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.)
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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 processor is the heart of a PC, and in many current gaming laptops you'll find a quad-core 7th Generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU based on the Kaby Lake chipset. Intel's new 8th-generation "Coffee Lake" CPUs launched a few months back in laptops, however, so you can expect them to become the norm going forward. Many of the Coffee Lake chips you'll see in gaming laptops include two more cores (six, instead of four), bringing more overall speed and much-improved performance on multithreaded tasks, but the upside for gaming is relatively minimal.
The central processing unit or CPU contributes to being the most crucial part of the gaming laptop. This is due to the fact that games such as watchdogs, battlefields, make use of a high amount of horsepower as compared to the previous generation of the games for running the different functions of the games. This holds good for the multiplayer especially, as the CPU keeps track of the several players which need abundant processing. It is recommended to choose Intel core i7 quad core processor for playing intensive games. You can go for the dual-core i5, but they may reduce the speed of the game. Avoid AMD APU quad core as the cores are weak in comparison to the quad-core processors of Intel.
Featuring a 1080p G-Sync screen and wealth of different configuration options that let you pair an Intel Core i7 with an Nvidia GTX 1060, 1070 or 1080, the mid- and top-specced versions are both more than powerful enough to run triple-A games with their graphics maxed. This, plus an excellent RGB keyboard and a solid set of speakers, make it a great choice for laptop gamers who don’t have the extra cash, or space, to grab a dedicated monitor or sound system.
"Love it!...Good Mouse...I'm sure the mouse is built quite well, but my Logitech MX Anywhere 2 (a portable laptop mouse) feels more solid than the G305....The up to 12,000 dpi sensor technology in the G series optical mice is impressive, and honestly I would recommend anyone who spends a decent amount of time in spreadsheets or especially diagramming using a mouse purchase a gaming mouse for those uses as well - the high quality sensors make those jobs much easier."
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.
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.
Computers in the GT series are very high-end; they are also exceedingly expensive, large, and heavy. Some of the computers in this series distinguish themselves from the competition by their mechanical keyboard and the very high quality of their display (120 Hz G-Sync compatible, for example – see LaptopMag’s test of the GT75 Titan). The MSI GT83 Titan features an enormous 18.4-inch display in addition to dual GeForce GTX 1080 graphics chips connected via SLI.
Following this logic, we have witnessed the introduction of many relatively inexpensive gaming laptops such as the Acer V Nitro (later simply called Nitro), HP’s Omen, and Lenovo’s Legion computers. Retailing for around 800 to 900 dollars, these “entry-level” gaming laptops are equipped with a Core i5/GTX 1050 graphics chip/processor combo that is powerful enough for gaming (if you are not interested in playing the very latest games or are willing to trade some display quality for greater gameplay fluidity).
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.
These affordable gaming laptops may not be able to play the most modern games on the highest settings, but that doesn’t detract from the glory of being able to game on the move without coming even close to breaking the bank. Either way relative to the amount of games out there (golden oldies and recent titles included) you’d be surprised how the amount of games you can play stacks up against those that you can’t. These top gaming laptops will cruise through popular games like Minecraft and DOTA 2 without breaking a sweat as well as many newer titles.
The Precision Touchpad was responsive and worked well for standard gestures in our tests, but the G7, like its predecessors, lacks an easy way to disable the trackpad. Every other gaming laptop we’ve tested—except for the Dell G5 and Dell G3—has this feature because pressing the trackpad with your palm while gaming can cause accidental clicks and in-game deaths. We spent hours playing games on the G7 and found that the trackpad’s palm rejection was superb and didn’t cause any accidental clicks. (My hands run cold and rarely sweat, though, so your mileage may vary.) It’s possible (but inconvenient) to disable the trackpad by going into the Device Manager, selecting Human Interface Devices, right-clicking HID-compliant touch pad, and selecting Disable. (Dell, please add an easily accessible toggle to the next iteration.)
