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2017 YugaTech Buyers Guide: Gaming Laptops

Looking for the right device to fit your needs can be quite frustrating, especially when there are a lot of products to choose from on the market, and gaming laptops are no exception. From the graphics card to the RAM, to the processor and screen, there are a lot of factors to consider, and this can drive you crazy. Believe us, we know. Nothing, however, beats the feeling of finally finding your next best friend who, for the next few years, will share all your rage, tears, awe, secrets and happiness. That’s what we’re here for, to help you find your next gaming partner. Without further ado, here’s our guide for this year’s Gaming Laptops.

Author’s Note: This is a guide and not a list, prices and availabilities of laptops featured in the article may change without prior notice. Only components and laptops that are available on the market were featured. We strictly stuck to Intel on the processor side as these are more readily available than AMD APU’s. Specs listed are the ones you could expect and doesn’t necessarily mean they are the only ones available. Oh and buckle up, it’s going to be a long read.

What specs do I need?

The very first step in choosing any device is by answering the question — “What will I use it for?”. In this case, it will be for gaming and for that these are the specs you’ll need to prioritize in order of importance:

  1. GPU
  2. CPU
  3. Upgradeability and Expandability
  4. RAM
  5. Display
  6. Storage
  7. Personal Preference (Brand, Keyboard, Speakers, Color, Etc.)

GPU and CPU

The most important spec to look at for gaming is the laptop’s GPU or Graphical Processing Unit. This acts as the unit’s muscle, which will effectively do most of the heavy lifting in games. This is then followed by the CPU or Central Processing Unit, which functions as the laptops brain. It shares some of the heavy lifting in games, as the GPU can only reach its maximum potential if the CPU can tell it what to do fast enough. That having been said, you would really want to buy a laptop with dedicated graphics, as the integrated graphics that come with most CPUs are generally not powerful enough for a great gaming experience.

It’s advised to get laptops with Nvidia’s 10-series Pascal GPUs if possible since these cards have a big performance leap over the previous 900M Maxwell series. For the CPU, aim for at least a 6th gen Intel processor. Though Intel has already released its 7th gen processors, these offer little performance improvement over the previous generation. One more thing, GPU’s have what we call Video RAM (VRAM). While having higher VRAM allows you to play games at higher graphics settings, there aren’t many games that actually require large amounts of VRAM. 2GB of VRAM is typically enough to run most of today’s games.

Upgradeability and expandability

Now you might ask, why is this the third one on the list? Well, most of the internal parts of a laptop are upgradeable, save for the CPU and GPU, hence the reason why these two should always be your top priority when choosing a mobile game station or any laptop for that matter. Other parts like RAM and Storage, in one way or the other, can be upgraded most of the time. which is why after choosing the CPU and GPU, be sure to check which of its other parts can be swapped out for an upgrade. In doing so, you will be able to focus more on spending your current budget on what actually matters, while still having the assurance of an upgrade path. If you are the type of gamer that has a lot of peripherals like monitors, keyboards, and mouse then having the right input and output (I/O) ports are important in which case you should then also prioritize looking for the right laptop that could support your setup. And if you can search for a laptop with support for Thunderbolt 3, a port that supports external GPUs (e-GPU) then this would significantly extend your devices shelf life and upgradeability.

RAM

The component that will handle most of the systems multi-tasking and program loading would be the RAM or Random Access Memory modules. As I’ve said, though RAM is an integral part of the system, it is also one of the easiest to upgrade, which is why it comes after considering your laptops upgradeability. But still, consider getting a system with a high base RAM capacity, as games today tend to have pretty high RAM requirements out of the bat. Think of RAM as your desk at the office. The bigger your desk, the faster you’ll be able to sift through your files. The minimum amount of RAM in today’s gaming age is 8GB. Laptops don’t have unlimited RAM upgradeability though, and this all depends on the number of RAM slots a laptop has, as well as the maximum capacity your system’s actual chipset can support. Some laptops can support up to a max of 32GB or even 64GB, so make sure to look at the spec sheet of the unit you’re eyeing.

