15 Best gaming laptops 2018-2019-2020:Under $1,000-$500

15 Best gaming laptops 2018-2019-2020:Under $1,000-$500

Best gaming laptops 2018-2019-2020-Purists will argue that you need a PC to truly play games, especially if you’re a fan of pushing the levels of graphics quality beyond the capabilities of a mobile phone or a mere gaming console. In this regard the gaming desktop is still king, particularly when it comes to having the kind of components and horsepower needed to smoothly run 4K games and support virtual reality (VR) setups, such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. But if you want or need something you can tote around the house or over to your friend’s place, we’re here to help you choose the right gaming laptop. With their powerful components, colorful designs and premium prices, gaming laptops are a different beast than typical mainstream notebooks. And they need to be if you want to play demanding games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Grand Theft Auto V, explore virtual worlds with either the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift and enjoy smooth gameplay on high frame rates. They’re also a different beast when it comes to design, offering chassis with more aggressive lines and multicolor keyboards.

How to choose a great gaming laptop for you

What you are looking for in a gaming laptop is the ability to enjoy today’s most demanding, graphically intensive games, without having to make loads of settings compromises.

Bad gaming laptops advertise themselves on their gaming credentials, however deliver vastly inferior performance to desktop counterparts. High resolution screens are a nice added bonus too, however keep in mind that high frame rates are far more important, so it is pretty pointless plumping for a laptop with a 4K screen if it doesn’t have the interior hardware to power games on it.

Other things to look out for when buying a gaming laptop include weight and portability – after all you are buying this to carry/transport round unlike a desktop – battery life, which tends to be a fundamental issue with many gaming laptops, and price.

we think you should be spending a minimum of £800 ($1,000) on a gaming laptop to ensure a good level of performance.

For those who want more information about the Razor Blade Pro, as well as about other great gaming laptop options then read on, as here we have the top five systems on the market today.

How Much Should You Spend?

Best gaming laptops 2018-2019-2020-Gaming systems have higher-end components than run-of-the-mill consumer laptops, so their prices will be consequently higher. Entry-level gaming laptops start at $800 and can go up to about $1,250. For that, you get a system that can play games at 1,366-by-768 resolution on high graphics quality settings, or at a full HD (1080p) resolution with the details turned down some. Midrange systems give you smoother gameplay at high settings on a higher-quality 1080p screen, support for VR headsets, and range in price from around $1,250 to $2,500. High-end systems have guaranteed smooth gameplay at 1080p with graphics details maxed out, let you play at 4K resolutions or in VR, support additional monitors, add speedy components like 512GB PCIe solid-state drives (SSDs), and are priced above $2,500. Many also add dual graphics processors, 3K to 4K screens, large-capacity SSDs, and ultra-efficient cooling fans as optional extras.

Graphics are Key

The main attribute that makes or breaks a gaming laptop is its graphics processing unit (GPU). The dominant player in the field right now is Nvidia, which produces discrete cards based on its 10-Series Pascal microarchitecture that offer performance close to what you could expect from a desktop PC equipped with the same-named card. Laptops using cards from the previous-generation GTX 900 series are still available for purchase, however, and likely will be until supplies run out within the next few months. Nvidia’s chief rival, AMD, has not yet released the mobile versions of its new Polaris GPUs, so laptops based on AMD graphics are currently using older technology (represented by the Radeon R9 moniker) destined to be replaced in the near future.

That said, there are still some basic conclusions to be drawn about graphics performance. In general, the higher the model number within a product line, the higher the 3D performance. So an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 generally produces higher frame rates and higher-quality graphics than an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. A single high-end discrete GPU will let you play the latest AAA gaming titles on a 1080p screen with all the bells and whistles turned on, and be fine for entry-level VR play. Adding a second GPU will let you run the latest games more comfortably on 4K and 5K displays, or let you hook up multiple monitors to your laptop. Nvdia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync technologies will help increase quality and smooth frame rates in your games, so look for those if you’re a stickler for perfectly rendered animation.

Picking a Processor

The processor is the heart of a PC, and in most gaming laptops you’ll find a quad-core 7th Generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU based on the Kaby Lake chipset. Theoretically, you may find a gaming laptop with an Intel Core i3 or one of AMD’s CPUs installed, but those are rare: Systems with Intel Core i3 and comparable entry-level AMD processors are certainly capable of playing many games, but why limit yourself from square one? If you have to make the choice between a high-end CPU and a high-end GPU, go for the graphics. For example, we’d recommend getting a Core i5 CPU over a Core i7 if the money saved could then go toward an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU instead of a GTX 1060. Spending the money on the GPU makes more sense than spending it on the CPU. Look for Core i5 processors in midrange systems, with Core i7 U, HQ, and HK processors in higher-end gaming laptops. AMD’s Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors show promise in desktop form, but laptop versions haven’t been released yet.

Display: How Big to Go

In terms of display size, a 15-inch screen is the sweet spot for a gaming laptop. You can buy larger 17-inch displays, but this can jack up the weight to way beyond 5 pounds. We’ve seen 12-pound “portables” in the gaming sector that will definitely weigh down your backpack. We recommend at least a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-resolution) screen. Larger displays are capable of giving you higher-than-1080p resolutions, but choose wisely, as QHD+ (3,200-by-1,800) resolution will boost the final cost twice: first for the panel, and second for the higher-quality graphics card needed to drive it. Because they usually require dual GPUs for the smoothest gameplay at native resolution, 4K (3,840-by-2,160-resolution) gaming laptops are becoming more common, but they’re still expensive. And keep in mind that because only the most powerful graphics cards are able to render complex animation at playable frame rates across the full screen at 4K, so a 1080p screen may actually be a better use of your money if all you do is game.

The Best PCs for Microsoft Holographic - HP Omen 17

Stick With an SSD

You should definitely consider a system with an SSD, since prices have fallen considerably over the past few years. SSDs speed up boot time, wake-from-sleep time, and the time it takes to launch a game and load a new level. Go ahead and get a gaming laptop with an SSD, but make sure you configure correctly. A small (128GB to 256GB) SSD with a large (500GB to 1TB) spinning hard drive is a good start if you also download the occasional video from the Internet. Bigger SSDs (512GB or more) are available, but choosing one will increase the purchase price of your gaming rig exponentially.

Related Story See How We Test Laptops

Remember the Memory

Before we forget, let’s talk memory. Look for a gaming laptop with at least 8GB of RAM. That will give you some breathing room when switching back and forth between your gameplay window and your messaging app, but we’d save game tip research for when you’re not playing, as each successive browser window you open eats into your RAM allotment. For a high-end system we recommend 16GB, so you can have more than one gaming session, your messaging app, several websites, a webcam program, and your video streaming program open simultaneously. A midrange gaming laptop should function fine with 8GB of memory, but be aware that many new laptops are not upgradable. You may be stuck with the amount of memory you order.

Buying the Best Cheap Gaming Laptop

If you’re shopping for a gaming system on a limited budget (in this case, roughly between $800 and $1,200), you’re going to need to be OK with some concessions off the bat. Maximizing power while staying within a limited price range is the goal, but you’ll have to accept that some of the components won’t be comparable to the more expensive laptops you’ll see while browsing. The main drop-off will be the graphics, since they’re one of the single most expensive components in a machine and the major factor in a computer’s gaming prowess. The cheaper systems are equipped with the lower-tier cards like the GTX 1050 Ti or 1060, but these modern budget cards are shockingly effective, and you’ll be able to play smoothly in HD, just not at the very highest settings in newer games. Processors are the next biggest difference—you’ll likely get a capable Core i5 instead of a faster Core i7—while the other components will be closer to more expensive machines. 1TB of storage and maybe even a small SSD alongside are common in budget laptops, the display will almost certainly be 1080p, and memory will likely be 8GB (while pricier laptops likely include 16GB).

What Else Do You Need?

Given that high-end components tend to drain battery life, don’t plan on taking any of these gaming rigs too far from a wall socket very often. Cutting-edge ports like USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are beneficial now, and will only be more so down the road, but look for at least two USB 3.0 ports so you can plug in an external mouse and a hard drive for your saved media files. Other video ports, like HDMI or Mini DisplayPort, will be helpful if you want to play games on an external display, but aren’t absolutely necessary if your laptop’s screen is large enough. Last but not least, if you’re a professional gamer looking to buy a gaming laptop that can keep you competitive, be prepared to brown-bag your lunches for a while. That kind of high-end performance can only come from top-of-the-line components, especially in a portable package, and they don’t come cheap.

Best gaming laptops 2018-2019-2020:Under $1,000-$500

Alienware 15 R3

Alienware 15 R3

$1,224.99DellSEE IT
Rated 4 / 5 Stars

Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: Solid all-around—in its graphics oomph, build quality, keyboard, port mix, and panel performance—the 2017 Alienware 15 R3 delivers a serious dose of gaming adrenaline for the money. Read Our Review

Acer Predator 17 (2018, GTX 1060)

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060)

$1,498.99AmazonSEE IT
Rated 4.5 / 5 Stars

Editors' Choice
Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: With an excellent RGB keyboard, an IPS G-Sync screen, overclocked GTX 1060 graphics, and quiet cooling, the updated Predator 15 is a very well-balanced mainstream gaming laptop at a reasonable price. Read Our Review

Acer Aspire VX 15

Acer Aspire VX 15

$999.00AmazonSEE IT
Rated 4 / 5 Stars

Editors' Choice
Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: An injection of Predator DNA turns Acer’s 15.6-inch Aspire laptop into a solid choice for cash-strapped gamers. Read Our Review

Dell Inspiron 15 7559

Dell Inspiron 15 7559

$799.99DellSEE IT
Rated 4 / 5 Stars

Editors' Choice
Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: At $799 in our test unit, the Inspiron 7559 is a rare bargain on a basic gaming laptop, a fine desktop replacement, and a stellar value. Read Our Review

Acer Predator Helios 300 (15-Inch)

Acer Predator Helios 300 (Main)

