But if you want to play new games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on ultra settings, you’re better off with a desktop or a gaming laptop with more powerful graphics. A $1,200 desktop is much more powerful, and you can easily upgrade it in the future. And if you opt for a higher-end gaming laptop, you’ll be able to crank up those graphics settings for years—rather than months—to come.
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 Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU is more suited to classic games and will run popular older titles such as World of Warcraft and Diablo III. Powering the Acer Aspire E E5-575-53EJ is a seventh generation Dual-Core Intel Core i5-7200U processor and 8GB of DDR4 memory. This will easily cope with everyday tasks and will even allow you to use more intensive applications such as Adobe Photoshop or CorelDRAW. You can upgrade the RAM to 16GB as the Acer Aspire E E5-575-53EJ features an empty slot, however, this is not necessary for most users.
Wirecutter has spent more than 200 hours over the past five years researching and testing dozens of gaming laptops, and our PC team has more than 37 years of combined experience covering laptops. I’ve personally tested, lived with, and reviewed hundreds of laptops, and I’ve spent hands-on time with countless other models while covering the CES trade show, attending events, and visiting stores. I’ve reviewed most gaming laptops—both budget and high-end—released in the past six years, and I’ve spent thousands of hours gaming on laptops since high school.
I have big hands (though I am a lady), so I am always looking for a comfortable mouse. For the past few years, I have used an expensive Logitech Performance MX. I was growing tired of having to recharge it every 2-3, and when the scroll function began misfiring, I went in search of something as comfortable, but cheaper and not quite so high-maintenance. Even though I am not a gamer, I gave this mouse a try and was majorly disappointed when I could not get my computer to fully accept this plug-and-play for some reason. Everything but the cursor worked. Otherwise, I loved the feel of this mouse in my hands and its other features. I spent literally HOURS trying to get this mouse to work and finally looked up an e-mail address for Afunta customer service. All I had to do was send a copy of my Amazon ... full review
We put the contenders through much of the same rigorous testing as we do with our best gaming laptops. We tested each by playing half an hour of Overwatch on high settings—a popular game, but not too taxing—and then tested our finalists with a more graphically demanding game by playing 30 minutes of The Witcher 3 on ultra with VSync off. We also played Overwatch and Doom extensively to test how our finalists held up during longer gaming sessions.
The Dell Inspiron I3567-5664BLK-PUS 15.6-inch laptop has received positive reviews for its decent specs for the price, coming with an Intel i5-7200U and 8GB of RAM, affording you decent multitasking capabilities and a machine powerful enough to run some demanding programs reasonably well. Users liked the backlit keyboard and the 2TB of storage space. The construction is said to be solid, too, which impressed many users. However, some pointed out that screen quality is subpar, offering limited viewing angles, and furthermore, it is only 720p.
We were thoroughly surprised to see the inclusion of the Nvidia GTX 1050 card for a laptop priced just above $500. While it is an entry-level card, it can run current games on lower settings. The GPU is helped along by an equally impressive Intel i5-7300HQ and 8GB of RAM. The laptop is not only a solid choice for gamers, but for users looking to do video and photo editing, and development work, along with other tasks that demand a lot of the systems internal resources.
You'll want to make sure you get the most graphics power you can afford from the start since this can't be upgraded later, unlike memory or storage. If you're on a strict budget, go with one of Nvidia's Geforce GTX 1050 or 1050Ti graphics cards, which will give you good performance on newer games at medium or high settings with prices starting down around $600. If you can afford to spend closer to $1,000, you'll be better off in the long run getting a laptop with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max Q with 6GB of memory.
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.
We liked that this product offers a lot of pro features that you usually wouldn't find in a budget laptop. This includes a non-glare display, MSI's multi-monitor technology (powering up to three displays), and more. Nothing about this laptop feels cheap, except for the price (and that's a good thing)! MSI is known to make high-quality products and the CX62 is no exception.
For a long time, competitive gamers strongly preferred wired gaming mice to wireless ones to eliminate perceived latency, as well as the possibility of a battery running down in the midst of a heated match. Many serious players still hold that bias, but Razer, Logitech, and others have released higher-end mice of late with low latency ratings that ought to satisfy at least casual gamers.
Prolonged exposure to warm laptops can cause erythema ab igne (EAI)—also called Toasted Skin Syndrome or Granny’s Tartan—a blotchy, chronic skin condition that is in rare cases associated with some cancers. We do not recommend using any gaming laptop on your lap for long periods of time, as the undersides of all the laptops we tested regularly measured over 43 °C (109 °F) (the threshold for EAI) during even short gaming sessions.
The Logitech G403 Prodigy (Wireless) is based on one of the company's more affordable wired mice, and it comes with most of the standard, game-facing Logitech features. You'll get variable RGB LEDs of course, as well as Logitech's adjustable loose/granular mouse wheel. There are two left-side mounted buttons, and Logitech even includes a 10g weight that can be inserted into the bottom of the mouse for added precision and control.
