Wirecutter has spent more than 200 hours over the past five years researching and testing dozens of gaming laptops, and our PC team has more than 37 years of combined experience covering laptops. I’ve personally tested, lived with, and reviewed hundreds of laptops, and I’ve spent hands-on time with countless other models while covering the CES trade show, attending events, and visiting stores. I’ve reviewed most gaming laptops—both budget and high-end—released in the past six years, and I’ve spent thousands of hours gaming on laptops since high school.

Measuring 14.4 by 10.2 by 1 inches and weighing just 5.1 pounds, the Legion Y530 is one of the lightest and most compact gaming laptops we tested this year; it weighs more than a pound less than the Dell G7. The thin bezels surrounding the screen allow for a smaller laptop overall, and the Y530 is by far the most convenient model to slip into a bag and use on the go of all the options we considered. We also appreciate its all-black, understated design—no flashy colors, edgy angles, or ugly prints—and the comfortable matte-black material covering the palm rest.


A guide to getting the best gaming laptop under $500 can be a little tricky because of the budget constraint. But thanks to our team of experts, it’s finally here. Irrespective of whether you are a student, a household, an employee, or a developer, there is one common aspect which everyone uses their laptop for. Any guesses? Well, it is undoubtedly the gaming caliber of a laptop of which every user aspires about. Not all the laptops out in the market can be justified as a gaming machine, and not everyone can afford the expensive gaming laptops. Therefore, we have brought you the best available budget laptops in the market which are ideal for gaming along with all other day-to-day activities.
With their powerful components, colorful designs and premium prices, gaming laptops are a different beast than typical mainstream notebooks. And they need to be if you want to play demanding games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Grand Theft Auto V, explore virtual worlds with either the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift and enjoy smooth gameplay on high frame rates. They're also a different beast when it comes to design, offering chassis with more aggressive lines and multicolor keyboards.
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.
Mice that are specially designed for RTS games and MMOs, on the other hand, look quite different. The most extreme come outfitted with an array of 10 or more programmable buttons. Usually set just under the tip of the thumb, these buttons can serve as simple shortcut triggers, or be programmed to execute longer macro commands. (For more on these mice, see our specialized guide to the best mice for MMO games.)
Refresh rate: Most laptops you’ll see will have 1080p resolution and a 60Hz display. And for many gamers, that’s absolutely enough. Higher resolution displays (2560 x 1440, 3840 x 2160) are pretty, but top out at 60Hz. That’s why for some gamers, 1080p may be the best option. Some vendors offer FHD displays with a faster, 144Hz refresh rate for smoother gaming. Of course, you need a great GPU and to play on settings that emphasize frame rate over graphical fidelity to take advantage.
Its R5 graphics boasts a GPU clock speed of 800MHz (Boosted) and will allow you to play some of the best classic titles and even some of the Twitch chart toppers such as CS: GO and League of Legends. You will even be able to play GTA V and Battlefield 4 if you don’t mind playing those games on lower settings. If you are more of a browser-based gamer, then you will love the responsive touchscreen that will allow you to play your favorite games without the need of the laptop’s trackpad.
For example, the Aero 15X, weighs just over 2 Kg and incorporates a GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics chip. Its keyboard is equipped with RGB backlighting and an anti-ghosting system. The Aero 15X also features two internal M.2 NVMe format connectors. Let’s not forget that it is also equipped with a 15.6-inch Full HD display operating at a frequency of up to 144 Hz (which is also factory calibrated). Other models are equipped with a QHD display (Aero 14K).
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.
Refresh rate: Most laptops you’ll see will have 1080p resolution and a 60Hz display. And for many gamers, that’s absolutely enough. Higher resolution displays (2560 x 1440, 3840 x 2160) are pretty, but top out at 60Hz. That’s why for some gamers, 1080p may be the best option. Some vendors offer FHD displays with a faster, 144Hz refresh rate for smoother gaming. Of course, you need a great GPU and to play on settings that emphasize frame rate over graphical fidelity to take advantage.
Purists will argue that you need a PC to truly play games, especially if you're a fan of pushing the levels of graphics quality beyond the capabilities of a mobile phone or a mere gaming console. In this regard, the gaming desktop is still king, particularly when it comes to having the kind of components and horsepower needed to run 4K games smoothly and support virtual reality (VR) setups, such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. But if you want or need something you can tote around the house or over to your friend's place, we're here to help you choose the right gaming laptop.
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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.