$1,049.99AmazonSEE IT
Rated 4 / 5 Stars

Editors' Choice
Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: At around $1,100 with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics, a 7th Generation Core i7 CPU, and a 256GB SSD, Acer’s new entry-level Predator is tough to beat. We just wish the IPS screen were a bit brighter. Read Our Review

HP Omen 17

HP Omen 17

$1,299.99HPSEE IT
Rated 4 / 5 Stars

Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: A rare component-by-component value among “Pascal” laptops, the Omen 17 is aggressively priced and swift. We’d like to see just two key things tweaked. Read Our Review

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567)

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567)

$749.99DellSEE IT
Rated 4 / 5 Stars

Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: Racy looking and aggressively priced, the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is close to the ultimate under-$1,000 gaming laptop—but we’d hold out to see about Dell’s IPS screen option. Read Our Review

MSI GP72VR Leopard Pro

MSI GP72VR Leopard Pro

$1,236.78AmazonSEE IT
Rated 4 / 5 Stars

Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: MSI pairs Nvidia’s VR-ready GTX 1060 with a bragging-rights (or overkill) 120Hz display in an appealing midrange 17.3-inch gamer. Read Our Review

Lenovo Legion Y520

Lenovo Legion Y520

$779.99LenovoSEE IT
Rated 4 / 5 Stars

Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: Lenovo’s midsize gaming laptop is largely a winner, with good power for 1080p play, an IPS screen, and speedy storage at an aggressive price. The $849 base model, though, may be a better value than the decked-out config we tested. Read Our Review

Origin EON15-S

Origin EON15-S

$1,168.00Origin PCSEE IT
Rated 4 / 5 Stars

Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: Origin jumps into the affordable gaming arena with a relatively slim, relatively quick 1080p laptop that makes the most of its GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics, but the competition is fierce. Read Our Review

MSI GE62 Apache

MSI GE62 Apache

Best PriceAmazonSEE IT
Rated 4 / 5 Stars

Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: The 15.6-inch MSI GE62 Apache might not match the performance of the highest-end gaming rigs from the likes of Alienware, Origin, and MSI itself. But at about half the price and half the weight, it’s a tempting route to moderate gaming on the go. Read Our Review

Gigabyte SabrePro 15

Gigabyte SabrePro 15

$1,449.00AmazonSEE IT
Rated 3.5 / 5 Stars

Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: Gigabyte joins a crowded field of 1080p resolution, GeForce GTX 1060-based gaming laptops with a 15.6-inch model boasting 2mm of keyboard travel and an understated design. Is this the ideal productivity/gaming doubleheader? Read Our Review

MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro

MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro

$1,399.00AmazonSEE IT
Rated 3.5 / 5 Stars

Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: Want VR to go? It’s a bit bulky, but MSI’s 14-inch gaming laptop is the only GeForce GTX 1060 rig we know that’s less than four pounds. Read Our Review

Asus Republic of Gamers Strix GL553VD-DS71

Asus Republic of Gamers Strix GL553VD-DS71

$1,099.00AmazonSEE IT
Rated 3 / 5 Stars

Our Verdict: The GTX 1050 graphics in this Strix laptop tramples its previous-gen GeForce kin, and an RGB keyboard and IPS screen boost the appeal. But we need to see a lower price, given the performance falloff versus the GTX 1060. Read Our Review

Asus Republic of Gamers Strix GL753VE-DS74

Asus Republic of Gamers Strix GL753VE

$1,299.00AmazonSEE IT
Rated 3 / 5 Stars

Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: The first GeForce GTX 1050 Ti gaming machine we’ve tested, this Strix model delivers good gaming speed for 1080p play and a big 17.3-inch panel. But we’d like to see more price daylight between it and some of the GTX 1060-based competition. Read Our Review

Alienware 15 R3 Review and Ratings

Priced from: $1,224.99 at Dell

Editors’ Rating:

Our Verdict: Solid all-around—in its graphics oomph, build quality, keyboard, port mix, and panel performance—the 2017 Alienware 15 R3 delivers a serious dose of gaming adrenaline for the money. Read More…

What We Liked…
  • Solid build quality
  • Excellent keyboard and touch pad
  • Customizable RGB lighting
  • Factory-configurable
  • Plenty of ports
What We Didn’t…
  • Chassis gets warm, fans a little loud while gaming
  • Subpar speakers
  • No SD-card reader

Buy It Now

$1,224.99

Alienware 15 R3 Review

Introduction, Design & Features

Even if you’ve never heard of Alienware’s computers before (and if not, welcome back from your round trip to Alpha Centauri), you’d have to assume, from the name alone, that they’d look a bit different than your average PC.

That’s been true of nearly every Alienware we remember reviewing, and especially so with the 2017-refreshed Alienware 15 R3, which just beamed onto our doorstep. You can configure this 15.6-inch beastie from an $1,199 base model, all the way up to $3,399, depending on how you load it out. That wide price range makes it a viable competitor to just about every 15.6-inch gaming notebook you can buy.

Alienware 15 R3 (Right Angled)

Indeed, the market for 15.6-inch gaming notebooks is a hotbed of activity, even if it’s not quite as jam-packed with competition as the one for 17.3-inchers, which is white-hot. Our Alienware 15 R3 test unit came configured with a fast 120Hz display supporting Nvidia G-Sync, an Intel Core i7-7700HQ “Kaby Lake” quad-core processor, a mobile 8GB version of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070Best Price at Amazon GPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB solid-state drive/1TB hard drive storage combo. Those kind of specs put it up against the Gigabyte P35XBest Price at Amazon, the Acer Predator 15Best Price at Amazon, and the MSI GT62VR Dominator ProBest Price at Amazon, to name just a few.

For a price comparison, we mock-configured these laptops to match our Alienware 15 R3 as closely as possible. The Gigabyte P35X ran about $100 less, but it had half the SSD space, while the MSI GT62VR Dominator Pro was lower-priced still, at $1,799, as was the Acer Predator 15. (Those machines also had half the SSD storage space of our Alienware tester unit.) However, that’s not to say the Alienware 15 R3 lacks for extra value. It has a few tricks in its sci-fi-style case, most notably its special 120Hz display, fancy AlienFX LED lighting system, and some of the best port connectivity and build quality that we’ve seen from a gaming notebook this size.

The Alienware 15 R3 is also fully configurable from the factory, unlike all of the competitors we mentioned here. Finally, it can be hooked up to a custom-matched external graphics solution via the Alienware Graphics Amplifier$174.99 at Dell, which could extend the gaming lifespan of the notebook quite a bit. Let’s take a closer look.


Design

Mistaking the LED-riddled and alien-infused exterior of the Alienware 15 R3 for anything but an Alienware is kind of like mistaking a family sedan for a Corvette. It just doesn’t happen.

The Alienware 15 R3 looks every bit like an evolution of the company’s past notebooks, and in a positive way. The design theme has matured over the years; we think the backlit “Alienware” text beneath the display gives it a high-end look, and the lid back is more elegant than earlier, curvier designs.

Alienware 15 R3 (Back and Right)

It can take a leap of faith to like the alien-head logo on the back of the lid and on the power button, but they’re small. The backlighting behind both of them can be turned off, making them less noticeable.

The straight and squared-off edges on most the Alienware 15 R3’s exterior suggest a stealth aircraft. The protruding rear exhaust-vent section looks especially menacing. That protrusion makes the depth of this notebook a whopping 12 inches, from front to back, which is just as large as the Acer Predator 15. It’s almost 2 inches deeper than a typical non-gaming 15.6-inch notebook, as well. The 15.3-inch width is a little excessive, but its consistent 1-inch thickness is respectably thin for the kind of laptop this is.

Alienware 15 R3 (Top)

The weight of this beast starts at 7.7 pounds; our test unit weighed in at 7.81 pounds. That extra weight is probably from the larger 99-watt-hour battery in our model; the standard battery is smaller, at 68 watt-hours.

Picking up the Alienware 15 R3 gives you the feeling it’s over-engineered. “Super-solid” is the only way to describe it. The metallic lid and bottom panel, which are both dark silver, feel cool and rigid. The chassis is all but inflexible. The surfaces that go around the keyboard don’t give one bit when pressing down on them, either. The lid’s hinges are stiff enough to prevent display wobble, but they still allow for one-handed opening. We liked the soft-touch surfaces on the exterior, too.

The AlienFX lighting system is, literally, one of the highlights of this notebook. You can turn it completely off, if you want, by pressing the Fn and F12 keyboard shortcut, but if you do that, you’ll be missing the show. There are 12 total lighting zones, each individually configurable with different colors and patterns.

The Basic mode in the pre-installed AlienFX software allows you to change the colors, while the Advanced mode lets you apply layered effects, such as colors that morph…

Alienware 15 R3 (AlienFX)

Alienware included many pre-set themes, including a “Sunrise” one that gradually changed the lighting effects across the notebook to simulate, well, you guessed it. A quick search online for AlienFX themes found a number of community-run Web sites that shared themes. You can create and store as many as you want, which isn’t always a given.

Beyond just looking pretty, AlienFX can be functional. The software allows you to set up events that change the lights, such as an incoming mail message. AlienFX also integrates with an extensive list of games to show in-game events or statuses.

We think the AlienFX lighting is fantastically well done. This feature gives the Alienware 15 R3 the ability to instantly change its appearance in a way that suits your preferences. No other notebook we know of has a lighting system this extensive. On competing notebooks that have any form of customizable lighting (which is a short list to begin with), it’s usually just the ability to turn on and off a few minor areas. Needless to say, the Alienware 15 R3 is in a class of its own in this regard. All it’s missing is a per-key RGB LED keyboard, like the one on the Aorus X7 v6Best Price at Amazon, but the Alienware’s four-zone keyboard backlighting is advanced enough. Remember, AlienFX is standard even on the base $1,199 model.

We’re not entirely disappointed with the lack of a number pad on this machine. Without one, the main keyboard area is centered within the chassis, with plenty of room to fit a column of full-size dedicated gaming macro keys down the left edge…

Alienware 15 R3 (Keyboard and Touchpad)
Alienware 15 R3 (Shortcut Keys)

Software for macro creation, dubbed “AlienTactX,” comes pre-installed. The editor is basic; of course, you can record keystrokes, and the delays between them. On the five available macro keys, three profiles can be stored on each, giving you a total of 15 possible macros accessible at any given time via these shortcuts. You can import and export profiles, though it would have been nice to have just a list of profiles that you can load without having to browse for a file. To switch between loaded profiles, simply press the top key on the macro-key column. The column’s keys conveniently change color to indicate the current profile.

