Playing games on ultrabooks or thin and light laptops might have seemed unrealistic a while ago, but is a reality these days. Despite their thin and light bodies, most modern ultrabooks pack powerful enough hardware to deal with at least some light gaming.
Picking any device motorized by an Intel Haswell processor (with Intel HD 4400 graphics) allows you to play most games on 13 x 7 resolutions with low details, as you can see from this review. Going higher and picking a CPU bundled with Intel’s Iris graphics (HD 5000 or HD 5100), like the Asus Zenbook Infinity UX301LA, Dell XPS 13, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon or some of the Broadwell ultraportables, to name just a few, will push the capabilities ever further.
But there’s still so much an integrated chip can deliver these days, so if you’re planning on running serious titles on your ultra-portable laptop, at 19 x 10 resolutions and high details, you’ll require dedicated graphics. And here’s where this post comes in handy, a list of the best gaming ultra-portables of the moment.
We won’t include just ultrabooks in here though, because the standard has very strict limitations. For instance, a computer powered by anything else than an Intel ULV platform is not an ultrabook per-se, even if it is thin enough. That’s why I’ve expanded the circle a little bit, so other portable notebooks that are actually worth your attention could make it in.
Even so, for a device to get on this list, it needs to bundle at least a mid-level graphics chip for the sub-14 inch devices, or a high-end chip for the anything with a 15 inch screen or above. It also needs to be compact, thin and light, it needs to be solid built and last but not least, it needs to have no obvious deal-breakers, no major flaws.
With that in mind, let’s get this started. It’s a long post, but you’d better go through all of it if you want to know what your options are these days. Keep in mind that I’m constantly changing this post in order to maintain it up-to-date, so if you find it useful, make sure to tell your friends about it and share it around, that’s the best way to say thanks for the hard work.
Gaming ultraportables with Nvidia GTX 970M and 980M graphics
These are the ones to look at if you want to best gaming performance in fairly thin and light bodies. I’ve gathered them all in this detailed list that I’ll be updating periodically.
The offer for 980M portable configurations is limited for the time being, but there are quite a few 17, 15 and even 14 inchers that bundle Nvidia GTX 970M chips and are capable of running smoothly all the recent titles in 19 x 10 resolutions with High/Ultra details. Follow this link for more details.
14, 13 inch or smaller gaming ultrabooks
This section is reserved for the smallest laptops with dedicated graphics, with 11.6 to 14.1 inch screens, Intel Haswell hardware (or later) and at least an Nvidia 730M graphics chip (or an AMD equivalent).
The Asus Zenbooks: UX302LG, UX32LN and the UX303LN
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 about 6 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)
Asus also has two more powerful 13.3 inchers in stores, the Zenbook UX32LN and the Zenbook UX303LN.
The first is built on the same chassis as their popular UX32VD launched in 2012, with a fully metallic body, an IPS FHD screen, Haswell processors and an Nvidia GT 840M graphics chip. However, the UX32LN is only available in Europe and Asia for the time being. See this post for more details about it.
The Zenbook UX303LN is a slightly improved version of the UX32LN, with whom it shares a similar hardware platform: up to Intel Core i7-4710U processors, up to 12 GB of RAM (4 GB soldered+ 1 spare DIMM), 2.5 inch storage and a M.2 connector, Nvidia GT 840M graphics. However, Asus worked on fine tuning the case, which is still mare from metal, but slightly smoother and better finished than the one on the UX32 series. They also added a couple of screen options, as you can get the UX303LN with either a FHD IPS non-glare display, or a 3200 x 1800 px IPS touchscreen.
My detailed review of the UX303LN over here will tell you a lot more about this laptop, including what to expect from it when it comes to games.
Long story short though, the Zenbook UX303LN is definitely a 13 incher to consider. It’s faster than the UX302LG, runs cooler and it’s going to be a lot more affordable, starting at under 1G and going to about $1300 for the top configuration. Last but not least, this one will actually be available all around the planet, unlike the UX302 model. See this link for potential discounts on this UX303LN, a complete specs sheet and user reviews.
As for what to choose between the UX32LN and the UX303LN, well, the two are similar in many ways, with only slight tweaks for the UX303 model, so I’d base my decision on how much each model costs where you’re living. If the UX303 is at least $100 more expensive than the UX32 version, I’d go for the latter.
