Along with our quarterly laptop guide, near the end of every year we also like to take a look at the state of the gaming laptop market. With a much more cyclical upgrade cycle, gaming laptops tend to evolve in lockstep with the major components inside them. For the gaming laptop market, this includes not only more powerful CPUs, but also more unique (for a laptop) components like discrete video cards, mechanical keyboards, and perhaps an IPS panel or high-refresh TN display. All of which come together to make a breed of laptop that is very different from the kinds of machines that define the mainstream and professional markets.

Ever since the 2016 launch of mobile Pascal, gaming notebooks have mostly closed the gap with their equivalent desktop cousins. With Nvidia's previous-generation "Maxwell" architecture, mobile-graphics-chip performance tended to be roughly 70 to 80 percent of what you'd get from the desktop cards they were based on. (See our picks for the top gaming graphics cards for 1080p play.) But the Pascal mobile chips deliver almost equivalent performance to their desktop counterparts of the same name, assuming they are implemented in machines with a complementary CPU, and in designs that do the GPU's thermal needs justice. (Most do.)
You'll see both ordinary hard drives and swifter (but lesser-capacity) solid-state drives (SSDs) in under-$1,000 laptops. The occasional 15.6-inch-screen model might offer a small-capacity SSD boot drive alongside a secondary-storage platter hard drive, though this is more common with 17-inch laptops. Opt for this dual-drive approach if you can find it and afford it. The smaller SSD would be home to the operating system and a few favorite games, and the larger, more economical hard drive would host the rest of your games and other programs that don't need quick loading times. (It's indeed possible to split your Steam game library across drives.)
With that out of the way, that doesn’t mean that gaming mice are just gimmicky because they are not. Thanks to their high DPI, programmable buttons, customizable macros, and a lot of other features that are suitable for gamers. That’s why the market is so saturated with gaming mice, there are just too many options for the average gamer to choose from, and while it is certainly a good thing, it also makes a customer really, really confused.
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).
These “simple” hardware configurations usually do not feature an RBG backlit keyboard (they usually just have red backlighting), nor do they include a QHD or 4K display or an advanced audio system. Generally speaking, the display on this type of computer is also not G-Sync compatible and only operates at a frequency of 60 Hz (versus the 120-144 Hz of displays used on more sophisticated and expensive gaming laptops). What’s more, during sales events it is not uncommon to be able to purchase an affordable gaming laptop equipped with a GTX 1060 graphics chip for under 1000 dollars.
While it features a superfast solid state drive, storage space is slightly too small for modern games which can take up over 40GB of storage space once installed. You might want to consider upgrading the size of your SSD or purchasing a 7200rpm external hard drive for more storage space. We are also impressed with the Full-HD display which offers good image quality and vivid colors for gaming or streaming your favorite series. Acer claims that the Aspire E 15 E5-575G-57D4 will give you 12 hours of battery life off of a single charge, however this would be under ideal conditions and not while gaming or while using hardware intensive applications. Despite this fact, we are still very impressed with the battery life that it offers as most laptops in this price range will barely offer you 4 hours of run time.
You'll see both ordinary hard drives and swifter (but lesser-capacity) solid-state drives (SSDs) in under-$1,000 laptops. The occasional 15.6-inch-screen model might offer a small-capacity SSD boot drive alongside a secondary-storage platter hard drive, though this is more common with 17-inch laptops. Opt for this dual-drive approach if you can find it and afford it. The smaller SSD would be home to the operating system and a few favorite games, and the larger, more economical hard drive would host the rest of your games and other programs that don't need quick loading times. (It's indeed possible to split your Steam game library across drives.)
No matter what type of PC games you enjoy, from fast-paced competitive shooters, white-knuckle racing games, expansive role-playing games, atmospheric horror tales or detailed strategy simulators, there are accessories made to fit your needs. For the ideal multiplayer gaming setup, consider a gamer/gaming headset with an integrated microphone that allows you to easily communicate. Some users feel that wired headsets deliver better sound quality, while wireless headsets don't have cords to tether you to your laptop. A gaming mouse offers customizable options for the optimal gaming environment, including different grip designs, mouse sensitivity, response time variations and customizable buttons.
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.
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.
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.)
In terms of display size, a 15-inch screen is the sweet spot for a gaming laptop. You can buy larger 17-inch displays, but this can jack up the weight to way beyond 5 pounds. We've seen 12-pound "portables" in the gaming sector that will definitely weigh down your backpack. We recommend at least a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-resolution) screen. Larger displays are capable of giving you higher-than-1080p resolutions, but choose wisely, as a resolution of QHD+ (3,200 by 1,800 pixels, and uncommon) or 4K (3,840 by 2,160 pixels, a bit more common) will boost the final cost twice: first for the panel, and second for the higher-quality graphics chip you'll need to drive it to its full potential.