Alienware 15 R3 (AlienTactX)

The keyboard itself has a gratifyingly standard layout. The arrow-key cluster is divorced out, with close to full-size keys, though it doesn’t top the Acer Predator 15 in this regard. Dedicated Home and End keys reside at the upper right, while the Page Up and Page Down keys straddle the up-arrow key. Media-shortcut key combos are accessible within the function-key row (F1 through F12) by pressing the Fn key in conjunction. The Fn and F6 combo disables the Windows key, while Fn and F12 turns off the AlienFX exterior lighting.

One subtle nuance is that the space bar is shorter than expected. Its left side extends only halfway into the C key, instead of all the way to the left edge of that key. We noticed this while playing traditional first-person shooters that use the WASD key cluster for movement. If you reach to hit the space bar with your left thumb, you might find yourself hitting the space bar and left-Alt keys. We were able to adjust to this easily enough.

The 2.2mm of key travel on this keyboard allows for smooth, enjoyable feedback. The rock-solid keyboard support deck, and the slight cushioning at the bottom of the keystroke, further enhanced the overall feel. We also appreciated the fact that the keys were uncannily quiet. Moreover, the anti-glare finish on the keys provided plenty of grip.

The AlienFX keyboard backlighting control is integrated into the AlienFX software. The main keyboard is divided up evenly into four vertical zones, while the macro-key column is a fifth zone. Each zone can be changed to its own color, or turned off entirely. As we noted earlier, it can also be set in Advanced mode to morph between colors, or to generate other patterns.

Alienware 15 R3 (AlienFX)

The lighting quality looked great to us, with all symbols on the keys being backlit, and gently shining around the edges of the keys for complete visibility in the dark. There’s enough luminance for daytime visibility, as well.

Thanks to the keyboard not having a number pad, the touch pad is also positioned dead-center in the palm rest. On notebooks with number pads, the touch pad is usually offset to the left and lined up with the space bar, preventing your palms from touching the touch pad’s surface while typing. We enjoyed the touch pad’s tactile anti-glare surface, and appreciated its well-defined edges. The two soft-touch buttons have an excellent feel, and a quiet clicking action. It looks, overall, rather ordinary for a touch pad, at least until you actually touch it. The surface illuminates as AlienFX lighting zone No. 8 when you do, and it stays lit for a couple of seconds after you stop touching it. The surface can be any color you want via the AlienFX software.


Features

Dell/Alienware offers three display choices on the Alienware 15 R3. The base display is a full-HD IPS panel with wide viewing angles and a 1080p native resolution (1,920×1,080 pixels). It also has an anti-glare surface. A 4K (3,840×2,160-pixel) panel is also an option, likewise with wide viewing angles. The one on our Alienware 15 R3 review unit is the third choice, and without doubt the best one for gaming. It has a 1080p resolution like the base panel, but a 120Hz refresh rate. This means up to 120 frames per second (fps) can be displayed without tearing, as opposed to just 60fps for the 60Hz refresh rate in the base 1080p panel.

The higher panel refresh rate makes a difference when you equip the Alienware 15 R3 with the GeForce GTX 1070 graphics chip, as our tester was sent. This card is capable of churning out well above 60fps average in today’s games. The 120Hz panel, moreover, supports Nvidia G-Sync, to dynamically synchronize the fps output of the GPU with the screen’s refresh rate. In essence, you’ll need to invest in a pricey, gaming-specific desktop monitor if you want a smoother gaming experience than what this panel offers.

Alienware 15 R3 (Front)

The caveat with the 120Hz panel on the Alienware 15 R3 is that it has limited viewing angles. It looks fine from side-to-side, but you can see the colors invert and wash out if you tilt the display too far back. This isn’t a major concern for gamers, as they’ll be looking at the display head-on in nearly every circumstance, and they’ll be the only ones looking most of the time. We did like the fact the Alienware 15 R3’s display can be tilted back 180 degrees from closed. But if, perchance, you’d be using this as both a gaming and a presentation-giving laptop, you’ll want one of the other two panels.

Despite its limited viewing angles, the display on our review unit had lively colors and outstanding brightness. Dell rates its luminance at 400 nits, which is about one-third higher than what we would normally consider a bright display on a notebook. The anti-glare surface is effective at keeping reflections to a minimum.

Port selection is one of the standout aspects of the Alienware 15 R3. Not only does this notebook have a good variety of ports, but it also places them in sensible locations. On the left edge, you’ll find a headphone/microphone combination jack, a dedicated microphone jack, a USB Type-A 3.0 port, and a trimmer USB Type-C 3.0 port. A thermal vent and Noble-style cable-lockdown notch are further to the left, and AlienFX lighting zone No. 9 runs underneath the bottom (the lit stripe).

Alienware 15 R3 (Left Profile)
Alienware 15 R3 (Left Ports)

The right edge holds a USB Type-A 3.0 port, another thermal exhaust vent, and AlienFX lighting zone No. 10.

Alienware 15 R3 (Right Profile)
Alienware 15 R3 (Right Edge)

The rest of the ports are located, notably, along the back edge of the chassis. We say “notably” because it is the trend on modern notebooks to place ports on the sides. We suppose it ultimately comes down to preference, though we can see the argument for back-mounted ports on a notebook this size. On thin-and-light notebooks that are likely to be used in confined spaces, such as on airplane trays and on laps, side-mounted ports are easier to see and reach. But with larger notebooks that will spend most of their working lives atop a desk or table, having the ports on the back of the chassis keeps anything plugged in back there out of sight.

Besides the thermal vents flanking either side, the back edge of the Alienware 15 R3 holds the Killer E2500 Gigabit Ethernet jack, a mini-DisplayPort connector, an HDMI 2.0 video-out, a USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support, the Alienware Graphics Amplifier$174.99 at Dell port, and the AC power jack…

Alienware 15 R3 (Back Ports)

The one omission on the Alienware 15 R3 is a SD card reader. USB-based ones are cheap enough, but nothing beats one that’s built-in.

The speakers are along the front edge of the chassis. We found the volume of sound they could put out was impressive, but the overall sound quality was subpar. Distortion quickly crept in as we increased the volume past 50 percent. The mid-tones sounded harsh and recessed, and the bass was unimpressive.

The headset jack on the left side of the chassis is a good alternative to using the speakers. It was static-free. The amount of power it provided seemed almost excessive; we found 25 percent volume with our closed headphones was enough to max them out. We had to set the volume to 60 percent on an Apple iPhone 6 to hit an equivalent level of volume.

Internally, the Alienware 15 R3 offers a choice between a Killer 1435 and a Killer 1535 wireless card, with our review unit having the latter. The 1535 card is advertised to have better range, though we didn’t test this. Both cards support almost identical technologies, including the latest 802.11ac wireless standard. Bluetooth 4.1 wireless is also standard on the Alienware 15 R3.

The Alienware 15 R3 houses a pair of cameras above its display. One of them is a traditional Webcam. We weren’t too impressed with that, as it had average recording quality, and just a 720p/30fps resolution. It should work fine for casual video chat.

The other camera is an infrared (IR) model, which is standard equipment. This allows the Alienware 15 R3 to support Windows Hello facial recognition in Windows 10, making it one of the few gaming notebooks we’ve seen with built-in biometric capability. The IR camera furthermore supports Tobii eye-tracking technology—to an extent.

The pre-installed Tobii software has settings that allow you to control some of the Alienware 15 R3’s behavior simply with your eyes; the IR camera is able to detect your eyes. For example, if you get up and leave your computer, the IR camera will sense that, and turn off the computer’s screen and AlienFX lighting system. When you sit back down at the computer and look at the top of the screen, the Tobii feature automatically turns everything back on within a few seconds. What it does is user-configurable, and of course, the eye-tracker can be completely disabled.

Note that the Alienware 15 R3 doesn’t support Tobii eye-tracking in games, however, the application for which the Tobii technology has typically been flogged. For that, you need to step up to the bigger Alienware 17, which has the full Tobii eye-tracker hardware and software built-in.


Components

As we tapped out this review, Alienware 15 R3 configurations on Dell’s Web site ranged in price from $1,199, all the way up to an imposing $3,399. The base model offers an Intel Core i5-7300HQ quad-core processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB graphics card, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. Those specs are a tad scanty for that price, by our measure; you can get that amount of performance for less than four figures with the Lenovo Legion Y520, as well as in Dell’s own Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567)$749.99 at Dell. Neither notebook packs the high-end feature set of the Alienware 15 R3, though, nor includes as good of a display.

The $1,499 configuration we saw on the site, to our eyes, looked like the best overall value. It bumps up the base model’s specs to a Core i7-7700HQ CPU and GeForce GTX 1060 6GB graphics, doubles the RAM to 16GB, and adds a 128GB SSD.

The $2,274 of our review unit further bumped up the specs: the GeForce GTX 1070 8GB GPU (the fastest offered in the Alienware 15 R3), along with a larger 512GB SSD, and, of course, the 120Hz 1080p display. As we mentioned earlier, the battery is also larger, at 99Wh, versus 68Wh in the lower-end models. The rest of the feature set is largely the same. The IR camera with Windows Hello biometric support is included even in the base model, as is the AlienFX lighting.

The Alienware 15 R3 supports a maximum of 32GB of memory via its two DIMM slots. We’d like to see four slots in a notebook this size, but it’s hard to make an argument for “needing” more than what this notebook offers. Our review unit had a comfortable 16GB of RAM in a two-8GB DIMM configuration, running in dual-channel model. It was of mild interest that the RAM ran at DDR4-2666 speeds, whereas we typically see DDR4-2400. You won’t feel a difference with the faster RAM in day-to-day usage, but extra speed never hurts.

