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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.)
The Predator Helios 500 (PH517-51) employs a 17.3” Full HD or 4K display which is either G-Sync or Freesync compatible at 144 Hz. It also incorporates the following chips: Intel Core / Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 or AMD Ryzen / AMD Vega (not yet available, but the first tests have already been conducted). Its Intel processor is either a Core i7-8750H (6 cores at 2.2 GHz) or i7-8950HK (6 cores at 2.9 GHz). The test recently performed by the Laptopmag website is conclusive: it praises the excellent quality of this computer’s speakers and the ability of this computer to maintain a reasonably low temperature when gaming.
Wirecutter has spent more than 200 hours over the past five years researching and testing dozens of gaming laptops, and our PC team has more than 37 years of combined experience covering laptops. I’ve personally tested, lived with, and reviewed hundreds of laptops, and I’ve spent hands-on time with countless other models while covering the CES trade show, attending events, and visiting stores. I’ve reviewed most gaming laptops—both budget and high-end—released in the past six years, and I’ve spent thousands of hours gaming on laptops since high school.
Still, unless you're attempting to become a professional gamer or get ranked globally in a particular popular title, a 60Hz screen will suffice. Nearly all gamers are still "stuck" with 60Hz displays, after all. High-refresh panels aren't common in budget machines, but they are worth knowing about, as we expect them to trickle down into under-$1,000 machines soon.
I bought this to replace a three button mouse. I wanted some buttons on the side for gaming. Every button has a nice crisp feel and works. I know that shouldn't have to be something you say but I have run into other mice that have had issues right out of the box. The scroll wheel feels very smooth. So far there are no issues. The RGB lighting is a nice effect. The mouse is nice and full size. There in lies my only "complaint", when I grab the mouse with my whole hand so that my palm is resting on the mouse in order to reach the back two buttons on the side, 6 and 8 I have to remove most of my hand from the mouse. To remedy this I simply do not completely grab the mouse. this is not uncomfortable and the more I use it the ... full review
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.)
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.
The dominant player in the field right now is Nvidia, which produces discrete mobile GPUs based on its 10-Series Pascal microarchitecture. These mobile chips offer performance close to what you could expect from a desktop-PC graphics card equipped with the same-named GPU. It's worth noting that Nvidia launched desktop cards with its newest architecture, Turing, in September. These cards, with a fresh "RTX" moniker, are expected to make their way to laptops at the end of this year or early next year. For now, though, Pascal still rools the roost. Nvidia's chief rival, AMD, sees far fewer laptops use its graphics technology. A handful of laptops now offer AMD's latest Radeon RX cards, often as an alternative to an Nvidia-based SKU or, more rarely, alongside an Intel processor.
Although the lack of a dedicated graphics card will make running newer games challenging, the E5-575-33BM can run popular games such as Counter-Strike GO on medium to high settings with no problem. While many sub $500 laptops are still being offered with entry-level 1366 x 768 display panels, the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM comes with a Full-HD 1920 x 1080 display with respectable image quality. The 1000GB storage drive is sizable but low in comparison to modern solid state drives.
Right now, Nvidia graphics cards are found on the overwhelming majority of new gaming laptops. You’ll generally find laptop specific parts on machines launched in 2014 and 2015 (such as 950M, 960M etc), but from this year all Nvidia laptops get full desktop-level GPUs. This is because the company’s ‘Pascal’ architecture is so efficient it can squeeze into the same space as an old-style laptop GPU without needing extra cooling. Look out for 10-series cards such as the GTX 1050, GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080.
The storage and memory in the Y530 are upgradable, but it’s a pain in the butt to do so. In contrast to the Dell G7’s and G5’s convenient access panel held in by a single screw, the Y530’s design requires you to remove 11 screws and the entire bottom of the chassis to get inside. And although it’s possible to wedge a small flathead screwdriver into the seam, spudgers will likely make the job easier and reduce the risk of your gouging the laptop. Once inside, you can replace the M.2 PCIe drive or the 2.5-inch hard drive, or add another stick of RAM. The memory is hidden beneath a tiny metal house; our recommended config comes with one 8 GB DIMM and one open slot.
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.