If you’re using your laptop to play games, you need to keep your laptop plugged in to get the full performance out of your GPU. And if you don’t, you’ll be lucky if your laptop lasts an hour gaming. In our testing experience, most gaming laptops last only a few hours on a charge when performing other tasks, but never as long as ultraportables without discrete GPUs. If you need something to last 8 hours while you work, it won’t be a gaming notebook.
These budget systems typically won't include a lot of gamer bling like customizable RGBs and multi-zone keyboard lighting. Many will cut necessary cost corners by using a plastic chassis instead of aluminum, and you won't see sexy thin bezels like those on the MateBook Pro or Dell XPS 13. You'll also get, at minimum, 3 USB ports, an HDMI output and standard headphone jacks.
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.
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!
$1,000 - $2,000: In this price range, there are still a few Core i5's hanging around, but the majority of the configurations will have quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU with 16GB of RAM and a 1080p display. Most notebooks will feature both an SSD and an HDD (with a bump from 5,400 to 7,200 rpm) and a Nvidia GTX 1060 or 1070 GPU with at least 6GB of VRAM. You can play most games on high and clear 60fps, but adding special effects can hamper the experience on 4K resolution.
Ranging at a price just round $1200, the ASUS FX502VM 15.6″ Gaming Laptop is so far our best choice, if you are looking for a high powered, yet not very costly gaming machine. Besides, you cannot find many laptops made for the gaming community at its price range. Not being as high-powered as the ASUS’s prime ROG series, or the MSI’s dominators, this laptop offers efficiency, reliability and full round performances.
In our tests, the Legion Y530 kept its WASD keys on the cooler side at 101 °F (38 °C) after half an hour of Overwatch. The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GE-ES72 kept its WASD keys coolest at 94°F (34 °C), but the Y530’s keys didn’t feel uncomfortable for long gaming sessions, just a bit warm. The area where my palm rested near the trackpad reached 105 °F (41 °C); that’s a bit warmer than we’d like, but it wasn’t uncomfortable.
Powering it is an 8th generation i5 CPU with four cores and eight threads, much like the one found in the Acer Aspire E15, though this one is a bit faster and can reach higher clock speeds. Then there’s the 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and storage that is handled a bit differently. Namely, the GV62 combines 16 GB of Intel Optane memory with a 1 TB hard drive, balancing the performance of SSDs with the capacity of HDDs quite well.
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.
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.
As for the screen's native resolution, 1,920 by 1,080 pixels (commonly called 1080p) is now the norm in budget-priced and mainstream gaming machines. The more pixels you need to push, the more graphics power you need, and a savvy maker of gaming laptops won't outfit a laptop with a screen whose native resolution the GPU can't do justice. So the absence of higher-than-HD screens in budget gaming machines is no accident. Not only do such screens cost more and sap more battery life, but the graphics chips found in under-$1,000 gaming rigs wouldn't power gameplay on them very well. (Screens with resolutions higher than 1080p tend to look small and squinty at the 15-inch size, anyway.)
Like many other top cheap gaming laptops, the MSI GE62 includes the great Intel Core i5-6300HQ Quad Core processor. This CPU works perfect for current games and can easily be stepped up from 2.3 to 3.2GHz, using Intel's Turbo Boost technology. Unlike some other budget laptops we recommend, this one has a more powerful GPU though. You get the amazing NVIDIA Geforce GTX970M with 3G GDDR5. As you can see from the GPU's 3DMark score above, it's a very, very fast gaming graphics card with plenty of room for current games on high settings.
If an SSD is out of your budget, we highly recommend purchasing, at least, a 1TB hard drive with a 7,200-rpm speed. However, instead of an either/or situation, we recommend choosing a configuration that has both an SSD and a hard drive. That way you can load your games and important files on the speedy SSD and have plenty of room left for everything else.
As you might expect, a $1,300 gaming laptop won’t perform as well as a top-of-the-line one—but not everyone has $2,000 to spend on a high-end gaming laptop. Our cheaper gaming laptop picks can still play many AAA games on high settings at 1920×1080 resolution, with exceptions for very new or demanding games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider or Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. It’ll serve you well for classic games and less-demanding modern ones like Overwatch, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, or Doom (2016), and you can expect it to play most games on at least medium settings for the next few years.
I just upgraded an older Z170 chipset P870DM3 (which Sager calls the 9873) with 9900K. +100% CPU power upgrade over 6700K. Ran a bench at 4.9ghz allcore this morning. Others have demonstrated the current Z370 P870TM model with >5ghz 9900K. (This same model was DAILYING 8700K at 5Ghz for 6 months before laptop coffeelake came along and boy it was a huge deal when ONE or TWO of the BGA i9's completed a short bench at 5ghz!). Utter beastly pieces of engineering, that make everything BGA else look puny by comparison. For sure they suck at portability, but if you don't place such a high importance on that, and you're talking best performance, this is it
I originally bought another mouse that was 30 dollars made by Bloody and I returned it to get this 10 dollar one instead. I don't regret my decision. I've only used it for a couple of hours and it already feels great. I wanted something that was colorful but could still handle playing video games online like League of Legends. Does it feel cheap? Yeah I mean it's pretty cheap, you can tell it is. But it handles well, moves good, and clicks way better than the other one I had bought. This mouse is definitely not something you'd throw around because it's lighter plastic.
