First of all, you have a quad-core Intel Core i7 7700HQ instead of a Core i5. This means those of you into streaming your gameplay have a leg up over the rest of the systems here. The standard 8GB of memory is present, though it is DDR3 and not DDR4. You also get dual drives -- a 128GB SSD + 1TB hybrid drive handles snappy OS duties and offers plenty of deep storage for games and video. Nvidia's GTX 1050 Ti is on board as well as an excellent Steelseries keyboard featuring red lighting. I've used this exact keyboard before and it's a joy to type and game on.
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.
Once you've come back down to earth, consider Dell's Alienware 17 R5. It's widely regarded as one of the highest-performing gaming laptops on the market, and you can spec it out with an Intel Core i9 processor, a GTX 1080 graphics card, and a staggering 32GB of RAM. The laptop weighs in at nearly 10 pounds, and at max specs, it'll cost you a comparatively reasonable $3,500.
The Acer Predator 17 isn’t subtle, even by gaming laptop standards. The over-the-top red design flourishes and RGB lighting make it one of the most ostentatious gaming notebooks we’ve reviewed since the outright ridiculous MSI Dominator Dragon Edition many moons ago. Its back-breaking 3.5kg weight also means it’s a laptop in name only. But if you’re after a solid workhorse gaming laptop with all the trimmings for 1080p gaming, you won’t find much better.
Many found that replacing it with an M.2 SSD helped solve this problem. It comes with two USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port, and a compact USB-C 3.1 connector, as well as an HDMI and VGA video output for connecting multiple screens, and there is also a multi-format memory card reader. The full-size keyboard is sadly not backlit, but many noted that its key travel and feedback are great, and the touchpad is said to be good overall, but compared to higher-end laptops, it is not as responsive.
Minimal Portability (17 - 18 inches): If you plan to keep your laptop in your home and leave it on your desk or just move it between rooms, a system with a 17 or 18-inch display like the Alienware 17 should be fine. Laptops in this size range are usually the most powerful, because they have plenty of room for heat-generating components. However, they're heavy to carry, a tough fit for most bags and too power-hungry to use unplugged for very long.
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).
For many years, the speakers built into gaming laptops did not provide sufficiently good audio quality to take full advantage of a video game’s sound effects and in-game music. Nowadays, some gaming laptops integrate a very sophisticated audio system capable of offering advanced performance, deep bass tones, and adequate power (some examples include the Asus Rog Zephyrus and the MSI GS65 Stealth). For lower-end computers, there is always the possibility of connecting external Bluetooth/WiFi speakers or a good pair of headphones.
It’s great in all other applications, too, with smooth and reliable tracking across the board, and a shape that fit in our hands very nicely indeed. You can even adjust an array of weights for a more tailored experience. There are three zones of RGB lighting that shine bright and vividly, with effects that can be synced across the vast library of Corsair peripherals.
We didn’t test any gaming laptops that failed to meet our specs requirements (see the How we picked section for more details), and we didn’t test any that were too expensive, since this is a budget guide. As a result, we eliminated any laptops with a GTX 1060 or GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU above $1,400, as well as any laptops with a GTX 1050 Ti above $950—at that price, it’s worth getting a more powerful graphics processor instead. Here’s everything we tested against our picks in 2018:
The Lenovo Legion Y530 is the Porsche of budget gaming laptops. Its minimalist design and blackout color scheme give it a suave look you'd associate with tuxedo-clad, big-screen villains. Outside of its stately good looks, you get a gaming notebook that offers a wide range of ports and a solid graphics card. It's a very good choice for casual gamers who want a sub-$1,000 laptop with a button-up design that can blend in -- and even impress -- no matter the setting.