You'll want to make sure you get the most graphics power you can afford from the start since this can't be upgraded later, unlike memory or storage. If you're on a strict budget, go with one of Nvidia's Geforce GTX 1050 or 1050Ti graphics cards, which will give you good performance on newer games at medium or high settings with prices starting down around $600. If you can afford to spend closer to $1,000, you'll be better off in the long run getting a laptop with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max Q with 6GB of memory.
Below we've sketched out what GPU and other specs you need in a cheap gaming laptop that will run games at surprisingly decent frame rates for at least a couple years. (Without breaking the bank, of course) The bottom line? Dell's last-generation Inspiron 15 7000 will run most current-gen games on low-med settings at 40-60 FPS (See it on Amazon) / (See it on Amazon UK), It's a great pick for a casual gaming + daily driving laptop. Read on for more!
VR and the Highest Settings: A GTX 1070 will let you play through just about anything on high settings, while the GTX 1080 is the most powerful card out there for laptops right now and will allow for smoother VR and special effects. These are the cards that will let you start pumping up effects like Nvidia Gameworks. Laptops in this range can start in the high $1,000 dollar range, and, depending on what other specs you need, go over $3,000.
And for those who have heard about Nvidia’s headline-grabbing “Turing” RTX graphics cards, the bad news is that the company hasn’t yet released any mobile versions of cards like the RTX 2080 and RTX 2070. For now you’ll have to stick with 10-series graphics options, though we do expect to see 20-series laptops in (hopefully early) 2019. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a deal on a current-generation gaming laptop, keep an eye on our Best Tech Deals page. As new Nvidia laptops get closer to reality, the prices of existing models are sure to fall.
Mice aimed at first-person shooters, for one, tend to feature ratcheting scroll wheels—letting you cycle through your arsenal without selecting the wrong weapon—and on-the-fly resolution switchers. The latter will help you snap-change between the broad tracking you need in a frantic shootout and the tight control for lining up a sniper shot. (Sometimes this feature is dubbed something like "sniper mode," and it may involve a dedicated button for getting granular.)
The Precision Touchpad was responsive for us, and although it felt small at first, we quickly adjusted. Unlike with most laptops nowadays, the Y530’s trackpad has dedicated left- and right-click buttons. Those buttons are noisy in a quiet room or a library, but tap to click is both effective and silent. Lenovo’s included Vantage software automatically disables the trackpad and Windows key when you launch a game with a mouse connected. (You can disable this setting.) This is a nice touch for gaming, though it didn’t work every time we launched a game.
John is PCMag's executive editor for hardware. A veteran of the popular tech site and magazine Computer Shopper from 1993 to 2017, he has covered just about every kind of computer gear—from the 386SX to 18-core processors—in his long tenure as an editor, a writer, and an advice columnist. He served as Computer Shopper’s editor in chief from 2008 to... See Full Bio
With a sleek, ergonomic design, three convenient thumb buttons and gorgeous RGB options, the SteelSeries Rival 600 provides everything you need to excel at an RTS or MOBA, and nothing you don't. You can use the mouse as-is out of the box, or tweak the options with the robust SteelSeries Engine software. The Rival 600 earns its accolades as our best RTS/MOBA mouse.
The mouse, as the name suggest, does come with the RGB lighting that can be conveniently controlled through the Corsair’s customization software. The software itself is easy to use, although, it may require some learning curve, but that’s okay. You obviously get buttons to adjust the DPI to your liking, some customizable buttons, as well as a very, very handy weight tuning system that allows you remove some of the weights and put them away in order to make the mouse lighter. Now in case you are wondering, a lighter mouse means your hand will have an easier time gliding it, something a lot of FPS gamers are looking for.
