The G7’s 60 Hz 1920×1080 IPS display was neither the best we tested nor the worst. It made games look good, and the G7’s display looked noticeably better than the G5’s and G3’s screens, which both had a sickly greenish tint. We found that the G7’s screen couldn’t get as bright as those of the other budget gaming laptops we tested, maxing out at 228 nits compared with the Lenovo Y530’s 266 nits and the Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM’s above-average 317 nits. And although it’s not a requirement, we’d love to see a higher-refresh-rate panel available on the Dell G7, since that would make first-person games smoother and more enjoyable.
Cheaper gaming systems today are equipped with lower-tier cards like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, or GTX 1060, but these modern budget cards are surprisingly effective. You'll be able to play smoothly in HD, just not at the very highest settings in newer games. These may be budget systems, but this generation of entry-level graphics chips is fairly capable, so don't be too worried that you won't be able to play most games moderately well. Virtual-reality gaming may be a stretch in this price range, but the GTX 1060 is the least expensive VR-capable card, so some laptops at the higher end of this price range will (just) get you in the door.
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.
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The ASUS ROG GL502VS-DB71 is a midrange laptop that’s powered by the GTX 1070. It is designed offer an incredible gaming experience to users, although its slight overclocking tendency limits its optimum performance. Since Nvidia’s introduction of the GeForce GTX 10-range GPUs for laptops, they have been gaining positive grounds even with gaming desktops. The ROG GL502VS is among the newest entrants, and it features, alongside the GTX 1070 GPU with Pascal style; a sixth-generation Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB system memory.
The GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor of the HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 15t is available only with 3 GB of VRAM rather than the 6 GB of the other contenders. We found that its display had a screen-door effect similar to that of the Omen—the two HP laptops are likely using the same panel—and its trackpad felt a bit rattly when we tapped it. The fans made an ominous buzzing noise during everyday work, too, and the GPU reached an alarming 203 °F (95 °C) after just 30 minutes of Overwatch on high settings. For comparison, the next-hottest laptop in the same test reached just 174 °F (79 °C). We’ve exchanged our Pavilion 15t with HP, and we will update here once we’ve retested it.
Of course, this is an entry-level gaming laptop and you should expect that some games have to be played on medium settings. However, you can expand this laptop later. For example, it has a second RAM slot for additional memory and an m.2 slot for a solid-state drive. Overall, this is a very good budget laptop with plenty of features at a great price point.
The G7—along with the Dell G5, Dell G3, and Lenovo Y530—kept its GPU among the coolest, measuring 162 °F (72 °C) during both our Overwatch test and the more demanding Witcher 3 test. Both Asus TUF Gaming laptops kept their CPUs the coolest at around 183 °F (84 °C), but the Dell G7’s was still on the lower end of the models we tested (and within expected range) at 203 °F (95 °C). The trade-off for these cool temperatures, however, is significantly loud fans. We’ll address this topic more in the following section.
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.
However, more sophisticated gaming laptops remain much more expensive. Currently, the world’s most sophisticated gaming laptop is the Acer’s Predator 21X which, as its name would suggest, is equipped with a 21-inch Full HD (curved!) display which operates at a frequency of 120 Hz and is G-sync compatible. It also features dual GeForce GTX 1080 graphics chips. On Acer’s website, the Predator 21X retails for 9,999 dollars.
Being the fastest mobile graphics adapter, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 combined with Intel Core i7-7820HK shows astonishing performances at 1080p. The 100 FPS was easily achieved for many games, and even the heaviest games succeeded 60 FPS at 1080p. For certainly, this is one of the fastest gaming laptops, and the GTX 1080 makes sure of experiencing the same satisfaction as using a top-class desktop.
If you'd rather spend your money on Humble Bundles than hardware, then you don't actually need a hardcore gaming laptop. Along the same lines, if you're looking for a Minecraft box for the kids, you don't need to spend the money attached to the phrase "gaming laptop." A machine with a discrete graphics card, an SSD, and 8GB of RAM should take care of you.
The Lenovo Legion Y530 is the Porsche of budget gaming laptops. Its minimalist design and blackout color scheme give it a suave look you'd associate with tuxedo-clad, big-screen villains. Outside of its stately good looks, you get a gaming notebook that offers a wide range of ports and a solid graphics card. It's a very good choice for casual gamers who want a sub-$1,000 laptop with a button-up design that can blend in -- and even impress -- no matter the setting.