If you had believed all along that gaming laptops cost a hell of a lot of money, you would have been absolutely right till sometime back. However, over the last 12 months or so, things have become rather different. Prices of laptops have fallen, lowering the entry barrier. Entry level models upwards, now pack in much better specifications. What we have specifically focused on in this feature are the gaming capabilities, which apart from other specifications, relies critically on the graphics card. And not just any graphics card. Through our experience after extensively testing a variety of laptop graphic chips, we have narrowed down our recommendation to a few select ones, from AMD and Nvidia.
The one MAJOR thing to look out for
But, before we get down to actually suggesting some particular laptops, there are some things you should keep in mind. Primarily, just not any laptop is a gaming laptop. Yes, you will get a 13-inch, 14-inch or a 15.6-inch screen in most cases, along with a variety of dual core and quad core processors. But, that is not enough to play F1 2013, for example. What you need is a good graphics card - minimum 1GB of dedicated memory - as they would say on the shop floor. Anything less, and the experience will be ruined. The integrated graphics, be it Intel’s HD series or AMD’s lower end APUs, are not enough for anything more than basic gaming.
Apart from the graphics bit, you also need to ensure that the rest of the specifications are up to the mark of what you require, as per your specific usage scenario.
Now that we have that sorted, it is time to get you introduced to the 15 best laptops that we believe are the ones that you should consider buying, if in the market for a similar machine this Diwali. The list is arranged in ascending order according to price, and not in terms of any personal bias or preferences.
HP Pavilion 15-n006ax
Approx Market price: Rs. 31,990
Quite honestly, you will not get a gaming machine below Rs. 30,000, and that is the minimum budget you should keep. The HP Pavilion 15 is one of the first machines that you must consider, if you're on a strict budget. You get the AMD Quad-Core A4-5000 clocking at 1.5GHz, 4GB of RAM, 15.6-inch (1366 x 768 pixesl) screen and a 500GB hard drive. Critically, there is the AMD Radeon HD 8670M (1GB dedicated) graphics chip to take care of gaming. One of the lowest priced machines with a capable graphics card, and one of the fairly capable ones that you must consider. Comes preloaded with Windows 8.
Lenovo Essential G505s (59-379987)
Approx Market price: Rs. 36,500
A little more dough gets a little extra power. The Essential G505s packs in an AMD Quad-Core A4-5550M APU clocking at 2.1GHz, along with 4GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. The G505s also gets a 15.6-inch (1366 x 768 pixel) screen, but the gaming experience gets a boost with the AMD Radeon HD 8570 (2GB dedicated) graphics. Fairly powerful graphics, and for well under Rs. 40,000, you do get a fair bang for the buck. Preloaded with Windows 8.
ASUS Elite S56CM-X0177H
Approx Market price: Rs. 38,000
This is one of the surprise packages that we have come across - Intel Core i3-3217U processor, 4GB RAM, 500GB hard drive with 24GB flash for caching, and a 15.6-inch display with the fairly standard 1366 x 768 pixel resolution. Excellent build quality, because this machine was priced a tad higher earlier, and has seen a price correction over time. Packs in a fairly powerful Nvidia GeForce GT635M (2GB dedicated) graphics. Thanks to the caching storage drive, this has fairly ultrabook-ish specs and will offer very smooth performance. Buy this, if you are a slightly old-fashioned person when it comes to the Intel vs. AMD processor choice.
Dell Inspiron 14
Approx Market price: Rs. 40,590
The Inspiron 14 is available in a variety of specifications and combinations. We are specifically recommending the one that packs in an Intel Core i3-3227U processor, 4GB RAM, 500GB hard drive and has a 14-inch (1366 x 768 pixel) display. For your gaming bit, the Inspiron 14 has the Nvidia GeForce GT730M (2GB) graphics. Comes preloaded with Windows 8, and the 14-inch screen makes it a tad more comfortable to carry around than the bigger screen versions. Somehow, we expected a flash partition for caching tasks that would have improved performance immensely, but that is not available yet on non-ultrabook machines.
Approx Market price: Rs. 41,990
Samsung has, over the last 12 months, offered some great deals on laptops. The Series 5 Ultra Touch ultrabook was one such prime example. On the more conventional laptops’ front, this particular machine gets an Intel Core i5-3230M @ 2.6GHz, 4GB RAM, 1TB hard drive and a 15.6-inch (1366 x 768 pixel) display. The AMD Radeon HD7670M (2GB) chip was possibly the best graphics available in affordable laptops some 12 months back, but even now, is among the better scorers in the benchmark tests that we have done. Consider this machine, if you don’t mind paying a little extra over the Dell Inspiron 14, because you get a more powerful processor for the rest of the usage time.
HP Pavilion 15-n007AX
Approx Market price: Rs. 43,890
While we have tried recommending the more portable 14-inch versions as well, but clearly, the 15.6-inch screen size is the rage for machines that offer powerful graphics. The expectation being that they offer the more wholesome gaming experience, and we cannot disagree. Uncharacteristically for a machine priced above Rs. 40,000, we are seeing an AMD APU - the quad core 4655M clocking at 2GHz. HP packs in 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. For the critical gaming bit, there is the Radeon HD 8670M (2GB dedicated) chip, which aided by the good amount of RAM, makes for a rather smooth gaming experience, thanks to better load times.