Display

This part shouldn’t be that much of a priority unless you’ll also be using the laptop for content creation work, or you’re playing games at the competitive level, in which case put this on top of the list right after choosing the CPU and GPU. The display is more than a means to provide high-resolution image viewing or eye-popping visuals when used for gaming, other factors like response times, refresh rates, and display types come into play. Refresh rate, measured in Hertz (Hz), refers to the number of times per second a display refreshes the image on screen. Response time, measured in milliseconds (ms), on the other hand, is the amount of time it takes for a pixel to exhibit a change from black to white, or from one shade of gray to another. Both of these factors will affect motion blur and ghosting which are some of the phenomena you might experience in games. To have a smoother gaming experience you would want high refresh rates and faster response times. The bare minimum refresh rate and response time for gaming are 60hz and 5ms, respectively.

Next are display types, of which there are currently two that are readily available on laptops — Twisted Nematic (TN) and In-plane Switching (IPS). TN panels in general, are cheaper and have faster response times and higher refresh rates but poorer viewing angles and color accuracy, while IPS panels have better viewing angles and color accuracy but slower response times and lower refresh rates. If you play fast games like FPS, MOBA, and RTS then TN panels are your choice. But if you are more of an MMORPG or RPG gamer, then you would benefit more from the added visuals and better viewing angles of IPS panels. The color accuracy associated with IPS panels will also help those who are also content creators. That being said, laptops with high refresh rates and fast response time displays generally tend to be a lot more expensive.

If you’re more of a casual gamer or could care less about how your game looks, then any display will do. Or, if you fancy, you could just hook up an external monitor.

Storage

Perhaps the most upgradeable part in a laptop and the easiest to be remedied. The only important decision you should make here is looking for a laptop with a Solid State Drive (SSD) out of the box. SSD’s load programs and applications faster than your average Hard Drive (HDD), however, laptops with SSD’s tend to be more expensive. Do take note that even though most laptops can take an SSD, most of the cheaper units would require you to swap out your HDD for one. To be able to still take advantage of your original HDD without swapping it out, look for laptops with an M.2 SSD slot. The disadvantage of having an SSD is that they have a shorter shelf life due to being a digital drive, as opposed to a Hard Drive which is mechanical. As a general rule, you would want to at least aim for a laptop with a 1TB 7200rpm HDD. Rotations per minute (RPM) is the speed indicator for HDD’s. With a higher RPM, your Hard Drive can load programs and applications faster. It’s also highly recommended that you go and get yourself an external Hard Drive as games today tend to have high storage requirements. Trust us, you’ll see that 1TB drive go red, sooner than you’d expect.

There are times when you might encounter laptops with an SSHD, which is a hybrid drive between a Hard Drive and a Solid State Drive. Its performance sits in-between an HDD and SSD. While a good alternative, laptops with this kind of drive are rare.

Ports

Ports are usually one of the last things you should consider when choosing a gaming laptop as nowadays they have good port selections. Look for a laptop that has at least an HDMI port and two to three USB ports with at least one USB 3.0.

Personal Preference

For gamers, the laptop’s brand, color, speakers, trackpad, dimensions, and keyboard are the last things you should consider, as peripherals like speakers, headsets, keyboards, and mice are readily available. Plus, there are a ton of peripherals out there designed for gaming, that can further enhance your gaming experience beyond what your laptop can initially offer.

You may be wondering why we did not include thermals in this list. Well the reason is, there is no way to determine a laptop’s thermals unless you use it over prolonged periods of time. For this aspect, most people would have to rely on reviews or first-hand user accounts of people who actually own the device.

Budget

The next step would be setting and meeting your budget. To help you meet your budget let’s discuss the specs you can expect from laptops at certain price points.

Sidenote: For gaming performance, we checked the laptops GPU capabilities at max resolution. Top picks are base on the price to performance ratio of the laptops.

Under Php 15k

As much as this pains us, we regret to inform you that no there is no such thing as a gaming laptop under 15k, it is a myth, a legend. Unless you are willing to buy 2nd hand, grey market, or old units, you will find yourself on a ghost hunt. There may be times where a unit capable of gaming will reach this price point perhaps during sales or warehouse clearances, but until then, we advise that you wait a little longer and try to increase your budget.

