Laptops can be the happy medium for PC gamers who want the comfort of playing on their couches. With the sheer power you can fit in an increasingly small computer, laptops offer gamers a chance to be mobile without sacrificing silky smooth visuals.
If you’re looking to invest in a laptop for gaming, you’ll have to find your personal preference in balancing power with portability. More oomph often means less mobility, either because of weight or reduced battery life. Also, think about whether you want it to be strictly a gaming machine or if you’ll be using it for multiple activities. Your needs will influence which specs are most important.
Most gamers place the highest value on graphics cards, processors and screen quality in their laptops. These eight computers offer slightly different configurations of those three specs over a range of prices. Whether you need a powerhouse to run weekly World of Warcraft raids or a more flexible machine for both working and playing the latest indies, there’s a great gaming laptop out there for you.
Here’s my top eight:
1. Alienware 18
This is the crème de la crème from Alienware in terms of both performance and price. The 12-pound laptop has a flashy design and a beautiful screen, but the real excitement is under the hood. For starters, Alienware 18 is equipped with dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX video cards for excellent frame rates. There’s also more than a terabyte inside between the boot drive and storage drive.
This is a true gaming machine, with built-in features to help you optimize power use and create custom experiences for different programs. If you want the most power, expect to pay up: The most expensive version costs more than $5,000 from the company.
2. Alienware 17
For similar features with a slightly less ostentatious price tag, check out the Alienware 17. It also has a 1920 x 1080 pixel full HD screen, and can be loaded up with between 8 and 32 GB of memory. The 17 only has one video card compared with the 18’s two, but it can be one of several powerful NVIDIA GeForce models. It also has the same high-quality response in the keyboard and trackpad as its bigger sibling. The fully customized version costs about $4,500, but you can still get serious quality in this model for between $2,000 and $2,300.
3. Razer Blade
Razer is a gamer’s brand, and it sells the machines to go along with all of its gaming accessories. The Razer Blade is smaller than most dedicated gaming laptops, a 14-inch computer that’s just 0.66 inches thick. It has an Intel HD4600 and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M for graphics and video processing.
If you think the Razer Blade is for amateurs, then the Razer Blade Pro might be more your style. The base graphics and video specs are the same, but the screen is 17.3 inches with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and a full HD 16:9 aspect ratio. It also has the unique Razer Switchblade User Interface, which can function as a trackpad or as a smaller second display.
This may seem like a counterintuitive option, since so many of the top games are Windows-only titles, but Apple’s Macbook Pro with Retina display is great for a user who wants flexibility. Games look lovely on the 15-inch model, and the processing side keeps pace with either Intel Core i5 or i7 and graphics cards from Iris and NVIDIA.
Thanks to programs such as Bootcamp, Mac owners can install a Windows operating system on their machines. The combination of power, mobility and traditional Apple aesthetic doesn’t come cheap, though; expect to drop at least $2,500 and as much as $3,500 for a gaming-ready Mac.
(Photo: ©ORIGIN PC Corporation)
This model from Origin is a great choice for the customizers. You can make several selections about the guts of the laptop, from whether you want single or dual graphics cards to particular specs for an Intel i7 processor. Pick out the amount of space you want for memory and a hard drive, and you’re set to game.
A fully tricked-out 17-inch laptop costs a pretty penny, but you can pick and choose the features that will best fit your budget and gaming style. You’ll also have the backing of Origin’s excellent tech support.
(Photo: © SAMSUNG)
7. Samsung ATIV
This laptop from Samsung is a more compact gaming laptop than most others on the market. The display is 15.6 inches and it weighs 5.6 pounds. Graphics power comes from an AMD Radeon HD 8870M card, while processing power is done by an Intel Core i7 3635QM chip. Plus, the ATIV Book 8 model has a touch-enabled screen, adding a new dimension to the computer experience. If you aren’t a heavy-duty gamer, this is a great way to get solid power without breaking the bank; you can find it online for about $1,400.
For gamers who want an inexpensive laptop without sacrificing the specs, Lenovo’s IdeaPad Y510p is a contender. Backed by up to 1 TB of storage for all your titles and saves, this model has a 15.6-inch screen and can be outfitted with dual NVIDIA GeForce GT755M graphics cards. Depending on how many bells and whistles you add, the Y510p costs as little as $789.