We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics processor with 4 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i5-8300H processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive. This configuration usually costs around $900; if it’s any more expensive when you’re shopping, we recommend saving up for our top pick with more powerful graphics instead.
ASUS’s budget- concious 2017 Vivobook F510UA-AH51 15.6-inch is a truly capable machine for the price and suited to casual gamers looking to play some modern titles on low settings. It is snappy and responsive thanks to its 8th Generation i5-8250U 1.6GHz CPU and 8GB of RAM, allowing your applications to run comfortably without making the laptop feel sluggish. The design has been improved over to last year’s VivoBook, and it is both lighter and thinner, weighing in at 3.7 pounds, making it highly portable.
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.)
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.
Christopher Coke of PC Perspective published his review of the Logitech G PRO Gaming Headset, awarding it PC Perspective’s Gold Award. He shared, “with pro gamers now competing in million dollar tournaments and filling out stadiums of their own, PC gaming peripherals are going to the way of Nike, inextricably tying themselves to competitive gaming with marketing and team sponsorships."
The laptop comes with a long list of ports and also has a good heat exhaust system, making it a perfect choice for gamers and all other hardcore users. As far as the graphics on the laptop are concerned, it comes with the Intel UHD 620 integrated graphics. All in all, the laptop offers an excellent set of specifications for a little above $500, but considering the design and performance of this laptop, we think it’s worth it.
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.
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.
While its cheap case is somewhat disappointing, it does hide some pretty imposing components under the hood. It features a Full-HD eDP display with 94% NTSC color and the familiar Steel Series Keyboard that we usually see with MSI laptops. However, the keyboard is said to suffer from flex, which is said to be due to the cheap plastic casing, and it doesn’t have backlighting. On the inside, you will find a variety of components that will surprise you, considering its low price tag.
If you want a gaming laptop for less than $1,000, get the Lenovo Legion Y530. Because of its lower-powered graphics card, the Y530 won’t play demanding games as well for as many years to come as our top pick, but it keeps cool and has a bright screen, a comfortable keyboard, and a responsive trackpad. The Y530 is also about a pound lighter and significantly more compact than the Dell G7 and G5, but it’s a pain to upgrade. We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics processor with 4 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i5-8300H processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive. But if the Y530 costs more than $900 at the time you’re shopping, we recommend saving up for our top pick and its more powerful graphics processor instead.
The E 15 offers a max resolution of 1920×1080, although this will need to be set to 1366 x 768 to retain a frame rate of over 30fps when playing more demanding games. The NVIDIA GeForce 940MX offers slightly better performance than a 940M card and, unlike some of its competitors, the Aspire E 15 E5-575G-57D4 features faster GDDR5 video memory instead of GDDR3. Acer have also fitted the Aspire E 15 E5-575G-57D4 with the latest generation Intel Core i5-7200U processor, which is powerful enough to handle more hardware intensive apps and games.
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).
The dedicated MX150 is Nvidias latest generation budget mobile GPU with improved performance over the previous generation 940MX. Multitasking will also not be much of problem, as the RAM will allow you to run quite a few applications and browser windows at once, though an upgrade to 16GB of RAM is also possible. It comes with a somewhat small SSD, affording you only 256GB of storage, but you can always add an additional SSD or HDD if needed.
Although the E15 comes with a Full-HD IPS display, some have noted that it is fairly dim compared to higher end displays. Regardless, you will get decent viewing angles and the matte finish will prevent any potential glare. It has a solid battery life of around 8 hours and 30 minutes, with Acer even claiming up to 15 hours of battery life, though heavier applications and games will drain its battery life a lot faster. The NVIDIA GeForce MX150 is by no means a beast compared to higher end cards, and most modern AAA titles will struggle somewhat, but lowering the graphics will afford you some playability even on next-gen titles.
Without more overclocking, there is a noticeable distinction in notebooks, mainly because Kaby Lake models have clock of a few hundred MHz more than their Skylake equivalent. Although, for a price- performance causes, we don’t think you have mistaken with taking an older notebook. The GPU is the main factor in most of the games, and even the Core i7-6700HQ is more than enough for the coming few years.
