The Best Gaming Laptops For Your Money: Summer 2012

| July 5, 2012 | (10)

The best gaming laptops for your money?

By that, we mean the laptops that offer the best gaming performance at a given price. Why would you want that, you ask?

Because you want the laptop that offers the best gaming performance and the best features possible for your hard-earned money, right?

If you have the time to do research… but who does in this busy world?

Reading detailed gaming laptop reviews and specs is a lot of fun. However, most of us don’t have the time to do that and just want the answers. In other words, what you want to know is:

“What’s the best gaming laptop for my budget?”

So if you don’t have the time to do the research, or just don’t care to do it, don’t worry. We’ll come to your help with this article and we’ll give you the answers to your questions.

Alienware M17x

The Alienware M17x, the best gaming laptop for $1900.

About Gaming laptops:

Gaming laptops are equipped with more powerful than average video cards, in order to offer the best gaming experience possible.

On the downside, those powerful video cards draw more power, so gaming laptops tend to have lower battery life than the average laptop.

They also tend to be heavier, due to the additional cooling required for the more powerful video card(s).

A few reminders:

We’ll use this opportunity to remind you that this article is only a guideline for the prices we’ve seen on July 5th 2012. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you read this article:

  1. This specific article on the best gaming laptops have ten (10) price ceilings for the recommended laptops: $430, $500, $600, $700, $850, $950, $1250, $1500, $1900 and $2500. We may also suggest some alternatives to my main recommendations, for reasons that we’ll explain.
  2. This list is based on the best U.S. prices from NewEgg, Amazon or the manufacturer’s website. Prices and availability change everyday. We can’t keep up with accurate pricing everyday, but we’ll suggest to you great laptops that you won’t regret buying.
  3. All prices are based on new laptops prices, no refurbished or open box laptops are listed; they might be a good deal, but they come with trade offs, such as missing accessories, higher failure rate, limited return policy, limited warranty, limited availability, etc.
  4. When we compare two laptops, we’ll use the brand name as indicators. When we compare two laptops with the same brand name, we’ll use the model as indicators.

Summary

Click on any of these links to jump to the price point that interests you. Alternatively, scroll down to see them all, in this order.

- The Best Gaming Laptops For Your Money:

- Personalize your laptop with a skin:

  1. Personalize your laptop with a skin

- Upgrade the RAM, the hard drive or the sound card:

  1. Upgrade the RAM
  2. Upgrade the hard drive to a larger/faster hard drive or to a SSD
  3. Upgrade the sound quality with a dedicated USB sound card

Best Gaming laptop for ~$430

ASUS A53Z-AS61 15.6-Inch Laptop (Mocha)$430 – ASUS A53Z-AS61

About the Asus A53Z-AS61:

Pros:

  1. Decent ATI Radeon HD 6520G integrated video card considering the price. Allows for majority of recent games to be playable at the lowest settings.
  2. One USB 3.0 port, something rare on very low-cost laptops.
  3. Numpad: Very useful for spreadsheets.
  4. ASUS 1 Year Accidental Damage Protection (ADP) that covers accidental drops, spills, power surges, and fire damage.
  5. Reliable: ASUS ranks amongst the top brands (often #1) when it comes to reliability.
  6. SRS Premium Speakers
  7. Low cost: Only $430
  8. Large 750GB hard drive

Cons:

  1. Average 1366 x 768 screen resolution.
  2. Glossy screen: Forget about using this laptop in direct sunlight.
  3. Average battery life. Expect about 3-4 hours of web browsing.
  4. 5,400rpm hard drive is slower than a 7,200rpm hard drive.

Ideal for:

  • Gamers on a very tight budget looking for playable frame rates in low to medium settings for most recent games. Will play older games perfectly well. Demanding games such as Metro 2033, Crysis 2, Battlefield 3, The Witcher 2, etc. may be unplayable even at the lowest settings at the native resolution.

To avoid for:

  • Someone who wants playable frame rates in the highest possible graphics settings.
  • Someone who want to plug in their laptop to play video games on their 1080p HDTV.
  • Someone who’s traveling a lot and who wants an highly-portable, lightweight laptop to carry around all day.
  • Someone who wants a very long battery life.

Click here to go back up to the summary

Specifications:

Components
Asus A53Z-AS61
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
CPU AMD A6-3420M Quad-Core 1.5GHz-2.4GHz Turbo
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
15.6″ 1366 x 768 LED backlight
Yes: 640 x 480
AMD Radeon 6520G
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
4GB DDR3 1333MHz
2 Slot, maximum 8GB
Storage 750GB Hard Drive running at 5,400RPM
Optical Drive DVD/CD Burner DVD±R/RW
Audio SRS® Premium Surround Sound™
Altec Lansing speakers
Integrated microphone
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11b/g/n Wifi
Ports 5-in-1 Card Reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm jacks
2 x USB 2.0
1x USB 3.0
LAN
VGA Output
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
15.12″ x 10.12″ x 1.4″
5.72lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
6-cell Li-Ion
~3-4 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best Gaming laptop for ~$500

lenovo IdeaPad Z575 (12992PU) Notebook AMD A-Series A6-3420M(1.5GHz) 15.6" 6GB Memory DDR3 1333 500GB HDD 5400rpm DVD±R/RW AMD Radeon HD 6650M$500 – Lenovo IdeaPad Z575 (12992PU)

About the Lenovo IdeaPad Z575 (12992PU):

Pros:

  1. Decent ATI Radeon HD 6550M 1GB dedicated video card considering the price. Allows for majority of recent games to be playable at low or medium settings.
  2. 6GB of RAM, as opposed to 4GB for most laptops in this price range.
  3. Four USB 2.0 ports, including one that’s a combo USB 2.0/E-SATA port, which allows for much faster transfer rates than USB 2.0.
  4. Numpad: Very useful for spreadsheets.
  5. Five-in-one card reader
  6. Low cost for a laptop with a dedicated video card

Cons:

  1. Average 1366 x 768 screen resolution.
  2. No USB 3.0 port, but you do get an E-SATA port.
  3. Glossy screen: Forget about using this laptop in direct sunlight.
  4. Average battery life. Expect about 3-4 hours of web browsing.
  5. 5,400rpm hard drive is slower than a 7,200rpm hard drive.

Ideal for:

  • Gamers on a very tight budget looking for playable frame rates in low to medium settings for most recent games. Will play older games perfectly well. Demanding games such as Metro 2033, Crysis 2, Battlefield 3, The Witcher 2, etc. may be unplayable even at the lowest settings at the native resolution.

To avoid for:

  • Someone who wants playable frame rates in the highest possible graphics settings.
  • Someone who want to plug in their laptop to play video games on their 1080p HDTV.
  • Someone who’s traveling a lot and who wants an highly-portable, lightweight laptop to carry around all day.
  • Someone who wants a very long battery life.

Click here to go back up to the summary

Specifications:

Components
Lenovo IdeaPad Z575 (12992PU)
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
CPU AMD A6-3420M Quad-Core 1.5GHz-2.4GHz Turbo
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
15.6″ 1366 x 768 LED backlight
Yes: 640 x 480
AMD Radeon 6650M 1GB
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
6GB (1x4GB + 1x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz
2 Slot, maximum 8GB
Storage 500GB Hard Drive running at 5,400RPM
Optical Drive DVD/CD Burner DVD±R/RW
Audio 2 x 2W speakers
Integrated microphone
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11b/g/n Wifi
Ports 5-in-1 Card Reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm jacks
4 x USB 2.0, one that’s a combo USB 2.0/E-SATA port
LAN
VGA Output
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
14.8″ x 9.8″ x 1.4″
5.73lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
6-cell Li-Ion
~3-4 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Compared to similar laptops:

Vs. the ~$430 Recommended Laptop (Asus A53Z-AS61):

Compared to the Asus, the Lenovo offers higher gaming performance, thanks to the dedicated video card.

