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.)
Maintain meticulous control while gaming with this CORSAIR HARPOON mouse. This lightweight, contoured navigation device fits naturally in your hand, reducing fatigue over long periods, and the 6000 dpi optical sensor is ideal for precise movements. Preconfigured for optimum performance, this CORSAIR HARPOON mouse requires no additional software or drivers.
Looking for something more bleeding edge? A new version of the Razer Blade just came out. It features an 8th gen Intel Core i7 processor, and starts at $1,900. In its review of the 2018 Razer Blade, CNET gave the machine an 8.6 overall, bemoaning its high price but saying this rig "moves the bar on slim gaming laptops, with better hardware and a bigger screen."
Powerful hardware isn’t the only consideration. A gaming laptop’s processor and graphics card produce a lot of heat, and if the laptop doesn’t have an effective cooling system, it can overheat. The laptop also needs a good keyboard and solid build quality. Even though Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 can run games on high settings at 4K resolution, we still recommend 1080p displays because 4K screens are currently too expensive for most of our readers.
Processors are the next biggest difference. You'll likely get a capable Core i5 instead of a faster Core i7. Still, some of the benefits of an i7 machine aren't a major factor for gaming, but instead benefit video editing and other creative uses, so an i5 will do the job. The newest generation of these chips are fast and efficient at a base level, and won't be too much of a bottleneck for gaming. On the AMD side of the fence, in the rare gaming laptops you'll find based wholly on AMD core technology, gamers will see mostly graphics solutions based on the now-aging Radeon RX 560, RX 570, and RX 580 paired with one of several AMD FX or Ryzen CPUs. Outside of the graphics card and processor, the other components should actually be closer to more expensive machines than you'd expect.
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.
Powered by a Skylake Intel Core i5-6200U processor with Hyper-Threading and 8GB of RAM, the HP 15-ay011nr will cope with everyday tasks and casual gaming with ease. The new Skylake series features the newer and more powerful Intel HD Graphics 520 chipset that will offer users similar performance to the GeForce 820M from NVIDIA. This means users will be able to run some newer gaming titles with acceptable frame rates on lower settings while older and classic titles will run on higher settings. The GPU relies on shared memory and while the 8GB of RAM is adequate, we recommend upgrading to 12GB or 16GB of RAM to maximize the performance.
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.
If you want AAA performance and have a little money to spend, consider the (now previous-gen) $1,800 Razer Blade, which brings the literal heat — as in, consider a cooling pad. With an Intel Core i7-7700HQ and 16GB of RAM, and at just over 4 pounds, it's less than half the weight of the Alienware 17 R5. The downside: Razer's unsubtle snake logo screams, "I'm not doing work!"
For increased comfort, some gaming mice allow you to customize their actual bodies to your hand. Removable weights, often resembling small steel pills, are common in better gaming mice. Adding or removing these weights from slots inside the mouse body will shift the overall feel and the amount of drag. Some models take this even further, letting you adjust the center of balance, or change the height and pitch of the palm rest.
Gigabyte/Aorus - Gigabyte and its high-end subsidiary Aorus offer a diverse lineup of gaming systems. Where Aorus laptops are svelte, lightweight powerhouses with high-end specs while Gigabyte systems tend to be bulkier, more colorful and less expensive. All Aorus laptops and selected Gigabyte systems have two-year limited warranties while the remaining systems only come with 1 year.
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).
And thanks to Nvidia's 1050 Ti GPUs, you can hook up an Oculus Rift and jump into the virtual realm. However, some companies like Dell and Gigabyte are outfitting their rigs with Nvidia GTX 1060 Max-Q GPUs so fans of the HTC Vive can also get in on the fun. Or if you're not ready to make such a big financial or space commitment, you can hook up one of Microsoft's new MR headsets like the Acer Windows Mixed Reality AH101 headset, which has the added bonus of working with either discrete or integrated graphics. Best of all, you can use all that money you just saved to splurge on a top-notching gaming keyboard or mouse.