It’s been a great year for PC gamers, with all manner of great hardware, including AMD Ryzen and Zen, hitting the market. But the increased choice is a double-edged sword that makes it harder to know which exact hardware combo is best for you. Here to help we’ve created a definitive list of the best gaming laptops currently available.
Gaming Laptop Buying Guide – What should you look for?
Gaming laptops are special because of the performance they manage to pack in a small body. You not only have to consider how they perform now, but ensure they’re future-proofed for at least a couple of years. Unlike desktop PCs you can’t easily or cheaply upgrade the specification of a gaming laptop. Paying for that extra performance now is often sensible in the long term.
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Right now, Nvidia graphics cards are found on the overwhelming majority of new gaming laptops. You’ll generally find laptop specific parts on machines launched in 2014 and 2015 (such as 950M, 960M etc), but from this year all Nvidia laptops get full desktop-level GPUs. This is because the company’s ‘Pascal’ architecture is so efficient it can squeeze into the same space as an old-style laptop GPU without needing extra cooling. Look out for 10-series cards such as the GTX 1050, GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080.
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The choice of CPU is also important. All the laptops on this list come equipped with quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with ‘HQ’ or ‘HK’ at the end of their model names, but you’ll find some cheaper models on the market that only have a ‘U’ suffix. This denotes a much lower-power, dual-core processor that can prove to be a huge bottleneck in games if you have a high-end graphics card.
All gaming laptops come with at least 8GB of RAM and, right now, that’s a very happy medium between a paltry 4GB and 16GB, which is overkill for many games. Don’t confuse RAM for VRAM used by your graphics card: Lower-end models get 2GB, while the more expensive models will get 4GB, 6GB and 8GB of VRAM for better performance.
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The table below shows the most common laptop graphics chips found in 2015, 2016 and 2017 gaming laptops. We’ve lined them up in order of year, then in order of the sort of performance you can expect from the biggest games of 2016 and 2017 (think Ghost Recon and Watch Dogs 2).
|Laptop years||Laptop graphics||Max Memory||2017 AAA game performance|
|2014/2015||Nvidia GTX 940M/MX||4GB||720p, low|
|Nvidia GTX 950M||4GB||720p, medium; Full HD, low|
|Nvidia GTX 960M||4GB||Full HD, low/medium|
|Nvidia GTX 970M||6GB||Full HD, medium|
|Nvidia GTX 980M||8GB||Full HD, medium/high|
|Nvidia GTX 980||8GB||Full HD, high; 1440p, medium|
|2016/2017||Nvidia GTX 1050||2GB||Full HD, low/medium|
|Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti||4GB||Full HD, medium|
|AMD RX 470||8GB||Full HD, high|
|Nvidia GTX 1060||6GB||Full HD, high|
|Nvidia GTX 1070||8GB||Full HD, 1440p, high|
|Nvidia GTX 1080||8GB||Full HD, 1440p, high; 4K medium/high|
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Meet our experts
Mike Jennings: Mike has been reviewing hardware for almost a decade and was the go-to guy for all-things gaming at PC Pro magazine. Mike’s reviewed all the biggest (literally) gaming laptops of the last few years and is good at spotting a bargain.
Michael Passingham: Michael is TrustedReviews‘ Computing Editor. Overseeing the website’s laptop and gaming hardware coverage, Michael spends a lot of his spare time downloading mods for Cities Skylines and waiting to respawn in Battlefield 1.