Best Gaming Laptops 2018
Thanks to their powerful graphics, gorgeous displays and great audio, gaming laptops provide an immersive entertainment experience in a portable package. Many also offer stylish designs, desktop-quality keyboards and the ability to use high-end VR headsets.
Based on our extensive display, audio, keyboard and performance testing, as well as playing and benchmarking the latest top PC games, here are the best gaming laptops you can buy right now for every budget.
Best Overall: Alienware 17 R5
The Alienware 17 packs impressive raw gaming performance and a big honkin' 17-inch screen into a sexy intergalactic chassis that's perfect for fragging your enemies in virtual reality or watching movies with friends. The latest version of Alienware's flagship laptop sports more customizable lighting zones than ever, as well as quieter fans and louder speakers. Factor in up to a gorgeous 3840 x 2160 G-Sync display and Nvidia GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 graphics options, and you've got a gaming laptop that's as powerful on the inside as it is stunning on the outside.
Key Specs - CPU: Intel Core i7/Core i9 | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1060/1070/1080 | RAM: 8GB/16GB/32GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB SSD | Display: 17.3-inch display (1080p/1440p/4K) | Weight: 9.8 pounds
Best Under $1,000: Dell G7 15 Gaming
Who says that you can't get a stylish, moderately powerful gaming laptop for under $1,000? Pairing head-turning colors with sleek, sophisticated design, the G7 15 Gaming doesn't look like your typical gaming laptop. And outfitted with a Core i7 processor and an Nvidia 1060 Max-Q GPU, it doesn't perform like your typical budget gaming laptop either. The system consistently performed above expectations and is an emphatic step forward for the brand.
Key Specs - CPU: Intel Core i5/i7 | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050/1060 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 1TB hard drive | Display: 15.6-inch 1080p display | Weight: 6.3 pounds
Best Under $1,500: Asus ROG GU501
The Asus ROG GU501 does a lot right: It plays games well and its audio quality is solid. It also doesn't hurt that it looks almost identical to one of the company's pricier flagship gaming laptops, the ROG Zephyrus. Armed with its Nvidia 1060 GPU, the notebook can deliver solid midlevel performance on high settings. And thanks to its Core i7 processor, it's not too shabby on the multitasking front, either.
Key Specs - CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1060 | RAM: 16/32GB | Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB hard drive | Display: 15.6-inch 1080p display | Weight: 5.4 pounds
Best 15 inch: Asus ROG Strix Hero II
Strap in and enjoy the ride. Asus' ROG Strix Hero II boasts some robust specs, including an 8th Gen Core i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics. That means you'll have no problem playing the latest titles at smooth settings. And with its colorful, 144-hertz panel and mesmerizing speakers, your games will sound almost as good as they look. The keyboard is nice and comfy and optimized for fans of first-person shooters.
Key Specs - CPU: Intel Core i5/i7 | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1060 | RAM: 16/ 32GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB SSD, 1TB hard drive |Display: 15.6-inch 1080p display | Weight: 5.1 pounds
Best 17 inch: HP Omen 17
Instead of playing it safe, the Omen 17 sports a daring, futuristic look that's sure to turn heads. And the shock and awe don't stop there: The company has added Nvidia's powerful GTX 1070 GPU and paired it with an equally robust Intel Core i7 processor and a crazy-fast SSD. The laptop also serves up an enticing 4K display with a nice pair of speakers. The result is a rig capable of delivering showstopping performance, whether you're playing games or crunching numbers.
Key Specs - CPU: Intel Core i7-7700HQ | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050/1070 | RAM: 8GB/16GB/32GB | Storage: 1TB hard drive or 512GB SSD | Display: 17-inch display (1080p or 4K) | Weight: 8.2 pounds
Best Max-Q Design: MSI GS65 Stealth Thin
Say hello to my skinny friend. At a mere 4.1 pounds and 0.7 inches thick, MSI's GS65 Stealth Thin is one of the company's slimmest gaming laptops to date. The laptop features Intel's new 8th gen, six-core Coffee Lake processor, which promises 20 percent more performance than its predecessor. But since this is a gaming laptop at its core, MSI squeezed an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU into that slim frame. It's a true jack-of-all-trades system that should be at the top of your list.
