Best power laptops. Best gaming laptops. We review the best gaming laptops you can buy in the UK in 2015, and offer some general gaming laptops buying advice. The best laptops for games. Best laptops reviews. Also see Best laptops 2015.
When it comes to high-end Windows gaming, we’ve cracked that. It’s a doddle to find a powerful PC system that will play the most arduous of action titles, all day long and at the highest detail on high-resolution displays.
Today’s challenge is now to squeeze that kind of performance into something quiet and portable, a gaming laptop that can be toted as easily as any other modern notebook PC.
We’ve come close with workstation-class gaming behemoths, but they weighed well in excess of 3 kg, required a mains brick that brought that mass closer to 5 kg, and sounded (and felt) like a salon hair dryer once the on-board cooling kicked in.
Thankfully the two heavyweights in computing silicon, Intel and Nvidia, have come to understand that the demand is now for power efficiency – to make central and graphics processors that carefully sip precious power rather than guzzle it, making their chips run cooler in confined spaces and without the need for huge fans or liquid cooling systems. See all laptops buying advice.
Best laptops for games: Graphics
If you’re looking for a laptop that can take on modern games, the graphics processor is the most influential component, the part that controls whether your game runs at 5 or 50 frames per second. But it does need back up. This means a capable main system processor, enough system RAM to keep applications stored in memory, sizeable and fast drives to store games and other files, a great screen to view the action on – and a good chassis to bear all these components.
Currently Intel and Nvidia are in the ascendent for both listed processor duties, with AMD’s CPUs and graphics processors lagging behind in performance and efficiency. That’s what we found from the AMD graphics contender in this group, and at this time you’ll be hard pressed to find many gaming notebooks with AMD chips, especially CPUs but GPUs are also, for the moment at least, in distinct second place.
From Intel, the fourth-generation Core series processors (codename: Haswell) are well suited to the CPU task, while this year’s Broadwell series should be even more power efficient while getting the same amount of work done.
At present though, only dual-core versions of Broadwell chips are available; the fifth-generation Core i7 quad-core processors are overdue and remain missing in action. But as we found from the dual-core machine in this group, quad-core chips are by no means a necessity for playing games.
For graphics processors, Nvidia’s 800 and 900 Series have made breakthroughs in power efficiency, allowing performance that compares with recent desktop cards but cool enough to slip into the confines of a laptop. See all laptop reviews.
Laptop screens have also improved, with screen resolutions now settling at full-HD, 1920 x 1080 pixels, and using better technology than the basic TN type found on cheap portables. Look out for IPS panels which offer wide and consistent viewing from all angles, better contrast ratio and wider colour gamuts. Don’t be misled by boasts about screen brightness – contrast ratio, especially at lower brightness settings, is far more important than dazzling your eyes with 300 cd/m^2 figures. It’s also easier to find screens now with more practical anti-glare finishes, reversing the trend of high-gloss reflective panels that were once unavoidable from most brands. And you can usually ignore the trend for greater-than-HD resolution, since the Windows OS and the graphics processors both struggle with UHD or 4K sized screens. For most gamers, 1920 x 1080 is a happy compromise between glorious on-screen detail and playable framerates.
For storage, a solid-state drive will greatly improve the user experience when it comes to booting a PC, launching programs and opening and saving files. It won’t make your games run faster, although it may reduce any short pauses between levels. Nevertheless an SSD is always recommended, with the option of a second, traditional capacious hard disk inside to keep your games stored.
Some gamers like to use headphones or headsets, especially in multi-player settings, but if you don’t anticipate spending your time donning ear defenders you should still find that modern gaming laptops run quieter today. Which means you may get to appreciate the built-in stereo speakers.
Some sport brand badges to suggest bespoke audio systems – we’ve seen B&O, Dynaudio, Harman, Klipsch and Onkyo put their names to tinny laptop speakers recently – although in our experience, to date these are more window dressing, with some of the best sounding laptops bearing no fancy badges.
Battery life is perhaps less a concern for a desktop-replacement type of gaming laptop, although that’s more a historical resignation caused by the long-standing difficulty in combining fast graphics with svelte and mains-dodging laptops.
As we discovered with one model in the following group at least, you can have a powerful gaming machine and stunning battery life, even if the unplugged runtime will dwindle more rapidly once low-power integrated graphics have switched over to hungrier gaming graphics. See how to buy a budget laptop.
13 best laptops for games: best gaming laptops
- Reviewed on: 31 March 15
- RRP: £1099 inc. VAT
The Toshiba Qosmio X70 in its ‘B’ form with Haswell processor is a relatively powerful quad-core laptop with some gaming potential. But our games tests suggest the AMD solution here is not as fast as older nVidia graphics processors, let alone the rival firm’s latest 800 and 900 series GPUs made for mobile gaming. Our experience with a flakey trackpad may be isolated but serious enough that we would hastily return this laptop for a refund if we were a paying customer. Laptop build is improved over earlier Toshiba models, but at this price we would like to see better screen quality and a real solid-state drive for storage.
Read our Toshiba Qosmio X70-B-10T review.
