Well, the laptop offers much more than just the strong chassis. Starting with the display, it comes with the HD 15.6-inch display with touch support enabling users to play touch-based games on this laptop. However, the display isn’t the best in terms of color accuracy, and it also doesn’t get bright enough to use comfortably in direct sunlight. However, the laptop is a well-built machine which manages to resist everyday wears and tears.
Still, depending on the kind of games you play and how fussy you are, sometimes a laptop doesn't have to pretend. On some level, almost any recent notebook PC can work as a gaming laptop. Current laptops using Intel's 7th or 8th Generation ("Kaby Lake" or "Coffee Lake") Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, or AMD's less commonly seen A10 or A12 chips, can play basic game titles passably if you roll back the screen-resolution and graphical-detail settings far enough. These chips have modest graphics acceleration built in, and that's all you need for casual or Web-based games. Plants vs. Zombies, here you come.
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.
Another spec to watch for is panel type. You'll want to go for an in-plane switching (IPS) panel if possible, as they generally offer the best off-center viewing angles and colors. Some gamers are content with cheaper twisted nematic (TN) panels, which make you settle for narrower viewing angles—but then, you're probably seated directly in front of the screen, so that's not an issue. TN panels can offer slightly faster response times.
G-Sync or FreeSync: Several gaming laptops come with panels that support Nvidia's G-Sync or AMD's FreeSync technologies, both of which are designed to eliminate unsightly graphical tears and ghosting 0n monitors ranging from 1080p to 4K. While 60Hz is the current minimum refresh rate, there are an increasing number of monitors that offer 120Hz, which offers even faster rendering without introducing stutter.
What’s more, some GeForce GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 chips are labeled as “Max-Q”, meaning that they operate at a slightly lower frequency than “normal” graphics chips in order to reduce heat and facilitate their integration into thin and lightweight computers (which are not equipped with the same type of substantial cooling system as larger laptops). As a result, the performance of these chips is slightly lower (around 10% lower) than their non-Max-Q counterparts.
Whether you’re getting a gaming laptop for the first time or replacing an older model that doesn’t play games as well anymore, you should take a look at what games you can and can’t play (and on which settings) using Notebookcheck’s useful “Computer Games on Laptop Graphic Cards” chart. Our pick has VR-ready Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics, and our budget pick has a GTX 1050 Ti GPU.
Know that the presence or absence of a dedicated control utility is a big differentiator between low-end and high-end gaming mice. Some cheap gaming mice will come with no software of their own. Without such a utility, you'll be able to customize mouse commands only within a game (via its in-game menus) or in Windows' own mouse settings. That's not necessarily a bad thing; just know what you are getting, or not getting.
Why a laptop right now? With both desktop graphics card and RAM prices still inflated well over MSRP, the notebook space has never looked more attractive. A year or two ago, the price gap between desktops and laptops with comparable performance was significant. That's changing, and now we're paying an almost insignificant convenience tax to have desktop performance in a portable form.
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.
Gabe Carey is a Junior Analyst at PCMag specializing in peripherals, storage and the systems that power them. Prior to joining this website, he was an ardent freelance reporter for Digital Trends and TechRadar, though his most noteworthy accomplishment was racking up over 15,000 signatures on a petition to change the national anthem to Sonic Advent... See Full Bio
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.