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The Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM is currently our top recommended gaming laptop under $500. It features integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 graphics powered by the latest Intel i3 Kaby Lake processor and next generation connectivity such as USB 3.1 Type-C and Bluetooth 4.1. Despite weak gaming performance for most modern games, it holds its own with an unbeatable price to performance ratio compared to its competitors, clocking in at a $100 or more cheaper than many similarly specced laptops such as the Inspiron I3567 and HP Pavilion 17 1BQ14UA below.
The entry-level Pascal gaming chip is the GeForce GTX 1050, typically found in models starting around $700 to $800. The GTX 1050 is capable of playing most of today's games at 1080p resolution with medium to high settings. Keep in mind that the GTX 1050 may be on the edge of playability at high settings, depending on the game. You may want to opt for the next step up, a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti-based model, for a bit more graphics muscle. The floor on GTX 1050 Ti-based laptops was about $850 at this writing, with models ranging up to about $1,200. These two chips make up the heart of the under-$1,000 budget-laptop market here in late 2018.
In our tests, the G7’s WASD keys—the ones that control movement in most games, and the ones you touch the most—hit 103 °F (39 °C) after half an hour of Overwatch. Those temperatures felt warm and could induce sweating, but they weren’t uncomfortable to touch like the Acer Predator Helios 300’s too-toasty 110 °F (43 °C) in the same test. The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GE, which we tested with less powerful GTX 1050 Ti graphics, was the only budget gaming laptop we tested this year that kept its WASD cluster comfortably cool at 94 °F (34 °C).
The bargain-priced Lenovo Legion Y530 (available via Lenovo) could be a good entry-level gaming laptop if you manage your expectations. It’s impressively portable and has a solid feature set. Unfortunately its middling graphics card struggles to deliver buttery visuals from today’s AAA games, and its performance will only go downhill as more demanding titles come down the pike. Read our review.
Some manufacturers have opted for an intermediate and less expensive solution; that is to say, a hybrid hard drive (SSHD) which incorporates a very small SSD (8 GB) in order to optimize the storage system’s performance. However, the performance of this type of drive remains slightly inferior to that of a fully fledged SSD. Intel’s Optane technology is used on some of these hybrid systems, and it works quite well…
If the Dell G7 is unavailable, we recommend the very similar Dell G5 15 Gaming instead. 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 a red backlight on the keyboard instead of blue. Although we were able to test only the GTX 1050 Ti model, Dell confirmed to us that the G5 and G7 have identical thermal setups when configured with the same graphics card.
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But what seals the "best value" award for the G502 is that it includes a series of 3.6-gram weights to be added or removed from the body of the mouse, allowing users to increase/decrease the weight to find an optimal fit. While I love that the Mamba Tournament Edition is already weighted from the get-go, the option to add weight to the Proteus Spectrum—combined with its multiple buttons and adjustable wheel/DPI settings—grant it a very desirable amount of flexibility.
Several of the cheap gaming laptops we tested in 2018 couldn’t keep their WASD keys cool enough for comfortable gameplay. Note: We tested the Dell G5 with a GTX 1050 Ti, but we recommend the GTX 1060 Max-Q configuration. We confirmed with Dell that the G7 and G5 have identical fan and heatsink setups when configured with the same graphics processor.
HP launched this updated Pavilion line in April to make a play for those who are maybe interested in gaming, but not willing to go all-in on a laptop from the PC maker's Omen brand. We haven't seen it in person yet, but HP's direct pricing is on par with the competition here. The entry-level configuration is skippable at $680, but you can configure it for $750 with a Core i5-8300H processor and a GeForce GTX 1050Ti or a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor and a 3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 for $920.
Though, as with most budget laptops, you will get a slower 5400rpm hard drive. However, seeing as more and more of us are moving over to digital copies of our games it makes sense to remove the DVD drive and replace it with a HDD caddy and a good SDD. This will allow you to reap all the major benefits that an SSD offers for gaming and day-to-day use.
You should definitely consider a system with an SSD, since prices have fallen considerably over the past few years. SSDs speed up boot time, wake-from-sleep time, and the time it takes to launch a game and load a new level. Go ahead and get a gaming laptop with an SSD, but make sure you configure correctly. A small-capacity (128GB to 256GB) SSD with a roomy (1TB or greater) spinning hard drive is a good start if you also download the occasional video from the internet. (Only thicker gaming laptops will tend to support dual-drive arrangements like this.) Higher-capacity SSDs (512GB or more) are available, but choosing one will increase the purchase price of your gaming rig by a bunch. SSDs are very fast, but in terms of capacity, your money goes much further with hard drives.
Ross Rubin of Fast Company featured insights from Andrew Coonrad regarding the mechanical gaming keyboard market in his feature article, “The Mechanical Keyboards Of Yesteryear Are Back - And Better Than Ever.” Ross shared, “while dozens of small keyboard makers make only mechanical keyboards aimed largely at the video game market, Logitech is a keyboard giant that caters to a market beyond purists.
Matt Clark of IGN reviewed the Logitech G305 LIGHTSPEED Wireless Gaming Mouse, awarding it an “amazing” 9.2 out of 10 star rating. Overall, he concluded that “while the Logitech G305 won’t win any awards for being the flashiest, most extreme gamer mouse, it does its job amazingly well. Perfect response times, flawless connectivity, extreme accuracy, and all of that for about half the price of other wireless gaming mice. If you’ve been on the fence about a wireless mouse, this is the mouse that'll make you want to join the club.”
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.
The Dell G7 15 Gaming is the best gaming laptop for people on a budget. It has an excellent price-to-performance ratio, and its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics will play games on high to medium settings for years. The G7 keeps its most-touched surfaces and innards cool enough that the laptop stays comfortable to use during extended gaming sessions, and its screen, keyboard, and trackpad are all solid. It has impressive battery life (for a gaming laptop) too. But the G7 is a bit heavier than the competition, and its fans get distractingly loud during gaming sessions, so plan to use headphones.
Targeting, slashing, hacking, attacking: The key actions you take in any PC game happen at the click of your mouse, so you can't skimp on your weapon if you want to win. Today, though, the quality bar is high for all but the cheapest gaming mice, so you can afford to be picky. Nowadays, you should expect reliable connectivity, smooth and responsive tracking, and crisp click and scroll functions. Those are the table stakes—it takes much more to elevate a "good" gaming mouse to "great."