Many students will be getting ready to go back to school in just a month, if you’re a college student and looking for a laptop that can double as both a work machine and a gaming machine for those times where you need to blow off steam, we’re here to help point out some of the better options available that don’t break the bank. The focus will mostly be on gaming capable laptops that cost around $1,000 and have a 15.6” screen as that’s the best fit for a student taking a laptop to university who still wants some mobility.
HP ENVY dv6t-7300 Quad Edition
The HP ENVY dv6t-7300 can be configured for the starting price of $874.99 on HP.com. There are invariably coupons that knock that price down so you can get better deals. For the dv6t-7300 Quad Edition to qualify as a true gaming laptop you’ll need to upgrade the graphics to the Nvidia GT 650M that’s available. That upgrade cost is $75, by default you get the Intel Core i7-3630QM processor and 8GB of RAM so no further upgrades are needed unless you feel you need more power. Another upgrade you might consider is to the Full HD 1920 x 1080 screen as it’s superior in both resolution and overall quality to the standard HD 1366 x 768 screen. The screen upgrade cost is $150. There’s also a choice to upgrade to a 32GB SSD cache for $50 which is recommended if you can afford it.
The dv6t-7300 has a classy all black midnight look with Beats audio for enhanced listening via the integrated speakers. There is a sub-woofer built in for extra bass. One of the things I like about ordering from HP.com is that you can easily do a return or exchange, no questions asked, for free so it reduces the risk if you don’t like the laptop for any reason after you receive it. I think most people will like this model a lot, you can often find the price of an Nvidia 650m configured dv6t-7000 for $900 or just under, making it one of the best priced laptops among our picks for student gaming laptops in 2013.
Where to Buy: HP.com ENVY dv6t-7300 Configure to Order page
Lenovo IdeaPad Y510p
The Lenovo IdeaPad Y510p sports a powerful Nvidia GT 750M graphics card and has a low starting price on Lenovo.com of $819 with an Intel Core i7-4700MQ (4th generation Intel Core i7) processor. The standard screen is a glossy 1366 x 768 resolution, but you do have the option of choosing a configuration with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 screen. The IdeaPad Y510p has an appealing design that includes a brush metal gray finish on both the lid and keyboard deck area. You have the option of upgrading to an mSATA 24GB SSD that uses Intel’s Rapid Start technology to help boot times.
Port selection on the Y510p includes three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, 6-in-1 media card reader, Ethernet and VGA monitor out. You get the option of either a DVD burner or Blu-Ray for the optical media drive. Battery life for the Y510p is around 4.5 hours under normal usage doing work, if you’re gaming the battery life will be reduced to around 2 – 3 hours as that’s a huge power draw.
Lenovo is a well known company with good support. The Y510p is a follow-on to the popular Y500 so it’s coming from a well established platform and is a popular model to buy.
Where to Buy: Lenovo.com IdeaPad Y510p order Page
Asus is well known for making affordable gaming laptops. The Asus N56vz is available for $949.99 on Amazon.com and features an Nvidia 650m graphics card, like that seen in the HP dv6t-7300. The $949 configuration comes with an Intel Core i7-3610QM processor, 15.6” 1366 x 768 resolution screen, 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM. There are other configurations available for a more expensive $1,153 that has a 1920 x 1080 matte (non-glossy) screen, 8GB of RAM and Blu Ray optical drive.
The one caveat with the Asus N56vz is that the Nvidia 650M graphics has GDDR3 dedicated memory, this is not as fast as the GDDR5 memory used in the Y580 and dv6t-7000. Still, the customer reviews for the Asus N56vz on Amazon.com are strong. Everyone indicates it is very well built and it gets a 4.5 star rating.
The MSI GE60 is also available via Amazon.com and costs $1,199.99 with a nice configuration of Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M graphics card, Intel Core i7-4700MQ, 8GB RAM, 15.6” 1920 x 1080 screen and 750GB 7200RPM hard drive. If you crave a faster graphics card you can also pay $1,199 and get it with an Nvidia GTX 760M graphics card. One of the really nice things about the MSI GE60 is it’s fairly light for its size, weighing only 5.28lbs, making it one of the most portable gaming laptops around. The MSI design certainly stands out from the crowd. It has red trim on the lid and keyboard area and has its design inspired by race cars. The keyboard is also designed with the gamer in mind, it has what MSI calls their Steel Series gaming keyboard that accurately detects up to 10 simultaneous keystrokes for those that are fast fingered. If you’re an audiophile you’ll also appreciate the quad speakers that feature THX audio.
Where to Buy: MSI GE60 $1,099 at Amazon.com
HP Envy 15t-j000
HP considers its ENVY line their premium design offering. Though the Envy 15t-j000 has been accused of looking a lot like a MacBook, there’s nothing wrong with following in the footsteps of a killer looking laptop. Besides, it has its own design touches such as the Beats audio jog dial and orange accents. The Envy 15t with its Nvidia 740m graphics card does not have the most powerful graphics of our picks, but it’s still capable enough for most games. The base level processor is the Intel Core i7 Quad Core 4th generation, plenty of processing speed for most any application. Speaking of cost, the starting price before coupon is $699 but typically coupons are available that get the price down below $1,000.
One of the unique options the ENVY 15t-3200 has is the ability to upgrade to a Full HD IPS screen that offers wide viewing angles. No other 15” gaming laptop on the market offers that option. Other cool features include the volume jog dial, backlit keyboard and a DisplayPort output that allows you to output to two external monitors.
Where to Buy: HP.com ENVY 15t-j000 Configure to Order page