The ample storage expansion is a plus on the Alienware 15 R3. Inside the chassis are two M.2 Type-2280 slots and a single Type-2240 slot for SSDs, plus a traditional 2.5-inch drive bay. One of the M.2 Type-2280 slots was occupied by a 512GB Samsung PCI Express-bus drive in our review unit, while a 1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive presided over the 2.5-inch bay.

GPU overclocking isn’t offered on the Alienware 15 R3. This is in contrast to the Acer Predator 15, which does support overclocking from the factory. Our experience says factory overclocking usually results in only minor performance gains, at best, but it’s better than not having any.

Alienware 15 R3 (Underside)

Getting at the internals in this notebook is straightforward. Removing the seven Phillips-head screws under the chassis allows the entire one-piece bottom panel to come off…

Alienware 15 R3 (Open Underside)

Here you can see the populated M.2 Type-2280 slot at the upper right, and the other M.2 Type-2280 and the M.2 Type-2240 slot below and to its right. The two DIMM slots for memory and the 2.5-inch drive on the left side are simple to access. Putting the bottom cover back on requires finesse, as the angled front of the cover makes it tough to get all the clips up there secured. Take your time.


Thermals

As you can see in the photo above, two fans are on either side of the chassis. Most of the exhaust air escapes through vents in the rear, but some also goes through smaller openings out the sides of the chassis. We liked how, except while gaming or running very demanding tasks, the Alienware 15 R3’s fans stayed off, or ran so quietly that we didn’t notice them.

If you’re gaming with the Alienware 15 R3 in a place where quiet matters, you’re likely to attract a few glances in your direction. (That’s not to say people won’t give you a glance or two, anyway, the way the Alienware 15 R3 looks.) We noted some not-ignorable fan whine at the top fan speeds, adding to the sound of air rushing quickly through the cooling vents. The sound carries across a medium-size room. While gaming, we thought this notebook was noticeably louder than the competing MSI GT62VR Dominator Pro, as well as the Acer Predator 15. The Gigabyte P35X v6 might have been a little louder still.

Alienware 15 R3 (Back and Left)

We found the overall noise level of the Alienware 15 R3 to be acceptable for a gaming notebook, relative to others we’ve tested. It’s not loud to the point where headphones won’t help (we’ve certainly tested machines like that before), but it won’t be ignorable in most situations. That’s, again, assuming you’re gaming. The fans on this notebook are otherwise well-behaved.

While gaming, the top of the chassis became toastier than we expected, peaking at 112 degrees F at the upper right, above the keyboard. The middle of the keyboard reached 109 degrees F, while the palm rest area stayed in the low-80-degree F range. The underside of the chassis peaked at 109 degrees F in the center, but it measured under 100 degrees F everywhere else. The notebook wasn’t uncomfortable to use; the plastic surfaces felt cooler than they were.

The internal component temperatures were all over the charts. On one hand, the GeForce GTX 1070 GPU reached just 70 degrees C, and that’s almost chilly for a high-performance notebook GPU. In the Gigabyte P35X v6, we observed the same GPU reaching 91 degrees C. However, the Core i7-7700HQ CPU in our Alienware 15 R3 tester reached 91 degrees C, not that far below the chip’s maximum rated operating temperature. The Alienware 15 R3 is far from the first notebook we’ve seen with a CPU that runs this hot; the Acer Predator 15 and Predator 17 also come to mind. We noticed no CPU-related performance problems with our Alienware 15 R3, but that doesn’t stop us from wishing for a little less heat.

Acer Predator 15 ( GTX 1060) Review and Ratings.

Editors’ Rating:

Our Verdict: With an excellent RGB keyboard, an IPS G-Sync screen, overclocked GTX 1060 graphics, and quiet cooling, the updated Predator 15 is a very well-balanced mainstream gaming laptop at a reasonable price. Read More…

What We Liked…
  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Beautiful G-Sync display
  • Rockin’ speaker setup
  • Great RGB keyboard and touch pad
  • Runs cool and quiet
  • Built-in overclocking
  • Dedicated gaming macro keys
What We Didn’t…
  • Thicker and heavier than some competitors
  • Long battery life, but shorter than the outgoing model
  • SSD is SATA, not PCI Express

Buy It Now

$1,498.99

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) Review

By Charles Jefferies, reviewed November 30, 2016

Introduction, Design & Features

2012 Editors' Choice Logo

Acer has been slowly but steadily building a reputation for gaming machines since its first Predator-branded desktop landed in 2008. (On that front, we most recently reviewed the Acer Predator G1 small form factor tower.)

It seemed like it took forever, but Acer finally added a Predator notebook to its lineup in 2015. As we found when we reviewed the first-generation Predator 15, it was worth the wait. That’s not to say Acer was brand-new to the gaming-notebook scene. The company had been producing high-performance models in its Aspire lineup for some time, such as the Aspire V 15 Nitro we reviewed in early 2015. But as a bold shift in design to appeal to serious gamers, the company’s Predator laptops have been impressive.

The refreshed Predator 15 we’re reviewing here shares the basic physical design and some core specs with the 2015 model. The biggest difference between the two is the replacement of the outgoing Nvidia GeForce GTX 900 series “Maxwell” graphics with the GTX 10-series “Pascal” chips.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Angle View)

The notebook we’re looking at here features GeForce GTX 1060 graphics, the least-potent graphics chip currently offered in Nvidia’s mobile Pascal lineup. That said, “least” is relative; it’s still quite the performer, easily outclassing the GeForce GTX 980M, the fastest graphics chip that was previously offered in the Predator 15. If you want more power still, this refreshed Predator 15 is also offered with the more powerful GeForce GTX 1070 for a few hundred bucks more.

The Acer Predator 15 we’re reviewing (specifically, SKU G9-593-72VT) is the entry-level model, though you might not think that when you’re spending $1,699. For that MSRP, you’re getting a 1080p IPS, screen-smoothing G-Sync display with Nvidia G-Sync support, an Intel Core i7-6700HQ quad-core processor, Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD/1TB hard drive storage combo. We’ve seen Acer already discounting this model in its online store below that MSRP; it was listing at $1,499 there when we wrote this.

That’s probably fair, because the Predator 15 at this price point is about as much as we’d comfortably consider spending for a GTX 1060-based laptop. The competing Gigabyte P55W offers the same specs for $100 less than our Predator 15’s MSRP, minus the G-Sync display. At the time of this writing, we also configured an Alienware 15 with the same specs for $1,599, though adding a two-year warranty to match the Acer bumped it to $1,849.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Front View)

In all fairness, buying decisions go beyond specs alone. As we’ll soon see, the Predator 15 offers an abundance of gamer-friendly features and qualities that are well worth extra consideration, setting this system apart from the hordes of similarly configured competition.


Design

Sometimes looks are deceiving, but not in the case of the Predator 15. This gaming notebook looks every bit as aggressive as any of its competition.

The formidable, edgy exterior is predominantly black, with red accents. The spiky silver Predator logo is positioned in the center of the lid, and repeated under the display. The logo on the back of the lid is lit in red, as are the two stripes flanking either side. The lighting back there is independent of the display backlight, which means it can be switched off when you want to game a little more inconspicuously.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Lid)

The Predator 15 is about as big and heavy as 15-inch notebooks come. The 15.6-inch chassis width is normal for a notebook with this screen size, but its 11.8-inch depth is about an inch more than expected. And, at 1.5 inches thick, the Predator 15 is downright chunky. Compare its thickness and 8.2 pound weight to the Gigabyte P35X v6, which offers the same class of components as the Predator 15. That Gigabyte laptop is just 5.3 pounds and 0.8 inch thick.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Rear Angle View)

But the Predator 15’s thickness isn’t without advantages. The ample height helps accommodate a great cooling system, a keyboard with plenty of travel, super-sounding speakers, a large battery, and a removable panel on the bottom of the chassis for easy access to some serviceable components. That doesn’t stop us from wishing it were a little slimmer, though.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Underside Panels)

The Acer’s build material is plastic. Most visible surfaces are covered in a soft-touch material, which is much preferred to plain plastic. It feels good and tends to repel fingerprints.

The chassis strength is good, showing little tendency to flex or bend. The lid has strong support, as well. We like that the display can be opened with just one hand. The display hinge is plenty stiff, and it allows the lid to flex back about 45 degrees past vertical.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Keyboard)

The Predator 15 has a full-size keyboard with a number pad. The layout is as close to that of a desktop keyboard as we can remember seeing on any recent notebook. The arrow keys are full-size and divorced out into their own cluster, with three of the four sitting one row below the rest of the keyboard. The number-pad keys are also appreciably full-size, which isn’t something every 15.6-inch notebook with a number pad can claim.

The Chiclet-style keys have a short but precise throw. The tactile action is a bit linear (meaning that there’s little variation in feel from the top to the bottom of a keypress), but the feel is good overall. The rock-solid keyboard deck also helps the overall feel of the typing experience.

The Predator 15 lacks per-key RGB backlighting, but so do its competitors at this price point. The keyboard instead has four color-changeable lighting zones, each of which can be set to any color in the RGB spectrum. The zones can be individually turned off, as well. This is done in the pre-installed PredatorSense software, shown below.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Predator Sense Lighting)

Above the left side of the keyboard are the Predator 15’s five dedicated gaming macro keys. The “P” key is color-coded to indicate which of the three available profiles is active. The macro keys are always red, but what’s neat is that only ones with an active assignment illuminate.

Macro configuration is also done in the PredatorSense software. The editor is basic but usable. The software allows you to make an unlimited number of profiles, though only three of them can be active at any given time. It takes little time to switch the profiles in and out, so that limitation isn’t a big deal.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Predator Sense Macros)

The touch pad is another excellent attribute of the Predator 15. It has a practical anti-glare surface, and it’s plenty large for the notebook’s 15.6-inch display. The separate left and right buttons have engaging feedback and make minimal noise. Gamers are sure to appreciate the touch pad’s on/off button, as they’ll likely want to plug in a gaming mouse. When disabled, the red backlighting strip around the touch pad turns off to indicate that state.


