The Best Gaming Laptops Of 2018 (From Budget Friendly To VR-Ready)

The number of laptop computers specifically aimed at gamers has absolutely exploded in recent years. At this point, it might not be exaggeration to say there are more gaming laptop models than Fortnite players.

Sifting through all the different options from every single manufacturer can eat up a huge chunk of your valuable time. Luckily, we’ve already done all that for you.

Let’s get started looking at all the best gaming laptops available in 2018 across every price range!

Best gaming laptop buying guide

There are dozens of manufacturers or resellers and thousands of different models currently competing for your hard earned dollars. In that sea of options, how are you supposed to find the one single “best” machine?

That all depends on what you are looking for with a portable computer. Before making your final decision, take some time to consider what features are most important to you.

Best graphics card? Biggest screen size and highest resolution? Most RAM or fastest processor? More USB ports or a built-in DVD-RW drive?

Below we cover the best overall option in terms of hardware specs for each price range. There’s a lot of wiggle room within those price ranges to get different configurations, however!

Want to see our full breakdowns of all the contenders for best gaming notebook across every price point? Take a look here for the complete listings:

The contenders for best gaming laptop in 2018

1. Best gaming laptop under $2000 – ASUS ROG STRIX GL702VI

  • High resolution 17” monitor
  • Extremely high end graphics card
  • Keyboard design issues
  • Heavy and runs hot

Should this be your choice?

Is bleeding edge performance your main motivator in picking a laptop? This ROG STRIX model is your solution.

Until the new RTX series hit mobile form, this is the single best dedicated graphics card you are going to find in a laptop, full stop.

Yes, you can buy gaming rigs with more RAM or slightly faster processors. None of them will even remotely compare to the insane level of graphical power going on with the GTX 1080.

It doesn’t matter what genre or developer you prefer — this beast will run anything on ultra settings without skipping a beat.

With these specs, you are fully VR ready both now and for the next generation of VR games. While you do have to pull off the bottom cover to access internal components, this model is also fairly upgrade friendly.

What you get here is a pure desktop replacement in terms of both hardware specs and display quality. With a 17” screen featuring G-SYNC, there are high end desktop monitors that won’t look as smooth.

The GL702VI mostly looks like a professional business computer from the outside. The interior is another matter, featuring red backlighting and a chiclet style keyboard with scissor switch keys.

The only way to get a better machine than this is to jump into the absurd $3,500 range. Since you can’t drive your laptop to work, it seems silly to buy one that costs as much as a cheap car.

No laptop is perfect however, and there are some design issues to keep in mind before picking this as your gaming solution.

The keyboard deviates from the standard layout in a very odd way. Keys are shifted around to make room for a button to access manufacturer software, which can be annoying.

ASUS’ version of the ROG STRIX also tends to run at extremely high temps. The heat issue is frequently mentioned by buyers as the main downside to consider.

Hardware specifications for ASUS ROG STRIX GL702VI
ProcessorIntel Core i7-7700HQ Processor (2.8 – 3.8 GHz)
RAM16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
GraphicsGeForce GTX 1080 (8GB)
Display17.3-Inch Full HD Wideview G-SYNC Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life3 hours
Weight7.5 lbs

2. Best gaming laptop under $1500 – Acer Predator 15

  • SSD for quick booting and HDD for storage
  • Top notch graphics card, RAM, and processor
  • Heavy design
  • Extremely short battery life

Should this be your choice?

Need something with a striking red design and don’t mind getting a heavier model? This should be your gaming laptop pick!

Need a solid VR ready laptop? Although it can’t match the graphical output of the GL702VI, Acer’s Predator 15 will get you going with the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

There aren’t many portable computers out there with better starting specs at such a reasonable price. When you want your gaming machine to look as flashy as it plays, the Predator series doesn’t disappoint.

It’s not just style over substance either. The Predator 15 ships with software for monitoring and managing everything from internal temperature to RGB keyboard lighting zones.

The Predator also manages to overcome one of the major hurdles of gaming laptops with it’s FrostCore port. Simply swap out the side drive with a FrostCore unit for extra cooling during lengthy gaming sessions.

Do you spend all Friday night trying to get a victory royale in Fortnite? Want to run The Witcher III on ultra graphics settings for 10+ hours at a time? You’ll stay cool either way.

On the keyboard design, this one includes the full 10 key number pad and doesn’t have any weird proprietary buttons re-arranging the keys. In fact, buyers frequently mention the comfortable keyboard and touchpad design.

The only major downside here is that the Predator is quite thick and bulky even though its only a 15” display. If you prefer a thin and lightweight laptop design for easier carrying, you should keep searching.

