Because they usually require dual GPUs for the smoothest gameplay at native resolution, 4K gaming laptops are still the exception, and still expensive. And keep this in mind: Only the most powerful graphics cards can render complex game animations at playable frame rates across the full screen at 4K, so a 1080p screen may actually be a better use of your money if all you do is play games.
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.
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.
OLED: Described as the future of display, an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) panel is comprised of a film of organic compounds that produce light when an electric current is introduced. The technology allows for thinner, more power-efficient panels that deliver incredibly rich color and contrast. The Alienware 13 R3 OLED is currently the only laptop to feature this technology.
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.
If you’re using your laptop to play games, you need to keep your laptop plugged in to get the full performance out of your GPU. And if you don’t, you’ll be lucky if your laptop lasts an hour gaming. In our testing experience, most gaming laptops last only a few hours on a charge when performing other tasks, but never as long as ultraportables without discrete GPUs. If you need something to last 8 hours while you work, it won’t be a gaming notebook.
If you want our top recommendation, it's the Razer Mamba Tournament Edition (available at Amazon). This mouse strikes a perfect value stance between price and pedigree, delivering professional polish for a very attractive price. We tested a dozen of the top-selling and top-rated mice from leading gaming brands, and while the Mamba Tournament Edition doesn't deliver the most buttons nor the widest feature set, it's the sturdiest, sleekest, and best-feeling pick in the bunch.
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.
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.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060: Laptops with 1060 cards can play taxing games like Mass Effect: Andromeda or Witcher 3 without sacrificing some of the cooler visual eye candy, including water reflections and natural-looking hair at 1920 x 1080. You might have to tweak the settings a bit at 4K, but not too much. Even better, you can hook up your Rift or Vive headset up for a mobile plug-and-play VR experience.
Target enemies faster with this Razer DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse. Its 16,000 dpi optical sensor provides faster moving speeds, letting you move at different angles with more accuracy, and the customizable Chroma lighting settings let you choose the right color to suit your gaming situation. Battle enemies in comfort with the ergonomic shape and rubber grips of this Razer DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse.
One of the typical features that sets apart a gaming laptop is a colorful, backlit keyboard. These vary quite a bit from model to model, with more elaborate backlighting going hand-in-hand with higher prices and a higher general level of other components. Almost all budget gaming laptops will employ single-color backlighting (most often, red or white) to keep costs down. The next step up is lighting programmable by zone, with three or four blocks of the keyboard independently customizable in different colors, but this is not common in budget machines. Keyboards with per-key, individually programmable lighting are the province of high-end machines only.
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
More important to look for is a suitable resolution range, measured in dots per inch (dpi), that allows for fine-grained (low dpi) and wide-sweep (high dpi) tracking. Just as crucial is a button or toggle that lets you adjust the setting easily on the fly—as opposed to only in software. Mouse resolution is mostly a marketing numbers game; you would use extreme dpi settings in the five-figure range only if you have one or more very high-pixel-count displays, such as 4K monitors, to mouse across. So don't put a whole lot of stock, say, in a 10,000dpi maximum setting versus a 12,000dpi one. Either will serve you well under most real-world circumstances.
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.
With the ability to game on the go, gaming laptops provide the most harmonious combination of hardware designed to work together to achieve optimal gaming performance. With so much choice, finding the best gaming laptop for you can be a daunting task. However, the best place to start is to decide on your budget and check the recommended specs required by the games you want to play.