By Simon Hill, dealnews contributor
PC gaming devotees: Are you tired of that hulking desktop chaining you down when you want to engage in some FPS mayhem, a marathon strategy session, or some immersive role-play? We feel your pain. Have hope because freedom is within reach! All you need is a good gaming laptop, and the world is your oyster.
What to Look for in a Gaming Laptop
Two things that need to be at the top of your list when you begin to scan the spec sheets: the GPU and CPU. Your graphics processor (GPU) is vital and will determine whether you can play the latest games with all the bells and whistles turned on or not. Ideally, you want something from the Class 1 list in this comparison of laptop graphics cards. Your processor (CPU) needs to be good as well, in order to squeeze the best performance from certain games. Currently, the most high-end choice available is the Haswell Intel Core i7 quad-core processor; if you're on a tighter budget, then a Haswell Core i5 quad-core processor will meet most needs, but keep in mind that not all i5 CPUs are quad. Beyond that, Ivy Bridge processors provide great value too, as they're barely a year old and are seeing considerable discounts now that they're previous-generation.
Additionally, an SSD (Solid State Drive) will prove a lot faster than a traditional mechanical hard drive and could drastically cut load times. Even though they've come down in price over the last 18 months, SSDs are still more expensive. You'll also want a decent display; the higher the resolution, the better, although it won't make as much of a difference on a smaller screen. Save some money for a good set of headphones, and you're all set.
The Top 5 Gaming Laptops on the Market Right Now
It's hard to look past the Alienware brand: the 9.39-lb M17x hits all the right notes and is called an "excellent gaming laptop" by the experts at Digital Trends. It's fast and powerful, has great quality sound, and offers thoughtful extras like customizable backlighting. PC Mag scores it 4.5 out of 5 and names it a midrange Editors' Choice: "For just under $2,500, you get the bang-for-the-buck champion certainly."
Laptop Mag echoes that sentiment calling it the "the ultimate gaming notebook." The Verge agrees, and praises Alienware for its offering of "the most powerful, well-made gaming laptops on the market," even if they carry a hefty price tag. That said, Dell has knocked the starting price down to $1,799 recently, and we've seen the M17x drop to as low as $1,299, so there's certainly room to get a deal on this series.
Samsung's Series 7 Gamer
You won't need such a big budget to secure the Series 7 Gamer from Samsung. It too has solid specs, a stunning display, and a responsive keyboard. PC Mag calls out just those features: its "gorgeous display, adjustable power settings, terrific keyboard/touchpad combination, and WiDi feature all combine to make for a versatile system." However, it's not "just a gaming machine; it's also a portable workstation, a multi-media powerhouse, and a capable desktop replacement."
In fact, its record-breaking speed, superb display, and excellent keyboard make it "flashy without being gaudy." All in all, experts agree that the 8.39-lb Series 7 Gamer "solidly outperforms the other gaming laptops in this price range." Currently the best price we could find for a Samsung Series 7 Gamer laptop checks in at $1,519 (with free shipping, a low by $81).
Lenovo Ideapad Y580
Priced closer to $1,000 mark, the Lenovo Ideapad Y580 has the processing power to handle the latest games supported by a modest SSD, and a 1080p display. PC Mag awards this desktop replacement 4 out of 5, as well as an Editors' Choice badge for its "dazzling screen with 1080p resolution, a built-in Blu-ray player, and full-sized keyboard on top of superlative multimedia and gaming capabilities." The Y580 also ranked highly with the reviewers at Digital Trends overlooks its shortcomings (cooling and backlight quality) for its value: "This is an incredibly fast system sold at bottom dollar."
Throwing caution to the wind and seeking out the most impressive collection of specs, regardless of value, leads us to the expensive Origin EON17-SLX. This 9.2-lb. setup is PC Mag's Editors' Choice for high-end gaming laptops, and they say it is "undeniably the best-equipped gaming system we've seen to date". Specific-use aside, Digital Trends calls the EON17-SLX "the fastest laptop money can buy." So what does that level of performance cost? A cool $4,600+.
We certainly cannot overlook the Razer Blade, which stands out as relatively svelte in the world of bulky world gaming laptops. PC Mag commends its "lightweight, slim design, and relatively long battery life," and remarks that the 4.1-lb. system is "one of the few gaming laptops that will actually game on the go."
Laptop Mag is less enamored, however, and admits that it "delivers remarkable performance for its size," but that users shouldn't "expect the same blistering frame rates." The Verge agrees: "The Razer sacrificed performance for size and slapped on a pretty huge price tag." The Razor Blade can be preordered for $1,999 (with about $12 s&h, a low by $59).
If you love gaming, but you're sick of your bulky desktop, now is the time to invest in a gaming laptop. From Alienware's M17x to the Razer Blade, there's a make and model that can meet all of your gaming needs.