In our series of laptop buyers guides, here’s the latest update to our list of recommended gaming laptops. All numbers in the text are updated to reflect pricing at the time of writing.

Best Gaming Laptops: Holiday 2018

Along with our quarterly laptop guide, near the end of every year we also like to take a look at the state of the gaming laptop market. With a much more cyclical upgrade cycle, gaming laptops tend to evolve in lockstep with the major components inside them. For the gaming laptop market, this includes not only more powerful CPUs, but also more unique (for a laptop) components like discrete video cards, mechanical keyboards, and perhaps an IPS panel or high-refresh TN display. All of which come together to make a breed of laptop that is very different from the kinds of machines that define the mainstream and professional markets.

Sizing up the current state of the gaming laptop market, 8th Generation CPUs for notebooks are still the default, although we've seen at least one laptop with the Core i9-9900K. NVIDIA has launched their desktop GPU refresh with the Turing based GeForce RTX lineup, but as of yet has not done the same for their laptop chips, so Pascal based GeForce GTX still rules the roost. On the AMD side, mobile Vega was not dead, as some feared, but is currently only available in the latest MacBook Pro, and not yet in gaming laptops.

Gaming Laptop Recommendations Holiday 2018
Segment Model Starting Price (As of writing)
Low-Cost Gaming Lenovo Legion Y530 $749 USD
  Dell G3 Series 15 $699 USD
Mid-range Gaming ASUS ROG Strix GL504GM $1599 USD
  Razer Blade 15 $1599 USD
High-End Gaming MSI GT75 Titan $2789 USD
  Clevo P870TM $2819 USD

As always, we’ll break the guide down into several segments to serve various markets, from low-cost to mid-range, high end, and ultimate gaming.

Low-Cost Gaming Laptops

Lenovo Legion Y530

Kicking things off, we have entry-level gaming laptops. The Lenvov Legion Y530 is the second generation of the new Legion brand. The latest models feature 8th generation Core processors up to a Core i7-8750H with six cores, and up to a GTX 1060 GPU which offers plenty of muscle, but the base model starts at just $749 with a Core i5-8300H and GTX 1050. For $100 more you can bump up to a GTX 1050 Ti

The entire lineup features 1920x1080 IPS displays in the 15.6-inch model, and Lenovo offers a 144 Hz refresh screen as well in some of the configurations. The Legion design is more low-key than some other gaming brands, and looks great.

Dell G3 Series 15

Next in the low-cost gaming segment is the Dell G3 Series 15. It's currently on sale for $699 making it one of the lowest cost gaming notebooks. The $699 price also gives you a choice between a 1 TB HDD model, or a 256 GB SSD version, which lets you choose based on how large your gaming library is, whether to take a slower spinning drive with plenty of space, or a SSD for better system performance all the time, but you may have to add space later. The G3 Series 15 can be had with a Core i5-8300H on the base, or up to a Core i7-8750H. A Geforce GTX 1050 is the opening GPU, and Dell offers a GTX 1050 Ti on the higher end configurations. The display is a 1920x1080 IPS, and although it's not the best display around, the GTX 1050 should be able to drive it while gaming at reasonable frame rates.

Mid-Range Gaming Laptops

ASUS ROG Strix GL504GM

At the mid-range we see laptops with either the NVIDIA GTX 1060, or for a bit more money, a GTX 1070, both of which are a powerful gaming GPU in a mobile form factor. ASUS offers the Republic of Gamers branding Strix lineup, and the GL504 model is their 15.6-inch range. Featuring the GTX 1060 in the GL504GM, and GTX 1070 in the GL504GS models, there's a wide range of performance here depending on budget. ASUS offers either the Intel Core i5-8300H quad-core, or the Core i7-8750H hex-core CPU, and up to 32 GB of DDR4 RAM support. There's a full range of SSD choices, and you can of course also fit it with a HDD for extra space.

ASUS offers a 144 Hz refresh rate IPS display with a 1920x1080 resolution, which should work very well with the GPU options on tap. As a gaming laptop, it also features RGB backlighting on the keyboard, but unlike some of the competition, ASUS offers only four zones and not per-key on this model.

