Minimal Portability (17 - 18 inches): If you plan to keep your laptop in your home and leave it on your desk or just move it between rooms, a system with a 17 or 18-inch display like the Alienware 17 should be fine. Laptops in this size range are usually the most powerful, because they have plenty of room for heat-generating components. However, they're heavy to carry, a tough fit for most bags and too power-hungry to use unplugged for very long.
Somewhat ridiculous name aside, we've got to hand our Best Value pick to Logitech's affordable, midrange 'Proteus Spectrum' gaming mouse. My first impressions of this mouse were very positive: despite how many buttons it has, it's quite intuitive. While you won't get the versatility of a wired/wireless combo here, the G502 delivers a lot of value for the very reasonable starting price of $80. What's more, it's widely available for $60 online, and as low as $40 in some instances. What a steal!
In my opinion a Core-i5 CPU with a GTX 1050 Ti graphics card is the sweet spot for medium to high quality 1080p gaming. This means that even with visually demanding games you can crank up the eye candy and still maintain 30 to 60 frames-per-second. The GTX 1050 is capable too, but you'll need to crank down the quality knobs to maintain high framerates, normally to low or medium.
Alienware is taking up to $760 Off Select Gaming Laptops and Desktops. Excellently priced but with a limited number of units available for a limited time. Free Shipping. Many of these PCs won Editor's choice or are recommended from various publications like PCMag and Computer Shopper. Some desktops feature the new GeForce RTX graphics cards. Some best bets:
Before we dive into our list of the best cheap gaming laptops, let’s go over what to look for in a gaming laptop. After all, just because a device is affordable and has “Gaming” in its name doesn’t mean it’s going to get the job done for everyone. The main features to consider when shopping for a cheap gaming laptop are its GPU, display resolution, amount and kind of storage, and even portability are things you should keep in mind when shopping for an inexpensive gaming laptop.
Stefan Vazharov and Brandon Carte of Best Products featured the Logitech G613 LIGHTSPEED Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and the Logitech G903 LIGHTSPEED Wireless Gaming Mouse in their guide to “60+ Gifts for Gamers to Level Up Their Experience.” They shared that “the G613 wireless mechanical keyboard by Logitech is an excellent way to make your favorite people better gamers, as well as more effective typists." They additionally noted that the Logitech G903 is a “solid contender for being the best of its kind, it features pro-grade performance in wireless and wired mode, ambidextrous design with customizable buttons and lighting (via a software suite), and excellent 20+ hours of battery life.”
Featuring a 1080p G-Sync screen and wealth of different configuration options that let you pair an Intel Core i7 with an Nvidia GTX 1060, 1070 or 1080, the mid- and top-specced versions are both more than powerful enough to run triple-A games with their graphics maxed. This, plus an excellent RGB keyboard and a solid set of speakers, make it a great choice for laptop gamers who don’t have the extra cash, or space, to grab a dedicated monitor or sound system.
This Chinese manufacturer only has one product line geared towards gamers: the Ideapad Legion Y. This computer is available with either a 15.6″ or 17.3″ display (Legion Y520 and Y720). The Legion Y is in direct competition with the HP Omen and features a variety of different hardware components (entry-level models are equipped with a GeForce GTX 1050 graphics chip). Laptopmag revealed this computer’s negative aspects which mainly concern the quality of its display and the poor performance of its SSD.
While there is a plenty of storage space, the hard drive is a mechanical hard drive, meaning boot and application load times will be slow. Lastly, the 5-hour battery life is fairly average. The Dell Inspiron I3567-5664BLK-PUS 15.6-inch laptop offers users a solid experience and is really well priced for the CPU included, but the display quality may be a drawback for some.
Right now, Nvidia graphics cards are found on the overwhelming majority of new gaming laptops. You’ll generally find laptop specific parts on machines launched in 2014 and 2015 (such as 950M, 960M etc), but from this year all Nvidia laptops get full desktop-level GPUs. This is because the company’s ‘Pascal’ architecture is so efficient it can squeeze into the same space as an old-style laptop GPU without needing extra cooling. Look out for 10-series cards such as the GTX 1050, GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080.
Look for Intel Core i5 processors in midrange systems, with Core i7 U, HQ, and HK processors in higher-end gaming laptops. The H-series processors are higher-power, and tend to show up in bigger, thicker laptop models, while the low-power U-series chips are designed for thinner, more portable machines. They are quite different, in terms of thermal profile, as well as overall performance potential; a U-series Core i7 processor may not even have the same number of processing cores as an H-series Core i7 chip.
All right, let's talk about higher-end affordable gaming laptops: Spending a little extra will give you two things: First, your gaming laptop will perform much better for high-end games on max settings. Second, your laptop will be much more future-proof so that you can enjoy games a few years down the line. In short, if you have a little extra budget, it's definitely a smart choice to get one of the higher-spec gaming laptops reviewed below. Let's talk details!
Matthew Buzzi is a Hardware Analyst at PCMag, focusing on laptops and desktops with a specialty in gaming systems and games. Matthew earned a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism and interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming before turning it into part of his career. He spends entirely too much time on Twitter (find him @M... See Full Bio
Some features that are must-haves in non-gaming laptops aren’t quite as important here. Poor speakers can be bypassed with a good pair of headphones, and most people use a mouse instead of the trackpad while gaming. Battery life and portability have never been the strong suits of gaming laptops, which spend most of their lives plugged in and stationary.
Matte or Glossy: How do you like your displays, glossy or matte? This is more a matter of preference than anything else, but there are die-hard fans for both camps. Team Glossy swears by the vibrant colors, but that shiny surface is very susceptible to annoying glare. Fans of a matte panel don't have to worry about distracting reflections, but some users complain about washed out color and detail.
Like many other top cheap gaming laptops, the MSI GE62 includes the great Intel Core i5-6300HQ Quad Core processor. This CPU works perfect for current games and can easily be stepped up from 2.3 to 3.2GHz, using Intel's Turbo Boost technology. Unlike some other budget laptops we recommend, this one has a more powerful GPU though. You get the amazing NVIDIA Geforce GTX970M with 3G GDDR5. As you can see from the GPU's 3DMark score above, it's a very, very fast gaming graphics card with plenty of room for current games on high settings.
A few less common items are worth looking for if you're a serious mouse tweaker. The software might control "lift distance," or how far you can raise a mouse off the pad or desk before it stops tracking. A slider or, better, a wizard-style setup function will dictate this in the utility, if present. Another feature is surface calibration, in which the mouse software runs a routine that optimizes the mouse and its sensor for the texture and traits of your mousing surface. On the even more esoteric side: support for angle snapping (a movement-compensation feature that helps you move the mouse in straight lines) and for designating different resolutions for the X and Y axes (say, for faster tracking only sideways, to traverse a vast landscape in an RTS world).
Its R5 graphics boasts a GPU clock speed of 800MHz (Boosted) and will allow you to play some of the best classic titles and even some of the Twitch chart toppers such as CS: GO and League of Legends. You will even be able to play GTA V and Battlefield 4 if you don’t mind playing those games on lower settings. If you are more of a browser-based gamer, then you will love the responsive touchscreen that will allow you to play your favorite games without the need of the laptop’s trackpad.
The Lenovo Legion Y530 is the Porsche of budget gaming laptops. Its minimalist design and blackout color scheme give it a suave look you'd associate with tuxedo-clad, big-screen villains. Outside of its stately good looks, you get a gaming notebook that offers a wide range of ports and a solid graphics card. It's a very good choice for casual gamers who want a sub-$1,000 laptop with a button-up design that can blend in -- and even impress -- no matter the setting.