Matthew Buzzi is a Hardware Analyst at PCMag, focusing on laptops and desktops with a specialty in gaming systems and games. Matthew earned a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism and interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming before turning it into part of his career. He spends entirely too much time on Twitter (find him @M... See Full Bio
Graphics: You can’t upgrade your laptop’s graphics processor, and if you cut corners you’ll have to shell out for a new computer sooner to keep playing new games. (Trust me, I’ve made this mistake.) Notebookcheck’s tests show the GTX 1060 and the GTX 1060 Max-Q near the 60 fps threshold in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Shadow of the Tomb Raider on high settings, while the GTX 1050 Ti barely scrapes by at 31 fps. But all three GPUs hit at least 60 fps in Overwatch on “epic” settings at 1080p. The GTX 1060 and its Max-Q counterpart support VR, while the GTX 1050 Ti has extremely limited VR support.
It's tax refund season (hopefully!) and you may be shopping for an affordable gaming laptop that can handle not just e-Sports and lightweight games, but demanding AAA titles as well. That system is easy to find when you throw more than $1000 at it, but lower your budget to $850 and the search becomes more challenging. The awesome news is that they're out there, and I've rounded up 4 that won't leave you with buyer's remorse.
Acer’s Predator Helios 300 is a budget-oriented Predator model with great parts at an affordable price. It sports an Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, GTX 1060 GPU, 16GB DDR4 memory, and a 15.6-inch full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 display. A laundry list of ports, including HDMI, will ensure you have enough room to plug any accessories or peripherals into the Predator.
This affordable Omen is only packing a GTX 1050 GPU, but it's fairly loaded otherwise, and is also available in several different configurations too. Its storage in particular is pretty great, with a 256GB PCIe SSE for your OS and a 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive for data and games. It's sporting a sufficient 12GB of RAM, and a very decent Intel Core i7-7700HQ Quad Core Processor. You may or may not be a fan of its "faux carbon fiber" trim, but the red backlight on the keyboard is pretty slick. Also, if you ditch the SSD and can live with 8GB of RAM, it's even cheaper.
Matte or Glossy: How do you like your displays, glossy or matte? This is more a matter of preference than anything else, but there are die-hard fans for both camps. Team Glossy swears by the vibrant colors, but that shiny surface is very susceptible to annoying glare. Fans of a matte panel don't have to worry about distracting reflections, but some users complain about washed out color and detail.
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.
Look for Intel Core i5 processors in midrange systems, with Core i7 U, HQ, and HK processors in higher-end gaming laptops. The H-series processors are higher-power, and tend to show up in bigger, thicker laptop models, while the low-power U-series chips are designed for thinner, more portable machines. They are quite different, in terms of thermal profile, as well as overall performance potential; a U-series Core i7 processor may not even have the same number of processing cores as an H-series Core i7 chip.
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.
Below we've sketched out what GPU and other specs you need in a cheap gaming laptop that will run games at surprisingly decent frame rates for at least a couple years. (Without breaking the bank, of course) The bottom line? Dell's last-generation Inspiron 15 7000 will run most current-gen games on low-med settings at 40-60 FPS (See it on Amazon) / (See it on Amazon UK), It's a great pick for a casual gaming + daily driving laptop. Read on for more!
I originally bought another mouse that was 30 dollars made by Bloody and I returned it to get this 10 dollar one instead. I don't regret my decision. I've only used it for a couple of hours and it already feels great. I wanted something that was colorful but could still handle playing video games online like League of Legends. Does it feel cheap? Yeah I mean it's pretty cheap, you can tell it is. But it handles well, moves good, and clicks way better than the other one I had bought. This mouse is definitely not something you'd throw around because it's lighter plastic.
MSI's GT75 Titan is one of the best gaming laptops available. Offering up to a an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU, an NVIDIA GTX 1080 GPU, and up to 64 GB of RAM, this laptop packs some serious performance. The 17.3-inch display is either a 120 Hz 1920x1080 TN panel, or an optional 3840x2160 60 Hz IPS display. The GT75 Titan features a SteelSeries mechanical keyboard which is a step above most other gaming laptops. The starting price is hefty, but the GT75 Titan is a heavyweight gaming system.
Given that high-end components tend to drain battery life, don't plan on taking any of these gaming rigs too far from a wall socket very often. Cutting-edge ports like USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are beneficial now, and will only be more so down the road, but look for at least two USB 3.0 ports so you can plug in an external mouse and a hard drive for your saved media files. If you mean to attach a VR headset to your GeForce GTX 1060-or-better rig, look for the right loadout of ports to accommodate it; you'll need a well-placed video out and enough USB ports for the hydra-head of cabling. Other video ports, like HDMI or Mini DisplayPort, will be helpful if you want to play games on an external display, but aren't absolutely necessary if your laptop's screen is large enough.