Hardware specifications for Acer Predator 15
ProcessorIntel Core i7-7700HQ Processor (2.8 – 3.8GHz)
RAM16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
GraphicsGeForce GTX 1060 (6GB)
Display15.6-Inch Full HD widescreen IPS Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life3 hours
Weight8.16 lbs

3. Best laptop under $1200 – Eluktronics N870HP6 Pro-X Gaming Laptop

  • Excellent graphics card for the price
  • High end display
  • Not a lot of storage space
  • Difficult to upgrade

Should this be your choice?

If you need a portable gaming computer that looks like a standard school or work machine, this should be your pick. It gives you all the specs you could want in a lightweight design with killer RGB lighting and a fantastic display.

This lowkey, unassuming laptop offers similar specs to the Acer Predator, but with a thinner, lighter weight design. It looks more like your typical business notebook, so it fits in anywhere if you don’t care about loudly advertising your gamer status.

While the exterior doesn’t look out of place in the classroom, the N870HP6 still retains full RGB lighting. When you want different keyboard zones for configuring color schemes during late night gaming, Eluktronics has you covered.

Between the higher end processor, memory, and dedicated graphics card, of course you are VR ready. Running nearly any game on high settings will be the standard mode of operation here.

Those aren’t actually the biggest selling points for most gamers who bought this model, though. That’s the sharp, crisp, and clear display that is nearing in on 4k quality.

When you need a machine for more than just playing Far Cry 5 or Kingdom Come: Deliverance, there are plenty of other features offered here as well. You get a surprisingly high end webcam, and multiple ports for connecting up to three external displays at once.

The SSD will get you booted up extremely fast and offers a quieter gaming experience. Unfortunately with no secondary HDD for storage, you are going to run into a brick wall after installing a small portion of your Steam library.

Don’t care for some of the specs and want to swap out a few features? This model is available in many different configurations directly through Amazon.

Want to save money by dropping down on the graphics card or switching to a HDD instead? Don’t mind upping the price for more features? Either way is a viable option here.

Be sure to take advantage of those options before buying, as buyers often mention the difficulty of upgrading components here. This isn’t a laptop that makes it easy to get at the RAM or SSD for swapping out parts.

Hardware specifications for Eluktronics N870HP6 Pro-X Gaming Laptop
ProcessorIntel Core i7-7700HQ (2.8 – 3.8GHz)
RAM16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage256GB SSD
GraphicsGeForce GTX 1060 (6GB)
Display17.3-Inch Full HD, IPS LED Anti-Glare Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life4 hours
Weight6.9 lbs

4. Best laptop under $1000 – Dell i7577

  • Simple to upgrade
  • Enhanced security with fingerprint scanner
  • No RGB keyboard
  • Less RAM

Should this be your choice?

Need a solid gaming laptop that fits in at school or work but doesn’t sacrifice on power? This should be your pick, especially if you don’t mind upgrading the RAM when funds allow.

Although it doesn’t look as flashy as some of the machines from ASUS or Alienware, Dell has managed to pack some amazing gaming hardware into this laptop.

You can expect to play Fallout, PUBG, Vampyr, or anything else at high settings with no problems. At well under a thousand dollars, that’s no small feat.

Due to cryptocurrency mining, the price of desktop graphics cards these days are absurdly high. The i7577 actually be a more cost effective way to game than building a desktop rig with the same GTX 1060 graphics card.

If you frequently game at night, this notebook includes red backlighting that’s quite easy on the eyes. Unfortunately there’s no option to change color settings with full RGB control like many other gaming models.

Reviewers frequently mention that the mixed aluminum and plastic construction feel more sturdy than many comparable notebooks. At under 6 pounds it sits in a mid-range point that’s solid without being too heavy.

The processor, SSD, and graphics card are all on par with significantly more expensive notebooks. If security is a concern, there’s also a built-in fingerprint scanner.

The big trade off here is that you start with only 8GB of memory, rather than the 16GB recommended for modern AAA games.

If you want to go the VR route, be sure to upgrade the RAM as soon as possible, although there’s a snag there. The most common complaint from buyers is that the i7577 comes with two 4GB memory sticks instead of a single 8GB stick.

Unfortunately that means upgrading the memory will cost quite a bit more. You will need to buy two 8GB sticks instead of just one in order to double your RAM.

