Best gaming laptops for back to school

It’s always handy to have a laptop with you when you need to do work away from home. With the next school year approaching, it might be time to invest in one, or maybe upgrade your existing one. Don’t worry though, we know that as well as your word documents and spreadsheets, you’ll want to do some gaming too, so we’ve got you covered.  

Razer Blade 14

The Razer Blade 14 is a high-end but svelte option that offers a GeForce GTX 970M with 6GB video memory, which will be much more up your alley if you’re looking to play modern games. Again, you can drop the price a bit by doing down to a 256GB SSD rather than the 512GB version, but we’d normally recommend the higher capacities. The Blade has a 14-inch QHD+ touch screen display at 3200x1800 resolution, 16GB DDR3 RAM, and a Skylake 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU. While the GPU won’t be running at the native resolution smoothly, you’ll get nice frame rates at 1080p. 

Most importantly though, the Razer Blade is a beautiful thing to look at. Plus, it’s tiny, and therefore extremely portable. It’s not even an inch tall, and weighs just 2.05kg. If you’ve got the money, then the build quality and look of the thing almost makes up for its not-so-mind-blowing specifications.  

 MSI GT72S Dominator Pro G-041 

Seriously now, this is super for people who have more money than they know what to do with, even more than the Razer Blade. The MSI GT72S Dominator Pro G-041 has crazy specs, and is a desktop-replacement laptop. It’s got a 2.9-3.8GHz Intel Core i7-6920HQ CPU, and 32GB of DDR4 RAM. For storage, it has Super Raid 4 512GB PCIe SSD (2x256GB), plus a 1TB HDD. Plus, it’s cheating by having a desktop GPU in the GeForce GTX 980. The only disappointment here is the 17.3-inch display with a resolution of 1920x1080 - but it is an IPS panel, and supports G-Sync. 


MSI has somehow managed to not go overboard with the weight here too. While the 3.9kg is fairly hefty for a laptop, but there are much heavier chassis out there, and you can forgive it for what’s under the hood. At 16.9 x 11.6 x 1.9 inches, it’s also not the smallest laptop around, so bear all this in mind if you’re going to be transporting it around a lot. Also make sure you like the look of it. The aggressive, angular design and the red and black colors may not be for everyone.   

 Lenovo IdeaPad Y700

This Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 is a decent mid-range gaming laptop at $200 off right now. The main problem here is some of the components are getting a bit long in the tooth, and you don’t get an SSD. You do get an Intel Core i7-6700 2.6GHz processor, 8GB RAM, and a GeForce 960M graphics card. It has an IPS 15.6-inch display with a 1920x1080 resolution, but the 960M won’t handle any more than that. 

It’s fairly compact, at 15.2 x 1 x 10.9-inches, although it does weigh a surprising 2.58kg. Not exactly backbreaking, but you might notice it on your shoulder after a while. Its design is somewhere along the lines of the MSI Dominator Pro-lite. A more muted red and black color palette, and the lines are a bit less obvious too. It won’t draw too many stares, but it’s a decent looking laptop. 

 Dell XPS 15

The Dell XPS 15 is more expensive than the Lenovo above, but it does have an advantage in its faster CPU and addition of an SSD. This one has a Skylake 3.5GHz i7-6700HQ and a 256GB SSD, but everything else is roughly the same. A 15.6-inch display, 8GB RAM, and a GeForce 960M GPU mean you’ll get okay performance in games, but again, that graphics card isn’t exactly future proof at this point. 

At 14.1 x 9.3 x 0.7-inches, it’s only just a little bit wider than the Razer Blade, a laptop known for being small, and it actually weighs less, at 1.76kg. You’ll barely even notice carrying this thing around, and it’s not flashy at all, so you won’t feel embarrassed taking your gaming machine out into the real world. 

In our tests, the XPS 15 would be our ideal every day laptop, but at over two grand, it's on the high side.

 Aorus X3 Plus 

$500 is a huge saving on the Aorus X3 Plus right now, bringing it down to a pretty sweet spot in terms of performance. It’s running a Skylake Core i7-6700HQ processor at 2.6GHz, it’s got 16GB RAM, and a handy 512GB SSD which you’ll be paying a premium for on most of the other laptops on this list. Plus, it’s got an Nvidia GeForce 970M, which will give you good performance at 1080p on high graphics settings. It’s only a 14-inch display, but it does have a resolution of 3200x1800.


That smaller display means it’s compact too. It comes in under an inch thick, and weighs 1.72kg, even lighter than the Dell above (although that one does have a bigger display). How much you like the look of this laptop will depend on how much you like the Aorus logo. It’s front and center on the lid, and it’s on the trackpad too. The extra little bit of plastic at the back makes it look even more like a beak when the laptop is opening and closing as well, so if you like the bird theme, this could be the one for you. 

 HP Omen 

The HP Omen is a slightly more affordable option that still gives you the luxury of an okay sized SSD and a dedicated graphics card. The Intel Core i7-4720HQ is a nice, yet aging processor, and you’ll also get 8GB RAM (although it’s only DDR3L), and a GeForce 960M graphics card, which will get the job done. The screen is a 15.6-inch IPS touchscreen at 1920x1080 resolution, so you can find better elsewhere, but you’ll be paying a lot more. It’s also got 4 USB 3.0 ports, which is more than most of the other laptops on this list. That’s a bonus, because you’ll probably be using two of them more often than not for a headset and mouse.

The Omen is the thinnest laptop on this list, at somehow just 0.6-inches thick. It’s 15.1 inches wide, and 9.7 inches long, so it’s small, but it does weigh 2.13kg thanks to the size of the display. Black and red is apparently “in” at the moment, but you won’t really notice it until you open the lid, as the red is mainly on the keyboard and down the sides. 

 Dell Inspiron 15 

The Dell Inspiron 15 gets into cheaper territory because of its lower end CPU, but it’s not terrible, and offers good value against its competitors. The Intel i5-6300HQ is still a 2.3GHz quad core processor with 6M Cache, it just doesn’t put out quite the same performance numbers as the i7-6700HQ. This Dell has a GTX 960M, which we’ve talked about before, and 8GB of DDR3L RAM. As for the display, you’ve got a wide-angle 15.6-inch full HD IPS panel.

We’re still on the black and red theme, although there’s barely a splash of crimson here. For the most part, this looks like a pretty normal, bland laptop. It’s quite hefty too, weighing 2.57kg, but it’s nice and thin, measuring 15.1 x 10.4 x 1 inches.  

 Asus RoG G752VT-DH74 

Asus makes some good gaming laptops, and the RoG G752VT is one of the best of the bunch. It’s got a Skylake Intel Core i7-6700HQ, much like many of the other laptops on this list, but it also houses an impressive 24GB DDR4 RAM. The graphics card is a GeForce 970M, so not top of the line, but it’ll give you good performance on the 17.3-inch IPS GSync display with its 1920 x 1080 resolution.

 
People are going to know this is a gaming machine when they see it. It’s got a shiny, metallic finish, and plenty of color on the back (orange this time, a refreshing departure from red). It’s got a nice keyboard too, backlit and ergonomically designed. It’s a big old machine though, weighing just about 4kg and measuring 16.4 x 12.7 x 1.5 inches.