Gigabyte Aorus X3 and X3 Plus series
If you’re after a top-of-the-line sub-14 inch gaming laptop and don’t mind spending North of $2000 for it, Gigabyte’s Auros X3 line should definitely be on your shortlist.
This kind of money will get you Intel Haswell Core i7 HQ processors, up to 16 GB of RAM, Nvidia GTX 870M graphics with Optimus and dual M.2 storage, plus a backlit keyboard with macro keys and customizable profiles, stereo speakers, a 73 Wh battery and solid connectivity (Wi-Fi AC, Lan, Bluetooth, 3xUSBs, HDMI, mini-DP, card-reader). All these inside a 23 mm thick body (just under 0.9 inches) that weighs 1.8 kilos (4 pounds).
And did I mentioned the design? Well, these things are going to look spectacular, with a black case and some aggressive cooling vents towards the back, somewhat similar to what Asus has on their ROG lines.
Gigabyte will offer two different versions of this laptop, all sharing the characteristics enumerated above (with slight weight and size differences). The Aorus X3 model will get a 13.3 inch screen with a 2560 x 1440 px IGZO IPS panel, while the Aorus X3 Plus will get a slightly larger 13.9 inch display, available with either a 2560 x 1440 px or 1 3200 x 1800 px IPS IGZO panel the same one as on the Razer Pro).
You can check out our detailed review of the X3 Plus model over here , with a beefy configuration that includes the Intel Core i7-4860HQ processor, 16 GB RAM, Nvidia 870M graphics and two 256 GB SSDs in Raid 0.
Clevo w230ST / Sager NP7330 – POWER!
The Clevo W230ST (also known as the Sager NP7330) is in fact a 13 inch gaming laptop, not an ultrabook, because it is both too bulky and too powerful to get the branding. It weighs around 4.7 pounds and has a 1.25 inch thick body and on top of that, it’s not really the most beautiful device out there either, although that’s subjective (see the video for details).
But it packs some amazing specs, with up to Intel Core i7-4900HQ processors, up to 16 GB of RAM ( 2 x DIMMs), Nvidia GTX 765M graphics and a handful of storage options (one 2.5″ bay and an mSATA spate port). Besides these, you can get a Full HD AHVA matte screen on this laptop, a big 63 Wh battery, a nice keyboard and all the ports you might want on a gaming machine (4 x USB, VGA, HDMI, LAN).
But the best part about this Clevo/Sager is the ability to configure your own unit with exactly what you want in it, on various reseller websites (search for the model in Google and you’ll find them). The ugly part is the high-price of the high-end configurations (although this is far from being overpriced, considering what you’re getting for the money), and the fact that most stores don’t ship this worldwide, so you might actually have a hard time getting the W230ST in your country.
Long story short though, if you want a capable gaming machine with a compact foot-print, you won’t find anything more powerful than this one right now.
Other 13 inchers worth considering are the:
- Samsung Series 7 Ultra – Intel IvyBridge ULV processors, up to 8 GB of RAM, AMD Radeon 8550M / 8570M graphics;
- Asus Vivobook S301LB / Q301LB (check out my full review over here) – Intel Haswell ULV processors, up to 8 GB of RAM, AMD Radeon Mobility 8530G graphics.
Acer Aspire V7 482PG – bang for the buck
Acer have a bunch of gaming ultrabooks with Haswell onboard available these days in stores, and the Aspire V7-482PG is their top compact model, selling for around $850 (or even less online).
For that, you’re getting an Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 1 TB HDD and Nvidia 750M graphics, with Core i7 configurations being available as well. And that makes the V7 quite beefy for a 14 incher and able to handle fine both everyday activities and the latest games, as the 750M chip is something you’ll usually find on multimedia full-size laptops.
The Acer Aspire V7 482PG is also nicely built, with an aluminum body, packs a fair selection of ports on the sides and a decent backlit keyboard. It weighs about 4.4 pounds, so it is portable, but with its 0.9 inch thick case, it’s a bit outside the ultrabook standards. Even so, I doubt you’ll actually be bothered by that 0.1 of an inch difference.
