Nothing taxes a notebook like serious gaming and nothing adds to the price of a notebook like high-end graphics chips and CPUs. Fortunately, these days you can get a system that's good enough for gaming and won't break the bank, if you know where to look. Reader Jordan asks:
i'm looking for a <$1000 laptop that has switchable graphics decent enough for games like mass effect, call of duty or civilization v on a 15 to 16 inch screen. i would like it to have an i5, bluetooth(if possible) and an island style keyboard with 10key. a good selection of ports would be nice(no need for rj45 wired connection), definitely hdmi and at least 2 usb, anything else as a plus would be awesome; so do you have any suggestions?
The games mentioned here - Mass Effect, Call of Duty, and Civilization V - are pretty demanding. But. looking at their recommended system requirements, we realize they can even run on a a two year old Core 2 Duo system with the right graphics card, though with that level of performance, you might need to turn down the special effects.
For under $1,000, in the 15 to 16-inch size, we like the Dell XPS 15, which starts at $799 and comes standard with Nvidia GT420 graphics.The XPS 15 has a numeric keypad, HDMI out, Core i5, several USB 3.0 ports, and the best audio you'll find in this price range. You can even configure the XPS 15 with a 1920 x 1080 screen for an additional $195. However, it doesn't have an island-style keyboard, one of your other requests.
Another very strong possibility for you is the ASUS N53JF, which right now is going for $1,029, just $29 above your stated budget. With the N53JF you get a 15.6-inch 1080p display, 2.53-GHz Core i5 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GT425M CPU, Blu-ray drive, awesome graphics performance, wonderful audio, and USB 3.0 ports. However, its keyboard is also not island-style, though it has a numeric keypad.
The Toshiba Satellite A665 series does have an island-style keyboard and it also sports a fast Core i5 CPU, Nvidia GeForce 300 series graphics, and fantastic audio quality. However it doesn't sport a full HD display. So if you can get over the keyboard, you'll want to consider the XPS 15 and ASUS N53JF which have 1080p (an option on the XPS 15), USB 3.0, and Nvidia 400 series graphics.