We don’t have the pretention to know literally everything about gaming laptops. That’d be utterly impossible, considering the constant technological advances which allow for new models to appear every now and then. Not to mention the whole range of things that the companies are developing and the public knows nothing about.
What we do know, however, is that when you want a gaming laptop, you basically want the portable version of a hardcore desktop. You don’t want something slim and light, although there are a couple of models that fulfill these conditions as well. You don’t want something classy enough to take with you on a corporate meeting. You don’t want something tiny enough to take with you when you’re mountain trekking.
What you do want is a true monster, capable of running the most demanding games of today AND tomorrow, on ultra settings, @30fps (at the very least). The games of the past, you can play even on a flagship smartphone – what you want from a good gaming laptop is to be able to play Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Far Cry Primal, The Witcher 3, Ashes of the Singularity, Bioshock Infinite, and so on, on native resolution and max detail, without your FPS dropping below a bearable limit.
We tried to make your job a bit easier and did some specific research ourselves. As a result, we’ve compiled a list of the best gaming laptops commonly accessible on Amazon. Mind you, this is not a list of the best gaming laptops for a certain budget, nor a list of the most affordable gaming laptops; it’s simply a list of the most powerful and best-rated laptops, regardless of price. If you’re certain you have some cash to spend, or at least you plan to save some in the future, you’re welcome to take a look at what we liked and perhaps get one of them for yourself.
Best 17-inch gaming laptops:
ASUS ROG G701VI OC Edition – Editor’s choice
In all probability, this Asus model is exactly what we’d buy if we were to buy a completely cray-cray gaming laptop. Sorry, but we’re Asus fans. And speaking of fans, this is exactly why we love Asus: the brand new Asus Vapor Chamber makes overheating a thing of the past. It even has a dust-release tunnel, in order to not clog the components, and the dedicated cooling modules allow for a level of overclocking we’ll discuss in a jiffy.
The display is a pleasant 17.3” FHD which manages 112% of the sRGB color space – not astonishing, but seriously solid. Some claim that it has light bleed issues, but we didn’t find them significant enough to damage the gaming experience. It doesn’t have a mechanical keyboard, which is a shame, but it also allows the laptop to not be a complete brick in terms of thickness, and reviewers class it among the top 5 gaming laptop keyboards anyway.
It’s 1.3” thick and 7.8lbs heavy, but hey… if you want a thin and light notebook, buy a ZenBook.
In terms of power, this laptop is a true beast, completely worth the price you’d pay for it. It’s powered by a 7th generation i7-7820HK, 2.9 and up to 3.9GHz, which we discussed above. It’s an unlocked processor, which means that you can overclock it as much as the cooling capabilities allow you to. Which is a lot. The GPU is a beautiful nVidia GTX 1080 and we’re happy to tell you that this configuration aces the 3D Mark Fire Strike at 15,812, pretty high for a laptop. It has 32GB overclocked DDR4 RAM @2800MHz, and 2x 256GB SSD for a nice 512GB storage, which is, of course, upgradable.
Is it completely VR-ready? Sure as hell it is, and that’s valid for all of the laptops here. Some may work better or actually be optimized for VR, but not one of them will have problems running VR apps. Word.
2. MSI GT83VR Titan SLI-212
Are you a completely power-crazy tyrant? If yes, here’s your computer. This is the single most powerful gaming laptop we’ve seen and it’s also the most expensive. It features an FHD IPS wide-view non-reflection display which may seem insufficient for an 18.4” laptop, but it’s genuinely high-quality. If it’s not enough for you, the laptop supports another two 4K displays simultaneously, so here you go. It’s the first on the list to feature a mechanical keyboard, which reviewers think is amazing enough to justify the 2.5” thickness and 22.5lbs.
MSI has had cooling problems since forever and they’re set to solve them with the 2017 models. The new technology includes 15 heat pipes and three coolers, which are absolutely necessary for the level of heat produced by this absolute monster.
The Titan SLI-212 is equipped with the literally most powerful consumer-grade CPU available, an i7-7920HQ, quad-core, 8-thread, 3.1GHz and up to 4.1GHz with Turbo Boost, 8MB cache. It’s paired with the also literally most powerful consumer-grade laptop GPU, a dual GTX 1080 (hence the SLI part of the model name) with 16GB GDDR5X VRAM. Add 64GB DDR4 RAM @2400MHz and a 1TB SSD + 1TB HDD storage combo and you will understand why we say this is the best gaming laptop in terms of sheer performance.
Side note: if you expect the battery to last more than an hour, you should get a reality check.
