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.
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.
VR and the Highest Settings: A GTX 1070 will let you play through just about anything on high settings, while the GTX 1080 is the most powerful card out there for laptops right now and will allow for smoother VR and special effects. These are the cards that will let you start pumping up effects like Nvidia Gameworks. Laptops in this range can start in the high $1,000 dollar range, and, depending on what other specs you need, go over $3,000.
Below we've sketched out what GPU and other specs you need in a cheap gaming laptop that will run games at surprisingly decent frame rates for at least a couple years. (Without breaking the bank, of course) The bottom line? Dell's last-generation Inspiron 15 7000 will run most current-gen games on low-med settings at 40-60 FPS (See it on Amazon) / (See it on Amazon UK), It's a great pick for a casual gaming + daily driving laptop. Read on for more!
Video memory: Another spec to consider is VRAM—a graphics processor’s dedicated video memory. The GTX 1060 and GTX 1060 Max-Q both come in two versions: one with 3 GB of VRAM, the other with 6 GB. (The GTX 1050 Ti appears to have only one version with 4 GB.) How much VRAM you need depends on the resolution you’re using (1080p in this case), the games you play, and the settings you play them at. Most games don’t need more than 4 GB of VRAM at 1080p, but some games do—and the list has doubtless grown since this 2015 TweakTown article published. Since the lower-VRAM options don’t often cost less, we focused on laptops with 4 GB or 6 GB of VRAM; they’ll play more games at higher settings for longer.
Measurements performed by our colleagues at the Laptopmag website show that the MSI Titan achieves a maximum temperature of 59 degrees after 15 minutes of gameplay – which is not too bad. The Asus ROG Zephyrus has a maximum temperature of 67 degrees – which is still OK. However, the MSI GS65 Stealth’s maximum temperature of 90 degrees is likely to be problematic for some users.
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.
You should definitely consider a system with an SSD, since prices have fallen considerably over the past few years. SSDs speed up boot time, wake-from-sleep time, and the time it takes to launch a game and load a new level. Go ahead and get a gaming laptop with an SSD, but make sure you configure correctly. A small-capacity (128GB to 256GB) SSD with a roomy (1TB or greater) spinning hard drive is a good start if you also download the occasional video from the internet. (Only thicker gaming laptops will tend to support dual-drive arrangements like this.) Higher-capacity SSDs (512GB or more) are available, but choosing one will increase the purchase price of your gaming rig by a bunch. SSDs are very fast, but in terms of capacity, your money goes much further with hard drives.
With their powerful components, colorful designs and premium prices, gaming laptops are a different beast than typical mainstream notebooks. And they need to be if you want to play demanding games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Grand Theft Auto V, explore virtual worlds with either the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift and enjoy smooth gameplay on high frame rates. They're also a different beast when it comes to design, offering chassis with more aggressive lines and multicolor keyboards.
The entry-level TUF Gaming FX computers (which have recently replaced the old FX product line) have the particularity of being available in four different configurations; each configuration features a rather sober-looking chassis and a display operating at a frequency of up to 120 Hz. Laptopmag’s test confirms the good performance characteristics of this computer and the good quality of its speakers which deliver powerful, high-def sound. However, it also mentions its disappointment with this computer’s display (a 60 Hz model) as well as with the performance of its SSHD.
Targeting, slashing, hacking, attacking: The key actions you take in any PC game happen at the click of your mouse, so you can't skimp on your weapon if you want to win. Today, though, the quality bar is high for all but the cheapest gaming mice, so you can afford to be picky. Nowadays, you should expect reliable connectivity, smooth and responsive tracking, and crisp click and scroll functions. Those are the table stakes—it takes much more to elevate a "good" gaming mouse to "great."
Ever since the 2016 launch of mobile Pascal, gaming notebooks have mostly closed the gap with their equivalent desktop cousins. With Nvidia's previous-generation "Maxwell" architecture, mobile-graphics-chip performance tended to be roughly 70 to 80 percent of what you'd get from the desktop cards they were based on. (See our picks for the top gaming graphics cards for 1080p play.) But the Pascal mobile chips deliver almost equivalent performance to their desktop counterparts of the same name, assuming they are implemented in machines with a complementary CPU, and in designs that do the GPU's thermal needs justice. (Most do.)
Gaming laptops need to have the necessary processing power to run high-end games. Laptops with good processing speed help run your games seamlessly without any lag. When it comes to a CPU, the important elements to be considered are the number of cores it contains and its processing speed. A laptop with a powerful CPU ensures a lag-free gaming experience.
If you want AAA performance and have a little money to spend, consider the (now previous-gen) $1,800 Razer Blade, which brings the literal heat — as in, consider a cooling pad. With an Intel Core i7-7700HQ and 16GB of RAM, and at just over 4 pounds, it's less than half the weight of the Alienware 17 R5. The downside: Razer's unsubtle snake logo screams, "I'm not doing work!"
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).
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.”
Unfortunately, like a lot of gaming mouse out there, the Pro is a great starter pick, but doesn't have any overt strengths. It won't let you down, but it isn't specialized for a particular genre of game, nor is it particularly reliable-feeling or weighty and durable. Even still, if you just want something simple to get started, this is a good choice.
The Logitech G300s has been on the market for quite some time, which is why it doesn't cost that much. Don't let the price fool you, though. The G300s is a comfortable, versatile mouse that takes full advantage of the intuitive Logitech Gaming Software. This small peripheral packs a surprising amount of buttons, and you can even customize a few LED lights.
While it features a superfast solid state drive, storage space is slightly too small for modern games which can take up over 40GB of storage space once installed. You might want to consider upgrading the size of your SSD or purchasing a 7200rpm external hard drive for more storage space. We are also impressed with the Full-HD display which offers good image quality and vivid colors for gaming or streaming your favorite series. Acer claims that the Aspire E 15 E5-575G-57D4 will give you 12 hours of battery life off of a single charge, however this would be under ideal conditions and not while gaming or while using hardware intensive applications. Despite this fact, we are still very impressed with the battery life that it offers as most laptops in this price range will barely offer you 4 hours of run time.
Updated Nov. 25 at 5:45 a.m. ET: You can snag some inexpensive gaming laptops for great prices through Cyber Monday. The Lenovo Legion Y530 is on sale for $100 off from Best Buy, while the 15.6-inch Dell G3 can be had for $649 from Walmart — a savings of $350. The Dell G5 is also on sale for $899 from Walmart ($400 off!) A sale at eBay knocks the MSI GL63 down to $969, for a savings of $229. Check out our Cyber Monday hub for more fantastic deals.