The bargain-priced Lenovo Legion Y530 (available via Lenovo) could be a good entry-level gaming laptop if you manage your expectations. It’s impressively portable and has a solid feature set. Unfortunately its middling graphics card struggles to deliver buttery visuals from today’s AAA games, and its performance will only go downhill as more demanding titles come down the pike. Read our review.
However, this is still a budget gaming laptop, and affordability is its greatest strength. The MX150 is an amazing solution if you’re mainly into eSports games, but it will inevitably struggle with newer, more demanding games. Needless to say, if eSports and indie games are your primary focus and/or you’re fine with dropping the settings in AAA games, you won’t find a gaming laptop better than this one.
Razer isn’t exaggerating when it calls its Blade 15 (available on Amazon) the “world’s smallest 15-inch gaming laptop.” While it’s impressive to get a six-core 8th gen Core i7-8750H and GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q performance into a compact chassis, note that it’s densely packed and feels heavy for its size. If you can deal with the additional weight, the payoff may well be worth it. Read our review.
After picking our hardware criteria, we scoured the websites of major gaming laptop manufacturers like Acer, Alienware, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, and Samsung. We also browsed boutique makers such as Clevo, Digital Storm, iBuypower, Origin PC, and Xotic PC, but few of those sell configurations that meet our hardware criteria and budget; selecting every component can get very expensive very fast, so customizing isn’t ideal for buyers on a tight budget.
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.
With their powerful components, colorful designs and premium prices, gaming laptops are a different beast than typical mainstream notebooks. And they need to be if you want to play demanding games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Grand Theft Auto V, explore virtual worlds with either the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift and enjoy smooth gameplay on high frame rates. They're also a different beast when it comes to design, offering chassis with more aggressive lines and multicolor keyboards.
The Acer Predator Helios 300 has Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics and a 144 Hz high-refresh-rate display, but its WASD keys reached 110.2 °F, the hottest of any budget gaming laptop we tested this year, even with Acer’s Cooler Boost software enabled. Its fans sounded high pitched and a bit grating, it had a poor 3.5-hour showing in our battery life tests, and it comes with too much bloatware.
If you are wondering, the Proteus Spectrum is just an updated version of the bestselling Logitech Proteus Core, the only difference is the inclusion of Spectrum lighting; Logitech’s version of RGB lighting. Where the G900 Chaos Spectrum is built for the enthusiasts who like to fire on all fours, the Proteus Spectrum is aimed at users who don’t want to spend an awful lot of money but still get the best of both worlds.
But what seals the "best value" award for the G502 is that it includes a series of 3.6-gram weights to be added or removed from the body of the mouse, allowing users to increase/decrease the weight to find an optimal fit. While I love that the Mamba Tournament Edition is already weighted from the get-go, the option to add weight to the Proteus Spectrum—combined with its multiple buttons and adjustable wheel/DPI settings—grant it a very desirable amount of flexibility.
There are not all that many graphics chips to choose from (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050, 1050 Ti, 1060, 1070 or 1080…). Your selection will depend on your particular needs and budget. A GTX 1070 or 1080 would probably be overkill for gamers interested in playing MMORPG games such as World Of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2 and would only prove useful when connecting to an external 4K display. Facing off against the GTX 1050 and 1060 can be found a few computers employing a Radeon RX 560, 570 or 580 graphics chip – but not all that many.
The next gaming laptop we have lined up comes from none other than MSI, and it is the GV62 8RD. Unlike the above Acer laptop, this one you can tell is a gaming laptop from the get-go, all thanks to the red LED keyboard backlight and the conspicuous MSI Gaming logo on the back. But what’s really great about this laptop is how it packs some important gaming features into an overall fairly affordable product.
Resolution: Never get anything less than a 1920 x 1080 display. It’s rare to find one with a lesser resolution, but if you do, run. If you have a GTX 1070 or GTX 1080, you may want to consider a 2560 x 1440 display. 4K (3840 x 2160) screens are an option on some gaming laptop, but it’s rare you’ll be able to both get enough graphical fidelity at that resolution while also maintaining a smooth frame rate.
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.
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