,000 ultrabook will handle non-gaming tasks just as well at a third the weight and with four times the battery life, much better build quality, and a better keyboard and trackpad.
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.)
Overclocking the GT73VR is really easy and will cause no harm to your device. By pressing the built-in button for achieving maximum fan speed, you basically reduce the overall temperature inside the case by 15 degrees Celsius and even more. The only drawback to this method is that the noise from the fans can get quite loud, but otherwise, the internal components, like the processor and graphics card, will be protected, even when pushed to their maximum performance output.
The SteelSeries Rival is a very solid mouse, but it's also very specialized: I have a feeling if you need this mouse, you know about it already. The key feature of the Rival 500 is the sheer amount of programmable buttons this thing has. With 15 different buttons in tow, it's basically a keyboard replacement! This is a setup that's ideal for games with lots of macros of cooldown skills—think MMOs or even MOBAs.
The keyboard is said to have quite a bit of flex, taking away from the VivoBook F510UA-AH51’s premium feel. ASUS have fitted the laptop with a 1920 X 1080 IPS NanoEdge display, which has an awesome 80 percent screen-to-body ratio. ASUS have cut some corners with the storage, opting for a slow 1TB 5400RPM HDD as opposed to an SSD. This is going to make applications and boot times rather slow and tedious sadly, but the other hardware does compensate for this.
Bear in mind that this is a flagship mouse from Logitech, so if you are concerned about paying a high price, you are also getting some of the finest features, regardless of you needing them or not. With that said, if you are wondering about us encountering any downsides, there aren’t any deal breakers here. Sure, the mouse carries a hefty price tag, and the overall aesthetics of the ambidextrous design might put off some design conscious people, but under the hood, the Chaos Spectrum happens to be one of the MOST powerful, and over the top brilliant gaming mice we have used. So with that out of the way, pros and cons, shall we?
Before we forget, let's talk memory. In a gaming laptop, look for at least 8GB of RAM. (In practice, no self-respecting model will come with less.) That will give you some breathing room when switching back and forth between your gameplay window and your messaging app, but we'd save researching game tips for when you're not playing, as each successive browser window you open eats into your RAM allotment.
Along with our quarterly laptop guide, near the end of every year we also like to take a look at the state of the gaming laptop market. With a much more cyclical upgrade cycle, gaming laptops tend to evolve in lockstep with the major components inside them. For the gaming laptop market, this includes not only more powerful CPUs, but also more unique (for a laptop) components like discrete video cards, mechanical keyboards, and perhaps an IPS panel or high-refresh TN display. All of which come together to make a breed of laptop that is very different from the kinds of machines that define the mainstream and professional markets.
With that out of the way, that doesn’t mean that gaming mice are just gimmicky because they are not. Thanks to their high DPI, programmable buttons, customizable macros, and a lot of other features that are suitable for gamers. That’s why the market is so saturated with gaming mice, there are just too many options for the average gamer to choose from, and while it is certainly a good thing, it also makes a customer really, really confused.
Frame rates aren't going to be fast enough for enjoyable play on high detail settings with newer graphically demanding games. In our tests, however, older games such as Bioshock Infinite were playable on high, as were popular online games such as Overwatch and Fortnite. Below are a couple of our favorites, but if you're a casual gamer keep an eye out for the MX150 elsewhere.
RAM: Gaming can be RAM intensive, and 8GB is what we recommend for even average productivity tasks. If you can, you should go for 16GB on a gaming PC. A laptop with a GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti usually comes with 8GB. Once you get to a GTX 1060 or higher, some will come with 16GB of RAM. If you can’t get your laptop with 16GB of RAM now, consider upgrading it in the near future. Memory is upgradeable in many gaming laptops, so this is an area that you can consider boosting later if you’re handy with a screwdriver.
While its performance for modern games will be on the lower end, its value is excellent and it will at least allow you to play games such as Overwatch, CS:GO, DOTA 2 and other popular titles will be playable, albeit at reduced settings. One aspect of the E 15 E5-576-392H that may seem impressive is that it packs a 1920 x 1080 15.6-inch display. Sadly, it is of poor quality. Its lowly TN panel offers poor viewing angles and the colors looked washed out, which are issues that generally plague TN panels.