Razer Blade 15

The all new Razer Blade was relaunched this year as a 15-inch model, replacing the outgoing 14-inch version with a new thin-bezel design that is stunning. Razer has always offered one of the best looking gaming laptops around, featuring a fully CNC machined aluminun chassis, and a lot of performance in a thin and light form factor. The latest Razer Blade 15 is powered by a Core i7-8750H hex-core CPU and a GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU. The lowest cost configuration comes with a 128 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD, and you can go up from there. Currently it is available for $1600 with a 1920x1080 60 Hz display, and Razer has configurations with 144 Hz displays, as well as models bumping the GPU up to a GTX 1070 and a UHD display. There's also a limited edition Mercurty White color option on certain configuraitons.

High-End Gaming Laptops

MSI GT75 Titan

MSI's GT75 Titan is one of the best gaming laptops available. Offering up to a an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU, an NVIDIA GTX 1080 GPU, and up to 64 GB of RAM, this laptop packs some serious performance. The 17.3-inch display is either a 120 Hz 1920x1080 TN panel, or an optional 3840x2160 60 Hz IPS display. The GT75 Titan features a SteelSeries mechanical keyboard which is a step above most other gaming laptops. The starting price is hefty, but the GT75 Titan is a heavyweight gaming system.

Clevo P870TM

At the top of the gaming laptop pantheon are full-size "luggable" desktop replacement laptops. While these are still laptops in the strictest sense, they are essentially made to be portable desktops rather than lap computers or even a machine meant to be used away from mains power for an extended period of time. This allows them to use component choices you couldn't do in proper laptops, improving performance at the cost of weight.

Clevo is king of the hill in terms of true DTR machines, and the P870TM is their latest incarnation, featuring up to a Core i9-9900K desktop class CPU, and up to SLI GTX 1080 for the ultimate in performance. As a true DTR you can outfit it with 64 GB of DDR4, and basically whatever combination of storage you'd like. The 1920x1080 144 Hz G-SYNC display is on the low-side in terms of resolution, but with the high refresh the gaming will be incredibly smooth, since this is one of the few laptops that can easily drive the maxium refresh rate on this resolution. Being a DTR though, you could also just connect it to a UHD display on your desk as well.

The build quality of the Clevo models is nowhere near some of the other premium brands, but you do get the most performance possible, often for far less than something like a MSI GT83VR Titan which is very well built, but very expensive.

POST A COMMENT

23 Comments

View All Comments

  • Brett Howse - Sunday, November 18, 2018 - link

    Vega Mobile hasn't launched in mainstream devices yet - just the MacBook Pro - so we'll see where they sit but AMD isn't competitive in performance per watt with their old chips so they don't make good candidates for laptop parts. Reply
  • lightningz71 - Sunday, November 18, 2018 - link

    RavenRidge Mobile drivers in the released laptops are a dumpster fire at best. None of the drivers direct from AMD will install automatically, requiring a lot of tinkering to get to install, and are still less than stable. The vendor provided drivers often lag by 6+ months at best, and some haven't been updated since release. While the hardware may be fine for lower end games, such as e-sports and very low detail setups of more popular games, it isn't going to be anywhere near competitive with anything here, while often costing near the same amount of money.

    MAYBE AMD might get the H series chips into a second generation of entry level gaming laptops, with performance that is approaching RX560 levels in optimistic scenarios, it's not going to be a rival for anything here and will cost more to boot.

    This doesn't get fixed for AMDs APUs until they can get the driver situation straightened out in some coherent way. If they also can do a 12nm shrink and perform some other performance tweaks in the process, they might allow sustained clocks to come up as well and improve battery life. Longer term, they need to do something similar to KadyLake G. A 7nm CPU chiplet, a 12nm I/O and gpu chip and a HBM back channel coupled with on board DDR-4 at higher speeds might be able to get them somewhere. But that's going to be an expensive chip.
    Reply
  • nagi603 - Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - link

    ASUS has some desktop 8-core Ryzen-based gaming laptops (ROG Strix GL702ZC), but they are getting old in the tooth, with the second gen Ryzen laptops only coming out now. So Anandtech probably just didn't have the time/opportunity to do any tests on them. Frankly, if you want heavy multi-threaded productivity, like video encoding, streaming or rendering, I'd go with the Ryzen variants all the time. Reply
  • bennyg - Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - link

