Playing games on ultrabooks might have seemed unrealistic a while ago, but is a reality these days. Despite their thin and light bodies, most ultrabooks pack powerful enough hardware to deal with at least some light gaming.
On top of that, if you’re planning on running some serious titles on your ultra-portable laptop, there are a handful of gaming ultrabooks available right now as well.
We’ll talk more about these laptops in this post, about their strong points and their quirks.
Before though, you should know that if you’ll buy any of the newer ultrabooks built on an Intel Ivy Bridge hardware platform (or the newer Haswell), these will be able to deal with quite a bunch of games. The Intel 4000 HD integrated chip is not a beast, but as long as you don’t expect to run this year’s releases or slightly older games on High details, it will do the job. You can see that from the clip below, where I’m running Dirt 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 on an Ivy Bridge Core i7 powered Asus Zenbook Prime:
The newer Intel HD 4400 and Intel HD 5000/5200 graphics bundled with Haswell platforms are even faster, as you’ll find out from this review of the Vaio Duo 13, in the performances section.
With that out of the way, if you want to step up the game a notch, you’ll find below a bunch of good gaming ultrabooks.
I’ve reviewed the Zenbook UX302LG in depth here and if you’ll read the post, you’ll see that there’s little you might not like about this laptop.
It’s sleek (20-21 mm thick, including the rubber feet), light (3.3 pounds), fast (Intel Haswell Core i5/i7 processors, up to 10 GB of RAM, Nvidia 730M 2GB graphics and either hybrid or SSD storage) and can easily handle all the things you will throw at it, including games. In fact, see the clip below if you’re curious how this laptop deals with titles like Crysis 3, Skyrim, Starcraft 2 or Bioshock Infinite on Full HD resolution, with Low details.
Besides these, the UX302LG packs an awesome 1080p IPS touchscreen and can go for 6-7 hours of everyday use on a charge, or about 90 minutes of continuous gaming.
Of course, all these don’t come cheap. The UX302LG starts at about $1200, while the top configurations sell for $1700 and up. However, you have the option of buying the base version with the fastest processor you will need and add your own RAM and SSD inside. In other words: there’s room for upgrades with this machine. Unfortunately though, the UX302LG is still not widely available right now, but you might find it online via this link (with some small discounts included as well)
Anyway, the UX302LG is right now the only 13 inch Haswell ultrabook with dedicated graphics available in stores. And you’re best choice for a gaming ultra-portable close to 3 pounds.
Acer have a bunch of gaming ultrabooks with Haswell on board available these days as well.
The Aspire V7-482PG-9884 is their top compact offer, selling for around $900 (or even less online). For that, you’re getting an Intel Core i7-4500U processor, 12 GB of RAM, a 1 TB HDD and Nvidia 750M graphics chip. That makes it pretty powerful and able to deal with even the latest games. The laptop is also sturdy and good looking, aluminum being used for the entire case.
On the other hand, there’s only a 14 inch 1366 x 768 px display on this unit, a touchscreen, but not the best in terms of pixel density, colors or viewing angles. You can add a rather shallow keyboard to the whole story and not the largest of batteries, but even so, the V7-488PG does offer plenty of things for the buck, so it’s definitely something you should look at.
The Acer M5 and many of the other ultrabooks featured bellow pack 14 inch or larger screens and as a result, slightly bulkier bodies than the Asus UX320LG.
The Acer Timeline M5, or the Aspire M5 as it’s known in Europe, is available in 14 and a 15.6 inch versions.
The 14 inch version still packs an Intel Ivy Bridge hardware platform, weighs about 4.2 pounds and uses plastic for a fair share of the casing. There’s also Nvidia’s 640M LE graphics chip inside. This one sits somewhere between the 630M and the 640M and will allow you to play all sorts of games, even the more demanding ones, like Battlefield 3 for instance, as long as you trim down the details.
Last year’s 15.6 inch M5 packed the same Intel Ivy Bridge processors and a slightly faster Nvidia 640M graphics chip.
The 15.6 inch version of the M5 was completely revamped in 2013 though and this new version bears the code name Acer M5-583P. It received a new aluminum body, Haswell processors and a touchscreen. But the dedicated graphics was cut OFF, that’s why this model does not present any interest in this post.