3. Alienware New 17 AW17R4-7352SLV-PUS
There’s no list of gaming laptops without an Alienware and this is no exception. The fact that it ranks third on our list is rather a matter of taste than one of performance. Alienware also claim that they’ve solved the cooling issues that used to appear with the pre-2017 models and beta testers say they’re actually right. Due to a construction peculiarity, with the main body extending 1.5” or so behind the screen hinges, there’s more room for coolers and your palm rests will remain as chilly as they should be.
The display featured is a 17.3” QHD 400-nit anti-glare @120Hz, which is TN for some reason unknown to us. It also has the Tobii eye-tracking system, which is really neat. Alienware claim to have reduced the thickness and weight of the laptop and it seems that they kept the promise: at 1.15” and 9.7 lbs, it’s what you’d expect from a pretty normal 17-incher.
The mother ship of the future is based on the same great i7-7820HK as the ROG G701VI. We do know, however, how much it can be overclocked here: an amazing 4.4GHz. It has the same single GTX 1080 you’ll see very often around here, as well as 32GB DDR4 @2400MHz, a 256GB SSD and 1TB HDD.
In all honesty, we really like the new Alienware design. It looks kinda… ominous, in a way, but the anodized aluminum is a nice change from the all-pervasive black/red color scheme.
4. HP Omen 17
If we were to characterize this gaming laptop in a few words, it would have to be “classics gone crazy”. It’s not the most beautiful laptop here, not by far, nor the most hardcore. However, we have to say that HP made a pretty great effort and they totally deserve their spot here. We also have to commend them for the sound system, it’s seriously awesome for a laptop and it doesn’t have that tinny reverberation often found in similar models.
The display is a 4K UHD UWVA anti-glare, which is nice. It can reach up to 173% of the sRGB color space, which is also nice. The brightness is 265nit, which is not so nice. Also not nice is the fact that it gets pretty hot when you try to overload it a bit, but that’s to be expected.
It’s equipped with the mainstream CPU i7-6700HQ, quad-core, 8-thread, 2.6 and up to 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost, 6MB cache. It comes with a sweet GTX 1070, which manages to obtain better benchmarks in the 3D Mark Fire Strike than some 1080-based configurations. 32GB RAM? Check. 512GB SSD + 2GB HDD? Wow. Check that.
5. Razer Blade Pro 17
We have to say it: for a 17-inch gaming laptop, this thing is incredibly thin and light. When it comes to that, it beats all the others hands down: it’s only 0.88” thick and 7.8lbs. Does that make it any less solid? Nope. The chassis is made of CNC-milled aluminum and it’s made to resist. Not to mention pretty. Does it make it any hotter? Yes. The fans are also a bit noisy, which is annoying if you aren’t playing games at full volume.
This model has possibly the best display around here: a 4K touchscreen. Not only is it super-high-resolution, but it can also manage 185% of the sRGB gamut, which is more than impressive. Is the graphics card enough to support it? Mostly, yes. Is the cooling keeping up? We certainly hope so, seeing as this model has really great reviews. The reviews are also really nice when it comes to the keyboard – an ultra-low-profile mechanical keyboard.
The processor on this one is the same mainstream i7-6700HQ. It’s not bad, but it could get better. The graphics card, on the other hand, is the same beautiful GTX 1080 with 8GB GDDR5X. 32GB RAM and a 512GB SSD and you get a neat configuration, although a bit on the expensive side.
6. Acer Predator 17 X
Some reviewers claim that this laptop looks plain bad. We beg to disagree. Sure, it does have its plasticky parts, but we are of the opinion that Acer did a pretty good job, a whole lot better than it did with the mainstream mid-range options. Even better, it did a pretty good job AND made it cheaper: the whole thing is a lot cheaper than whatever others have to offer. They seem to have skimped on the camera, it’s pretty grainy for the price.
We’re usually annoyed with Acer displays, but this one is OK. It’s not as luminous as others, at only 288nit, but it’s enough for most purposes and it also covers 112% of the sRGB. The keyboard is also pretty satisfying, which is also surprising for Acer. Even better, the cooling system evolved and it now features not two, but three fans and it appears to be doing its job.
The Decepticon in disguise has a configuration we consider ideal for modern games and some future ones: an i7-7820HK, a GTX 1080 with 8GB GDDR5X, 32GB RAM, and a 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD storage combo. All in all, the best Acer has to offer is enough to earn it a place in the gallery of the actual best.