Features

The Acer Predator 15 we tested comes with a 1080p IPS display. This is an ideal resolution for a 15.6-inch panel, as Windows scaling isn’t needed to increase the text size (to our eyes, at least). It’s also ideally suited to the GTX 1060 graphics card. In our gaming benchmarks, the laptop had no trouble putting up plentiful frames per second (fps) in the latest titles at this resolution, generally in excess of 60fps.

We have zilch to complain about in terms of the display’s picture quality. The colors are vibrant, with excellent contrast. There’s plenty of brightness for most any situation, even limited outdoor use, and the display’s matte surface does a good job of keeping reflections at bay. Touch-input support isn’t available on the Predator 15, but that’s not a feature we generally look for on a gaming notebook.

What we do look for is screen-smoothing Nvidia G-Sync support, and the Predator 15 has it. That wasn’t true on the first-generation Predator 15 we reviewed, so it’s nice to see Acer listened and made improvements. G-Sync may not be all that important for this system right now, as its GTX 1060 is capable of delivering more than 60fps in the latest titles, and the screen’s refresh rate tops out at 60Hz. But as games get more demanding in 2017 and beyond, G-Sync will be a handy feature, keeping performance smooth even as frame rates dip lower.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Front Edge)

The Acer Predator 15 has two front-facing speakers, plus a subwoofer on its underside. To our ears, it would be a challenge to find a more impressive set of speakers on a 15.6-inch notebook. Those here get exceptionally loud and pump out a respectable amount of bass. As a matter of fact, the loudness at half volume is better than maximum volume on a typical notebook of this size. We noticed no distortion even at top volume.

The left edge of the laptop holds the AC power jack, a pair of ordinary USB 3.0 ports, separate microphone and headphone jacks, a full-size SD card reader, and the optical drive bay.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Left Edge)

A DVD burner came in our review unit, but the optical drive is a swappable module. A switch on the bottom of the chassis both unlocks and ejects it. Included with our Predator 15 is the Predator “FrostCore,” a fan module designed by Cooler Master. Acer says it can reduce the processor and graphics card temperature by up to 5 percent. We did test this, and we’ll talk more about it shortly, in the benchmarking section.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Optical Bay)
Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Right Edge)

The right edge of the chassis houses the remaining connectivity. Here you’ll find a USB Type-C port (with Thunderbolt 3 support), a powered USB Type-A 3.0 port, another USB Type-A 3.0, full-size HDMI and DisplayPort video outs, an Ethernet jack, and a Kensington-style cable-lock slot. All in all, the Predator 15 has ample connectivity.


Predator Gaming Backpack

Acer sent its Predator backpack with our review unit. Not included in the Predator 15’s MSRP, the backpack is $149.99 as an accessory. Given the weight of the Predator 15, a backpack is the best way to carry it, unless you’re only going from one room to another.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Backpack)

The backpack fits either the Predator 15 or the Predator 17. There’s a padded sleeve inside the main compartment for the notebook itself. Our Predator 15 review unit fit securely, with little wiggle room. The 17 would likely stretch the bag a bit.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Front Pocket)

A dedicated compartment on the bottom of the backpack is meant for the power adapter. We like this separation, as it prevents having to deal with all the cables in the main compartment. Speaking of which, there’s plenty of room in the main compartment for accessories such as a mouse, a small keyboard, and a headset.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (PSU Pocket)

The backpack itself weighs 3.5 pounds empty. That’s not exactly light, but even with the Predator 15 and its power adapter inside, it didn’t feel like much of a load. The nicely padded shoulder straps and ventilated back panel were comfortable. Once we tightened up the straps, the whole bundle fit snug against our back with a minimal amount of play.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Straps)

Acer says it put a waterproof coating on the top of the backpack, the bottom, and all zippers. We didn’t exactly feel comfortable testing that, but we do like the idea, as the last thing you want is to get stuck in the rain and then stuck with a dead laptop.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Angle View)

The backpack’s materials feel high-quality, with consistent stitching. The carry handle on top of the backpack feels strong and durable. And with the Predator 15 inside, the backpack stands up on its own.

The backpack is pricey, but it’s worth considering if you plan to carry around a Predator or a similarly sized notebook on a regular basis.


Components

The Acer Predator 15 as we’re reviewing it here has more than enough muscle to power through today’s games at 1080p. Most of the credit for that goes to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 “Pascal” graphics chip, which is also VR-ready. The GeForce GTX 1060 replaced the “Maxwell” GTX 970M in Nvidia’s lineup, while the GeForce GTX 1070 replaced the GTX 980M.

The GTX 1060 in the Predator 15 is overclockable via the pre-installed PredatorSense software. Acer doesn’t publish an exact overclock, but in our review unit, the GTX 1060’s core went from 1,405MHz to 1,525MHz when we flipped the PredatorSense software switch, the boost clock jumped from 1,671MHz to 1,791MHz, and the memory ticked up from 2,002MHz to 2,052MHz. (We used the “Turbo” setting in the software.) Those seem like pretty decent bumps, especially the 120Hz jump on the graphics core.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Predator Sense)

Using the 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme benchmark, we observed the graphics sub-score of the Predator 15 increase from 5,472 to 5,714 with the overclocking, a difference just under 5 percent. Not bad for a few mouse clicks.

The Predator 15’s processor in all configurations is the familiar Intel “Skylake” Core i7-6700HQ. It has four cores, supports thread-doubling Hyper-Threading, and can Turbo Boost from 2.6GHz to 3.5GHz under the right thermal and power conditions. It’s a fast chip, and not even the larger, pricier Acer Predator 17 offers one better. To get the overclockable Core i7-6820HK, you’ll have to step up to the pricey Predator 17 X. We don’t find the Core i7-6700HQ to be a gaming bottleneck based on our benchmarks, so being “stuck” with it in the Predator 15 isn’t exactly a bad thing.

Two of the Predator 15’s four DIMM slots were populated in our review unit with 8GB DDR4-2400 modules, for a total of 16GB of dual-channel RAM, which is plenty for gaming. The laptop supports a maximum of 64GB via four 16GB DIMMs. Two of the slots are accessible through the service panel on the bottom of the notebook, shown here…

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Underside Open)

The panel is held on by two screws, though even after removing them, we had to pry around the edges with our fingernails to remove it. And even after that minor struggle, we weren’t sure how to get to the other two DIMM slots. The whole bottom of the chassis didn’t want to come off, even after we removed all the visible screws.

Also under the service panel are the Predator 15’s 2.5-inch SATA drive bay, and the M.2 Type-2280 (80mm) slot. In our review unit, they’re respectively populated with a 1TB 7,200rpm mechanical hard drive and a 256GB SSD. The Windows 10 Home operating system is installed on the SSD, which still has enough space to fit several large games. That’s more than we can say about more common 128GB boot SSDs. However, the SSD is a SATA drive; we’d prefer to see a PCI Express/NVMe interface for lightning-quick drives like the Samsung SSD 960 Pro, as the faster standard is becoming more popular, and for good reason. That being said, the SATA drive in our Predator 15 review unit seemed plenty fast to us, and it benchmarked well enough, too.


Thermals

There are two fans in the Predator 15, situated at the rear corners of the chassis, aimed out the back. In an interesting move, the perforated grille centered between the two fans is an intake. The bottom half of the chassis underside is also perforated to serve as an intake.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Rear Edge)

The fans are inaudible for general tasks, remaining off or running at a very low RPMs. When gaming, the fans develop a slight pitch and some motor noise, but the overall volume doesn’t project far. We’d be confident using this notebook in most places while gaming, minus anywhere total silence is required. The fan profiles are well-behaved for normal usage, with the RPMs mostly remaining steady and not ramping up and down all the time.

The most impressive part of the cooling system is how cool it keeps both the chassis and the innards. We enabled the Predator 15’s graphics-card overclocking using PredatorSense, and then proceeded to play Rise of the Tomb Raider for 30 minutes. Our GPU-Z logs showed the GTX 1060 maintaining its core and memory clocks, with the former staying very close to its overclocked boost clock. The GPU topped out at just 60 degrees C, when we routinely see gaming notebooks exceeding 80 and sometimes hitting 90. The Core i7-6700HQ processor peaked at 80 degrees C, an acceptable temperature that’s a bit lower than normal, too.

The temperatures on the outside of the notebook were impressively low. The center of the keyboard reached just 81 degrees F during our gaming session. The warmest point was around the power button, just 87 degrees F. Even the underside of the chassis remained cool all over, actually a bit cooler than the top, after we averaged all the temperature points. The warmest was 87 degrees F at the upper left. We don’t recall testing another gaming notebook that ran this cool on the outside. The Predator 15’s chassis thickness is most certainly a help when it comes to cooling.

As noted earlier, the Predator 15 comes with the Predator “FrostCore,” a removable fan unit that swaps into the optical drive bay. Acer says this unit can further reduce the processor and graphics card temperatures by up to 5 percent. But we did another 30-minute gaming session with the FrostCore installed, and found no variance in the component temperatures based on our logging. The outside surfaces of the notebook showed no real variance in temperature, either.

Acer Predator 15 (2016, GTX 1060) (Optical Module)

We like the idea of the FrostCore, though at least in our testing, it didn’t improve the already excellent cooling performance. We’re sure it didn’t hurt, though.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) Review and Ratings

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Editors’ Rating:

Good For Gaming

Our Verdict: Racy looking and aggressively priced, the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is close to the ultimate under-$1,000 gaming laptop—but we’d hold out to see about Dell’s IPS screen option. Read More…

What We Liked…
  • Excellent gaming performance for the money
  • Long battery life
  • Eye-catching design
  • Easy end-user upgradability
  • Effective cooling scheme
What We Didn’t…
  • Ho-hum display in review unit, with limited viewing angles
  • Shallow keyboard feel
  • No USB Type-C port
  • Subpar Webcam

Buy It Now

$749.99

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) Review

 

Introduction, Design & Features

The Dell Inspiron 15 7559 we reviewed last year was a big hit. Starting at $799, this gaming laptop was a price sensation and hit the sweet spot in the notebook-gaming market for volume sales. We’re sure Dell sold a ton of them, especially in the wake of us granting it a well-deserved Editors’ Choice award.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) (Angle)

Fast-forward about a year, and say hello to its replacement, the redesigned Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (Model 7567), which we previewed from CES 2018.