Advantages of the Asus

  1. Costs less ($430 vs the Lenovo at $500)
  2. Larger storage (750GB vs the Lenovo’s 500GB)
  3. Higher sound quality (SRS Premium Sound vs the Lenovo’s Generic sound)
  4. One USB 3.0 port, while the Lenovo has none, although it does have a combo USB 2.0/E-SATA port.

Disadvantages of the Asus

  1. Less powerful video card (AMD Radeon 6520G vs the Lenovo’s Radeon HD 6650M 1GB)
  2. Less RAM (4GB vs the Lenovo’s 6GB)

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best Gaming Laptop for ~$600

Acer Aspire V3-571G-6602 15.6-Inch Laptop (Midnight Black)$600 – Acer Aspire V3-571G-6602

About the Acer Aspire V3-571G-6602:

Pros:

  1. A powerful video card (Geforce GT 630M 1GB) considering the price range. Allows for majority of recent games to be playable at medium to high settings with AA off.
  2. Great processing power, with the Core i5-2450M 2.5-3.1GHz Turbo Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading, considering the price.
  3. One free RAM slot, allowing you to easily add a 4GB stick to get a total of 8GB.
  4. One USB 3.0 port
  5. Bluetooth 4.0+HS
  6. All-in-one card reader
  7. Numpad: Very useful for spreadsheets.

Cons:

  1. Average 1366 x 768 screen resolution.
  2. 5,400rpm hard drive, slower than a 7,200rpm hard drive.
  3. Glossy screen: Forget about using this laptop in direct sunlight.
  4. Average battery life. Expect about 3.5-4.5 hours of web browsing.

Ideal for:

  • Budget gamers looking for playable frame rates in medium to high settings for the majority of recent games. Will play older games perfectly.

To avoid for:

  • Someone who wants to watch movies with others on this laptop.
  • Someone who wants playable frame rates in highest possible graphics settings.
  • Someone who’s traveling a lot and who wants an highly-portable, lightweight laptop to carry around all day.
  • Someone who needs a laptop with a long battery life.

Click here to go back up to the summary

Specifications:

Components
Acer Aspire V3-571G-6602
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
CPU Core i5-2450M 2.5-3.1GHz Turbo Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
15.6″ 1366 x 768 LED backlight, glossy
Yes
Geforce GT 630M 2GB
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
4GB (1x4GB) DDR3 1333MHz
2 Slots, maximum 8GB
Storage 500GB Hard Drive running at 5400RPM
Optical Drive DVD/CD Burner DVD±R/RW
Audio Two stereo speakers
Integrated microphone
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth 4.0+HS
Ports All-in-1 Card Reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm jacks
1 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
VGA Output
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
15″ x 9.96″ x 0.99″-1.30″
5.74lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
6-cell Li-Ion
~3.5-4.5 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Compared to similar laptops:

Vs. the ~$500 Recommended Laptop (Lenovo IdeaPad Z575 (12992PU)):

Compared to the Lenovo, the Acer offers considerably higher performance.

Advantages of the Lenovo

  1. Costs less ($500 vs the Acer at $600)
  2. More RAM (6GB vs the Acer’s 4GB)
  3. Higher sound quality (SRS Premium Sound vs the Acer’s Generic sound)

Disadvantages of the Lenovo

  1. Much less powerful video card (AMD Radeon 6650M 1GB vs the Acer’s Geforce GT 630M 2GB)
  2. Much less powerful CPU (AMD A6-3420M vs the Acer’s Intel Core i5-2450M)
  3. No USB 3.0 port vs the Acer’s one USB 3.0 port.

Lighter and more portable gaming laptop:

The $646 – MSI X460DX-008US is an highly portable alternative, weighting only 4.3lbs and measuring 13.35″ x 9.43″ x 1.0″. It offers pretty good gaming performance, with the Intel Core i3-2310M Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.1 GHz CPU, the Geforce GT 540M 1GB video card and a fast 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive. It also features 2x USB 3.0 ports and a good battery life with 5-6 hours of web browsing.

V.S. the $600 main recommendation, it offers slightly lower performance, due to its slower CPU, but it still offers great performance, especially when you consider its superior portability and longer battery life.

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best gaming laptop for ~$700

None

There’s currently a gap at the $700 price point, with no laptop offering performance that’s clearly superior to the $600 recommendation. This is why there’s no main recommendation.

However, here are two alternatives that have some pros that may interest you.

1- 17.3″ Gaming laptop

The $650 – Acer Aspire V3-771G-6650 is similar to the $600 recommendation, the Acer Aspire V3-571G-6602, it’s pretty much just a larger version of it, with a 17.3″ screen instead of 15.6″.
Pros:

  1. Larger screen (17.3″ vs 15.6″ for the Acer Aspire V3-571G-6602 ) with an higher resolution (1600 x 900 vs the V3-571G-6602′s 1366 x 768)
  2. 2x USB 3.0 port vs one USB 3.0 on the Acer Aspire V3-571G-6602

Cons:

  1. The higher resolution screen is more demanding on the video card, so the gaming performance at 1600 x 900 will be lower compared to what you would get on the Acer Aspire V3-571G-6602 at 1366 x 768.
  2. Slightly lower battery (~2.5-3 hours vs 3-4 hours on the Acer Aspire V3-571G-6602), due to the larger screen.
  3. Heavier and less portable (7.05lbs and 16.33″ x 10.83″ x 1.22″-1.36″ vs 5.74lbs and 15″ x 9.96″ x 0.99″-1.30″ for the Acer Aspire V3-571G-6602)
  4. Higher cost ($650 vs $600 for the Acer Aspire V3-571G-6602 )

2- HP refurbished laptop with higher performance and great features!

The $690 – HP Pavilion dv6-6047cl refurbished offers great gaming performance for its price, as well as great features. Its main downside? It’s a refurbished laptop, which means that it may show signs of light usage, it’s less reliable than a brand new laptop and it comes with a 3 months warranty instead of one year.
I personally bought two refurbished laptops (HP G73 and SAMSUNG Series 7 NP700Z5B-W01UB) in the last year and had no problem with them. If you don’t mind a refurbished laptop, the $690 – HP Pavilion dv6-6047cl refurbished is an amazing deal considering what it offers for the price!