In an effort to produce sleeker, more portable gaming laptops, Nvidia launched an initiative in 2017 named Max-Q, a term borrowed from the aeronautics industry. In that scenario, it describes the maximum amount of aerodynamic stress an aircraft can sustain. Here, it refers to a combination of hardware and software modifications that allow higher-end graphics cards to fit into thinner chassis than traditionally possible. By limiting the power ceiling of cards like the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070, less heat is produced, meaning less room is needed for cooling and heat dissipation.
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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.
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.
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.
Under $1,000: While you might see a few notebooks with Intel Core i5 processors at this price range, there are plenty with 7th-generation Intel Core i7 CPUs and at least 8GB of RAM. Display-wise you can expect a 1080p display with average color reproduction, accuracy and brightness. Now that SSDs are becoming more commonplace, you can get a solid SSD at below $1,000. However, it's unlikely that it'll be a slower configuration instead of a high-speed PCIe device. Your rig will probably be outfitted with 1TB HDD (usually 5,400-rpm) and a Nvidia GeForce 1050 or 1050 Ti GPU with between 2-4 GB of VRAM. A laptop with these specs can play most titles at a solid frame rate at medium settings, but you can expect some trouble at higher configurations. (See our favorite sub-$1,000 gaming laptops here.)
Ranging at a price just round $1200, the ASUS FX502VM 15.6″ Gaming Laptop is so far our best choice, if you are looking for a high powered, yet not very costly gaming machine. Besides, you cannot find many laptops made for the gaming community at its price range. Not being as high-powered as the ASUS’s prime ROG series, or the MSI’s dominators, this laptop offers efficiency, reliability and full round performances.
You can also get a sweet deal by going back in time and looking at laptops with previous-gen CPUs, as they are usually available at fire sale prices and there's not a huge difference in performance between Skylake and Kaby Lake for gaming. You won't be quite as future-proof, but you'll still get several years of great 1080p gaming at a low price. Let's dive into the top picks a cheap gaming laptop:
If you want AAA performance and have a little money to spend, consider the (now previous-gen) $1,800 Razer Blade, which brings the literal heat — as in, consider a cooling pad. With an Intel Core i7-7700HQ and 16GB of RAM, and at just over 4 pounds, it's less than half the weight of the Alienware 17 R5. The downside: Razer's unsubtle snake logo screams, "I'm not doing work!"
Processors are the next biggest difference. You'll likely get a capable Core i5 instead of a faster Core i7. Still, some of the benefits of an i7 machine aren't a major factor for gaming, but instead benefit video editing and other creative uses, so an i5 will do the job. The newest generation of these chips are fast and efficient at a base level, and won't be too much of a bottleneck for gaming. On the AMD side of the fence, in the rare gaming laptops you'll find based wholly on AMD core technology, gamers will see mostly graphics solutions based on the now-aging Radeon RX 560, RX 570, and RX 580 paired with one of several AMD FX or Ryzen CPUs. Outside of the graphics card and processor, the other components should actually be closer to more expensive machines than you'd expect.
Most gaming laptops have a “chicklety” keyboard. If you can’t stand this type of keyboard, your only real alternative is to connect a better-quality external model. However, if you only ever use your keyboard for pressing the ZQSD keys, its quality will not really be an important factor. The same can be said about a computer’s trackpad which can always be replaced with an external mouse for greater in-game accuracy.
The graphics card is the heart of your gaming experience and is one of the first and foremost things that you need to check out. If you intend to play high-end games at maximum resolution, then choosing a gaming laptop with a powerful graphics card is a necessity. If you don’t need top-of-the-line performance, an entry-level GPU will do the trick. It all comes down to personal preference and the type of games that you would be playing on your laptop. High-end games such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Watch Dogs 2, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Assassin's Creed: Origins, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Battlefield 1 require an advanced and powerful graphics card to play them at maxed-out settings. It helps the laptop handle the intense frame-rate and rendering that such advanced games require. Game makers are constantly coming up with games that are better than the ones that came earlier. With the level of video games’ graphics constantly on the rise, it is essential to get a laptop with a good graphics card to make your games run seamlessly.