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As you might expect, a $1,300 gaming laptop won’t perform as well as a top-of-the-line one—but not everyone has $2,000 to spend on a high-end gaming laptop. Our cheaper gaming laptop picks can still play many AAA games on high settings at 1920×1080 resolution, with exceptions for very new or demanding games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider or Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. It’ll serve you well for classic games and less-demanding modern ones like Overwatch, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, or Doom (2016), and you can expect it to play most games on at least medium settings for the next few years.
There are no longer any gaming laptops using an Intel Core i3 processor. These days, many entry-level computers come equipped with a 4-core Core i5 processor. However, the most commonly found processor in this type of laptop is the Core i7. The 4-core Core i7-7700HQ processor is slowly being phased out in favor of the Core i7-8750H (6 cores at 2.2/4.1 GHz) and the Core i9-8950HK (6 cores at 2.9/4.8 GHz).
The Lenovo Legion Y530 is the Porsche of budget gaming laptops. Its minimalist design and blackout color scheme give it a suave look you'd associate with tuxedo-clad, big-screen villains. Outside of its stately good looks, you get a gaming notebook that offers a wide range of ports and a solid graphics card. It's a very good choice for casual gamers who want a sub-$1,000 laptop with a button-up design that can blend in -- and even impress -- no matter the setting.
Wirecutter has spent more than 200 hours over the past five years researching and testing dozens of gaming laptops, and our PC team has more than 37 years of combined experience covering laptops. I’ve personally tested, lived with, and reviewed hundreds of laptops, and I’ve spent hands-on time with countless other models while covering the CES trade show, attending events, and visiting stores. I’ve reviewed most gaming laptops—both budget and high-end—released in the past six years, and I’ve spent thousands of hours gaming on laptops since high school.
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.
And thanks to Nvidia's 1050 Ti GPUs, you can hook up an Oculus Rift and jump into the virtual realm. However, some companies like Dell and Gigabyte are outfitting their rigs with Nvidia GTX 1060 Max-Q GPUs so fans of the HTC Vive can also get in on the fun. Or if you're not ready to make such a big financial or space commitment, you can hook up one of Microsoft's new MR headsets like the Acer Windows Mixed Reality AH101 headset, which has the added bonus of working with either discrete or integrated graphics. Best of all, you can use all that money you just saved to splurge on a top-notching gaming keyboard or mouse.