Pros:

  1. Powerful Radeon HD 6770M 1GB video card, which is a good 30% faster than the Geforce GT 630M featured in the $630 recommended laptop.
  2. Powerful Intel Core i7-2630QM 2.0-2.9GHz Turbo Quad-Core + Hyper-threading CPU
  3. 8GB of RAM
  4. Large 1TB hard drive, 5,400rpm though.
  5. Blu-ray reader/DVD Burner drive
  6. Fingerprint reader
  7. Beats Audio sound system, with a dedicated sub woofer.
  8. 2 x USB 3.0
  9. Bluetooth
  10. Numpad
  11. All-in-one card reader

Cons:

  1. Refurbished: It may show signs of light usage, it’s less reliable than a brand new laptop and it comes with a 3 months warranty instead of one year. You might want to add the 2-year extended warranty for $89.99.
  2. 5,400rpm hard drive, slower than a 7,200rpm hard drive.
  3. Glossy screen: Forget about using this laptop in direct sunlight.
  4. Average battery life. Expect about 3.5-4.5 hours of web browsing.
  5. Higher cost ($690 vs $600 for the Acer Aspire V3-571G-6602 )

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best Gaming Laptop for ~$830

Acer Aspire V3-771G-9875 Notebook Intel Core i7 3610QM(2.30GHz) 17.3" 6GB Memory 750GB HDD 5400rpm DVD Super Multi NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M$830 – Acer Aspire V3-771G-9875

About the Acer Aspire V3-771G-9875:

Pros:

  1. Powerful NVIDIA Geforce GT 650M 2GB allows for majority of recent games to be playable at medium or high settings with AA turned off.
  2. Powerful and efficient 3rd generation Ivy Bridge processor: Intel Core i7-3610QM 2.3-3.3GHz Turbo Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading
  3. Large 17.3″ screen with a 1600 x 900 resolution.
  4. Large 750GB hard drive, with one free drive bay, allowing you to easily add a second hard drive or a SSD.
  5. 6GB of RAM instead of average 4GB. It has four RAM slots, allowing you to upgrade all the way to 32GB, or easily get 14GB or 24GB if you add a 8GB (2x4GB) kit or a 16GB (2x8GB) kit. Do note that Windows 7 Home Premium limits you to a maximum of 16GB of RAM though, so you’ll have to upgrade to Windows 7 Pro or Ultimate if you want more than 16GB of RAM
  6. Two USB 3.0 ports
  7. 1280 x 1024 webcam
  8. Numpad: Very useful for spreadsheets.
  9. Bluetooth 4.0 + HS

Cons:

  1. Glossy screen: Forget about using this laptop in direct sunlight.
  2. Average battery life. Expect about 2.5-4 hours of web browsing.
  3. 5,400rpm hard drive, slower than a 7,200rpm hard drive.

Ideal for:

  • Gamers looking for playable frame rates in medium/high settings with AA off for the majority of recent games. Will play older games perfectly.

To avoid for:

  • Someone who wants to watch movies with others with this laptop.
  • Someone who wants playable frame rates in highest possible graphics settings.
  • Someone who’s traveling a lot and who wants an highly-portable, lightweight laptop to carry around all day.
  • Someone who needs a laptop with a long battery life.

Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
Acer Aspire V3-771G-9875
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
CPU Intel Core i7-3610QM 2.3-3.3GHz Turbo Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
17.3″ 1600 x 900 LED backlight, glossy
Yes: 1280 x 1024
Nvidia Geforce GT 650M 2GB
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
6GB (1x4GB + 1x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz
4 Slots, maximum 32GB (With W7 Pro or Ultimate, 16GB w/ HP)
Storage 750GB Hard Drive running at 5400RPM
2nd drive bay that’s free if you want a 2nd HDD or a SSD
Optical Drive DVD/CD Burner DVD±R/RW
Audio Dolby® Home Theater® v4 audio
Two stereo speakers
Integrated microphone
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth 4.0 + HS
Ports All-in-1 Card Reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm jacks
2x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
LAN
VGA Output
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
16.33″ x 10.83″ x 1.22″-1.36″
7.05lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
6-cell Li-ion Battery
~2.5-4 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best Gaming Laptop for ~$950

ASUS N56VZ-ES71 15.6-Inch Laptop (Black)$950 – ASUS N56VZ-ES71

About the Asus N56VZ-ES71:

Pros:

  1. Powerful NVIDIA Geforce GT 650M 2GB allows for majority of recent games to be playable at high settings with AA turned off.
  2. Powerful and efficient 3rd generation Ivy Bridge processor: Intel Core i7-3610QM 2.3-3.3GHz Turbo Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading
  3. ASUS 1 Year Accidental Damage Protection (ADP) that covers accidental drops, spills, power surges, and fire damage.
  4. Reliable: ASUS ranks amongst the top brands (often #1) when it comes to reliability.
  5. 2 seconds quick resume from sleep.
    Great sound system: Bang & Olufsen ICEpower
    Four USB 3.0 ports!
  6. Numpad
  7. Matte screen

Cons:

  1. Average 1366 x 768 screen resolution
  2. Average battery life. Expect about 3-4 hours of web browsing.
  3. 5,400rpm hard drive that’s slower than a 7,200rpm model.

Ideal for:

  • Someone on a decent budget who wants to play video games and needs the portability of a laptop (Otherwise, a desktop Gaming PC offers a LOT more performance for the same price.)
  • Someone who wants to use their laptop outside in the sunlight, thanks to the matte screen.

To avoid for:

  • Someone who wants playable frame rates at the highest settings for most games.

Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
Asus N56VZ-ES71
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
CPU Intel Core i7-3610M Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.3-3.3 GHz Turbo
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
15.6″ 1366 x 768 LED backlight, anti-glare (matte)
Yes: 1280 x 720
Nvidia Geforce GT 650M 2GB
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
4GB DDR3
2 Slots, maximum 8GB
Storage 500GB Hard Drive running at 5400RPM
Optical Drive DVD/CD Burner DVD±R/RW
Audio Bang & Olufsen Speakers
Integrated Microphone
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth
Ports 3-in-1 Card Reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm jacks
4 x USB 3.0
LAN

VGA Output
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
14.96″ x 10.03″ x 1.07-1.34″
5.95lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
6 cell Lithium Ion
~3-4 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Compared to similar laptops:

Vs. ~$830 Recommended Laptop (Acer Aspire V3-771G-9875):

Compared to the Acer, the Asus offers higher gaming performance, due to the less demanding screen resolution, has a better sound system, is more reliable, has a better warranty and finally, it’s more portable thanks to its smaller dimensions and lower weight.

Advantages of the Acer

  1. Costs less ($830 vs the ASUS at $950)
  2. Higher resolution screen (1600 x 900 vs 1366 x 768)
  3. More RAM (6GB vs 4GB) and support for more RAM (4 RAM slots vs 2 RAM slots)
  4. Hard drive with an higher capacity (750GB vs 500GB) and features a 2nd drive bay.

Disadvantages of the Acer

  1. Less reliable than the ASUS laptop.
  2. The higher resolution screen is more demanding on the video card, so the gaming performance at 1600 x 900 will be lower compared to what you would get on the ASUS at 1366 x 768.
  3. No accidental warranty.
  4. Larger and heavier than the ASUS.
  5. Lower battery life (2.5-3.5 vs 3-4 hours)
  6. Inferior sound system
  7. Less USB 3.0 ports (4 vs 2 for the Acer)

Less features, similar performance, way more portable, customizable:

If you prefer portability over features, the $969 – Sager NP6110 (with the processor upgraded to the Intel i7-3610QM and with Windows 7 Home Premium selected) is a fantastic choice. Equipped with the exact same processor and video card as the much larger and heavier Asus, you can get the much smaller and lighter Sager at a similar price at the cost of a couple features.

Advantages of the Sager

  1. Much lighter (3.97lbs vs the Asus at 5.95lbs)
  2. Much smaller (11.30″ x 8.15″ x 0.50″-1.46″ vs the Asus at 14.96″ x 10.03″ x 1.07-1.34″)
  3. More RAM (8GB vs the Asus’s 4GB)
  4. Ability to customize through XoticPC

Disadvantages of the Sager

  1. Less USB ports (3x vs the Asus’s 4x)
  2. Less USB 3.0 ports (1x vs the Asus’s 2x)
  3. Build time
  4. No accidental warranty
  5. Less reliable
  6. No optical drive

Upgrades to consider for the Sager NP6110 (equipped with Intel i7-3610QM)

These are options that weren’t included in the price above, but that are to consider for additional performance or features.

