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A Buyer’s Guide To The Best Gaming Laptop

A laptop shouldn’t mean an inferior gaming experience. The Wirecutter investigates.

A Buyer’s Guide To The Best Gaming Laptop
the Asus ROG G750JS [Photos: courtesy of The Wirecutter]

After looking at all the gaming laptops out there and testing a few ourselves, we concluded that the $1,740 Asus ROG G750JS-DS71 is the best gaming laptop for most people.

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The Asus has the best combination of raw gaming power and build quality that you can get for less than $2,000. It will play the vast majority of modern graphics-intensive games on high settings, plus it has a great cooling system, keyboard, and trackpad. It isn’t perfect, but there’s no other gaming laptop that can match the Asus ROG G750JS-DS71 right now.

The massive fans at the back of the ROG G750JS keep the machine cool during demanding gaming.

Who’s This For?

Gaming laptops definitely aren’t for everyone. Desktop computers offer better gaming performance per dollar, and ultrabooks are slimmer, lighter, and have much better battery life. Gaming laptops are a good fit for students, deployed soldiers, and other road warriors who want to play demanding PC games at LAN parties or when traveling.

Our Pick

The $1,740 Asus ROG G750JS-DS71 is a gaming powerhouse that can play most new games on high settings, and many on ultra. This means they’ll play smoothly at high resolution with all the rich lighting and details that you’d expect from a modern game. On the inside, it has a powerful (but cost-effective) Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M graphics card with 3 GB of dedicated memory, a 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7-4700HQ quad-core processor, and 16 GB of RAM. It also has a speedy 256 GB solid state drive to make your operating system and games load quickly, and a 1 TB hard drive to store everything else.

The Asus’s trackpad has two dedicated buttons and works well with Windows 8 gestures.

8 GB of RAM is plenty for most games, and most gaming laptops today come with 16 GB. 32 GB is a complete waste of money, even for our step-up machine…

The Asus ROG G750JS-DS71 has a deep, responsive keyboard with a white backlight and a good trackpad that works well with Windows 8 gestures. Its 17-inch, 1920×1080 resolution screen has a matte coating to minimize reflections, but it’s not perfect. That coating leaves a slightly visible grid on the screen’s surface that we could see even during intense combat sequences.

We weren’t impressed by the screen’s too-thick matte coating, but it isn’t a dealbreaking flaw.

The Asus ROG G750JS-DS71 also has decent speakers and one of the best cooling systems of any laptop we’ve tested. Many gaming laptops have serious problems keeping cool and quiet during long or intense gaming sessions, and the underside, keyboard, and palm rest can get uncomfortably hot. The Asus kept all these areas somewhere between cool and a little warm to the touch without drowning out in-game audio or music.

Like many gaming laptops, the Asus ROG G750JS-DS71 is bulky, weighing almost 10 pounds (not including the chunky power brick) and measuring 16.1 inches wide, 12.5 inches deep, and 0.7 to 2.0 inches thick–that’s twice as heavy and twice as thick as the average Windows laptop and three times as much as an ultrabook. It also has decent, but not great, battery life.

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The Asus ROG G750JS-DS71 is the best gaming laptop for most people, and we came to this decision after looking at every gaming laptop currently available and testing three finalists ourselves.

How Did We Pick This Laptop?

We spent a lot of time researching components to come up with an ideal configuration that would play most current games well without being prohibitively expensive. We decided that the “ideal” gaming laptop would cost less than $2,000 and have an Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M or better GPU, an Intel Core i7-4700 CPU or higher to avoid bottlenecking the graphics card’s performance, 8 GB to 16 GB of RAM (anything more is serious overkill) and at least a 256 GB solid state drive and a 750 GB hard drive.

A Step Up In Performance

If you want to step up to the more powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 880M graphics card–it will play most games on ultra instead of high settings and, if history is any indicator, will likely outperform next year’s mid-range graphics cards, too–get the Asus ROG G750JZ-DS71. This one will be able to play most modern games on ultra, except for a handful like Watch_Dogs, Crysis 3, and other games that no single mobile GPU can handle right now.

The $2,250 G750JZ-DS71 is exactly the same chassis as the JS-DS71; it has the same screen, keyboard, and so on, but has the beefier GeForce GTX 880M graphics card, a Blu-ray reader, faster solid state storage, and more RAM. You’ll get better gaming performance now and two years down the road with this step-up model.

In our performance benchmarks, the $2,250 Asus ROG G750JZ-DS71 is on par with the $3,200 Alienware 17.

If Money Is No Object

If money is no object and you’re looking for the biggest, baddest gaming laptop around, you should get the Alienware 17. Its screen, keyboard, build quality, and speakers are better than those on the Asus, but you’ll pay an obscene amount for those improvements–the configuration we recommend costs about $3,200.

The Alienware 17 is the best gaming laptop out there, but it’s expensive.

With an Nvidia GeForce GTX 880M graphics card, Intel Core i7-4910MQ processor, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB solid state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive, the Alienware 17 performs about as well as the Asus G750JZ, but costs almost $1,000 more. It isn’t perfect, either. The Alienware 17’s fans are loud and gestures don’t work well on the trackpad, but its higher level of polish–and the Alienware name recognition–could make the huge price difference worth it for some.

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In Closing

The Asus ROG G750JS-DS71 is the best laptop for most gamers–it’s powerful, comparatively inexpensive, and has a great keyboard, trackpad, and cooling system. $1,740 can get you a machine strong enough to play most modern games on high settings and some on ultra, while remaining portable enough to take on the road or to a friend’s house.

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