All right, let's talk about higher-end affordable gaming laptops: Spending a little extra will give you two things: First, your gaming laptop will perform much better for high-end games on max settings. Second, your laptop will be much more future-proof so that you can enjoy games a few years down the line. In short, if you have a little extra budget, it's definitely a smart choice to get one of the higher-spec gaming laptops reviewed below. Let's talk details!
One of the typical features that sets apart a gaming laptop is a colorful, backlit keyboard. These vary quite a bit from model to model, with more elaborate backlighting going hand-in-hand with higher prices and a higher general level of other components. Almost all budget gaming laptops will employ single-color backlighting (most often, red or white) to keep costs down. The next step up is lighting programmable by zone, with three or four blocks of the keyboard independently customizable in different colors, but this is not common in budget machines. Keyboards with per-key, individually programmable lighting are the province of high-end machines only.
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.
When it comes to GPUs, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 10-series have made it possible for manufacturers to trim down the overall size of gaming laptops without sacrificing features like battery life, making them powerful and portable. AMD's also basically non-existent in the mobile space these days too, so if you're shopping for a cheap gaming laptop you're probably getting one with an Nvidia GPU under the hood.
If the Dell G7 is unavailable, we recommend the Dell G5 15 Gaming. It’s nearly identical to the G7, but the model we tested had a worse-looking screen with a greenish color tint, angled vents instead of rounded ones, and red backlighting on the keyboard instead of blue. Dell confirmed to us that the G5 and G7 have identical fan and heatsink setups when configured with the same graphics card. We recommend the G5 with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive for around $1,200, but only if you can’t find the G7 at a good price.
I just upgraded an older Z170 chipset P870DM3 (which Sager calls the 9873) with 9900K. +100% CPU power upgrade over 6700K. Ran a bench at 4.9ghz allcore this morning. Others have demonstrated the current Z370 P870TM model with >5ghz 9900K. (This same model was DAILYING 8700K at 5Ghz for 6 months before laptop coffeelake came along and boy it was a huge deal when ONE or TWO of the BGA i9's completed a short bench at 5ghz!). Utter beastly pieces of engineering, that make everything BGA else look puny by comparison. For sure they suck at portability, but if you don't place such a high importance on that, and you're talking best performance, this is it
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.
Matthew Buzzi is a Hardware Analyst at PCMag, focusing on laptops and desktops with a specialty in gaming systems and games. Matthew earned a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism and interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming before turning it into part of his career. He spends entirely too much time on Twitter (find him @M... See Full Bio
Nailing down a high-quality mouse sensor is tricky without getting hands-on time with a given mouse. The two key sensor types are "optical" and "laser" sensors, but you can't apply absolutes when judging them. Your best bet is to try out a mouse in person, or to rely on formal reviews like ours, as well as online forums, for the skinny on how a mouse feels in specific play situations.
A gaming laptop is constrained by its graphics processor; that’s the component that has the biggest impact on gaming performance, and you can’t upgrade it. Many cheap gaming laptops also lack either a solid-state drive or a roomy hard drive for storage, so you may have to pay extra to upgrade that later. You’ll need to put more money into keeping a budget laptop relevant in the long run—through storage and memory upgrades—than you would for a high-end gaming laptop that already has a solid-state drive and at least 16 GB of RAM (not to mention better graphics). A cheap gaming laptop is a temporary fix for a couple of years if you can’t invest in a desktop or a more expensive laptop (or if you need something that’s moderately portable).
It’s no secret that dedicated graphics cards offer far better performance than integrated graphics, however, this doesn’t mean that you can’t game on laptops without dedicated GPUs. This is due to the fact that Intel has come a long way with their integrated graphics and Blizzard have even mentioned that almost 25% of all Overwatch players are playing the game on a system with integrated graphics. While Overwatch is a newer title, don’t expect to play titles such as Mass Effect: Andromeda or Battlefield 1 on high settings or with great frame rates.
Planning on spending hours upon hours handing out beatdowns in Fortnite or Call of Duty? Check out the Dell G3 15 Gaming laptop, which lasted an impressive 6 hours and 37 minutes on our battery test. Gamers also get a system capable of kicking out some solid frame rates and good sound, thanks to a GTX 1050 Ti GPU and some powerful speakers. And at 5.2 pounds and 0.9 inches thick, this is one of the thinnest entry-level gaming laptops available.