  1. Upgrading the RAM to 16GB (+$180). While it will not provide additional gaming performance, it’s an easy way to future-proof your laptop and will allow you to run tons of programs at the same time with no/less slowdowns. A good idea if you plan on using your laptop for high-end audio/photo/video/3D work.
  2. Upgrading the stock 500GB 7200RPM to a SSD, such as the Samsung 830 series or Crucial M4 C400, both of which offer excellent performance AND excellent reliability. This will result in the OS, programs and games loading much faster, as well as making your system more responsive.
  3. Upgrading thermal compound. (+$25) Upgrading thermal compound leads to a cooler laptop increasing its longevity and lowering noise levels.
  4. Upgrading Warranty. Upgrading warranty if you can afford it is always a good choice considering the price of this laptop.
  5. Upgrading the Backup software. (+$35) Backups are crucial and a software that makes it easy is always useful
  6. Upgrading the Wireless Network Adapter to the “Intel® Advanced-N 6235 – 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN Module + Bluetooth” (+$25), for improved wireless throughput and improved range.

Fairly light and portable, backlit keyboard and great battery life:

The $942 – Samsung Series 7 NP700Z5A-S09US offers a nice balance of performance, portability, great battery life, a matte screen and a backlit keyboard, making it an excellent alternative for someone who wants a gaming laptop that’s fairly portable/light, has a great battery life and can be used for work or school.

I use a slightly different model with a more powerful CPU, a less powerful video card but no backlit keyboard. I use it for both work on the website (I love going out to cafes and the like, so portability and a long battery life is a must for me). image editing and gaming, and I simply love it.

The combination of portability, the 1600 x 900 resolution, good performance and long battery life strikes the perfect balance for me. It also looks very nice and is fairly solid. If you looking for that same kind of balance, with a backlit keyboard on top of that, I highly recommend the $942 – Samsung Series 7 NP700Z5A-S09US.

Advantages of the Samsung

  1. Lighter (5.04lbs vs the Asus at 5.95lbs)
  2. Smaller (14.2″ x 9.3″ x 0.94″ vs the Asus at 14.96″ x 10.03″ x 1.07-1.34″)
  3. Much longer battery life, at 6-8 hours vs 3-4 hours for the Asus.
  4. More RAM (8GB vs the Asus’s 6GB)
  5. Backlit keyboard
  6. Higher resolution screen, at 1600 x 900 vs 1366 x 768 for the Asus.
  7. Intel Wi-Di (Wireless Display) allows you to connect an external display/HDTV wirelessly, with a separately sold $92 – Netgear PUSH2TV HD PTV2000 1080P Adapter for Wireless Display receiver.
  8. If you register your laptop on Samsung’s website, which takes about 5 minutes, you get a free 3 months warranty extension.
  9. Matte screen, meaning you can use your laptop outside.

Disadvantages of the Samsung

  1. Less USB ports (3x vs the Asus’s 4x) and only two of those are USB 3.0 ports.
  2. Less powerful video card (Radeon HD 6750M 1GB vs the ASUS Geforce GT 650M 2GB), still powerful enough to run most games at medium/high at 1600 x 900.
  3. Less powerful CPU: Intel Core i5-2450M 2.5-3.1GHz Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading vs the ASUS Intel Core i7-3610QM 2.3-3.3GHz Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading
  4. The higher resolution screen is more demanding on the video card, so the gaming performance at 1600 x 900 will be quite lower compared to what you would get on the ASUS at 1366 x 768.
  5. No accidental warranty like with ASUS.
  6. No easy access to the hard drive bay, you have to remove the bottom part of the laptop to upgrade the hard drive.
  7. 4 of the 8GB of RAM is soldered onboard, meaning that you can only upgrade the 4GB stick to a 8GB stick, for a maximum of 12GB of RAM.

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Best Gaming Laptop for ~$1250

MSI FORCE 16F2-012$1249 – Prostar P151EM

About the Prostar P151EM:

Note: The price represents the laptop configured with the Intel Core i7-3610QM as CPU and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit as the OS.

Pros:

  1. Anti-glare screen
  2. Powerful NVIDIA Geforce GTX 670M 1GB allows for majority of recent games to be playable at max settings with AA turned off.
  3. Powerful and efficient Ivy Bridge processor (Intel Core i7-3610QM) (with Hyper-Threading)
  4. Numpad: Very useful for spreadsheets.
  5. Bluetooth
  6. Three USB 3.0 port.
  7. 8GB of RAM
  8. Choice of OS ($1170 without OS if you already have a copy of Windows 7 64-bit)
  9. Can be configured to your tastes.
  10. No pre-installed bloatware

Cons:

  1. Limited battery life: Expect 3-4 hours of web browsing time.
  2. Somewhat heavy at 6.83 pounds.
  3. Wait time for custom building. Can be rushed for a fee.

Ideal for:

  • Someone who wants a capable gaming laptop to play video games and who needs the portability of a laptop (Otherwise, a desktop Gaming PC offers a LOT more performance for the same price.)
  • Someone who wants to use their laptop outside in the sunlight.

To avoid for:

  • Someone who’s traveling a lot and who wants an highly-portable, lightweight laptop to carry around all day.
  • Someone who needs a laptop with a long battery life.

Upgrades to consider for the Prostar P151EM

These are options that weren’t included in the price above, but that are to consider for additional performance or features.

  1. Upgrading the RAM to 16GB (+$60). While it will not provide additional gaming performance, it’s an easy way to future-proof your laptop and will allow you to run tons of programs at the same time with no/less slowdowns. A good idea if you plan on using your laptop for high-end audio/photo/video/3D work.
  2. Upgrading the stock 500GB 7200RPM to a SSD, such as the Samsung 830 series or Crucial M4 C400, both of which offer excellent performance AND excellent reliability. This will result in the OS, programs and games loading much faster, as well as making your system more responsive. You can also choose to go with a SSD as your main drive and add a HDD as your 2nd drive to have more storage capacity.
  3. Upgrading thermal compound. (+$35) Upgrading thermal compound leads to a cooler laptop increasing its longevity and lowering noise levels.
  4. Upgrading to 6X Blu-Ray reader. (+$80) Must have for Blu-Ray viewing. Alternatively, if you don’t need/want an optical drive, you use it as a third drive bay to add more storage.
  5. Upgrading Warranty. Upgrading warranty if you can afford it is always a good choice considering the price of this laptop.
  6. Upgrading the Wireless Network Adapter to the “Intel® Ultimate-N 6300 – 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN Module (Includes 3rd Antenna)” (+$35), for improved wireless throughput and improved range.
  7. Rushed Build Time: If you want your laptop faster, you can get it “rushed” for $40.

Upgrades that are not recommended for the Prostar P151EM

These are upgrades that are not recommended, for reasons explained below:

  1. Upgrading the CPU to anything higher than the Intel Core i7-3610QM. An additional $160 for a mere .3ghz is simply not worth the cost at this price range. You might as well go with the $1500 laptop instead.

