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A boy looking at the screen of a gaming laptop

Gaming Laptops That Also Work for School and the Office

Video games used to require specialized computers, but no longer

Gaming laptops were once notorious for being heavy, niche machines whose high prices put them out of reach for many budget-minded consumers.

That's not true these days.

You can now buy an affordable model that pulls double duty, performing as an everyday workstation and a gaming machine. The models listed below are on the Consumer Reports list of recommended laptops, and they pack enough memory and graphics to easily handle mainstream titles such as "Overwatch," a popular multiplayer game released in 2016. (They might struggle with ultra-demanding titles such as "Witcher 3," a richly rendered third-person action game. It's good practice to check the system requirements before you buy a game.)

One more note: Battery life tends to suffer during gaming, so it's a good idea to plug in before you start playing.

(If you're replacing a laptop, use our advice on recycling old electronics. And keep your new machine clean and looking good.)

1
Budget Choice #1
Dell Inspiron i7567-5000BLK

Dell Inspiron i7567-5000BLK

At $800, this 15-inch notebook from Dell is a bargain. It delivers smooth gaming performance even when faced with demanding games. For everyday nongaming use, such as web browsing and sending email, it will run for nearly 13 hours on a charge. But like all laptops, it will run down sooner when you're gaming.

Compared with some more expensive laptops, the Dell does bring some compromises. For instance, the display has narrow viewing angles, meaning that a friend peering over your shoulder may not see the same clear, vibrant images as you do.

More critically, it's quite heavy, weighing more that 6 pounds. So it may be best to treat this one as a homebound machine that you occasionally bring to a coffee shop or vacation spot.

    2
    Budget Choice #2
    Lenovo Ideapad Y700 80NW000PUS

    Lenovo Ideapad Y700 80NW000PUS

    Gaming laptops are often designed to stand out visually. Unlike minimalist Ultrabooks and MacBooks, these machines tend to have large vents and lots of red detailing. The Ideapad Y700 fits that description.

     

    The Lenovo has the technical chops to back up its gamer-friendly looks. Armed with 8GB of RAM and a discrete graphics card, it can handle nearly all applications and games you throw at it. According to Consumer Reports testers, it's also a standout when it comes to audio quality, so most users can skip the headphones or external speakers when watching movies and listening to music. 

     

    Like the Dell laptop listed above, this one is a bargain considering its abilities, going for less than $1,000.

     

    The downsides are that this machine weighs a lot—6.4 pounds—and lasted only a bit more than 7 hours in CR's battery testing. That means it's best suited to life at home, not on the road.

      3
      Ultraportable Powerhouse
      Samsung Notebook 9

      Samsung Notebook 9

      The Samsung Notebook 9 is a powerful 15-inch laptop receiving excellent marks in CR's evaluations of performance and portability.

       

      Choose the Samsung and you get a stealth gaming machine. It has a sophisticated look along with an excellent-quality screen and the processing power you need to run most games. There's one small downside: It's not a touchscreen. But the battery life is impressive; you can work all day and into the night if you want to. 

       

      And at just 2.8 pounds, this laptop is as light as many 13-inch models. 

        4
        Versatility Champ
        Microsoft Surface Book (512GB)

        Microsoft Surface Book (512GB)

        The Surface Book is all about versatility. It's a premium laptop with a 13.5-inch touchscreen that can be detached from the keyboard and used as a tablet. And the laptop comes with a pen that lets you draw directly on the screen. The battery lasts nearly 15 hours.

         

        This model, which goes for around $1,500, received a very good performance score from our testers and was one of the best machines in our ratings for middle-of-the-road gaming. For those with a larger budget who want more power, the Surface Book With Performance Base will cost about $2,800 and bring more performance when playing more demanding games.

         

        But even without the Performance Base, the Microsoft Surface Book is one of the fastest models in our ratings across a range of tasks. 

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          Tercius Bufete

          I'm an avid photographer and tech nerd with a passion for writing about gadgets and consumer technology. Originally from Los Angeles, I'm now an East Coast transplant searching for the perfect burrito in Brooklyn. Follow me on Twitter @terciusbufete