The Predator Helios 300 boasts a rather aggressive exterior, replete with red highlights and conspicuous geometric details. And much like the MSI GV62, the keyboard comes with a red LED backlight. This clearly establishes its identity as a gaming laptop at the very first glance, though what’s under the hood doesn’t disappoint either – and we should hope so, considering the price tag.
The sound is just as important as the visuals when it comes to gaming. Yes, you probably have a headset that you'll use most of the time. But sometimes you just want to let your laptop's speakers work. The MSI-exclusive, Nahimic audio software is one of our favorites since it offers some of the best surround sound in both headphones and speakers. It also provides several handy presets, Bass Boost and Voice Clarification software. Alienware's Dell Audio software is a close second, while Dolby Home Theater v4, available in Lenovo notebooks, rounds out our top three.
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 aiming to game professionally or just want a leg up on the competition, a dedicated gaming mouse is the way to go. Way beyond a Microsoft "Comfort Mouse," today's gaming mice take the cheese—er, cake—where extra features, tailored designs, and sheer horsepower are concerned. Additional buttons and hyper-accurate laser optics are a given on gaming mice—the best also deliver strobing lights, customizable weights, and more buttons than a Men's Wearhouse.
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.
The best gaming mice offer comfort and customization that will please a wide range of users, but in some cases, the core features of a mouse revolve around certain kinds of games. Blazing away in a firefight, staving off an advancing horde in a real-time strategy (RTS) title, or commanding an NFL franchise: Game genres have specific needs, and some mice outright target specific ones.
Price: You can get a great budget gaming laptop for less than $1,300, but you do have to spend more than $800. As of late 2018, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor offers the best price-to-performance ratio. You can find this GPU in laptops under $1,300, and it will play many new games on high settings at 1080p. The GTX 1060 is only 10 to 15 percent faster, according to Nvidia, and most laptops with full GTX 1060 graphics were outside of our price range. The GTX 1050 Ti is a decent option in laptops under $900, but it’s 60 percent slower than the GTX 1060, according to Laptop Mag. Although you could save a few hundred dollars now by choosing the GTX 1050 Ti, it won’t play new games on high settings for as many years, and you’ll likely want to upgrade sooner. We recommend saving up for a laptop with a GTX 1060 Max-Q if possible. You can’t get a good gaming laptop for less than $800—the graphics processors they come with (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or worse) can’t handle current AAA games at high settings, let alone future games.
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.
Though, as with most budget laptops, you will get a slower 5400rpm hard drive. However, seeing as more and more of us are moving over to digital copies of our games it makes sense to remove the DVD drive and replace it with a HDD caddy and a good SDD. This will allow you to reap all the major benefits that an SSD offers for gaming and day-to-day use.
Although the E15 comes with a Full-HD IPS display, some have noted that it is fairly dim compared to higher end displays. Regardless, you will get decent viewing angles and the matte finish will prevent any potential glare. It has a solid battery life of around 8 hours and 30 minutes, with Acer even claiming up to 15 hours of battery life, though heavier applications and games will drain its battery life a lot faster. The NVIDIA GeForce MX150 is by no means a beast compared to higher end cards, and most modern AAA titles will struggle somewhat, but lowering the graphics will afford you some playability even on next-gen titles.
Most gaming laptops—including budget machines—have comfortable, deep-travel keyboards that cushion your fingers during long gaming sessions. This Dell model’s blue-backlit keyboard felt crisp, snappy, and responsive but a bit shallow to us, so it was not as comfortable after a few hours of gaming or typing as some of the other laptops we tested. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but we do prefer the feel of the keyboards on the Lenovo Y530 and Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM.
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.