    Multi thread CPU performance is literally the only situation where the GL702ZC and Helios 500 (R7 2700 + Vega 56 Mobile) are better than a i7 8750 + 1070 competitor, they are inferior in all other ways. I'd love to see AMD compete better in this area and wish they would get a wriggle on with leveraging the huge perf/Watt lead they will have for the entirety of next year with 7nm Zen 2, because efficiency gives the best gains in mobile computing where power is the primary limiter. Reply
  • FH123 - Sunday, November 18, 2018 - link

    Does anyone actually manage to game with a trackpad? For casual games, sure, but for action games, shooters, MMOs? I genuinely don't get it. I presume people use desktop mice for such games, but that defeats the purpose of having a laptop. I game using a keyboard with a pointing stick, which works a million times better than a trackpad. It doesn't have the precision of a desktop mouse, but it's like a lttle joystick. You never run out of space and you can use the same hand to press some of the surrounding keys. Unfortunately these devices don't appear popular enough outside of the business community. The only laptop I would consider is a Thinkpad X1 Extreme. Yes, all the reviews will tell you it's not made for games, but it's in a class of one. Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, November 19, 2018 - link

    A laptop bag with a mouse in along with the power brick it is still far more portable than a desktop with an monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Reply
  • PeachNCream - Monday, November 19, 2018 - link

    I have used a trackpad and a pointing stick for games. Neither offers a very good experience when compared to even an inexpensive wireless mouse. That applies across genres including less action-oriented games. However, adding an external pointing device doesn't bloat a laptop to the point where a desktop PC, even a small form factor box like a NUC, is competitive in terms of portability.

    As for your preference for pointing sticks, that is just a personal preference and nothing more. Other people might argue that a trackpad offers a better experience that suits their needs. Some people will insist on using a mouse. No one is more right or wrong and no one's personal choice will adversely impact someone else in a significant manner.
    Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Monday, November 19, 2018 - link

    All these huge beasts, I miss the days of the alienware M11X and clevo W110ER, and the alienware 13.

    With new hardware being so efficient, we should be seeing a golden age of small portable gaming laptops, yet instead we are left with hulking beasts and no other options.
    Reply
  • bennyg - Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - link

    But they are no longer "small" by modern standards, they're bulky. I'm typing this on my W110ER and lid closed it's an inch thick, and runs warm with only a 35W CPU (and similar power GPU that's off due to optimus). Put a "45W" hex core i7 drawing 70W if allowed to turbo to anywhere near its claimed turbo clocks, and a 80W 1060 for reasonable 1080p performance, it would need a far larger cooling solution making it even bulkier and heavier than it already is compared to what most people would choose to carry in this size these days - a tablet and case with bluetooth keyboard. And I chuckled at your reference to these as 'huge beasts'. Upstairs I have an actual huge beast, 17" i9-9900K / 4K / 1080SLI laptop that is nearly 6kg and takes two 1kg power supplies. The 1.2kg vapour chamber GPU heatsink alone weighs more than most ultraportables!! Reply
  • FH123 - Monday, November 19, 2018 - link

    It's not about portability for me. It's about using the laptop on your lap. As to it being just another preference: Right! Why, then, is there no consumer machine with a pointing stick? Many times, when I see that device discussed, people say something like: "It was a bit harder to learn than a trackpad, but now I'll never go back".

    The ponting stick allows you to press 7 keys around the stick with the same hand (V B H J K N M), as well as 3 mouse buttons, while the middle finger rests on the stick. This is no joke. The game I play, Elder Scrolls Online, is competitive and fast paced. You need lots of keys or a gaming mouse. You wouldn't be fast enough, if your hand rested below the keyboard, on a trackpad. Same reason why some touch typists prefer a pointing stick, as your hand doesn't need to move from the home row.

    In case you know the game, it accomodates a wide range of skill levels. There are jumps in difficulty as you progress to endgame. I am on the hardcore end of the spectrum, but so is buying a gaming laptop. Lenovo have made my dream one, the X1 Extreme, on paper anyway. I even consider the weak GPU (1050 Ti) a plus, when you consider the thinness and light weight. I guess that makes me very niche, but it feels odd to see reviews questioning the X1 Extreme's existence in the marketplace on the one hand, and to see alleged ;) gaming laptops exclusively with trackpads on the other.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now