This 15.6-incher still starts at $799 like its predecessor, and it gives you enough power at that price point to play the latest games at a 1080p screen resolution. Its gaming performance has been upped significantly since last year, thanks mainly to its Nvidia GeForce GTX 10-series “Pascal” graphics-chip options. The $799 base version of the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) has the GeForce GTX 1050, while our review unit bumps that to the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti for an extra $100. Both graphics options outclass the GeForce GTX 960M “Maxwell” chip in the Inspiron 15 7559, which is now really starting to show its age. That extra money also gets you a 256GB solid-state-drive (SSD) instead of a 1TB hard drive. It’s a sensible upgrade, in our book.

The exterior of the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) has received a massive makeover, as well. It’s still available in your choice of two colors, but it looks more modern, more aggressive, and much “gamier.” The overall feature set has otherwise remained about the same.

But let’s not cover up the fact you’re reading this review to find out why we didn’t rate the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) quite as highly as we did the last-generation Inspiron 7559. The short version? The performance-per-dollar value is stronger than ever, but the middling-at-best-quality 1080p display that’s standard in the base model gave us some pause. The long version? Well, that’s below.


Design

The Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) has an energetic and friendly look. The soft-touch exterior comes in black or red, with our review unit adopting the latter. The design changes relative to the outgoing Inspiron 15 7559 are significant up close, though you couldn’t tell by the on-paper specs. The two notebooks are borderline identical in size and weight. The Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) is about as large as 15.6-inch notebooks get, with a footprint of 15.2×10.9 inches. The chassis is an inch thick, and the total weight is 5.8 pounds.

Design-wise, a lot has changed. The display hinge now rests on top of the chassis and is center-mounted, as opposed to being hinged on either side of the back of the chassis. This new hinge design seems to resemble what Lenovo has been doing on its own gaming-centric lineup, like in the Lenovo Legion Y720 we saw at CES 2017.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) (Rear Angle)

The squared-off corners on the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) lend it a more serious look than the rounded corners of the Inspiron 15 7559. Combined with the angled front and rear edges, the new model looks more grown up. That’s not to say growing up is a perfect process; we found the corners on the front of the chassis to be a bit sharp.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) (Left Side)

The underside of the chassis is dominated by single big access panel to the system’s internal components. The two larger grates you see below are the inlets for the fans, while the smaller square is the outlet for the dedicated subwoofer. Two rubber feet that run the width of the chassis do a good job of keeping the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) from sliding around.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) (Underside)

The all-plastic chassis did a reasonable job resisting our attempts to induce flex. The whole notebook feels solid, probably due in no small part to its compact one-inch thinness. (There’s simply not a whole lot of room left inside the chassis for it to feel hollow.) The lid’s display hinge also seemed plenty strong, and it did a good job of preventing excess display wobble.

We appreciated the extensive use of anti-glare surfaces on the whole notebook, including the display. Glossy plastic can be eye-catching, but it also has a habit of showing up fingerprints and dust.

The Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming’s input and output port selection is average for a big laptop like this. The left edge has the usual Kensington-style cable lock notch, the AC power jack, a USB Type-A 3.0 port, and the SD memory-card reader…

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) (Left Ports)

The right edge holds an audio headphone/mic combo jack, a pair of USB Type-A 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI 2.0 output, and an Ethernet jack. There are no ports along the front or rear edges. It would have been nice to see a USB Type-C port.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) (Right Ports)

On the inside, you’ll find an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 card that supports the latest and greatest 802.11ac band. The card also includes Bluetooth 4.2 networking support.

The full-size keyboard has red backlighting, but it is otherwise almost the same as the keyboard that was on the Inspiron 15 7559. The backlighting is bright enough to be visible during the daytime, and it matched nicely with the red exterior of our test unit. The F11 key cycles between the keys’ two backlighting levels, or turns off the lighting entirely. The four-key WASD cluster has red outlines (permanently colorized) to highlight the gaming nature of this notebook.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) (Keyboard)

The keys have a shallow, plastic-like feel with too little in the way of tactile feedback for our liking. A minor nuance in the otherwise-normal layout is the bank of three-quarter-size numeric-keypad keys. This wasn’t hard to get used to, though it looks like there would have been enough width in the chassis to expand the keyboard and make these keys full-size.

The Function Lock feature of the keyboard is a page out of Lenovo’s ThinkPad handbook. Pressing the Fn and Esc keys can make the function row keys, F1 thorough F12, act as their primary “F” functions, or otherwise trigger their secondary commands, such as raising and lowering the volume. There’s no LED indicator to tell you whether the feature is on or off, however. The same goes for the Num Lock key, but oddly enough there is an LED indicator on the Caps Lock key.

We found the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming’s button-less touch pad usable enough. Its clicking action was a bit stiff, and the clicks seemed a bit loud. The slightly grainy anti-glare surface tracked just fine, though.


Features

Dell offers the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) with a 1080p (1,920×1,080-pixel) panel in its base iteration, which is how our review unit was equipped. A 4K panel is also a possibility. (At press time, the 4K-screen option was available only in Dell’s top-end pre-configured model, which started at $1,299 with that screen and a 512GB SSD boot drive.) A touch-input panel isn’t offered in either panel flavor, at least at the moment, but we don’t necessarily miss it on a gaming notebook. (More on that in a moment.)

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) (Front View)

The 1080p panel on the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) is a significant step down in quality from the same-resolution panel offered on the last-generation Inspiron 15 7559. This new model has a TN-type panel with limited viewing angles, whereas the Inspiron 15 7559 used an IPS-type panel with wide viewing angles. Tilting the 1080p display on the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) forward or back as little as 10 degrees off-center resulted in an increasingly color-inverted or washed-out picture. This is frustrating, as even a small change in your seating position can force you to have to re-adjust the display. This situation can get complicated when two or more people are trying to view the screen.

Gamers might not be too bothered by the limited viewing angles, as they’ll likely be looking at the display head-on at all times. However, they’ll be disappointed that the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming’s display choices lack the option for Nvidia G-Sync support, something we’d have given major points for on a budget gaming notebook. The GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip, the top-level choice Dell offers in the Inspiron 7567, wasn’t capable of maintaining 60fps average in our tested games, especially in the newer titles. G-Sync would have helped smooth out the gaming experience in those situations.

The Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming’s 1080p panel has few redeeming qualities outside of its resolution and the practical anti-glare surface. The picture has a dull and lifeless character due to the anemic color reproduction and weak contrast. Blacks looked more like a dark gray. In addition, the whole display had a cold bluish hue, as opposed to the warmer picture we’d usually see on an IPS panel, such as the one that came on the Inspiron 15 7559. Also, while the maximum brightness level wasn’t dim, to our eyes it should have been able to go up by another notch or two.

We can’t downplay our disappointment with the 1080p display on this notebook next to the one that came on the Inspiron 15 7559, which was offered at the same price point. Even without that comparison, we’d still rate the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming’s 1080p panel as ho-hum at best. The available 4K IPS display option is likely to be a whole lot better than this 1080p panel, but the only configuration we found with that screen, as of this mid-February 2017 writing, started at $1,299.

There may be a saving-grace middle ground for this display, but it’s not here yet. Dell says it will also offer a 1080p IPS touch panel with this model, which sounds like an ideal match to the rest of the hardware. That said, our Dell press rep did not have pricing specifics to share at the time we wrote this; nor could he nail down that screen option’s exact availability, apart from, and we quote, “coming soon.”

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) (Grille)

We thought the Inspiron 7567’s twin speakers and subwoofer produced reasonable quality sound. The location of the speakers under the palm rest is a little less than ideal, as your wrists will block some of the sound while your hands are on the keyboard. The setup has enough volume and just enough low end to make you not totally regret forgetting your headphones. The audio combo jack on this notebook is static-free at all volume levels.

The Webcam at the top of the display exhibited lackluster image quality even when the lighting is good. Its low 720p resolution didn’t help the muddy-looking picture, either. It will work fine for quick Skype calls, but nothing more adventurous than that.


Components

The Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) comes in a choice of two Intel quad-core processors, depending on the configuration. The least-expensive models have the Core i5-7300HQ, as did our review unit, while the pricier models get the Core i7-7700HQ. The clock-speed difference between the two is minor; the Core i5-7300HQ runs at 2.5GHz base, and up to 3.5GHz in Turbo Boost, while the Core i7-7700HQ has a 2.7GHz base clock, and goes up to 3.8GHz in Turbo Boost. The real performance advantage of the Core i7-7700HQ lies in its support for Hyper-Threading, doubling the amount of threads it can process versus the Core i5-7300HQ. We’re more than happy with a Core i5 quad-core processor in a gaming machine, however, as games tend not to see much of a performance benefit beyond four cores.

Our $899 review unit had the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip, the fastest available in this notebook. It was a $100 upgrade over the GeForce GTX 1050 non-Ti in the base model. That difference is well worth the upgrade cost. The GTX 1050 Ti card has a higher CUDA-core count than the non-Ti, at 768 versus 640, and a higher core clock. Given that the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti is already at the upper limits of its capability when playing the latest titles at 1080p and high detail settings, going with the less powerful GTX 1050 would mean you’d have to further sacrifice on the in-game detail settings.

The 8GB of DDR4-2400 RAM in our Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) is the smallest amount the notebook is sold with. You wouldn’t want to go with any less, as demanding titles tend to require at least this much. Up to 32GB is supported via two 16GB DIMMs, though we think 16GB is the ideal balance for a gaming machine. At this writing, 16GB was available only in the $1,299 4K-screen configuration, but you can perform memory upgrades yourself if you’re intrepid.

There are two internal storage bays inside the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567). The first is a M.2 Type-2280 (80mm) slot, populated in our review unit by a 256GB SanDisk X400 SSD. The drive only supports the SATA interface, though Dell offered upper-tier configurations of the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) with newer PCI Express-bus drives. You’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between drives using the two interfaces in everyday usage. There’s also a 2.5-inch bay for storage, in which you can install a traditional hard drive or a second SSD. When we wrote this, Dell was selling a $1,099 configuration using the 1080p TN screen and with both bays populated (128GB SSD, 1TB hard drive).