On the other hand, there’s only a 14 inch 1366 x 768 px display on this unit, a touchscreen, but rather mediocre by today’s standards when it comes pixel density, colors or viewing angles. The battery life isn’t something to tell you grandsons about either, with the 482PG being able to last an average of 5 hours on a charge, with daily use, and on top of that, Asus does bundle a lot of preinstalled software on this machine, which you’ll have to remove yourself.
Even so, for the price, the V7 482PG is for sure something to consider, that if you don’t mind the poor screen and the rather bulky body.
Gigabyte P34G v2 and U24F/U24T
The P34G v2 (the 2014 iteration, also known as the P34Gv2-CF2 model) is an impressive 14 inch ultra-portable.
It’s about 0.8 of an inch thick and weighs between 3.6 and 3.8 lbs, which is impressive for a 14 incher. Even more when you’ll hear what you’ll be getting inside this compact aluminum body: a FullHD AHVA non-glare panel (similar to IPS panels), a Haswell Core i7-4710HQ processor, up to 16 GB of RAM (2 x DIMMs), dual-storage options (for the models with a smaller 47 Wh battery), an Nvidia GTX 860M dedicated graphics chip and up to 63 Wh battery. In other words, that’s the kind of hardware we’re usually getting on larger machines and I’m glad to see Gigabyte squeezing these inside such a laptop.
The P34G is not flawless though. The laptop’s case is not very sturdy, the trackpad can get jumpy from time to time and the fans tend to be somewhat loud, especially under load.
But even so, you’ll get great specs in a compact device with the Gigabyte P34G v2, and all for a good price. A Core i7-4710HQ / 8 GB of RAM / 128 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD configuration retails these days for around $1550, and you might find it slightly discounted online as well.
The original version of the P34G (P34G-CF1) was similar in most ways to this newer model, but only offered Nvidia 750M graphics. You can still get it for roughly $1300 these days.
Update: A Gigabyte P34W v3 version is also available now, with Nvidia GTX 970M graphics.
Gigabyte also has the U24F laptop on the market, which is indeed an ultrabook, a snipped version of the P34G. This one is also a 14 incher as well, but with a 1600 x 900 px TN non-glare screen and bundles Haswell ULV Core i5 and i7 processors (not HQ CPUs like the P34), an Nvidia 750M graphics chip, up to 16 GB of RAM, dual-storage options and a 47 Wh battery, all inside a 0.9 inch thick 3.7 pounds body. All these for about $1300, but the U24F has been discontinued recently and you might have a hard-time finding it in stores.
The Gigabyte U24T is identical to the U24F in terms of hardware and features, but packs a 1366 x 768 px touch-screen instead. That makes it marginally thicker and heavier than the U24F, and at the same time slightly more expensive.
Razer Blade 14 2014 – sleek and fast
The Blade is not an ultrabook per-se either, as, like the Gigabyte P34G above, bundles Intel HQ hardware. But it is actually a step up from the P34.
On the outside, the Razer Blade looks and feels amazing, with its black aluminum hull, although it has gained weight over last year’s Blade (weighs 4.47 lbs and is about 0.71 inches thick). It also packs 3xUSB ports, stereo speakers and and HDMI, but no card-reader though.
The 2014 version of the Blade 14 is more powerful than before. You’ll be getting an Intel Core i7-4702HQ quad-core Haswell processor with this one, 8 GB of RAM (onboard), up to 512 GB SSD storage and an Nvidia GTX 870M graphics chip. That’s less RAM than on the Gigabyte and fewer storage options, but a superior graphics chip, which will pay-off in games.
However, while the 2013 version of the Blade only offered a 1600 x 900 px TN non-glare display, the 2014 model got a 3200 x 1800 px IGZO IPS multitouch screen. That’s an appreciated upgrade in terms of colors, viewing angles and contrast, but not so much in terms of pixel density. As I stated when I reviewed the Asus Zenbook UX303LN with a similar display, 3200 x 1800 px is an overkill for a gaming computer, given how the hardware is not actually powerful enough to run modern titles at this high resolution. That means you’ll have to lower it down, which translates in fuzziness, or play with font-scaling, which does not always work well in Windows 8.1 (and even worse on the previous versions).