7. Origin PC EON17-SLX P870DM1080PGS-B6700K
We’re not actually sure whether we’re reviewing a laptop or a weird desktop right here, and you’ll see why in a second. For the time being, you have to know that the display is neat and vivid and the sound system is probably the best you can get on a laptop. Seriously, the bass is epic. The design is rather boring, or so we’d say, but it has a metal grid on the exhaust vents which we find pretty awesome.
We can’t describe how comfy the keyboard is – a perfect 1.9mm travel distance and an equally perfect 62 grams of force necessary. It’s like the keyboard itself is typing and also gently caressing your fingers. We also can’t describe how hot this gets. Not a very pleasant surprise, in all honesty, but I think we can get over it if we consider the performance.
This laptop is a desktop. Yup. It features a desktop CPU, an i7-6700K, quad-core, 4GHz and up to 4.2GHz overclocked, 8MB SmartCache. Not only that, but it also has a desktop GTX 980, which scores a great 12011 on the 3D Mark Fire Strike benchmark. It only has 16GB RAM, but it’s upgradable to 64, and also 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD.
Best 15-inch Gaming Laptops:
1. Aorus X5 v6-PC3K3D
A subsidiary of Gigabyte, a company we all know for making pretty neat motherboards and other computer components, Aorus seems to be faring pretty well on the gaming laptop market even though it’s really new. This particular model is fairly slim and light for a gaming laptop, especially compared to the always bulkier Alienware; it’s only 0.9” thick and 5.51lbs. In order to keep heat in check, Aorus installed some extra air intakes on the sides of the laptop, besides the ones on the bottom, and it seems they’ve done a pretty good job. They also did a good job with the keyboard, as users report excellent typing experience.
The display is a bit annoying. It’s a 15.6” WQHD+ (2880×1620) IPS anti-glare and it actually performs almost as advertised when it comes to color rendering and such. However, due to the rather odd 3K resolution, it faces scaling issues all the time. Oh well.
Performance-wise, we think it’s a really solid pick. The processor is an i7-6820HK which is normally 2.7GHz and 3.6GHz with Turbo Boost, but this model allows overclocking up to 4GHz. The X5 v6 features an nVidia GTX 1070, 8GB GDDR5 VRAM, as the 1080 model is simply too much for a 15-inch laptop. 16 GB RAM and the usual 256GB SD + 1TB HDD are also present. It has excellent reviews and we think it’s the overall best gaming laptop in its size category, in spite of the annoying scaling problems.
2. Asus ROG Strix GL502VM
Our second model from Asus is nowhere near as bulky as the other and not as powerful either, but it offers incomparable portability without losing too much in terms of strength. It’s just as slim as the Aorus X5 v6, at 0.9”, and even lighter, weighing only 4.9lbs. It’s also much cheaper than the Aorus and half the price of its bigger brother. Users report that, in spite of its slimness, it faces no serious cooling issues, with Asus’ excellent cooling technology keeping heat away from the palm rests even during intense gaming sessions. It features an FHD IPS anti-glare display, which is exactly what we recommend for 15-inch laptops, and a really nice keyboard. All in all, we think this is the prettiest design we’ve seen on a 15-inch gaming laptop, although we don’t particularly fancy the ROG logo.
The internal configuration of the GL502VM is in every respect identical to the Aorus, except for the processor – in this case, it’s the mainstream i7-6700HQ. This doesn’t seem to be a problem, however, as it’s more than enough for the games currently on the market. The graphics card, memory, and storage are all the same and we think the GTX 1070 does a way better job with an FHD screen than it does with the WQHD+ one on the Aorus.
3. MSI Apache Pro-001 GE62VR
This 15-inch model from MSI looks exactly like the stereotype gaming laptop, with a black metal chassis and red highlights. It’s a tad bit bulkier than the other two, without surpassing the normal limits for classic laptops, at 1.06” thickness and weighing 5.3lbs. All in all, if it weren’t for the shiny keyboard (which, by the way, is better than what Asus brings to the table) and the MSI logo on the back of the screen (which kinda looks like Ferrari from a distance), it would look more like a workstation of sorts.
MSI has improved its True Color technology and this model thus shows a lot crisper colors than previous ones, at 112% of the sRGB gamut. The brightness is pretty solid too, at 301nit. Of course, if you don’t want to use a display at all, the laptop is also entirely VR-optimized. What is not particularly solid is the speaker set, which seems to be facing some driver-related issues. We hope that whoever makes the driver software solves that one.
The processor, RAM, and storage are the same as what the Strix GL502VM has to offer. However, the graphics chip is “only” a GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5. Don’t worry, it’ll still work just fine with a 1080p display on high and ultra settings.
