High-end systems, meanwhile, should guarantee you smooth gameplay at 1080p with graphics details maxed out, and might let you play at 4K resolution (if the screen supports it). A high-end model should also be able to power a VR headset and support additional external monitors. These machines tend to come with speedy storage components such as 512GB PCI Express solid-state drives, and they are priced above $2,500. Some support 3K to 4K screens, a hard drive to supplement the SSD, and ultra-efficient cooling fans as optional extras. A few elite boutique models will support dual graphics chips. (Such rare-bird machines will be massive and expensive, with minimal battery life.)
These affordable gaming laptops are all either currently on special or are serious bargains in their own right, offering some ball busting deals for the budget mobile gaming connoisseur. Although we’ve tried to keep all our options under the $500, in some cases saving up a bit more can lead to a serious boost in performance, and in these cases we’ve snuck in a few good gaming laptops under $600 to keep your options open if you want the best value for your money in terms of raw performance.
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.
In our tests, the Legion Y530 kept its WASD keys on the cooler side at 101 °F (38 °C) after half an hour of Overwatch. The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GE-ES72 kept its WASD keys coolest at 94°F (34 °C), but the Y530’s keys didn’t feel uncomfortable for long gaming sessions, just a bit warm. The area where my palm rested near the trackpad reached 105 °F (41 °C); that’s a bit warmer than we’d like, but it wasn’t uncomfortable.
A laptop based around the next-step-up GeForce GTX 1060, meanwhile, is ideal for no-compromise 1080p gaming. We've seen GTX 1060-based gaming rigs priced anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. The biggest values are likely to be found in this lot, and the GTX 1060 is the baseline for using your laptop with a virtual reality (VR) headset. (See our picks for the best laptops for VR.)
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.
With that said, everything about the Razer DeathAdder Chroma is new and improve, making it one of the most impressive gaming mice to step in the gaming industry; in case you are wondering what your money gets you basically get an amazing optical sensor that is capable of delivering an output of 10,000 DPI, and yes, you can control the DPI as per your liking, so even if you want to go lower, you can easily do so.
Graphics: You can’t upgrade your laptop’s graphics processor, and if you cut corners you’ll have to shell out for a new computer sooner to keep playing new games. (Trust me, I’ve made this mistake.) Notebookcheck’s tests show the GTX 1060 and the GTX 1060 Max-Q near the 60 fps threshold in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Shadow of the Tomb Raider on high settings, while the GTX 1050 Ti barely scrapes by at 31 fps. But all three GPUs hit at least 60 fps in Overwatch on “epic” settings at 1080p. The GTX 1060 and its Max-Q counterpart support VR, while the GTX 1050 Ti has extremely limited VR support.
You also get Razer’s Synapse 2.0, one of the best customization suites you can find when it comes to the software. The good thing about Razer DeathAdder Chroma Is that the company followed the “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” very gracefully, and didn’t bring any revolutionary changes apart from some hardware tweaks, and in our opinion, that’s the best way to do it. Simply put, people who find the Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum too fancy, going for a Razer DeathAdder Chroma is the best choice there is. Let’s dive a little deeper into some pros and cons in order to give you a better idea.
Corsair didn’t just release a product range suited for every budget oriented, as well as well high-end gamers, but they made sure that all the products don’t share a drastic difference between the price they have and the features they give. That means that whether you are buying their mid-high range K70, or their enthusiast range K95, you won’t be sacrificing on the features a lot. That is something really good, and something a lot of other companies don’t follow.
I just upgraded an older Z170 chipset P870DM3 (which Sager calls the 9873) with 9900K. +100% CPU power upgrade over 6700K. Ran a bench at 4.9ghz allcore this morning. Others have demonstrated the current Z370 P870TM model with >5ghz 9900K. (This same model was DAILYING 8700K at 5Ghz for 6 months before laptop coffeelake came along and boy it was a huge deal when ONE or TWO of the BGA i9's completed a short bench at 5ghz!). Utter beastly pieces of engineering, that make everything BGA else look puny by comparison. For sure they suck at portability, but if you don't place such a high importance on that, and you're talking best performance, this is it
Refresh rate: Most laptops you’ll see will have 1080p resolution and a 60Hz display. And for many gamers, that’s absolutely enough. Higher resolution displays (2560 x 1440, 3840 x 2160) are pretty, but top out at 60Hz. That’s why for some gamers, 1080p may be the best option. Some vendors offer FHD displays with a faster, 144Hz refresh rate for smoother gaming. Of course, you need a great GPU and to play on settings that emphasize frame rate over graphical fidelity to take advantage.