- Reviewed on: 15 May 15
- RRP: £1205 inc. VAT
The XMG A505 is a versatile choice if you wish to define your gaming laptop experience. Finish quality and style are conspicuously behind the leaders here, although display image is good and the Intel/Nvidia combination means the most challenging games play with ease. The second-fastest storage we’ve ever tested means one quick everyday laptop, even if storage performance counts for near nought when you’re actually playing Windows games.
Read our Schenker XMG A505 review.
- Reviewed on: 14 January 15
- RRP: £1099 inc. VAT
The XMG C504 isn't the fastest gaming laptop we've seen recently, but it provides strong performance at a competitive mid-range price. Its screen is well suited to gaming, web browsing and streaming video, and it's good to see a gaming laptop that delivers truly portable design for a change.
Read our Schenker XMG C504 review.
- Reviewed on: 13 June 14
- RRP: £1544 inc. VAT
The P504 lacks, shall we say, finesse. It's bigger and heavier than it needs to be, and combined with the poor battery life it's essentially confined to indoor activities. But what it lacks in elegance it makes up for in sheer performance. Other gaming laptops that match its performance typically cost £1600–1800, so the P504 is good value if you don't mind putting up with its rough edges.
Read our Schenker XMG P504 review.
- Reviewed on: 18 June 15
- RRP: £1822 inc. VAT
The XMG P505 is a very accomplished game player, fueled by its top-of-the-range Nvidia mobile graphics processor. The Clevo platform to support this is fairly standard chunky games machine fare, although the all-up weight of around 2.6 kg is modest by the standards of the breed. This laptop is distinguished by its premium IPS display, solid build and the graphics chip required to drive modern Windows games at their highest settings without fuss. And as a general PC it feels commensurably quick, helped along by its 1 GB/s-class PCIe solid-state drive.
Read our Schenker XMG P505 review.
- Reviewed on: 10 June 14
- RRP: £1399 inc. VAT
It's impressive to see a gaming laptop as slim and as light as this, especially one that provides such strong graphics performance. The poor screen has room for improvement, but the P35W v2 provides high-end gaming performance at a more accessible price – along with a slimline design that few gaming laptops can match.
Read our Gigabyte P35W v2 review.
- Reviewed on: 21 August 14
- RRP: £1299 inc. VAT
The GE70 2PE Apache Pro does have its flaws – it's bigger and heavier than it really needs to be, the battery life is poor, and we really dislike the trackpad. However, it delivers the goods when it comes to gaming action. That extravagant storage system allows the GE70 to squeeze maximum performance out of its processor and GPU, and ensures that it provides high-end gaming performance at a competitive mid-range price.
Read our MSI GE70 2PE Apache Pro review.
- Reviewed on: 7 November 14
- RRP: £1550 inc. VAT
The Aorus X3 Plus works well as a portable games station, providing fast framerates with modern games at high details settings. Its high-resolution screen is less obviously useful for its gaming role as fewer games may benefit from its high 262 ppi pixel density, and the Windows platform does not support absurdly high resolution displays well. When it does work you're rewarded with a pin-sharp image but remember that for gaming there's arguably little need to exceed 2560 or even 1920 screen pixel widths. Overall there's definite room for improvement by its maker but the X3 Plus should prove popular with Windows gamers looking to combine performance and portability.
Read our Aorus X3 Plus review.
5. Aorus X7 Pro
- Reviewed on: 29 January 15
- RRP: £2100 inc. VAT
With the help of nVidia's recent push to make powerful mobile graphics processors that consume less energy, the Aorus X7 Pro now turns in gaming performance once only available to desktop machines. Just make sure you pack some sound-deadening headphones to block out the white noise of high-speed fans required to keep this slim chassis cool. If you can deal with the noise you'll be able to enjoy incomparable mobile gaming.
Read our Aorus X7 Pro review.
- Reviewed on: 13 May 15
- RRP: £1750 inc. VAT
The Gigabyte P37X is built for gaming speed, based on a large 17-inch display chassis but in a thinner than traditional case. With the help of the best single-chip mobile graphics processor currently on the market it can play any game you want, up to very high rendering quality. It may not stand out in style but it gets the job done, albeit at a high price.
Read our Gigabyte P37X review.
- Reviewed on: 14 May 15
- RRP: £1299 inc. VAT
While still not especially petite by the standards of some 15-inch laptops – its footprint is 14 percent larger than a MacBook Pro despite its smaller display – the MSI GS60 2QD-470UK does manage to keep within the magic size and weight figures of 2.0 kg and 20 mm, making it the most totable gaming laptop in its category. It has the graphics processor to take on modern games up to their highest detail settings, and is only let down by noisy fans and a relatively short battery life.
Read our MSI GS60 2QD-470UK review.
2. Alienware 13
- Reviewed on: 13 May 15
- RRP: £1100 inc. VAT
The Alienware 13 is a compact yet very powerful laptop, suited to playing all modern Windows games. It’s chunky thick but relatively light in weight, and has been well designed and equipped to be a premium yet still portable powerhouse.
Read our Alienware 13 review.
1. Aorus X7 V2
- Reviewed on: 14 October 14
- RRP: £1725 inc. VAT
The Aorus X7 v2 is a sturdily made all-metal gaming laptop that keeps its waistline to around 1in, even if it still tips the scales beyond 3kg. With its dual-GPU setup it proved itself the fastest gaming laptop in the group, albeit with an unsurprising price premium.
Read our Aorus X7 V2 review.