Simply put: You won't find high-end dedicated graphics in gaming laptops under a grand. But times have changed, and lower-end graphics chips here in 2018 have caught up to most games and to the screen resolutions of most mainstream gaming laptops. With a little compromising, you can enjoy some very respectable gaming at 1080p in machines a notch or two down from the GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 elite, with models starting as low as $800. Budget-priced gaming laptops are now an established category, not outliers, and have been embraced by the major players. We've tested models from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.
Traditionally gaming laptops have been three things: big, heavy, and expensive. That isn't always the case any longer, as components have gotten smaller and more portable, and increased competition has caused prices to fall quite a bit as well. You still generally get what you pay for in terms of performance and portability, but you can get a great portable 1080p machine these days for less than $1,000 — sometimes way less — which was rarely the case just one generation of hardware ago.
Once you've come back down to earth, consider Dell's Alienware 17 R5. It's widely regarded as one of the highest-performing gaming laptops on the market, and you can spec it out with an Intel Core i9 processor, a GTX 1080 graphics card, and a staggering 32GB of RAM. The laptop weighs in at nearly 10 pounds, and at max specs, it'll cost you a comparatively reasonable $3,500.
Display: We focused on 15-inch models for this guide because they strike a good balance between screen size and relative portability, and they fit our budget. Our cheap gaming laptop pick needs a 1920×1080 screen—no exceptions. Lower resolutions look terrible, and higher resolutions aren’t affordable yet. (And our budget laptops’ GPUs can’t play games well at resolutions above 1080p anyway.) Very few laptops in this price range have high-refresh-rate (120 Hz or 144 Hz) panels, but it’s a nice bonus, especially for first-person games like Overwatch or Doom; the higher the refresh rate, the smoother animations appear, as long as the frame rate is also high. IPS screens tend to provide better viewing angles and color reproduction over TN panels, but they can also be more expensive, so we treat them as a preference but not a requirement.
If money is no object, set your sights on the Acer Predator 21 X (if you can find one!). The madman's ultimate gaming rig comes with a pair of GTX 1080 SLI graphics cards, 64GB of RAM, a 21" curved screen, and an integrated eye tracker. There's even three hard drives — a 1TB platter drive and dual 512GB SSDs. Even better, you'll get a full complement of Cherry MX Brown keyboard switches and a custom Pelican rolling case.
On the outside of the laptop, you'll notice the stunning looks of this gaming machine. The design is inspired by the F-22 stealth with smooth lines and angled surfaces. This laptop looks as great as it performs. Under the hood, you get the 1TB HDD that's supported by an m.2 PCIe SSD. This combination ensures that the operating system can prioritize intensive programs and games as needed, leading to a much smoother experience.
At the top of the gaming laptop pantheon are full-size "luggable" desktop replacement laptops. While these are still laptops in the strictest sense, they are essentially made to be portable desktops rather than lap computers or even a machine meant to be used away from mains power for an extended period of time. This allows them to use component choices you couldn't do in proper laptops, improving performance at the cost of weight.
The dedicated MX150 is Nvidias latest generation budget mobile GPU with improved performance over the previous generation 940MX. Multitasking will also not be much of problem, as the RAM will allow you to run quite a few applications and browser windows at once, though an upgrade to 16GB of RAM is also possible. It comes with a somewhat small SSD, affording you only 256GB of storage, but you can always add an additional SSD or HDD if needed.
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