On top of that, the 2014 Blade is only capable of about 4-5 hours of everyday use on a charge, which is about 2 hours short of its predecessor.
At the end of the day, the Blade 2014 is for sure a beast in a compact shell, with a hefty load of premium features. An expensive beast nonetheless though, starting at over $2000, but you can find it discounted online from time to time. See this link for potential price cuts and more details about the Blade.
On the other hand, if you don’t mind settling for an Nvidia GTX 765M graphics chip and that TN screen I was telling you about above, you should definitely look into the 2013 version of the Razer Blade as well, especially since it will be several hundreds of bucks cheaper than the new model. That if you can find it in stock somewhere.
MSI G Series GE40
The GE40 from MSI is another high-specked 14 inch gaming laptop you could look at. Unlike the Razer or the Gigabyte above, it only offers Nvidia 700 Series graphics, but even so, it’s punchy and it checks most of the right features you’d expect from such a computer. It is also light, weighing roughly 4.4 pounds, and thin enough (up to 0.9 inches), which allows it to stand next to traditional “ultrabooks” when it comes to portability.
But the GE40 is not an ultrabooks per-se, as it is powered by an Intel Core i7-4702MQ processor, can take up to 16 GB of RAM and packs an Nvidia GTX 765M graphics chip, plus a dual-storage solution (or one storage drive, plus an optical drive). So specs wise, not much to complain about here, although there are faster 14 inchers available these days.
When it comes to the screen though, this MSI shows its age, as it only offers a 1600 x 900 px non-glare panel and that’s no up-to what you can get on more recently launched machines. The same can be said about the keyboard (which is alright, but not backlit), the design and the gaming temperatures, as the MSI GE40 does get hot under load. You might be able to live with most of these, but for me the screen is a deal-breaker.
On the other hand, the GE40 is rather affordable, with mid-level configurations going for around $1300 these days, so if you’re after a compact laptop that can deliver good performance and won’t leave a huge hole in your wallet, this MSI G Seires 14 inchers might fit well enough.
Lenovo IdeaPad U430P / U430 Touch – the affordable option
The Ideapad U430P / U430 line can’t exactly compete with the units above in terms of performance, but if you’re looking for a fairly affordable Haswell ultrabook with decent gaming abilities, it should be on your list.
This series starts at around $750 (and even less in some webstores) and for that you’re getting ULV Haswell Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, up to 8 GB of RAM (onboard), Hybrid storage (a 2.5 inch 7 mm bay and an mSATA slot) and Nvidia 730M graphics, which is only a main-stream solution, but will allow you to run most modern games on 13 x 7 resolution with medium details just fine. Actually finding the Nvidia 730M equipped model in stores might be a bit more difficult these days, but maybe you’ll get lucky. And keep in mind that the U430p model comes with a 14 inch TN 1366 x 768 px non-glare display while the U430 Touch model gets a similar panel and resolution, but in a touchscreen, and is usually more expensive than the U430p variant.
All these are tucked inside a metal made 4.2 pounds body that’s about 0.8 of an inch thick, and you’ll also like the keyboard and trackpad on this machine, the ports spread around the sides and the rather long battery life (up to 8 hours on a charge, but that varies from one configurations to another).
So long story short, if you’re on a budget and don’t have high demands from your ultraportable, but still want to be able to play some games from time to time, the Lenovo IdeaPad U430 series is for sure a worthy pick.
Update: Looks like the U430 series was discontinued in some regions of the world and a follow-up is soon to be released. I’ll update this section as soon as it is.
This is a more recent series from Lenovo, also focused on good performance for the money. The basic configurations start at around $850 these days (but you might find it cheaper online), and for that kind of money you’ll be getting an Intel Core i7-4510U processor, 8 GB of RAM, Hybrid storage (1 TB HDD with 8 GB SSD) and an AMD R9-M275 graphics chip, which is roughly similar to an Nvidia 740M solution. So this is not a high-end gaming machine, just something for the casual gamer.
