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.
If you can’t spend more than $1,000 but still want a laptop that can play games, get the Lenovo Legion Y530. It won’t play new games as well for as long as our top pick, but it keeps cool and has a bright screen, a comfortable keyboard, and a responsive trackpad. The Y530 is also about a pound lighter and significantly more compact than the Dell G7 and G5, but it’s more of a pain to upgrade yourself.
MSI's GT75 Titan is one of the best gaming laptops available. Offering up to a an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU, an NVIDIA GTX 1080 GPU, and up to 64 GB of RAM, this laptop packs some serious performance. The 17.3-inch display is either a 120 Hz 1920x1080 TN panel, or an optional 3840x2160 60 Hz IPS display. The GT75 Titan features a SteelSeries mechanical keyboard which is a step above most other gaming laptops. The starting price is hefty, but the GT75 Titan is a heavyweight gaming system.
Display: We focused on 15-inch models for this guide because they strike a good balance between screen size and relative portability, and they fit our budget. Our cheap gaming laptop pick needs a 1920×1080 screen—no exceptions. Lower resolutions look terrible, and higher resolutions aren’t affordable yet. (And our budget laptops’ GPUs can’t play games well at resolutions above 1080p anyway.) Very few laptops in this price range have high-refresh-rate (120 Hz or 144 Hz) panels, but it’s a nice bonus, especially for first-person games like Overwatch or Doom; the higher the refresh rate, the smoother animations appear, as long as the frame rate is also high. IPS screens tend to provide better viewing angles and color reproduction over TN panels, but they can also be more expensive, so we treat them as a preference but not a requirement.
There is an interesting thing about that. The mobile 1060 3gb isn't the same chip as the desktop part. The 1060(m) 3gb is actually the same chip as the desktop 1060 6gb, but with 3gb VRAM. I wasn't aware of that when I bought my laptop with the 1060 3gb, but after doing additional research, I was pleased to see that while the desktop parts naming is disingenuous, the mobile parts are as the naming scheme implies.
Last but not least, if you're a professional gamer looking to buy a gaming laptop that can keep you competitive, be prepared to brown-bag your lunches for a while. That kind of high-end performance can only come from top-of-the-line components, especially in a portable package, and they don't come cheap. Plus, an emerging trend among high-end machines is a high-refresh-rate screen built into the laptop, which allows for display of lofty frame rates in full to smooth out the perceived gameplay. Note, though, that you'll need a powerful graphics chip to leverage the benefits of a high-refresh panel with demanding games. You'll be able to identify machines like these by marketing lingo touting, say, a 120Hz or 144Hz screen. (A typical display on a laptop is a 60Hz panel.)
Featuring a 1080p G-Sync screen and wealth of different configuration options that let you pair an Intel Core i7 with an Nvidia GTX 1060, 1070 or 1080, the mid- and top-specced versions are both more than powerful enough to run triple-A games with their graphics maxed. This, plus an excellent RGB keyboard and a solid set of speakers, make it a great choice for laptop gamers who don’t have the extra cash, or space, to grab a dedicated monitor or sound system.
As well as nine programmable buttons, the Corsair Dark Core RGB SE serves up an excellent 16,000 DPI sensor. You have full control over the sensitivity and those funky LEDs via Corsair’s excellent PC software. However, the Dark Core’s heavy and rather bulky design won’t suit all tastes, so you might want to try before you buy. Don’t forget, you’ll need to save some cash for that wireless charging mat too if you don’t want to resort to cables when the battery eventually dies.
The all new Razer Blade was relaunched this year as a 15-inch model, replacing the outgoing 14-inch version with a new thin-bezel design that is stunning. Razer has always offered one of the best looking gaming laptops around, featuring a fully CNC machined aluminun chassis, and a lot of performance in a thin and light form factor. The latest Razer Blade 15 is powered by a Core i7-8750H hex-core CPU and a GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU. The lowest cost configuration comes with a 128 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD, and you can go up from there. Currently it is available for $1600 with a 1920x1080 60 Hz display, and Razer has configurations with 144 Hz displays, as well as models bumping the GPU up to a GTX 1070 and a UHD display. There's also a limited edition Mercurty White color option on certain configuraitons.
Measurements performed by our colleagues at the Laptopmag website show that the MSI Titan achieves a maximum temperature of 59 degrees after 15 minutes of gameplay – which is not too bad. The Asus ROG Zephyrus has a maximum temperature of 67 degrees – which is still OK. However, the MSI GS65 Stealth’s maximum temperature of 90 degrees is likely to be problematic for some users.
It’s no secret that dedicated graphics cards offer far better performance than integrated graphics, however, this doesn’t mean that you can’t game on laptops without dedicated GPUs. This is due to the fact that Intel has come a long way with their integrated graphics and Blizzard have even mentioned that almost 25% of all Overwatch players are playing the game on a system with integrated graphics. While Overwatch is a newer title, don’t expect to play titles such as Mass Effect: Andromeda or Battlefield 1 on high settings or with great frame rates.