Hardware specifications for Dell i7577
ProcessorIntel Core i5-7300HQ Quad Core (3.50 GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
GraphicsGeForce GTX 1060 (6GB)
Display15.6-Inch FHD IPS, Anti-Glare Display, 1920 X 1080 pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life4 hours
Weight5.76 lbs

5. Best laptop under $800 – MSI GV62

  • Excellent specs for the price
  • Optane drive for faster booting
  • Weak battery
  • Loud fans

Should this be your choice?

Don’t mind staying plugged into a wall outlet while gaming? This should be your pick for the best laptop with killer specs at a comparatively low price.

MSI’s GV62 manages to have more of a gamer aesthetic and better specs than many other comparable laptops. It also lands at a significantly lower price point

You don’t get full RGB control like with the $1000+ machines, but there’s still plenty of eye candy offered. The crimson red-edge glow keys use a much more interesting design than your typical keyboard backlighting.

Throw in the black and red color scheme with a dragon motif on the lid, and nobody is going to mistake this for a school homework notebook.

In order to save on costs, the GV62 makes a few noticeably trade offs with hardware components. For instance, with the Optane drive you still get boot speeds close to that of an SSD but without the higher price tag.

This is the price point where you will start to drop from the GTX 1060 down to the 1050 Ti model. That’s less of a drop off in quality than you may expect, though.

You can still easily get respectable frame rates on anything from Destiny 2 to Overwatch with this particular graphics card. With an IPS display, you also get vibrant visuals whether you are playing games or watching Twitch streams.

The biggest complaint from buyers is the very low battery life offered by the stock battery. You will also noticeably lose out on a lot of CPU power if you play unplugged instead of connected to a outlet.

Reviewers also frequently mention the machine’s loud fan operation even when just streaming videos online. That noise gets extremely loud when using the hot air purge button, although its quite useful for keeping the heat down.

Hardware specifications for MSI GV62
ProcessorIntel Core i5-8300H (2.3 – 4.0GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage16GB Intel Optane Memory + 1TB HDD
GraphicsGeForce GTX 1050Ti (4GB)
Display15.6-inch Full HD EDP IPS Display, 1920 x 1080 pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life3.5 hours
Weight4.8 lbs

6. Best laptop under $700 – Acer Nitro 5

  • Black and red design with keyboard backlighting
  • Excellent graphics card for the price
  • Small storage capacity
  • No optical drive

Should this be your choice?

Looking for an absolutely fantastic gaming experience without spending an arm and a leg? The Nitro will meet or exceed the needs of nearly any gamer, and for a much lower price than comparable models.

There was a time when Acer was primarily known as an extreme budget brand. That time has long since passed by, and now Acer has it’s hat firmly in the high end gaming ring.

The lower in price you dip, the more features you will need to give up in exchange. What you save in initial price now may come back to bite you later as games require higher hardware specs.

That’s not the case with the Acer Nitro 5, however, which even outperforms some machines that are $100 more expensive. You still get the GTX 1050 Ti edition with the Nitro, which is an absolute steal in this price range.

The vast majority of games will run very smoothly with this configuration. Whether you can’t stop playing rounds of CS:GO or want to try every mod for Fallout 4, you don’t need to worry about dropping frame rates.

You lose out on the RGB keyboard controls and built-in overclocking software of higher end models. Despite that loss, the Nitro is still clearly designed with gamers in mind with red backlighting and a black design.

Keep in mind the storage capacity of the 256GB SSD, which has a large chunk taken up by Windows 10. That doesn’t leave a very large amount of space for installing your favorite games.

Be prepared to install your own secondary HDD for saving files. If cracking open your laptop case seems too daunting, you could backup most of your data to the cloud instead.

Hardware specifications for Acer Nitro 5
ProcessorIntel Core i5-7300HQ (2.50GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage256GB SSD
GraphicsGeForce GTX 1050 Ti (4GB)
Display15.6-inch Full HD widescreen IPS Display, 1920 x 1080 pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life5 hours
Weight5.95 lbs

7. Best gaming laptop under $600 – Acer Aspire E5-576G

  • Much longer battery life
  • Backlit keyboard
  • DDR3 RAM
  • Less powerful graphics card

Should this be your choice?

Looking to get into a very budget-friendly price range while still running plenty of games at medium settings? This should be your pick!

By the time you hit this price range, the options for serious gaming start to become much more difficult to find. Most notebooks at $600 or below are aimed squarely at the business user instead of the gamer crowd.

If you persevere and dig through all the available options, it is possible to hit the jackpot with a high end gaming rig. That’s what you get with the Aspire E5, which is essentially the pot of gold at the end of the laptop rainbow.

For such a low price they somehow managed to still pack an 8th gen processor into this motherboard. Combined with the solid state drive, you will find this to be a blazing fast laptop compared to anything else in the price range.