On top of that, Lenovo equips the Y40 with a 1920 x 1080 TN non-glare screen, a nice looking red-backlit keyboard, a decent selection of ports (3xUSBs, HDMI, LAN, SPDIF, card-reader) and a fairly nice looking body for this price range, with an aggressive design and quality materials (mostly plastic, but the interior is covered in a sheet of metal). However, the Y40 is bulkier and not as portable as most of the other 14 inchers in this list, weighing roughly 4.9 pounds and being about 0.9 inches thick.
Long story short, the Lenovo Y40 offers overall good specs and features for the money, but makes concessions when it comes to size, weight and screen quality (packs only a TN panel).
Other 14 inchers you could consider are the:
- Acer Travelmate P645 – Intel Core i5-4200U CPU, up to 8 GB of RAM, AMD Radeon HD 8750M graphics;
- HP ENVY Touchsmart 14t – Intel Core i5/i7 ULV processors, up to 8 GB of RAM, Nvidia GT 740M graphics;
- Asus Vivobook S451LB / V451LB – Intel Core i5/i7 ULV processors, up to 8 GB of RAM, Nvidia GT 740M graphics.
15 or 17 inch gaming ultra-portables
This section is reserved for the fastest thin and light gaming laptops of the moment. The entry bar is set at Haswell hardware, Nvidia GT 750M graphics or higher (or AMD equivalent), an under 1 inch thick body and again, no major flaws. On top of that, I’ve been looking at 15 inchers under 5.5 pounds and 17 inchers under 6.5 pounds, to keep the suggestions as portable as possible.
MSI GS60 Ghost Pro 3K 2PE and 2PC – review
These are some of the most interesting 15 inchers available right now. There are two GS60 Ghost Pro models, the top-version called the 3K 2PE and the lower-end model called 2PC (or simpler, the Ghost Pro 3K and the Ghost Pro), and they share most of their characteristics, with the hardware and screen options setting them apart.
The GS60s are both about 0.85 of an inch thick and weigh just under 4.4 pounds, but despite that, they offer a good looking aluminum-alloy case, a backlit keyboard and all the ports you’ll want on such a computer ( 3xUSB 3.0. HDMI, mini-DP, card-reader, SPDIF, LAN), plus a 6 Cell 52 Wh battery.
The GS60 Ghost 2PE Pro 3K model comes with an insane 2880 x 1620 px 15.6 inch display, with an IPS Panel and a low-glare finishing, while the GS60 2PC settles for a non-glare 1920 x 1080 px IPS display. That aside, the two are motorized by the same Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor, can take up to 16 GB of RAM and support dual-storage options (mSATA RAID 0 and a 2.5 inch bay). The top version gets an Nvidia GTX 870M graphics chip though, while the 2PC only gets an Nvidia GTX 860M solution. And while the former is for sure faster, don’t forget that it has to push more pixels if you’re planning on gaming at native resolution. On top of that, it runs hotter, and that’s a problem in a device this thin.
The Ghost GS60 is also available with Nvidia 970M graphics, and you can see how it performs in our detailed review available here.
In fact, that’s my only major gripe with the GS60 Ghost line: it gets warm with light use and actually very hot under extended load, and the components inside reach very high temperatures as well (above 90 °C), which might have a negative impact on their lifespan.
So, at the end of the day, the MSI GS60 offers solid performance and top-tier features in a very thin body, with a price tag of $2000 and up for the 2PE Pro 3K version, and about $1800 for the 2PC model, but both versions are available discounted online, as you’ll see from here. Still, are these laptops worth that kind of money? If not for the temperatures, I’d say yes for sure, but given the high temperatures, I’d suggest getting them only if you really want the compact form-factor and don’t mind the hot bodies. And make sure you’re buying extra-warranty as well. Otherwise, you should look at some of the other suggestions below.
Asus Zenbook NX500 and GX500 – more details
These machines are going to be released towards the end of the year, so there’s not much to say about them for now.
We do know that these Zenbooks are going to have a metallic body, a low profile (under 0.8 inches thin) and reduced weight (under 5 pounds), while packing top features. Among them, there’s a 4K screen (3840 x 2160 px resolution), Asus’s Bang&Olufsen stereo speakers we’ve seen on many of their ultraportables, an Intel Core i7-4712HQ processor, up to 16 GB of RAM and dual PCI-E storage options. There’s also a rumored 6 Cell 96 Wh battery on these, which should translate in serious endurance, even when running games.