The storage and memory in the Y530 are upgradable, but it’s a pain in the butt to do so. In contrast to the Dell G7’s and G5’s convenient access panel held in by a single screw, the Y530’s design requires you to remove 11 screws and the entire bottom of the chassis to get inside. And although it’s possible to wedge a small flathead screwdriver into the seam, spudgers will likely make the job easier and reduce the risk of your gouging the laptop. Once inside, you can replace the M.2 PCIe drive or the 2.5-inch hard drive, or add another stick of RAM. The memory is hidden beneath a tiny metal house; our recommended config comes with one 8 GB DIMM and one open slot.
As you might expect, a $1,300 gaming laptop won’t perform as well as a top-of-the-line one—but not everyone has $2,000 to spend on a high-end gaming laptop. Our cheaper gaming laptop picks can still play many AAA games on high settings at 1920×1080 resolution, with exceptions for very new or demanding games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider or Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. It’ll serve you well for classic games and less-demanding modern ones like Overwatch, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, or Doom (2016), and you can expect it to play most games on at least medium settings for the next few years.
Nvidia's G-Sync and AMD's FreeSync technologies are more down-to-earth. They help increase the quality of the gaming experience and smooth out frame rates by letting the laptop screen refresh at a variable rate that depends on the output of the GPU. Look for support for one of those technologies if you're a stickler for perfectly rendered visuals. They tend to be in pricier machines, though, and G-Sync is far more common.
After spending more than 40 hours researching and testing 10 budget gaming laptops in late 2018, we found that the Dell G7 15 Gaming is the best one you can get. It’s an excellent value, and its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics card will play games on high to medium settings for years. It keeps its most-touched surfaces and components cool enough during long gaming sessions, and it has no dealbreaking flaws.
A computer’s internal components heat up whenever a lot of demand is placed on them. Despite the best efforts of manufacturers to dissipate this heat using fans and heat pipes, some areas of a laptop tend to get hotter than others. This can make gaming laptops quite uncomfortable to use (especially when placed on their user’s lap!); this high heat can also endanger a laptop’s internal electronics if the computer’s ventilation slots become obstructed (be careful not to let your computer’s ventilation system get clogged up with dust!). If you intend to place your computer on your desk and use an external mouse for gaming, its temperature will not be a major consideration.
With major advances in laptop CPUs and graphics technologies, you can now get great gaming performance in sizes from slender to huge, and prices from budget to sky-high. That's where this handy-dandy buyer’s guide come in. We’ll name the best gaming laptops currently available, and we’ll highlight what to look for when buying a gaming laptop. (Check back often, as we’ll update this list as new products arrive.)
The Acer Predator Helios 300 has Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics and a 144 Hz high-refresh-rate display, but its WASD keys reached 110.2 °F, the hottest of any budget gaming laptop we tested this year, even with Acer’s Cooler Boost software enabled. Its fans sounded high pitched and a bit grating, it had a poor 3.5-hour showing in our battery life tests, and it comes with too much bloatware.
Before we dive into our list of the best cheap gaming laptops, let’s go over what to look for in a gaming laptop. After all, just because a device is affordable and has “Gaming” in its name doesn’t mean it’s going to get the job done for everyone. The main features to consider when shopping for a cheap gaming laptop are its GPU, display resolution, amount and kind of storage, and even portability are things you should keep in mind when shopping for an inexpensive gaming laptop.
You can be disappointed if you presumed that Kaby Lake made big improvements. While benchmarking the new chip of Kaby Lake has shown nothing breathtaking. The next in line Skylake, packed with the same clocks, runs ahead by a mere couple of percentages. Showing speed improvement of 3%, the Core i7-7820HK is only a bit faster that Core i7-6820HK, which is shown when conducting Cinebench R15 and Cinebench R11.5 at 4.0 GHz
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.
Right now, Nvidia graphics cards are found on the overwhelming majority of new gaming laptops. You’ll generally find laptop specific parts on machines launched in 2014 and 2015 (such as 950M, 960M etc), but from this year all Nvidia laptops get full desktop-level GPUs. This is because the company’s ‘Pascal’ architecture is so efficient it can squeeze into the same space as an old-style laptop GPU without needing extra cooling. Look out for 10-series cards such as the GTX 1050, GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080.
Not only is the baseline quality a step above the average gaming mouse, the Mamba Tournament Edition delivers the one thing most of the mice in this list were missing: weight. It isn't a button-heavy product, featuring only two additional customizable keys, but the quality of the materials stood out from the pack. The Mamba Tournament Edition mitigates a high price tag by avoiding extraneous features and honing in on providing a quality experience.
Below we've sketched out what GPU and other specs you need in a cheap gaming laptop that will run games at surprisingly decent frame rates for at least a couple years. (Without breaking the bank, of course) The bottom line? Dell's last-generation Inspiron 15 7000 will run most current-gen games on low-med settings at 40-60 FPS (See it on Amazon) / (See it on Amazon UK), It's a great pick for a casual gaming + daily driving laptop. Read on for more!
Dell recently phased out its entry-level gaming-laptop series in favor of something more exciting and powerful. Meet the G7 15. Visually, the G7 15 is cut from a different cloth than either the Inspiron or the Alienware brands, giving the laptop an identity of its own. And it offers solid overall performance for all your multitasking needs. But more importantly, thanks to its Max-Q GTX 1060, you can expect good frame rates on AAA titles on medium to high settings.