Until a couple of years ago, playing heavy games was not only hard to achieve, but in fact literally impossible even on desktop PCs, let alone on a laptop. We all know that old “but can it play Crisis?” meme. However, due the constant optimizations of CPU and GPU microarchitectures, as well as improvements in cooling capacity, the best gaming laptops of today are equipped with almost desktop-level components, including CPU, graphics card, memory, storage, and so on.
There are only two things that a laptop, for gaming or otherwise, will never do and you have to get used to the idea. First, while gaming laptops are indeed customizable, they cannot hold a candle to a desktop PC in that respect. A motherboard for laptops cannot accommodate as many components and ports as a desktop one and there would be no room inside the chassis to begin with. At most, you can add some RAM and storage and change the graphics card. Second, on a related matter, even the best gaming laptop will have cooling capability inferior to a gaming PC and that results in an incapacity to overclock its components as much.
Of course, the fact that a gaming laptop is not exactly as good as a desktop does not mean it’s not good. Quite on the contrary, the high-end models we are going to talk about here are almost on par with equally expensive desktop rigs and also more than enough for all practical purposes. What’s more, they have the added advantage of portability and that is something really important if you’re often gaming away from home or simply like to move from one room to another without moving an entire Christmas tree’s worth of cables and lights.
There are a couple of very important things to consider if you want to buy a gaming laptop and not waste money on it. This is because such a laptop is not only the sum of its components – there are more factors to take into account than simply the processor’s clocking speed or the amount of VRAM. And you better be careful with those things: with a laptop, what you see is what you get and if you want to change it, you may just as well return it and buy another.
There are many prejudices against the various brands in vogue today and, in spite of what the word “prejudice” inspires, they are not entirely misguided. Certain brands favor very specific parts of the market and they simply may not cater to the needs of gamers. Here’s what we think about the different brands available today:
Apple: nope. Seriously. You cannot game on a Mac, unless you somehow change the OS to Windows, thus defeating the purpose of buying a Mac in the first place. They’re amazing for other things, but they are completely incompatible with gaming and you’re a pagan if you think otherwise.
Alienware: Over-hyped? Yup. There not necessarily the best gaming laptops on the market in terms of power, and it’s also clear that you’re paying for the brand. However, they do have plenty of experience with gaming rigs and their new (2017) designs seem to have removed a couple of known flaws. The tech support and warranty are also not bad and these laptops are among the easiest to customize if necessary.
ASUS: just great. Their Republic of Gamers (ROG) laptops work amazingly and they have the best cooling systems known to man. They do come with plenty of bloatware and such and also tend to be on the bulkier side, but we can’t have perfection, can we? The high-end machines are truly high-end and we think ROG laptops are excellent value for money.
Lenovo: great all-rounders and mid-range gaming rigs, but they don’t quite make the cut into the world of the best gaming laptops. They also tend to be quite a bit plasticky. Lenovo keyboards are truly great though, so maybe get one if you’re a writer.
Acer: their Predator line of laptops has pretty good reviews. They apparently put a lot more effort in these high-end gaming laptops than whatever else they do, while their lower-end machines are about the same as Lenovo’s.
Dell: they own Alienware. Their flagship XPS line used to include gaming laptops as well, but now Alienware takes care of that part exclusively.
Samsung: pretty much in the same category as Apple, but without the macOS.
HP: their OMEN line of laptops is not all that bad, but it seems like their build is not particularly solid. They also tend to make their laptops on the slimmer side, which is great for portability, but not so much for accessibility, so upgrading is a nightmare.
MSI: some of the most, if not THE most, monstrous rigs we’ve seen. Seriously, who puts SLI graphics cards inside a laptop? You guessed, MSI. They’re relatively new in the business, but they seem to want to do business. On the more expensive side, they have some of the biggest muscles and are not afraid to show ’em.
Razer: rather well-known for their gaming accessories, they also created some marvelous pieces of engineering with their Blade Pro gaming laptops. More than a bit expensive, on par with MSI and Asus’ most expensive pieces, they are also the slimmest high-end gaming laptops around. Do you expect cooling issues because of it? You’re right. The palm rests are OK, but better not hold this laptop on your lap.
Origin PC: on the same crazy side as MSI, these guys make things big, loud, and pretty damn powerful. You won’t see anything as thin as a Razer or Aorus and, unfortunately, nothing very cheap either. If you want your laptop to be a complete bulldozer and also to dry your bank account, this is how you do it.
