Still, unless you're attempting to become a professional gamer or get ranked globally in a particular popular title, a 60Hz screen will suffice. Nearly all gamers are still "stuck" with 60Hz displays, after all. High-refresh panels aren't common in budget machines, but they are worth knowing about, as we expect them to trickle down into under-$1,000 machines soon.
Heat: A gaming laptop’s GPU and CPU produce a lot of heat. Without an effective cooling system, the machine will overheat, which can slow gaming performance, shorten the laptop’s lifespan, or even burn you.1 No gaming laptop can keep completely cool—all that heat has to go somewhere. But it needs to keep its internals, the WASD keys (the most-used section of the keyboard for gamers, as those four keys often control in-game movement), and the left palm rest (where your left hand rests while using the WASD keys) cool. It’s a bit more forgivable for the laptop to get hot in areas with less direct contact with your skin, such as the underside and the strip above the keyboard.
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
In a gaming laptop, an SSD plus a hard drive is the best of both storage worlds. In terms of gaming performance, the storage subsystem affects game load times and in-game level changes. It can be of special importance in MMORPGs, where huge environments are loaded in real time. Thus, having at least some fast, SSD-based storage is desirable. To our eyes, you should only opt for an SSD boot drive at this point in time. The difference in performance "feel" between a hard drive and an SSD boot drive is too big to ignore. (See our picks for the fastest SSDs.)
That said, a maxed-out Core i7 CPU is less crucial for gaming than it is for processor-intensive tasks such as video editing and media-file production work. With current-generation Intel CPUs, you'll get plenty of pep even from a four-core "Coffee Lake"/8th Generation Core i5. A Core i7 of the same generation is actually a hefty six-core/12-thread processor that, we'd argue, is overkill for casual gamers who need to mind what they spend. So, our bottom line: Opt for a Core i5 or i7 chip with four true cores if you can; a six-core chip is gravy.
After picking our hardware criteria (see above), we scoured the websites of major gaming-laptop manufacturers like Alienware, MSI, Asus, Razer, Samsung, Acer, HP, and Lenovo, and we browsed boutiques like Xotic PC, iBuyPower, Clevo, iBuypower, Origin PC, Digital Storm, and others. Then we put together a list of the laptops that fit our requirements and have positive reviews from trusted sources like CNET, AnandTech, Engadget, Laptop Mag, PCMag, and Notebookcheck, and eliminated those that didn’t.
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).
With major advances in laptop CPUs and graphics technologies, you can now get great gaming performance in sizes from slender to huge, and prices from budget to sky-high. That's where this handy-dandy buyer’s guide come in. We’ll name the best gaming laptops currently available, and we’ll highlight what to look for when buying a gaming laptop. (Check back often, as we’ll update this list as new products arrive.)
Computers in the GT series are very high-end; they are also exceedingly expensive, large, and heavy. Some of the computers in this series distinguish themselves from the competition by their mechanical keyboard and the very high quality of their display (120 Hz G-Sync compatible, for example – see LaptopMag’s test of the GT75 Titan). The MSI GT83 Titan features an enormous 18.4-inch display in addition to dual GeForce GTX 1080 graphics chips connected via SLI.
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.
I’m not a gamer, so I’ve always managed to get by very well with basic rodents that have each kept the treadmill turning smoothly for many pleasingly uneventful years; but I did find the review refreshingly informative – which is a light-year from the response to my very first mousey inquiry. Way back in 1994 when I was researching to buy my first Pentium P series computer, I phoned a well known (in those days) computer dealer to find out which mouse they would recommend. The sales person was evidently dumbfounded – I could visualize her raising her eyes to the heavens as she said, with affected patience, “A mouse is a mouse, isn’t it?”. It’s the kind of remark that has you promptly closing their showroom door behind you, never to return, and seeking out a more inspiring vendor.
Display: We focused on 15-inch models for this guide because they strike a good balance between screen size and relative portability, and they fit our budget. Our cheap gaming laptop pick needs a 1920×1080 screen—no exceptions. Lower resolutions look terrible, and higher resolutions aren’t affordable yet. (And our budget laptops’ GPUs can’t play games well at resolutions above 1080p anyway.) Very few laptops in this price range have high-refresh-rate (120 Hz or 144 Hz) panels, but it’s a nice bonus, especially for first-person games like Overwatch or Doom; the higher the refresh rate, the smoother animations appear, as long as the frame rate is also high. IPS screens tend to provide better viewing angles and color reproduction over TN panels, but they can also be more expensive, so we treat them as a preference but not a requirement.
Price: You can get a great budget gaming laptop for less than $1,300, but you do have to spend more than $800. As of late 2018, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor offers the best price-to-performance ratio. You can find this GPU in laptops under $1,300, and it will play many new games on high settings at 1080p. The GTX 1060 is only 10 to 15 percent faster, according to Nvidia, and most laptops with full GTX 1060 graphics were outside of our price range. The GTX 1050 Ti is a decent option in laptops under $900, but it’s 60 percent slower than the GTX 1060, according to Laptop Mag. Although you could save a few hundred dollars now by choosing the GTX 1050 Ti, it won’t play new games on high settings for as many years, and you’ll likely want to upgrade sooner. We recommend saving up for a laptop with a GTX 1060 Max-Q if possible. You can’t get a good gaming laptop for less than $800—the graphics processors they come with (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or worse) can’t handle current AAA games at high settings, let alone future games.
Gaming laptops can put a serious dent in your wallet, with some of the fancier models costing upward of $3,000. But who says that the right rig has to cost an arm, a leg and the soul of your firstborn? Fortunately for the fiscally conscious gamer, there are some sub-$1,000 notebooks that can run graphically taxing games like Destiny 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider at solid frame rates.