There are downsides however, and that just has to be accepted if don’t want to spend more cash up front.

While you still start off with 8GB of RAM, this Acer model uses the slower DDR3 architecture. It also drops down from the standard GTX 1050 to a lower end graphics chip designed for mobile machines.

Neither of those caveats prevent this machine from being used as a solid gaming rig, though. You’ll still hit medium settings for newer games, with classic title running well at the maximums.

The laptop’s simple design is most often cited by buyers as a potential downside. There’s nothing particularly flashy with this machine, which may be a negative if you want to proudly display your gaming computer.

The keyboard features barebones backlighting with no reds or full RGB control. You do get a textured cover, but overall this looks like your typical laptop for sharing word documents with co-workers.

If you are used to larger laptop screens, be sure to also keep in mind the design here. This model has a rather large bezel around the display, which has much wider spacing than many other laptops.

Hardware specifications for Acer Aspire E5-576G
ProcessorIntel Core i5-8250U Processor (2.50 GHz to 3.4 GHz)
RAM8GB DDR3 SDRAM
Storage256GB SSD
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce MX150 (2GB)
Display15.6-inch Full HD Widescreen IPS Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life15 hours
Weight5.27 lbs

8. Best gaming laptop under $500 – 2018 Lenovo 330

  • Huge 17” display
  • 8th gen processor
  • No backlighting
  • Integrated graphics

Should this be your choice?

Want a nice big screen and a blazing fast processor and a low price? This should be your pick, although you have to drop down in quality on the graphics card.

To get a notebook at such a low price, you need to cut quite a few corners that will curtail your graphical capabilities.

You need to get the absolute best specs available if you intend to do any gaming while staying under $500.

At a bare minimum, you want to stay at the standard 8GB RAM threshold to run newer games. You not only meet that threshold with the Lenovo 330, but you also get a major boost on the processor.

The i5-8250U provides fast install speeds and quick Windows updates. Low power consumption, high speed 8th gen processors like this one won’t be available below this price range.

While the processor exceeds expectations, unfortunately solid state drives start to vanish around this price point. A 1TB HDD offers plenty of room for installing new games, but it also means taking a major hit on speed for both data transfer booting up the OS.

All those nifty extras that differentiate a gaming laptop from a work machine will also disappear. No more RGB colors or any backlighting at all will be found around this price.

Dedicated NVIDIA graphics cards also get the axe if you want to stay below budget.Integrated graphics chips that share memory are the norm here and below, which means turning down the graphics settings.

Hardware specifications for 2018 Lenovo 330
Processor(Intel Core i5-8250U Processor 1.6 – 3.40GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620
Display17.3-Inch HD Display, 1600 x 900 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life5 hours
Weight6.61 lbs

9. Best gaming laptop under $400 – Lenovo 320-15ABR

  • Plenty of RAM for the price point
  • Decent graphics chip
  • Low screen resolution
  • Loud, slow HDD

Should this be your choice?

Are you on an extremely tight budget but still need a solid laptop for work and light gaming? This should be your pick!

A gaming laptop for under $400? What, are we totally crazy or something?

Well, maybe, but you actually can do some gaming at this price range. You just have to shop smart and pick your hardware battles.

There’s no way you will find a laptop in this price range with a GTX 1050 (or even an MX150). With a dedicated graphics card option thrown out the window, you need to carefully consider all the other specs.

Sticking to a full 8GB of memory is crucial, especially since the Radeon R7 is pulling double duty with the RAM to draw your graphics.

As with the 330 model, the Lenovo 320 features a 1TB HDD. That means more noise when data is transferring, and much slower speeds.

If you can afford it down the line, be sure to swap out that HDD with an SSD to increase the laptop’s performance.

Hardware specifications for Lenovo 320-15ABR
ProcessorAMD A12-Series (2.7GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R7
Display15.6-Inch LED Backlit Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life5.5 hours
Weight5.07 lbs

10. Best gaming laptop under $300 – HP 15.6″ Laptop

  • Super low price
  • Optical drive
  • Lightweight
  • Subpar RAM
  • Low end processor
  • Smaller hard drive

Should this be your choice?

When you only have a few hundred dollars to spend, this should be your pick. If you are truly dedicated to gaming however, you should be probably be willing to go up to a higher price point.

At under $300, you are essentially look at your basic, run-of-the-mill work laptops. These absolutely aren’t meant for gaming.

You won’t get any colored backlighting options and the processors will clock in at slower speeds. On top of that, the amount of onboard system memory will always be lower.

