The Alienware 17 R5 packs Intel’s debut high-performance Core i9 laptop chip. Friends, the Core i9-8950HK inside turns this already beastly gaming laptop into an utter monster. The version we tested ($3,810 from Dell) pumps out more performance than we’ve ever seen in a gaming laptop with all-mobile parts. It offers over 55 percent more multi-thread performance than its already-potent direct predecessor. CPU benchmarks this fast were practically unthinkable mere months ago.
The Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM is currently our top recommended gaming laptop under $500. It features integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 graphics powered by the latest Intel i3 Kaby Lake processor and next generation connectivity such as USB 3.1 Type-C and Bluetooth 4.1. Despite weak gaming performance for most modern games, it holds its own with an unbeatable price to performance ratio compared to its competitors, clocking in at a $100 or more cheaper than many similarly specced laptops such as the Inspiron I3567 and HP Pavilion 17 1BQ14UA below.
Nowadays, most LCD displays for gaming laptops have a matte finish which makes them less susceptible to reflections. Other factors to consider are a display’s luminosity, color fidelity, and its range of displayed colors. Manufacturers sometimes promote their displays based on these characteristics (however, you should always consult the tests performed by specialized technology reviewers in order to verify the veracity of these claims).
More the issue is knowing how your mouse connects to its host. The three main possibilities are USB (via a typical cable), USB (wirelessly, via an RF USB dongle), or Bluetooth (also wireless, usually via the host's built-in Bluetooth radio). Bluetooth is the least common of the three in gaming mice; it tends to be found more often in productivity or mobile mice. Note that some wireless models with rechargeable batteries come with a USB charging cable that can double as a mouse cable while you're juicing back up, letting you continue using the mouse with the battery depleted.
The Razer Lancehead is perhaps the best gaming mouse for Macs, but, in fact, any Razer mouse should do just fine. Most Razer mice work just as well on Macs as they do on PCs. As such, the Lancehead — an ambidextrous mouse that's suitable for both single-player adventures and multiplayer competition — is a good choice for those who swear allegiance to Apple.
When it comes to GPUs, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 10-series have made it possible for manufacturers to trim down the overall size of gaming laptops without sacrificing features like battery life, making them powerful and portable. AMD's also basically non-existent in the mobile space these days too, so if you're shopping for a cheap gaming laptop you're probably getting one with an Nvidia GPU under the hood.
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…
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The laptop comes with a long list of ports and also has a good heat exhaust system, making it a perfect choice for gamers and all other hardcore users. As far as the graphics on the laptop are concerned, it comes with the Intel UHD 620 integrated graphics. All in all, the laptop offers an excellent set of specifications for a little above $500, but considering the design and performance of this laptop, we think it’s worth it.
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.
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.
Another spec to watch for is panel type. You'll want to go for an in-plane switching (IPS) panel if possible, as they generally offer the best off-center viewing angles and colors. Some gamers are content with cheaper twisted nematic (TN) panels, which make you settle for narrower viewing angles—but then, you're probably seated directly in front of the screen, so that's not an issue. TN panels can offer slightly faster response times.
The bargain-priced Lenovo Legion Y530 (available via Lenovo) could be a good entry-level gaming laptop if you manage your expectations. It’s impressively portable and has a solid feature set. Unfortunately its middling graphics card struggles to deliver buttery visuals from today’s AAA games, and its performance will only go downhill as more demanding titles come down the pike. Read our review.
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 should definitely consider a system with an SSD, since prices have fallen considerably over the past few years. SSDs speed up boot time, wake-from-sleep time, and the time it takes to launch a game and load a new level. Go ahead and get a gaming laptop with an SSD, but make sure you configure correctly. A small-capacity (128GB to 256GB) SSD with a roomy (1TB or greater) spinning hard drive is a good start if you also download the occasional video from the internet. (Only thicker gaming laptops will tend to support dual-drive arrangements like this.) Higher-capacity SSDs (512GB or more) are available, but choosing one will increase the purchase price of your gaming rig by a bunch. SSDs are very fast, but in terms of capacity, your money goes much further with hard drives.
Targeting, slashing, hacking, attacking: The key actions you take in any PC game happen at the click of your mouse, so you can't skimp on your weapon if you want to win. Today, though, the quality bar is high for all but the cheapest gaming mice, so you can afford to be picky. Nowadays, you should expect reliable connectivity, smooth and responsive tracking, and crisp click and scroll functions. Those are the table stakes—it takes much more to elevate a "good" gaming mouse to "great."
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