We didn’t test any gaming laptops that failed to meet our specs requirements (see the How we picked section for more details), and we didn’t test any that were too expensive, since this is a budget guide. As a result, we eliminated any laptops with a GTX 1060 or GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU above $1,400, as well as any laptops with a GTX 1050 Ti above $950—at that price, it’s worth getting a more powerful graphics processor instead. Here’s everything we tested against our picks in 2018:
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
Under $1,000: While you might see a few notebooks with Intel Core i5 processors at this price range, there are plenty with 7th-generation Intel Core i7 CPUs and at least 8GB of RAM. Display-wise you can expect a 1080p display with average color reproduction, accuracy and brightness. Now that SSDs are becoming more commonplace, you can get a solid SSD at below $1,000. However, it's unlikely that it'll be a slower configuration instead of a high-speed PCIe device. Your rig will probably be outfitted with 1TB HDD (usually 5,400-rpm) and a Nvidia GeForce 1050 or 1050 Ti GPU with between 2-4 GB of VRAM. A laptop with these specs can play most titles at a solid frame rate at medium settings, but you can expect some trouble at higher configurations. (See our favorite sub-$1,000 gaming laptops here.)
The central processing unit or CPU contributes to being the most crucial part of the gaming laptop. This is due to the fact that games such as watchdogs, battlefields, make use of a high amount of horsepower as compared to the previous generation of the games for running the different functions of the games. This holds good for the multiplayer especially, as the CPU keeps track of the several players which need abundant processing. It is recommended to choose Intel core i7 quad core processor for playing intensive games. You can go for the dual-core i5, but they may reduce the speed of the game. Avoid AMD APU quad core as the cores are weak in comparison to the quad-core processors of Intel.
Most gaming laptops—including budget machines—have comfortable, deep-travel keyboards that cushion your fingers during long gaming sessions. This Dell model’s blue-backlit keyboard felt crisp, snappy, and responsive but a bit shallow to us, so it was not as comfortable after a few hours of gaming or typing as some of the other laptops we tested. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but we do prefer the feel of the keyboards on the Lenovo Y530 and Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM.
You can also get a sweet deal by going back in time and looking at laptops with previous-gen CPUs, as they are usually available at fire sale prices and there's not a huge difference in performance between Skylake and Kaby Lake for gaming. You won't be quite as future-proof, but you'll still get several years of great 1080p gaming at a low price. Let's dive into the top picks a cheap gaming laptop:
The next gaming laptop we have lined up comes from none other than MSI, and it is the GV62 8RD. Unlike the above Acer laptop, this one you can tell is a gaming laptop from the get-go, all thanks to the red LED keyboard backlight and the conspicuous MSI Gaming logo on the back. But what’s really great about this laptop is how it packs some important gaming features into an overall fairly affordable product.
One of the perks of living in the 21st century is the constant stream of technology that is available for us to use. The majority of people know how to use laptops and computers, but most of us are not computer wizards. The majority of people use simple computer skills for work and leisure purposes, whom I would define as an average computer user. As a college student who uses the internet for leisure and study purposes as well as basic Microsoft Office functions, I would classify myself as an average computer user. Thus, I am writing this review for the average computer user.
Heat: A gaming laptop’s GPU and CPU produce a lot of heat. Without an effective cooling system, the machine will overheat, which can slow gaming performance, shorten the laptop’s lifespan, or even burn you.1 No gaming laptop can keep completely cool—all that heat has to go somewhere. But it needs to keep its internals, the WASD keys (the most-used section of the keyboard for gamers, as those four keys often control in-game movement), and the left palm rest (where your left hand rests while using the WASD keys) cool. It’s a bit more forgivable for the laptop to get hot in areas with less direct contact with your skin, such as the underside and the strip above the keyboard.
The 15-inch 60 Hz 1920×1080 IPS display, the blue-backlit keyboard, and the trackpad are all solid performers. The Dell G7 15 Gaming has impressive battery life for a gaming laptop, but it’s a bit heavier than the competition and its fans get distractingly loud during gaming sessions. We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB solid-state drive for around $1,200.
In a gaming laptop, an SSD plus a hard drive is the best of both storage worlds. In terms of gaming performance, the storage subsystem affects game load times and in-game level changes. It can be of special importance in MMORPGs, where huge environments are loaded in real time. Thus, having at least some fast, SSD-based storage is desirable. To our eyes, you should only opt for an SSD boot drive at this point in time. The difference in performance "feel" between a hard drive and an SSD boot drive is too big to ignore. (See our picks for the fastest SSDs.)
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.
Gaming Laptops (Show All) MSI Gaming Laptops ASUS Gaming Laptops Gigabyte Gaming Laptops Alienware Gaming Laptops GTX 1050 Gaming Laptops GTX 1050 Ti Gaming Laptops GTX 1060 Gaming Laptops GTX 1070 Gaming Laptops GTX 1080 Gaming Laptops Alienware 17 Laptops DELL G5 Gaming Laptops DELL G3 Gaming Laptops Gigabyte Aero 15 Laptops AORUS X-Series Laptops Gigabyte Sabre Laptops
We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB solid-state drive. This configuration usually costs around $1,200, in line with the other laptops we considered with similar specs. The G7 is available in black or white; we prefer black because the white lid on our unit scuffed a bit during our testing, but they cost the same, so follow your heart.
For many years, the term “gaming laptop” referred to a highly powerful, exceedingly expensive, very large, and extravagant looking computer that usually had very limited battery autonomy. It was more or less equivalent to a high-end desktop computer that had the advantage of being portable (and which was generally used to showcase its manufacturer’s most advanced hardware).
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.
It is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 quad-core processor clocked at 2.0 GHz and is paired with a 8GB of RAM. Storage department is handled by a massive 1TB of HDD which offers ample space to store all your games and other data. It doesn’t have a backlit enabled keyboard, but it does come with dedicated number pad and generously-spaced keys for comfortable typing experience.
With said, if you are wondering about the technical details, you should know that the ROG Spatha comes with an awful lot of programmable buttons, and that’s not all, you also get a charging bad that looks stylish as hell. Now at this point, you may have guessed that the mouse is wireless, well, here’s a catch, you can use it wirelessly without any input lag, and you can use it with the wire as well. You get the RGB lights, and pretty much every other feature you’d expect from a flagship mouse. The mouse comes with 12 programmable buttons that can be programmed as per your needs using the Asus Armoury software, you also get 8,200 max DPI, amazing ergonomics and comfort for long gaming sessions, the main buttons use Omron switches that are rated for a really high click cycle, and even if they wear out, you can always replace them.
Well, the laptop offers much more than just the strong chassis. Starting with the display, it comes with the HD 15.6-inch display with touch support enabling users to play touch-based games on this laptop. However, the display isn’t the best in terms of color accuracy, and it also doesn’t get bright enough to use comfortably in direct sunlight. However, the laptop is a well-built machine which manages to resist everyday wears and tears.
The laptop comes with a long list of ports and also has a good heat exhaust system, making it a perfect choice for gamers and all other hardcore users. As far as the graphics on the laptop are concerned, it comes with the Intel UHD 620 integrated graphics. All in all, the laptop offers an excellent set of specifications for a little above $500, but considering the design and performance of this laptop, we think it’s worth it.
Gaming laptops can put a serious dent in your wallet, with some of the fancier models costing upward of $3,000. But who says that the right rig has to cost an arm, a leg and the soul of your firstborn? Fortunately for the fiscally conscious gamer, there are some sub-$1,000 notebooks that can run graphically taxing games like Destiny 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider at solid frame rates.