If you'd rather spend your money on Humble Bundles than hardware, then you don't actually need a hardcore gaming laptop. Along the same lines, if you're looking for a Minecraft box for the kids, you don't need to spend the money attached to the phrase "gaming laptop." A machine with a discrete graphics card, an SSD, and 8GB of RAM should take care of you.

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Following this logic, we have witnessed the introduction of many relatively inexpensive gaming laptops such as the Acer V Nitro (later simply called Nitro), HP’s Omen, and Lenovo’s Legion computers. Retailing for around 800 to 900 dollars, these “entry-level” gaming laptops are equipped with a Core i5/GTX 1050 graphics chip/processor combo that is powerful enough for gaming (if you are not interested in playing the very latest games or are willing to trade some display quality for greater gameplay fluidity).
In an effort to produce sleeker, more portable gaming laptops, Nvidia launched an initiative in 2017 named Max-Q, a term borrowed from the aeronautics industry. In that scenario, it describes the maximum amount of aerodynamic stress an aircraft can sustain. Here, it refers to a combination of hardware and software modifications that allow higher-end graphics cards to fit into thinner chassis than traditionally possible. By limiting the power ceiling of cards like the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070, less heat is produced, meaning less room is needed for cooling and heat dissipation.
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.
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$2,000 - $3,000: When you're spending this kind of money, you'll definitely get a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with at least 16GB of RAM. You'll find configurations with the new PCIe SSDs for lightning-fast game installs and loads. Screen-resolution options include 1920 x 1080, 2560 x 1400 and 3840 x 2160. Regarding graphics, you can get a laptop with a single 1080 or dual 1070M in SLI configuration. You can also snag one of the new lightweight Max-Q laptops at this price range. Ultra smultra, with these kinds of specs you can play any game at the highest settings without fear of lag or ugly tearing.
Powerful hardware isn’t the only consideration. A gaming laptop’s processor and graphics card produce a lot of heat, and if the laptop doesn’t have an effective cooling system, it can overheat. The laptop also needs a good keyboard and solid build quality. Even though Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 can run games on high settings at 4K resolution, we still recommend 1080p displays because 4K screens are currently too expensive for most of our readers.
Bear in mind that this is a flagship mouse from Logitech, so if you are concerned about paying a high price, you are also getting some of the finest features, regardless of you needing them or not. With that said, if you are wondering about us encountering any downsides, there aren’t any deal breakers here. Sure, the mouse carries a hefty price tag, and the overall aesthetics of the ambidextrous design might put off some design conscious people, but under the hood, the Chaos Spectrum happens to be one of the MOST powerful, and over the top brilliant gaming mice we have used. So with that out of the way, pros and cons, shall we?
Budget systems usually reach their attractive prices not just through the balance of build quality and components, but also from bloatware. Having junk like Norton trials and eBay apps pre-installed translates to revenue in the PC maker's pocket, allowing them to hit aggressive prices. So, know going in that you may need to do some uninstalling once you've unboxed it and fired it up.
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.
Both the keyboard and trackpad have been given a thumbs up from most who own this machine. There was a lot of critical commentary delivered on quality control, with many users receiving defective machines. While this may be only a select few reviewers, it is always worth mentioning to make sure you are eligible for a free return. If you are looking for a budget gaming laptop with a powerful graphics card and rock solid battery life at a great price, the E 15 E5-576G-5762 is one of a kind recommendation.

To muddy the waters, Nvidia in 2017 introduced a technology called Max-Q Design that squeezes a slightly detuned GeForce chip into thinner and lighter notebooks than would normally be possible, at the expense of 10 to 15 percent of the chip's performance. Because Max-Q tends to be implemented in thin, premium machines, it's seldom a factor among the under-$1,000 brigade, but it's good to know what it is, in case you encounter the term when shopping. (A few models just above the one-grand line incorporate the tech.) You may be interested in a Max-Q rig if maximum portability—not a trait usually associated with gaming laptops—matters to you.
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.
With a sleek, ergonomic design, three convenient thumb buttons and gorgeous RGB options, the SteelSeries Rival 600 provides everything you need to excel at an RTS or MOBA, and nothing you don't. You can use the mouse as-is out of the box, or tweak the options with the robust SteelSeries Engine software. The Rival 600 earns its accolades as our best RTS/MOBA mouse.
Alienware is taking up to $760 Off Select Gaming Laptops and Desktops. Excellently priced but with a limited number of units available for a limited time. Free Shipping. Many of these PCs won Editor's choice or are recommended from various publications like PCMag and Computer Shopper. Some desktops feature the new GeForce RTX graphics cards. Some best bets:
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