16-25k

Specs to expect
Display13-15.6" HD (1280 x 720) displays, most probably TN
ProcessorIntel Pentium Quad Core Series
5th gen to 6th gen Intel Core i3 Series (ULV versions)
GPUIntel HD internal Graphics cards
Entry-level Radeon R5 M330 and R5 M430 discrete GPU's
Entry-level Nvidia GT920 and 930MX discrete GPU's
RAMup to 4GB, some are upgradeable
Mostly one slot
Internal StorageHDD up to 1TB 5200rpm HDD, upgradeable
M.2 SSD slots are rare
Operating SystemMS DOS
Windows 10

Laptops at this price point are powered by Intel’s Pentium Quad Core series up to their Core i3 series of processors, up to 1TB of HDD storage, up to 4GB RAM, and at least an entry-level discrete AMD Radeon or Nvidia GPU. Intel U processors like the i3-6006U are the low-power versions of Intel’s chips, and are geared towards ultrabooks and lighter notebooks. These processors are designed to be more efficient than their non-U siblings, thus allowing them to consume less power. This price point is still a bit tricky, though, as most of the laptops you’ll find here have no dedicated GPU and rely on their CPU’s integrated graphics. At best, you’ll be able to play light to moderate games on low settings. For those with discrete GPU’s, expect low to medium settings on light to moderate games, and very low settings on more demanding ones at a maximum resolution of 720p.

Top pick for this price range: ASUS X441UR-GA020T @ Php 23,990.00 (Dynaquest) 
Quick Specs:
14.0in (16:9) LED-backlit HD (1366×768) 60Hz Glare Panel with 45% NTSC
Intel Core i3-7100U 3.90GHz
NVIDIA GeForce 930MX, with 2GB VRAM
4GB DDR4 RAM
500GB 5400RPM SATA HDD
Windows 10 Home

25-35k

Specs to expect
Display14-15.6" HD (1280 x 720) or FHD (1920 x 1080) Displays, mostly probably TN
Processor6th to 7th gen Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 Series (ULV versions)
GPUEntry-level Radeon R5 M315, R5 M330, and R5 M430 discrete GPU's
Entry level Nvidia 920MX, 930MX, 940M, and 940MX discrete GPU's
RAMup to 4GB, some can be upgraded
Mostly one slot
Internal Storageup to 1TB 5200rpm HDD, upgradeable
M.2 SSD slots are rare
Operating SystemMS DOS
Windows 10

This price point is considered to be the entry-level for gaming. Laptops will be powered by Intel’s Core i3 series up to their Core i7U series of processors, up to 1TB of HDD storage, up to 4GB RAM, and at least an entry-level discrete AMD Radeon or Nvidia GPU. You can now comfortably choose among laptops with discrete GPU’s at this point, expect medium to high settings on light to moderate games, and low to medium settings on more demanding ones at 720p resolution. These laptops generally still can’t support gaming at 1080p Full HD, which is why even if some of these laptops feature 1080p Full HD displays, it’s recommended to play games at lower resolutions to enjoy smoother gameplay.

Top pick for this price range: ASUS VIVOBOOK X442UQ-FA005T @ Php 30,990 (PCWorx)
Quick Specs:
14.0″ (16:9) LED-backlit FHD (1920×1080) 60Hz Anti-Glare Panel with 45% NTSC
Intel® Core™ i5 7200U Processor
NVIDIA GeForce 940MX, with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM
4GB DDR4 RAM
1TB 5400RPM SATA HDD
Windows 10

35-45k

Specs to expect
Display14-15.6" HD (1280 x 720) or FHD (1920 x 1080), mostly TN, some IPS
Processor6th to 8th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7 series
GPUEntry-level Nvidia 940MX and MX150 discrete GPUs
Mid-range Nvidia GTX 950M, GTX 960M, and GTX 1050 discrete GPUs
RAMup to 8GB, upgradeable
up to 2 slots
Internal Storageup to 1TB 7200rpm HDD, upgradeable
up to one M.2 SSD slot
Operation SystemMS DOS
Windows 10

You are now entering the mid-range territory. Laptops at this price range are powered by Intel’s Core i5 series up to their Core i7 series of processors, up to 1TB of HDD storage, up to 8GB of RAM, and at least a mid-range discrete Nvidia GPU. Upgradeability at this point is almost guaranteed with a few even having M.2 SSD slots and two RAM slots. Now that we’ve hit the non-U processor territory, it’s time to kill the long believed misconception that Core i5 processors are not enough for gaming. While it’s true having a Core i7 processor will give you a little bit more performance, you may start to see diminishing returns here with respect to gaming. So in reality, if they are of the same generation, a Core i5 would have an almost identical performance as its i7 sibling when it comes to gaming. So yes, Core i5’s are more than enough for gaming, and unless it’s within your budget or you also plan to create content or do some programming, the added cost of getting an i7 just isn’t worth it. For gaming performance expect medium to ultra settings on light to moderate games, and medium settings on more demanding ones at 1080presolution.

