Most gaming laptops have a “chicklety” keyboard. If you can’t stand this type of keyboard, your only real alternative is to connect a better-quality external model. However, if you only ever use your keyboard for pressing the ZQSD keys, its quality will not really be an important factor. The same can be said about a computer’s trackpad which can always be replaced with an external mouse for greater in-game accuracy.
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Here’s the deal: You don’t need to spend a lot of money to play awesome games! But with hundreds of options, finding a powerful and affordable gaming laptop can be tricky. That’s why we’ve created this expert buying guide to show you the best cheap gaming laptops you can buy! We’ve researched over 40 new products and selected the top budget laptops. All of them offer a great mix of performance and value. Ready? Let’s do this!
We tested the laptops using BioShock Infinite’s benchmarking mode and by playing half an hour of The Witcher 3 on ultra with VSync off. We measured the laptops’ internal temperature using HWMonitor and measured the surface temperature at various points on the keyboard and underside using an IR thermometer. We tested each laptop’s screen using some of the Lagom LCD monitor test pages, and used each for several workdays to get a feel for its keyboard, trackpad, screen, and speakers.
The central processing unit or CPU contributes to being the most crucial part of the gaming laptop. This is due to the fact that games such as watchdogs, battlefields, make use of a high amount of horsepower as compared to the previous generation of the games for running the different functions of the games. This holds good for the multiplayer especially, as the CPU keeps track of the several players which need abundant processing. It is recommended to choose Intel core i7 quad core processor for playing intensive games. You can go for the dual-core i5, but they may reduce the speed of the game. Avoid AMD APU quad core as the cores are weak in comparison to the quad-core processors of Intel.
A critical thing this article forgot to mention was to avoid the U i7 and i5 series, found in majority of mainstream laptops. The U Series i7's and i5's are Underpowered. Instead look for Processors that end in HQ such as intel intel's i7 7700hq. This is a REAL quad core processor, vs the U series, dual core low end processor, such as the i7 7500u. have a look at ark.intel.com to see what i'm talking about, and to see all the CPU's intel makes. Remember a i7 7500u, is very much outclassed by a i5 7300HQ. Again, point to be made, if you want a gaming laptop, don't buy the U Series.
The Alienware 17 R5 is available in a variety of configurations, from a $1,560 model with a 6-core Core i7-8750H, an overclocked GeForce GTX 1060, and a 60Hz 1080p display, all the way up to the price-is-no-object-I-want-performance version we tested ($3,810 from Dell). Optional features could push that total even higher, but there’s already plenty to love. This is 10 pounds of gaming-laptop-slash-desktop-replacement-extraordinaire. Read our review.
Some features that are must-haves in non-gaming laptops aren’t quite as important here. Poor speakers can be bypassed with a good pair of headphones, and most people use a mouse instead of the trackpad while gaming. Battery life and portability have never been the strong suits of gaming laptops, which spend most of their lives plugged in and stationary.
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.
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.
The GTX 1050 Ti can turn in more than 60FPS at 1080p with Medium quality settings on demanding games like Gears of War 4, Battlefield 1, Rise of the Tomb Raider and DOOM. For games that don't push the GPU as hard, framerates of 85+ can be achieved, leaving plenty of room to increase quality settings and still stay well above 30FPS. As an example, Rise of the Tomb Raider's Very High setting for the built-in benchmark pushes out around 40FPS.
In terms of display size, a 15-inch screen is the sweet spot for a gaming laptop. You can buy larger 17-inch displays, but this can jack up the weight to way beyond 5 pounds. We've seen 12-pound "portables" in the gaming sector that will definitely weigh down your backpack. We recommend at least a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-resolution) screen. Larger displays are capable of giving you higher-than-1080p resolutions, but choose wisely, as a resolution of QHD+ (3,200 by 1,800 pixels, and uncommon) or 4K (3,840 by 2,160 pixels, a bit more common) will boost the final cost twice: first for the panel, and second for the higher-quality graphics chip you'll need to drive it to its full potential.
