Frag-N-Bag: The 10 Best Gaming Laptops

Gamers rejoice! The era of the clunky desktop has ended. You don’t need to be carting around your boxy rig to every LAN party these days. Gaming laptops are slim, trim, better than ever, and their specs are more than enough to stick right on the heels of their oversized cousins. You’re still going to drop a little more dough than if you went with a standard PC or joined up with Reddit’s build-it crew, but them’s the breaks in the fast-paced world of extreme mobile gaming.

We sought out the gaming notebooks that would give you the best balance. We focused on the things that matter – like your graphics processor – but tried not to waste time on things that can easily be upgraded (we’re looking at you RAM) to find balance where it was needed. We’ve trimmed the fat, checked the benchmarks, and hunted down the 10 best gaming laptops for every hard-core connoisseur looking for portable fragging.

Note: Prices and performance will vary depending on personal upgrades and builds.

Acer Aspire V3-572G-54S6

Acer Aspire V3-572G-54S6

Pro: Long battery and stays cool
Con: Soft keys and Acer bloatware

Entry Point: You’re going to have to abandon the idea of playing anything new at maximum resolution, but for getting a lot of power for a little money, the Aspire delivers. You’ll get a dedicated Geforce GT 840M 2GB video card that will play most games of the last couple of years at their native 1366 x 768 without getting sluggish or dumping your fps below 40. Starts off with 8 gigs of RAM, which is easily upgradeable if you’re trying to push more performance for a little more cash. As for power, the 1.7-2.7GHz Dual-Core Intel i5 4210U complete with hyper-threading is nice, if a little dated. The hard-drive is a terabyte (TB) though the standard issue runs at a disappointing 5400rpm, but upgrading to a much quicker SSD is possible. This can handle Black Ops 2 or the second Bad Company, but GTA V and Far Cry 4 are going to require that you knock your settings in the dirt. The display is matte for less reflection, but otherwise is a ho-hum Twisted Nematic (TN). [Purchase: $580]

Lenovo Y50

Lenovo Y50

Pro: Hybrid hard drive
Con: Hideous screen

Cool Customer: First off, if you’re going to stick to gaming, skip the 4K screen option. You’re getting a GeForce GTX 860M 2GB vid card that can’t use it. If you’re also a film buff you can upgrade to the nicer display, but it’s mostly a waste. Sadly, the standard screen is a 15.6″ mess, so it’s clear where Lenovo cut costs. Under the hood, things get much better. The Y50 keeps components cool maintaining an average 70 degrees on all parts and pieces, though the bottom and the WASD keys get scorching. The Intel Dual Band 802.11ac wireless card screams along and uses high-end wireless routers to maximum effect. A nice little Intel i5-4200H 2.8 GHz Processor with 8 GB DDR3 RAM runs the show at a nice clip. The hybrid SSHD storage is probably our favorite part with 1 TB of standard space and 8GB of the lightning-quick SSHD to access. The keyboard glows backlit red and prevents accidental keystrokes, which is a handy feature when trying to strike fast. [Purchase: $917+]

Alienware 13 Non-Touch Notebooks

Alienware 13

Pro: High resolution screen
Con: Requires graphic amp to really shine

Wee One: A single inch thick and just 13″ across, this is the smallest Alienware product out there and perfect for people who are looking for a small backup gaming laptop or something that doesn’t suck up space. Despite its small stature you’re still going to find it more than capable of running most games at a decent framerate thanks to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M GPU with 2GB VRAM and the 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-4210U CPU with 16GB RAM. Looking at the 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1440p display, it’s easy to get mesmerized since Alienware has managed to trump even their bigger models for sheer cell-shaded glory. This will typically run games like Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel at a slamming 76 fps with everything cranked to the max. Newer and more graphic-dependent games like Bioshock Infinite ran between 40-60 fps on mid to low settings, but when we tried to push the envelope, it dropped to 10 fps and began crying. Decent performance for the size and price. If you want to dazzle, drop $300 and get their graphic amp. [Purchase: $1,000+]

Asus RoG GL551JM-DH71

Asus RoG GL551JM-DH71

Pro: Solid, long-lasting build
Con: Flat, weak, tinny speakers

Best Budget Buy: This offers a Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor slapped into a firm chassis with a dense, weighty sense and metal top that doesn’t feel weak or creaky in the slightest. The display is reasonable at 15.6″ with a 1920×1080 res. This is pretty standard and while the screen size is nice, you’ll find some serious white/black contrast issues that allow adversaries to lurk in the shadows too easily. That aside, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M 2GB GDDR5 runs everything quickly and if you can hook it up to a decent monitor, you can ride it right to victory. Heat is always an issue with less expensive gaming laptops, and this is no exception. You’ll get fewer burning problems on your WASD keys and underneath than with most, but it still caps out at about 102 degrees in the worst situations. If you want to shave a couple hundred off the price, you can get it with a 1 TB HDD and then buy your own little aftermarket SSD. We found the trackpad and keyboard to both be above average and enjoyable to use. [Purchase: $1,029+]

Alienware 17

Alienware 17

Pro: No bloatware yet tons of customization choices
Con: Display density is low

Hey, Good-Lookin’: Though you wouldn’t expect much from a 17.3-inch matte anti-glare 1920 x 1080-pixel display, when it has the Nvidia GeForce GTX 880M at its back, you’ll really see some crisp textures, quality blending, and accurate colors that pop and sizzle on the 17. At a bright 268 nits, Alienware has made a display worthy of many a desktop monitor that doesn’t get murky like most bigger laptops. It doesn’t want for power in the slightest, able to rack up a score of 146,845 on Ice Storm Unlimited. That puts it far above most desktop replacement laptops on the market, and makes us very happy campers. Despite being equipped with a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ, framerates tended to fall below expectations at the higher settings, though they only flatlined when really pushed by striking visuals and intense combat. Since it is an Alienware, the build is sturdy and the design is flashy with the color-coded options allowing you to customize your look and increase efficiency when you need to group your hotkeys for RTS matches. Includes tons of USB ports, HDMI interfaces, and gaming headset jacks. [Purchase: $1,699]