The Alienware 17 R5 is available in a variety of configurations, from a $1,560 model with a 6-core Core i7-8750H, an overclocked GeForce GTX 1060, and a 60Hz 1080p display, all the way up to the price-is-no-object-I-want-performance version we tested ($3,810 from Dell). Optional features could push that total even higher, but there’s already plenty to love. This is 10 pounds of gaming-laptop-slash-desktop-replacement-extraordinaire. Read our review.
The Full-HD display offers vibrant colors and sharp details for casual gaming and multimedia. While many laptops under $500 feature a lower resolution display, the HP 15-ay011nr boasts a maximum resolution of 1920×1080. Ample storage space is offered by the 1TB mechanical hard drive, but due to its price users will have to make do with the slower 5400rpm drive speed, But the hard drive can easily be swapped out for a solid state drive or a 7200rpm mechanical drive.
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.)
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).
Compete in game tournaments or simply experience fast responsiveness with this Logitech Chaos Spectrum gaming mouse. The optical sensor delivers on-time tracking to keep up with even high-action sequences, and you can tune the sensor to your surface. This Logitech Chaos Spectrum gaming mouse is lightweight for easy movement without compromising on stability.
The GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor of the HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 15t is available only with 3 GB of VRAM rather than the 6 GB of the other contenders. We found that its display had a screen-door effect similar to that of the Omen—the two HP laptops are likely using the same panel—and its trackpad felt a bit rattly when we tapped it. The fans made an ominous buzzing noise during everyday work, too, and the GPU reached an alarming 203 °F (95 °C) after just 30 minutes of Overwatch on high settings. For comparison, the next-hottest laptop in the same test reached just 174 °F (79 °C). We’ve exchanged our Pavilion 15t with HP, and we will update here once we’ve retested it.
For many years, the term “gaming laptop” referred to a highly powerful, exceedingly expensive, very large, and extravagant looking computer that usually had very limited battery autonomy. It was more or less equivalent to a high-end desktop computer that had the advantage of being portable (and which was generally used to showcase its manufacturer’s most advanced hardware).

If the Dell G7 is unavailable, we recommend the Dell G5 15 Gaming. It’s nearly identical to the G7, but the model we tested had a worse-looking screen with a greenish color tint, angled vents instead of rounded ones, and red backlighting on the keyboard instead of blue. Dell confirmed to us that the G5 and G7 have identical fan and heatsink setups when configured with the same graphics card. We recommend the G5 with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive for around $1,200, but only if you can’t find the G7 at a good price.
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.
Before we forget, let's talk memory. In a gaming laptop, look for at least 8GB of RAM. (In practice, no self-respecting model will come with less.) That will give you some breathing room when switching back and forth between your gameplay window and your messaging app, but we'd save researching game tips for when you're not playing, as each successive browser window you open eats into your RAM allotment.
Gaming laptops can put a serious dent in your wallet, with some of the fancier models costing upward of $3,000. But who says that the right rig has to cost an arm, a leg and the soul of your firstborn? Fortunately for the fiscally conscious gamer, there are some sub-$1,000 notebooks that can run graphically taxing games like Destiny 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider at solid frame rates.
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