Kicking things off, we have entry-level gaming laptops. The Lenvov Legion Y530 is the second generation of the new Legion brand. The latest models feature 8th generation Core processors up to a Core i7-8750H with six cores, and up to a GTX 1060 GPU which offers plenty of muscle, but the base model starts at just $749 with a Core i5-8300H and GTX 1050. For $100 more you can bump up to a GTX 1050 Ti
These affordable gaming laptops are all either currently on special or are serious bargains in their own right, offering some ball busting deals for the budget mobile gaming connoisseur. Although we’ve tried to keep all our options under the $500, in some cases saving up a bit more can lead to a serious boost in performance, and in these cases we’ve snuck in a few good gaming laptops under $600 to keep your options open if you want the best value for your money in terms of raw performance.
Fortunately for anyone interested in acquiring a gaming laptop with decent battery autonomy, there are a number of models on the market that have highly optimized hardware configurations like the Asus ROG Strix Hero II (which has almost 5 hours of autonomy), the Acer Predator Helios 300 (approximately 6 hours 50 minutes of autonomy) or the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (around 7 hours of autonomy). This last computer takes advantage of Nvidia’s Max-Q design in order to allow its GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip to consume less power while remaining fully capable of gaming in Full HD. The Alienware 13 (OLED) also has a battery autonomy in excess of 7 hours (tested using office software).
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.
We were thoroughly surprised to see the inclusion of the Nvidia GTX 1050 card for a laptop priced just above $500. While it is an entry-level card, it can run current games on lower settings. The GPU is helped along by an equally impressive Intel i5-7300HQ and 8GB of RAM. The laptop is not only a solid choice for gamers, but for users looking to do video and photo editing, and development work, along with other tasks that demand a lot of the systems internal resources.
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.
Although priced slightly higher than $500, the Aspire E 15 E5-575G-57D4 has earned our top pick in the budget gaming category thanks to its dedicated NVIDIA GeForce 940MX graphics card which offers more than twice the performance of competing laptops with only integrated graphics units. The Aspire E 15 will run titles such as Overwatch, Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 on low to medium settings with graphics performance more than double than competing integrated graphics based laptops below.
You can replace it with an affordable solid state drive, however this will mean sacrificing storage space for speed as a similar size SSD will cost as much as the laptop. Overall the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM is packed full of great features that you would expect from more expensive laptops and delivers the latest generation Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated graphics at the best price possible.
The HP Omen 15t Gaming is the most expensive option we tested, around $200 more than the G7 to meet our recommended specs. Its WASD keys reached 109.5 °F after just 30 minutes of Overwatch on high settings, and its underside got hottest (122 °F) exactly where my right thigh touched the laptop (though we don’t recommend anyone use any of these models on their lap). Its display also had a noticeable screen-door effect, a slightly visible grid that we didn’t see on any of the other laptops, and the Omen had roughly an hour less battery life compared with the Dell G7 and G5.
The SteelSeries Rival 700 isn’t your average gaming mouse. While you’ll find an accurate 16,000 DPI sensor, a comfortable design and RGB lighting, the Rival is actually equipped with a vibrating motor and OLED screen. This allows the Rival 700 to integrate with games such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, providing feedback to the user that may otherwise go unnoticed.
The keyboard is said to have quite a bit of flex, taking away from the VivoBook F510UA-AH51’s premium feel. ASUS have fitted the laptop with a 1920 X 1080 IPS NanoEdge display, which has an awesome 80 percent screen-to-body ratio. ASUS have cut some corners with the storage, opting for a slow 1TB 5400RPM HDD as opposed to an SSD. This is going to make applications and boot times rather slow and tedious sadly, but the other hardware does compensate for this.
The first thing you'll notice about this new HP gaming laptop is the exclusive Star Wars design. On the outside, the laptop features Star Wars engravings and a backlit, Jedi-red keyboard. But that's not all: The laptop comes pre-loaded with a ton of digital Star Wars items! You get rare wallpapers, screen savers, concept art, and original trilogy storyboards from the Star Wars archives. Plus, you can customize all system sounds with built-in audio files from the movies (think R2-D2 and light sabers).
