Help Me, Laptop: I Need a Good Portable Gaming Laptop

Here at Laptop Mag, we love helping our readers. But every now and then, one of our staffers needs help figuring out what to buy, too. Such is the case with our colleague Monica Chin over at Tom's Guide who's looking for a portable, lightweight gaming laptop that has solid battery life and that she can take on the road.

Monica doesn't necessarily have a budget to stick to, but she did mention that her gaming genre of choice is strategy, so she plays titles like Civilization, Age of Empires and The Sims. That means she doesn't need a super-tricked-out notebook, so she doesn't have to spend upward of $2,000 to satisfy her needs.

Here are our top picks for road-ready laptops that can handle less-demanding games with ease.

Lenovo Legion Y530

In terms of looks and pricing, I do like the Lenovo Legion Y530, which we reviewed at $899 and which features a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-8300H processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB and 5400-rpm HDD, a 128GB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM. The design is pretty understated for a gaming laptop, so it won't draw too much attention during a commute. And weighing 5.2 pounds, the 14.4 x 10.2 x 1.0-inch notebook is light enough to stow in a messenger bag.

It delivered solid scores on our gaming and overall performance tests and lasted 4 hours and 44 minutes on our battery test. However, we did ding it in our review for its dim display, which is a shame, because the Y530 is the latest laptop to embrace the thin-bezel trend. But if Monica's looking to save a few bucks, the Legion Y530 is a good budget option.

Acer Nitro 5

Another great budget buy is the $729 Acer Nitro 5, which is outfitted with a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-8300H processor, 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM. The Nitro 5 has a smaller, but faster, storage by way of its 256GB SSD. We were really impressed with the graphics and overall performance of this laptop in our review, as well as the speedy SSD and the system's wealth of ports. It's slightly lighter than the Legion Y530 (5.1 pounds, 15.4 x 10.5 x 1.1 inches) but lasted just as long on our battery test (4:44).

But similar to the Legion Y530, the Nitro 5's
display isn't the brightest (266 versus the Legion's 257 nits). We weren't too thrilled with the keyboard, either, which we noted had a soft spongy feel, despite its 1.6 millimeters of key travel.

Asus ROG Strix Hero II

Something happens when you make the leap from 1050 Ti to 1060. By crossing the entry-level threshold into midtier land, you hit a serious price increase. However, you also get better specs, like the Hero II's 15.6-inch,1080p display with a 144-Hertz refresh rate.

Additionally, you get a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU with 16GB of RAM, a 256GB NVMe SSD, and a 1TB and 5,400-rpm HDD, which sort of justifies the $1,699 price. We also loved the high-end design, comfortable keyboard and 4:56 battery life. And at 5.1 pounds and 14.2 x 10.3 x 1 inches, this laptop is fairly portable.

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

But as much as we love the Hero II, it's not without its flaws, namely its ill-placed webcam, which is a casualty of those wonderfully thin bezels. This machine also ran rather hot when gaming, hitting 120 degrees Fahrenheit along the bottom, which might be uncomfortable during Monica's commute.

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If money's no object for Monica, then I highly suggest she consider the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin. At $1,999, it's a pricey option, but well worth the investment. Weighing 4.1 pounds, the 14.1 x 9.8 x 0.7-inch system is the lightest of the bunch. And despite its Core i7 CPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU, it lasted 5 hours and 40 minutes on our battery test. Plus, it has excellent performance, a surprisingly comfortable keyboard and a top-mounted webcam, despite its super-slim bezels.

Our only real gripe with the Stealth Thin is the cooling, or lack thereof. The notebook's undercarriage registered a toasty 122 degrees Fahrenheit after 15 minutes of gaming.

Bottom Line

If Monica's looking to stay within a certain budget, I'd recommend she pick the Acer Nitro 5 — that is, if she can tolerate the dim display. If she wants a midlevel system with a gorgeous display, then she should take a closer look at the Asus ROG Strix Hero II (but she should be careful holding it in her lap).

However, if she wants long battery life, excellent performance, a lovely display and stunning design, the best lightweight gaming laptop Monica can buy is the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin — if she can deal with the price and heat.

Credit: Laptop Mag

Sherri L. Smith
Editor in Chief

Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for 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.