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Specifications:

Components
Prostar P151EM
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OR No OS
CPU Intel Core i7-3610QM Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.3-3.3 GHz Turbo
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
15.6″ 1920 x 1080 LED backlight, Anti-glare
Yes: 1600 x 1200
Nvidia Geforce GTX 670M 1.5GB dedicated GDDR5 VRAM
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1333MHz
4 Slots, maximum 32GB
(W7 HP limits you to 16GB though)
Storage 640GB Hard Drive running at 5,400RPM
Optical Drive 8x DVD/CD Burner DVD±R/RW
Audio Onkyo Built-in Speakers
THX TruStudio Pro
Integrated Microphone
Networking Built-in Gigabit Ethernet LAN
802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth 2.1
Ports 9-in-1 Card reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm jacks
3 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 2.0
LAN
DVI Output
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
14.80″ x 10.08″ x 1.38-1.69″
6.83lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
8 cell
~3-4 hours

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Compared to similar laptops:

Vs. ~$950 Recommended Laptop (Asus N56VZ-ES71):

While the processors are identical, the improvement seen with the Prostar is mainly through the more powerful video card. However, this comes at the cost of price, weight and portability.

Advantages of the Asus

  1. Costs less ($950 vs the Prostar at $1250)
  2. Lighter (5.95lbs vs the Prostar at 6.83lbs)
  3. Much thinner ( 1.07-1.34 vs the Prostar at 1.77″)

Disadvantages of the Asus

  1. Lower display resolution (1366×768 vs the Prostar at 1920×1080)
  2. Less RAM (4GB vs the Prostar’s 8GB)
  3. Less powerful video card (Nvidia Geforce GTX 650M 2GB vs the Prostar’s Nvidia Geforce GTX 670M 1.5GB)

Less performance, more portable, costs less:

If you can’t wait for Prostar to build your laptop or aren’t interested in a custom built laptop, the $1199 – MSI G Series GE60 0ND-042US is a great alternative.

Advantages of the G Series

  1. Costs less ($1199 vs the Prostar at $1249)
  2. More storage (750GB vs the Prostar’s 500GB)
  3. Much lighter (5.28lbs vs the Prostar at 6.8lbs)
  4. Ready to ship

Disadvantages of the G Series

  1. Less powerful video card (Nvidia Geforce GTX 660M 2GB vs the Prostar’s Nvidia Geforce GTX 670M 1.5GB)
  2. Cannot be customized.

Best gaming laptop for $1500

Malibal Lotus P150em-se$1530 – Malibal Lotus P150EM SE

About the Malibal Lotus P150EM SE

Note: The price represents the laptop configured with the Radeon HD 7970M 2GB as the Video Card, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit as the OS and the $50 discount option checked.

Pros:

  1. Anti-glare screen.
  2. Powerful Radeon HD 7970M 2GB allows for almost ALL recent games to be playable at max settings.
  3. Powerful and efficient Ivy Bridge processor (Intel Core i7-3610QM) (with Hyper-Threading)
  4. Fast 500GB 7200RPM hard drive.
  5. Numpad: Very useful for spreadsheets.
  6. Two USB 3.0 port.
  7. Bluetooth
  8. 8GB of RAM
  9. Choice of OS ($1449 without OS if you already have a copy of Windows 7 64-bit)
  10. Can be configured to your tastes.
  11. Backlit keyboard
  12. Free carrying case
  13. Fingerprint reader

Cons:

  1. Limited battery life: Expect 3-4 hours of web browsing time.
  2. Heavy, 6.83 pounds.
  3. Wait time for custom building.

Ideal for:

  • Someone who wants a capable gaming laptop to play video games and who needs the portability of a laptop (Otherwise, a desktop Gaming PC offers a LOT more performance for the same price.)
  • Someone who wants their laptop outside in the sunlight.

To avoid for:

  • Someone who’s traveling a lot and who wants a highly-portable, lightweight laptop to carry around all day.
  • Someone who needs a laptop with a long battery life.

Upgrades to consider for the Malibal

These are options that weren’t included in the price above, but that are to consider for additional performance or features.

  1. Upgrading the CPU to the Intel Core i7-3720QM ($160 for +300MHz).
  2. Upgrading the RAM to 16GB (+$40). While it will not provide additional gaming performance, it’s an easy way to future-proof your laptop and will allow you to run tons of programs at the same time with no/less slowdowns. A good idea if you plan on using your laptop for high-end audio/photo/video/3D work.
  3. Upgrading the stock 500GB 7200RPM to a SSD, such as the Samsung 830 series or Crucial M4 C400, both of which offer excellent performance AND excellent reliability. This will result in the OS, programs and games loading much faster, as well as making your system more responsive. You can also choose to go with a SSD as your main drive and add a HDD as your 2nd drive to have more storage capacity.
  4. Upgrading to 6X Blu-Ray reader. (+$80) Must have for Blu-Ray viewing. Alternatively, if you don’t need/want an optical drive, you use it as a third drive bay to add more storage.
  5. Upgrading thermal compound. (+$35) Upgrading thermal compound leads to a cooler laptop increasing its longevity and lowering noise levels.
  6. Upgrading Warranty. Upgrading warranty if you can afford it is always a good choice considering the price of this laptop.
  7. Upgrading the Wireless Network Adapter to the “Intel® Ultimate-N 6300 – 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN Module (Includes 3rd Antenna)” (+$70), for improved wireless throughput and improved range.

Upgrades that are not recommended for the Malibal

These are upgrades that are not recommended, for reasons explained below:

  1. “Upgrading” the video card to the Nvidia Geforce GTX 675M 2GB. The Nvidia Geforce GTX 675M 2GB is basically a 580M, but with slightly higher clocks.
  2. Getting a 2nd hard drive to use RAID 0. Get a SSD instead, you’ll get a much higher performance boost, without the higher failure risk inherent with RAID 0.

Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
Malibal Lotus P150EM SE
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OR No OS (-$80)
CPU Intel Core i7-3610QM Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.3-3.3 GHz Turbo
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
15.6″ 1920 x 1080 LED backlight, Anti-glare
Yes: 1600 x 1200
AMD Radeon HD 7970 2GB dedicated GDDR5 VRAM
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
8GB (4x2GB) DDR3 1600MHz
4 Slots, maximum 32GB
Storage 500GB Hard Drive running at 7200RPM
Optical Drive 8x DVD/CD Burner DVD±R/RW
Audio Onkyo Built-in Speakers
THX TrustStudio Pro
Built-in Microphone
Networking Built-in Gigabit Ethernet LAN
802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth 3.0
Ports 9-in-1 Card reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm jacks
3 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 2.0
LAN
DVI Output
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
14.80″ x 10.08″ x 1.38-1.69″
6.83lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
8 cell
~3-4 hours

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Compared to similar laptops:

Vs. ~$1250 Recommended Laptop (Prostar P151EM):

Compared to the Prostar, the Malibal improves gaming performance thanks to its Radeon HD 7970M 2GB along with additional features.

Advantages of the Prostar

  1. Costs less ($1250 vs the Malibal at $1530)

Disadvantages of the Prostar

  1. Less powerful video card (Nvidia Geforce GTX 670M 1.5GB vs the Malibal’s AMD Radeon HD 7970 2GB)
  2. Slower hard drive (5400RPM vs the PowerPro’s 7200RPM)
  3. No backlit keyboard
  4. No free carrying case
  5. No fingerprint reader

Heavier, less portable, slightly lower performance, ready to ship:

If you can’t wait for Malibal to build your laptop or aren’t interested in a custom built laptop, the $1550 – MSI G Series GT70 0ND-202US is an alternative.

