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.

$3,000 or more: This is where things get crazy. With this kind of budget you can get a high-res display, custom paint job, up to four SSDs in RAID configuration and a maximum of 64GB of RAM from manufacturers like OriginPC and Maingear. Depending on the notebook, you can get two 1080 GPUs in SLI configuration with each card sporting 8GB of VRAM. Not only can you play any game without worry of low frame rates, you can use VR headsets like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive.
Cheaper gaming systems today are equipped with lower-tier cards like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, or GTX 1060, but these modern budget cards are surprisingly effective. You'll be able to play smoothly in HD, just not at the very highest settings in newer games. These may be budget systems, but this generation of entry-level graphics chips is fairly capable, so don't be too worried that you won't be able to play most games moderately well. Virtual-reality gaming may be a stretch in this price range, but the GTX 1060 is the least expensive VR-capable card, so some laptops at the higher end of this price range will (just) get you in the door.
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:

The three most important hardware components of this laptop (namely CPU, GPU, and RAM) work well together to deliver excellent budget gaming performance. The 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ quad-core processor actually clocks in at over 10,000 points in GeekBench, which is a great score for this price.  You also get 8GB of DDR3 RAM, plus Nvidia's acclaimed GeForce GTX 960M with 2 GB GDDR5 VRAM. It's a very good combination, in our opinion, allowing you to run a lot of current games on high to very high settings with steadily high FPS.
It features a large 15.6-inch display that delivers a crisp image, but its resolution is only HD at 1366 x 768, unlike our top pick, the ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA-DHM4, which features a Full-HD 1080p display. The full-sized keyboard has received a solid thumbs up from most users, but some found that the touchpad is slightly too sensitive. One can, however, change the sensitivity settings in Windows, so we do not necessarily view a sensitive touchpad as a negative aspect.
At the top of the gaming laptop pantheon are full-size "luggable" desktop replacement laptops. While these are still laptops in the strictest sense, they are essentially made to be portable desktops rather than lap computers or even a machine meant to be used away from mains power for an extended period of time. This allows them to use component choices you couldn't do in proper laptops, improving performance at the cost of weight.
At this point, the major mouse makers' software packages have been through generations of refinement, so they are slick. Logitech Gaming System (LGS), Corsair Utility Engine (CUE), and Razer Synapse are three of the best-regarded mouse- and keyboard-control utilities that cater to gamers. All offer advanced tweakability, with CUE regarded by many users and reviewers as the deepest, but also the trickiest to master in-depth.
Powered by a Skylake Intel Core i5-6200U processor with Hyper-Threading and 8GB of RAM, the HP 15-ay011nr will cope with everyday tasks and casual gaming with ease. The new Skylake series features the newer and more powerful Intel HD Graphics 520 chipset that will offer users similar performance to the GeForce 820M from NVIDIA. This means users will be able to run some newer gaming titles with acceptable frame rates on lower settings while older and classic titles will run on higher settings. The GPU relies on shared memory and while the 8GB of RAM is adequate, we recommend upgrading to 12GB or 16GB of RAM to maximize the performance.
Being the fastest mobile graphics adapter, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 combined with Intel Core i7-7820HK shows astonishing performances at 1080p. The 100 FPS was easily achieved for many games, and even the heaviest games succeeded 60 FPS at 1080p. For certainly, this is one of the fastest gaming laptops, and the GTX 1080 makes sure of experiencing the same satisfaction as using a top-class desktop.
We tested the laptops using BioShock Infinite’s benchmarking mode and by playing half an hour of The Witcher 3 on ultra with VSync off. We measured the laptops’ internal temperature using HWMonitor and measured the surface temperature at various points on the keyboard and underside using an IR thermometer. We tested each laptop’s screen using some of the Lagom LCD monitor test pages, and used each for several workdays to get a feel for its keyboard, trackpad, screen, and speakers.
Almost all gaming laptops have a backlit keyboard in order to allow users to game in low-light conditions. Entry-level gaming PCs tend to offer variable intensity red or white backlighting while more expensive computers are generally equipped with RGB keyboards. An RGB keyboard gives greater control over the color of its keys (which can usually be adjusted via an application). For example, the Asus ROG Zephyrus allows users to assign different colors to different keyboard zones whereas some MSI computers and the Gigabyte Aorus X7 allow users to set a different color for each individual key.
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:
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.
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