Anyway, the Acer M5s will only set you back around $700 these days (or even less, if you’re able to catch some price cuts), although prices might differ from version to version. So although the gaming capable version of the Aspire M5 does not pack the latest hardware, it’s still a sollution worth taking a look at if you’re on a tight budget.
With a 0.7 inch thick body weighing only 3.2 pounds, the Asus Zenbook UX32VD is one of the most compact llaptops we’ll be featuring here. This is in fact last year’s version of the Zenbook UX302LG mentioned above, with Intel Ivy Bridge hardware and slower graphics.
The sleek body leaves little room for hardware, thus this ultrabook only packs an Nvidia 620M graphics chip, on top of an Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge ULV processor. Even so, the Nvidia chip is two-three times faster in games than that integrated Intel 4000 HD chip and will allow you to run most of titles alunched in the last 2-3 years at 30+ fps, on 13 x 7 resolution and Low to Medium details. Some of the 2013-2014 titles though, like Crysis 3, Battlefield 4, Metro Last Light or other resources-needy games won’t run as smoothly though.
The UX302 goes for about $1200 (but some online shops usually have it discounted), without an SSD, and its performances are somewhat limited, but if you want to play games on a 3 pounds machine… this one is still a good pick, even today.
Unlike the options above, these Gigabyte laptops offer the latest Intel Haswell processors with Nvidia 7xx gaming chips. That makes them more powerful, more efficient, and at the same time, more expensive than the units mentioned before.
The P34G is a 14 inch laptop with a FullHD AHVA non-glare panel (similar to IPS panels). You can equip it with a full-voltage Intel Haswell Core i7-4700HQ processor, up to 16 GB of RAM, dual-storage options and and Nvidia GTX 760M graphics chip, with Optimus. In other words, that’s the kind of hardware we’re usually getting on larger dedicated machines and I’m glad to see Gigabyte squeezing these inside a laptop that weighs less than 4 pounds and is about 21 mm thick.
The P34G is available in some stores and starts at around $1400, but you might find it slightly discounted online.
The U24F is the more affordable and snipped-down version of the P34G. It’s a 14 incher as well, but with only a 1600 x 900 px LCD screen. On top of that, it bundles Haswell ULV Core i5 and i7 processors, an Nvidia 750M graphics chip, plus up to 16 GB of RAM and the same dual-storage solution.
The Gigabyte U24F is going to be more compact and lighter than the P34G and just like the version above, is available already in some online stores.
As for the U24T, this one is identical to the U24F in terms of hardware and features, but packs a 1366 x 768 px touch-screen. That makes it slightly thicker and heavier than the U24F (still under 4 pounds and 0.9 inches in thickness), and at the same time somewhat more expensive.
The Blade is not an ultrabook per-se either, as, like the Gigabyte P34G above, bundles an Intel full-voltage platform.
It’s marketed as “The world’s thinnest gaming laptop”, as it is only 0.66 inches thick and weighs around 4 pounds.
Inside you’re getting an Intel Core i7-4702HQ quad-core Haswell processor, 8 GB of RAM, up to 512 GB SSD storage and an Nvidia GTX 765M graphics chip, with Optimus of course.
There’s also a nice keyboard, large trackpad, but only a 14 inch 1600 x 900 px display with a regular LCD panel, that lacks the colors and the viewing angles of an IPS screen.
Hardware wise though, the Blade is a beast and it’s the most powerful 14 inch ultra-portable money can buy these days. And you’ll need plenty of money for it, as the Blade sells for between 1800 and 2300 USD, based on the amount of storage space available (128 to 512 GB SSDs). More details about prices are available over here.
Of course, when looking at such laptops, there is one thing to consider: they will get hot and noisy when running games for hours, which is normal, given the powerful hardware squeezed inside such a tiny body. So it’s up to you to decide if you can live with that, or rather go for something a bit bulkier, but with a more capable cooling system.
The Ideapad U430P / U430 can’t exactly compete with the units above, but if you’re looking for a fairly affordable Haswell ultrabook with decent gaming abilities, it should be on your list.
It sells for under $750 (and even less in some webstores) and for that you’re getting some ULV Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, up to 8 GB of RAM and Nvidia 730M graphics chip. All these tucked inside a sub 4 pounds body that’s less than 1 inch thick.
