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.
$3,000 or more: This is where things get crazy. With this kind of budget you can get a high-res display, custom paint job, up to four SSDs in RAID configuration and a maximum of 64GB of RAM from manufacturers like OriginPC and Maingear. Depending on the notebook, you can get two 1080 GPUs in SLI configuration with each card sporting 8GB of VRAM. Not only can you play any game without worry of low frame rates, you can use VR headsets like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive.
If you're looking for a cheap gaming laptop to buy, the Ideapad Y700 should be at the very top of your list. It has an amazing price-to-performance balance, one of the best of all budget laptops we've found. The Ideapad features the very fast Intel Core i7-6700HQ at 2.6 GHz, which clocks in at over 10,000 points on Geekbench. This ensures that you have plenty of CPU power to multi-task and play games on high settings. The CPU is cleverly paired with the popular NVIDIA GeForce 960M. It's currently the best mobile graphics card for people on a budget.
Thankfully, to make things easier for the consumers, as well as for everyone who is reading this article, the choice of gaming mice should help them pick the one they want. That’s why we went ahead and used mice from every single price group, as well as gaming mice that were tailored to specific people or genre of games like the Razer Naga Hex V2 that is built specifically for the MOBA gamers.
In our tests, the Legion Y530 kept its WASD keys on the cooler side at 101 °F (38 °C) after half an hour of Overwatch. The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GE-ES72 kept its WASD keys coolest at 94°F (34 °C), but the Y530’s keys didn’t feel uncomfortable for long gaming sessions, just a bit warm. The area where my palm rested near the trackpad reached 105 °F (41 °C); that’s a bit warmer than we’d like, but it wasn’t uncomfortable.
The Nitro 5 isn't as polished as Dell's offerings and Acer doesn't currently offer it with a GTX 1060 GPU. But it starts as low as $650 with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or $730 with 1050Ti graphics. That's some beefy performance for not much money (as gaming laptops go, anyway) and while there are a few cut corners, you still come out ahead overall.
True, it’s not the most powerful gaming laptop on this list, but it definitely presents the best value for your money – it comes with a great CPU and a powerful GPU that is more than capable of fully utilizing that 1080p 144 Hz display. Furthermore, while some may find its 256 GB of storage limiting, as mentioned before, it can easily be expanded. All of this makes for a very reliable and versatile laptop that will be a good match for most people’s needs.
While its cheap case is somewhat disappointing, it does hide some pretty imposing components under the hood. It features a Full-HD eDP display with 94% NTSC color and the familiar Steel Series Keyboard that we usually see with MSI laptops. However, the keyboard is said to suffer from flex, which is said to be due to the cheap plastic casing, and it doesn’t have backlighting. On the inside, you will find a variety of components that will surprise you, considering its low price tag.
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.
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!
A laptop based around the next-step-up GeForce GTX 1060, meanwhile, is ideal for no-compromise 1080p gaming. We've seen GTX 1060-based gaming rigs priced anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. The biggest values are likely to be found in this lot, and the GTX 1060 is the baseline for using your laptop with a virtual reality (VR) headset. (See our picks for the best laptops for VR.)
Let's take a look under the hood: The new ASUS Metal is an amazing choice for gaming. It runs all PC games we threw at it flawlessly at medium settings. The laptop is powered by Intel's 6th-generation Core i7-6500U. Of course, you can tune the CPU from 2.5GHz up to 3.1GHz with Intel's TurboBoost for even more performance. The laptop's GPU is a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M. There's a good reason why most budget gaming laptops include this card: It offers a great price-to-performance balance and very long lifespan. The laptop's specs are topped off with 8GB of RAM and a generous 512GB SSD storage. It's a solid combination that runs games well.
Video memory: Another spec to consider is VRAM—a graphics processor’s dedicated video memory. The GTX 1060 and GTX 1060 Max-Q both come in two versions: one with 3 GB of VRAM, the other with 6 GB. (The GTX 1050 Ti appears to have only one version with 4 GB.) How much VRAM you need depends on the resolution you’re using (1080p in this case), the games you play, and the settings you play them at. Most games don’t need more than 4 GB of VRAM at 1080p, but some games do—and the list has doubtless grown since this 2015 TweakTown article published. Since the lower-VRAM options don’t often cost less, we focused on laptops with 4 GB or 6 GB of VRAM; they’ll play more games at higher settings for longer.
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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.
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.
The three most important hardware components of this laptop (namely CPU, GPU, and RAM) work well together to deliver excellent budget gaming performance. The 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ quad-core processor actually clocks in at over 10,000 points in GeekBench, which is a great score for this price. You also get 8GB of DDR3 RAM, plus Nvidia's acclaimed GeForce GTX 960M with 2 GB GDDR5 VRAM. It's a very good combination, in our opinion, allowing you to run a lot of current games on high to very high settings with steadily high FPS.
While there is a plenty of storage space, the hard drive is a mechanical hard drive, meaning boot and application load times will be slow. Lastly, the 5-hour battery life is fairly average. The Dell Inspiron I3567-5664BLK-PUS 15.6-inch laptop offers users a solid experience and is really well priced for the CPU included, but the display quality may be a drawback for some.
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.