The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M might be from the previous generation of NVIDIA GPUs, but don’t let this fool you, it is still capable of running some of the best games from 2017 on medium to high settings. While it might feature an older GPU, the same can’t be said about its new seventh generation Intel Core i5-7200U processor. You also get 8GB of DDR4 RAM which offers better performance than the older DDR3 RAM used by older laptops.
$1,000 - $2,000: In this price range, there are still a few Core i5's hanging around, but the majority of the configurations will have quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU with 16GB of RAM and a 1080p display. Most notebooks will feature both an SSD and an HDD (with a bump from 5,400 to 7,200 rpm) and a Nvidia GTX 1060 or 1070 GPU with at least 6GB of VRAM. You can play most games on high and clear 60fps, but adding special effects can hamper the experience on 4K resolution.
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.
The Full-HD display is impressive for its price tag and the fact that you can set it to a maximum of 1920 x 1080 pixels makes it far more suited to streaming high definition media. The Acer Aspire E E5-575-53EJ also features an SSD storage drive, which will mean super fast Windows boot speeds and much faster application loading times than traditional storage drives. However, the installed SSD only features 256GB of storage space, which will fill up quickly if you intend on installing loads of games or if you have a larger media collection. You can upgrade the storage drive at home, however larger SSDs do come with larger price tags and you might instead want to consider a good external storage drive for your media files.
Frame rates aren't going to be fast enough for enjoyable play on high detail settings with newer graphically demanding games. In our tests, however, older games such as Bioshock Infinite were playable on high, as were popular online games such as Overwatch and Fortnite. Below are a couple of our favorites, but if you're a casual gamer keep an eye out for the MX150 elsewhere.
Gaming systems have higher-end components than run-of-the-mill consumer laptops, so their prices will be consequently higher, but the range across the category is huge: from under a grand to $5,000 and up. The best budget gaming laptops start at $800 and can go up to about $1,250. For that, you get a system that can play games at 1,366-by-768 resolution on high graphics quality settings, or at a full HD (1080p) resolution with the details turned down some. Storage may be a hard drive, or a modest-capacity solid-state drive (SSD).
That said, a maxed-out Core i7 CPU is less crucial for gaming than it is for processor-intensive tasks such as video editing and media-file production work. With current-generation Intel CPUs, you'll get plenty of pep even from a four-core "Coffee Lake"/8th Generation Core i5. A Core i7 of the same generation is actually a hefty six-core/12-thread processor that, we'd argue, is overkill for casual gamers who need to mind what they spend. So, our bottom line: Opt for a Core i5 or i7 chip with four true cores if you can; a six-core chip is gravy.
But if you want to play new games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on ultra settings, you’re better off with a desktop or a gaming laptop with more powerful graphics. A $1,200 desktop is much more powerful, and you can easily upgrade it in the future. And if you opt for a higher-end gaming laptop, you’ll be able to crank up those graphics settings for years—rather than months—to come.
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 we used each of the finalists for several workdays to get a feel for the keyboard, trackpad, screen, and speakers.
This price range has some reliable standards. You'll get a 15-inch 1920 x 1080 display (in many cases a crisp IPS one), an Intel Core-5 CPU, a 1TB hard drive, medium- sized SSD, or a hybrid 1TB drive. Graphics card choices will be mostly limited to an Nvidia GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti; the latter represents a 15 to 20 percent performance uplift over Nvidia's entry-level GTX 1050 and AMD's Radeon RX 560. It's worth the extra money if you're willing to spend it. All GTX 1050 Ti cards also includes a satisfactory 4GB of VRAM versus the normal 2GB present in most GTX 1050s.
The Full-HD display offers vibrant colors and sharp details for casual gaming and multimedia. While many laptops under $500 feature a lower resolution display, the HP 15-ay011nr boasts a maximum resolution of 1920×1080. Ample storage space is offered by the 1TB mechanical hard drive, but due to its price users will have to make do with the slower 5400rpm drive speed, But the hard drive can easily be swapped out for a solid state drive or a 7200rpm mechanical drive.
The Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM 15.6-inch has been a top recommendation in this guide for some time. The Aspire E 15 E5-576-392H is a new addition their budget family, and packs even more of a punch at an even lower price tag. While it features the same Intel HD Graphics 620, it features the newest 8th Generation Intel Core i3-8130U dual-core processor that runs alongside a decent 6GB of RAM.
Dell has a couple of (more or less) entry-level product lines: the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (which is equipped with a GeForce GTX1050 graphics chip) and the more recent G3 (17″) and G5 (15″) which incorporate a GeForce GTX 1050, 1050 Ti or 1060 Max-Q graphics chip. One high-end G5 model is equipped with a 4K display. LaptopMag’s test highlights this computer’s good design, good-quality audio, good upgradability, and good overall performance. However, the poor performance of this computer’s display cast something of a cloud over its positive characteristics.
In the process of writing this buyer’s guide, we began by searching for manufacturers that offer one or more gaming laptop product lines. Next, we selected the computers that have the best price-performance ratio (based on tests conducted by a number of online websites such as Tom’s Hardware and LaptopMag). Finally, we organized these computers by brand: Acer, Asus, Dell, Gigabyte, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.
I have big hands (though I am a lady), so I am always looking for a comfortable mouse. For the past few years, I have used an expensive Logitech Performance MX. I was growing tired of having to recharge it every 2-3, and when the scroll function began misfiring, I went in search of something as comfortable, but cheaper and not quite so high-maintenance. Even though I am not a gamer, I gave this mouse a try and was majorly disappointed when I could not get my computer to fully accept this plug-and-play for some reason. Everything but the cursor worked. Otherwise, I loved the feel of this mouse in my hands and its other features. I spent literally HOURS trying to get this mouse to work and finally looked up an e-mail address for Afunta customer service. All I had to do was send a copy of my Amazon ... full review
In a gaming laptop, an SSD plus a hard drive is the best of both storage worlds. In terms of gaming performance, the storage subsystem affects game load times and in-game level changes. It can be of special importance in MMORPGs, where huge environments are loaded in real time. Thus, having at least some fast, SSD-based storage is desirable. To our eyes, you should only opt for an SSD boot drive at this point in time. The difference in performance "feel" between a hard drive and an SSD boot drive is too big to ignore. (See our picks for the fastest SSDs.)
Although priced higher than our under $500 recommendations, the NVIDIA Geforce MX150 and 940MX dedicated graphics cards found in the best $600 gaming laptops on the market deliver up to 4 x better performance over the integrated graphics found on most cheaper laptops in this guide. If you plan on playing newer games we strongly recommend you invest in a laptop with a dedicated graphics card. See our sub-$1000 priced gaming laptop guide for more options.
Several of the cheap gaming laptops we tested in 2018 couldn’t keep their WASD keys cool enough for comfortable gameplay. Note: We tested the Dell G5 with a GTX 1050 Ti, but we recommend the GTX 1060 Max-Q configuration. We confirmed with Dell that the G7 and G5 have identical fan and heatsink setups when configured with the same graphics processor.
And thanks to Nvidia's 1050 Ti GPUs, you can hook up an Oculus Rift and jump into the virtual realm. However, some companies like Dell and Gigabyte are outfitting their rigs with Nvidia GTX 1060 Max-Q GPUs so fans of the HTC Vive can also get in on the fun. Or if you're not ready to make such a big financial or space commitment, you can hook up one of Microsoft's new MR headsets like the Acer Windows Mixed Reality AH101 headset, which has the added bonus of working with either discrete or integrated graphics. Best of all, you can use all that money you just saved to splurge on a top-notching gaming keyboard or mouse.