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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
With major advances in laptop CPUs and graphics technologies, you can now get great gaming performance in sizes from slender to huge, and prices from budget to sky-high. That's where this handy-dandy buyer’s guide come in. We’ll name the best gaming laptops currently available, and we’ll highlight what to look for when buying a gaming laptop. (Check back often, as we’ll update this list as new products arrive.)
If you're aiming to game professionally or just want a leg up on the competition, a dedicated gaming mouse is the way to go. Way beyond a Microsoft "Comfort Mouse," today's gaming mice take the cheese—er, cake—where extra features, tailored designs, and sheer horsepower are concerned. Additional buttons and hyper-accurate laser optics are a given on gaming mice—the best also deliver strobing lights, customizable weights, and more buttons than a Men's Wearhouse.
The Dell G7 15 is a mid-size gaming laptop with middle-of-the-road GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics, middling battery life, and—you guessed it—a mid-range price tag. But this system boasts a stellar feature that sets it apart from the crowd: a six-core, benchmark-crushing Core i7 processor that’ll thrill content creators. Indeed, the G7 15’s overall performance is only a step or two behind that of our current top pick among 15-inch gaming laptops, the thinner and lighter MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RE—and it costs about $600 less. Despite a dim screen and an occasionally too-hot chassis, this is still a worthy contender.
Plow through the competition with this Logitech Lightspeed wireless gaming mouse. A 1 ms response time ensures that every movement translates almost instantly on the screen, and the ultra-precise optical sensor means that every twitch is recorded with accuracy. This Logitech Lightspeed wireless gaming mouse is specifically crafted for competition-level events.
The Alienware 17 R5 packs Intel’s debut high-performance Core i9 laptop chip. Friends, the Core i9-8950HK inside turns this already beastly gaming laptop into an utter monster. The version we tested ($3,810 from Dell) pumps out more performance than we’ve ever seen in a gaming laptop with all-mobile parts. It offers over 55 percent more multi-thread performance than its already-potent direct predecessor. CPU benchmarks this fast were practically unthinkable mere months ago.
The Dell Inspiron I3567-5664BLK-PUS 15.6-inch laptop has received positive reviews for its decent specs for the price, coming with an Intel i5-7200U and 8GB of RAM, affording you decent multitasking capabilities and a machine powerful enough to run some demanding programs reasonably well. Users liked the backlit keyboard and the 2TB of storage space. The construction is said to be solid, too, which impressed many users. However, some pointed out that screen quality is subpar, offering limited viewing angles, and furthermore, it is only 720p.
The laptop comes with a long list of ports and also has a good heat exhaust system, making it a perfect choice for gamers and all other hardcore users. As far as the graphics on the laptop are concerned, it comes with the Intel UHD 620 integrated graphics. All in all, the laptop offers an excellent set of specifications for a little above $500, but considering the design and performance of this laptop, we think it’s worth it.
Once you've come back down to earth, consider Dell's Alienware 17 R5. It's widely regarded as one of the highest-performing gaming laptops on the market, and you can spec it out with an Intel Core i9 processor, a GTX 1080 graphics card, and a staggering 32GB of RAM. The laptop weighs in at nearly 10 pounds, and at max specs, it'll cost you a comparatively reasonable $3,500.
Speaking about the internals of the laptop, it comes with an Intel Core i5-7200U with 8GB of RAM. Graphics on the device are managed by the powerful integrated Intel HD 620 graphics. Moreover, the storage segment on the laptop is bolstered by a massive 1TB of hard disk, which will never let you run out of space. The laptop comes with a great look and feels making it a perfect choice for gamers.
Performance is excellent; the quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ is a great chip not only for gaming, but for video editing as well, while the GTX 1060 graphics hardware is more than good enough for the latest games at High settings in Full HD. Round that off with a bit of old-school design charm and an excellent keyboard, and you have a very attractive machine.
John is PCMag's executive editor for hardware. A veteran of the popular tech site and magazine Computer Shopper from 1993 to 2017, he has covered just about every kind of computer gear—from the 386SX to 18-core processors—in his long tenure as an editor, a writer, and an advice columnist. He served as Computer Shopper’s editor in chief from 2008 to... See Full Bio
The three most important hardware components of this laptop (namely CPU, GPU, and RAM) work well together to deliver excellent budget gaming performance. The 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ quad-core processor actually clocks in at over 10,000 points in GeekBench, which is a great score for this price. You also get 8GB of DDR3 RAM, plus Nvidia's acclaimed GeForce GTX 960M with 2 GB GDDR5 VRAM. It's a very good combination, in our opinion, allowing you to run a lot of current games on high to very high settings with steadily high FPS.
Right now, Nvidia graphics cards are found on the overwhelming majority of new gaming laptops. You’ll generally find laptop specific parts on machines launched in 2014 and 2015 (such as 950M, 960M etc), but from this year all Nvidia laptops get full desktop-level GPUs. This is because the company’s ‘Pascal’ architecture is so efficient it can squeeze into the same space as an old-style laptop GPU without needing extra cooling. Look out for 10-series cards such as the GTX 1050, GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080.
On the AMD side of the fence, the on-chip graphics solutions in the company's A8-, A10-, and A12-series processors are pretty good (as integrated graphics go). As a result, you'll see almost no AMD-based laptops under $1,000 with dedicated graphics. That's because the presence of an AMD CPU, in the first place, is usually a low-price play by the laptop maker. Adding a GPU would just bump up the price.
At 6.3 pounds, the G7 is the heaviest budget gaming laptop we tested this year, but several others came close, weighing between 5 and 6 pounds. The G7 measures 15.3 inches wide, 10.8 inches deep, and 1 inch thick; its deep fans can make it difficult to fit into some backpacks, but the size and weight are unfortunately necessary trade-offs for a laptop that can both play games well and keep cool. The G7 isn’t unreasonably large for a 15-inch gaming laptop—most of the other contenders have similar dimensions.
Solid-state drive: A solid-state drive speeds up boot times and reduces loading times in games, so all of our recommendations have SSDs. Some gaming laptops in this price range have 1 TB of hard drive storage and no SSD, but in those cases we recommend adding one yourself. We prefer at least a 250 GB solid-state drive because 128 GB won’t hold more than your operating system and a couple of games.
The Full-HD display is impressive for its price tag and the fact that you can set it to a maximum of 1920 x 1080 pixels makes it far more suited to streaming high definition media. The Acer Aspire E E5-575-53EJ also features an SSD storage drive, which will mean super fast Windows boot speeds and much faster application loading times than traditional storage drives. However, the installed SSD only features 256GB of storage space, which will fill up quickly if you intend on installing loads of games or if you have a larger media collection. You can upgrade the storage drive at home, however larger SSDs do come with larger price tags and you might instead want to consider a good external storage drive for your media files.
Best Portability (13 - 14 inches): If you're constantly on the move, you'll want to consider 13 or 14-inch laptops like the Razer Blade. Notebooks in this size range typically weigh under 5 pounds and tend to have longer battery lives with an average endurance of 7 hours and 38 minutes. However, 13 and 14-inch gaming laptops usually don't come with the most powerful CPU or GPU, because they just don't have enough space to dissipate all that heat.
$1,000 - $2,000: In this price range, there are still a few Core i5's hanging around, but the majority of the configurations will have quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU with 16GB of RAM and a 1080p display. Most notebooks will feature both an SSD and an HDD (with a bump from 5,400 to 7,200 rpm) and a Nvidia GTX 1060 or 1070 GPU with at least 6GB of VRAM. You can play most games on high and clear 60fps, but adding special effects can hamper the experience on 4K resolution.
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