In our tests, the G7’s WASD keys—the ones that control movement in most games, and the ones you touch the most—hit 103 °F (39 °C) after half an hour of Overwatch. Those temperatures felt warm and could induce sweating, but they weren’t uncomfortable to touch like the Acer Predator Helios 300’s too-toasty 110 °F (43 °C) in the same test. The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GE, which we tested with less powerful GTX 1050 Ti graphics, was the only budget gaming laptop we tested this year that kept its WASD cluster comfortably cool at 94 °F (34 °C).
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It comes with a dual-core Intel i5-7200U, which is a good CPU, and 8GB of DDR4 RAM. This paves the way for a comfortable user experience, but the slower 5400RPM hard drive means slower load times on programs and boot times will be longer than laptops that come with an SSD. Storage space won’t be much of an issue however, since the HDD has 1TB of space. The Intel HD Graphics 620 handles some newer games fairly well on lower settings, such as GTA 5 and Overwatch (check this video out).
To muddy the waters, Nvidia in 2017 introduced a technology called Max-Q Design that squeezes a slightly detuned GeForce chip into thinner and lighter notebooks than would normally be possible, at the expense of 10 to 15 percent of the chip's performance. Because Max-Q tends to be implemented in thin, premium machines, it's seldom a factor among the under-$1,000 brigade, but it's good to know what it is, in case you encounter the term when shopping. (A few models just above the one-grand line incorporate the tech.) You may be interested in a Max-Q rig if maximum portability—not a trait usually associated with gaming laptops—matters to you.
Tucker Bowe of Gear Patrol included the Logitech G PRO Gaming Headset and the Logitech G433 7.1 Gaming Headset in his list of “The Best Gaming Headsets for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.” He shared that Logitech G "designed the headset with some of the best-known esports teams (such as G2 Esports and London Spitfire) on the G PRO headset, so it has some premium gaming features, like a tournament-grade mic and the company’s Pro-G drivers."
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.
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.
With that said, it should be obvious that this laptop will appeal to those who want a beefy GPU at a fairly approachable price. But of course, no laptop is without drawbacks – the laptop is on the heavy side, weighing over six pounds (almost 3 kg), so it’s not the most portable gaming laptop available. In addition to that, the battery life is not stellar here either and some users may find the SSD a tad too small for their needs.
Display: We focused on 15-inch models for this guide because they strike a good balance between screen size and relative portability, and they fit our budget. Our cheap gaming laptop pick needs a 1920×1080 screen—no exceptions. Lower resolutions look terrible, and higher resolutions aren’t affordable yet. (And our budget laptops’ GPUs can’t play games well at resolutions above 1080p anyway.) Very few laptops in this price range have high-refresh-rate (120 Hz or 144 Hz) panels, but it’s a nice bonus, especially for first-person games like Overwatch or Doom; the higher the refresh rate, the smoother animations appear, as long as the frame rate is also high. IPS screens tend to provide better viewing angles and color reproduction over TN panels, but they can also be more expensive, so we treat them as a preference but not a requirement.
Video memory: Another spec to consider is VRAM—a graphics processor’s dedicated video memory. The GTX 1060 and GTX 1060 Max-Q both come in two versions: one with 3 GB of VRAM, the other with 6 GB. (The GTX 1050 Ti appears to have only one version with 4 GB.) How much VRAM you need depends on the resolution you’re using (1080p in this case), the games you play, and the settings you play them at. Most games don’t need more than 4 GB of VRAM at 1080p, but some games do—and the list has doubtless grown since this 2015 TweakTown article published. Since the lower-VRAM options don’t often cost less, we focused on laptops with 4 GB or 6 GB of VRAM; they’ll play more games at higher settings for longer.
Most gaming laptops have a “chicklety” keyboard. If you can’t stand this type of keyboard, your only real alternative is to connect a better-quality external model. However, if you only ever use your keyboard for pressing the ZQSD keys, its quality will not really be an important factor. The same can be said about a computer’s trackpad which can always be replaced with an external mouse for greater in-game accuracy.
Still, unless you're attempting to become a professional gamer or get ranked globally in a particular popular title, a 60Hz screen will suffice. Nearly all gamers are still "stuck" with 60Hz displays, after all. High-refresh panels aren't common in budget machines, but they are worth knowing about, as we expect them to trickle down into under-$1,000 machines soon.
HP chose to fit a respectable 7th Gen Intel Core i3-7100U 2.4GHz Processor under the hood. Coupled with the 8GB of RAM, basic task handling will be breeze, and even some more demanding applications such as Premiere Pro or Photoshop will run, but Intel’s i5 or i7 is generally much better at this. The Intel HD 620 graphics chip will allow for light gaming, with games such as CS:GO, DOTA 2 and LOL running comfortably.
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.
Also look at the key layout. Models with an isolated cluster of arrow keys or well-defined WASD keys get bonus points, in our book. Also, because most budget gaming laptops are 15.6-inch models, check for a dedicated number pad to the right of the main key area, if you prefer to have one—or not, for that matter. Some machines of this screen size will have one, some won't. (A 17-inch laptop almost invariably will, however.)
