When it comes to serious gaming, top-flight graphics performance trumps, well, just about everything else. That's why reviewers are raving about the Asus Republic of Gamers G751JY-DH71 (Est. $2,300 and up).
It's among the first to include NVIDIA's bleeding-edge mobile graphics solution, the GeForce GTX 980M with 4 GB of dedicated memory. Even better, Asus puts the GTX 980M in a well-designed, well built, and astoundingly well priced laptop -- at least compared to the stratospheric price tags one has come to expect from high-end rigs from other makers. ComputerShopper.com calls the G751JY-DH71 "a suitable showcase indeed" for NVIDIA's flagship mobile graphics and names it an Editors' Choice. HotHardware.com also awards it an Editors' Choice -- a high bar for that site and one that few other laptops can meet. "For all the credit NVIDIA deserves for making a great mobile chip, the crown star still goes to ASUS for integrating that chip into a fabulous mobile system," says Joel Hruska.
Any gaming laptop will be hard pressed to match the performance possible in a desktop machine, but the Maxwell graphics processing unit (GPU) in the GTX 980M "narrows the gap," Laptop Magazine reports. "From the time I spent gleefully assassinating Uruk-hai in Shadow of Mordor, I can testify that the 900 series is a force to be reckoned with," says Laptop's Sherri L. Smith. She adds that steady 60 fps frame rates were achievable in the game's "ultra" settings (1,920 by 1,080 pixel resolution). In benchmark testing at HotHardware.com, words like "obliterate" and "pulverize" regularly appear when describing what the Asus Republic of Gamers G751JY-DH71 does to scores achieved by other, very good gaming systems running mobile graphics hardware that was previously considered to be top of the line.
If that weren't enough, the rest of the G751JY-DH71 is impressive, indeed. Hruska calls it the "single best gaming laptop I have ever reviewed." Matt Safford at ComputerShopper.com says that Asus backs the NVIDIA graphics "with an all-star cast of components." Those include a 4th generation 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor, 24 GB of memory and both a 256 GB solid state drive and a 1 TB conventional hard drive. You'll also find a slot-loading combo Blu-ray player/DVD burner and just about every connection option you can think of.
The 17.4-inch display on the Asus G751JY-DH71 is excellent as well. It's an IPS panel with full HD resolution (1,920 by 1080 pixels) for good color performance and wide viewing angle. Despite the anti-glare treatment, it is suitably bright. One small bummer is that it's not a touch screen. Normally, that's a big bummer for productivity with a laptop, but it's a secondary consideration for most gamers. Safford notes that the roomy and responsive touchpad is especially welcome given the lack of a touch screen.
Ergonomics are largely excellent. The red lettering on the keys can be hard to see unless the backlight is on, but it is described as "a joy to use" by Safford. "With the G751, ASUS created a truly gamer-friendly keyboard, rivaling even dedicated mechanical keyboards," says Smith. Gaming central touches include dedicated keys to access the Steam gaming hub and a Record button for capturing game play.
The Razer Blade (Est. $2,100 and up) is a gaming laptop that can double as your everyday laptop. It measures just 0.7 inch thick and weighs just 4.5 pounds, yet manages to pack true gaming prowess into a wafer the size of an Ultrabook. Finally, experts say, a real gamer that you can toss into your backpack on a daily basis.
Ergonomics are generally excellent, and the keyboard and touchpad draw kudos. If the previous generation of the Razer Blade had a drawback it was that its display was not as breathtaking as the rest of the system. Not anymore. For 2014, Razer is incorporating a 14-inch QHD (3,200 by 1,800 pixels) touch screen. Some reviewers note that few games are designed to play at those types of resolutions and that can cause problems in either the game's appearance or even game play. Still most love the screen. "Navigating Windows 8.1 is a breeze thanks to the touchscreen, making this one of the best gaming laptops for those who might still want to do everyday tasks with touch," CNET says.
Graphics on the Razer have been upgraded to a Nvidia Geforce GTX 870M with 3 GB of memory, a high-end graphics solution, but not the highest end even before the introduction of the GTX 980M used in the Asus gamer above. Still, Laptop Magazine reports that "the laptop can play most of the more graphically intensive titles on the market at the highest settings no problem." The rest of the hardware lineup in the base version includes a 4th generation Intel Core-i7-4072HQ processor, 8 GB of memory and a 128 GB hard drive. Only the hard drive is upgradable, to either 256 GB (Est. $2,250) or 512 GB (Est. $2,550). Some note that battery life could be longer -- partially a consequence of the QHD screen, and some say that the laptop can get a bit hot during intense game play.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Reviewed Laptops: Editors explain the differences between laptops and how to find the best one for you. Top choices according to reviews and our own expertise are named.
Best Laptops: These are the laptops that deliver the best combination of performance, ergonomics and value. Editors name top choices, including Windows and Apple products.
Best Cheap Laptops: Need a basic laptops for light-duty tasks or just for surfing the Internet? These rock-bottom-priced Windows laptops provide real value. Chromebooks are discussed, too.
Buying Guide: Not sure where to start to figure out what type of laptop you need? This guide walks you through some key considerations to help simplify the task of buying the best laptop.
Our Sources: These are the expert and user reviews we consulted in naming the best laptops. They are ranked in the order of their helpfulness.