Top picks for this price range: 

Acer Aspire VX15 VX5-591G-51DL @ Php 44,500 (Pc Corner)
Quick Specs:
15.6″ 16:9 Full HD (1920 x 1080)
Intel Core i5-7300HQ 2.50GHz Processor
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 4GB VRAM
4GB DDR4 RAM
1TB HDD
Windows 10

ASUS FX553VD @ Php 39,995 via cash (Asus authorized stores)
Quick Specs:
15.6″ (16:9) LED backlit FHD (1920×1080) display
Intel Core i5-7300HQ 2.50GHz Processor
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 2GB GDDR5 VRAM
4GB DDR4 RAM
1TB HDD
Windows 10

45-55k

Specs to expect
Display15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080), Mostly IPS, some TN
Processor6th to 8th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7 Series
GPUEntry-level Nvidia MX150 discrete GPU
Mid range Nvidia GTX 950M, GTX 960M, and GTX 1050 discrete GPUs
Entry-level Top Tier Nvidia GTX 1050Ti discrete GPU
Top tier Nvidia GTX 1060 discrete GPU
RAMup to 8GB, upgradeable
up to 2 slots
Internal Storageup to 1TB 7200rpm HDD, upgradeable
up to two M.2 SSD slots
Operating SystemMS DOS
Windows 10

We’re now in the upper mid-range level. Laptops at this price point are powered by Intel’s Core i5 series up to their Core i7 series of processors, up to 1TB of HDD storage @ 7200rpm, up to 8GB of RAM, Full HD 1080p IPS displays, and at least a mid-range discrete Nvidia 10-series Pascal GPU. Upgrades are guaranteed, laptops have at least one M.2 Slot and two RAM Slots. For gaming performance expect medium to ultra settings on light to heavy games at 1080p resolution. This price point is where you’ll readily meet the most notorious laptops of various brands for this year — The Acer VX15, ASUS FX Series, Dell 7567, Lenovo Legion Y520, and The HP Omen Series. The variants of these laptops have identical internal specs across the board and will only differ in external appearance, other parts, and most importantly price. We have to give huge props to ASUS’ FX502VM for being the only laptop at this price point to feature a GTX 1060 at such a low price.

Top pick for this guide: ASUS FX502VM DM092T @ Php 49,995 (PC Corner)
Quick Specs:
15.6″ (16:9) LED-backlit FHD (1920×1080) 60Hz Anti-Glare Panel
Intel Core i5-7300HQ 2.50GHz Processor
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060, with 3GB GDDR5 VRAM
8GB DDR4 RAM
1TB  HDD
Windows 10

55k-65K

Specs to expect
Display15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080), Mostly IPS, Some TN
Processor6th to 8th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7 series
GPUMid range Nvidia GTX 1050 discrete GPU
Entry-level top tier Nvidia GTX 1050Ti discrete GPU
Top tier Nvidia GTX 1060 discrete GPU
RAMup to 16GB, upgradeable
up to 2 slots
Internal Storageup to 1TB 7200rpm, upgradeable
up to 128GB SSD, upgradeable
up to 2 M.2 SSD slot
Operating SystemMS DOS
Windows 10

You’ve now entered the entry-level of the top-tier. This is also the golden price point when it comes to price-to-performance ratio. Laptops at this price point are powered by Intel’s Core i5 series up to their Core i7 series of processors, up to 1TB of HDD and 128GB of SSD storage, up to 16GB of RAM, Full HD 1080p IPS displays, and at least a mid-range Nvidia 10-series Pascal GPU. Gaming performance at this price point dramatically increases, expect ultra settings on light to moderate games, and high to ultra settings on more demanding ones at 1080p resolution. Full HD gaming maxes out at this point since Nvidia’s GTX 1060 GPU can run most games at high to ultra settings at this resolution. Rest assured that any laptop you buy at this price range will be able to satisfy your gaming needs for at least 3 or more years before you even feel the need to lower the settings or resolution. We now urge you to rely on your personal preferences at this point since any of these laptops are considered to be good buys.

You might notice that for the Helios 300 (mentioned below) GPU overclocking is possible. Overclocking means pushing your components over its supposed limit to increase performance. While this will undoubtedly increase your systems speeds, overclocking will also increase power draw and generate more heat and stress.

