If you’re an avid gamer, but haven’t bought a gaming computer in a long time – or perhaps you’re switching from a console to join your friends in the world of PC gaming – the amount of choice can be overwhelming
In this look at the latest models, we’ll run you through the most important considerations and highlight some recent models that have undergone our rigorous lab testing.
Browse all the Best Buy laptops in our reviews.
What is a gaming laptop?
A gaming laptop used to mean a beast of a machine that pushed the boundaries of what anyone would consider to be portable. With flashing lights, garish designs and atrocious battery life, traditional gaming laptops were one-trick ponies that non-gamers sought to avoid.
Today, with sleek(er) designs and more efficient components, gaming laptops should appeal to more than just hardcore gamers and, as you’ll see below, offer plenty of perks beyond simply allowing you to play the latest games.
Five things to look for from a gaming laptop
1. Graphics card The single most important influence on how well your laptop will play games. You should look for a model with a ‘discrete’ or ‘dedicated’ graphics card instead of a ‘shared’ graphic chip. This means there’s a dedicated chip inside your laptop whose sole purpose is to handle gaming graphics. Our full guide to gaming laptops (including the best gaming laptops we’ve tested) gives you some in-depth information on which graphics card to look for when you want to play a specific game.
2. Quad-core processor To get the best from your laptop, you should pick one with a processor that has at least four cores. Luckily, that’s not hard to find these days as the majority of gaming laptops come with a quad-core processor. But if you happen across one that only has a dual-core processor, it’s likely to hamper how well your games can run.
3. SSD A solid-state drive, or SSD, is a faster alternative to a hard disk. SSDs have no moving parts and can operate at many times the speed of a hard disk, making game loading times faster and overall computer performance a lot more snappy. If you’re worried about not having enough space – SSDs tend to be smaller than hard drives – look for a laptop that has an SSD and a hard disk.
4. Good-quality screen If you’re paying closer to £1,000 for a gaming laptop, make sure the screen is up to scratch. Look for models with a high refresh rate (ideally 120Hz or higher), which will make your games look smoother, and look for those labelled with ‘IPS’ technology instead of ‘TN’ as these typically deliver brighter and more immersive picture quality.
5. Portable designs: While you might not be planning on taking your laptop out of your home for the time being, it’s worth making weight and thickness a consideration. It’s possible to find good-quality gaming laptops that weigh around 2kg, so unless you’re set on an ultra-powerful and very large laptop, you should aim low here.
What games can I play?
Any 2019 laptop costing at least £600 should be able to play all the most popular games, including Battlefield, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, DOTA, FIFA, Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto V, PUBG and Roblox. But there are other things to consider here – the more powerful the laptop you buy, the smoother your games will run and the better graphics settings you’ll be able to run them at. If you only play games such as Counter-Strike, DOTA, Fortnite, PUBG and Roblox, you could easily get away with a cheap gaming laptop. But if you want top-quality graphics and smooth frame rates in games such as Battlefield or Call of Duty, you’ll have to look at spending upwards of £800 to get the very best.
Read our guide to gaming laptops for plenty more tips and advice on finding the perfect model.
What non-gamers should consider a gaming laptop
Gaming laptops aren’t just for gamers. The powerful specifications mean they’ll be fast when doing other tasks, too. For instance, if you edit photos you will appreciate the larger screen and more powerful processor, and if you work on videos the graphics card will add some extra grunt and speed when working on video effects. The same goes for design and CAD-based work; laptops with dedicated graphics are many times faster at processing design tasks than those without. Since more and more gaming laptops nowadays are sleek and stylish, if your budget allows for it, getting a powerful laptop that also just happens to be able to play games could be a wise choice.
Latest gaming laptops on test
Every laptop that goes through our lab goes through a gaming test to see whether it’s up to scratch for those who fancy playing games. Five laptops in our September batch of tests have high-specification dedicated graphics chips.
HP Pavilion Gaming 15-dk0010na, £799
This laptop from HP’s popular Pavilion Gaming line packs in all the gaming essentials into a mean, green package. There’s a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor along with one of Nvidia’s latest GTX 1650 graphics cards. There’s also a 256GB SSD for faster loading times and snappier performance. Read our full HP Pavilion Gaming 15-d0010na review for the final verdict.
Dell G3 15 3590, £849
Dell’s G3 gaming laptop has a subtle, dark-grey design with light blue highlights that just hint at the power beneath the surface. The Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card is paired with an Intel Core i5 processor and a capacious 512GB SSD, which should be enough to hold all your games without issue. Read the full Dell G3 15 3590 review to find out whether it makes the grade.
Asus TUF Gaming FX505DT-AL086T, £650
The cheapest gaming laptop we tested this month, this Asus doesn’t appear to cut many corners, at least based on its spec sheet. There’s the GTX 1650 graphics card – like three of its rivals – and a quad-core AMD Ryzen 5 processor that should only be a little slower than the Intel Core i5s found in its rivals. Our full Asus TUF Gaming FX505DT-AL086T review reveals whether there are more shortcomings than meet the eye.
Acer Nitro 5 AN515, £929
At first glance, it’s not obvious why this gaming laptop is so much pricier than the others featured here. Indeed, it has an older specification Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics card rather than the latest GTX 1650. Handily, at least, there is a 1TB hard disk in addition to its 256GB SSD, but our full Acer Nitro 5 AN515 review reveals whether this laptop is worth the money.
Lenovo Legion Y540-15IRH, £1,099
The most expensive and most powerful laptop we tested this month, the Lenovo Legion has a high-specification GTX 1660Ti graphics card, that should make it several steps more powerful than its GTX 1650 rivals. But it lacks a large SSD; its drive only has a 128GB capacity, which is backed up by a 1TB hard disk. Read our full Lenovo Legion Y540-15IRH review to see how it fared.
To see how more gaming-capable laptops fared in our test labs, browse all our gaming laptop reviews.