Best Gaming Laptops: Holiday 2018
Along with our quarterly laptop guide, near the end of every year we also like to take a look at the state of the gaming laptop market. With a much more cyclical upgrade cycle, gaming laptops tend to evolve in lockstep with the major components inside them. For the gaming laptop market, this includes not only more powerful CPUs, but also more unique (for a laptop) components like discrete video cards, mechanical keyboards, and perhaps an IPS panel or high-refresh TN display. All of which come together to make a breed of laptop that is very different from the kinds of machines that define the mainstream and professional markets.
Sizing up the current state of the gaming laptop market, 8th Generation CPUs for notebooks are still the default, although we’ve seen at least one laptop with the Core i9-9900K. NVIDIA has launched their desktop GPU refresh with the Turing based GeForce RTX lineup, but as of yet has not done the same for their laptop chips, so Pascal based GeForce GTX still rules the roost. On the AMD side, mobile Vega was not dead, as some feared, but is currently only available in the latest MacBook Pro, and not yet in gaming laptops.
|Gaming Laptop Recommendations Holiday 2018|
|Segment||Model||Starting Price (As of writing)|
|Low-Cost Gaming||Lenovo Legion Y530||$749 USD|
|Dell G3 Series 15||$699 USD|
|Mid-range Gaming||ASUS ROG Strix GL504GM||$1599 USD|
|Razer Blade 15||$1599 USD|
|High-End Gaming||MSI GT75 Titan||$2789 USD|
|Clevo P870TM||$2819 USD|
As always, we’ll break the guide down into several segments to serve various markets, from low-cost to mid-range, high end, and ultimate gaming.
Low-Cost Gaming Laptops
Lenovo Legion Y530
Kicking things off, we have entry-level gaming laptops. The Lenvov Legion Y530 is the second generation of the new Legion brand. The latest models feature 8th generation Core processors up to a Core i7-8750H with six cores, and up to a GTX 1060 GPU which offers plenty of muscle, but the base model starts at just $749 with a Core i5-8300H and GTX 1050. For $100 more you can bump up to a GTX 1050 Ti
The entire lineup features 1920×1080 IPS displays in the 15.6-inch model, and Lenovo offers a 144 Hz refresh screen as well in some of the configurations. The Legion design is more low-key than some other gaming brands, and looks great.
Dell G3 Series 15
Next in the low-cost gaming segment is the Dell G3 Series 15. It’s currently on sale for $699 making it one of the lowest cost gaming notebooks. The $699 price also gives you a choice between a 1 TB HDD model, or a 256 GB SSD version, which lets you choose based on how large your gaming library is, whether to take a slower spinning drive with plenty of space, or a SSD for better system performance all the time, but you may have to add space later. The G3 Series 15 can be had with a Core i5-8300H on the base, or up to a Core i7-8750H. A Geforce GTX 1050 is the opening GPU, and Dell offers a GTX 1050 Ti on the higher end configurations. The display is a 1920×1080 IPS, and although it’s not the best display around, the GTX 1050 should be able to drive it while gaming at reasonable frame rates.
Mid-Range Gaming Laptops
ASUS ROG Strix GL504GM
At the mid-range we see laptops with either the NVIDIA GTX 1060, or for a bit more money, a GTX 1070, both of which are a powerful gaming GPU in a mobile form factor. ASUS offers the Republic of Gamers branding Strix lineup, and the GL504 model is their 15.6-inch range. Featuring the GTX 1060 in the GL504GM, and GTX 1070 in the GL504GS models, there’s a wide range of performance here depending on budget. ASUS offers either the Intel Core i5-8300H quad-core, or the Core i7-8750H hex-core CPU, and up to 32 GB of DDR4 RAM support. There’s a full range of SSD choices, and you can of course also fit it with a HDD for extra space.
ASUS offers a 144 Hz refresh rate IPS display with a 1920×1080 resolution, which should work very well with the GPU options on tap. As a gaming laptop, it also features RGB backlighting on the keyboard, but unlike some of the competition, ASUS offers only four zones and not per-key on this model.
Razer Blade 15
The all new Razer Blade was relaunched this year as a 15-inch model, replacing the outgoing 14-inch version with a new thin-bezel design that is stunning. Razer has always offered one of the best looking gaming laptops around, featuring a fully CNC machined aluminun chassis, and a lot of performance in a thin and light form factor. The latest Razer Blade 15 is powered by a Core i7-8750H hex-core CPU and a GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU. The lowest cost configuration comes with a 128 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD, and you can go up from there. Currently it is available for $1600 with a 1920×1080 60 Hz display, and Razer has configurations with 144 Hz displays, as well as models bumping the GPU up to a GTX 1070 and a UHD display. There’s also a limited edition Mercurty White color option on certain configuraitons.
High-End Gaming Laptops
MSI GT75 Titan
MSI’s GT75 Titan is one of the best gaming laptops available. Offering up to a an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU, an NVIDIA GTX 1080 GPU, and up to 64 GB of RAM, this laptop packs some serious performance. The 17.3-inch display is either a 120 Hz 1920×1080 TN panel, or an optional 3840×2160 60 Hz IPS display. The GT75 Titan features a SteelSeries mechanical keyboard which is a step above most other gaming laptops. The starting price is hefty, but the GT75 Titan is a heavyweight gaming system.
At the top of the gaming laptop pantheon are full-size “luggable” desktop replacement laptops. While these are still laptops in the strictest sense, they are essentially made to be portable desktops rather than lap computers or even a machine meant to be used away from mains power for an extended period of time. This allows them to use component choices you couldn’t do in proper laptops, improving performance at the cost of weight.
Clevo is king of the hill in terms of true DTR machines, and the P870TM is their latest incarnation, featuring up to a Core i9-9900K desktop class CPU, and up to SLI GTX 1080 for the ultimate in performance. As a true DTR you can outfit it with 64 GB of DDR4, and basically whatever combination of storage you’d like. The 1920×1080 144 Hz G-SYNC display is on the low-side in terms of resolution, but with the high refresh the gaming will be incredibly smooth, since this is one of the few laptops that can easily drive the maxium refresh rate on this resolution. Being a DTR though, you could also just connect it to a UHD display on your desk as well.
The build quality of the Clevo models is nowhere near some of the other premium brands, but you do get the most performance possible, often for far less than something like a MSI GT83VR Titan which is very well built, but very expensive.