We put the contenders through much of the same rigorous testing as we do with our best gaming laptops. We tested each by playing half an hour of Overwatch on high settings—a popular game, but not too taxing—and then tested our finalists with a more graphically demanding game by playing 30 minutes of The Witcher 3 on ultra with VSync off. We also played Overwatch and Doom extensively to test how our finalists held up during longer gaming sessions.
These affordable gaming laptops may not be able to play the most modern games on the highest settings, but that doesn’t detract from the glory of being able to game on the move without coming even close to breaking the bank. Either way relative to the amount of games out there (golden oldies and recent titles included) you’d be surprised how the amount of games you can play stacks up against those that you can’t. These top gaming laptops will cruise through popular games like Minecraft and DOTA 2 without breaking a sweat as well as many newer titles.
Mice aimed at first-person shooters, for one, tend to feature ratcheting scroll wheels—letting you cycle through your arsenal without selecting the wrong weapon—and on-the-fly resolution switchers. The latter will help you snap-change between the broad tracking you need in a frantic shootout and the tight control for lining up a sniper shot. (Sometimes this feature is dubbed something like "sniper mode," and it may involve a dedicated button for getting granular.)
Graphics: You can’t upgrade your laptop’s graphics processor, and if you cut corners you’ll have to shell out for a new computer sooner to keep playing new games. (Trust me, I’ve made this mistake.) Notebookcheck’s tests show the GTX 1060 and the GTX 1060 Max-Q near the 60 fps threshold in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Shadow of the Tomb Raider on high settings, while the GTX 1050 Ti barely scrapes by at 31 fps. But all three GPUs hit at least 60 fps in Overwatch on “epic” settings at 1080p. The GTX 1060 and its Max-Q counterpart support VR, while the GTX 1050 Ti has extremely limited VR support.
The second comparison. Is the gaming laptop build with plastic, metal or a combination of the two. This will impact the durability, the weight and look of the laptop. Budget gaming laptop are usually built with a combination of the plastic and metal, usually metal on top and plastic at the bottom. It’s also up to you to know what you want, because every laptops build quality will be a little different.
"Love it!...Good Mouse...I'm sure the mouse is built quite well, but my Logitech MX Anywhere 2 (a portable laptop mouse) feels more solid than the G305....The up to 12,000 dpi sensor technology in the G series optical mice is impressive, and honestly I would recommend anyone who spends a decent amount of time in spreadsheets or especially diagramming using a mouse purchase a gaming mouse for those uses as well - the high quality sensors make those jobs much easier."
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:
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.