If an SSD is out of your budget, we highly recommend purchasing, at least, a 1TB hard drive with a 7,200-rpm speed. However, instead of an either/or situation, we recommend choosing a configuration that has both an SSD and a hard drive. That way you can load your games and important files on the speedy SSD and have plenty of room left for everything else.
G-Sync or FreeSync: Several gaming laptops come with panels that support Nvidia's G-Sync or AMD's FreeSync technologies, both of which are designed to eliminate unsightly graphical tears and ghosting 0n monitors ranging from 1080p to 4K. While 60Hz is the current minimum refresh rate, there are an increasing number of monitors that offer 120Hz, which offers even faster rendering without introducing stutter.
RAM: Gaming can be RAM intensive, and 8GB is what we recommend for even average productivity tasks. If you can, you should go for 16GB on a gaming PC. A laptop with a GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti usually comes with 8GB. Once you get to a GTX 1060 or higher, some will come with 16GB of RAM. If you can’t get your laptop with 16GB of RAM now, consider upgrading it in the near future. Memory is upgradeable in many gaming laptops, so this is an area that you can consider boosting later if you’re handy with a screwdriver.
In our chart at the top of this article and in our list below, we've mapped out our top-rated models to investigate. Note that a few of the configurations sent to us for testing were a bit above $1,000; some remain so, while others have fallen below the one-grand line since. Also, note that most of these models are a single version of a machine in a varied line. So use the linked reviews as guidelines, not absolutes, when assessing each laptop family. You may not get quite the level of performance we did, if key components were downgraded in the march below $1,000. But you should get a solid idea of the laptops' screen, build, and input quality from our reviews.
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.
If you’re using your laptop to play games, you need to keep your laptop plugged in to get the full performance out of your GPU. And if you don’t, you’ll be lucky if your laptop lasts an hour gaming. In our testing experience, most gaming laptops last only a few hours on a charge when performing other tasks, but never as long as ultraportables without discrete GPUs. If you need something to last 8 hours while you work, it won’t be a gaming notebook.
Storage: Hard drive or SSD? Why not both? Some budget gaming laptops will come with only a hard drive (usually 1TB), but the majority of gaming notebooks also include a small SSD to serve as a boot drive. It’s not uncommon to see a 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD working in tandem. If you can get a larger SSD you may see decreased loading times, but that will also cost you quite a bit more money. Make sure you get a faster, 7,200-rpm HDD as opposed to a 5,400-rpm HDD.
The processor is the heart of a PC, and in many current gaming laptops you'll find a quad-core 7th Generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU based on the Kaby Lake chipset. Intel's new 8th-generation "Coffee Lake" CPUs launched a few months back in laptops, however, so you can expect them to become the norm going forward. Many of the Coffee Lake chips you'll see in gaming laptops include two more cores (six, instead of four), bringing more overall speed and much-improved performance on multithreaded tasks, but the upside for gaming is relatively minimal.
With that out of the way, that doesn’t mean that gaming mice are just gimmicky because they are not. Thanks to their high DPI, programmable buttons, customizable macros, and a lot of other features that are suitable for gamers. That’s why the market is so saturated with gaming mice, there are just too many options for the average gamer to choose from, and while it is certainly a good thing, it also makes a customer really, really confused.
Corsair didn’t just release a product range suited for every budget oriented, as well as well high-end gamers, but they made sure that all the products don’t share a drastic difference between the price they have and the features they give. That means that whether you are buying their mid-high range K70, or their enthusiast range K95, you won’t be sacrificing on the features a lot. That is something really good, and something a lot of other companies don’t follow.
The Precision Touchpad was responsive for us, and although it felt small at first, we quickly adjusted. Unlike with most laptops nowadays, the Y530’s trackpad has dedicated left- and right-click buttons. Those buttons are noisy in a quiet room or a library, but tap to click is both effective and silent. Lenovo’s included Vantage software automatically disables the trackpad and Windows key when you launch a game with a mouse connected. (You can disable this setting.) This is a nice touch for gaming, though it didn’t work every time we launched a game.
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.
Unfortunately, like a lot of gaming mouse out there, the Pro is a great starter pick, but doesn't have any overt strengths. It won't let you down, but it isn't specialized for a particular genre of game, nor is it particularly reliable-feeling or weighty and durable. Even still, if you just want something simple to get started, this is a good choice.