Aorus: a really new entry on the market (since 2014), they work under Gigabyte’s umbrella and make SLI gaming laptops. They’re comparable to Razer in terms of both design and components and some (including us) say they’re better.
The design and build
There’s no hard and fast rule about what a gaming laptop should look like. After all, it’s not like you’re taking one with you at a corporate meeting or anything. However, it’s almost guaranteed that even a complete n00b will recognize a gaming laptop upon eye contact. Some of them are somewhat classy and streamlined, while some look rather like an alien spaceship on steroids, but all of them have a certain aura of “power” around them you can’t feel if it’s a business-class laptop, no matter what’s inside it.
Of course, looks are nowhere near as important as a couple of other factors pertaining to design and construction. The first factor you must take into account, in spite of not being necessarily visible at a first glance, is the overall solidity of the construction. It’s true that the best gaming laptops generally have a super-tough frame. Asus, for instance, employs aerospace-grade aluminum, while Alienware relies on an aluminum-magnesium alloy. Plastic parts still exist, nonetheless, and sometimes vital components like the display are attached to the chassis by such parts that always risk breaking due to excessive tension or weight. Even if that’s not the case, a chassis that bends or flexes can be completely uncomfortable to use for pro gaming. We advise that you read the specific reviews of your favorite model before buying.
Note: a well-built gaming laptop, with premium materials, will be pretty damn heavy. Sorry, but it’s unavoidable and you should just deal with it.
Second, there’s the cooling. In order for your laptop to work normally, not to mention overclocking, advanced cooling capabilities are necessary. Check the reviews and see whether the laptop tends to heat up and which part of it exactly does. You may also want to check what the company says about the intake and exhaust vents, heat pipes, fans, and the necessary software. Otherwise, you may end up with the unpleasant surprise of your hands (or worse, your expensive GPU) catching fire mid-game. Even more annoyingly, a poorly-designed cooling system will be really loud. This may be okay with a PC, as the case is not as close to your ears, but the constant sharp noise of an overclocked gaming laptop will kill you slowly.
Third, there’s the keyboard usage comfort. You will definitely not get the same comfort from a laptop keyboard as you get from a PC one, due to the height of the keyboard relative to the surface the laptop is resting on. Also, some time ago we would have said that you can’t get a mechanical keyboard on a gaming laptop. That’s not the case anymore: you can actually find fantastic mechanical keyboards on some of the best gaming laptops from MSI and Razer, for instance. If this is particularly important for you, make sure to check the reviews before buying.
Fourth, there’s the connectivity issue. It’s important to understand that a gaming laptop cannot and will not have 12 USB ports, unless you’re buying an adapter (and splitting speed). You must have, however, at least 3 and preferably more USB Type A, as well as Type C, an HDMI, an RJ-45, a 3.5mm for audio in, and another for audio out. This is the bare minimum, and we’d prefer at least 4 USBs. It does matter, believe us. Especially when you’re planning to connect your Oculus Rift, wireless controller, and whatever other VR paraphernalia you require.
Fifth, there’s the inner architecture and accessibility thereof. What we mean by that is, basically, how easily you can reach inside and switch one chip or another, add some memory or storage, and so on. Certain gaming laptops are made for that specific purpose, with one Alienware official stating that the 2017 optimization also involves facilitating access to the laptop’s innards. Others are not as permissive. As a rule of thumb, the thinner it is, the tighter are the components packed and the more difficult the access. We also advise that you read the warranty certificate before doing anything. Although it’s uncommon, certain manufacturers tend to void the warranty if you try to upgrade anything inside it.
Quite obviously, if you buy a gaming laptop, you buy it because it’s a powerhouse. The above design and construction details are only important because they support (or not) a configuration that allows you to play whatever you want, for however long you want. The best gaming laptops may not necessarily be the most powerful in terms of brute clocking speed, though.
We do agree that, when you’re gaming, the GPU does most of the job. However, a good CPU is essential for the overall performance and demanding games are also demanding on the processor, not only on the graphics chip.
It has to be made clear from the very start: the Intel vs AMD fight has been clearly won by Intel when it comes to laptops. Desktop AMD processors are good and cheap, but their mobile counterparts are pretty far behind Intel if gaming is concerned. They have way better integrated graphics chips, but that’s kinda useless when you have a GTX 1080.
The most widely-used mainstream gaming component is the Intel Core i7-6700HQ. It’s a high-voltage processor, based on the 14nm lithography of the Skylake generation, and it consumes a maximum of 45W. It has 4 physical and 8 logical cores, 2.6GHz clocking speed and it can be overclocked up to 3.5GHz with Intel Turbo Boost. It features 6MB cache and it comes with the integrated video chip Intel HD 530 – not that you’d use it much anyway, but it’s about on par with a GTX 730.
