These affordable gaming laptops are all either currently on special or are serious bargains in their own right, offering some ball busting deals for the budget mobile gaming connoisseur. Although we’ve tried to keep all our options under the $500, in some cases saving up a bit more can lead to a serious boost in performance, and in these cases we’ve snuck in a few good gaming laptops under $600 to keep your options open if you want the best value for your money in terms of raw performance.
The 15-inch 60 Hz 1920×1080 IPS display, the blue-backlit keyboard, and the trackpad are all solid performers. The Dell G7 15 Gaming has impressive battery life for a gaming laptop, but it’s a bit heavier than the competition and its fans get distractingly loud during gaming sessions. We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB solid-state drive for around $1,200.
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M might be from the previous generation of NVIDIA GPUs, but don’t let this fool you, it is still capable of running some of the best games from 2017 on medium to high settings. While it might feature an older GPU, the same can’t be said about its new seventh generation Intel Core i5-7200U processor. You also get 8GB of DDR4 RAM which offers better performance than the older DDR3 RAM used by older laptops.
Its R5 graphics boasts a GPU clock speed of 800MHz (Boosted) and will allow you to play some of the best classic titles and even some of the Twitch chart toppers such as CS: GO and League of Legends. You will even be able to play GTA V and Battlefield 4 if you don’t mind playing those games on lower settings. If you are more of a browser-based gamer, then you will love the responsive touchscreen that will allow you to play your favorite games without the need of the laptop’s trackpad.
Matthew Buzzi is a Hardware Analyst at PCMag, focusing on laptops and desktops with a specialty in gaming systems and games. Matthew earned a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism and interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming before turning it into part of his career. He spends entirely too much time on Twitter (find him @M... See Full Bio
It is in the graphics department that this RoG Strix laptop has the upper hand, as it comes with a GPU none other than the GTX 1070, a high-end beast that masters 1080p gaming and can handle 1440p more than competently. Sadly, though, the laptop doesn’t come with a 1440p display, as the 17-inch screen really could have looked really good with such a high resolution. Nonetheless, the 144 Hz refresh rate is still here, so nobody will be left wanting when it comes to performance.
If the refresh rate (which is measured in hertz, or Hz) is being called out as a feature on a given laptop, that means it's likely higher than the norm. Most laptop screens, including those in almost all budget models, stick to 60Hz, which means they redraw the onscreen image 60 times per second and thus can display up to 60 frames per second (fps) of in-game performance. (If your graphics chip can produce 90fps in a given game, you'll see only 60 of them.) Some notebook screens these days, though, can display at 75Hz, 120Hz, or more. These high refresh rates can be beneficial for some extremely fast-paced games, particularly titles played competitively online, such as Counterstrike: Global Offensive, DOTA 2, and Overwatch.
This big, badass notebook ($3,712 from Origin) pushes the pedal to the metal with the most potent hardware available, and then Origin PC cranks things to 11 by overclocking both the full-fat GeForce GTX 1080 and the Core i7-8700K processor. Yes, this laptop rocks a desktop processor, and not just any desktop processor—it’s the fastest one currently available. With 6 cores and 12 threads, the EON17-X demolishes CPU benchmarks. It blazes through triple-A games. Hell, it might be able to literally crush its slim, trim Nvidia Max-Q competition.
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.
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.
Last but not least, if you're a professional gamer looking to buy a gaming laptop that can keep you competitive, be prepared to brown-bag your lunches for a while. That kind of high-end performance can only come from top-of-the-line components, especially in a portable package, and they don't come cheap. Plus, an emerging trend among high-end machines is a high-refresh-rate screen built into the laptop, which allows for display of lofty frame rates in full to smooth out the perceived gameplay. Note, though, that you'll need a powerful graphics chip to leverage the benefits of a high-refresh panel with demanding games. You'll be able to identify machines like these by marketing lingo touting, say, a 120Hz or 144Hz screen. (A typical display on a laptop is a 60Hz panel.)
Under $1,000: While you might see a few notebooks with Intel Core i5 processors at this price range, there are plenty with 7th-generation Intel Core i7 CPUs and at least 8GB of RAM. Display-wise you can expect a 1080p display with average color reproduction, accuracy and brightness. Now that SSDs are becoming more commonplace, you can get a solid SSD at below $1,000. However, it's unlikely that it'll be a slower configuration instead of a high-speed PCIe device. Your rig will probably be outfitted with 1TB HDD (usually 5,400-rpm) and a Nvidia GeForce 1050 or 1050 Ti GPU with between 2-4 GB of VRAM. A laptop with these specs can play most titles at a solid frame rate at medium settings, but you can expect some trouble at higher configurations. (See our favorite sub-$1,000 gaming laptops here.)
Anti-ghosting and n-key rollover: These are two features that will keep you performing at your best in games. Anti-ghosting means that when you mash on several keys for combos or perform several actions, they will all register. Additionally, n-key rollover means that each key is independent of the others and will be registered no matter which other keys are being pressed.
These affordable gaming laptops may not be able to play the most modern games on the highest settings, but that doesn’t detract from the glory of being able to game on the move without coming even close to breaking the bank. Either way relative to the amount of games out there (golden oldies and recent titles included) you’d be surprised how the amount of games you can play stacks up against those that you can’t. These top gaming laptops will cruise through popular games like Minecraft and DOTA 2 without breaking a sweat as well as many newer titles.
With a gamer laptop, you'll usually get a powerful processor, plus a beefy graphics card to provide visually stunning gaming experiences. You'll need to make sure these components stay cool, so consider using a laptop cooling pad for the optimum experience. With so much power, your best laptop for gaming might be larger and heavier than a traditional laptop used for word processing and Internet surfing. The intense processing power can drain your battery faster than if you're just surfing the Internet. You'll need to balance power with portability to find the best gaming laptop for your needs. For a comfortable gaming experience, pick up a pair of gaming glasses to help minimize symptoms like dry eyes, headaches, blurry vision, tired eyes, insomnia and long-term effects of blue light exposure.
When buying a gaming notebook, get one that will last you for a few years. If you can afford it, get at least an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 for basic VR support. That choice is more important than RAM and the CPU, though you should pay attention to those as well. Storage is the most likely to be upgradeable, but more is better, as games take up a lot of space. Decide if you prefer high resolutions or faster displays and consider what software will be helpful to you, but realize that you won’t get great battery life. How all of those work together determines just how well a gaming notebook does on the Tom’s Hardware test bench.
Time your purchase right and you could land yourself a wonderful deal. You'll find unbeatable laptop discounts during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but you'll also find great deals throughout August during back-to-school sales. Check whether a new model is about to be launched as well because many stores discount old inventory to clear the shelves for newer models. Manufacturers often announce rebate deals on Mondays, so check for these before you buy.