We tested the laptops using BioShock Infinite’s benchmarking mode and by playing half an hour of The Witcher 3 on ultra with VSync off. We measured the laptops’ internal temperature using HWMonitor and measured the surface temperature at various points on the keyboard and underside using an IR thermometer. We tested each laptop’s screen using some of the Lagom LCD monitor test pages, and used each for several workdays to get a feel for its keyboard, trackpad, screen, and speakers.
After picking our hardware criteria (see above), we scoured the websites of major gaming-laptop manufacturers like Alienware, MSI, Asus, Razer, Samsung, Acer, HP, and Lenovo, and we browsed boutiques like Xotic PC, iBuyPower, Clevo, iBuypower, Origin PC, Digital Storm, and others. Then we put together a list of the laptops that fit our requirements and have positive reviews from trusted sources like CNET, AnandTech, Engadget, Laptop Mag, PCMag, and Notebookcheck, and eliminated those that didn’t.
We also liked that the laptop, despite its very thin 0.8 inches, features a lot of connectivity. You get two USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, a LAN jack, HDMI, plus a card reader. It's a great setup, leaving no modern ports left to be desired. Speaking of modern, the ASUS Metal also sports a very good anti-glare display, plus dual fan cooling to keep the laptop running smooth during gaming sessions.
The Dell G7 15 Gaming is the best gaming laptop for people on a budget. It has an excellent price-to-performance ratio, and its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics will play games on high to medium settings for years. The G7 keeps its most-touched surfaces and innards cool enough that the laptop stays comfortable to use during extended gaming sessions, and its screen, keyboard, and trackpad are all solid. It has impressive battery life (for a gaming laptop) too. But the G7 is a bit heavier than the competition, and its fans get distractingly loud during gaming sessions, so plan to use headphones.
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.
For a long time, competitive gamers strongly preferred wired gaming mice to wireless ones to eliminate perceived latency, as well as the possibility of a battery running down in the midst of a heated match. Many serious players still hold that bias, but Razer, Logitech, and others have released higher-end mice of late with low latency ratings that ought to satisfy at least casual gamers.
It has an average battery life of around 5 hours, 30 minutes according to reports, and most reviewers have pointed out that the audio quality is good overall. The Intel UHD 620 graphics won’t win any awards for gaming performance, but it will allow you to run some classic titles well, and even some newer titles on low settings (see this video). It also comes with USB 3.1 with a reversible USB C connector for super fast data transfers. ASUS’s new Vivobook F510UA-AH51 15.6-inch laptop offers a great performance for the price, and its portability and solid construction makes it well suited for business people constantly travelling.
The connectivity, which is of various forms, is superb. The laptop has three USB 3.0 ports, a USB 3.1 Type C, a mini display port, a HDMI port, an Ethernet jack. It also has a mic-in, headphone and line out jacks, and an SD card reader. The system also comes with Bluetooth features and 802.11ac Wi-Fi features for connectivity and a 1.2MP HD camera.
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.