Such high product churn means there isn’t really a best time of the year to buy a gaming laptop, but here are some things that might be worth looking forward to: Intel’s first eighth-generation Core processor and quad-core ultrabook chips, Nvidia’s Max-Q approach to designing thinner and quieter laptops, MSI’s new gaming laptops, Lenovo’s Legion Y920 laptop, Acer’s Predator Triton 700 laptop, and Samsung’s Notebook Odyssey laptop.
The processor is the heart of a PC, and in many current gaming laptops you'll find a quad-core 7th Generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU based on the Kaby Lake chipset. Intel's new 8th-generation "Coffee Lake" CPUs launched a few months back in laptops, however, so you can expect them to become the norm going forward. Many of the Coffee Lake chips you'll see in gaming laptops include two more cores (six, instead of four), bringing more overall speed and much-improved performance on multithreaded tasks, but the upside for gaming is relatively minimal.
The Y530’s keyboard is comfortable to type on and responsive thanks to its deep, snappy keys, and its white backlight and perfectly ordinary font are the most tasteful we’ve seen on a gaming laptop. We also appreciate the inclusion of full-size arrow keys rather than the typical half-size ones manufacturers cram in, as on the Dell G7. This does mean that the number pad is farther back and a bit awkward to reach, but most people who play games will use the arrow keys more frequently.
A computer’s internal components heat up whenever a lot of demand is placed on them. Despite the best efforts of manufacturers to dissipate this heat using fans and heat pipes, some areas of a laptop tend to get hotter than others. This can make gaming laptops quite uncomfortable to use (especially when placed on their user’s lap!); this high heat can also endanger a laptop’s internal electronics if the computer’s ventilation slots become obstructed (be careful not to let your computer’s ventilation system get clogged up with dust!). If you intend to place your computer on your desk and use an external mouse for gaming, its temperature will not be a major consideration.
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.
Ross Rubin of Fast Company featured insights from Andrew Coonrad regarding the mechanical gaming keyboard market in his feature article, “The Mechanical Keyboards Of Yesteryear Are Back - And Better Than Ever.” Ross shared, “while dozens of small keyboard makers make only mechanical keyboards aimed largely at the video game market, Logitech is a keyboard giant that caters to a market beyond purists.
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.
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).
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.
So what hardware is inside? Well, you get the popular Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6 GHz processor, capable of handling current games on high settings. The CPU is paired with the excellent and highly-recommended NVIDIA GTX 960M GPU. It's an amazing graphics card that offers high gaming performance at a great price. All that is combined with a very fast 256GB solid-state drive and a high-quality screen. The HP OMEN delivers a very good hardware combination for the price.
Nowadays, most LCD displays for gaming laptops have a matte finish which makes them less susceptible to reflections. Other factors to consider are a display’s luminosity, color fidelity, and its range of displayed colors. Manufacturers sometimes promote their displays based on these characteristics (however, you should always consult the tests performed by specialized technology reviewers in order to verify the veracity of these claims).
If you're shopping for a gaming system on a limited budget (in this case, between roughly $800 and $1,200), you're going to need to make some sacrifices. Maximizing power while staying within a limited price range is the goal, but you'll have to accept that some of the components won't be comparable with the more expensive laptops you'll see while browsing. That said, $1,200 is a reasonable ceiling for what some buyers are ready to spend on a gaming laptop, and you can still get a solid system for that much or less.
Nvidia Max-Q Design - Nvidia has teamed with laptop manufacturers to create Max-Q, a new design specification which focuses on efficiency rather than performance. Essentially downclocking Nvidia GPUs can place a powerful 1080 GPU into the 0.5-inch thick Asus ROG Zephyrus. With less power being consumed, the system is producing less heat, which means the fans aren't being used as much. That means you get a system that's cooler and quieter than your typical gaming laptop and nearly as powerful. Max-Q designed GPUs will include the 1060, 1070 and 1080 GPUs.
Most gamers prefer one or two of those three game genres. Some might like to play every genre and pick up every game that hits the market. A gaming mouse like Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum would do well for all type of games. Contrariwise Logitech G502 does extremely well at MMO games. For instance, you may never get enough of games like League of legends, when you don’t have this mouse.
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.
We liked that this product offers a lot of pro features that you usually wouldn't find in a budget laptop. This includes a non-glare display, MSI's multi-monitor technology (powering up to three displays), and more. Nothing about this laptop feels cheap, except for the price (and that's a good thing)! MSI is known to make high-quality products and the CX62 is no exception.
However, with the advent of technology, the gap between desktop and laptop gaming is closing fast. Nowadays, there are laptops available which are capable of playing almost any game that requires high-end specifications. Besides matching the performance that desktops deliver, gaming laptops are also portable and compact, enabling you to game almost anywhere such as trains, flights and more. Gaming laptops come in different sizes, prices, and configurations. Certain factors have to be considered before buying a gaming laptop. Let’s take a look at few aspects that you need to keep in mind while buying a gaming laptop.