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.
Most gaming laptops—including budget machines—have comfortable, deep-travel keyboards that cushion your fingers during long gaming sessions. This Dell model’s blue-backlit keyboard felt crisp, snappy, and responsive but a bit shallow to us, so it was not as comfortable after a few hours of gaming or typing as some of the other laptops we tested. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but we do prefer the feel of the keyboards on the Lenovo Y530 and Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM.
Dell has a couple of (more or less) entry-level product lines: the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (which is equipped with a GeForce GTX1050 graphics chip) and the more recent G3 (17″) and G5 (15″) which incorporate a GeForce GTX 1050, 1050 Ti or 1060 Max-Q graphics chip. One high-end G5 model is equipped with a 4K display. LaptopMag’s test highlights this computer’s good design, good-quality audio, good upgradability, and good overall performance. However, the poor performance of this computer’s display cast something of a cloud over its positive characteristics.
Speaking of the technical details, the Rival 700 is a modular mouse that offers features such as a modular design, RGB lighting, OLED display, adjustable DPI settings with DPI maxing out 16,000 on the optical sensor, and 8,000 on the laser sensor, and yes, you can change the sensor by buying one separately. Sadly, though, as much as we would have wished, the mouse doesn’t come with an ambidextrous design and might be a problem for people who aren’t left-handed. However, that doesn’t mean that the Rival 700 isn’t a good mouse, behind the expensive price lies a really good mouse that fits gamers of all sorts, it doesn’t matter if you are playing an FPS, an RPG, an MMO, the mouse is there to serve, and serve you well.
It sports a 17.3-inch HD LED display with a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels. Under the hood, the laptop is powered by an 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor enabling it to handle most of the games and other essential tasks. For multitasking, the laptop comes with an 8GB of RAM, and for storing data, it comes with 1TB of hard drive. It also has one extra RAM slot to increase the RAM up to whopping 16GBs.
Let's take a look under the hood: The new ASUS Metal is an amazing choice for gaming. It runs all PC games we threw at it flawlessly at medium settings. The laptop is powered by Intel's 6th-generation Core i7-6500U. Of course, you can tune the CPU from 2.5GHz up to 3.1GHz with Intel's TurboBoost for even more performance. The laptop's GPU is a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M. There's a good reason why most budget gaming laptops include this card: It offers a great price-to-performance balance and very long lifespan. The laptop's specs are topped off with 8GB of RAM and a generous 512GB SSD storage. It's a solid combination that runs games well.
For example, the Aero 15X, weighs just over 2 Kg and incorporates a GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics chip. Its keyboard is equipped with RGB backlighting and an anti-ghosting system. The Aero 15X also features two internal M.2 NVMe format connectors. Let’s not forget that it is also equipped with a 15.6-inch Full HD display operating at a frequency of up to 144 Hz (which is also factory calibrated). Other models are equipped with a QHD display (Aero 14K).
Nailing down a high-quality mouse sensor is tricky without getting hands-on time with a given mouse. The two key sensor types are "optical" and "laser" sensors, but you can't apply absolutes when judging them. Your best bet is to try out a mouse in person, or to rely on formal reviews like ours, as well as online forums, for the skinny on how a mouse feels in specific play situations.
A critical thing this article forgot to mention was to avoid the U i7 and i5 series, found in majority of mainstream laptops. The U Series i7's and i5's are Underpowered. Instead look for Processors that end in HQ such as intel intel's i7 7700hq. This is a REAL quad core processor, vs the U series, dual core low end processor, such as the i7 7500u. have a look at ark.intel.com to see what i'm talking about, and to see all the CPU's intel makes. Remember a i7 7500u, is very much outclassed by a i5 7300HQ. Again, point to be made, if you want a gaming laptop, don't buy the U Series.
A laptop based around the next-step-up GeForce GTX 1060, meanwhile, is ideal for no-compromise 1080p gaming. We've seen GTX 1060-based gaming rigs priced anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. The biggest values are likely to be found in this lot, and the GTX 1060 is the baseline for using your laptop with a virtual reality (VR) headset. (See our picks for the best laptops for VR.)