If you want to kick it up a notch, there’s the i7-6820HK. It’s based on the same microarchitecture as the 6700HQ, but it’s clocked at 2.7GHz and can be overclocked up to 3.6GHz, all while consuming the same amount of power. It also has the same graphics chip, but it features 8MB cache instead of 6. The best gaming laptops of the current generation use this one.
Even better, there’s also the latest-generation i7-7820HK. While the Kaby Lake generation is simply an optimization of Skylake and it’s based on the same 14nm lithography, there’s still an improvement of ~12% in terms of clocking speed, as well as a significant improvement in energy-efficiency and overall behavior. This particular model is clocked at 2.9GHz and can be overclocked up to 3.9, while some crazy dudes from Alienware super-overclocked it up to 4.4GHz. Crazy, right?
The bottom line is… these are all good CPUs. If you want to be future-proof, however, try and get a newer generation. You can’t really replace the processor of a laptop.
Yet again, we have to say that the fight between nVidia and AMD results in another defeat for AMD. It’s not that their mobile graphics chips are not good, it’s simply that their high-end models are not as high-end as the nVidia high-end models. Ditto.
The mainstream “affordable” gaming laptops usually rely on a GTX 960M or 965M. This is not all that bad, but nowhere near enough for a top gaming machine. If you want quality, you start at least with a GTX 980M, which is a proper high-end graphics card. It’s based on the 28nm Maxwell microarchitecture, but it’s significantly more power-efficient and, with a 256-bit memory bus, makes also more efficient use of its VRAM than previous models. It can accommodate as much as 8GB GDDR5. The game benchmarks are not bad: it can play Deus Ex: Mankind Divided on 1080p and high settings at a 41fps average. Ultra settings are a bit too much in this particular case and 4k is only doable for a few less-demanding games.
For better results and 100% VR compatibility (depending on the other components, a GTX 980M may or may not be VR-ready), we advise that you get at least a GTX 1060. You will notice there’s no “M” anywhere around there – the laptop-oriented model is within 5-7% of a non-overclocked desktop 1060’s performance. It’s based on the fresh 16nm Pascal microarchitecture, thus being significantly more energy-efficient than 900-series models. The core speed goes from 1506MHz to 1708MHz and the maximum memory is 6GB GDDR5. In spite of being able to accommodate less VRAM than the 980M, it can achieve better performance at FHD and WQHD with maximum detail level. For the same Deus Ex at 1080p and high detail, it achieves 53fps, a whole 12 more than the 980M, and it can even run the game at 1080p and ultra settings @30.1fps.
If you really want to overpower everything, the GTX 1080 is the way to go. It shares the same 16nm Pascal microarchitecture as the 1060, but it’s significantly more powerful and only suited for bigger gaming laptops with high-performance cooling. It consumes up to 165W (memory included) and it has slightly bigger core speed (1566-1733MHz) while also having 8GB of the incomparably faster GDDR5X VRAM (theoretically double the speed of GDDR5). It’s suited for any and all VR applications, as well as 4K gaming with maxed out details. For comparison, it can run Deus Ex at 4K resolution and ultra settings at a whooping 36fps.
Of course, these are only single graphics chips. SLI configurations allow for significantly more power, although we’re not exactly sure what are you going to use it for, unless you want to play everything @200fps. As a reference, a single GTX 1080 is way better than a 980M SLI, while a 1080 SLI can achieve anywhere between 0% and 90% more performance compared to a single 1080. It can run Overwatch, at 4K and ultra settings, at an average 213fps. Geez.
There’s this saying that “more is always better”, but that’s not entirely true. If you have too much memory, most of it will just be wasted. Then again, if you have too little, your applications will be annoyingly laggy. What’s more, for a serious gamer, “minimum” requirements simply don’t exist; everything is “recommended” or better.
So, what’s recommended? Here’s what a couple of modern games ask for:
- Dying Light: 4GB minimum, 8GB recommended
- Grand Theft Auto V: 4GB minimum, 8GB recommended
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: 8GB minimum, 16GB recommended
- Overwatch: 4GB minimum, 6GB recommended
- The Witcher 3: 6GB minimum, 8GB recommended
- Fallout 4: 8GB minimum and recommended
- Batman: Arkham Knight: 6GB minimum, 8GB recommended, 12GB required for smooth gameplay on Windows 10
- Rise of the Tomb Raider: 6GB minimum, 8GB recommended
- Far Cry Primal: 4GB minimum, 8GB recommended
- The Division: 6GB minimum, 8GB recommended
- Hitman: 8GB minimum and recommended
As you can see, there are very few games that have minimum requirements below 6GB and virtually all of them need 8GB to run properly. Not to mention that there are also some which require 12 or 16GB. What’s more, you will most likely run a few apps at the same time even while you’re gaming – maybe doing some live streaming or something of the kind, which will also take a toll on the memory.