The two models are going to be separated by the graphics solution they’re going to offer, an Nvidia GTX 850M for the NX500 (read my full review over here) and an Nvidia GTX 860M chip for the GX500. On top of that, while the NX500 will keep the standard brushed aluminum looks we’ve been used to from previous Zenbooks (much like the UX51VZ launched a while ago), the GX500 will get a black theme with red stripes, which is somewhat more appropriate for a gaming ultrabook and closer to what Asus does with their N and G series laptops.
Anyway, these Zenbooks are expected in stores in Q3 or Q4 2014, with prices starting at roughly $2000, but I’ll update this section once we know more about them.
Gigabyte P35G v2 and P35W v2 Ultrablades
The P35G v2 Ultrablade is actually the larger version of the P34G v2 mentioned in the 14 inchers’ section. It offers the same Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor, up to 16 gb of RAM (2xDIMMs) and the Nvidia GTX 860M graphics chip, but offers a possible quadruple-storage solution (2 x M.2, 2 x 2.5″ bays), or a dual-storage solution plus a DVD Writer.
There is of course a 15.6 inch display on this laptop, with a 1920 x 1080 px matte IPS non-touch panel, and since the device is larger (weighs 5.1 lbs and is 0.85 inches thick, plus has a rather big footprint, as you can see from the bezel around the screen), there’s also room for a NumPad area on the keyboard and a 75Wh battery (although I’ve seen reports that this laptop will only last up to 5 hours in daily use).
Gigabyte will charge you roughly $1600 for all these, with 8 GB of memory and 128 GB SSD + TB HDD included in this configuration.
If you want a bit more power in your device, then you might to have a look at the P35W v2, which is mostly identical to the P35G, but packs an Nvidia 870M graphics chip and a Bluray burner for $200 extra.
Of course, the biggest concern with these laptops are the load temperatures and noise. From what I’ve seen so far, owners claim that these Gigabyte ultrabooks do get warm under load and you’ll hear the fans spinning, but the nor the temperatures or the noise are really problematic. And that’s the best you can expect from such thin, light and powerful devices.
Updated versions of these laptops bundling Nvidia GTX 970M and 980M graphics are available now. Follow this link for more details.
Dell XPS 15 Touch
Dell XPS 15 is one of the fanciest devices in here, with a slender 0.7 inch thick aluminum cast body that weighs only 4.4 pounds. But it’s fairly powerful as well.
Dell offers an Intel Core i7-4702HQ processor on their XPS 15, up to 16 GB of RAM, several storage options and an Nvidia GT 750M graphics, which barely qualifies it for this list. And that’s something to keep in mind, especially since this device comes with a 3200 x 1800 px display (a touchscreen, BTW), which means that actually running games at native resolution will require a lot of power. On top of that, the XPS 15 does get quite hot and noisy under serious load, and these are the reasons why this Dell is mostly a good all-rounder that can deal with occasional gaming, and not a proper gaming ultra-portable, like those mentioned before.
So unless you’re planning to do some heavy gaming on this machine, the XPS 15 is going to be good enough for most of you. Specs apart, you’re also getting a good keyboard with this one (nicely spaced, without a NumPad Area), a reliable touchpad, a decent selection of ports (3xUSBs, but only one of them USB 3.0, HDMI, mini-DP, card-reader) and either a 61W or a 91W battery. Considering that both the hardware and the screen are sippy, I’d go for the larger capacity one.
However, that big battery is only available on the higher specced models and those can get quite expensive. In fact, even the base version of the Dell XPS 15 start at about $1900, and for that kind of money you’ll get the CPU and graphics mentioned above, plus 16 GB of RAM and hybrid storage (1 TB HDD + 32 GB cache-SSD). Replacing that with a 512 GB SSD will cost you $300 extra, but most configurations are slightly discounted online, as you can see from here.
Acer Aspire V5-573G and V7-582PG
These should be on your list if you’re on a tighter budget.
The Aspire V5-573G really offers a lot for the money. You can get an Intel Core i7-4500U CPU with 8 GB of RAM, Nvidia GT 750M graphics and a 1 TB HDD for under $1000 (see this link for up-to-date prices and discounts). It’s true that there’s only an ULV processor on this Acer and the Nvidia 750M is no longer a top-of-the-line solution, but even so, it will do.