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.
If the Dell G7 is unavailable, we recommend the very similar Dell G5 15 Gaming instead. It’s nearly identical to the G7, but the model we tested had a worse-looking screen with a greenish color tint, angled vents instead of rounded ones, and a red backlight on the keyboard instead of blue. Although we were able to test only the GTX 1050 Ti model, Dell confirmed to us that the G5 and G7 have identical thermal setups when configured with the same graphics card.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080: This is the card to beat. During our testing, gaming laptops outfitted with a 1080 GPU routinely top the category average on high-end games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto V with the special effects settings and resolution turned all the way up. And of course, Nvidia 1080 can easily support all your virtual-reality adventures. Just be prepared to shell out a pretty penny, since 1080s are only found in high-end systems like the Razer Blade Pro or the Acer Predator 17X.
But if you want to play new games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on ultra settings, you’re better off with a desktop or a gaming laptop with more powerful graphics. A $1,200 desktop is much more powerful, and you can easily upgrade it in the future. And if you opt for a higher-end gaming laptop, you’ll be able to crank up those graphics settings for years—rather than months—to come.
The prices on these Sceptre 4K HDTVs have always been ridiculously good, but Walmart steps it up in November by slashing the prices an additional $20-$100 off. The 75" TV gets the best treatment, with a whopping $100 price drop from its previous lowest price ever. Note that these TVs don't have Smart capability but fortunately you'll be able to pick a 4K Fire TV Stick or Chromecast for super cheap in just a few weeks.
Of course, this is an entry-level gaming laptop and you should expect that some games have to be played on medium settings. However, you can expand this laptop later. For example, it has a second RAM slot for additional memory and an m.2 slot for a solid-state drive. Overall, this is a very good budget laptop with plenty of features at a great price point.
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.
It includes one of the fastest graphics engines you can find anywhere in the mobile range and this implies that with the butter smooth FPS you can play any game. The Grant Theft Auto 5 performed ~60FPS when played at ultra settings while the Witcher 3 performed ~63FPS when played on the same settings. Its hardware delights the senses for the gaming experience.
Games are powered by the laptop's GeForce GT 940M GPU (2GB dedicated video memory), paired with 8GB DDR3L 1600 MHz RAM. It's a smart combination for this price class, capable of playing most games flawlessly. Besides the gaming performance this laptop made it to this top list because of its many additional features. We like the large 1TB storage which is very future proof. Additionally, ASUS packed this laptop with lots of connectivity: You get ultra-fast 802.11AC Wi-Fi, two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 ports, Bluetooth 4.0, plus HDMI and VGA ports. It's great to have such an abundance of ports.
If an SSD is out of your budget, we highly recommend purchasing, at least, a 1TB hard drive with a 7,200-rpm speed. However, instead of an either/or situation, we recommend choosing a configuration that has both an SSD and a hard drive. That way you can load your games and important files on the speedy SSD and have plenty of room left for everything else.
Its R5 graphics boasts a GPU clock speed of 800MHz (Boosted) and will allow you to play some of the best classic titles and even some of the Twitch chart toppers such as CS: GO and League of Legends. You will even be able to play GTA V and Battlefield 4 if you don’t mind playing those games on lower settings. If you are more of a browser-based gamer, then you will love the responsive touchscreen that will allow you to play your favorite games without the need of the laptop’s trackpad.
This price range has some reliable standards. You'll get a 15-inch 1920 x 1080 display (in many cases a crisp IPS one), an Intel Core-5 CPU, a 1TB hard drive, medium- sized SSD, or a hybrid 1TB drive. Graphics card choices will be mostly limited to an Nvidia GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti; the latter represents a 15 to 20 percent performance uplift over Nvidia's entry-level GTX 1050 and AMD's Radeon RX 560. It's worth the extra money if you're willing to spend it. All GTX 1050 Ti cards also includes a satisfactory 4GB of VRAM versus the normal 2GB present in most GTX 1050s.
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.)