If you are wondering, the Proteus Spectrum is just an updated version of the bestselling Logitech Proteus Core, the only difference is the inclusion of Spectrum lighting; Logitech’s version of RGB lighting. Where the G900 Chaos Spectrum is built for the enthusiasts who like to fire on all fours, the Proteus Spectrum is aimed at users who don’t want to spend an awful lot of money but still get the best of both worlds.
Display: We focused on 15-inch models for this guide because they strike a good balance between screen size and relative portability, and they fit our budget. Our cheap gaming laptop pick needs a 1920×1080 screen—no exceptions. Lower resolutions look terrible, and higher resolutions aren’t affordable yet. (And our budget laptops’ GPUs can’t play games well at resolutions above 1080p anyway.) Very few laptops in this price range have high-refresh-rate (120 Hz or 144 Hz) panels, but it’s a nice bonus, especially for first-person games like Overwatch or Doom; the higher the refresh rate, the smoother animations appear, as long as the frame rate is also high. IPS screens tend to provide better viewing angles and color reproduction over TN panels, but they can also be more expensive, so we treat them as a preference but not a requirement.
If you want AAA performance and have a little money to spend, consider the (now previous-gen) $1,800 Razer Blade, which brings the literal heat — as in, consider a cooling pad. With an Intel Core i7-7700HQ and 16GB of RAM, and at just over 4 pounds, it's less than half the weight of the Alienware 17 R5. The downside: Razer's unsubtle snake logo screams, "I'm not doing work!"
The Sabre RGB can simply rest on your desk, and you won’t be bothered by it. No, we are not saying that the design is bad, it’s just stealthy, and that’s how most gamers prefer. You should keep in mind that you won’t be getting any weight tuning system but keeping the price as along with the weight of the mouse makes it clear that you don’t really need weight tuning. You get an excellent 10,000 DPI sensor and RGB lighting, and that should be more than enough.
Whether you’re getting a gaming laptop for the first time or replacing an older model that doesn’t play games as well anymore, you should take a look at what games you can and can’t play (and on which settings) using Notebookcheck’s useful “Computer Games on Laptop Graphic Cards” chart. Our pick has VR-ready Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics, and our budget pick has a GTX 1050 Ti GPU.
Clevo is king of the hill in terms of true DTR machines, and the P870TM is their latest incarnation, featuring up to a Core i9-9900K desktop class CPU, and up to SLI GTX 1080 for the ultimate in performance. As a true DTR you can outfit it with 64 GB of DDR4, and basically whatever combination of storage you'd like. The 1920x1080 144 Hz G-SYNC display is on the low-side in terms of resolution, but with the high refresh the gaming will be incredibly smooth, since this is one of the few laptops that can easily drive the maxium refresh rate on this resolution. Being a DTR though, you could also just connect it to a UHD display on your desk as well.
Wirecutter has spent more than 200 hours over the past five years researching and testing dozens of gaming laptops, and our PC team has more than 37 years of combined experience covering laptops. I’ve personally tested, lived with, and reviewed hundreds of laptops, and I’ve spent hands-on time with countless other models while covering the CES trade show, attending events, and visiting stores. I’ve reviewed most gaming laptops—both budget and high-end—released in the past six years, and I’ve spent thousands of hours gaming on laptops since high school.
Many found that replacing it with an M.2 SSD helped solve this problem. It comes with two USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port, and a compact USB-C 3.1 connector, as well as an HDMI and VGA video output for connecting multiple screens, and there is also a multi-format memory card reader. The full-size keyboard is sadly not backlit, but many noted that its key travel and feedback are great, and the touchpad is said to be good overall, but compared to higher-end laptops, it is not as responsive.