Tucker Bowe of Gear Patrol included the Logitech G PRO Gaming Headset and the Logitech G433 7.1 Gaming Headset in his list of “The Best Gaming Headsets for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.” He shared that Logitech G "designed the headset with some of the best-known esports teams (such as G2 Esports and London Spitfire) on the G PRO headset, so it has some premium gaming features, like a tournament-grade mic and the company’s Pro-G drivers."
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.
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Take your PC gaming on the go with a laptop. A good gamer laptop will outpace the newest gaming consoles when it comes to sheer computing power, but you can also enjoy a great gaming experience with many low-to-mid-tier gaming laptops. A key element for the best PC gaming experience is computing power, so good gaming laptops are usually more powerful than standard laptops.
That Owl Eye optical sensor peaks at 12,000 DPI, with the ability to fine tune until it’s just as sensitive as you like. You get plenty of buttons which can be customised to your heart’s content, while the overall responsiveness and performance definitely won our approval. As long as you don’t have dinky hands, chances are you’ll get on spiffingly with the Kone Aimo.
Storage: Hard drive or SSD? Why not both? Some budget gaming laptops will come with only a hard drive (usually 1TB), but the majority of gaming notebooks also include a small SSD to serve as a boot drive. It’s not uncommon to see a 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD working in tandem. If you can get a larger SSD you may see decreased loading times, but that will also cost you quite a bit more money. Make sure you get a faster, 7,200-rpm HDD as opposed to a 5,400-rpm HDD.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050/1050 Ti - A step below the 1060, the GTX 1050 will churn out some solid framerates in mid-range games like Battlefield 1 at very modest settings. The 1050 Ti is slightly more powerful and capable in some cases of supporting Oculus Rift and its various titles. However, serious gamers looking for a high-performance system will probably be disappointed.
In our tests, the Legion Y530 kept its WASD keys on the cooler side at 101 °F (38 °C) after half an hour of Overwatch. The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GE-ES72 kept its WASD keys coolest at 94°F (34 °C), but the Y530’s keys didn’t feel uncomfortable for long gaming sessions, just a bit warm. The area where my palm rested near the trackpad reached 105 °F (41 °C); that’s a bit warmer than we’d like, but it wasn’t uncomfortable.
The keyboard is said to have quite a bit of flex, taking away from the VivoBook F510UA-AH51’s premium feel. ASUS have fitted the laptop with a 1920 X 1080 IPS NanoEdge display, which has an awesome 80 percent screen-to-body ratio. ASUS have cut some corners with the storage, opting for a slow 1TB 5400RPM HDD as opposed to an SSD. This is going to make applications and boot times rather slow and tedious sadly, but the other hardware does compensate for this.
Still, unless you're attempting to become a professional gamer or get ranked globally in a particular popular title, a 60Hz screen will suffice. Nearly all gamers are still "stuck" with 60Hz displays, after all. High-refresh panels aren't common in budget machines, but they are worth knowing about, as we expect them to trickle down into under-$1,000 machines soon.
To muddy the waters, Nvidia in 2017 introduced a technology called Max-Q Design that squeezes a slightly detuned GeForce chip into thinner and lighter notebooks than would normally be possible, at the expense of 10 to 15 percent of the chip's performance. Because Max-Q tends to be implemented in thin, premium machines, it's seldom a factor among the under-$1,000 brigade, but it's good to know what it is, in case you encounter the term when shopping. (A few models just above the one-grand line incorporate the tech.) You may be interested in a Max-Q rig if maximum portability—not a trait usually associated with gaming laptops—matters to you.
As far as RAM is concerned, there’s really not all that much to be said. Entry-level laptops generally have 8 GB of RAM which is enough for gaming. More expensive computers are often equipped with 16 GB or 32 GB of RAM which could be useful if you are a frequent user of graphics design or video editing software. With the exception of EVGA models, no laptop is able to adjust its RAM frequency beyond JEDEC certification limits.