After picking our hardware criteria, we scoured the websites of major gaming laptop manufacturers like Acer, Alienware, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, and Samsung. We also browsed boutique makers such as Clevo, Digital Storm, iBuypower, Origin PC, and Xotic PC, but few of those sell configurations that meet our hardware criteria and budget; selecting every component can get very expensive very fast, so customizing isn’t ideal for buyers on a tight budget.
The choice of CPU is also important. All the laptops on this list come equipped with quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with ‘HQ’ or ‘HK’ at the end of their model names, but you’ll find some cheaper models on the market that only have a ‘U’ suffix. This denotes a much lower-power, dual-core processor that can prove to be a huge bottleneck in games if you have a high-end graphics card.
Budget systems usually reach their attractive prices not just through the balance of build quality and components, but also from bloatware. Having junk like Norton trials and eBay apps pre-installed translates to revenue in the PC maker's pocket, allowing them to hit aggressive prices. So, know going in that you may need to do some uninstalling once you've unboxed it and fired it up.
The entry-level Pascal gaming chip is the GeForce GTX 1050, typically found in models starting around $700 to $800. The GTX 1050 is capable of playing most of today's games at 1080p resolution with medium to high settings. Keep in mind that the GTX 1050 may be on the edge of playability at high settings, depending on the game. You may want to opt for the next step up, a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti-based model, for a bit more graphics muscle. The floor on GTX 1050 Ti-based laptops was about $850 at this writing, with models ranging up to about $1,200. These two chips make up the heart of the under-$1,000 budget-laptop market here in late 2018.
Like the Dell G7, the Legion Y530 has a 15-inch 1920×1080 IPS display with a 60 Hz refresh rate. But the Y530’s small bezels set it apart from other cheap gaming laptops, making games feel more immersive and allowing the whole laptop to be smaller. The Y530’s display looked better than those of other laptops in its price range like the Dell G3 and Acer Nitro 5, which had green and blue color tints. The Y530’s screen was also among the brightest we tested at 266 nits, beaten only by the exceptionally bright screens of the more expensive Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM and Acer Predator Helios 300.
Now before we start discussing the in-depth details, you should know that Spatha is more than just a gaming mouse, from the construction standpoint, it actually is a marvel, and while Asus’ choice of using magnesium alloy instead of the traditional materials that are used in the gaming mouse. This mouse can be considered quite heavy as opposed to the competition it has, and the price is something only for the hardcore gamers.
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.
But what seals the "best value" award for the G502 is that it includes a series of 3.6-gram weights to be added or removed from the body of the mouse, allowing users to increase/decrease the weight to find an optimal fit. While I love that the Mamba Tournament Edition is already weighted from the get-go, the option to add weight to the Proteus Spectrum—combined with its multiple buttons and adjustable wheel/DPI settings—grant it a very desirable amount of flexibility.
You can be disappointed if you presumed that Kaby Lake made big improvements. While benchmarking the new chip of Kaby Lake has shown nothing breathtaking. The next in line Skylake, packed with the same clocks, runs ahead by a mere couple of percentages. Showing speed improvement of 3%, the Core i7-7820HK is only a bit faster that Core i7-6820HK, which is shown when conducting Cinebench R15 and Cinebench R11.5 at 4.0 GHz
One of the typical features that sets apart a gaming laptop is a colorful, backlit keyboard. These vary quite a bit from model to model, with more elaborate backlighting going hand-in-hand with higher prices and a higher general level of other components. Almost all budget gaming laptops will employ single-color backlighting (most often, red or white) to keep costs down. The next step up is lighting programmable by zone, with three or four blocks of the keyboard independently customizable in different colors, but this is not common in budget machines. Keyboards with per-key, individually programmable lighting are the province of high-end machines only.
The sound is just as important as the visuals when it comes to gaming. Yes, you probably have a headset that you'll use most of the time. But sometimes you just want to let your laptop's speakers work. The MSI-exclusive, Nahimic audio software is one of our favorites since it offers some of the best surround sound in both headphones and speakers. It also provides several handy presets, Bass Boost and Voice Clarification software. Alienware's Dell Audio software is a close second, while Dolby Home Theater v4, available in Lenovo notebooks, rounds out our top three.