The bottom line is, you need 8GB as a bare minimum for a gaming laptop, but we all know it’s not exactly enough. The recommended amount for the best gaming laptops is, therefore, 16GB. However, if you tend to do live streaming or run whatever other apps in the meantime, especially if it’s VR we’re talking about, you may want to upgrade to 32GB. It’s not a must, though, so judge well whether it’s actually necessary or simply a waste of money.
Speed is not of such great concern as sheer size is. DDR4 is the standard anyway and you’ll hardly see any DDR3 or DDR3L memory on gaming laptops.
While there’s not such a huge difference between DDR3 and DDR4, there’s quite a noticeable one between an HDD and an SSD. A blooming technology, SSDs are incomparably faster than even the fastest 7200RPM HDDs used today and a lot less prone to errors and the dreaded “blue screen of death”.
SSDs are also less prone to mechanical damage, as they have no moving components. What’s more, they occupy less space than HDDs, as the latter are limited to certain minimum dimensions. There are two main problems with SSDs, however. The first problem is sheer space. 1TB SSDs are quite rare at the moment and the price ranges anywhere between $250 or so for a SATA3 SSD (which cannot actually draw out the true SSD speed), and $600 for a PCIe one with reading speed up to 3000MB/s and writing speed up to 1100MB/s. By contrast, a 1TB 7200RPM HDD is $50, while a 5TB one goes for $150.
So, does that makes SSDs a must-have for gaming? Not really, in fact.
Data transfer speed only matters when you’re copying large files, for instance. It also speeds up the OS boot time and the loading time of certain applications. SSDs are pretty amazing in that aspect – windows 10, for instance, will boot in 3 seconds or so. Physical dimensions are hardly an issue for a massive gaming laptop, and there are comparably smaller chances of you dropping your gaming laptop than your business one.
At any rate, the best gaming laptops usually feature an HDD-SSD combo. That does NOT mean it’s a Hybrid State Drive, mind you; that’s something else and more on the HDD side. Usually, it’s a 128, 256, or 512GB SSD plus a 1TB or 2TB HDD, with the 256GB + 1TB combination being the most common. We believe it’s pretty much everything you need, as it offers you both speed for the OS and the game you’re actually playing and enough storage for whatever else you may need. Considering the current evolution of storage drives, we don’t think it’s worth investing in a 1TB SSD right now.
There’s quite a hype these days about VR, on the one hand, and 4K gaming on the other. The thing is, we’re talking about gaming LAPTOPS here. Sure, if you have a 30” display for your desktop PC, it’s quite natural to want bigger resolution, because, at that size, you’ll notice the difference between FHD and, say, QHD quite easily. However, the bigger laptop screens to date are 18.4”. What does that mean? When it comes to resolution, bigger is not necessarily better. In fact, too big a resolution will pose a few problems you need to know about:
Battery life: a UHD display will eat battery life like there’s no tomorrow and your battery will last for 2 hours at most anyway.
Native resolution gaming: it will be really difficult for your GPU to run games at native resolution. Unless you have a GTX 1080, which will also consume battery like a hungry troll.
Scaling issues: many apps, as well as many OS interface components do not support scaling, i.e. adapting the window size to the resolution. In practical terms, you will very often see letters so small you literally won’t be able to read them without a magnifying glass.
For all practical purposes, the best resolution for gaming laptops is FHD for 13- and 15-inch displays, while 17- and 18-inchers will not require more than QHD. There are enough pixels for a perfect amount of detail.
Is resolution the only significant factor? Nope, not by far. There are also a few other things which may turn a super-high-resolution display into a nightmare to look at. Here’s what else you need to know:
Luminosity: measured in nits, it shows how much light output your display can produce. It’s important, basically, if you want to see anything on your display on a bright day. A 200nit rating is pretty weak and we can guarantee that you won’t like that. It’s the bare minimum for a laptop or mobile display. A 300nit rating is pretty solid and also common for high-end displays for gaming and image processing, while the best gaming laptops and workstations have 400nit displays. 500nit ratings are exceedingly rare and pretty damn awesome.
