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.

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  • Freakie - Saturday, November 17, 2018 - link

    I'm surprised you guys didn't add the Gigabyte Aero 15x. UHD screen that calibrates more accurately than a MBP, just as thin and light as the MBP, GTX 1070, 10 hour battery life, 512GB NVMe SSD, and a numberpad! $2,150 on Amazon. Reply
  • Meaker10 - Saturday, November 17, 2018 - link

    Its had some pretty big overheating issues. Reply
  • Hrel - Saturday, November 17, 2018 - link

    As you would expect from something that thin with that hardware. Reply
  • Sushisamurai - Sunday, November 18, 2018 - link

    I’m surprised you guys didn’t consider the Alienware lineup with its superior thermals, and thereby lack of thermal throttling Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Monday, November 19, 2018 - link

    The latest alienware were found to have huge throttling issues when tested by notebookcheck. Hardly "superior". Reply
  • Spunjji - Friday, November 23, 2018 - link

    Weirdly enough the new m15 seems to have fixed that, despite being a lot thinner than their older models. Reply
  • shatteredx - Sunday, November 18, 2018 - link

    Best high-end gaming laptop is the ASUS G703, but it’s obscenely expensive at $3700. Reply
  • Brahman05 - Monday, November 19, 2018 - link

    I looked at that one. My sager 9873 (the clevo at the bottom of the list) runs circles around it. I have the z170+7700k model with 1080sli and asus is overpriced in comparison. So for a starting price of $2800 i got a SOCKETED desktop i7 and DUAL 1080'S with a 120hz 1440p gsync monitor. That asus uses a wattage throttled u series cpu and a single 1080 for $900 more. Dont get me wrong, i love asus products, my rog spatha is excellent, but please dont call that the best one, not in the desktop replacement category. Go to notebook review forums and open the bga elitist forum and say that. You will be laughed out of that thread. Not that i have an upgrade path, but i can replace my cpu. Right there, match that with that asus. And to anyone who is wondering, xiotic is the worst place to buy a clevo. Sager is good, and cheaper, and where i got mine, but if you can afford it go to eurocom. Unlocked bios, options to get your cpu delidded fron silicon lottery, and they also make a custom power supply for it. And in case you were wondering, cpu stays at 4.5ghz, all core, and my gpu's, yes plural, use a clevo specific mxm that keeps them around 1750. The 32Gb of 2666 ddr4 is probably why my cpu overclocks just that little bit, and i 'got lucky' with my silicon. But a U in the cpu is evil in this category, even HK. My 'laptop' has even gotten me laid, once, and she never called back, but still.... Reply
  • bennyg - Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - link

    I just upgraded an older Z170 chipset P870DM3 (which Sager calls the 9873) with 9900K. +100% CPU power upgrade over 6700K. Ran a bench at 4.9ghz allcore this morning. Others have demonstrated the current Z370 P870TM model with >5ghz 9900K. (This same model was DAILYING 8700K at 5Ghz for 6 months before laptop coffeelake came along and boy it was a huge deal when ONE or TWO of the BGA i9's completed a short bench at 5ghz!). Utter beastly pieces of engineering, that make everything BGA else look puny by comparison. For sure they suck at portability, but if you don't place such a high importance on that, and you're talking best performance, this is it Reply
  • GreenReaper - Sunday, November 18, 2018 - link

    The lack of AMD options here is telling. At the lowest end, Raven Ridge provides a reasonable solution, but there is a paucity of devices in the market and they all have their flaws. Roll on Navi? Reply

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