Processor: Your laptop needs a processor that’s powerful enough to avoid bottlenecking the GPU. All of the contenders in our test group have a quad-core Intel Core i5-8300H or hexa-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor or better. The extra cores in that line of i7 processors don’t yet have a significant impact on gaming, so both options are good enough.
Like the Dell G7, the Legion Y530 has a 15-inch 1920×1080 IPS display with a 60 Hz refresh rate. But the Y530’s small bezels set it apart from other cheap gaming laptops, making games feel more immersive and allowing the whole laptop to be smaller. The Y530’s display looked better than those of other laptops in its price range like the Dell G3 and Acer Nitro 5, which had green and blue color tints. The Y530’s screen was also among the brightest we tested at 266 nits, beaten only by the exceptionally bright screens of the more expensive Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM and Acer Predator Helios 300.
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.
Measuring 14.4 by 10.2 by 1 inches and weighing just 5.1 pounds, the Legion Y530 is one of the lightest and most compact gaming laptops we tested this year; it weighs more than a pound less than the Dell G7. The thin bezels surrounding the screen allow for a smaller laptop overall, and the Y530 is by far the most convenient model to slip into a bag and use on the go of all the options we considered. We also appreciate its all-black, understated design—no flashy colors, edgy angles, or ugly prints—and the comfortable matte-black material covering the palm rest.
All of the major (and some of the minor) gaming-gear manufacturers have developed their own mouse-control customization software, which usually encompasses advanced macro programming. Often, the software also enables you to control and customize a gaming keyboard of the same brand. In addition to recording macro commands, these software dashboards let you activate premade, game-specific profiles; create your own profiles; and adjust any on-mouse lighting/LED bling. Many also offer presets for non-gaming use, letting you leverage your mouse's programmability in Excel or Photoshop when you're not blowing up starships or hapless zombies.
Heat: A gaming laptop’s GPU and CPU produce a lot of heat. Without an effective cooling system, the machine will overheat, which can slow gaming performance, shorten the laptop’s lifespan, or even burn you.1 No gaming laptop can keep completely cool—all that heat has to go somewhere. But it needs to keep its internals, the WASD keys (the most-used section of the keyboard for gamers, as those four keys often control in-game movement), and the left palm rest (where your left hand rests while using the WASD keys) cool. It’s a bit more forgivable for the laptop to get hot in areas with less direct contact with your skin, such as the underside and the strip above the keyboard.
For a high-end system, we recommend 16GB, so you can have more than one gaming session, your messaging app, several websites, a webcam program, and your video streaming program open simultaneously. A midrange gaming laptop should function fine with 8GB of memory, but be aware that many new laptops are not upgradable. You may be stuck with the amount of memory you order.
If the refresh rate (which is measured in hertz, or Hz) is being called out as a feature on a given laptop, that means it's likely higher than the norm. Most laptop screens, including those in almost all budget models, stick to 60Hz, which means they redraw the onscreen image 60 times per second and thus can display up to 60 frames per second (fps) of in-game performance. (If your graphics chip can produce 90fps in a given game, you'll see only 60 of them.) Some notebook screens these days, though, can display at 75Hz, 120Hz, or more. These high refresh rates can be beneficial for some extremely fast-paced games, particularly titles played competitively online, such as Counterstrike: Global Offensive, DOTA 2, and Overwatch.
There are also advanced features you won't find in a regular mouse. Look for additional buttons that can be programmed for specific PC games. Many gaming mice — both optical and laser — offer multiple DPI (dots per inch) settings to control the sensitivity, and some of them even allow you to adjust the DPI on the fly, so you can switch between settings without pausing your gameplay. And not only are these models the coolest mice when it comes to their standard look, a growing number of gaming mice boast RGB lighting for customizable effects in millions of colors.
We’ll be starting the list off with a budget-friendly solution, the Acer Aspire E15. This simple, unassuming laptop may not be the ultimate gaming machine, but it does a number of things right, making it a viable choice for gaming. But most importantly, it is the cheapest laptop on this list, so if you’re looking for an affordable way to play your favorite games away from home, then this might just be the best choice.
Gaming systems have higher-end components than run-of-the-mill consumer laptops, so their prices will be consequently higher, but the range across the category is huge: from under a grand to $5,000 and up. The best budget gaming laptops start at $800 and can go up to about $1,250. For that, you get a system that can play games at 1,366-by-768 resolution on high graphics quality settings, or at a full HD (1080p) resolution with the details turned down some. Storage may be a hard drive, or a modest-capacity solid-state drive (SSD).
The HP Omen 15t Gaming is the most expensive option we tested, around $200 more than the G7 to meet our recommended specs. Its WASD keys reached 109.5 °F after just 30 minutes of Overwatch on high settings, and its underside got hottest (122 °F) exactly where my right thigh touched the laptop (though we don’t recommend anyone use any of these models on their lap). Its display also had a noticeable screen-door effect, a slightly visible grid that we didn’t see on any of the other laptops, and the Omen had roughly an hour less battery life compared with the Dell G7 and G5.
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.
Kicking things off, we have entry-level gaming laptops. The Lenvov Legion Y530 is the second generation of the new Legion brand. The latest models feature 8th generation Core processors up to a Core i7-8750H with six cores, and up to a GTX 1060 GPU which offers plenty of muscle, but the base model starts at just $749 with a Core i5-8300H and GTX 1050. For $100 more you can bump up to a GTX 1050 Ti
We recommend the $1,250 model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive. The G5 is available in black or red, and has a red-backlit keyboard in place of the G7’s blue-accented design. But because of the screen, we recommend the G5 only if the G7 is unavailable.
With the ability to game on the go, gaming laptops provide the most harmonious combination of hardware designed to work together to achieve optimal gaming performance. With so much choice, finding the best gaming laptop for you can be a daunting task. However, the best place to start is to decide on your budget and check the recommended specs required by the games you want to play.