A 15-inch gamer still won't be an ideal daily traveler, but most are a lot more manageable than their larger kin. Also, today's 15-inch gaming rigs are better suited for use in true mobile fashion—that is, off an AC power plug—than those of past years. We've seen a few hit six or more hours of battery life, albeit in everyday productivity use or playing back video; gaming will trim that number considerably. (See our picks for the laptops with the best battery life.)
Right now, Nvidia graphics cards are found on the overwhelming majority of new gaming laptops. You’ll generally find laptop specific parts on machines launched in 2014 and 2015 (such as 950M, 960M etc), but from this year all Nvidia laptops get full desktop-level GPUs. This is because the company’s ‘Pascal’ architecture is so efficient it can squeeze into the same space as an old-style laptop GPU without needing extra cooling. Look out for 10-series cards such as the GTX 1050, GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080.
This is a Black Friday deal that has gone live early. Take $50 off what I would already consider the best value in VR gaming. You get 7 apps (Robo Recall, Lucky's Tale, Dragon Front, Quill, Medium, Dead & Buried, and Toybox.), but my favorite Rift game by far is Beat Saber. Beat Saber is a mashup of Fruit Ninja and Rock Band, and I highly suggest you give it a try.
For many years, the term “gaming laptop” referred to a highly powerful, exceedingly expensive, very large, and extravagant looking computer that usually had very limited battery autonomy. It was more or less equivalent to a high-end desktop computer that had the advantage of being portable (and which was generally used to showcase its manufacturer’s most advanced hardware).
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.
The Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM is currently our top recommended gaming laptop under $500. It features integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 graphics powered by the latest Intel i3 Kaby Lake processor and next generation connectivity such as USB 3.1 Type-C and Bluetooth 4.1. Despite weak gaming performance for most modern games, it holds its own with an unbeatable price to performance ratio compared to its competitors, clocking in at a $100 or more cheaper than many similarly specced laptops such as the Inspiron I3567 and HP Pavilion 17 1BQ14UA below.
This Chinese manufacturer only has one product line geared towards gamers: the Ideapad Legion Y. This computer is available with either a 15.6″ or 17.3″ display (Legion Y520 and Y720). The Legion Y is in direct competition with the HP Omen and features a variety of different hardware components (entry-level models are equipped with a GeForce GTX 1050 graphics chip). Laptopmag revealed this computer’s negative aspects which mainly concern the quality of its display and the poor performance of its SSD.
In our tests, the Legion Y530 kept its WASD keys on the cooler side at 101 °F (38 °C) after half an hour of Overwatch. The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GE-ES72 kept its WASD keys coolest at 94°F (34 °C), but the Y530’s keys didn’t feel uncomfortable for long gaming sessions, just a bit warm. The area where my palm rested near the trackpad reached 105 °F (41 °C); that’s a bit warmer than we’d like, but it wasn’t uncomfortable.
In the process of writing this buyer’s guide, we began by searching for manufacturers that offer one or more gaming laptop product lines. Next, we selected the computers that have the best price-performance ratio (based on tests conducted by a number of online websites such as Tom’s Hardware and LaptopMag). Finally, we organized these computers by brand: Acer, Asus, Dell, Gigabyte, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.
A laptop based around the next-step-up GeForce GTX 1060, meanwhile, is ideal for no-compromise 1080p gaming. We've seen GTX 1060-based gaming rigs priced anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. The biggest values are likely to be found in this lot, and the GTX 1060 is the baseline for using your laptop with a virtual reality (VR) headset. (See our picks for the best laptops for VR.)
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.
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.
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.
The Y530’s keyboard is comfortable to type on and responsive thanks to its deep, snappy keys, and its white backlight and perfectly ordinary font are the most tasteful we’ve seen on a gaming laptop. We also appreciate the inclusion of full-size arrow keys rather than the typical half-size ones manufacturers cram in, as on the Dell G7. This does mean that the number pad is farther back and a bit awkward to reach, but most people who play games will use the arrow keys more frequently.
As for the screen's native resolution, 1,920 by 1,080 pixels (commonly called 1080p) is now the norm in budget-priced and mainstream gaming machines. The more pixels you need to push, the more graphics power you need, and a savvy maker of gaming laptops won't outfit a laptop with a screen whose native resolution the GPU can't do justice. So the absence of higher-than-HD screens in budget gaming machines is no accident. Not only do such screens cost more and sap more battery life, but the graphics chips found in under-$1,000 gaming rigs wouldn't power gameplay on them very well. (Screens with resolutions higher than 1080p tend to look small and squinty at the 15-inch size, anyway.)
Terrence Mai of PC Gamer featured the Logitech G560 PC Gaming Speaker in his guide to “The Best Computer Speakers,” stating, “our latest favorite, taking down the previously recommended Razer Nommo Chroma. These are the first pair of gaming speakers we've found to actually enhance our gaming experience thanks to its innovative LIGHTSYNC lighting technology and exceptional positional audio.”
It comes with a dual-core Intel i5-7200U, which is a good CPU, and 8GB of DDR4 RAM. This paves the way for a comfortable user experience, but the slower 5400RPM hard drive means slower load times on programs and boot times will be longer than laptops that come with an SSD. Storage space won’t be much of an issue however, since the HDD has 1TB of space. The Intel HD Graphics 620 handles some newer games fairly well on lower settings, such as GTA 5 and Overwatch (check this video out).