Asus RoG G751JY-DH71

Asus RoG G751JY-DH71

Pro: Deep, responsive keyboard
Con: Bulky, awkward power brick

Most for the Money: The praises of this Asus can’t be sung highly or loudly enough. Beginning with a sweet 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ quad-core processor that’s linked up to a GeForce GTX 970M graphics card, the performance is right in the sweet spot for most gamers. Expandable RAM slots start at 16GB with the option to kick up to 32GB if you’re a serious multi-tasker. For storage you’ll find the 256 SSD and 1TB HDD more than enough for keeping everything you need right where you can find it. Oddly, Asus chose to go with a 17″ IPS (In-plane switching) display with a 1920×1080 resolution. The response time is good, but if you’re a pro, you’re going to need the better speed of a TN since the milliseconds of lag on an IPS are notable. The cooling is phenomenal with rear vents that keep both the interior and the keyboard cool around the WASD keys and the trackpad. The internal fans are whisper quiet and prevent you from jacking up the volume just to hear over them. [Purchase: $1,749+]

Origin EON17-SLX

Origin EON17-SLX

Pro: Dual graphic cards nearly double performance
Con: 10+ pounds and bulky as hell

Twin Jet: Ignore the staid, unremarkable exterior of the SLX, for it will tell you lies. Beneath that plain-as-dishwater outside lurks the heart of the L337. Origin began by doubling down on GPUs, with a pair of GTX 980Ms from NVIDIA that blast out graphics onto the 127 pixels per inch (PPI) display with stunning results. Rendering showed a contrast ratio of 640:1, stomping over comparably priced competitors to win the eyegasm award. While the i7-4940MX Intel Core should have been scoring points at the top of the benchmark pile, it actually didn’t deliver as well as the specs promised.on 7-Zip’s compression benchmark it only got up to 18,241, which is actually lower than it’s cheaper sister, the EON17-S. While that left us cold, the performance that came out of the Samsung 840-EVO SSD’s was otherwise nothing short of spectacular. When playing League of Legends, framerates ran as high as 340 fps and when we put in Total War: Rome II, even at ultra it never dipped below 59 fps. [Purchase: $1,965+]

Razer Blade 2015

Razer Blade 2015

Pro: Slim but solid build takes abuse but doesn’t hog space
Con: Very short battery life

The Anorexic: The first Razer Blade had a mouth that wrote checks its processor couldn’t cash. It’s taken a few years and a lot of missteps, but they finally got it right this time. They have shoehorned in a GTX 970 into a slim and slender build that looks like a business machine. That vid card then joins forces with a quad-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 CPU that bears 8GB or 16GB of RAM. The cherry on top is the display which comes in either a 1080p or 3200 x 1800 resolution. With a thickness of 0.7 inches, there’s a lot of power in very little space. The overall look is nice, but it’s basically a MacBook Air that quit school to buy a motorcycle, pump iron, drink whiskey, and start bar fights. When we loaded up Far Cry 4, even at maximum settings on the 1080p model it kept the framerate respectable, though you’ll want to drop them off during serious firefights to stay above 40 fps. The only drawbacks were low battery life, limited storage (they still make 256GB drives?) and a powerful display that the hardware can’t really support. Otherwise: Found gold. [Purchase: $2,400+]

Aorus X7 Pro

Aorus X7 Pro

Pro: Immense benchmark scores
Con: Terrible speakers and awful battery life

Benchmark Breaker: At 6.6 lbs. it’s hard to believe the sheer dense power that this can crank out, or the stellar performance it attains. It manages to use dual Nvidia GTX 970M SLI 6GB GDDR5’s to their utmost, even with a paltry 8GB DDR3L RAM. Powering those is a quad-core i7-4870HQ with a 6MB cache that starts at 2.5GHz and can turbo boost up to 3.7GHz. The screen is a gamer-friendly TN make that has passable visibility from most angles and is ready for fast-twitch games. Unlike gaming laptops that are somehow less than the sum of their parts, this kicked ass at nearly everything we could throw at it. The notorious resource-hog Metro: Last Light ran at 43 fps with everything jacked to ultra. When put to the screws for testing, the X7 gave us a Fire Strike over 10,000, which blows out competitors boasting better graphic cards by nearly 2K. Sadly, all this performance comes at a price. The fans are loud, the heat is intense, and the battery can’t hit the 2 hour mark. [Purchase: $2,600+]

MSI GT80 Titan SLI

MSI GT80 Titan SLI

Pro: Mechanical keyboard and track/num pad
Con: Expensive

Custom Job: Never before has the keyboard on a gaming laptop been able to impress us the way that this one has. First off, it is actually mechanical for a deeper, more accurate sensation that makes all the difference in responsiveness. Then, you push a button on the side-mounted trackpad and it is suddenly a numeric keypad for those times when you’ve got to enter commands to your troops, access spells, or hotkey your healing potions quicker. No space is wasted for anyone using a gaming mouse to rack up kills. Behind the powerful 18″ display is a pair of Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M GPUs in SLI configuration boasting 16GB of VRAM. On the Ultra setting, Far Cry 4 ran at 121 fps, with colors popping and blood splatter painting the Shangri-La junglescape, despite the 1920 x 1080 display. Tons of ports, an easy-access panel for upgrading and tweaking, and heat that never seems to even reach 80 degrees inside or out, you just can’t miss. [Purchase: $3,299]

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