Advantages of the MSI

  1. More storage (750GB vs the Malibal’s 500GB)
  2. More RAM (12GB vs the Malibal’s 8GB)
  3. Ready to ship
  4. Larger display (Pro or Con)

Disadvantages of the MSI

  1. Slightly less powerful video card (Geforce GTX 675M 1.5GB vs the Malibal Radeon HD 7970M 2GB)
  2. Costs more ($1550 vs the Malibal at $1530)
  3. Heavier (8.6lbs vs the Malibal at 6.83lbs)
  4. Thicker (2.17″ vs the Malibal at 1.38-1.69″)
  5. Larger display (Pro or Con)
  6. Not customizable

Ultra-portable gaming laptop, lower performance, ready to ship:

If want an ultra-portable laptop, which weights less than 4lbs and that offers more than decent gaming performance, the $1550 – Sony VAIO SVS13A18GXB is a great choice.

Advantages of the Sony

  1. More storage (640GB vs the Malibal’s 500GB)
  2. Far lighter (3.69bs vs the Malibal at 6.83lbs)
  3. Far more portable (13.04″ x 8.85″ x 0.95″ vs the Malibal 14.80″ x 10.08″ x 1.38-1.69″)
  4. Ready to ship
  5. Smaller display (Pro or Con)
  6. Longer battery life: 5-6 hours vs the Malibal’s 3-4 hours

Disadvantages of the Sony

  1. Far less powerful video card (Geforce GTX 640M LE 1GB vs the Malibal Radeon HD 7970M 2GB)
  2. Far less powerful CPU: (Core i7 3520M 2.9-3.6GHz Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading vs the Malibal Core i7-3610QM Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.3-3.3 GHz
  3. Costs more ($1550 vs the Malibal at $1530)
  4. Smaller display (Pro or Con) with a lower resolution (1600 x 900 vs the Malibal’s 1920 x 1080)
  5. Not customizable

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Best gaming laptop for $1900

Alienware M17x R4$1899- Dell Alienware M17x R4

About the Alienware M17x:

Note: The price represents the laptop configured with AMD Radeon HD 7970M 2GB, as it is by default.

Pros:

  1. Powerful AMD Radeon HD 7970M 2GB allows for almost ALL recent games to be playable at max settings
  2. Powerful and efficient Intel quad-core (with Hyper-Threading) Core i7-3610QM processor.
  3. Numpad: Very useful for spreadsheets.
  4. Easy to overclock.
  5. Four USB 3.0 port.
  6. Keyboard, numpad and other parts of the laptop that are lit up by LEDs, with colors that you can customize to your tastes.
  7. Rubberish keyboard, backlit with colors that you can customize to your tastes.
  8. Top-notch wireless adapter: Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 with Bluetooth 4.0
  9. Fast 7200RPM 750GB hard drive
  10. 5.1 Surround Sound.
  11. Customizable

Cons:

  1. Limited battery life: Expect 3-4 hours of web browsing time.
  2. Very heavy, 9.39 pounds.
  3. Glossy screen: Forget about using this laptop in direct sunlight.
  4. Wait time for custom building.

Ideal for:

  • Someone who wants a capable gaming laptop to play video games and who needs the portability of a laptop (Otherwise, a desktop Gaming PC offers a LOT more performance for the same price.)
  • Gamers who intend to play in a dimly lit room.

To avoid for:

  • Someone who’s traveling a lot and who wants a highly-portable, lightweight laptop to carry around all day.
  • Someone who needs a laptop with a long battery life.

Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
Alienware M17x
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OR No OS
CPU Intel Core i7-3610QM Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.23-3.3 GHz Turbo
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
17.3″ 1920 x 1080 LED backlight, Anti-glare
Yes: 1280 x 720
AMD Radeon HD 7970M 2GB dedicated GDDR5 VRAM
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
6GB (1x4GB + 1x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz
4 Slots, maximum 32GB
Storage 750GB Hard Drive running at 7200RPM
Optical Drive DVD/CD Burner DVD±R/RW
Audio 2.0 Speaker configuration with Subwoofer
Audio Powered by Klipsch
7.1 Digital Audio out using HDMI out or S/PDIF Optical port

Dual built-in digital microphones
Networking Built-in Gigabit Ethernet LAN
802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth 4.0
Ports 7-in-1 Card reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm jacks
2 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
LAN
VGA Output
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
16.14″ x 11.97″ x 1.75″
9.39lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
9 cell
~3-4 hours

Vs. ~$1500 Recommended Laptop (Malibal Lotus P150EM SE):

As far as performance goes, the Alienware is a great improvement in gaming performance. However, equipped with a larger 17.3″ display, the Alienware is heavier and more expensive.

Advantages of the Malibal

  1. Much lighter (6.83lbs vs the Alienware at 9.39lbs)
  2. Costs much less ($1530 vs the Alienware at $1900)
  3. More RAM (8GB vs the Alienware’s 6GB)
  4. Smaller display (pro or con)
  5. Includes free carrying case
  6. Fingerprint reader

Disadvantages of the Malibal

  1. Less storage (500GB vs the Alienware’s 750GB)
  2. Smaller display (pro or con)

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Best gaming laptop for $2500

Alienware M18x$2550 – Alienware M18x

Note: When configuring this laptop, choose the cheapest starting point ($1999.00) then simply change the video card option to the Dual 2GB GDDR5 AMD Radeon HD 7970M CrossFireX option.

About the Alienware M18x:

Pros:

  1. Powerful and efficient Intel quad-core (with Hyper-Threading) Core i7-3610QM processor.
  2. Very powerful video card setup: Dual 2GB AMD Radeon HD7970M CrossFireX
  3. Easy to overclock.
  4. Rubberish keyboard, backlit with colors that you can customize to your tastes.
  5. Keyboard, numpad and other parts of the laptop that are lit up by LEDs, with colors that you can customize to your tastes.
  6. Numpad: Useful for spreadsheets and more.
  7. Four USB 3.0 port.
  8. 18.4″ screen 1920 x 1080
  9. Fast 7,200rpm 500GB hard drive.
  10. 5.1 Surround Sound.
  11. Top-notch wireless adapter: Intel Advanced-N 6200 a/g/n 2×2 MIMO Technology
  12. Bluetooth 4.0
  13. Can be customized with the parts that YOU want.
  14. Personalized laser etched metal plate on the bottom of the laptop
  15. Variety of audio ports

Cons:

  1. Heavy and thick. 11.93 pounds at slightly over 2 inches.
  2. Glossy screen: Forget about using this laptop in direct sunlight.
  3. Limited battery life: Expect 3-4 hours of web browsing time.

Ideal for:

  • Someone who wants a powerful gaming laptop to play video games and who needs the portability of a laptop (Otherwise, a desktop Gaming PC offers a WHOLE TON more performance for the same price.)
  • Gamers who intend to play in a dimly lit room.

To avoid for:

  • Someone who’s traveling a lot and who wants an highly-portable, lightweight laptop to carry around all day.
  • Someone who needs a laptop with a long battery life.

Upgrades to consider for the Alienware M18x:

These are options that weren’t included in the price above, but that are to consider for additional performance or features.

  1. Upgrading the CPU to the Core i7-3720QM 2.6-3.6GHz Turbo (+$150), which is 300MHz faster. With two video cards, the processor can become a bottleneck, so you can use all the processor performance that you can get.
  2. RAM: Upgrade to 8GB DDR3 1600MHz: (+$75). Most games will benefit from more RAM, especially as the years go by. Yes, you could upgrade it for much less yourself, but would void the warranty in the process. Alienware has a strange build with only 2 slots easily accessible. The other 2 requires the removal of the keyboard are more difficult to get to and will void your warranty.
  3. Upgrading the stock 750GB 7200RPM to a 256GB SSD (+$400). Once again, you can do this yourself at a much lower cost (see the recommended SSD upgrades below).
  4. Upgrading to Blu-Ray reader. (+$100) Must have for Blu-Ray viewing.