John is PCMag's executive editor for hardware. A veteran of the popular tech site and magazine Computer Shopper from 1993 to 2017, he has covered just about every kind of computer gear—from the 386SX to 18-core processors—in his long tenure as an editor, a writer, and an advice columnist. He served as Computer Shopper’s editor in chief from 2008 to... See Full Bio
Though, as with most budget laptops, you will get a slower 5400rpm hard drive. However, seeing as more and more of us are moving over to digital copies of our games it makes sense to remove the DVD drive and replace it with a HDD caddy and a good SDD. This will allow you to reap all the major benefits that an SSD offers for gaming and day-to-day use.
The entry-level TUF Gaming FX computers (which have recently replaced the old FX product line) have the particularity of being available in four different configurations; each configuration features a rather sober-looking chassis and a display operating at a frequency of up to 120 Hz. Laptopmag’s test confirms the good performance characteristics of this computer and the good quality of its speakers which deliver powerful, high-def sound. However, it also mentions its disappointment with this computer’s display (a 60 Hz model) as well as with the performance of its SSHD.
The Predator Helios 300 boasts a rather aggressive exterior, replete with red highlights and conspicuous geometric details. And much like the MSI GV62, the keyboard comes with a red LED backlight. This clearly establishes its identity as a gaming laptop at the very first glance, though what’s under the hood doesn’t disappoint either – and we should hope so, considering the price tag.
Resolution: The minimum resolution for any gaming laptop is 1920 x 1080 — anything less and you're asking for muddy graphics. Laptops with QHD (2560 x 1440) or 4K (3840 x 2160) panels are becoming increasingly popular, praised for their striking details and color. There are some gamers that swear by 1366 x 768 because of the increased frame rates, but I implore you to love yourself more and aim a bit higher.
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.
You can be disappointed if you presumed that Kaby Lake made big improvements. While benchmarking the new chip of Kaby Lake has shown nothing breathtaking. The next in line Skylake, packed with the same clocks, runs ahead by a mere couple of percentages. Showing speed improvement of 3%, the Core i7-7820HK is only a bit faster that Core i7-6820HK, which is shown when conducting Cinebench R15 and Cinebench R11.5 at 4.0 GHz
Powerful hardware isn’t the only consideration. A gaming laptop’s processor and graphics card produce a lot of heat, and if the laptop doesn’t have an effective cooling system, it can overheat. The laptop also needs a good keyboard and solid build quality. Even though Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 can run games on high settings at 4K resolution, we still recommend 1080p displays because 4K screens are currently too expensive for most of our readers.
It is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 quad-core processor clocked at 2.0 GHz and is paired with a 8GB of RAM. Storage department is handled by a massive 1TB of HDD which offers ample space to store all your games and other data. It doesn’t have a backlit enabled keyboard, but it does come with dedicated number pad and generously-spaced keys for comfortable typing experience.
The sound is just as important as the visuals when it comes to gaming. Yes, you probably have a headset that you'll use most of the time. But sometimes you just want to let your laptop's speakers work. The MSI-exclusive, Nahimic audio software is one of our favorites since it offers some of the best surround sound in both headphones and speakers. It also provides several handy presets, Bass Boost and Voice Clarification software. Alienware's Dell Audio software is a close second, while Dolby Home Theater v4, available in Lenovo notebooks, rounds out our top three.
Looking for something more bleeding edge? A new version of the Razer Blade just came out. It features an 8th gen Intel Core i7 processor, and starts at $1,900. In its review of the 2018 Razer Blade, CNET gave the machine an 8.6 overall, bemoaning its high price but saying this rig "moves the bar on slim gaming laptops, with better hardware and a bigger screen."
Most people are familiar with the fact that many gaming laptops are not able to operate for very long on battery power due to their high-performance characteristics. In practical terms, computers such as the MSI GT75 Titan and the Asus ROG Zephyrus only have a battery autonomy of two to three hours…if at all! In fact, the measurements performed on these computers by the Laptopmag website were conducted using them to surf the internet via a WiFi connection. When these computers are used for gaming, their already low battery autonomy is further reduced (by half). Therefore, a connection to mains power is indispensable for these particular gaming laptops.
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