Contrast: basically, the ratio between the whitest white and the blackest black your display can produce. The higher, the better, and you will often see ratios of 10,000,000:1, as stated by the manufacturer. The problem is, there’s no mandatory standardized contrast benchmark, so they can say whatever they want. Check the reviews for the actual contrast ratio.
Color gamut: the color palette your display can reproduce. There IS a standardized test for this one, the sRGB color space developed by Microsoft and HP. The average laptop monitor can handle somewhere around 70-75% of the sRGB spectrum, which is meh, while more solid displays should reach 110-125%. The best gaming laptops we know totally break the barrier, at an amazing 150-180%, and so do proper workstations.
Response time: how fast the pixels change on the black-white scale as a response to your peripherals. If it’s too high, you will often see trails of moving objects on the screen, a phenomenon called “ghosting”. For day-to-day use, it’s not an issue, but it can be really annoying when you’re gaming. TN panels have a response time of 1ms, which is perfect, IPS panels are rated at 4ms, which is good, and OLEDs are drastically better at ~10µs, 100 times faster.
Refresh rate: the number of frames per second displayed. It’s important because it doesn’t matter whether a GPU can run a game at 200fps if your monitor can only show 20. Of course, there are no such lame refresh rates for gaming laptops; the perfect rate is 60Hz and pretty much all modern monitors are capable of that. Most pro-grade rigs are equipped with 120Hz or 144Hz monitors, which are pretty much the standard frequencies.
V-Sync: in fact a function of the graphics card, it allows the game fps and the display refresh rate to synchronize so that there’s no screen tearing. Of course, for this to work at higher fps rates, you need a display with an equally high refresh rate.
These are the main factors to take into account when it comes to gaming laptop screens. We advise, again, that you read the specific reviews of whatever laptop you’re buying in order to make sure it has what you want. The display is, in a way, the most important part of any computer and a poor-quality one can very well ruin your gaming experience.
There’s also the TN vs IPS vs OLED issue and many people don’t seem to know exactly how that works. TN and IPS are different forms of LCD, while OLED is a relatively new technology and not very often found in laptops. It probably will be more common in the future, so we’re discussing that too.
An LCD display has three main components: a backlight (usually LED), a light intensity filter (where the liquid crystal layer is) and a color filter. TN and IPS are two technologies used for rearranging the liquid crystal molecules in order to provide the exact amount of light intensity necessary for every pixel to show the exact color you want.
TN is the older technology and it has two significant advantages: it’s really cheap to produce and has excellent response time. As such, it may be good for those who play fps-intensive first-person shooters and such, who need their screen to respond in the blink of an eye. However, TN panels also have some significant problems. The viewing angle is poor, the color gamut is also poor, and the black levels (and consequent contrast ratio) is just plain bad.
IPS has the advantage over TN where contrast, color gamut, and viewing angle are concerned. In fact, the difference is so significant, that we’re actually recommending modern IPS over pretty much everything else… until OLED is fully developed, at least. It does have a somewhat slower response time, but it’s unnoticeable, as far as we’re concerned, and it’s also a bit more power-hungry and expensive to produce. These issues are not very significant, though, and IPS is currently the best technology available for gaming laptop displays.
OLED is entirely different from the other two as it is not LCD-based. It does not require a backlight and it can effectively turn pixels on and off. This means its rendering of blacks is almost perfect. What’s more, the color gamut and viewing angle are incomparably better than the other two, and so are the response time (100x faster) and refresh rate (1000x faster). The technology is still developing and currently OLED displays are very expensive and not as amazing as they could, theoretically, be. We still recommend OLED if you can find one, though. If you appreciate perfect visuals, then OLED is definitely the one for you. Even more so if you do some casual photoshop besides your day-to-day gaming.
This is about everything we think you need to know about high-end gaming laptops. Of course, there’s a lot more to say about every specific component, but we’d eventually get a 50,000-word article and you wouldn’t read that. We wouldn’t either. If you have one specific model in mind, you should look for as many reviews of that product as possible before making a decision.
To sum up
This concludes our article about the best gaming laptops. The best gaming laptops NOW, that is. We only talked about models that are currently available on the market (including the new Alienware 17 which is currently on pre-order). However, there are also some future models we’re looking forward to reviewing as soon as they hit the market. Such would be the case with Razer’s Project Valerie, which features a triple 4K display – something unheard of for a laptop.
There are many exciting things happening in the world of gaming laptops and we’re right there, in the middle of them, doing our best to provide you with the most up-to-date information. Good luck and many 360o no-scopes!