End-user upgrades on the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) are about as straightforward as they can get. A single Philips-head screw holds the bottom cover onto the chassis. Once removed, you’ll need to use your fingernails or a credit card to gently pry up the leading edges of the panel around the screw. It takes about a minute to remove. Underneath, you’ll find all of the user-upgradable components, including the two DIMM slots for memory, the M.2 Type-2280 slot, and the 2.5-inch bay.

Software-wise, we were disappointed to find a McAfee anti-virus trial installed, which we promptly removed. Dropbox was also installed, along with the usual smattering of Candy Crush and other Windows 10 apps.


Thermals

We did a 30-minute playthrough of the circa-2013 game Tomb Raider to gauge the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567)’s ability to keep cool. The Core i5-7300HQ reached just 70 degrees C, according to HWMonitor, while the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip only peaked at 59 degrees C. Those are remarkably low temperatures for a gaming notebook. Granted, these are not the most powerful components out there, but keeping it all cool is still a notable feat.

Things also fared well on the outside of the notebook. The highest temperature we recorded on the top of the chassis was right in the center of the keyboard, at 94 degrees F. The palm-rest area stayed at room temperature. We recorded only 93 degrees F on the underside of the chassis. We’d consider about 110 degrees F and above to be hot, so these measurements are more than acceptable.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) (Cooling)

As for the fan noise, the good news is that most of the time we didn’t hear any. The laptop’s fans tended to stay off even when we were surfing the Web or watching a movie. On the rare occasion they did turn on, it was at a low enough RPM that we had trouble figuring out if the fans were on.

The fans spooled up to their maximum RPM while gaming. The sound they emit is audible across a medium-size room, but ultimately it doesn’t have a high pitch or other bothersome characteristic. We were seated about 15 feet away from the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7567) while we were running benchmarks, and we had to listen for the fans before we heard them over the background noise. We wouldn’t have a problem gaming with the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming in most locations, save a place where silence is a valued asset. That means no gaming in class!

On the whole, Dell did an excellent job with the Inspiron 7567’s thermal management.

Best Overall: Acer Predator 17

The 17-inch Acer Predator is a powerful monster, which is appropriate given its name. But we mean that in the best way possible. This Windows 10 laptop roars to life with a 6th generation Intel Core i7 processor, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD hard drive and a 1TB HDD hard drive. This model also has a 1080p widescreen LED-backlit IPS display and four built-in speakers to fully immerse you in whatever game or task you are doing. For ports, it features a Thunderbolt 3, Display Port, HDMI and four USB ports.

Keep in mind that this beast is big (it measures 16.6 x 12.7 x 1.6 inches and weighs 9.3 pounds) and only has three hours of battery life. So it’s not something you’ll want to take with you on the road and would likely be the centerpiece in your home gaming setup. But as long as you’re fine with the size and battery, you’ll be happy to own this.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501

$2299

Prime

Asus’s ROG Zephyrus GX501 gaming laptop ushers in an entirely new age of gaming on the “small screen” with a 0.7-inch design that’s best described as awesome. Whereas most powerful gaming laptops are unwieldy and not fit for moving around all that much, the ultra-thin and ultra-lightning fast Zephyrus is made for gaming on-the-go.

Powered by a GeForce GTX 1070 8GB graphics card with Max-Q design, a Core i7 processor, 256GB SSD and 16GB of RAM, there’s little question this Asus laptop can handle today’s games and those well into the future. A machine this powerful requires a highly managed system to keep it cool and the ROG Active Aerodynamic System improves airflow up to 40 percent and cooling overall temperatures by up to 20 percent.

The 15.6-inch Full-HD 120Hz display offers outstanding color performance, while the ROG Zephyrus Smart Amp technology delivers superb sound performance and protects the speakers from any influence by the laptop’s overall temperature during heavy gaming sessions. With the latest SSD drives for fast access times, USB Type-C for ultra-fast connectivity and VR-ready hardware for both the HTC Vive and Oculus, the Asus Zephyrus is an exceptional choice for a gaming laptop.

Best Budget: Lenovo Legion Y520 – 15.6″ Gaming Laptop Computer

$930

Prime

Gaming laptops don’t come cheap, especially if you prioritize performance. Luckily for gamers on a budget, Lenovo’s Legion Y520 makes surprisingly few compromises. Housing a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU; 16GB of RAM; a 256GB PCIe SSD; and a 2TB, 5,400-rpm HDD, this gaming laptop puts other similarly priced machines to shame on standard benchmark tests. It comes equipped with a Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti with 4GB of VRAM, which will run your favorite games at over-average frame rates and at 1080p.

At 15 x 10.4 x 1 inches and 5.6 pounds, it’s a fairly portable laptop, though you’ll need to tote along a charger because the battery life is quoted at an underwhelming four hours. Although the chassis is made of plastic, it has a sleek and solid build. The 15.6-inch, 1080p display falls a bit short when it comes to brightness and it covers just 68 percent of the sRGB color gamut, but it performs well on color accuracy, with a Delta-E score of 0.2 (0 is ideal). But if the display disappoints, the red, backlit keyboard makes up for it. With 1.8 millimeters of vertical travel and 77 grams of force required to press the keys, it’s easy to fire off complex combinations. So if you’re on a tight budget, don’t despair: the Legion Y520 is your performance powerhouse savior.

For more gaming laptops under $1,000, check these out: Best Gaming Laptops for Under $1,000

Best Lightweight: ASUS FX502VM-AS73

$1119

Prime

Made with “Gaming On-The-Go” in mind, the ASUS FX502VM-AS73 is a 4.9-pound, 15.6-inch full HD gaming laptop that packs a punch. It’s loaded with the latest 7th Generation 2.8 Ghz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor that can be overclocked to 3.8 Ghz in case you want more speed. The lightweight gaming laptop also uses a powerful NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with 3GB of discrete graphics that’s capable of running any PC game.

Don’t worry about its size – the ASUS FX502BM-AS73 has 1TB of SATA hard drive storage with a 128 SATA3 solid state, so you’ll have enough room for big file-sized games. It’s cooled by a dual fan system that sucks the heat from both its CPU and GPU independently. Its 16GB of DDR4 RAM assure you that you’ll be able to play the most hardware-demanding PC video games without any stall. The gaming PC is also bundled with a load of ports such as HDMI connectivity, mini Display, USB 3.0, Wi-Fi dual band and even an SD card reader.

In the laptop world, the closest Windows equivalent to Apple’s Macbook Pro is the 14-inch Razer Blade. Unlike the Macbook Pro, however, the Razer Blade is not just a pretty and portable workhorse – it offers performance for high-end gaming, too. First and foremost, the Razer Blade is .7 inches thin and weighs just 4.16 pounds, which means you can take it just about anywhere. Secondly, it’s extremely powerful. This model features top-of-the-line graphics with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU and plenty of speed thanks to its 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD hard drive. And it’s got a 1920 x 1080 resolution screen that can display 4K HD content, too. Oh, and did we mention you can assign each key on the keyboard with its own custom color? How cool is that?

If you’re going to go all-out with your gaming laptop purchase, the biggest, baddest machine you can get is the MSI GT72VR. MSI has a great reputation for gaming laptops and this model is no exception, with the latest internal components and design flourishes.

Let’s get into the guts that make this thing so powerful. This model has an Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, 32GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD hard drive and a 1TB HDD hard drive. For graphics, it has the top-of-the-line NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8G GDDR5, which has three times the performance of previous GPUs. For ports, it has Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, Mini-Display Port, a USB 3.1 Type-C connector, six USB 3.0 slots, SD card reader, microphone jack and headphone jack.

Now let’s go into what makes this laptop extra special and worth the additional cash. First, it has Tobii eye tracking technology, so the computer knows what you are looking at and can make real-time adjustments. Second, the machine is powerful enough for VR gaming, which is a “next big thing” in the gaming world. Finally, the keyboard is gaming-friendly with full-color backlighting that can be adjusted to whatever colors you prefer and is 100 percent anti-ghosting, so every keystroke will go through. All in all, this is the sort of machine you could game with for years.

Runner Up, Best Budget: Acer Aspire VX 15 Gaming Laptop

$999

Prime

There’s no mistaking this 15.6-inch Acer Aspire VX 15 for anything but a gaming machine; it has two large fan vents in the back and bold red details on its chassis. The spacious keyboard has iron-red backlighting to let you play all through the night.

But this computer also walks the walk: It has a 7th generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor and GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics with 4GB of GDDR5 Video Memory to back up its powerful look. The GPUs can’t handle VR, but can run a modern game at 60 frames per second at full HD, which is conveniently the max resolution for the VX 15’s IPS display. It runs Windows 10 and supports all of the multi-touch gestures. For a budget laptop, its audio is surprisingly good, thanks to Acer TrueHarmony and Dolby Audio Premium. And its battery lasts a commendable six hours. At the end of the day, the VX 15 is a refreshing reminder that being on a budget doesn’t always mean making major sacrifices.

Best Overall: Lenovo’s Legion Y520

$930

Prime

The Lenovo Legion Y520 is powered by a 7th generation Intel Core processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics and has a 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080) HD display, as well as hybrid storage. Whether you’re using headphones or not, the inclusion of Harman Audio with Dolby Premium sound adds dual two-watt speakers designed specifically to immerse you directly into gameplay. The machine also has great customization settings, so you can choose your active keys,network priority and cooling features. Moreover, thermal engineering on the Y520 adds strategically placed fans and vents to keep hot air continuously moving out the underside of the laptop. As for dimensions, it’s just 1.02 inches thick and weighs 5.3 pounds.

Best Value: HP Pavilion Power 15

$850

Prime

If you’re looking for a gaming laptop that’s equally capable of being an everyday productivity machine, check out the HP Pavilion Power 15. With powerful internal hardware, including a Core i7 processor, 12GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive and an AMD Radeon RX 550 graphics card with 2GB dedicated memory, this machine plays the latest games and can easily run reports for work. The four-pound device offers 10 hours of battery life and has a 15.6-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS anti-glare display that offers viewing angles of up to 178 degrees.