Lenovo Essential G400s (59-383645)
Approx Market price: Rs. 44,500
This is where the touchscreen machines come into the picture. And for those who would prefer to have one on their laptops, this is basically the entry level laptop they can consider. The Essential G400s, to be specific, has a 1366 x 768 pixel display. Packs in an Intel Core i5-3230M clocking at 2.6GHz, with 4GB of RAM. The 500GB hard drive is the least you would expect from a laptop these days. For the gaming bit, there is the Nvidia GeForce GT 720M (2GB dedicated), which should handle most of the latest games with varying resolutions and detail levels. But, with a touchscreen at this price, the G400s is a rather interesting proposition.
Dell Inspiron 14R 5421
Approx Market price: Rs. 44,500
We are not sure why Dell keeps being stingy with the basic specs of the machine, because this machine packs in a Core i3-3227U processor with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Quite frankly, this is where the Core i5 processors should be pretty much standard. Happily enough, the Nvidia GeForce GT730M (2GB) graphics does its job very well. Again, the 14-inch display (1366 x 768 pixels) gives this machine a tad more portability than the bigger screen versions. Consider this if you are a hardcore Dell fan.
HP Pavilion 15-E016TX
Approx Market price: Rs. 46,000
Powered by the Intel Core i5-3230 processor and 4GB of RAM, the Pavilion-15, available for just above Rs. 45,000, is pretty much ticking all the correct boxes - build quality, price, performance. The 1TB drive should not have you falling short of storage space anytime soon, we believe. The AMD Radeon HD 8670M (2GB dedicated) will get the job done, when it comes to playing your favorite games. Ideally, a bit more RAM would have been helpful with load times and the overall performance boost, but even at this moment, it is a very capable machine.
HP Pavilion M4-1003TX
Approx Market Price: Rs. 48,500
If for some reason, the Pavilion 15 didn’t convince you, HP has another offering that 's priced in close proximity. The Pavilion M4 gets the same Core i5 processor, but with 6GB of RAM and a 750GB hard drive. The smaller 14-inch display makes this more compact than the 15.6-inch Pavilion 15. HP has packed in the Nvidia GeForce GT730M (2GB dedicated) graphics, which is fairly popular in this price range. Performance that impresses, sleeker and slimmer design and form factor and at a price point just under Rs. 50,000 which makes this a rather neat deal.
Sony VAIO Fit 15E F1521KSN/B
Approx Market price: Rs. 51,900
While Sony’s VAIO Fit 15E range starts around Rs. 35k, the real performers for gaming arrive around the Rs. 50,000 price bracket. Has some rather decent specifications, in accordance with the price tag it sports - Intel Core i5-3337U clocking at 1.8GHz, with 4GB RAM and a 750GB hard drive. The highlight, however, is the Nvidia GeForce GT 740M (2GB dedicated) graphics that will drive the gaming experience. Very nicely built, and unlike the older affordable VAIO laptops, this one feels a lot more premium. Sony fans will definitely love this machine.
Lenovo Ideapad Z500 (59-380463)
Approx Market price: Rs. 54,500
For its price, the IdeaPad Z500 is one of the more capable gaming laptops you can buy. Why we say this is because this machine paved the way for the rest of the laptops that you see on this list, by bringing rather neat specs at a fairly affordable price point - at a time when Rs. 50,000 was the basic amount you needed to spend for a fairly capable configuration. It is powered by a Core i5-3230M processor and 6GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, and a 15.6-inch display (1366 x 768 pixels). The Nvidia GeForce GT 740M (2GB) is more than powerful enough to meet your gaming requirements. Consider this, if you are comfortable with the slightly different keyboard layout.
Approx Market price: Rs. 56,500
Possibly the only proper ultrabook to feature on this list of 15 laptops that can double up to play some of your favorite games, the S550 has a very premium build - something reminiscent of the much more expensive Asus Zenbook ultrabook. The processor is the one that we have seen often on ultrabooks - Intel Core i5-3317U, paired with 4GB of RAM. The 750GB hard drive gets the 24GB flash storage for caching, improving performance immensely. The Nvidia GeForce GT 635M (2GB dedicated) chip, paired with a 15.6-inch display is truly a surprise package when it comes to being capable of playing some games. Must consider, if you need a very slim laptop, but don’t want to give up completely on the opportunity to play a game.
Approx Market price: Rs. 59,990
It is possibly justice to see Samsung’s NP550 feature in this list, considering the brand has surprised us multiple times in the last 12-14 months with ultrabooks and laptops. The laptop we are talking about here particularly, gets an Intel Core i7-3630QM clocking at 2.4GHz. This processor is usually reserved for machines priced above Rs. 60,000, and is one of the reasons why the NP550P5C is a great deal. To top that off, there is 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and a Blu-ray drive, making this a complete entertainment notebook. The 15.6-inch display has a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels, which makes this a massive improvement over the 14 other laptops that sport the 1366 x 768 pixel resolution for their respective screens. The Nvidia GeForce GT 650M (2GB dedicated) is also the most powerful graphics chip, making this machine the ultimate deal. If this falls within your budget, we would recommend buying this without any regrets.
HP ENVY 15-j049tx
Approx Market price: Rs. 59,990
Compared to the Samsung NP550P5C laptop that we just mentioned, everything else would just pale in comparison. But, we would recommend the HP ENVY 15, simply for the latest Haswell processor, better keyboard and the excellent build quality. Not short on power as well - Intel Core i5-4200M clocking at 2.5GHz, 8GB of RAM and Nvidia GeForce GT740M (2GB dedicated) graphics. There is the 1TB drive for storage and the 15.6-inch display. We would recommend this to anyone who basically wants only the very latest processor, considering this might be an investment for a couple of years.