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.
ASUS’s budget- concious 2017 Vivobook F510UA-AH51 15.6-inch is a truly capable machine for the price and suited to casual gamers looking to play some modern titles on low settings. It is snappy and responsive thanks to its 8th Generation i5-8250U 1.6GHz CPU and 8GB of RAM, allowing your applications to run comfortably without making the laptop feel sluggish. The design has been improved over to last year’s VivoBook, and it is both lighter and thinner, weighing in at 3.7 pounds, making it highly portable.
Cheaper gaming systems today are equipped with lower-tier cards like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, or GTX 1060, but these modern budget cards are surprisingly effective. You'll be able to play smoothly in HD, just not at the very highest settings in newer games. These may be budget systems, but this generation of entry-level graphics chips is fairly capable, so don't be too worried that you won't be able to play most games moderately well. Virtual-reality gaming may be a stretch in this price range, but the GTX 1060 is the least expensive VR-capable card, so some laptops at the higher end of this price range will (just) get you in the door.
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!
Apart from that, we should also note that 32 GB of RAM is indeed an overkill in a gaming laptop, unless you also plan on using some memory-hungry professional software as well. If not, MSI sells several more affordable variants of this laptop, including versions with a GTX 1060 instead of a 1070, differing amounts of RAM, and different storage solutions.
The E 15 offers a max resolution of 1920×1080, although this will need to be set to 1366 x 768 to retain a frame rate of over 30fps when playing more demanding games. The NVIDIA GeForce 940MX offers slightly better performance than a 940M card and, unlike some of its competitors, the Aspire E 15 E5-575G-57D4 features faster GDDR5 video memory instead of GDDR3. Acer have also fitted the Aspire E 15 E5-575G-57D4 with the latest generation Intel Core i5-7200U processor, which is powerful enough to handle more hardware intensive apps and games.
These budget systems typically won't include a lot of gamer bling like customizable RGBs and multi-zone keyboard lighting. Many will cut necessary cost corners by using a plastic chassis instead of aluminum, and you won't see sexy thin bezels like those on the MateBook Pro or Dell XPS 13. You'll also get, at minimum, 3 USB ports, an HDMI output and standard headphone jacks.
The Acer Nitro 5 Spin delivers solid multitasking power, good battery life, a comfortable keyboard and oodles of versatility thanks to its easily convertible design. A Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU means that you can play most games at low or medium settings. It's a solid choice for games looking for an affordable gaming system that does more than play games.
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The SteelSeries Rival is a very solid mouse, but it's also very specialized: I have a feeling if you need this mouse, you know about it already. The key feature of the Rival 500 is the sheer amount of programmable buttons this thing has. With 15 different buttons in tow, it's basically a keyboard replacement! This is a setup that's ideal for games with lots of macros of cooldown skills—think MMOs or even MOBAs.
Like the Logitech gaming keyboard of the same name, the Logitech Pro mouse is a simple and intuitive product. Despite its feature-heavy nature, it's very newcomer friendly: the lower central button adjusts DPI presets, while the standard center button toggles the mouse wheel between loose and granular. A handsome, detachable braided cable is a nice touch, making it easy to bundle this mouse up for traveling, if you're so inclined.
Matthew Buzzi is a Hardware Analyst at PCMag, focusing on laptops and desktops with a specialty in gaming systems and games. Matthew earned a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism and interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming before turning it into part of his career. He spends entirely too much time on Twitter (find him @M... See Full Bio
In addition to poring over our reviews and checking out the vendors' sites, using the price filters at a reseller like Newegg.com can help you see different configurations at different price points. Some manufacturers offer lots of differently weighted versions of the same laptop (say, more storage in one config, a better GPU in another). Playing with the filters on these sites can be an illuminating exercise in give-and-take.
If the Dell G7 is unavailable, we recommend the very similar Dell G5 15 Gaming instead. It’s nearly identical to the G7, but the model we tested had a worse-looking screen with a greenish color tint, angled vents instead of rounded ones, and a red backlight on the keyboard instead of blue. Although we were able to test only the GTX 1050 Ti model, Dell confirmed to us that the G5 and G7 have identical thermal setups when configured with the same graphics card.
Speaking about the exterior of the laptop, it comes with a decent star gray color finish and stands out in looks from any other ordinary laptop out in the market. Moreover, it comes with great ergonomics making it comfortable to hold. Speaking about the specifications of the device, under the hood, the laptop is powered by an Intel Core i5-8250U quad-core processor paired with an 8GB of RAM. It sports a 15.6-inch Full-HD NanoEdge display with ASUS’s splendid software enhancement to safeguard the user’s vision even after prolonged usage. Storage on the laptop is backed by a 1TB hard drive which offers more than enough room to store all your favorite games, photos, music, movies and other data.
Updated Nov. 25 at 5:45 a.m. ET: You can snag some inexpensive gaming laptops for great prices through Cyber Monday. The Lenovo Legion Y530 is on sale for $100 off from Best Buy, while the 15.6-inch Dell G3 can be had for $649 from Walmart — a savings of $350. The Dell G5 is also on sale for $899 from Walmart ($400 off!) A sale at eBay knocks the MSI GL63 down to $969, for a savings of $229. Check out our Cyber Monday hub for more fantastic deals.