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.
Price: You can get a great budget gaming laptop for less than $1,300, but you do have to spend more than $800. As of late 2018, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor offers the best price-to-performance ratio. You can find this GPU in laptops under $1,300, and it will play many new games on high settings at 1080p. The GTX 1060 is only 10 to 15 percent faster, according to Nvidia, and most laptops with full GTX 1060 graphics were outside of our price range. The GTX 1050 Ti is a decent option in laptops under $900, but it’s 60 percent slower than the GTX 1060, according to Laptop Mag. Although you could save a few hundred dollars now by choosing the GTX 1050 Ti, it won’t play new games on high settings for as many years, and you’ll likely want to upgrade sooner. We recommend saving up for a laptop with a GTX 1060 Max-Q if possible. You can’t get a good gaming laptop for less than $800—the graphics processors they come with (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or worse) can’t handle current AAA games at high settings, let alone future games.
Although priced higher than our under $500 recommendations, the NVIDIA Geforce MX150 and 940MX dedicated graphics cards found in the best $600 gaming laptops on the market deliver up to 4 x better performance over the integrated graphics found on most cheaper laptops in this guide. If you plan on playing newer games we strongly recommend you invest in a laptop with a dedicated graphics card. See our sub-$1000 priced gaming laptop guide for more options.
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…
The sound is just as important as the visuals when it comes to gaming. Yes, you probably have a headset that you'll use most of the time. But sometimes you just want to let your laptop's speakers work. The MSI-exclusive, Nahimic audio software is one of our favorites since it offers some of the best surround sound in both headphones and speakers. It also provides several handy presets, Bass Boost and Voice Clarification software. Alienware's Dell Audio software is a close second, while Dolby Home Theater v4, available in Lenovo notebooks, rounds out our top three.
Processors are the next biggest difference. You'll likely get a capable Core i5 instead of a faster Core i7. Still, some of the benefits of an i7 machine aren't a major factor for gaming, but instead benefit video editing and other creative uses, so an i5 will do the job. The newest generation of these chips are fast and efficient at a base level, and won't be too much of a bottleneck for gaming. On the AMD side of the fence, in the rare gaming laptops you'll find based wholly on AMD core technology, gamers will see mostly graphics solutions based on the now-aging Radeon RX 560, RX 570, and RX 580 paired with one of several AMD FX or Ryzen CPUs. Outside of the graphics card and processor, the other components should actually be closer to more expensive machines than you'd expect.
We were thoroughly surprised to see the inclusion of the Nvidia GTX 1050 card for a laptop priced just above $500. While it is an entry-level card, it can run current games on lower settings. The GPU is helped along by an equally impressive Intel i5-7300HQ and 8GB of RAM. The laptop is not only a solid choice for gamers, but for users looking to do video and photo editing, and development work, along with other tasks that demand a lot of the systems internal resources.
Gaming Laptops (Show All) MSI Gaming Laptops ASUS Gaming Laptops Gigabyte Gaming Laptops Alienware Gaming Laptops GTX 1050 Gaming Laptops GTX 1050 Ti Gaming Laptops GTX 1060 Gaming Laptops GTX 1070 Gaming Laptops GTX 1080 Gaming Laptops Alienware 17 Laptops DELL G5 Gaming Laptops DELL G3 Gaming Laptops Gigabyte Aero 15 Laptops AORUS X-Series Laptops Gigabyte Sabre Laptops
What’s more, some GeForce GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 chips are labeled as “Max-Q”, meaning that they operate at a slightly lower frequency than “normal” graphics chips in order to reduce heat and facilitate their integration into thin and lightweight computers (which are not equipped with the same type of substantial cooling system as larger laptops). As a result, the performance of these chips is slightly lower (around 10% lower) than their non-Max-Q counterparts.
You can also get a sweet deal by going back in time and looking at laptops with previous-gen CPUs, as they are usually available at fire sale prices and there's not a huge difference in performance between Skylake and Kaby Lake for gaming. You won't be quite as future-proof, but you'll still get several years of great 1080p gaming at a low price. Let's dive into the top picks a cheap gaming laptop:
Like the Dell G7, the Legion Y530 has a 15-inch 1920×1080 IPS display with a 60 Hz refresh rate. But the Y530’s small bezels set it apart from other cheap gaming laptops, making games feel more immersive and allowing the whole laptop to be smaller. The Y530’s display looked better than those of other laptops in its price range like the Dell G3 and Acer Nitro 5, which had green and blue color tints. The Y530’s screen was also among the brightest we tested at 266 nits, beaten only by the exceptionally bright screens of the more expensive Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM and Acer Predator Helios 300.
For many years, the term “gaming laptop” referred to a highly powerful, exceedingly expensive, very large, and extravagant looking computer that usually had very limited battery autonomy. It was more or less equivalent to a high-end desktop computer that had the advantage of being portable (and which was generally used to showcase its manufacturer’s most advanced hardware).
Along with our quarterly laptop guide, near the end of every year we also like to take a look at the state of the gaming laptop market. With a much more cyclical upgrade cycle, gaming laptops tend to evolve in lockstep with the major components inside them. For the gaming laptop market, this includes not only more powerful CPUs, but also more unique (for a laptop) components like discrete video cards, mechanical keyboards, and perhaps an IPS panel or high-refresh TN display. All of which come together to make a breed of laptop that is very different from the kinds of machines that define the mainstream and professional markets.
The Lenovo Legion Y530 is the Porsche of budget gaming laptops. Its minimalist design and blackout color scheme give it a suave look you'd associate with tuxedo-clad, big-screen villains. Outside of its stately good looks, you get a gaming notebook that offers a wide range of ports and a solid graphics card. It's a very good choice for casual gamers who want a sub-$1,000 laptop with a button-up design that can blend in -- and even impress -- no matter the setting.