Of course, this is an entry-level gaming laptop and you should expect that some games have to be played on medium settings. However, you can expand this laptop later. For example, it has a second RAM slot for additional memory and an m.2 slot for a solid-state drive. Overall, this is a very good budget laptop with plenty of features at a great price point.
At the mid-range we see laptops with either the NVIDIA GTX 1060, or for a bit more money, a GTX 1070, both of which are a powerful gaming GPU in a mobile form factor. ASUS offers the Republic of Gamers branding Strix lineup, and the GL504 model is their 15.6-inch range. Featuring the GTX 1060 in the GL504GM, and GTX 1070 in the GL504GS models, there's a wide range of performance here depending on budget. ASUS offers either the Intel Core i5-8300H quad-core, or the Core i7-8750H hex-core CPU, and up to 32 GB of DDR4 RAM support. There's a full range of SSD choices, and you can of course also fit it with a HDD for extra space.
Tom's Guide tests about 30 mice per year, which means we know a thing or two about selecting the best gaming mouse for every kind of gamer. If you want a mouse that can play anything and everything, the Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum ($80 MSRP) is about as good as it gets. With well-spaced buttons, a comfortable design and top-of-the-line software, the Proteus Spectrum is, hands-down, the best all-around gaming mouse on the market. If you don't want to spend quite so much money, the Logitech G300s costs less than $25 and performs beautifully.
Why a laptop right now? With both desktop graphics card and RAM prices still inflated well over MSRP, the notebook space has never looked more attractive. A year or two ago, the price gap between desktops and laptops with comparable performance was significant. That's changing, and now we're paying an almost insignificant convenience tax to have desktop performance in a portable form.
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.
A gaming laptop is constrained by its graphics processor; that’s the component that has the biggest impact on gaming performance, and you can’t upgrade it. Many cheap gaming laptops also lack either a solid-state drive or a roomy hard drive for storage, so you may have to pay extra to upgrade that later. You’ll need to put more money into keeping a budget laptop relevant in the long run—through storage and memory upgrades—than you would for a high-end gaming laptop that already has a solid-state drive and at least 16 GB of RAM (not to mention better graphics). A cheap gaming laptop is a temporary fix for a couple of years if you can’t invest in a desktop or a more expensive laptop (or if you need something that’s moderately portable).
"Not bad...It's ok...Love it with my new laptop!...I am an avid gamer and I had recently purchased a gaming laptop and with any pc game, it is essential to have a mouse, but not just any mouse, I was in the market searching some of the best gaming mouse there is, and I came across this, and this is in my opinion the best gaming mouse there is since its by Razer, and what sold me is the chroma lighting, and the fact that it is the tournament edition, meaning professional gamers use it for eSports."
On the AMD side of the fence, the on-chip graphics solutions in the company's A8-, A10-, and A12-series processors are pretty good (as integrated graphics go). As a result, you'll see almost no AMD-based laptops under $1,000 with dedicated graphics. That's because the presence of an AMD CPU, in the first place, is usually a low-price play by the laptop maker. Adding a GPU would just bump up the price.
The SteelSeries Rival 700 isn’t your average gaming mouse. While you’ll find an accurate 16,000 DPI sensor, a comfortable design and RGB lighting, the Rival is actually equipped with a vibrating motor and OLED screen. This allows the Rival 700 to integrate with games such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, providing feedback to the user that may otherwise go unnoticed.
The graphics card is the heart of your gaming experience and is one of the first and foremost things that you need to check out. If you intend to play high-end games at maximum resolution, then choosing a gaming laptop with a powerful graphics card is a necessity. If you don’t need top-of-the-line performance, an entry-level GPU will do the trick. It all comes down to personal preference and the type of games that you would be playing on your laptop. High-end games such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Watch Dogs 2, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Assassin's Creed: Origins, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Battlefield 1 require an advanced and powerful graphics card to play them at maxed-out settings. It helps the laptop handle the intense frame-rate and rendering that such advanced games require. Game makers are constantly coming up with games that are better than the ones that came earlier. With the level of video games’ graphics constantly on the rise, it is essential to get a laptop with a good graphics card to make your games run seamlessly.