Gaming laptops tend to be on the higher side of the cost spectrum. However, that doesn't mean that you can't find a notebook that's powerful and somewhat affordable. And that's a good thing for our forum member mikekaylor98 whose budget is around $1,500 for a 17-inch system.
In addition to the $1,500 budget, mikekaylor98 has a few other wants including "reasonable battery life," a Windows operating system, at least 500GB of storage and a 1920 x 1080 display. The laptop should also be powerful enough to play Arma 2 as well as code and edit pictures. Lastly, our forum member is looking for an optical drive, which might be a bit difficult considering the current trend with laptop manufacturers is to ditch DVD players and burners.
We've taken a look at a few options that offer the value, power and most of the accoutrements they're looking for. However, none of them has an optical drive so Mike may want to spend around $25 to an external, USB DVD burner.
We like the PowerSpec 1710 because you get powerful components including an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU for an incredible $1,399. Combined with the 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, the 6.8 pound, 16.5 x 11.5 x 1.0-inch notebook has more than enough power for Mike's planned usage. In fact, the laptop can easily support a virtual reality headset such as an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive with ease. With a 119 percent sRGB color gamut and 372 nits of brightness, this 1080p display stands out for its luminous and vividness.
During our testing, the 1710 consistently notched high marks on our performance tests, earning 14,514 on Geekbench 4, our overall performance test with frame rates that were consistently above our 30 frames per second threshold. The 250GB NVMe SSD (and 1TB HDD) had a zippy transfer rate of 391.5 megabytes per second. As far as the battery life, the system lasted 5 hours and 55 seconds on our test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi) which is excellent when it comes to gaming laptops.
However, there are a few caveats. We weren't too thrilled about the audio quality and found the shallow keyboard uncomfortable to type on. The 1710 also lacks the optical drive that Mike is looking for.
Acer Predator Helios 300 (17-inch)
One of our favorite things about the 6.6-pound, 17 x 11.4 x 1.1-inch Acer Predator Helios 300 (besides the $1,357 price) is its upgradability. Thanks to the two easy-access bottom panels, Mike can upgrade the hard drive and RAM. The Helios is outfitted with a GTX 1060 GPU and Core i7-7700HQ CPU, which means that the laptop can multitask and game at average rates. The notebook ranged between 55 - 73 fps on our gaming tests and achieved 14,305 on Geekbench 4, defeating the desktop-replacement average.
The 1080p panel is bright and incredibly colorful at 373 nits and 139 percent of the sRGB gamut which should make for some beautiful vistas. The notebook's 512GB M.2 SSD (1TB HHD) delivered a good transfer rate of 318.1MBps. The Helios 300 also impresses with its battery life, lasting 5:36.
Like the 1710, the Helios 300 lacks an optical drive. We also took issue with the laptop's touchpad, which felt uncomfortable clicking and was at times unresponsive to gesture inputs. The plastic lid has some noticeable flex which is annoying, but not a deal breaker.
Acer Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition
The Acer Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition laptop earned our Editor's Choice award for a number of reasons. Priced at $1,299, the 7-pound, 16.7 x 11.7 x 1.1-inch system has an elegant look that'd be right at home in a business setting or a LAN party. The notebook's GTX 1060 GPU and Core i7-7700HQ processor mean that it's primed and ready for gaming, virtual reality and productivity. The notebook notched 13,333, beating the category average. On the gaming front, the laptop stayed well above our 30-fps threshold with scores that ranged between 37 and 62 fps.
The Nitro Black's panel is colorful at 118 percent. The 512GB SSD, which is paired with a 1TB hard drive, is fairly speedy with a transfer rate of 231.3MBps. We were also impressed with the speakers with their loud, balanced audio quality.
But the Nitro Black's biggest draw might be the integrated Tobii Eye Tracker, which lets you navigate your desktop with your gaze and control the camera in specific games. Once you get used to it, the eye-tracking technology can help enhance your game, by allowing you to aim at enemies with a quick glance. The laptop lasted 5:30 on our battery test, which is an impressive score.
Our only complaints about the Nitro Black are that it's loaded with unnecessary bloatware and suffers from dimmer-than-average screen brightness at 237 nits. This is also missing an optical drive.
Each of the laptops we've suggested have their pros and cons, but ultimately, I'm going to recommend that mikekaylor98 go with the PowerSpec 1710 as it delivers the best overall and graphics performance as well as the best battery life, display and hard drive speed. And it's the only laptop that's offering a powerful GTX 1070 GPU for under $1,500.
However, if Miike is interested in upgrading the system, they should consider the Acer Predator Helios 300. They'll lose out on the higher-end GPU, but a GTX 1060 is still VR-ready and plenty powerful. The Acer Aspire V17 Nitro Black is a solid choice for gamers searching for an understated design with an eye toward the future. But overall, the PowerSpec 1710 offers the best specs and performance for your dollar.
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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.