As far as storage is concerned, hard drive prices have come down compared with solid-state drives, so finding large capacities isn't too much trouble. 1TB of storage and maybe even a small SSD alongside are common in budget laptops. The display will almost certainly be 1080p (1,920-by-1,080 resolution), as 720p is now reserved only for cheap non-gaming systems and increasingly uncommon. The RAM will likely top off at 8GB in budget laptops, but you will find some (more ideal) 16GB laptops in this range.
Speaking of the technical details, the Rival 700 is a modular mouse that offers features such as a modular design, RGB lighting, OLED display, adjustable DPI settings with DPI maxing out 16,000 on the optical sensor, and 8,000 on the laser sensor, and yes, you can change the sensor by buying one separately. Sadly, though, as much as we would have wished, the mouse doesn’t come with an ambidextrous design and might be a problem for people who aren’t left-handed. However, that doesn’t mean that the Rival 700 isn’t a good mouse, behind the expensive price lies a really good mouse that fits gamers of all sorts, it doesn’t matter if you are playing an FPS, an RPG, an MMO, the mouse is there to serve, and serve you well.
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.
So what hardware is inside? Well, you get the popular Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6 GHz processor, capable of handling current games on high settings. The CPU is paired with the excellent and highly-recommended NVIDIA GTX 960M GPU. It's an amazing graphics card that offers high gaming performance at a great price. All that is combined with a very fast 256GB solid-state drive and a high-quality screen. The HP OMEN delivers a very good hardware combination for the price.
Asus: Branded under the company's Republic of Gamers series, the company's laptops have a sleek, stealth fighter design with an impressive set of specs. However, Asus doesn't offer much in the way of customization. As far as the warranty, the Taiwanese tech giant typically offers a 1-year international with accidental damage coverage and a 30-day zero-bright dot protection with 24/7 tech support.
The Full-HD display offers vibrant colors and sharp details for casual gaming and multimedia. While many laptops under $500 feature a lower resolution display, the HP 15-ay011nr boasts a maximum resolution of 1920×1080. Ample storage space is offered by the 1TB mechanical hard drive, but due to its price users will have to make do with the slower 5400rpm drive speed, But the hard drive can easily be swapped out for a solid state drive or a 7200rpm mechanical drive.
Even if you're not familiar with Logitech's standard gaming mouse filigree, the G502 is very intuitive. It features two center/top buttons, one for toggling the mouse wheel between "loose" and "granular" settings, and one for adjusting DPI presets on the fly. This is the case for most Logitech mice, but it's nice to get both options on such an affordable product, and one that also features multiple tunable buttons. The G502 also uses a handy LED-based DPI indicator for various settings—normal, fast, super-fast, and slow—so it's especially good for shooter scenarios where different weapons call for different optimal speeds.
Thankfully, to make things easier for the consumers, as well as for everyone who is reading this article, the choice of gaming mice should help them pick the one they want. That’s why we went ahead and used mice from every single price group, as well as gaming mice that were tailored to specific people or genre of games like the Razer Naga Hex V2 that is built specifically for the MOBA gamers.
If your top priority isn’t playing the newest games at the highest graphics settings, or if you want to play games but also need to carry a laptop for school or work, these picks are for you. Even though these cheap gaming laptops won’t play games as well for as many years, they tend to have longer battery life than high-end gaming laptops, and you’ll save a lot of money.
Given that high-end components tend to drain battery life, don't plan on taking any of these gaming rigs too far from a wall socket very often. Cutting-edge ports like USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are beneficial now, and will only be more so down the road, but look for at least two USB 3.0 ports so you can plug in an external mouse and a hard drive for your saved media files. If you mean to attach a VR headset to your GeForce GTX 1060-or-better rig, look for the right loadout of ports to accommodate it; you'll need a well-placed video out and enough USB ports for the hydra-head of cabling. Other video ports, like HDMI or Mini DisplayPort, will be helpful if you want to play games on an external display, but aren't absolutely necessary if your laptop's screen is large enough.
For proper functioning of GPU, it is essential to have VRAM of their own. This is beneficial in storing different frames, textures and other required properties for getting frames for the monitor. Finding out how much you require may be tricky. Hence, it is better to go for a laptop with as much VRAM as possible. You can buy a laptop with 3-4 VRAM. If you have reduced budget, you can opt for 2 GB VRAM. You, however, need to ensure that the resolution of the gaming laptop is 1080P.
Updated Nov. 25 at 5:45 a.m. ET: You can snag some inexpensive gaming laptops for great prices through Cyber Monday. The Lenovo Legion Y530 is on sale for $100 off from Best Buy, while the 15.6-inch Dell G3 can be had for $649 from Walmart — a savings of $350. The Dell G5 is also on sale for $899 from Walmart ($400 off!) A sale at eBay knocks the MSI GL63 down to $969, for a savings of $229. Check out our Cyber Monday hub for more fantastic deals.