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.
This affordable Omen is only packing a GTX 1050 GPU, but it's fairly loaded otherwise, and is also available in several different configurations too. Its storage in particular is pretty great, with a 256GB PCIe SSE for your OS and a 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive for data and games. It's sporting a sufficient 12GB of RAM, and a very decent Intel Core i7-7700HQ Quad Core Processor. You may or may not be a fan of its "faux carbon fiber" trim, but the red backlight on the keyboard is pretty slick. Also, if you ditch the SSD and can live with 8GB of RAM, it's even cheaper.
If your top priority isn’t playing the newest games at the highest graphics settings, or if you want to play games but also need to carry a laptop for school or work, these picks are for you. Even though these cheap gaming laptops won’t play games as well for as many years, they tend to have longer battery life than high-end gaming laptops, and you’ll save a lot of money.
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.)
It has an average battery life of around 5 hours, 30 minutes according to reports, and most reviewers have pointed out that the audio quality is good overall. The Intel UHD 620 graphics won’t win any awards for gaming performance, but it will allow you to run some classic titles well, and even some newer titles on low settings (see this video). It also comes with USB 3.1 with a reversible USB C connector for super fast data transfers. ASUS’s new Vivobook F510UA-AH51 15.6-inch laptop offers a great performance for the price, and its portability and solid construction makes it well suited for business people constantly travelling.
HP chose to fit a respectable 7th Gen Intel Core i3-7100U 2.4GHz Processor under the hood. Coupled with the 8GB of RAM, basic task handling will be breeze, and even some more demanding applications such as Premiere Pro or Photoshop will run, but Intel’s i5 or i7 is generally much better at this. The Intel HD 620 graphics chip will allow for light gaming, with games such as CS:GO, DOTA 2 and LOL running comfortably.
After picking our hardware criteria, we scoured the websites of major gaming laptop manufacturers like Acer, Alienware, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, and Samsung. We also browsed boutique makers such as Clevo, Digital Storm, iBuypower, Origin PC, and Xotic PC, but few of those sell configurations that meet our hardware criteria and budget; selecting every component can get very expensive very fast, so customizing isn’t ideal for buyers on a tight budget.
So what hardware is inside? Well, you get the popular Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6 GHz processor, capable of handling current games on high settings. The CPU is paired with the excellent and highly-recommended NVIDIA GTX 960M GPU. It's an amazing graphics card that offers high gaming performance at a great price. All that is combined with a very fast 256GB solid-state drive and a high-quality screen. The HP OMEN delivers a very good hardware combination for the price.
As for the screen's native resolution, 1,920 by 1,080 pixels (commonly called 1080p) is now the norm in budget-priced and mainstream gaming machines. The more pixels you need to push, the more graphics power you need, and a savvy maker of gaming laptops won't outfit a laptop with a screen whose native resolution the GPU can't do justice. So the absence of higher-than-HD screens in budget gaming machines is no accident. Not only do such screens cost more and sap more battery life, but the graphics chips found in under-$1,000 gaming rigs wouldn't power gameplay on them very well. (Screens with resolutions higher than 1080p tend to look small and squinty at the 15-inch size, anyway.)
The Logitech G300s has been on the market for quite some time, which is why it doesn't cost that much. Don't let the price fool you, though. The G300s is a comfortable, versatile mouse that takes full advantage of the intuitive Logitech Gaming Software. This small peripheral packs a surprising amount of buttons, and you can even customize a few LED lights.
We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics processor with 4 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i5-8300H processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive. This configuration usually costs around $900; if it’s any more expensive when you’re shopping, we recommend saving up for our top pick with more powerful graphics instead.
The laptop is powered by an 8th generation i7-8750H CPU that comes with a base clock speed of 2.2 GHz, although the turbo clock is a much more impressive 4.1 GHz. On the memory front, it combines an ample 16 GB of DDR4 RAM with a snappy 256 GB SSD. It is worth noting that there is also an empty 2.5-inch drive slot, in case that the SSD alone doesn’t offer enough storage for your needs.
The large 5400 RPM mechanical hard drive is slow, but with 1TB of storage space you will be able to save tons of movies, music and files. It comes with two USB 3.1 ports and one USB 2.0 port, and it has a moderate battery life of around 6 hours. The keyboard is not backlit, but most have noted that it is comfortable to use at least. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the touchpad, with many stating a mouse is a must.
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