John is PCMag's executive editor for hardware. A veteran of the popular tech site and magazine Computer Shopper from 1993 to 2017, he has covered just about every kind of computer gear—from the 386SX to 18-core processors—in his long tenure as an editor, a writer, and an advice columnist. He served as Computer Shopper’s editor in chief from 2008 to... See Full Bio
The ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS-DB71 is impressively remarkable and offers about twice the gaming experience of previous single-GPU notebooks, which is terrific. It’s gaming laptop that delivers on point as a result of its quad-core CPU, DDR4 memory, the most recent GPU in its class and a 256GB SSD. Its design is handy and quite portable too. You can get as much as 5 hours of battery life but as a gaming laptop it’s demanding hardware can cause the battery to drain easily but this is no big deal at all
ROG Zephyrus computers bring together high-performance characteristics and good portability (with a chassis that only weighs 2.2 Kg despite incorporating a 15.6″ display). The display used on these computers is G-sync compatible and operates at a frequency of either 120 or 144 Hz. The Zephyrus’ high-end components (6-core Intel processor, Max-Q graphics chip, etc.) are well-suited to any type of usage – even to playing the most resource-intensive games (see the test of the ROG Zephyrus M GM501).
There are no longer any gaming laptops using an Intel Core i3 processor. These days, many entry-level computers come equipped with a 4-core Core i5 processor. However, the most commonly found processor in this type of laptop is the Core i7. The 4-core Core i7-7700HQ processor is slowly being phased out in favor of the Core i7-8750H (6 cores at 2.2/4.1 GHz) and the Core i9-8950HK (6 cores at 2.9/4.8 GHz).
It looks good, too. With an RGB-backlit keyboard and attractive orange highlights, there’s no mistaking the fact that this machine is pitched at gamers, not everyday users. There are more expensive models available, but of the range we reckon this is one of the best value options. If you want to pay more, consider the higher-spec Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming with its 4K , IPS panel.
We recommend the $1,250 model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive. The G5 is available in black or red, and has a red-backlit keyboard in place of the G7’s blue-accented design. But because of the screen, we recommend the G5 only if the G7 is unavailable.
The GTX 1050 Ti can turn in more than 60FPS at 1080p with Medium quality settings on demanding games like Gears of War 4, Battlefield 1, Rise of the Tomb Raider and DOOM. For games that don't push the GPU as hard, framerates of 85+ can be achieved, leaving plenty of room to increase quality settings and still stay well above 30FPS. As an example, Rise of the Tomb Raider's Very High setting for the built-in benchmark pushes out around 40FPS.
Before we begin looking at just how good the Steel Series Rival 700, there are some obvious things you should know about this mouse; the Rival 700 is unique in a sense that it carries an OLED display that can display a variety of different things including settings, as well as some GIFs that are specifically made for this display and can be downloaded from several series.
MSI - MSI’s gaming laptops are often big, black and red, though the company’s recent Stealth Thin showed it can do something more subdued as well. Of course, you’ll always notice the trademark dragon logo. MSI includes its Dragon Center software, which recently went through a redesign. It allows for system monitoring, multiple performance profiles, controlling the fans and customizing keyboard backlighting.
So, what’s good about the Chaos Spectrum? Well, there are a lot of things, for starters, you can go from 200 to 12,000 DPI on the fly, and that’s really impressive, do keep in mind that this isn’t just software increase, and the DPI is effectively changed across the board, you get the Spectrum lighting, something that is Logitech’s own version of RGB lighting, and you get the legendary software suite that Logitech is known and loved for. The Chaos Spectrum can be used wirelessly and wired, and just like the Ouroborus, does come with an ambidextrous design.
The second comparison. Is the gaming laptop build with plastic, metal or a combination of the two. This will impact the durability, the weight and look of the laptop. Budget gaming laptop are usually built with a combination of the plastic and metal, usually metal on top and plastic at the bottom. It’s also up to you to know what you want, because every laptops build quality will be a little different.
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
If the Dell G7 is unavailable, we recommend the Dell G5 15 Gaming. It’s nearly identical to the G7, but the model we tested had a worse-looking screen with a greenish color tint, angled vents instead of rounded ones, and red backlighting on the keyboard instead of blue. Dell confirmed to us that the G5 and G7 have identical fan and heatsink setups when configured with the same graphics card. We recommend the G5 with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive for around $1,200, but only if you can’t find the G7 at a good price.
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