If you're looking for a cheap gaming laptop to buy, the Ideapad Y700 should be at the very top of your list. It has an amazing price-to-performance balance, one of the best of all budget laptops we've found. The Ideapad features the very fast Intel Core i7-6700HQ at 2.6 GHz, which clocks in at over 10,000 points on Geekbench. This ensures that you have plenty of CPU power to multi-task and play games on high settings. The CPU is cleverly paired with the popular NVIDIA GeForce 960M. It's currently the best mobile graphics card for people on a budget.
Several of the cheap gaming laptops we tested in 2018 couldn’t keep their WASD keys cool enough for comfortable gameplay. Note: We tested the Dell G5 with a GTX 1050 Ti, but we recommend the GTX 1060 Max-Q configuration. We confirmed with Dell that the G7 and G5 have identical fan and heatsink setups when configured with the same graphics processor.
Why a laptop right now? With both desktop graphics card and RAM prices still inflated well over MSRP, the notebook space has never looked more attractive. A year or two ago, the price gap between desktops and laptops with comparable performance was significant. That's changing, and now we're paying an almost insignificant convenience tax to have desktop performance in a portable form.
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 choice of CPU is also important. All the laptops on this list come equipped with quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with ‘HQ’ or ‘HK’ at the end of their model names, but you’ll find some cheaper models on the market that only have a ‘U’ suffix. This denotes a much lower-power, dual-core processor that can prove to be a huge bottleneck in games if you have a high-end graphics card.
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.
The entry-level Pascal gaming chip is the GeForce GTX 1050, typically found in models starting around $700 to $800. The GTX 1050 is capable of playing most of today's games at 1080p resolution with medium to high settings. Keep in mind that the GTX 1050 may be on the edge of playability at high settings, depending on the game. You may want to opt for the next step up, a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti-based model, for a bit more graphics muscle. The floor on GTX 1050 Ti-based laptops was about $850 at this writing, with models ranging up to about $1,200. These two chips make up the heart of the under-$1,000 budget-laptop market here in late 2018.
Although dedicated graphics are always the dream, not all of us can afford to splurge. There many options out there with integrated graphics that will play many of the most popular games on the market on top of every golden oldie under the sun. HP is known for their line of budget laptops, which are popular with budget-conscious buyers who are after laptops that offer more than just word processing and Internet browsing.
Of the GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti-powered laptops, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is the best-built we’ve seen so far, and it has the best battery life. It stands out in these important areas, and puts in decent gaming performances as well. It’ll manage the latest AAA games at Full HD at Medium settings, and older titles at High. Playing eSports games such as Overwatch? It won’t even break a sweat.
The storage and memory in the Y530 are upgradable, but it’s a pain in the butt to do so. In contrast to the Dell G7’s and G5’s convenient access panel held in by a single screw, the Y530’s design requires you to remove 11 screws and the entire bottom of the chassis to get inside. And although it’s possible to wedge a small flathead screwdriver into the seam, spudgers will likely make the job easier and reduce the risk of your gouging the laptop. Once inside, you can replace the M.2 PCIe drive or the 2.5-inch hard drive, or add another stick of RAM. The memory is hidden beneath a tiny metal house; our recommended config comes with one 8 GB DIMM and one open slot.
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But we assume you want to do more than harvest potato mines and pea-shooters—you have a Steam account, and you ache to play some of the latest AAA titles: the newest rev of the Battlefield series, the latest Tom Clancy-fest, the newest iteration of Tomb Raider or Far Cry. That's where a dedicated graphics chip comes in. It's the starting point for getting serious about gaming on a notebook.
Time your purchase right and you could land yourself a wonderful deal. You'll find unbeatable laptop discounts during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but you'll also find great deals throughout August during back-to-school sales. Check whether a new model is about to be launched as well because many stores discount old inventory to clear the shelves for newer models. Manufacturers often announce rebate deals on Mondays, so check for these before you buy.