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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.)
So far, the best Max-Q machines have been slim and much more travel-friendly than the average gaming laptop, while still allowing for gaming at 60fps or higher on high settings. There are, of course, tradeoffs: The Max-Q-tuned graphics cards are a bit less capable than the standard versions, pushing fewer frames per second while gaming. Also, these laptops tend to be a bit pricier. If you value portability and visual appeal, though, Max-Q is the most consistent method so far for relatively thin and light gaming laptops with top-tier power.
The Precision Touchpad was responsive for us, and although it felt small at first, we quickly adjusted. Unlike with most laptops nowadays, the Y530’s trackpad has dedicated left- and right-click buttons. Those buttons are noisy in a quiet room or a library, but tap to click is both effective and silent. Lenovo’s included Vantage software automatically disables the trackpad and Windows key when you launch a game with a mouse connected. (You can disable this setting.) This is a nice touch for gaming, though it didn’t work every time we launched a game.
A word of warning: in order to reduce cost, some of the graphics chips used in gaming laptops have a reduced amount of memory (2 GB instead of 4 GB for the GTX 1050 Ti, 3 GB instead of 6 GB for the GTX 1060). This can cause complications for playing highly sophisticated games (for example, not being able to run the game with its highest graphics settings due to the lack of storage space for in-game textures).
As for the screen's native resolution, 1,920 by 1,080 pixels (commonly called 1080p) is now the norm in budget-priced and mainstream gaming machines. The more pixels you need to push, the more graphics power you need, and a savvy maker of gaming laptops won't outfit a laptop with a screen whose native resolution the GPU can't do justice. So the absence of higher-than-HD screens in budget gaming machines is no accident. Not only do such screens cost more and sap more battery life, but the graphics chips found in under-$1,000 gaming rigs wouldn't power gameplay on them very well. (Screens with resolutions higher than 1080p tend to look small and squinty at the 15-inch size, anyway.)
It features a large 15.6-inch display that delivers a crisp image, but its resolution is only HD at 1366 x 768, unlike our top pick, the ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA-DHM4, which features a Full-HD 1080p display. The full-sized keyboard has received a solid thumbs up from most users, but some found that the touchpad is slightly too sensitive. One can, however, change the sensitivity settings in Windows, so we do not necessarily view a sensitive touchpad as a negative aspect.
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This big, badass notebook ($3,712 from Origin) pushes the pedal to the metal with the most potent hardware available, and then Origin PC cranks things to 11 by overclocking both the full-fat GeForce GTX 1080 and the Core i7-8700K processor. Yes, this laptop rocks a desktop processor, and not just any desktop processor—it’s the fastest one currently available. With 6 cores and 12 threads, the EON17-X demolishes CPU benchmarks. It blazes through triple-A games. Hell, it might be able to literally crush its slim, trim Nvidia Max-Q competition.
The TUF comes in four different configurations that are similar to the Acer Nitro 5, but has a better keyboard that's cushy for long gaming sessions and Asus says is extra durable, lasting for up to 20 million key presses. However, we found the cheapest configuration's display disappointing with poor off-angle performance and at $699 with a GTX 1050, it was pricier than the Acer, too. Bumping up to its $899 configuration gets you a better display, a 1050Ti, dual storage drives and a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H.
The laptop features a powerful combination of an Intel Core i5 processor and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M GPU. It's a great hardware combination which ensures that you can play most games on medium to high settings. These specs also offer great online multimedia performance. We also really liked the high-quality, secondary features of the laptop: It has a backlit keyboard, very good built-in speakers, and fast 802.11ac WiFi.
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Dell recently phased out its entry-level gaming-laptop series in favor of something more exciting and powerful. Meet the G7 15. Visually, the G7 15 is cut from a different cloth than either the Inspiron or the Alienware brands, giving the laptop an identity of its own. And it offers solid overall performance for all your multitasking needs. But more importantly, thanks to its Max-Q GTX 1060, you can expect good frame rates on AAA titles on medium to high settings.