We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB solid-state drive. This configuration usually costs around $1,200, in line with the other laptops we considered with similar specs. The G7 is available in black or white; we prefer black because the white lid on our unit scuffed a bit during our testing, but they cost the same, so follow your heart.
The storage and memory in the Y530 are upgradable, but it’s a pain in the butt to do so. In contrast to the Dell G7’s and G5’s convenient access panel held in by a single screw, the Y530’s design requires you to remove 11 screws and the entire bottom of the chassis to get inside. And although it’s possible to wedge a small flathead screwdriver into the seam, spudgers will likely make the job easier and reduce the risk of your gouging the laptop. Once inside, you can replace the M.2 PCIe drive or the 2.5-inch hard drive, or add another stick of RAM. The memory is hidden beneath a tiny metal house; our recommended config comes with one 8 GB DIMM and one open slot.
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.
Right now, Nvidia graphics cards are found on the overwhelming majority of new gaming laptops. You’ll generally find laptop specific parts on machines launched in 2014 and 2015 (such as 950M, 960M etc), but from this year all Nvidia laptops get full desktop-level GPUs. This is because the company’s ‘Pascal’ architecture is so efficient it can squeeze into the same space as an old-style laptop GPU without needing extra cooling. Look out for 10-series cards such as the GTX 1050, GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080.
If you can’t spend more than $1,000 but still want a laptop that can play games, get the Lenovo Legion Y530. It won’t play new games as well for as long 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 more of a pain to upgrade yourself.
Performance is excellent; the quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ is a great chip not only for gaming, but for video editing as well, while the GTX 1060 graphics hardware is more than good enough for the latest games at High settings in Full HD. Round that off with a bit of old-school design charm and an excellent keyboard, and you have a very attractive machine.
HP launched this updated Pavilion line in April to make a play for those who are maybe interested in gaming, but not willing to go all-in on a laptop from the PC maker's Omen brand. We haven't seen it in person yet, but HP's direct pricing is on par with the competition here. The entry-level configuration is skippable at $680, but you can configure it for $750 with a Core i5-8300H processor and a GeForce GTX 1050Ti or a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor and a 3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 for $920.
The Dell G7 15 is a mid-size gaming laptop with middle-of-the-road GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics, middling battery life, and—you guessed it—a mid-range price tag. But this system boasts a stellar feature that sets it apart from the crowd: a six-core, benchmark-crushing Core i7 processor that’ll thrill content creators. Indeed, the G7 15’s overall performance is only a step or two behind that of our current top pick among 15-inch gaming laptops, the thinner and lighter MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RE—and it costs about $600 less. Despite a dim screen and an occasionally too-hot chassis, this is still a worthy contender.
The Acer Nitro 5 Spin delivers solid multitasking power, good battery life, a comfortable keyboard and oodles of versatility thanks to its easily convertible design. A Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU means that you can play most games at low or medium settings. It's a solid choice for games looking for an affordable gaming system that does more than play games.