So far, the best Max-Q machines have been slim and much more travel-friendly than the average gaming laptop, while still allowing for gaming at 60fps or higher on high settings. There are, of course, tradeoffs: The Max-Q-tuned graphics cards are a bit less capable than the standard versions, pushing fewer frames per second while gaming. Also, these laptops tend to be a bit pricier. If you value portability and visual appeal, though, Max-Q is the most consistent method so far for relatively thin and light gaming laptops with top-tier power.
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.
These affordable gaming laptops are all either currently on special or are serious bargains in their own right, offering some ball busting deals for the budget mobile gaming connoisseur. Although we’ve tried to keep all our options under the $500, in some cases saving up a bit more can lead to a serious boost in performance, and in these cases we’ve snuck in a few good gaming laptops under $600 to keep your options open if you want the best value for your money in terms of raw performance.
Before we forget, let's talk memory. In a gaming laptop, look for at least 8GB of RAM. (In practice, no self-respecting model will come with less.) That will give you some breathing room when switching back and forth between your gameplay window and your messaging app, but we'd save researching game tips for when you're not playing, as each successive browser window you open eats into your RAM allotment.
The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM has Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics and a high-refresh-rate 120 Hz display, and in our tests it kept its WASD keys cool enough. But we found that it suffered from a rattly trackpad, a poor three-hour battery life, and terrible speakers, and it’s much harder to upgrade than the Dell G7—you have to remove 11 screws and take off the whole underside of the chassis, as opposed to the G7’s single screw and convenient panel. The FX504GM also has poor build quality; the chassis felt hollow to us, and the keyboard deck and lid flexed easily under pressure. We also experienced some unexpectedly low performance across multiple games and benchmarks. We’ve reached out to Asus to investigate that issue, but for now, we can’t recommend the FX504GM.
The choice of CPU is also important. All the laptops on this list come equipped with quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with ‘HQ’ or ‘HK’ at the end of their model names, but you’ll find some cheaper models on the market that only have a ‘U’ suffix. This denotes a much lower-power, dual-core processor that can prove to be a huge bottleneck in games if you have a high-end graphics card.
Somewhat ridiculous name aside, we've got to hand our Best Value pick to Logitech's affordable, midrange 'Proteus Spectrum' gaming mouse. My first impressions of this mouse were very positive: despite how many buttons it has, it's quite intuitive. While you won't get the versatility of a wired/wireless combo here, the G502 delivers a lot of value for the very reasonable starting price of $80. What's more, it's widely available for $60 online, and as low as $40 in some instances. What a steal!
The graphics card is the heart of your gaming experience and is one of the first and foremost things that you need to check out. If you intend to play high-end games at maximum resolution, then choosing a gaming laptop with a powerful graphics card is a necessity. If you don’t need top-of-the-line performance, an entry-level GPU will do the trick. It all comes down to personal preference and the type of games that you would be playing on your laptop. High-end games such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Watch Dogs 2, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Assassin's Creed: Origins, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Battlefield 1 require an advanced and powerful graphics card to play them at maxed-out settings. It helps the laptop handle the intense frame-rate and rendering that such advanced games require. Game makers are constantly coming up with games that are better than the ones that came earlier. With the level of video games’ graphics constantly on the rise, it is essential to get a laptop with a good graphics card to make your games run seamlessly.
Theoretically, you may find a gaming laptop with an Intel Core i3 or one of AMD's CPUs installed, but those are uncommon: Systems with Intel Core i3 and comparable entry-level AMD processors are certainly capable of playing many games, but why limit yourself from square one? That said, if you have to make the choice between a high-end CPU and a high-end GPU, go for the graphics. For example, we'd recommend getting a Core i5 CPU over a Core i7 if the money saved could then go toward an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU instead of a GTX 1050. Spending the money on the GPU makes more sense than spending it on the CPU if gaming is your main concern.
If we are to tell you about just how good the Proteus Spectrum is, there would be a lot of things to tell; for starters, the mouse costs half of what some of the flagship mice cost, apart from that, the mouse has an excellent value for money, 11 buttons that can be programmed however you want them to be, a comfortable design that doesn’t shy away from being stylish, and excellent tracking and response. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the pros and the cons.
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.