Best Display: Dell i7559-5012GRY

$827

Prime

The display on Dell’s i7559-5012GRY 15.6-inch 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) gaming laptop has a 4K LED touchscreen that offers outstanding clarity with true-to-life colors. Beyond the display, the audio experience on the Dell is equally outstanding. Waves MaxxAudio Pro allows total control over the sound performance and it works even better when paired with the NVIDIA GTX 960M video graphics. Powering all of these features are a 6th generation Intel quad-core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive supported by an 8GB SSD for extra fast application loading. It weighs 6.1 pounds and has 10 hours of battery life.

Best Battery: Acer Aspire E15

$550

Prime

With up to 12 hours of battery life on a single charge, Acer’s Aspire E15 gaming laptop is an excellent choice for gamers who are constantly on the move. Powered by a 7th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 15.6-inch Full HD widescreen display , 8GB of RAM and a NVIDIA GeForce 940MX with 2GB of DDR5 video memory, this Acer is a seriously capable mid-range gaming laptop. Extras such as 802.11ac wireless with MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input and multiple output) help increase network performance (up to three times faster), so you can maintain the strongest signal possible (this is especially important for online gaming). Even with the punchy on-board specs, Acer knows gamers love upgrades and the E15 has an accessible compartment underneath the laptop providing direct access to the SSD and memory, so you can easily install quick upgrades for faster performance.

Best Sound: Gigabyte Sabre 15G-KB3

$1099

Prime

When it comes to PC gaming, there’s no substitute for external speakers, but Gigabyte’s Sabre 15G-KB3 comes very close. The Sabre’s Sound Blaster Cinema 3 offers gamers an exceptional audio experience on a laptop with a virtual surround sound that feels almost cinema-like. The in-game dialog is much clearer, especially during cut scenes with SBX Dialog Plus and Reality 3D, which adds 5.1/7.1 surround sound for an even more immersive audio performance.

Fortunately, the Gigabyte isn’t just about the sound. It has a 15.6-inch 1920 x 180 Full HD anti-glare display, a Core i7 processor, NVIDIA GTX 1050 gaming card with 2GB of onboard memory and a noise-eliminating microphone. Beyond hardware, the Gigabyte comes with dedicated software to broadcast through social media in real time (and both video and chat are available with just the click of a button).

Want more display space, the Sabre 15 is ready out-of-the-box to handle up to three external displays to really have you in the center of the action.

Best Storage: Dell Inspiron i5577

$972

Prime

Dell’s Inspiron i5577 has 512GB SSD, which might not add as much storage overall as competitive models with 1TB of HDD space, but SSD performance far outpaces standard drive performance, so it’s still an exceptionally attractive option. Other features include 16GB of RAM, an Intel Core i7 3.8GHz processor, NVIDIA’s GTX 1050 graphics card and a 15.6-inch Full HD display. Adding even more to the gameplay value is the inclusion of Dell’s MaxxAudio. Battery life is an underwhelming four to five hours and it weighs 5.7 pounds.

Best Splurge: MSI GL72M 7RDX-800

$999

Prime

MSI’s GL72M 7RDX-800 gaming laptop offers an exceptionally powerful and beautiful machine that comes equipped a 17.3-inch (1920 x 1080 pixels) HD display. Under the hood is an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, 1TB HDD and 128GB SSD for increased application loading time. Running NVIDIA’s GTX 1050 2G GDDR5 graphics card, the MSI is ready to handle high-definition games without batting an eye. You can even add up to two additional monitors for truly immersive gameplay (or multitasking) via the HDMI or DisplayPort connections. MSI also packed in Cooler Boost 4 tech that adds six total heat pipes among the GPU and CPU, so it handles the heat with aplomb.

Runner-Up, Best Sound: Acer Aspire VX 15

The sleek-looking Acer Aspire VX 15 supports the company’s TrueHarmony technology and Dolby audio premium sound, which means a well-balanced and surprisingly powerful audio experience. Fortunately, the sound isn’t the only thing noteworthy about the VX 15. Its Core i5 processor, 16GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti with 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM also make for terrific performance. A red backlit keyboard illuminates for easy visibility in both day and night conditions, while dual fans help maintain performance levels and eliminate the chance of the laptop overheating. It weighs 5.95 pounds and has up to six hours of battery life.

So, how do you know that the computer you buy will tick all the boxes on your checklist? Well, the answers are all in the hardware. Below are the parts to consider when buying a gaming laptop:

1, GPU for Gaming Laptop

The GPU is akin to the heart of your gaming experience on any PC. Most all-purpose and ultraportable notebooks come with integrated GPUs, which are graphics processing chipsets directly embedded onto the CPU. Integrated graphics processors have their advantages, most importantly power efficiency, but even the latest ones pale in comparison to the average dedicated GPU.

Your gaming laptop of choice should, therefore, have a dedicated graphics card. Here, you have two options: NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon. Currently, the best rigs come with NVIDIA’s 10-series cards – particularly GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 – capable of rendering demanding games in high resolutions, framerates, and detail.

If your budget isn’t that accommodating, however, you can scale down to the GeForce 900M region or AMD’s 400M cards to get acceptable performance at tolerable price tags.

2, Casing

A laptop’s outward appearance might not mean much to some users, but to a gamer, it’s an important consideration. The design will determine how you present your newly-acquired gaming notebook to the world. When out shopping, pick out one that reflects your personality. Gamers tend to go for the bold designs, with sharp edges and striking colors, and some manufacturers even go the extra mile, to offer custom skins for added flair.

On the flip side, the most brilliantly designed laptops are also the most expensive. If you’re on a budget, therefore, it’s perhaps best not to get picky. Keep in mind that it’s what’s inside that will have the most influence on your gaming experience, and not the laptop’s appearance.

3, Gaming Laptop Display

Gaming is essentially a visual activity, which means that the screen should be among the first things you check when choosing a gaming laptop.

Regardless of the price tag, anything with less than Full-HD resolution is not worth your time. If your wallet allows it, reach for the stars and grab one with a QHD or UHD display. But remember, high resolutions typically demand top-of-the-range internal hardware. You’ll need more than just a 4K screen to play games in 4K resolution.

4, Keyboard and Mousepad

You can disregard the touchpad because you’ll very likely need to buy an external mouse for any real gaming. The keyboard, however, requires keen attention. If you can, get to the store and try it out before you buy the laptop.
Gaming Laptop Keyboard and Mousepad

Top-range rigs have keyboards that are specifically tailored for gaming, with features like mechanical-styled pressing, multi-colored backlighting, and additional programmable keys.

5. Speakers

Laptops, even the most expensive, aren’t known to offer excellent sound quality. Nonetheless, don’t keep your expectations too low. For starters, be mindful of the speakers’ position. If they’re underneath the chassis facing down, the chances are high that they won’t be loud enough, especially when the laptop is on a desk. Gaming laptops usually have speakers facing upwards.

Additionally, check the specifications and look for statements like “Powered by Dolby” or “DTS surround.”  The involvement of a reputed audio company is a good indication that the sound quality is great.

6. Connectivity

Among the strengths that give desktops an upper hand over laptops is versatile connectivity. That, however, isn’t to say that you won’t find a notebook with a comprehensive set of ports.

The gaming laptop you choose should have at least three USB ports, with at least one of them being USB 3.0. Laptops have relatively small screens, so you’ll also want a Mini DisplayPort or HDMI port to connect a larger external monitor. Moreover, a wireless card may be installed, but an Ethernet port is also needed to provide reliable and uninterrupted internet connectivity for online gaming. Other ports, like SD card slots and VGA-out, are not a necessity but they’re still pleasant to have.

7. Gaming Laptop CPU

AMD might seem like a befitting choice, but when it comes to gaming, you’re far better off with an Intel Core i-series processor. Today, the ideal gaming laptop packs at least a 6000-series quad-core Intel Core i5 CPU. But, if the laptop you’re eyeing has a high-end graphics card, you can get away with a dual-core Intel Core i3 or Core i5 chip.

However, pay extra attention to the processor’s model number and its suffix letter. Intel’s U- and Y- edition chips are designed for thin, light and power-efficient notebooks meant only for document processing and web browsing, while the M-range is native to all-purpose laptops.

For the best gaming performance, choose a laptop whose CPU model number ends with an “H” or “HQ.” The Intel Core i5 6300HQ, for example, is a high-performance 6th generation quad-core processor.

8. RAM

Because your GPU will come with VRAM, the laptop’s primary memory is one of the few things you can afford to overlook. 8GB is the minimum amount a gaming notebook should have but, if a laptop ticks all the right boxes, don’t let inadequate RAM be a deal breaker. You can easily and cheaply upgrade by buying a stick and installing it yourself.

9. Secondary Storage

Customers looking for a gaming laptop are often at a crossroad regarding secondary storage. On the one hand, there’s the choice of an optical hard disk drive (HDD), which although traditional, offers ample space for all your games. And, on the other, is new solid-state drive (SSD) technology that, despite providing less space, promises faster game startups and loading times as well as a general improvement in system performance.SSD Life Time Monitor

So, the choice here depends on your preferences and your budget. If you’re hard-pressed for cash and wouldn’t mind waiting a few minutes for a game to load, a 1TB HDD with 7,200-rpm speed is the option for you. Otherwise, you can buy an external SSD hard drive along with your SSD-equipped rig and only use the SSD to store your favorite, frequently played titles.

The most reasonable option is, undoubtedly, a gaming laptop that has both an SSD and an HDD on board. And if money’s not a problem, go for a premium rig with a 1TB SSD.

10. Battery

Battery life may be a major concern among other laptop shoppers, but not gamers. Because of the robust and power-hungry internal components, you won’t find a gaming notebook with a more than half-decent battery. If the rig can last three hours on a single charge, take it. It’s probably the best you’ll get.

Laptops come in different shapes, forms and sizes, and for different users and tasks. Knowing what to look for is, therefore, crucial if you want the gaming laptop that will perfectly fit your requirements.

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