Some features that are must-haves in non-gaming laptops aren’t quite as important here. Poor speakers can be bypassed with a good pair of headphones, and most people use a mouse instead of the trackpad while gaming. Battery life and portability have never been the strong suits of gaming laptops, which spend most of their lives plugged in and stationary.
That said, notebooks aren't upgradable, apart from their primary system memory (RAM, not to be confused with the graphics memory) and in some cases, the storage. You're going to be stuck with the screen, the graphics chip, and the processor you buy now, so evaluate these parts wisely. If you can stretch your budget a bit to get the next-tier-higher component, it can pay dividends in terms of usable life.
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.
If you want our top recommendation, it's the Razer Mamba Tournament Edition (available at Amazon). This mouse strikes a perfect value stance between price and pedigree, delivering professional polish for a very attractive price. We tested a dozen of the top-selling and top-rated mice from leading gaming brands, and while the Mamba Tournament Edition doesn't deliver the most buttons nor the widest feature set, it's the sturdiest, sleekest, and best-feeling pick in the bunch.
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.
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.
There are also advanced features you won't find in a regular mouse. Look for additional buttons that can be programmed for specific PC games. Many gaming mice — both optical and laser — offer multiple DPI (dots per inch) settings to control the sensitivity, and some of them even allow you to adjust the DPI on the fly, so you can switch between settings without pausing your gameplay. And not only are these models the coolest mice when it comes to their standard look, a growing number of gaming mice boast RGB lighting for customizable effects in millions of colors.
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.)
The Legion Y530 has plenty of ports, but they’re placed unconventionally. It has one USB 3.0 Type-A port and a headphone/microphone combo jack on the left side, and one USB 3.0 Type-A port on the right side. At the back, the Y530 has a USB-C port that can carry data and a video signal but can’t charge the laptop; there you’ll also find one Mini DisplayPort 1.4 port, a third USB 3.0 Type-A port, an HDMI 2.0 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a charging port, and a Kensington Lock slot. Lenovo includes a one-year limited warranty.
Cheaper gaming systems today are equipped with lower-tier cards like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, or GTX 1060, but these modern budget cards are surprisingly effective. You'll be able to play smoothly in HD, just not at the very highest settings in newer games. These may be budget systems, but this generation of entry-level graphics chips is fairly capable, so don't be too worried that you won't be able to play most games moderately well. Virtual-reality gaming may be a stretch in this price range, but the GTX 1060 is the least expensive VR-capable card, so some laptops at the higher end of this price range will (just) get you in the door.
Performance is excellent; the quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ is a great chip not only for gaming, but for video editing as well, while the GTX 1060 graphics hardware is more than good enough for the latest games at High settings in Full HD. Round that off with a bit of old-school design charm and an excellent keyboard, and you have a very attractive machine.
Its 15.6-inch 1920x1080 full-HD display has a 160-degree viewing angle, which is a little less than some of its competitors, but nothing to scoff at. Compared to the rest of our picks, the FX502 and the Predator (more on it in a minute) are the only two devices to feature an i7 and a GTX 1060 in one package, so they're the best for 60fps 1080p gaming with details maxed.
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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.
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.)
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The HyperX Pulsefire FPS Pro has everything an enterprising first-person shooter gamer needs. A coarse, textured grip will keep your hand right where it needs to be, while a smart button layout will put a few extra commands at your fingertips. Even the software is fairly easy to use, letting you customize attractive lighting patterns or adjust the high-quality sensor's DPI range. Compared to similar gaming mice, the Pulsefire FPS Pro doesn't cost much, either, making it the best FPS gaming mouse for those who are just getting into the multiplayer scene.
However, this is still a budget gaming laptop, and affordability is its greatest strength. The MX150 is an amazing solution if you’re mainly into eSports games, but it will inevitably struggle with newer, more demanding games. Needless to say, if eSports and indie games are your primary focus and/or you’re fine with dropping the settings in AAA games, you won’t find a gaming laptop better than this one.
IMO the Roccat Kone is a great mouse. Comes with weights to make it heavier if you don’t like how it feels, the XTD version comes with OLED strips on it that are customisable to 4 different colours (two on each strip one top one bottom on both sides that blend together in the middle) and they have just released the LEADR which is the wireless version.
The G3 15 has its downsides, including a Full-HD display that isn’t as bright as we’d like, frame rates that struggle to reach 60 fps on top-tier games, and a weight exceeding five pounds (although it’s not as massive as some gaming laptops). But when we compared it to the Acer Nitro 5, another budget gaming laptop we like, with an even lower price point, there was no contest. The G3 15 posted stronger benchmarks and battery life. In particular, its GTX 1050 Ti graphics showed the limitations of the Nitro 5's mere GTX 1050. Nothing wrong with the Nitro 5, but if you can afford the G3 15 we tested, it's the better choice. Read our full review.
For increased comfort, some gaming mice allow you to customize their actual bodies to your hand. Removable weights, often resembling small steel pills, are common in better gaming mice. Adding or removing these weights from slots inside the mouse body will shift the overall feel and the amount of drag. Some models take this even further, letting you adjust the center of balance, or change the height and pitch of the palm rest.
Looking to buy a new laptop for yourself or that someone special on your list this holiday season? After an October packed with fresh new device reveals from Google, Microsoft, and Apple, and other major companies, now is the perfect time to head to the shops. There are plenty of good sales on MacBooks, gaming laptops, sleek and light Windows 2-in-1s, Surface devices, and more for Cyber Monday.
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.
OLED: Described as the future of display, an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) panel is comprised of a film of organic compounds that produce light when an electric current is introduced. The technology allows for thinner, more power-efficient panels that deliver incredibly rich color and contrast. The Alienware 13 R3 OLED is currently the only laptop to feature this technology.
The key thing here is to know what you're getting, and to make sure you have the appropriate port free (or that you have Bluetooth support). If you opt for a cabled mouse, don't forget to check the cable length. Is it long enough to reach from a PC tower on the floor to your desk? Is it six feet long, but only needs to run from your mouse pad to the laptop beside it? Also look at the cable itself. A braided nylon or cloth cover is more durable than a standard rubber coating.
Updated Nov. 25 at 5:45 a.m. ET: You can snag some inexpensive gaming laptops for great prices through Cyber Monday. The Lenovo Legion Y530 is on sale for $100 off from Best Buy, while the 15.6-inch Dell G3 can be had for $649 from Walmart — a savings of $350. The Dell G5 is also on sale for $899 from Walmart ($400 off!) A sale at eBay knocks the MSI GL63 down to $969, for a savings of $229. Check out our Cyber Monday hub for more fantastic deals.