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.
Tom's Guide tests about 30 mice per year, which means we know a thing or two about selecting the best gaming mouse for every kind of gamer. If you want a mouse that can play anything and everything, the Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum ($80 MSRP) is about as good as it gets. With well-spaced buttons, a comfortable design and top-of-the-line software, the Proteus Spectrum is, hands-down, the best all-around gaming mouse on the market. If you don't want to spend quite so much money, the Logitech G300s costs less than $25 and performs beautifully.
After picking our hardware criteria (see above), we scoured the websites of major gaming-laptop manufacturers like Alienware, MSI, Asus, Razer, Samsung, Acer, HP, and Lenovo, and we browsed boutiques like Xotic PC, iBuyPower, Clevo, iBuypower, Origin PC, Digital Storm, and others. Then we put together a list of the laptops that fit our requirements and have positive reviews from trusted sources like CNET, AnandTech, Engadget, Laptop Mag, PCMag, and Notebookcheck, and eliminated those that didn’t.
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.
There are currently many different types of displays on the market; however, the standard remains the 15.6″ or 17.3″ Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) display. Some manufacturers, such as Dell (Alienware) even offer 13.3-inch displays. There are even a few QHD (2560 x 1440 pixels) displays on the market (Dell Alienware again) as well as a few 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) displays.
Once you've come back down to earth, consider Dell's Alienware 17 R5. It's widely regarded as one of the highest-performing gaming laptops on the market, and you can spec it out with an Intel Core i9 processor, a GTX 1080 graphics card, and a staggering 32GB of RAM. The laptop weighs in at nearly 10 pounds, and at max specs, it'll cost you a comparatively reasonable $3,500.
If the Dell G7 is unavailable, we recommend the Dell G5 15 Gaming. It’s nearly identical to the G7, but the model we tested had a worse-looking screen with a greenish color tint, angled vents instead of rounded ones, and red backlighting on the keyboard instead of blue. Dell confirmed to us that the G5 and G7 have identical fan and heatsink setups when configured with the same graphics card. We recommend the G5 with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive for around $1,200, but only if you can’t find the G7 at a good price.
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.
Updated Nov. 25 at 5:45 a.m. ET: You can snag some inexpensive gaming laptops for great prices through Cyber Monday. The Lenovo Legion Y530 is on sale for $100 off from Best Buy, while the 15.6-inch Dell G3 can be had for $649 from Walmart — a savings of $350. The Dell G5 is also on sale for $899 from Walmart ($400 off!) A sale at eBay knocks the MSI GL63 down to $969, for a savings of $229. Check out our Cyber Monday hub for more fantastic deals.