Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.
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.
If you're truly serious, and insist on playing all your games at very high detail settings and the highest possible screen resolution (for most laptops, that's 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, assuming you're playing on the laptop's screen and not an external display), you're just going to have to shell out some bucks, especially if you want that laptop to stay game-viable at those settings for more than a couple of years. Future-proofing like that demands top-end graphics silicon: Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1070 or GTX 1080. And that means spending, at current prices, $1,500 or more on your laptop.
The Nitro 5 isn't as polished as Dell's offerings and Acer doesn't currently offer it with a GTX 1060 GPU. But it starts as low as $650 with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or $730 with 1050Ti graphics. That's some beefy performance for not much money (as gaming laptops go, anyway) and while there are a few cut corners, you still come out ahead overall.
At the top of the gaming laptop pantheon are full-size "luggable" desktop replacement laptops. While these are still laptops in the strictest sense, they are essentially made to be portable desktops rather than lap computers or even a machine meant to be used away from mains power for an extended period of time. This allows them to use component choices you couldn't do in proper laptops, improving performance at the cost of weight.
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.
At the mid-range we see laptops with either the NVIDIA GTX 1060, or for a bit more money, a GTX 1070, both of which are a powerful gaming GPU in a mobile form factor. ASUS offers the Republic of Gamers branding Strix lineup, and the GL504 model is their 15.6-inch range. Featuring the GTX 1060 in the GL504GM, and GTX 1070 in the GL504GS models, there's a wide range of performance here depending on budget. ASUS offers either the Intel Core i5-8300H quad-core, or the Core i7-8750H hex-core CPU, and up to 32 GB of DDR4 RAM support. There's a full range of SSD choices, and you can of course also fit it with a HDD for extra space.
With that said, in case you are wondering about the good stuff that goes into this mouse, well, there is quite a lot. Razer has designed this mouse and kept modification in mind, most of the parts on the mouse can be removed and shifted around, and yes, you do get weight tuning, something most people love. Some of the adjustments include the ability to tune weight, as well as the palm rest in order to get the optimal gripping experience. The mouse also comes with 11 programmable buttons, as well as highly accurate dual sensors to keep everything in order.
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.”
Storage: Hard drive or SSD? Why not both? Some budget gaming laptops will come with only a hard drive (usually 1TB), but the majority of gaming notebooks also include a small SSD to serve as a boot drive. It’s not uncommon to see a 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD working in tandem. If you can get a larger SSD you may see decreased loading times, but that will also cost you quite a bit more money. Make sure you get a faster, 7,200-rpm HDD as opposed to a 5,400-rpm HDD.
The Precision Touchpad was responsive and worked well for standard gestures in our tests, but the G7, like its predecessors, lacks an easy way to disable the trackpad. Every other gaming laptop we’ve tested—except for the Dell G5 and Dell G3—has this feature because pressing the trackpad with your palm while gaming can cause accidental clicks and in-game deaths. We spent hours playing games on the G7 and found that the trackpad’s palm rejection was superb and didn’t cause any accidental clicks. (My hands run cold and rarely sweat, though, so your mileage may vary.) It’s possible (but inconvenient) to disable the trackpad by going into the Device Manager, selecting Human Interface Devices, right-clicking HID-compliant touch pad, and selecting Disable. (Dell, please add an easily accessible toggle to the next iteration.)
The viewing angles do suffer somewhat due to it being a lower quality TN panel, however, but it does come with touch screen functionality at least. The case is made of all plastic and feels somewhat cheap, and its look isn’t much to write home about according to some users, but these aesthetics are generally affiliated with budget laptops. Fortunately it is reasonably lightweight, so you can take it along with you without much of hassle.
You also get Razer’s Synapse 2.0, one of the best customization suites you can find when it comes to the software. The good thing about Razer DeathAdder Chroma Is that the company followed the “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” very gracefully, and didn’t bring any revolutionary changes apart from some hardware tweaks, and in our opinion, that’s the best way to do it. Simply put, people who find the Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum too fancy, going for a Razer DeathAdder Chroma is the best choice there is. Let’s dive a little deeper into some pros and cons in order to give you a better idea.
You'll immediately want to buy a gaming mouse; even the nicest touchpads are garbage for gaming. The Logitech G series has been the gold standard for years; Razer makes well-reviewed mice, too. Depending on how hot your laptop gets, you may want a cooling pad, as well. And if you've sprung for a pricier laptop, you may want a second monitor for some games.
We made sure to test each gaming mouse thoroughly across a range of criteria. Is it comfortable to use for extended periods, and responsive enough for precision play? Can you customise the look and the feel? How many bonus buttons do you get and are they easy to reach? And if the mouse is wireless, how quickly and accurately does it respond to your clicks and nudges?
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.
You can also get a sweet deal by going back in time and looking at laptops with previous-gen CPUs, as they are usually available at fire sale prices and there's not a huge difference in performance between Skylake and Kaby Lake for gaming. You won't be quite as future-proof, but you'll still get several years of great 1080p gaming at a low price. Let's dive into the top picks a cheap gaming laptop:
Powered by a Skylake Intel Core i5-6200U processor with Hyper-Threading and 8GB of RAM, the HP 15-ay011nr will cope with everyday tasks and casual gaming with ease. The new Skylake series features the newer and more powerful Intel HD Graphics 520 chipset that will offer users similar performance to the GeForce 820M from NVIDIA. This means users will be able to run some newer gaming titles with acceptable frame rates on lower settings while older and classic titles will run on higher settings. The GPU relies on shared memory and while the 8GB of RAM is adequate, we recommend upgrading to 12GB or 16GB of RAM to maximize the performance.
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.
