After spending more than 40 hours researching and testing 10 budget gaming laptops in late 2018, we found that the Dell G7 15 Gaming is the best one you can get. It’s an excellent value, and its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics card will play games on high to medium settings for years. It keeps its most-touched surfaces and components cool enough during long gaming sessions, and it has no dealbreaking flaws.
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.
After picking our hardware criteria, we scoured the websites of major gaming laptop manufacturers like Acer, Alienware, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, and Samsung. We also browsed boutique makers such as Clevo, Digital Storm, iBuypower, Origin PC, and Xotic PC, but few of those sell configurations that meet our hardware criteria and budget; selecting every component can get very expensive very fast, so customizing isn’t ideal for buyers on a tight budget.
The Razer Lancehead is perhaps the best gaming mouse for Macs, but, in fact, any Razer mouse should do just fine. Most Razer mice work just as well on Macs as they do on PCs. As such, the Lancehead — an ambidextrous mouse that's suitable for both single-player adventures and multiplayer competition — is a good choice for those who swear allegiance to Apple.
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!"
As an added bonus, the Predator 17 has hella ports: Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2, Thunderbolt 3, four USB 3.0, an SD card slot, jacks for headphones and a microphone, and a Kensington lock slot. And like most gaming laptops, this model is easy to upgrade: Two small screws and a panel stand between you and installing two more sticks of RAM. Our pick doesn’t have any open drive slots, but you can access the included hard drive and solid-state drives if you need to replace them.
If I was buying a gaming laptop I would buy one with a great screen and a fast CPU with an integrated GPU. Then buy one of those separate External Graphics Card Docks. You can put whatever GPU you wanted in there and could readily update your GPU. This would give you a great laptop for everyday use and when you thought you needed to game somewhere you could bring the External Graphics Card Dock.
We also liked that the laptop, despite its very thin 0.8 inches, features a lot of connectivity. You get two USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, a LAN jack, HDMI, plus a card reader. It's a great setup, leaving no modern ports left to be desired. Speaking of modern, the ASUS Metal also sports a very good anti-glare display, plus dual fan cooling to keep the laptop running smooth during gaming sessions.
Measuring 14.4 by 10.2 by 1 inches and weighing just 5.1 pounds, the Legion Y530 is one of the lightest and most compact gaming laptops we tested this year; it weighs more than a pound less than the Dell G7. The thin bezels surrounding the screen allow for a smaller laptop overall, and the Y530 is by far the most convenient model to slip into a bag and use on the go of all the options we considered. We also appreciate its all-black, understated design—no flashy colors, edgy angles, or ugly prints—and the comfortable matte-black material covering the palm rest.
Purists will argue that you need a PC to truly play games, especially if you're a fan of pushing the levels of graphics quality beyond the capabilities of a mobile phone or a mere gaming console. In this regard, the gaming desktop is still king, particularly when it comes to having the kind of components and horsepower needed to run 4K games smoothly and support virtual reality (VR) setups, such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. But if you want or need something you can tote around the house or over to your friend's place, we're here to help you choose the right gaming laptop.
As we noted earlier, 15.6 inches is the general size rule for most under-$1,000 gaming laptops. This size is a good compromise in ways that extend beyond cost. Sometimes, gaming on the biggest laptop screen possible—and with a few exotic exceptions, that's the 17-inch class—is the way to go. But if you've ever tried carrying one of these machines, or shopped for a laptop bag that can fit both it and its gigantic power adapter, you may have second thoughts. Most of these notebooks weigh eight pounds or more.
Best Portability (13 - 14 inches): If you're constantly on the move, you'll want to consider 13 or 14-inch laptops like the Razer Blade. Notebooks in this size range typically weigh under 5 pounds and tend to have longer battery lives with an average endurance of 7 hours and 38 minutes. However, 13 and 14-inch gaming laptops usually don't come with the most powerful CPU or GPU, because they just don't have enough space to dissipate all that heat.
The SteelSeries Sensei 310 is arguably the best gaming mouse for lefties, offering a comfortable design and intuitive thumb buttons, regardless of whether you game with your left or right hand. The Sensei 310's eight total buttons are highly customizable via SteelSeries' Engine 3 software, and the tweakable RGB backlighting is a nice added touch. Most importantly, the Sensei 310 is fast and responsive, making it easy to snipe enemies or command units no matter your dominant hand.
Gaming laptops can put a serious dent in your wallet, with some of the fancier models costing upward of $3,000. But who says that the right rig has to cost an arm, a leg and the soul of your firstborn? Fortunately for the fiscally conscious gamer, there are some sub-$1,000 notebooks that can run graphically taxing games like Destiny 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider at solid frame rates.