Key Specs - CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1060 Max-Q/1070 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB SSD | Display: 15.6-inch 1080p display | Weight: 4.1 pounds
Best Convertible: Acer Nitro 5 Spin
Twist it, turn it, anyway you want it. The Acer Nitro 5 Spin is a cornucopia of versatility, able to transform at the drop of a hat. In addition to its bendy antics, the notebook offers solid multitasking power, good battery life, a comfortable keyboard and an easily convertible design. An Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU means that you'll get good frame rates while gaming — just not at the highest game settings.
Key Specs - CPU: Intel Core i5/i7 | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB SSD + 1TB hard drive | Display: 15.6-inch 1080p | Weight: 4.9 pounds
Best Splurge: Razer Blade Pro
With the latest Razer Blade Pro (starting at $1,999; reviewed at $3,999), the company has added an overclocked Intel i7 processor while keeping the Nvidia GTX 1080 GPU, fantastic 4K Nvidia G-Sync display and proprietary ultralow-profile mechanical keys. As if that weren't enough, the slim stunner is also the first mobile device to feature THX audio certification. In other words, one of the best in the business just got better.
CPU: Intel Core i7-7700HQ/ i7-7820HK | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1060/1080 | RAM: 16GB/32GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/ 2TB SSD | Display: 17.3-inch 1080p/4K | Weight: 6.8/7.7 pounds
Best Display: Alienware 13 (OLED Display)
You won't find a more vibrant screen on any laptop than the OLED panel on the Alienware 13. One of the smallest VR-ready laptops, the Alienware 13 supports Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets while also delivering buttery-smooth frame rates, thanks to its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU and Intel Core i7 CPU. Its small dimensions mean that it's easy to stow the notebook in an awaiting book bag for on-the-go gaming. And just like its bigger brothers, the Alienware 13 has customizable backlighting and supports Alienware's proprietary Graphics Amplifier to help you get even better performance out of the diminutive system.
Key Specs - CPU: Intel Core i5/i7 CPU | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050Ti/1060 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 180GB/512GB SSD | Display: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1440 OLED display | Weight: 5.4 pounds
Best Keyboard: MSI GT75VR Titan
The MSI GT75VR Titan Pro has the best keyboard we've used or seen on a gaming laptop. The 17-inch MSI GT75 Titan employs the kitchen-sink approach with great success, sporting an immensely powerful, overclockable 8th Gen Intel processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU with a blisteringly fast SSD. And if that isn't enough to pique your interest, there's the incredibly vivid 1920 x 1080 display and first-class speakers, making the Titan an undeniable juggernaut of gaming. But it's that mechanical keyboard that keeps us coming back for more. The rhythmic clicking is almost therapeutic, like a prettier, more useful version of a kinetic ball machine.
Key Specs - CPU: Intel Core i7/i9 | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1070/1080 | RAM: 16GB/32GB/64GB | Storage: 256GB SSD/512GB SSD + 1TB hard drive | Display: 17.3-inch 1080p/4K display | Weight: 10 pounds
How We Test Gaming Laptops
Here at Laptop Mag, we test gaming laptops using a variety of real-world and synthetic tests to give consumers the most complete picture of how a product performs. Our current tests for gaming systems evaluate graphics performance, battery life, virtual-reality compatibility, overall performance and file-transfer speed and heat, to name just a few. We also judge the laptop based on usability criteria, such as keyboard comfort, design language, audio output and screen quality.
Quick Tips for Finding the Right Gaming Laptop
Depending on your budget, lifestyle and the games you want to play, you could end up spending anywhere from $800 to $5,000 on a system that's likely to weigh between 4 and 13 pounds. Here are some tips to help you find your ideal gaming rig.
- Don't buy a gaming laptop for low-end titles like The Sims or Candy Crush. These games can easily be supported by an integrated graphics card.
- The most powerful mobile GPU is Nvidia's GTX 1080, but you can get good frame rates from the GTX 1050. If you want to do VR, don't settle for less than GTX 1060. There's no mobile version of Nvidia's powerful new RTX 2080 cards yet, but we expect them to arrive eventually.
- Get a laptop with at least an Intel Core i7 processor and 8GB of RAM for gaming and multitasking performance.
- Avoid touch screens. They're more expensive and drain the battery.
- 17- or 18-inch laptops are typically more powerful, but you can find some 15-inch systems with serious muscle. The more portable 13- and 14-inch models are easier to carry but often lack higher-end components.
- Make sure the keyboard is comfortable. If you can, take a trip to the store and try out the keyboard before you buy.
Credit: Laptop Mag
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