ASUS FX502VM hardware is being powered by a sixth gen gaming-centric Intel core i5-6300HQ notebook processor, clocked at 2.3GHz. In turbo mode, it can process much faster, climbing up to 3.1 GHZ, whilst for multitasking, the processor packs a paired huge 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Using dual cooling fans, the laptop offers thermal cooling technology, preventing the internals from overheating even under stressful usage.
Tom's Guide tests about 30 mice per year, which means we know a thing or two about selecting the best gaming mouse for every kind of gamer. If you want a mouse that can play anything and everything, the Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum ($80 MSRP) is about as good as it gets. With well-spaced buttons, a comfortable design and top-of-the-line software, the Proteus Spectrum is, hands-down, the best all-around gaming mouse on the market. If you don't want to spend quite so much money, the Logitech G300s costs less than $25 and performs beautifully.
If the GPU is the heart of a gaming laptop, then the processor and RAM are the brain and hippocampus. Your laptop's processor (CPU) handles everything that doesn't have to do with graphics, such as performing some of a game's physics calculations and controlling its non-playable characters. It also affects the performance of all of your non-gaming applications, including your browser, OS and productivity apps. When picking out your CPU and RAM, keep the following tips in mind.
Similarly, when it comes to storage space, your choices are rather limited. All gaming laptops are currently equipped with at least a 1 TB hard drive. That having been said, in order to boost your computer’s performance and reduce the loading time of games, you should choose a PC equipped with an SSD. Even a small 128 GB SSD would be good enough for storing your Windows operating system and your main applications. SSDs can reach 1 TB of storage capacity on the most high-end gaming computers.
The GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor of the HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 15t is available only with 3 GB of VRAM rather than the 6 GB of the other contenders. We found that its display had a screen-door effect similar to that of the Omen—the two HP laptops are likely using the same panel—and its trackpad felt a bit rattly when we tapped it. The fans made an ominous buzzing noise during everyday work, too, and the GPU reached an alarming 203 °F (95 °C) after just 30 minutes of Overwatch on high settings. For comparison, the next-hottest laptop in the same test reached just 174 °F (79 °C). We’ve exchanged our Pavilion 15t with HP, and we will update here once we’ve retested it.
Processors are the next biggest difference. You'll likely get a capable Core i5 instead of a faster Core i7. Still, some of the benefits of an i7 machine aren't a major factor for gaming, but instead benefit video editing and other creative uses, so an i5 will do the job. The newest generation of these chips are fast and efficient at a base level, and won't be too much of a bottleneck for gaming. On the AMD side of the fence, in the rare gaming laptops you'll find based wholly on AMD core technology, gamers will see mostly graphics solutions based on the now-aging Radeon RX 560, RX 570, and RX 580 paired with one of several AMD FX or Ryzen CPUs. Outside of the graphics card and processor, the other components should actually be closer to more expensive machines than you'd expect.
Solid-state drive: A solid-state drive speeds up boot times and reduces loading times in games, so all of our recommendations have SSDs. Some gaming laptops in this price range have 1 TB of hard drive storage and no SSD, but in those cases we recommend adding one yourself. We prefer at least a 250 GB solid-state drive because 128 GB won’t hold more than your operating system and a couple of games.
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.
Most people are familiar with the fact that many gaming laptops are not able to operate for very long on battery power due to their high-performance characteristics. In practical terms, computers such as the MSI GT75 Titan and the Asus ROG Zephyrus only have a battery autonomy of two to three hours…if at all! In fact, the measurements performed on these computers by the Laptopmag website were conducted using them to surf the internet via a WiFi connection. When these computers are used for gaming, their already low battery autonomy is further reduced (by half). Therefore, a connection to mains power is indispensable for these particular gaming laptops.
A computer’s internal components heat up whenever a lot of demand is placed on them. Despite the best efforts of manufacturers to dissipate this heat using fans and heat pipes, some areas of a laptop tend to get hotter than others. This can make gaming laptops quite uncomfortable to use (especially when placed on their user’s lap!); this high heat can also endanger a laptop’s internal electronics if the computer’s ventilation slots become obstructed (be careful not to let your computer’s ventilation system get clogged up with dust!). If you intend to place your computer on your desk and use an external mouse for gaming, its temperature will not be a major consideration.
Regardless of the low color accuracy (blue cast ex-works), the Full HD panel shows real potential, and the sound and picture quality are also very persuasive. The 120 Hz display refresh rate and the Nvidia’s G-Sync technology combo averts hard to watch tearing and offers much smoother picture. However, the 100% sRGB and 75% AdobeRGB are still kept for workstations and other professional devices only, very suited for design and photo editing.
Next in the low-cost gaming segment is the Dell G3 Series 15. It's currently on sale for $699 making it one of the lowest cost gaming notebooks. The $699 price also gives you a choice between a 1 TB HDD model, or a 256 GB SSD version, which lets you choose based on how large your gaming library is, whether to take a slower spinning drive with plenty of space, or a SSD for better system performance all the time, but you may have to add space later. The G3 Series 15 can be had with a Core i5-8300H on the base, or up to a Core i7-8750H. A Geforce GTX 1050 is the opening GPU, and Dell offers a GTX 1050 Ti on the higher end configurations. The display is a 1920x1080 IPS, and although it's not the best display around, the GTX 1050 should be able to drive it while gaming at reasonable frame rates.
Dell Home, via its Member Purchase Program, offers its Dell 15.6" Laptop Gaming Backpack in Black/Red for $28.49 with free shipping. That's tied with our expired mention from four days ago as the lowest price we've seen for this bag. (It's the best deal we could find now by $20.) It accommodates laptops with up to 15.6" screens and features a shock-absorbent EVA molded front shield, adjustable shoulder straps, and a deployable rain cover.