Upgrades that are not recommended for the Alienware M18x:

These are upgrades that are not recommended, for reasons explained below:

  1. Upgrading the video card to 2 NVIDIA Geforce GTX 675M 2GB in SLI. Since the 675M is basically the Nvidia Geforce 580M 2GB, you will actually lose performance by going with the 675M SLI setup. The AMD Radeon 7970M 2GB is already faster than the 580M and the 675M. You could upgrade to two Geforce GTX 680M in SLI, but the slim performance gain isn’t worth the large cost in my opinion.

Click here to go back up to the summary

Specifications:

Components
Alienware M18x
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
CPU Intel Core i7-3610QM Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.23-3.3 GHz Turbo
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
18.4″ 1920 x 1080 LED backlight
Yes: 3.0MP
Dual 2GB GDDR5 AMD Radeon HD 7970M AMD CrossFireX
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
6GB (1x2GB + 1x4GB) DDR3 1600MHz
4 Slot, maximum 32GB
Storage 750GB Hard Drive running at 7,200RPM
Optical Drive DVD/CD Burner DVD±R/RW
Audio 2.1 Speaker configuration with Subwoofer
Audio Powered by Klipsch
7.1 Digital Audio out using HDMI out or S/PDIF Optical port

Dual built-in digital microphones
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
Intel® Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 a/b/g/n 3×3
Bluetooth 4.0
Ports 9-in-1 Media Card reader
54 mm ExpressCard slot

2x Audio 1/8″ ports
Combo S/PDIF Optical output / Analog Headphone Line Out (7.1 digital audio output via S/PDIF)
Line In Microphone 1/8″ Port (retaskable for 5.1 analog audio output)

2 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
1 x E-SATA/USB 2.0 combo port
LAN
VGA Output
HDMI 1.4 Output
HDMI 1.3 Input
Mini-Display port

Dimensions
Weight
17.17″ x 12.68 x 2.09-2.13″
11.93lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
12 cell/97Wh Lithium Ion
3-4 hours

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Compared to similar laptops:

Vs. ~$1900 Recommended Laptop (Alienware M17x)

The Dual AMD Radeon HD 7970M 2GB CrossfireX equipped M18x performs much higher the the Single AMD Radeon HD 7970M 2GB equipped M17x in gaming. The cost is well justified by the performance as you will experience up to twice the frame rates in many games.

The Dual video card setup does bring the possibility of micro stuttering. However, according to the M18x review on notebookcheck.net, micro-shuttering isn’t noticeable in the M18x, “as the Radeon HD 6970M CF manages to process fast enough most of the time (micro stutters only become clearly visible when the frame rate drops under 30 fps)”.

Advantages of the M17x

  1. Much lighter (9.39lbs vs the M18x at 11.93lbs)
  2. Costs much less ($1900 vs the M18x at $2550)
  3. Smaller display (pro or con)

Disadvantages of the M17x

  1. Much less powerful video card setup (AMD Radeon HD 7970M 2GB vs the M18x’s Dual AMD Radeon HD 7970M 2GB)
  2. Smaller display (pro or con)

Less performance, more expensive, much more portable:

$2800 – Razer Blade

In many opinions the most aesthetically pleasing among gaming laptop if not of all laptops to have been released. The Razer Blade is an incredibly built machine with almost everything a gamer with money could ask for.

The tradeoff for that is lower gaming performance compared to similarly priced gaming laptops. The Razer Blade was never targeted towards gamers who needed max graphics with playable frame rates. Instead it reaches out to those who prefer style/design and portability and also don’t mind lowering game graphics a bit. For a much more indepth review, check out this AnandTech review.

With these two laptops being targeted for different crowds, it is difficult to compare them. However here are the Advantages vs Disadvantages:

Advantages of the Razer Blade

  1. Significantly thinner and lighter (16.81″ x 10.90 x .88″ at 6.4 lbs vs the Alienware’s 17.17″ x 12.68 x 2.09-2.13″ at 11.93 lbs)
  2. Significantly faster storage (256GB SATA III SSD vs the Alienware’s 750GB HDD at 7200RPM)
  3. More RAM (8GB RAM vs the Alienware’s 4GB)
  4. Unique Switchblade keyboard panel for great customization.

Disadvantages of the Razer Blade

  1. Much slower video card setup (NVIDIA GT 555M 2GB vs the Alienware’s AMD Radeon HD 7970M CrossfireX 2GB)
  2. Slower processor for games/software that take advantage of four cores (Intel Core i7-2640M vs the Alienware’s Intel Core i7-3610QM)
  3. Costs more ($2800 vs the Alienware at $2550)

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Laptops to Avoid for Gaming

These are laptops that I recommend avoiding for gaming. This website is targeted for any anyone at any level of computer understanding, therefore some of the following may be obvious to some.

Acer Aspire TimelineX series with dedicated GPU
While it may look great on paper such as having a mid range dedicated video card such as the NVIDIA GT 540M 1GB, and a super slick metal brushed body at a great price, laptops in this series such as the Acer Aspire TimelineX 3830TG, have heating/throttling issues.

The processor slows down dramatically to cool down the system due to inadequate cooling. Simply put, their cooling system does not work well enough to cool a dedicated video card plus run a mid range processor, therefore the TimelineX series with integrated video card does not experience throttling.

MacBooks
MacBooks are amazing at what they are built to do. Unfortunately mainstream gaming is not one of those things. While Blizzard and a few other developers do support OS X, (MacBooks’ operating system) the majority of games do not run on OS X.

While Windows gaming is possible on MacBooks through Boot Camp, for mainly mainstream gaming purposes, the video card setups are quite pricey. Older games should be playable however.

Ultrabooks
Ultrabooks are super mobile computers rivaling MacBook Air designs and portability. Unfortunately, currently none offer a GPU powerful enough to be recommend for mainstream gaming. Older games however, should be playable.

Netbooks
Netbooks were meant to be small cheap laptops capable of doing very basic tasks. Gaming not being one of them.

Chromebooks
Chromebooks, like Netbooks were never meant for gaming.

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Personalize your laptop with a skin!


Make it Yours

If you want to personalize your laptop, get a laptop skin from Skinit.com.

They even make it easy for you to upload your own photos and to create a truly one-of-a-kind custom made skin.

Upgrade your RAM, Hard Drive and/or Sound Card

Upgrade your RAM:

RAM can easily be upgraded on most laptops.

Simply pick one of the following recommendations below, depending on if your laptop comes with a single stick of RAM or two, or if you can have up to 4 sticks. You can find this information in the specifications for each laptop above.

My recommendations should be compatible with all the laptops recommended in this guide. I recommend to you memory sticks from the most reliable RAM manufacturers.

Important note: Windows 7 Home Premium supports only up to 16GB of RAM. If you want more than 16GB of RAM, you’ll need to upgrade to Windows 7 Pro or Ultimate.

Add a single 4GB or 8GB stick:

Upgrade to a 2x4GB(8GB) or a 2x8GB(16GB) kit:

Laptops with 4 RAM slots: 16GB (4x4GB) or 32GB(4x8GB) memory kits:

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Upgrade your hard drive:

You can also upgrade your hard drive to a faster and/or a larger hard drive. Alternatively, you can also replace it with a tremendously faster SSD (Solid State Drive), which also consume a tad less power than laptop hard drive, so replacing a hard drive by a SSD will slightly boost your laptop’s battery life.

