We tested the laptops using BioShock Infinite’s benchmarking mode and by playing half an hour of The Witcher 3 on ultra with VSync off. We measured the laptops’ internal temperature using HWMonitor and measured the surface temperature at various points on the keyboard and underside using an IR thermometer. We tested each laptop’s screen using some of the Lagom LCD monitor test pages, and used each for several workdays to get a feel for its keyboard, trackpad, screen, and speakers.
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.
Matte or Glossy: How do you like your displays, glossy or matte? This is more a matter of preference than anything else, but there are die-hard fans for both camps. Team Glossy swears by the vibrant colors, but that shiny surface is very susceptible to annoying glare. Fans of a matte panel don't have to worry about distracting reflections, but some users complain about washed out color and detail.
Still, depending on the kind of games you play and how fussy you are, sometimes a laptop doesn't have to pretend. On some level, almost any recent notebook PC can work as a gaming laptop. Current laptops using Intel's 7th or 8th Generation ("Kaby Lake" or "Coffee Lake") Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, or AMD's less commonly seen A10 or A12 chips, can play basic game titles passably if you roll back the screen-resolution and graphical-detail settings far enough. These chips have modest graphics acceleration built in, and that's all you need for casual or Web-based games. Plants vs. Zombies, here you come.
The TUF comes in four different configurations that are similar to the Acer Nitro 5, but has a better keyboard that's cushy for long gaming sessions and Asus says is extra durable, lasting for up to 20 million key presses. However, we found the cheapest configuration's display disappointing with poor off-angle performance and at $699 with a GTX 1050, it was pricier than the Acer, too. Bumping up to its $899 configuration gets you a better display, a 1050Ti, dual storage drives and a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H.
Resolution: The minimum resolution for any gaming laptop is 1920 x 1080 — anything less and you're asking for muddy graphics. Laptops with QHD (2560 x 1440) or 4K (3840 x 2160) panels are becoming increasingly popular, praised for their striking details and color. There are some gamers that swear by 1366 x 768 because of the increased frame rates, but I implore you to love yourself more and aim a bit higher.
First of all, you have a quad-core Intel Core i7 7700HQ instead of a Core i5. This means those of you into streaming your gameplay have a leg up over the rest of the systems here. The standard 8GB of memory is present, though it is DDR3 and not DDR4. You also get dual drives -- a 128GB SSD + 1TB hybrid drive handles snappy OS duties and offers plenty of deep storage for games and video. Nvidia's GTX 1050 Ti is on board as well as an excellent Steelseries keyboard featuring red lighting. I've used this exact keyboard before and it's a joy to type and game on.
You should definitely consider a system with an SSD, since prices have fallen considerably over the past few years. SSDs speed up boot time, wake-from-sleep time, and the time it takes to launch a game and load a new level. Go ahead and get a gaming laptop with an SSD, but make sure you configure correctly. A small-capacity (128GB to 256GB) SSD with a roomy (1TB or greater) spinning hard drive is a good start if you also download the occasional video from the internet. (Only thicker gaming laptops will tend to support dual-drive arrangements like this.) Higher-capacity SSDs (512GB or more) are available, but choosing one will increase the purchase price of your gaming rig by a bunch. SSDs are very fast, but in terms of capacity, your money goes much further with hard drives.
The Precision Touchpad was responsive and worked well for standard gestures in our tests, but the G7, like its predecessors, lacks an easy way to disable the trackpad. Every other gaming laptop we’ve tested—except for the Dell G5 and Dell G3—has this feature because pressing the trackpad with your palm while gaming can cause accidental clicks and in-game deaths. We spent hours playing games on the G7 and found that the trackpad’s palm rejection was superb and didn’t cause any accidental clicks. (My hands run cold and rarely sweat, though, so your mileage may vary.) It’s possible (but inconvenient) to disable the trackpad by going into the Device Manager, selecting Human Interface Devices, right-clicking HID-compliant touch pad, and selecting Disable. (Dell, please add an easily accessible toggle to the next iteration.)
Budget systems usually reach their attractive prices not just through the balance of build quality and components, but also from bloatware. Having junk like Norton trials and eBay apps pre-installed translates to revenue in the PC maker's pocket, allowing them to hit aggressive prices. So, know going in that you may need to do some uninstalling once you've unboxed it and fired it up.
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.
If money is no object, set your sights on the Acer Predator 21 X (if you can find one!). The madman's ultimate gaming rig comes with a pair of GTX 1080 SLI graphics cards, 64GB of RAM, a 21" curved screen, and an integrated eye tracker. There's even three hard drives — a 1TB platter drive and dual 512GB SSDs. Even better, you'll get a full complement of Cherry MX Brown keyboard switches and a custom Pelican rolling case.
Lenovo dialed back the design on its latest gaming laptops to help them compete with Razer, but without the higher prices. The Legion Y530 starts at $750 with a GTX 1050 or $840 with a 1050Ti. Unfortunately, there currently isn't an option for a 6GB GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, but if you're willing to step back to its Y520 predecessor you can get one in that model for $1,099.
The Acer Nitro 5 Spin delivers solid multitasking power, good battery life, a comfortable keyboard and oodles of versatility thanks to its easily convertible design. A Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU means that you can play most games at low or medium settings. It's a solid choice for games looking for an affordable gaming system that does more than play games.