Wirecutter has spent more than 200 hours over the past five years researching and testing dozens of gaming laptops, and our PC team has more than 37 years of combined experience covering laptops. I’ve personally tested, lived with, and reviewed hundreds of laptops, and I’ve spent hands-on time with countless other models while covering the CES trade show, attending events, and visiting stores. I’ve reviewed most gaming laptops—both budget and high-end—released in the past six years, and I’ve spent thousands of hours gaming on laptops since high school.
Simply put: You won't find high-end dedicated graphics in gaming laptops under a grand. But times have changed, and lower-end graphics chips here in 2018 have caught up to most games and to the screen resolutions of most mainstream gaming laptops. With a little compromising, you can enjoy some very respectable gaming at 1080p in machines a notch or two down from the GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 elite, with models starting as low as $800. Budget-priced gaming laptops are now an established category, not outliers, and have been embraced by the major players. We've tested models from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.
At this point, the major mouse makers' software packages have been through generations of refinement, so they are slick. Logitech Gaming System (LGS), Corsair Utility Engine (CUE), and Razer Synapse are three of the best-regarded mouse- and keyboard-control utilities that cater to gamers. All offer advanced tweakability, with CUE regarded by many users and reviewers as the deepest, but also the trickiest to master in-depth.
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So what hardware is inside? Well, you get the popular Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6 GHz processor, capable of handling current games on high settings. The CPU is paired with the excellent and highly-recommended NVIDIA GTX 960M GPU. It's an amazing graphics card that offers high gaming performance at a great price. All that is combined with a very fast 256GB solid-state drive and a high-quality screen. The HP OMEN delivers a very good hardware combination for the price.
Nvidia's G-Sync and AMD's FreeSync technologies are more down-to-earth. They help increase the quality of the gaming experience and smooth out frame rates by letting the laptop screen refresh at a variable rate that depends on the output of the GPU. Look for support for one of those technologies if you're a stickler for perfectly rendered visuals. They tend to be in pricier machines, though, and G-Sync is far more common.
HyperX's Pulsefire FPS wants to be the go-to gaming mouse for FPS titles, as you might have guessed from the name. For $50, you're getting a razor-focused gaming mouse that boasts a Pixart 3310 sensor and the standard—but very welcome—four DPI settings, switchable via a central button. The Pulsefire FPS naturally pairs with the HyperX Alloy FPS gaming keyboard, with both featuring handsome, red-and-black wrapped cables.
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.
The Dell G7 had the loudest fans of the budget gaming laptops we tested (except for the nearly identical Dell G5), and their whooshing drowned out in-game dialogue, forcing me to crank up the volume or put on headphones to hear. But the fan noise was an issue only when I was playing games—the G7 was dead silent when I used it for a full day of work—so it shouldn’t be a problem while you’re taking notes during class or browsing the Web.
Games are powered by the laptop's GeForce GT 940M GPU (2GB dedicated video memory), paired with 8GB DDR3L 1600 MHz RAM. It's a smart combination for this price class, capable of playing most games flawlessly. Besides the gaming performance this laptop made it to this top list because of its many additional features. We like the large 1TB storage which is very future proof. Additionally, ASUS packed this laptop with lots of connectivity: You get ultra-fast 802.11AC Wi-Fi, two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 ports, Bluetooth 4.0, plus HDMI and VGA ports. It's great to have such an abundance of ports.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080: This is the card to beat. During our testing, gaming laptops outfitted with a 1080 GPU routinely top the category average on high-end games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto V with the special effects settings and resolution turned all the way up. And of course, Nvidia 1080 can easily support all your virtual-reality adventures. Just be prepared to shell out a pretty penny, since 1080s are only found in high-end systems like the Razer Blade Pro or the Acer Predator 17X.
That said, there are still some basic conclusions to be drawn about graphics performance. In general, the higher the model number within a product line, the higher the 3D performance. So an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 generally produces higher frame rates and higher-quality graphics than an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or GTX 1070. A single high-end discrete GPU will let you play the latest AAA gaming titles on a 1080p screen with all the bells and whistles turned on, and be fine for entry-level VR play. Adding a second GPU (a rare and expensive option) will let you run the latest games more comfortably on 4K and 5K displays, or let you hook up multiple monitors to your laptop.
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.
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.