$3,000 or more: This is where things get crazy. With this kind of budget you can get a high-res display, custom paint job, up to four SSDs in RAID configuration and a maximum of 64GB of RAM from manufacturers like OriginPC and Maingear. Depending on the notebook, you can get two 1080 GPUs in SLI configuration with each card sporting 8GB of VRAM. Not only can you play any game without worry of low frame rates, you can use VR headsets like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive.
Solid-state drive: A solid-state drive speeds up boot times and reduces loading times in games, so all of our recommendations have SSDs. Some gaming laptops in this price range have 1 TB of hard drive storage and no SSD, but in those cases we recommend adding one yourself. We prefer at least a 250 GB solid-state drive because 128 GB won’t hold more than your operating system and a couple of games.
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HP launched this updated Pavilion line in April to make a play for those who are maybe interested in gaming, but not willing to go all-in on a laptop from the PC maker's Omen brand. We haven't seen it in person yet, but HP's direct pricing is on par with the competition here. The entry-level configuration is skippable at $680, but you can configure it for $750 with a Core i5-8300H processor and a GeForce GTX 1050Ti or a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor and a 3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 for $920.
HyperX's Pulsefire FPS wants to be the go-to gaming mouse for FPS titles, as you might have guessed from the name. For $50, you're getting a razor-focused gaming mouse that boasts a Pixart 3310 sensor and the standard—but very welcome—four DPI settings, switchable via a central button. The Pulsefire FPS naturally pairs with the HyperX Alloy FPS gaming keyboard, with both featuring handsome, red-and-black wrapped cables.
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.
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
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.
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That's because the Asus ROG Strix GL502 comes packing a brilliant and vibrant 1,920 x 1,080 IPS screen and then pairs it with some superb, top-tier gaming hardware. An Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, along with 16GB of DDR4 RAM makes short work of any title at that resolution (and often consistently surpass 60fps!) and makes playing games a totally stress-free experience in terms of performance.
For many years, the speakers built into gaming laptops did not provide sufficiently good audio quality to take full advantage of a video game’s sound effects and in-game music. Nowadays, some gaming laptops integrate a very sophisticated audio system capable of offering advanced performance, deep bass tones, and adequate power (some examples include the Asus Rog Zephyrus and the MSI GS65 Stealth). For lower-end computers, there is always the possibility of connecting external Bluetooth/WiFi speakers or a good pair of headphones.
This big, loud, no-holds-barred system delivers a much different value proposition than most gaming laptops do. If you’re doing heavy-duty work that can take advantage of the desktop Core i7-8700K’s abundant threads and high clock rate, no other laptop we’ve tested is even in the same ballpark as Origin’s beast. If you want a best-in-class gaming experience that pushes frame rates as high as possible in a self-contained, portable (enough) form factor, the EON17-X can’t be beat. Jump on this notebook if you’re looking for a true high-end desktop replacement rather than a powerful laptop that lets you game on the road.
Powered by a Skylake Intel Core i5-6200U processor with Hyper-Threading and 8GB of RAM, the HP 15-ay011nr will cope with everyday tasks and casual gaming with ease. The new Skylake series features the newer and more powerful Intel HD Graphics 520 chipset that will offer users similar performance to the GeForce 820M from NVIDIA. This means users will be able to run some newer gaming titles with acceptable frame rates on lower settings while older and classic titles will run on higher settings. The GPU relies on shared memory and while the 8GB of RAM is adequate, we recommend upgrading to 12GB or 16GB of RAM to maximize the performance.
The Lenovo Legion Y530 is the Porsche of budget gaming laptops. Its minimalist design and blackout color scheme give it a suave look you'd associate with tuxedo-clad, big-screen villains. Outside of its stately good looks, you get a gaming notebook that offers a wide range of ports and a solid graphics card. It's a very good choice for casual gamers who want a sub-$1,000 laptop with a button-up design that can blend in -- and even impress -- no matter the setting.