The best all-around gaming laptops of 2018

  • February 22, 2019

The state of gaming laptops in 2018 is unlike anything we’ve seen before. With PC manufacturers cranking out systems that are lighter, thinner, and have better battery life than previous generations, plus they’re moving away from flashy, gaudy designs that we’ve come to associate with gaming gear, instead producing systems that are more suitable for use in places like work. In terms of specs and power, all of these machines are using the same processor, Intel’s eighth generation Core i7 six-core chip, and similar graphics cards. Two years ago, laptops with this much power would weigh more than eight pounds, have awful design, and had singular purpose, but now they’re under five pounds, as thin as a MacBook Pro, and can last for hours on a charge.

These are the closest systems we’ve seen to straddling the line between gaming performance and productivity, and the Razer Blade is the most regular-looking of the gaming laptops in this group. It has a unibody aluminum design and up to a 144 Hz refresh rate on a full HD display. If you plan on playing games on this computer, I would suggest a high refresh rate. It’s a no-brainer, but if you’re a creative and you want a 4K touchscreen option, Razer offers that as well, and you can use the GPU for that instead. Regardless of which display you choose, the Razer Blade has thin bezels that are suitable for viewing at all angles, and it also keeps the webcam in the right place.

The new Razer Blade is fully capable of playing popular PC games at their highest settings, League of Legends, Rainbow Six Siege, Fortnite, Counter-Strike, and yes, even Destiny 2. The drawback is that it’s expensive. As configured, this unit has a GTX 1070 and a 512 GB solid-state drive for $2600.

However, my main issue with the Razer Blade is that it just gets too hot, under heavy strain. The top row of the keyboard, the palm rests, and underneath the laptop just become unbearable to touch. You can manually increase or decrease fan speed and noise using the Razer Synapse app, but that’s all at the benefit or deficit of the graphics card. Honestly, all that fiddling around for a laptop that’s over $2000 is just unacceptable. Also the keyboard and key caps are tiny.

Despite it’s shortcomings, Razer still has one of the best gaming laptops out there. You can still get around five to six hours of battery life on a single charge, while browsing the web or watching a video. It’s not great by Ultrabook standards, but for a gaming laptop of this performance, it’s acceptable. (upbeat music) The other new gaming laptop that I really like is MSI’s GS65 Stealth Thin. Yes, that’s the full name, but it’s the thinnest and lightest of the laptops in this group, most similar to a 15-inch MacBook Pro.

It also has a six-core Core i7, a GTX 1070 with Max-Q design, a downclocked version of the original card for thermals, and better port selection than the Blade. There’s also a SteelSeries RGB-backlit keyboard with wide, shallow keys that I personally found the most comfortable of the laptops I’ve tested in this category. The MSI does a great job of thermals, shifting hot air away from the keyboard and the palms rests. On top of that, the GS65 is a few hundred dollars less than the similarly equipped Razer Blade, while not giving up anything in terms of performance or capability. Aesthetically, the MSI takes an even more mature approach to gaming laptop design with no obnoxious light up logos. Unfortunately, the build quality isn’t that good, with flex in the keyboard, touch pad, and even the lid.

The ASUS Zephyrus M, Digital Storm Equinox, and the Gigabyte Aero 15X are all capable of playing games at high or ultra settings, also have 144 Hz, full HD displays, and six-core processors, but of the three, I’d only recommend the ASUS, which has the best cooling of the systems here. When you lift the lid, a mechanism opens the bottom plate. ASUS calls this Active Aerodynamic System, complete with red lighting if it’s plugged in.

The Zephyrus M can drive a full mobile GTX 1070 instead of the downclocked Max-Q versions in the Blade and the MSI. The MSI and the Razer are my favorite laptops here because they’re thin and light, they have solid performance, and honestly they’re the better looking of the bunch. Still it’s baffling in 2018 that laptops over $2000 don’t have fingerprint-based login or Windows Hello support via facial recognition. Still, it’s becoming obvious to PC manufacturers that gaming laptops are in fact laptops and not one-trick ponies. Hey, thanks for watching. Let me know what your favorite gaming laptop was in the comments below or if you didn’t have a favorite at all, and be sure to subscribe to the Verge Science YouTube channel.

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Candice Lawrence

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