You’ll also like the keyboard and trackpad on this machine and Lenovo promises fairly long battery life as well, but on the other hand, the 14 inch HD screen with an LCD panel is not the shiniest gem out there. But at least it’s better suited for games on this hardware, given the lower resolution. Oh, and there’s an IdeaPad 430 Touch version as well, with a touchscreen, if you’re interested in that feature.
Anyway, the IdeaPad U430p, or the IdeaPad U430 as it’s known is the US, is already available in stores and worth a look at.
Sony’s 13 inch Vaio S, or in other words the Sony Vaio SVS13A2W9ES, is not an ultrabook per-se, as it packs a more powerful full-voltage processor. It’s built on an Intel Ivy Bridge processor and you can spec it up with an Intel Core i7-3520M processor, 8 GB of RAM and Nvidia 640M LE graphics, like on the Acer above.
All these inside a laptop that weighs 3.5 pounds and is about 1 inch thick sounds great, don’t you think?
You also get a full set of connectivity options on the Vaio S 13, with a cellular modem included, a 13.3 inch 1600 x 900 px matte display and a solid metallic body, available in silver or black. Last but not least, there’s an optical unit included as well, either a DVD burner or a Blu-ray combo.
All these don’t exactly come cheap, as the beefiest versions of this Vaio sell for around $1200 to $1500. But if you’re willing to cut of some features, you can get it for as low as $800. That if you can find this model in any store, as it’s an older option and is not made anymore.
The Clevo W230ST (also known as the Sager NP7330) is not exactly a gaming ultrabook, but it is a 13 inch gaming laptop, so you probably want to know about it as well. It weighs around 4.5 pounds and is rather thick, with a 1.4 inch body. It’s not the most beautiful device out there either.
But it packs some amazing specs, with up to Intel Core i7-4900HQ processors, up to 16 GB of RAM, Nvidia GTX 765M graphics chips and many storage options. Besides these, there’s a Full HD AHVA matte screen, a nice keyboard and all the ports you might want on a gaming machine.
But the best part about this laptop is the ability to configure your own unit with exactly what you want in it, on Ava Direct’s website. Go ahead and build your own computer over there. But how about the downsides? Well, as expected, the Clevo W230ST can get quite expensive and besides that, it’s not shipped worldwide, so you might actually have a hard time getting this unit in your country.
Other from that, if you want a capable gaming machine that’s a bit more compact, you won’t find anything more powerful than this one right now.
Most of the 15 inch ultrabooks available these days feature dedicated graphics, but we’re not going to ge tin depth with these devices here, you’d better check out this article for a more detailed selection of my favorite 14 and 15 inch ultrabooks of the moment.
Anyway, when talking about 15 inch gaming ultrabooks and highly portable laptops, I do have several units in mind:
Besides these though, pretty much any 15 inch Haswell ultrabook from this list should be worth at least a look.
And there are also some interesting 17 inchers I’d like to mention, not ultrabooks per-se, but thin and light laptops in their classes:
the Razer Blade Pro – some discounts here – the larger version of the Razer Blade mentioned above, this one packs the same kind of hardware, but paired with a larger Full HD screen and a highly customizable LCD pack on the right side of the keyboard, meant to improve your everyday productivity; in other words, this is not just a computer for your spare time, but something you can use to get work done as well;
All in all, there aren’t that many true gaming ultrabooks available in this list, mainly because most of these laptops sport faster full-voltage hardware platforms. In other words, they are too powerful to get the “ultrabook” brand, as stated by Intel’s regulations.
On the other hand, there are plenty of thin and light gaming machines that can really deal with games and complex applications.
And if you truly want a machine that can run all the latest titles on high details, those Nvidia GTX 765M options mentioned above will do the job, but they are, as expected, quite pricey.
But at least you’ve got plenty of options to choose from, thin and light ultrabooks that can handle some occasional gaming, powerful machines designed for gaming, or the versions in between.
Whit that in mind, it’s time to put this post to a halt, but make sure you’ll check this article from time to time, as I’ll update it with more details when new good gaming ultrabooks will pop in stores. Also, if you have any questions or anything to add, drop your comments below. And if you found this post useful, feel free to share it around on Forums, Facebook, Twitter or to whoever might benefit from it.