Next in the low-cost gaming segment is the Dell G3 Series 15. It's currently on sale for $699 making it one of the lowest cost gaming notebooks. The $699 price also gives you a choice between a 1 TB HDD model, or a 256 GB SSD version, which lets you choose based on how large your gaming library is, whether to take a slower spinning drive with plenty of space, or a SSD for better system performance all the time, but you may have to add space later. The G3 Series 15 can be had with a Core i5-8300H on the base, or up to a Core i7-8750H. A Geforce GTX 1050 is the opening GPU, and Dell offers a GTX 1050 Ti on the higher end configurations. The display is a 1920x1080 IPS, and although it's not the best display around, the GTX 1050 should be able to drive it while gaming at reasonable frame rates.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080: This is the card to beat. During our testing, gaming laptops outfitted with a 1080 GPU routinely top the category average on high-end games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto V with the special effects settings and resolution turned all the way up. And of course, Nvidia 1080 can easily support all your virtual-reality adventures. Just be prepared to shell out a pretty penny, since 1080s are only found in high-end systems like the Razer Blade Pro or the Acer Predator 17X.
Theoretically, you may find a gaming laptop with an Intel Core i3 or one of AMD's CPUs installed, but those are uncommon: Systems with Intel Core i3 and comparable entry-level AMD processors are certainly capable of playing many games, but why limit yourself from square one? That said, if you have to make the choice between a high-end CPU and a high-end GPU, go for the graphics. For example, we'd recommend getting a Core i5 CPU over a Core i7 if the money saved could then go toward an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU instead of a GTX 1050. Spending the money on the GPU makes more sense than spending it on the CPU if gaming is your main concern.
If you'd rather spend your money on Humble Bundles than hardware, then you don't actually need a hardcore gaming laptop. Along the same lines, if you're looking for a Minecraft box for the kids, you don't need to spend the money attached to the phrase "gaming laptop." A machine with a discrete graphics card, an SSD, and 8GB of RAM should take care of you.
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.
To maximize your gaming PC setup, you may wish to carry the capability and style of your chosen mouse to your other gaming accessories. Gaming speakers will fill the room with sound, or you can look at wired or wireless gaming headsets for private yet intense audio. And if you've opted for RGB lighting, you can typically find gaming keyboards and gaming headsets with matching effects.
So far, the best Max-Q machines have been slim and much more travel-friendly than the average gaming laptop, while still allowing for gaming at 60fps or higher on high settings. There are, of course, tradeoffs: The Max-Q-tuned graphics cards are a bit less capable than the standard versions, pushing fewer frames per second while gaming. Also, these laptops tend to be a bit pricier. If you value portability and visual appeal, though, Max-Q is the most consistent method so far for relatively thin and light gaming laptops with top-tier power.
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.
However, more sophisticated gaming laptops remain much more expensive. Currently, the world’s most sophisticated gaming laptop is the Acer’s Predator 21X which, as its name would suggest, is equipped with a 21-inch Full HD (curved!) display which operates at a frequency of 120 Hz and is G-sync compatible. It also features dual GeForce GTX 1080 graphics chips. On Acer’s website, the Predator 21X retails for 9,999 dollars.
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.