This budget-friendly gaming laptop from HP promises to provide very stable yet power-packed performance for the asking price. Thanks to it’s AMD Ryzen 5 chipset; this is an able laptop when it comes to handling games. It comes preloaded with 8GB of RAM to take care of the multitasking on the system. Storage on the laptop is backed by a small yet extremely fast 128GB of SSD which offers enough space to store couple of games and other data.
Mice that are specially designed for RTS games and MMOs, on the other hand, look quite different. The most extreme come outfitted with an array of 10 or more programmable buttons. Usually set just under the tip of the thumb, these buttons can serve as simple shortcut triggers, or be programmed to execute longer macro commands. (For more on these mice, see our specialized guide to the best mice for MMO games.)
Complete your gaming setup with this Logitech G Pro HERO gaming mouse. The HERO sensor features an updated tracking algorithm for precise operation, so you can point and click with accuracy. Ultra-lightweight construction and an ergonomic design provide added comfort during extending play sessions. This Logitech G Pro HERO gaming mouse offers wired connectivity, providing a seamless user experience.
One of the typical features that sets apart a gaming laptop is a colorful, backlit keyboard. These vary quite a bit from model to model, with more elaborate backlighting going hand-in-hand with higher prices and a higher general level of other components. Almost all budget gaming laptops will employ single-color backlighting (most often, red or white) to keep costs down. The next step up is lighting programmable by zone, with three or four blocks of the keyboard independently customizable in different colors, but this is not common in budget machines. Keyboards with per-key, individually programmable lighting are the province of high-end machines only.
If you can’t spend more than $1,000 but still want a laptop that can play games, get the Lenovo Legion Y530. It won’t play new games as well for as long as our top pick, but it keeps cool and has a bright screen, a comfortable keyboard, and a responsive trackpad. The Y530 is also about a pound lighter and significantly more compact than the Dell G7 and G5, but it’s more of a pain to upgrade yourself.
When it comes to gaming notebooks, faster is always better, which is why a lot of people love SSDs, particularly the new PCIe cards, which deliver blistering file-transfer speed. That extra boost of speed translates to faster game load times, as well as reducing hitching — that annoying pause when your drive can't produce assets fast enough to keep up with the game.
There are not all that many graphics chips to choose from (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050, 1050 Ti, 1060, 1070 or 1080…). Your selection will depend on your particular needs and budget. A GTX 1070 or 1080 would probably be overkill for gamers interested in playing MMORPG games such as World Of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2 and would only prove useful when connecting to an external 4K display. Facing off against the GTX 1050 and 1060 can be found a few computers employing a Radeon RX 560, 570 or 580 graphics chip – but not all that many.
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.
You can also get a sweet deal by going back in time and looking at laptops with previous-gen CPUs, as they are usually available at fire sale prices and there's not a huge difference in performance between Skylake and Kaby Lake for gaming. You won't be quite as future-proof, but you'll still get several years of great 1080p gaming at a low price. Let's dive into the top picks a cheap gaming laptop:
Look for Intel Core i5 processors in midrange systems, with Core i7 U, HQ, and HK processors in higher-end gaming laptops. The H-series processors are higher-power, and tend to show up in bigger, thicker laptop models, while the low-power U-series chips are designed for thinner, more portable machines. They are quite different, in terms of thermal profile, as well as overall performance potential; a U-series Core i7 processor may not even have the same number of processing cores as an H-series Core i7 chip.
We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics processor with 4 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i5-8300H processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive. This configuration usually costs around $900; if it’s any more expensive when you’re shopping, we recommend saving up for our top pick with more powerful graphics instead.
Although the lack of a dedicated graphics card will make running newer games challenging, the E5-575-33BM can run popular games such as Counter-Strike GO on medium to high settings with no problem. While many sub $500 laptops are still being offered with entry-level 1366 x 768 display panels, the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM comes with a Full-HD 1920 x 1080 display with respectable image quality. The 1000GB storage drive is sizable but low in comparison to modern solid state drives.
If the GPU is the heart of a gaming laptop, then the processor and RAM are the brain and hippocampus. Your laptop's processor (CPU) handles everything that doesn't have to do with graphics, such as performing some of a game's physics calculations and controlling its non-playable characters. It also affects the performance of all of your non-gaming applications, including your browser, OS and productivity apps. When picking out your CPU and RAM, keep the following tips in mind.
Fortunately for anyone interested in acquiring a gaming laptop with decent battery autonomy, there are a number of models on the market that have highly optimized hardware configurations like the Asus ROG Strix Hero II (which has almost 5 hours of autonomy), the Acer Predator Helios 300 (approximately 6 hours 50 minutes of autonomy) or the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (around 7 hours of autonomy). This last computer takes advantage of Nvidia’s Max-Q design in order to allow its GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip to consume less power while remaining fully capable of gaming in Full HD. The Alienware 13 (OLED) also has a battery autonomy in excess of 7 hours (tested using office software).
If an SSD is out of your budget, we highly recommend purchasing, at least, a 1TB hard drive with a 7,200-rpm speed. However, instead of an either/or situation, we recommend choosing a configuration that has both an SSD and a hard drive. That way you can load your games and important files on the speedy SSD and have plenty of room left for everything else.