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.
Even if you're not familiar with Logitech's standard gaming mouse filigree, the G502 is very intuitive. It features two center/top buttons, one for toggling the mouse wheel between "loose" and "granular" settings, and one for adjusting DPI presets on the fly. This is the case for most Logitech mice, but it's nice to get both options on such an affordable product, and one that also features multiple tunable buttons. The G502 also uses a handy LED-based DPI indicator for various settings—normal, fast, super-fast, and slow—so it's especially good for shooter scenarios where different weapons call for different optimal speeds.
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.
You'll see both ordinary hard drives and swifter (but lesser-capacity) solid-state drives (SSDs) in under-$1,000 laptops. The occasional 15.6-inch-screen model might offer a small-capacity SSD boot drive alongside a secondary-storage platter hard drive, though this is more common with 17-inch laptops. Opt for this dual-drive approach if you can find it and afford it. The smaller SSD would be home to the operating system and a few favorite games, and the larger, more economical hard drive would host the rest of your games and other programs that don't need quick loading times. (It's indeed possible to split your Steam game library across drives.)
Starting at $699, it's going to be hard to find a more affordable gaming laptop than the Asus TUF Gaming FX504. For the price, you get an 8th Gen Core i5 CPU and a Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU, which is enough to play most games on low or medium settings. Keep in mind that such a low price point, means that some sacrifices must be made. But if you want to spend as little money as possible for a gaming rig, the FX504 is the way to go.
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.
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Like many other top cheap gaming laptops, the MSI GE62 includes the great Intel Core i5-6300HQ Quad Core processor. This CPU works perfect for current games and can easily be stepped up from 2.3 to 3.2GHz, using Intel's Turbo Boost technology. Unlike some other budget laptops we recommend, this one has a more powerful GPU though. You get the amazing NVIDIA Geforce GTX970M with 3G GDDR5. As you can see from the GPU's 3DMark score above, it's a very, very fast gaming graphics card with plenty of room for current games on high settings.
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Not only is the baseline quality a step above the average gaming mouse, the Mamba Tournament Edition delivers the one thing most of the mice in this list were missing: weight. It isn't a button-heavy product, featuring only two additional customizable keys, but the quality of the materials stood out from the pack. The Mamba Tournament Edition mitigates a high price tag by avoiding extraneous features and honing in on providing a quality experience.
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The Alienware 17 R5 is available in a variety of configurations, from a $1,560 model with a 6-core Core i7-8750H, an overclocked GeForce GTX 1060, and a 60Hz 1080p display, all the way up to the price-is-no-object-I-want-performance version we tested ($3,810 from Dell). Optional features could push that total even higher, but there’s already plenty to love. This is 10 pounds of gaming-laptop-slash-desktop-replacement-extraordinaire. Read our review.
A few less common items are worth looking for if you're a serious mouse tweaker. The software might control "lift distance," or how far you can raise a mouse off the pad or desk before it stops tracking. A slider or, better, a wizard-style setup function will dictate this in the utility, if present. Another feature is surface calibration, in which the mouse software runs a routine that optimizes the mouse and its sensor for the texture and traits of your mousing surface. On the even more esoteric side: support for angle snapping (a movement-compensation feature that helps you move the mouse in straight lines) and for designating different resolutions for the X and Y axes (say, for faster tracking only sideways, to traverse a vast landscape in an RTS world).
Before we forget, let's talk memory. In a gaming laptop, look for at least 8GB of RAM. (In practice, no self-respecting model will come with less.) That will give you some breathing room when switching back and forth between your gameplay window and your messaging app, but we'd save researching game tips for when you're not playing, as each successive browser window you open eats into your RAM allotment.
The Full-HD display offers vibrant colors and sharp details for casual gaming and multimedia. While many laptops under $500 feature a lower resolution display, the HP 15-ay011nr boasts a maximum resolution of 1920×1080. Ample storage space is offered by the 1TB mechanical hard drive, but due to its price users will have to make do with the slower 5400rpm drive speed, But the hard drive can easily be swapped out for a solid state drive or a 7200rpm mechanical drive.
Compete in game tournaments or simply experience fast responsiveness with this Logitech Chaos Spectrum gaming mouse. The optical sensor delivers on-time tracking to keep up with even high-action sequences, and you can tune the sensor to your surface. This Logitech Chaos Spectrum gaming mouse is lightweight for easy movement without compromising on stability.
And thanks to Nvidia's 1050 Ti GPUs, you can hook up an Oculus Rift and jump into the virtual realm. However, some companies like Dell and Gigabyte are outfitting their rigs with Nvidia GTX 1060 Max-Q GPUs so fans of the HTC Vive can also get in on the fun. Or if you're not ready to make such a big financial or space commitment, you can hook up one of Microsoft's new MR headsets like the Acer Windows Mixed Reality AH101 headset, which has the added bonus of working with either discrete or integrated graphics. Best of all, you can use all that money you just saved to splurge on a top-notching gaming keyboard or mouse.