Do note that most laptops accept hard drives with a 9.5mm height.

Keep your old hard drive for external storage via an USB 3.0 enclosure:

USB 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0, if your laptop does not have USB 3.0.

When you replace the hard drive that your laptop came with, I recommend putting in this $17 – MASSCOOL Aluminum 2.5-Inch USB 3.0 External Hard Drive Enclosure and using it for external storage, such as backups.

750GB, 7,200rpm standard hard drive:

As fast as it gets for a standard laptop hard drive:
$101 – Western Digital Scorpio Black 750 GB SATA 3 GB/s 7200 RPM 2.5-Inch Mobile Hard Drive

750GB, 7,200rpm hybrid hard drive:

If you want a fast laptop drive but can’t afford a large capacity SSD, the $150 – Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s 2.5″ Hybrid Drive is a great alternative.

It’s an “hybrid” hard drive, that is it comes with a SSD like cache, allowing it to perform close to a SSD when it reads from its cache. It’s all done automatically by an algorith that learns your usage pattern and improves the performance of often used files. It also speeds up Windows booting.

1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive:

As large as it gets for a laptop hard drive capacity. Not as fast as the two 750GB hard drives above, due to its slower rotation speed (5,400rpm vs 7,200 rpm) and smaller cache.
$105 – Western Digital 1 TB Scorpio Blue SATA II 5400 RPM 2.5-Inch Notebook Hard Drive

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Upgrade to a SSD

SSDs are for you if you want:

  1. Much faster OS boot, Shutdown, Sleep and Hibernation
  2. Much faster program and game loading, meaning that you don’t have to wait as long for your program or your game to load.
  3. A system that feels more responsive.

If you want to upgrade your hard drive to a SSD, I recommend to you the Crucial M4 line-up of SSDs, which offers the best balance of reliability and performance, at a great price.

Furthermore, I recommend these particular Crucial M4 SSDs, for they include a CD with software and a SATA to USB adapter, to help you transfer the content of your current hard drive to the SSD, in order to minimize downtime and make your life easier.

Alternatively, I invite you to read The Best SSDs and HDDs For Your Money article, to decide yourself which SSD is right for you.

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Upgrade the sound quality

While integrated audio on laptops has improved a lot in the last few years, it’s still no match for a dedicated sound chip if you care about sound quality.

The $40 – ASUS Xonar U3 is a USB-stick based dedicated sound chip that will greatly improve sound quality, with its built-in headphones amplifier, Dolby surround support, S/PDIF optical output ASUS GX2.5 and much more.

I highly recommend it if you enjoy high-quality sound, whether it’s for music, movies, games or anything else.

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Laptops to Look Forward to

Not planning to buy a laptop anytime soon? Here is a list of laptops to look forward to.

Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3-581TG

The Acer is equipped with the upcoming NVIDIA GT 640M, which performs about on par with the NVIDIA GT 555M, while having much less heat and power consumption. Another feature that makes this laptop stand out is its .8″ thick chassis. This might be one of the first laptops to combine a thin and light body with a GPU powerful enough for adequate gaming while not costing too much. The rumored price is $1000.

http://reviews.cnet.co.uk/laptops/acer-aspire-timeline-u-m3-581tg-review-50007336/

Gigabyte P2542GGigabyte, not known for manufacturing laptops, are releasing a relatively thin laptop aimed towards gamers. The P2542G is equipped with the NVIDIA GT 660M, which performs slightly under the Nvidia Geforce GTX 570M. According to www.theverge.com the price for this laptop, should be around $1100.

http://www.theverge.com/2012/3/6/2848557/gigabyte-p2542g-gaming-laptop-hands-on-photos-video

AMD Radeon HD 7700M/7800M Equipped Laptops

Based off of AMD’s new 28nm technology, these upcoming video cards will rival the Nvidia Geforce GTX 560 in performance, however consumer much less power.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/5426/amd-clarifies-7000m-strategy

AMD Trinity APU Equipped Laptops

AMD’s answer to Intel’s Ultrabooks. AMD seeks to dramatically improve CPU/GPU performance while maintaining a super thin profile. According to Anandtech, AMD claims an increase of 25% for CPU performance and a 50% increase in GPU performance when compared to current AMD APUs. This might be the first move towards gaming capable super thin and light laptops.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/5411/amds-trinity-apu-at-ces-shipping-in-mid2012

Conclusion

Overall, the second half of 2012 looks interesting for thin and light laptops capable of light to medium gaming. We don’t expect to see any dramatic increase in performance, however GPU units in 2012 will become much more cooler and efficient, resulting in thinner gaming laptops with longer battery life.

Compared to the last update to the “Best Gaming Laptop For Your Money” article, we saw price fluctuations often, however overall the price per performance went down. We also saw more custom laptops stepping up by providing more power at a lower price than before.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this latest edition of the Best Gaming Laptops For Your Money, written by Xai Her (Ichigeki), our “Best Laptops For Your Money” collaborator and edited by Mathieu Bourgie, the editor-in-chief and founder of Hardware Revolution.

Of course, with this being such a large article (over 9000 words!) with many recommendations and alternatives, you may find some typos.

Alternatively, you may believe that there’s a better option than our recommendation.

If that happens, feel free to leave a comment below and remember, you can join us on our forums to discuss with everyone else the laptop that you’re planning to buy, ask your questions and join our helpful community.

Category: The Best Laptops For Your Money

About Xai Her (Ichigeki): As a student of Geology, I spend the majority of my time attending lectures, working with microscopes, and working out in the field. Also at the university, I work with a small research team researching the evolution of science literacy in today's media. Other than being a student, my hobbies/passions include photography, sports, and of course working with computers. Computers have always intrigued me in that when all components act harmonically, you have a beautiful piece of machinery... .

  • Pineappl

    For the $830 – Acer Aspire V3-771G-9875, Where do you get the info that it comes with a 2nd drive bay that’s free. I’m just curious how you find that out, I don’t see anything about it on Newegg. Also if you add an SSD, since the original HDD comes with Win 7 on it do you have to do a clone in order to reuse the given copy of Win7?

  • waffles

    :3 I’d love it this was updated more often. It’s so handy!

  • Brolly

    I don’t know why my previous comment wasn’t approved. I was just asking about a laptop that wasn’t listed.

  • Monsieur Potatoes

    It’s been several months, and 2 of the cheaper (more sensible and probably most important) laptops have gone out of stock. They’re not really cheaper elsewhere :(
    Please update?

  • Xais Hawj

    Laptops change so frequently that it is nearly impossible to say what laptop is THE best laptop for the price. This article works as a guideline along with being up to date at the time they are written.

    If you’d like more details on exactly what laptop to choose at what price at any given time, join us at the forums and drop a question. Me or someone will surely be glad to help.

    Thanks! and Cheers!

    Ichigeki

  • http://www.nextuc.com/ Jonathan Trent

    Good list of laptops. The Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3-581TG does look like one to look forward to for $1,000. Like Andy though, I’m also a big fan of Digital Storm.

  • M4ENY

    I recently bought an asus g75vw for 1000 dollars. I dont know if I made the wrong decision or not . please help

    It’s specs are i7 3610QM, 8gb ram, 2x500gb, dvd+/-RW, gtx 660m and win 7 home premium 64bit.

  • Acer

    Very true with Aspire Timeline X with dedicated GPU. They have cooling problem if you try to play games like SimCity 5. Kind of regretting it.

  • uday

    i have no experiences about gaming lap top help me to buy a gaming laptop