The entry-level Pascal gaming chip is the GeForce GTX 1050, typically found in models starting around $700 to $800. The GTX 1050 is capable of playing most of today's games at 1080p resolution with medium to high settings. Keep in mind that the GTX 1050 may be on the edge of playability at high settings, depending on the game. You may want to opt for the next step up, a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti-based model, for a bit more graphics muscle. The floor on GTX 1050 Ti-based laptops was about $850 at this writing, with models ranging up to about $1,200. These two chips make up the heart of the under-$1,000 budget-laptop market here in late 2018.
You'll immediately want to buy a gaming mouse; even the nicest touchpads are garbage for gaming. The Logitech G series has been the gold standard for years; Razer makes well-reviewed mice, too. Depending on how hot your laptop gets, you may want a cooling pad, as well. And if you've sprung for a pricier laptop, you may want a second monitor for some games.
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.
Even if you're not familiar with Logitech's standard gaming mouse filigree, the G502 is very intuitive. It features two center/top buttons, one for toggling the mouse wheel between "loose" and "granular" settings, and one for adjusting DPI presets on the fly. This is the case for most Logitech mice, but it's nice to get both options on such an affordable product, and one that also features multiple tunable buttons. The G502 also uses a handy LED-based DPI indicator for various settings—normal, fast, super-fast, and slow—so it's especially good for shooter scenarios where different weapons call for different optimal speeds.
That said, there are still some basic conclusions to be drawn about graphics performance. In general, the higher the model number within a product line, the higher the 3D performance. So an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 generally produces higher frame rates and higher-quality graphics than an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or GTX 1070. A single high-end discrete GPU will let you play the latest AAA gaming titles on a 1080p screen with all the bells and whistles turned on, and be fine for entry-level VR play. Adding a second GPU (a rare and expensive option) will let you run the latest games more comfortably on 4K and 5K displays, or let you hook up multiple monitors to your laptop.
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.
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.
True, it’s not the most powerful gaming laptop on this list, but it definitely presents the best value for your money – it comes with a great CPU and a powerful GPU that is more than capable of fully utilizing that 1080p 144 Hz display. Furthermore, while some may find its 256 GB of storage limiting, as mentioned before, it can easily be expanded. All of this makes for a very reliable and versatile laptop that will be a good match for most people’s needs.
After spending more than 40 hours researching and testing 10 budget gaming laptops in late 2018, we found that the Dell G7 15 Gaming is the best one you can get. It’s an excellent value, and its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics card will play games on high to medium settings for years. It keeps its most-touched surfaces and components cool enough during long gaming sessions, and it has no dealbreaking flaws.
ASUS FX502VM hardware is being powered by a sixth gen gaming-centric Intel core i5-6300HQ notebook processor, clocked at 2.3GHz. In turbo mode, it can process much faster, climbing up to 3.1 GHZ, whilst for multitasking, the processor packs a paired huge 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Using dual cooling fans, the laptop offers thermal cooling technology, preventing the internals from overheating even under stressful usage.
The first thing you'll notice about this new HP gaming laptop is the exclusive Star Wars design. On the outside, the laptop features Star Wars engravings and a backlit, Jedi-red keyboard. But that's not all: The laptop comes pre-loaded with a ton of digital Star Wars items! You get rare wallpapers, screen savers, concept art, and original trilogy storyboards from the Star Wars archives. Plus, you can customize all system sounds with built-in audio files from the movies (think R2-D2 and light sabers).
Mice that are specially designed for RTS games and MMOs, on the other hand, look quite different. The most extreme come outfitted with an array of 10 or more programmable buttons. Usually set just under the tip of the thumb, these buttons can serve as simple shortcut triggers, or be programmed to execute longer macro commands. (For more on these mice, see our specialized guide to the best mice for MMO games.)
Minimal Portability (17 - 18 inches): If you plan to keep your laptop in your home and leave it on your desk or just move it between rooms, a system with a 17 or 18-inch display like the Alienware 17 should be fine. Laptops in this size range are usually the most powerful, because they have plenty of room for heat-generating components. However, they're heavy to carry, a tough fit for most bags and too power-hungry to use unplugged for very long.
Frame rates aren't going to be fast enough for enjoyable play on high detail settings with newer graphically demanding games. In our tests, however, older games such as Bioshock Infinite were playable on high, as were popular online games such as Overwatch and Fortnite. Below are a couple of our favorites, but if you're a casual gamer keep an eye out for the MX150 elsewhere.
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Dell Home, via its Member Purchase Program, offers its Dell 15.6" Laptop Gaming Backpack in Black/Red for $28.49 with free shipping. That's tied with our expired mention from four days ago as the lowest price we've seen for this bag. (It's the best deal we could find now by $20.) It accommodates laptops with up to 15.6" screens and features a shock-absorbent EVA molded front shield, adjustable shoulder straps, and a deployable rain cover.