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.
In a gaming laptop, an SSD plus a hard drive is the best of both storage worlds. In terms of gaming performance, the storage subsystem affects game load times and in-game level changes. It can be of special importance in MMORPGs, where huge environments are loaded in real time. Thus, having at least some fast, SSD-based storage is desirable. To our eyes, you should only opt for an SSD boot drive at this point in time. The difference in performance "feel" between a hard drive and an SSD boot drive is too big to ignore. (See our picks for the fastest SSDs.)
The subtle graphics of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 3GB is being based on the latest Pascal-architecture, providing desktop performances to a laptop. Testing the FPS (Frames per Second) on titles such as Hitman (49 FPS); Rise of the Tomb Raider (48 FPS); Shadow of Mordor (87 FPS) and, Grand Theft Auto V (59.2 FPS), have shown no difficulties in achieving well enough FPS. Even though the FX502VM is not placed on the market with Gsync support, it does not use Optimus.
We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB solid-state drive. This configuration usually costs around $1,200, in line with the other laptops we considered with similar specs. The G7 is available in black or white; we prefer black because the white lid on our unit scuffed a bit during our testing, but they cost the same, so follow your heart.
If money is no object, set your sights on the Acer Predator 21 X (if you can find one!). The madman's ultimate gaming rig comes with a pair of GTX 1080 SLI graphics cards, 64GB of RAM, a 21" curved screen, and an integrated eye tracker. There's even three hard drives — a 1TB platter drive and dual 512GB SSDs. Even better, you'll get a full complement of Cherry MX Brown keyboard switches and a custom Pelican rolling case.
If you want a gaming laptop for less than $1,000, get the Lenovo Legion Y530. Because of its lower-powered graphics card, the Y530 won’t play demanding games as well for as many years to come as our top pick, but it keeps cool and has a bright screen, a comfortable keyboard, and a responsive trackpad. The Y530 is also about a pound lighter and significantly more compact than the Dell G7 and G5, but it’s a pain to upgrade. We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics processor with 4 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i5-8300H processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive. But if the Y530 costs more than $900 at the time you’re shopping, we recommend saving up for our top pick and its more powerful graphics processor instead.
Sizing up the current state of the gaming laptop market, 8th Generation CPUs for notebooks are still the default, although we've seen at least one laptop with the Core i9-9900K. NVIDIA has launched their desktop GPU refresh with the Turing based GeForce RTX lineup, but as of yet has not done the same for their laptop chips, so Pascal based GeForce GTX still rules the roost. On the AMD side, mobile Vega was not dead, as some feared, but is currently only available in the latest MacBook Pro, and not yet in gaming laptops.
The Predator Helios 500 (PH517-51) employs a 17.3” Full HD or 4K display which is either G-Sync or Freesync compatible at 144 Hz. It also incorporates the following chips: Intel Core / Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 or AMD Ryzen / AMD Vega (not yet available, but the first tests have already been conducted). Its Intel processor is either a Core i7-8750H (6 cores at 2.2 GHz) or i7-8950HK (6 cores at 2.9 GHz). The test recently performed by the Laptopmag website is conclusive: it praises the excellent quality of this computer’s speakers and the ability of this computer to maintain a reasonably low temperature when gaming.
The Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU is more suited to classic games and will run popular older titles such as World of Warcraft and Diablo III. Powering the Acer Aspire E E5-575-53EJ is a seventh generation Dual-Core Intel Core i5-7200U processor and 8GB of DDR4 memory. This will easily cope with everyday tasks and will even allow you to use more intensive applications such as Adobe Photoshop or CorelDRAW. You can upgrade the RAM to 16GB as the Acer Aspire E E5-575-53EJ features an empty slot, however, this is not necessary for most users.
The all new Razer Blade was relaunched this year as a 15-inch model, replacing the outgoing 14-inch version with a new thin-bezel design that is stunning. Razer has always offered one of the best looking gaming laptops around, featuring a fully CNC machined aluminun chassis, and a lot of performance in a thin and light form factor. The latest Razer Blade 15 is powered by a Core i7-8750H hex-core CPU and a GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU. The lowest cost configuration comes with a 128 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD, and you can go up from there. Currently it is available for $1600 with a 1920x1080 60 Hz display, and Razer has configurations with 144 Hz displays, as well as models bumping the GPU up to a GTX 1070 and a UHD display. There's also a limited edition Mercurty White color option on certain configuraitons.
That you can get the same or better performance with the four-pound MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RE ($1,799 at Amazon) is a testament to just how far we’ve gone—and also proof of just how awesome this laptop is.On the outside, it’s sedate black aluminum with bronze edges. On the inside are state-of-the-art, gaming-grade components with enough performance to basically put anything made before it to shame.
High-end systems, meanwhile, should guarantee you smooth gameplay at 1080p with graphics details maxed out, and might let you play at 4K resolution (if the screen supports it). A high-end model should also be able to power a VR headset and support additional external monitors. These machines tend to come with speedy storage components such as 512GB PCI Express solid-state drives, and they are priced above $2,500. Some support 3K to 4K screens, a hard drive to supplement the SSD, and ultra-efficient cooling fans as optional extras. A few elite boutique models will support dual graphics chips. (Such rare-bird machines will be massive and expensive, with minimal battery life.)
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