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 G7 is super easy to upgrade—just remove one screw, pop off the bottom panel, and you have access to all the drive and memory slots. Our recommended configuration comes with an M.2 solid-state drive installed, a connector for a 2.5-inch SATA drive, and two RAM slots, both of which are occupied in our recommended config. Inside the laptop, Dell even includes friendly instructions for installing a hard drive and a reminder on top of the battery to remove it before working on any internal components. And the single screw stays attached to the access panel, so you couldn’t lose it if you tried.
The Lenovo Legion Y530 lasted 5 hours, 4 minutes in our Web-browsing battery test—about half an hour short of the Dell G7, Dell G5, and HP Pavilion 15t, but longer than any other contenders. That isn’t long enough for the Y530 to survive a full day of work or classes, but gaming laptops aren’t known for their battery life, and the Y530 is still one of the most portable options.
In case you are wondering why this list is being made, well that’s because the market is saturated right now, and every other company is releasing a gaming peripheral including keyboards, headsets, and mice. While it may seem like a walk in the park for hardcore consumers, for people who don’t have a lot of knowledge about these gaming peripherals, things can somewhat difficult.
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The laptop is powered by an 8th generation i7-8750H CPU that comes with a base clock speed of 2.2 GHz, although the turbo clock is a much more impressive 4.1 GHz. On the memory front, it combines an ample 16 GB of DDR4 RAM with a snappy 256 GB SSD. It is worth noting that there is also an empty 2.5-inch drive slot, in case that the SSD alone doesn’t offer enough storage for your needs.
Boasting a full HD 15.6-inch 1080p display, 128GB SSD plus 1TB HDD, and an Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB GPU, the Inspiron 15 7000 is capable enough for a casual PC gamer that wants both a gaming machine and a laptop for school. There are models with a GTX 1050 GPU on the lower end, and a bigger SSD on the higher end, with all its hardware tucked into a flashy design that's just one inch thick. At close to 6-pounds you’ll notice when it’s in a bag or backpack. If you're mostly looking for a daily driver and also want to do some casual to medium gaming, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 is the best cheap gaming laptop option around. See it on Walmart with free shipping.
While its cheap case is somewhat disappointing, it does hide some pretty imposing components under the hood. It features a Full-HD eDP display with 94% NTSC color and the familiar Steel Series Keyboard that we usually see with MSI laptops. However, the keyboard is said to suffer from flex, which is said to be due to the cheap plastic casing, and it doesn’t have backlighting. On the inside, you will find a variety of components that will surprise you, considering its low price tag.
While there is a plenty of storage space, the hard drive is a mechanical hard drive, meaning boot and application load times will be slow. Lastly, the 5-hour battery life is fairly average. The Dell Inspiron I3567-5664BLK-PUS 15.6-inch laptop offers users a solid experience and is really well priced for the CPU included, but the display quality may be a drawback for some.
For a high-end system, we recommend 16GB, so you can have more than one gaming session, your messaging app, several websites, a webcam program, and your video streaming program open simultaneously. A midrange gaming laptop should function fine with 8GB of memory, but be aware that many new laptops are not upgradable. You may be stuck with the amount of memory you order.
Still, depending on the kind of games you play and how fussy you are, sometimes a laptop doesn't have to pretend. On some level, almost any recent notebook PC can work as a gaming laptop. Current laptops using Intel's 7th or 8th Generation ("Kaby Lake" or "Coffee Lake") Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, or AMD's less commonly seen A10 or A12 chips, can play basic game titles passably if you roll back the screen-resolution and graphical-detail settings far enough. These chips have modest graphics acceleration built in, and that's all you need for casual or Web-based games. Plants vs. Zombies, here you come.
The 256GB M.2 SSD is slightly small, and it is bound to fill up soon if you have large game library, but it is blazing fast, meaning your load and boot up times will be quick. The battery life is disappointing, however, running out of juice after about 3 hours of heavy use. You will need to remain plugged in most of the time, but this shouldn’t come at much of a surprise considering its energy-sapping components.
Gaming laptops are special because of the performance they manage to pack in a small body. You not only have to consider how they perform now, but ensure they’re future-proofed for at least a couple of years. Unlike desktop PCs you can’t easily or cheaply upgrade the specification of a gaming laptop. Paying for that extra performance now is often sensible in the long term.
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.
$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.
The large 5400 RPM mechanical hard drive is slow, but with 1TB of storage space you will be able to save tons of movies, music and files. It comes with two USB 3.1 ports and one USB 2.0 port, and it has a moderate battery life of around 6 hours. The keyboard is not backlit, but most have noted that it is comfortable to use at least. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the touchpad, with many stating a mouse is a must.
This affordable Omen is only packing a GTX 1050 GPU, but it's fairly loaded otherwise, and is also available in several different configurations too. Its storage in particular is pretty great, with a 256GB PCIe SSE for your OS and a 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive for data and games. It's sporting a sufficient 12GB of RAM, and a very decent Intel Core i7-7700HQ Quad Core Processor. You may or may not be a fan of its "faux carbon fiber" trim, but the red backlight on the keyboard is pretty slick. Also, if you ditch the SSD and can live with 8GB of RAM, it's even cheaper.
Such high product churn means there isn’t really a best time of the year to buy a gaming laptop, but here are some things that might be worth looking forward to: Intel’s first eighth-generation Core processor and quad-core ultrabook chips, Nvidia’s Max-Q approach to designing thinner and quieter laptops, MSI’s new gaming laptops, Lenovo’s Legion Y920 laptop, Acer’s Predator Triton 700 laptop, and Samsung’s Notebook Odyssey laptop.
Of course, the more a computer’s components heat up, the faster its fans will turn and the more noise it will generate. If you prefer to wear headphones when gaming this increased noise should not be much of a problem. However, if your computer’s temperature increases too much, a throttling mechanism will activate, reducing its CPU and GPU frequencies in order to protect them; this will reduce your computer’s performance in the process. This is one of the aspects that we pay the most attention to during our testing of gaming laptops.
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.
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
With the specially designed island-style keyboard, equipped with red-backlit scissor-switch key, the ASUS FX502 offers the user a big 1.6 mm travel distance. The larger the distance, the better keystroke tactical feedback. Even more, for user suitability the WASD keys are also highlighted. Not only that this keyboard is a good choice for gamers, it also offers easy usage for college students and coding computer programmers.
Dell recently phased out its entry-level gaming-laptop series in favor of something more exciting and powerful. Meet the G7 15. Visually, the G7 15 is cut from a different cloth than either the Inspiron or the Alienware brands, giving the laptop an identity of its own. And it offers solid overall performance for all your multitasking needs. But more importantly, thanks to its Max-Q GTX 1060, you can expect good frame rates on AAA titles on medium to high settings.