If you're shopping for a gaming system on a limited budget (in this case, between roughly $800 and $1,200), you're going to need to make some sacrifices. Maximizing power while staying within a limited price range is the goal, but you'll have to accept that some of the components won't be comparable with the more expensive laptops you'll see while browsing. That said, $1,200 is a reasonable ceiling for what some buyers are ready to spend on a gaming laptop, and you can still get a solid system for that much or less.
But we assume you want to do more than harvest potato mines and pea-shooters—you have a Steam account, and you ache to play some of the latest AAA titles: the newest rev of the Battlefield series, the latest Tom Clancy-fest, the newest iteration of Tomb Raider or Far Cry. That's where a dedicated graphics chip comes in. It's the starting point for getting serious about gaming on a notebook.
I tested/used a bunch of mice for this roundup, and this one was far and away my favorite, and the one I'd buy. It feels sturdier than even some more expensive gaming mice, and the added weight gives it a feeling of heightened precision. As an added bonus, the Mamba Tournament Edition also includes a very nice transport/storage case, and its strobing RGB LED lights are of subtler stuff than some of the more aggressive-looking mice in this roundup. For the money, this is the best mouse for the most gamers.
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:
We liked that this product offers a lot of pro features that you usually wouldn't find in a budget laptop. This includes a non-glare display, MSI's multi-monitor technology (powering up to three displays), and more. Nothing about this laptop feels cheap, except for the price (and that's a good thing)! MSI is known to make high-quality products and the CX62 is no exception.
For GTX 1060-based models close to the $1,000 line, though, you'll want to take note of the amount of video memory that backs up the GPU. You'll see GTX 1060-based laptops with 3GB or 6GB, with the latter obviously preferable and the former obviously cheaper. If you play games with system requirements that demand a certain VRAM minimum, or tend to play games with large texture packs or other VRAM-hungry mods, this could be a difference-maker.
As an added bonus, the Predator 17 has hella ports: Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2, Thunderbolt 3, four USB 3.0, an SD card slot, jacks for headphones and a microphone, and a Kensington lock slot. And like most gaming laptops, this model is easy to upgrade: Two small screws and a panel stand between you and installing two more sticks of RAM. Our pick doesn’t have any open drive slots, but you can access the included hard drive and solid-state drives if you need to replace them.
Still, depending on the kind of games you play and how fussy you are, sometimes a laptop doesn't have to pretend. On some level, almost any recent notebook PC can work as a gaming laptop. Current laptops using Intel's 7th or 8th Generation ("Kaby Lake" or "Coffee Lake") Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, or AMD's less commonly seen A10 or A12 chips, can play basic game titles passably if you roll back the screen-resolution and graphical-detail settings far enough. These chips have modest graphics acceleration built in, and that's all you need for casual or Web-based games. Plants vs. Zombies, here you come.
Resolution: The minimum resolution for any gaming laptop is 1920 x 1080 — anything less and you're asking for muddy graphics. Laptops with QHD (2560 x 1440) or 4K (3840 x 2160) panels are becoming increasingly popular, praised for their striking details and color. There are some gamers that swear by 1366 x 768 because of the increased frame rates, but I implore you to love yourself more and aim a bit higher.
Starting at $699, it's going to be hard to find a more affordable gaming laptop than the Asus TUF Gaming FX504. For the price, you get an 8th Gen Core i5 CPU and a Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU, which is enough to play most games on low or medium settings. Keep in mind that such a low price point, means that some sacrifices must be made. But if you want to spend as little money as possible for a gaming rig, the FX504 is the way to go.