It's tax refund season (hopefully!) and you may be shopping for an affordable gaming laptop that can handle not just e-Sports and lightweight games, but demanding AAA titles as well. That system is easy to find when you throw more than $1000 at it, but lower your budget to $850 and the search becomes more challenging. The awesome news is that they're out there, and I've rounded up 4 that won't leave you with buyer's remorse.
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.
You can replace it with an affordable solid state drive, however this will mean sacrificing storage space for speed as a similar size SSD will cost as much as the laptop. Overall the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM is packed full of great features that you would expect from more expensive laptops and delivers the latest generation Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated graphics at the best price possible.
You'll see guides from 2017 or even from this year still recommending laptops with Nvidia's 900 series mobile GPUs, for example the 950M or 960M. Don't settle for these. Nvidia's Pascal architecture in its 10-Series graphics cards is a huge leap forward in performance and power efficiency. You may save $50 to $75 on these systems, but you won't save yourself a few years of disappointment.
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…
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 we used each of the finalists for several workdays to get a feel for the keyboard, trackpad, screen, and speakers.
Best Portability (13 - 14 inches): If you're constantly on the move, you'll want to consider 13 or 14-inch laptops like the Razer Blade. Notebooks in this size range typically weigh under 5 pounds and tend to have longer battery lives with an average endurance of 7 hours and 38 minutes. However, 13 and 14-inch gaming laptops usually don't come with the most powerful CPU or GPU, because they just don't have enough space to dissipate all that heat.
For many years, the speakers built into gaming laptops did not provide sufficiently good audio quality to take full advantage of a video game’s sound effects and in-game music. Nowadays, some gaming laptops integrate a very sophisticated audio system capable of offering advanced performance, deep bass tones, and adequate power (some examples include the Asus Rog Zephyrus and the MSI GS65 Stealth). For lower-end computers, there is always the possibility of connecting external Bluetooth/WiFi speakers or a good pair of headphones.
The central processing unit or CPU contributes to being the most crucial part of the gaming laptop. This is due to the fact that games such as watchdogs, battlefields, make use of a high amount of horsepower as compared to the previous generation of the games for running the different functions of the games. This holds good for the multiplayer especially, as the CPU keeps track of the several players which need abundant processing. It is recommended to choose Intel core i7 quad core processor for playing intensive games. You can go for the dual-core i5, but they may reduce the speed of the game. Avoid AMD APU quad core as the cores are weak in comparison to the quad-core processors of Intel.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080: This is the card to beat. During our testing, gaming laptops outfitted with a 1080 GPU routinely top the category average on high-end games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto V with the special effects settings and resolution turned all the way up. And of course, Nvidia 1080 can easily support all your virtual-reality adventures. Just be prepared to shell out a pretty penny, since 1080s are only found in high-end systems like the Razer Blade Pro or the Acer Predator 17X.
Kane Fulton of TechRadar featured the Logitech G513 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard in his list of the “Best Gaming Keyboard 2018: The Best Gaming Keyboards We've Tested.” He shared, “one of our biggest pet peeves with Cherry MX Red keys is that while they’re good for gaming, they’re not great for typing anything but your Steam credentials. And, that’s where the Logitech G513 and its Romer-G Linear switches outshine the rest of the competition. Add in the brushed metal finish that, miraculously, is all but immune to fingerprints, and you have a recipe for one of the best gaming keyboards you can buy today.”
The TUF comes in four different configurations that are similar to the Acer Nitro 5, but has a better keyboard that's cushy for long gaming sessions and Asus says is extra durable, lasting for up to 20 million key presses. However, we found the cheapest configuration's display disappointing with poor off-angle performance and at $699 with a GTX 1050, it was pricier than the Acer, too. Bumping up to its $899 configuration gets you a better display, a 1050Ti, dual storage drives and a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H.
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.
However, there is one important thing a lot of gamers don’t know. Buying a gaming mouse doesn’t necessarily mean that your skills will improve by a drastic measure. Sure, a gaming mouse might help you in some ways, but if you are buying it just for the sake of improving your skills, then you are wrong. In case you don’t know, most professional, e-sports gamers are actually winning all the competitions without the use of a gaming mouse, and yes, it does come as a shock, but they have actually gone on the record and stated that they prefer a standard mouse better simply because they are used to it.
In terms of display size, a 15-inch screen is the sweet spot for a gaming laptop. You can buy larger 17-inch displays, but this can jack up the weight to way beyond 5 pounds. We've seen 12-pound "portables" in the gaming sector that will definitely weigh down your backpack. We recommend at least a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-resolution) screen. Larger displays are capable of giving you higher-than-1080p resolutions, but choose wisely, as a resolution of QHD+ (3,200 by 1,800 pixels, and uncommon) or 4K (3,840 by 2,160 pixels, a bit more common) will boost the final cost twice: first for the panel, and second for the higher-quality graphics chip you'll need to drive it to its full potential.
Dell Home, via its Member Purchase Program, offers its Dell 15.6" Laptop Gaming Backpack in Black/Red for $28.49 with free shipping. That's tied with our expired mention from four days ago as the lowest price we've seen for this bag. (It's the best deal we could find now by $20.) It accommodates laptops with up to 15.6" screens and features a shock-absorbent EVA molded front shield, adjustable shoulder straps, and a deployable rain cover.
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