The thing is there’s only a 1366 x 768 px TN screen on this laptop, which is one of the reasons why it is so affordable, but that means that you’ll be able to run most games on it on High details.
If however you’re looking for an improved screen and faster gaming performance, then you you might want to check out the Acer Aspire V7-582PG. Roughly $1100 will get you an Intel Core i7-4500U processor, 8 GB of RAM and Nvidia 850M graphics, plus a 1920 x 1080 px IPS display, and the V7 can also be found discounted online.
BTW, both these laptops are fairly portable, with under 0.9 of an inch thick bodies that weigh about 4.8 pounds and there’s not much to complain about their build quality either (metal and plastic are used for the case).
But even so, you’ll be making compromises with these Acers, when compared to those others mentioned before. The looks, the keyboard/trackpad quality or the battery life (expect up to 5 hours of daily use) are just some of those, or the fact that you’re getting regular HDDs with each configuration (but this should not be a concern, as they can be easily swapped for SSDs later on). But let’s not forget that these laptops are a lot cheaper than most of their competitors, and that alone should be enough for most potential buyers.
This is another affordable 15 incher you could consider these days.
Much like the Y40, the Y50 offers a plastic built body, a good keyboard with a NumPad section(which however flexes way too much), a reliable trackpad and plenty of ports (3xUSBs, HDMI, card-reader, LAN, SPDIF), all in a rather bulky body. In fact, this device barely makes it in this list, with a 0.9+ inch thick case and a total weight of roughly 5.3 pounds, so it’s definitely not as portable as some of the other machines mentioned before.
It does pack nice specs though: a FHD matte screen (with a TN panel), an Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor, up to 16 GB of RAM, Nvidia 860M graphics and various storage solutions, plus either a DVD or a Bluray unit. On the other hand, Lenovo chose to put a small battery on this notebook, so don’t expect more than 4 hours of daily use with it.
Even so, it’s hard to beat the Y50 for the money. $1100 will buy you the processor and the graphics listed above, 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB storage drive, which is in fact better than what you’re getting with the Acer V5. And I expect prices to drop in the near future.
Of course, there are a few things you might not like about this Lenovo laptop, like the screen, the body’s lack of sturdiness and the very short battery life, but if you’re mostly after solid specs for as little money as possible, you’ll could learn to live with these and get the Y50 anyway. Or you might go ahead and buy a laptop like the Lenovo Y510p or the Asus N550JK, slightly thicker and heavier, but overall superior options.
There are a couple of other 15 inchers you could consider, like the:
- Samsung ATIV Book 8 870Z5G – Intel Core i7-4700HQ CPU, up to 8 GB of RAM, Nvidia GT 750M graphics, 1920 x 1080 px IPS matte display, 94 Wh battery, 5.2 lbs. This model has a lot of potential and packs a huge battery. It is however difficult to find in stores these days, that’s why it only earned a place in the “others” section;
- Asus N550JK – Intel Core i7-4700HQ CPU, up to 16 GB of RAM, Nvidia GT 850M graphics, 1920 x 1080 px IPS matte display, 59 Wh battery, 5.7 lbs, 1.1 inches thick – this barely gets outisde the requirements because it is a bit thick. But if you’re fine with this, you should definitely check it out. Prices start at around $1100 for this series (see this link for details) and my full review of the Asus N550 line is available over here;
- Asus N551JK – an updated model on the unit above, with a better screen, faster hardware and a better cooling solution is also available now. Check out this link for a detailed review.
- Asus G551JM – the gaming version of the N551 series, with Nvidia GTX 850M and 860M graphics, IPS displays and a black and red themed metallic case. I’ve reviewed this laptop here on the site.
- Dell Inspiron 7537 – Intel Core i5/i7 ULV CPUs, up to 16 GB of RAM, Nvidia GT 750M graphics, 1920 x 1080 px IPS touchscreen, 58Wh battery, 5.6 lbs (heavy for an ultrabook!);
- HP Envy TouchSmart 15 – Intel Core i5/i7 ULV CPUs, up to 16 GB of RAM, Nvidia GT 750M graphics, 1920 x 1080 px IPS touchscreen, 5.6 lbs (heavy for an ultrabook!).