Top pick for this price range:

Acer Predator Helios 300 G3-571-51NK @ Php 64,995 (PC Corner)
Quick Specs:
15.6″ IPS Full HD (1920 x 1080)
Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor 2.8GHz with TurboBoost up to 3.8 GHz
NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1060 with 6 GB GDDR5 VRAM
8GB DDR4 RAM
1TB 5400rpm HDD
Windows 10

65-75K

Specs to expect
Display15.6-17.3" FHD (1920 x 1080) Mostly IPS, Some high-quality TN
Processor6th to 7th Gen Intel Core i7 Series
GPUEntry-level top tier Nvidia GTX 1050Ti discrete GPU
Top tier Nvidia GTX 1060 discrete GPU
RAMup to 16GB, upgradeable
up to 2 slots
Internal Storageup to 1TB 7200rpm HDD, upgradeable
up to 256GB SSD, upgradeable
up to 2 M.2 SSD slots
Operating SystemMS DOS
Windows 10

This price point is considered to be the mid-range of top-tier gaming laptops. You’ll be able to readily buy laptops with SSD’s and Nvidia’s GTX 1060 at this point. Laptops at this price point are powered by Intel’s Core i7 series of processors, up to 1TB of HDD and 256GB SSD, up to 16GB of RAM, Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS displays, and at least a top tier Nvidia 10-series Pascal GPU. Expect to run most games at high to ultra settings at 1920 x 1080 resolution. Anything you buy at this price point will cover your gaming needs for at least 3-5 years. Once again, it will now come down to personal preference at this point.

Top pick for this price range: Any Laptop with Nvidia’s GTX 1060

75k and up

Specs to expect
Display15.6"-21" FHD (1920 x 1080), QHD/2K , 4K displays with G-sync, Mostly IPS or TN with high refresh rates and fast response times
Processor6th to 7th Gen Intel Core i7 mobile and desktop series processors
GPUTop tier Nvidia GTX 1060, GTX 1070, and GTX 1080 discrete GPU's
Top tier desktop Nvidia GTX 1070, and 1080 discrete GPU
Some in SLI (Multiple GPU Setup)
RAMup to 64GB, upgradeable
up to 4 slots
Storageup to 2TB 7200rpm HDD, upgradeable
up to 1TB SSD, upgradeable
up to 2 M.2 SSD slots
Operating SystemMS DOS
Windows 10

Now at this price point, it’s hard to go wrong because from here on out, you’ll meet the best the market has to offer. You’ll now encounter terms like G-sync, SLI, liquid cooling, and ThunderBolt 3. You’ll now get to see laptops that are powered by desktop-grade components, up to 2TB of HDD and 1TB of SSD storage, up to 64GB of RAM, up to 4K displays, and at least a top tier Nvidia 10-series pascal GPU. G-sync is Nvidia’s display technology that aids in keeping your games as smooth as possible. Displays with this technology will actively and accurately match your screen’s refresh rate to the frame rate output of your GPU to avoid screen tearing and other phenomena like ghosting. Scalable Link Interface (SLI) is Nvidia’s technology that allows a system to use multiple GPU’s at once. Liquid cooling, as the name suggests, is a cooling method where instead of fans and air, water is used to control a units temperature, so far only ASUS has ventured into this territory with their flagship GX800 series of laptops. ThunderBolt 3 is a hardware interface created by Intel that uses USB Type-C as a connector. This technology, apart from providing faster connections, enables laptops to have access to external GPU setups, effectively providing users a way to upgrade their systems GPU.

Top picks for this price range: Laptop Brands Flagship Devices — ASUS’ GX series, MSI’s GT Dominator series, Acer’s Predator Series, and Dell’s Alienware Series.

And there you have it. In the end, it will still come down to what your budget permits and what your heart wants. This article only serves as a guide to help you along the way, and not to control your decisions. As a last piece of advice, always be on the lookout for sales or special events to get the best deals out there. If we missed out on a few things or got anything wrong, do give us a heads up at the comments section below. We will update this article as soon as new laptops get released.


Zen Estacio is a Multimedia Producer for YugaTech. He is the team's laptop guru and one of their resident gamers. He has a monthly column compiling the latest and greatest the Nintendo Switch has to offer. Aside from that, he regularly writes gaming news, reviews, and impressions. You can hit him up at @papanZEN

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5 Responses

  1. mot says:

    misleading nmn prices ng iba dito.. ASUS FX553VD malabo sa 40k yan. lol

  2. GravityMaster says:

    Why dell inspiron 7567 is not in the list? Sad. :(

    • Zen Estacio says:

      As stated this is a guide and not a list.:), but worry not that laptop is one of the good choices out there.:)

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