Here at Laptop Mag, we review on average 200 notebooks a year. Still, despite all that coverage, every now and then one of our own staffers needs help choosing that perfect system.
Such is the case with Marshall Honorof, an editor at a sister site Tom's Guide. Marshall's covered a few laptops in his time and is ready to retire his Lenovo G550 for a new notebook, but is having some difficulty choosing a new system.
He writes, "[a] while ago, I remember reviewing the Acer Aspire E5, which was available with a discrete Nvidia graphics card. I thought this was a really cool idea, since it allowed me to do some moderate gaming in a system that was still small, light, and inexpensive. It's not going to run Witcher 3, obviously, but it works fine for Blizzard games on lower settings, retro games from GOG, some of the Dungeons & Dragons remasters, etc.
"Still, that means I'd be spending money on a machine that's deliberately underpowered now, and will be severely underpowered a few years from now. Would it be better to just put that money toward a lower-end gaming laptop and eat the rest of the cost? Or would it be smarter to get a productivity-only laptop and save another few hundred bucks up front? After all, gaming is a bonus for me; productivity is the most important thing.
Marshall is experiencing a dilemma that most gamers have when looking for a laptop — balancing specs and use. You don't want to get a notebook that's so underpowered that you can't play some of the more popular games, but you don't want to blow your budget on bells and whistles you don't need. And since Marshall likes to game while he's on the road, that means we need to factor in portability and battery life. I have a couple of suggestions that should work for my colleague.
Lenovo Legion Y530
Since Marshall is fond of Lenovos, I would recommend the Legion Y530. Starting at $749, the Legion Y530 has an understated design that he would appreciate and is fairly portable at 5.2 pounds, 14.4 x 10.2 x 1 inches. The laptop features the thin bezel design that's becoming all the rage because it allows manufacturers to cram big screens into otherwise tiny chassis.
Thanks to its midtier components, including an Intel Core i5-8300H processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU, the Legion Y530 will allow play most games at low to medium settings. However, the dull display could be a potential deal-breaker. I'm also not a fan of the 4- hour-and-44-minute battery life.
Asus ROG GU501
The Asus ROG GU501 laptop is a great choice offering a decent price at $1,499, pretty design and powerful performance. The GU501's design mimics Asus' flagship gaming laptop, the ROG Zephyrus. It's elegant for the most part, although Marshall might not like the large ROG emblem on the lid. At 5.4 pounds, 15.1 x 10.3 x 0.7 inches, it's light and small enough to fit in a backpack without any back strain.
Outfitted with a Intel Core i7-8750H CPU and a GTX 1060 GPU, the ROG GU501 would allow Marshall to play his games on mid-to-high settings without any hiccups. The 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 display has a 144-Hertz refresh rate for some silky-smooth graphics. And if he's so inclined, he can partake in some virtual-reality fun. With 4:43 of battery life, it won't last on a long trip, but it's better than most gaming rigs. And while I love the thin bezel trend, that means the webcam is positioned in the bottom bezel, which doesn't make it ideal for streaming.
MSI GS65 Stealth Thin
My favorite on this list is the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin. Starting at $1,799, this little beauty earned 4.5 stars and an Editors' Choice award in our review. The Stealth Thin is just gorgeous, and a major departure from the black-and-red gamer motif, instead opting for a sophisticated gold. At 4.1 pounds and 14.1 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches, I barely noticed it when I placed the laptop in my backpack.
The 15.6-inch full-HD panel is surrounded by barely-there bezels and offers a 144-Hz refresh rate. And the webcam is still in its normal positioning. We were impressed by how bright and vibrant the colors were, and for such a slim system it's got loud, punchy audio. It's also one of the few gaming laptops that lasted over 5 hours with a time of 5:40.
And somehow, MSI managed to squeeze in a Core i7 CPU and a GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU, which means that my man Marshall can play most games at the highest settings and do some VR. My only gripe is that this mamma-jamma gets hot under the collar while gaming, reaching 122 degrees Fahrenheit on its bottom.
So which laptop should Marshall get? If he's working within a budget, he should go with the Legion Y530, as it offers premium looks and solid performance for under $1,000. The GU501 is a great system for midtier gamers who want to try out virtual-reality games. But, honestly, I think the Stealth Thin is Marshall's best option, as it's extremely lightweight, with an elegant design, vibrant display, kick-ass speakers and great performance. He just needs to make sure that he has a barrier between himself and the notebook's hot bottom when gaming.
Credit: Laptop Mag
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Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.