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.
ROG Zephyrus computers bring together high-performance characteristics and good portability (with a chassis that only weighs 2.2 Kg despite incorporating a 15.6″ display). The display used on these computers is G-sync compatible and operates at a frequency of either 120 or 144 Hz. The Zephyrus’ high-end components (6-core Intel processor, Max-Q graphics chip, etc.) are well-suited to any type of usage – even to playing the most resource-intensive games (see the test of the ROG Zephyrus M GM501).
It looks good, too. With an RGB-backlit keyboard and attractive orange highlights, there’s no mistaking the fact that this machine is pitched at gamers, not everyday users. There are more expensive models available, but of the range we reckon this is one of the best value options. If you want to pay more, consider the higher-spec Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming with its 4K , IPS panel.
Powering it is an 8th generation i5 CPU with four cores and eight threads, much like the one found in the Acer Aspire E15, though this one is a bit faster and can reach higher clock speeds. Then there’s the 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and storage that is handled a bit differently. Namely, the GV62 combines 16 GB of Intel Optane memory with a 1 TB hard drive, balancing the performance of SSDs with the capacity of HDDs quite well.
Several of the cheap gaming laptops we tested in 2018 couldn’t keep their WASD keys cool enough for comfortable gameplay. Note: We tested the Dell G5 with a GTX 1050 Ti, but we recommend the GTX 1060 Max-Q configuration. We confirmed with Dell that the G7 and G5 have identical fan and heatsink setups when configured with the same graphics processor.
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.
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.
If you're shopping for a gaming system on a limited budget (in this case, between roughly $800 and $1,200), you're going to need to make some sacrifices. Maximizing power while staying within a limited price range is the goal, but you'll have to accept that some of the components won't be comparable with the more expensive laptops you'll see while browsing. That said, $1,200 is a reasonable ceiling for what some buyers are ready to spend on a gaming laptop, and you can still get a solid system for that much or less.
OriginPC: OriginPC's default design typically won't turn heads, but they are the go-to-guys when it comes to customization. From custom paint jobs, thermal compounds to a TV Tuner, as long as you have the money, the sky's the limit. OriginPC's standard warranty offers lifetime 24/7 tech support and even offers a dead-pixel warranty in case of a defective display.
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.
Although priced higher than our under $500 recommendations, the NVIDIA Geforce MX150 and 940MX dedicated graphics cards found in the best $600 gaming laptops on the market deliver up to 4 x better performance over the integrated graphics found on most cheaper laptops in this guide. If you plan on playing newer games we strongly recommend you invest in a laptop with a dedicated graphics card. See our sub-$1000 priced gaming laptop guide for more options.
After 20 hours of new research and testing—plus 150 hours over the past few years—we found that the Acer Predator 17 G9-793-79V5 is the best gaming laptop for most people because it has the best performance for the price without any major flaws. The Predator 17 stays cool, has a comfortable, responsive keyboard, and sports a great 17-inch 1080p IPS screen with G-sync. Its fans are loud, and that keyboard is ugly and looks cobbled together, but these flaws are worth the trade-off for excellent performance at a low price (for a gaming laptop, anyway). If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative, head over to our budget gaming laptop guide.
All of the major (and some of the minor) gaming-gear manufacturers have developed their own mouse-control customization software, which usually encompasses advanced macro programming. Often, the software also enables you to control and customize a gaming keyboard of the same brand. In addition to recording macro commands, these software dashboards let you activate premade, game-specific profiles; create your own profiles; and adjust any on-mouse lighting/LED bling. Many also offer presets for non-gaming use, letting you leverage your mouse's programmability in Excel or Photoshop when you're not blowing up starships or hapless zombies.
At 6.3 pounds, the G7 is the heaviest budget gaming laptop we tested this year, but several others came close, weighing between 5 and 6 pounds. The G7 measures 15.3 inches wide, 10.8 inches deep, and 1 inch thick; its deep fans can make it difficult to fit into some backpacks, but the size and weight are unfortunately necessary trade-offs for a laptop that can both play games well and keep cool. The G7 isn’t unreasonably large for a 15-inch gaming laptop—most of the other contenders have similar dimensions.
I've noticed more companies are starting to embrace the loud, clicky joy that is the mechanical keyboard. Known for their marvelous springy feedback and trademark clicking sound, these keyboards offer some of the best typing you're going to get on a laptop. In addition to the MSI GT83VR Titan, you can also get a mechanical keyboard on the Lenovo Ideapad Y900.
Kane Fulton of TechRadar featured the Logitech G513 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard in his list of the “Best Gaming Keyboard 2018: The Best Gaming Keyboards We've Tested.” He shared, “one of our biggest pet peeves with Cherry MX Red keys is that while they’re good for gaming, they’re not great for typing anything but your Steam credentials. And, that’s where the Logitech G513 and its Romer-G Linear switches outshine the rest of the competition. Add in the brushed metal finish that, miraculously, is all but immune to fingerprints, and you have a recipe for one of the best gaming keyboards you can buy today.”
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