Besides these, you should look at all the other ultrabooks from this list of recommended 15 inchers.
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:
Razer Blade Pro – the larger version of the Razer Blade mentioned above, this one packs an Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor, up to 16 GB of RAM, up to 512 GB SSD storage and an Nvidia GTX 860M graphics chip, plus a 1920 x 1080 px IPS matte display and a 74 Wh battery, all inside a fairly compact body (0.9 inches thick, weighs 6.5 lbs). On top of that, there’s a customizable LCD screen towards the right side of the keyboard, meant to improve your gaming productivity. The Razer Pro starts at $2300, with only 128 GB of storage, and goes up to $2700 for the 512 GB SSD version, but you might find potential discounts on all available configurations via this link.
- MSI GS70 Stealth - details – a slightly slimmer (0.85 inches thick) and lighter (5.9 lbs) 17 inch laptop than the one above, packs a similar Intel Haswell platform, paired with Nvidia GTX 765M graphics, dual storage solutions (mSATA and 2.5 inch bay), a Full HD non-glare screen and a dedicated gaming-keyboard, designed in collaboration with SteelSeries. The GS70 sells for $1600 and up;
- Medion Erazer X7611 – details – this offers the same hardware specs as the MSI GS70, but a 1600 x 900 px TN screen, a poorer keyboard and a different case (marginally thicker and heavier), but at the same time is cheaper than 17 incher mentioned before by a few hundreds of dollars. However, the Medion Erazer X7611 is mostly available in Europe, as Medion is a German company.
- Maingear Pulse 17 – details – this is one of the sleekest 17 inchers available right now, measuring under 0.9 inches in thickness and weighing under 6 pounds. At the same time it packs powerful hardware: an Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor, up to 16 GB of storage. Nvidia GTX 870M graphics and several storage options, plus a matte 1920 x 1080 px display. All these for $2000 and up, which makes the Pulse 17 a solution to check-out if you really need the powerful graphics, as the other 17 inchers in here do not offer the same high-end Nvidia chip;
- Gigabyte Aorus X7 v2 – details – the bigger brother of the Aorus X3 and the only device in this list to offer SLI graphics ( two Nvidia GTX 860M chips – an updated version with two GTX 970M chips in SLI is also available), alongside an Intel COre i7-4860HQ processor, up to 32 GB of RAM (4 slots) and a quadruple storage solution (3 x mSATA, 1 x 2.5″ bay), plus a 73 Wh battery. All these inside a 0.9 inch thick body that weighs about 7 pounds. As expected, the Aorus X7 is expensive and the high end configurations will set you back about $3000. But if you want the ultimate gaming ultraportable of the moment, well, this is IT.
The downsides of this monster as the high temperatures when gaming and the battery life. The SLI implementation means that there’s no Optimus on the Auros X7, and that translates in up to 3 hours of light use, which is very low for a device described as “portable”.
A quick wrap-up
All in all, there aren’t that many true gaming ultrabooks available in this list. However, there’s a fair number of good gaming portable laptops, most of them just as thin and light, just more powerful, “motorized” by faster Intel full-voltage platforms, and not the ULVs you’ll mostly find in ultrabooks.
So as potential buyers, you’ve got a wide array of options these days, from the portable 13 inchers to the beastly 17 inch monsters, with prices starting under $1000 or easily going over 3G.
In the end though, the final choice is all yours. There’s no perfect gaming ultraportable, but there are quite a few that come close. So make sure you know exactly what you want from your computer and pick accordingly between all these devices mentioned above. And if you haven’t found anything that fits your needs in this post, maybe you should check out this list of the most powerful gaming ultraportables available right now.
Whit that in mind, it’s time to bring this post to a halt, but make sure you’ll check the article from time to time, as I’m constantly updating it when new good gaming ultrabooks pop in stores.
That aside, if you have any questions, anything to add or just need help picking your next computer, drop your comments below, I’m around to reply and help you out. And if you found this post useful, feel free to share it around on Forums, Facebook, Twitter or show it to your friends.