4GB of RAM is really meant more for light work tasks. That amount of memory is geared towards looking up recipes online and watching the occasional YouTube video.

In addition to those downsides, the screen resolutions at this price range take a big hit. They just aren’t up to snuff with more expensive models.

Those are a lot of negatives to consider, but for some gamers this HP can still meet your needs. You’ve got to be willing to restrict yourself to older, classic games or indie 2D titles on Steam, however.

A handful of big name games will also boot up here. It probably won’t run at a stable frame rate, but this model does technically meet the minimum requirements for GTA 5.

The biggest selling point here is the extremely low price for a new computer. You may want to keep in mind that refurbished laptops are available with slightly better specs at the same price point.

If you prefer Android apps over Windows games, you can also find Chromebooks with higher specs at this same price range.

Hardware specifications for HP 15.6″ Laptop
ProcessorAMD A6-9220 (2.5GHz)
RAM4GB DDR4 RAM
Storage500GB HDD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R4 Graphics
Display15.6-Inch WLED Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life6 hours
Weight4.41 lbs

What do I really need when buying a gaming computer?

The main starting question here is this — do you want your laptop to be VR ready for playing games on the Rift or Vive?

A GTX 1060 – 1080 graphics card is where you want to land to get the best VR experience. If you don’t plan on dropping the cash for a VR set though, you can save a lot of money by going with lower specs.

Although gamers tend to always want to the newest and most expensive tech, that’s not necessary to get a great gaming laptop. You don’t need to go all the way to the 1080 to play most games with stable frame rates at very high settings.

The 1050 Ti will handle a huge chunk of the titles available right now. It will run those games without dropping your frames per second and for a fraction of the overall cost.

The new line of RTX graphics cards was also just announced by NVIDIA. That new line of graphics cards may throw a wrench in the works in the near future.

At this point, the RTX line requires 4k screens to get the most bang for your buck. Unless you are willing to drop a whole lot of extra cash on a 4k laptop, they still won’t be in the running for most gamers.

The graphics card is just one element of your decision, however. In terms of RAM, you want to stick to at least 8GB, but 16GB is really ideal.

For processors, going with an 8th gen Intel will result in faster speeds and less energy consumption.

What are some differences between models to keep in mind?

The graphics card will likely be the deciding factor on a gaming laptop. There are many other variations between manufacturers to keep in mind, though.

Screen size and resolution are major components when picking a portable gaming computer. Do you want a larger 17” screen for a desktop replacement, or do you prefer something more portable?

Don’t forget about touch screens, either! As you look into the higher price ranges, you can get hybrid machines that function both as gaming laptops and as tablets.

When you get into serious, high end gaming, you may want to consider external monitors. Always take a look at the specs to see how many ports are available.

Depending on your external hardware, you may need VGA, HDMI, or USB ports to hook up to external devices.

Finally, keep in mind that you will eventually want to upgrade your system. The pace of tech upgrades never slows, so eventually your bleeding edge machine will be out of date.

Most laptops don’t have processors or graphics cards that can be swapped out, but other components are upgradeable. In particular, look for M.2 slots to easily upgrade the SSD.

If the laptop doesn’t use the new M.2. design, you may have to buy a separate kit for mounting a 2.5” SATA drive instead.

Pay close attention to the RAM configuration as well. More RAM is always better, but some models use a single stick of RAM while others split their RAM into two.

Before buying a new gaming laptop, check YouTube for upgrade and teardown videos. Each specific model has a different design, and it’s better to pick a laptop with easy access to the RAM and hard drive.

What downsides do I need to know about with gaming laptops?

No matter how much money you spend, there will always be limitations to a gaming laptop. Sure, you can get killer specs at a high price, but there will still be design issues to keep in mind.

High operating temperatures and low battery life with be constant issues with any high end gaming laptop. When you have that much power crammed into a small space, heat and noise are inevitable.

Some models deal with this issue through swappable cooling drives. Others use loud extra fans and manual heat flushing buttons.

No matter what specific design your final pick uses, you may want to invest in a cooling pad. They are bulky and expensive, but keep your expensive gaming machine running much cooler.

When you get into the high end processors and top-of-the-line graphics cards, be prepared to play with the power cable always plugged in. If you disconnect and use battery power, most laptops will automatically throttle the CPU speeds.

That may defeat the purpose of getting a laptop over a desktop, but it’s just a fact of life for portable gamers.

Conclusion

For any style of gamer from the casual Minecraft player to the FPS fanatic, one of these laptops will take your gaming to the next level!

What do you think is the absolute best gaming laptop available in 2018? Let us know which machine you’ve always wanted and if you plan on buying any of our picks

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