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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!
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080: This is the card to beat. During our testing, gaming laptops outfitted with a 1080 GPU routinely top the category average on high-end games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto V with the special effects settings and resolution turned all the way up. And of course, Nvidia 1080 can easily support all your virtual-reality adventures. Just be prepared to shell out a pretty penny, since 1080s are only found in high-end systems like the Razer Blade Pro or the Acer Predator 17X.
Performance is excellent; the quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ is a great chip not only for gaming, but for video editing as well, while the GTX 1060 graphics hardware is more than good enough for the latest games at High settings in Full HD. Round that off with a bit of old-school design charm and an excellent keyboard, and you have a very attractive machine.
The connectivity is robust, the keyboard is terrific, but what you're paying for here is the form factor and the build. It has an aluminum unibody design not unlike a MacBook Pro; a far cry from the plastic most budget gaming notebooks offer. Thus, the single storage solution and a GTX 1050 instead of a GTX 1050 Ti. It's on this list because it manages to co-exist as both a stylish daily driver for work, and a competent gaming machine.
Plow through the competition with this Logitech Lightspeed wireless gaming mouse. A 1 ms response time ensures that every movement translates almost instantly on the screen, and the ultra-precise optical sensor means that every twitch is recorded with accuracy. This Logitech Lightspeed wireless gaming mouse is specifically crafted for competition-level events.
While its performance for modern games will be on the lower end, its value is excellent and it will at least allow you to play games such as Overwatch, CS:GO, DOTA 2 and other popular titles will be playable, albeit at reduced settings. One aspect of the E 15 E5-576-392H that may seem impressive is that it packs a 1920 x 1080 15.6-inch display. Sadly, it is of poor quality. Its lowly TN panel offers poor viewing angles and the colors looked washed out, which are issues that generally plague TN panels.
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.)
John is PCMag's executive editor for hardware. A veteran of the popular tech site and magazine Computer Shopper from 1993 to 2017, he has covered just about every kind of computer gear—from the 386SX to 18-core processors—in his long tenure as an editor, a writer, and an advice columnist. He served as Computer Shopper’s editor in chief from 2008 to... See Full Bio
Its physical design is styled with gaming in mind, with extra features like the Red back-lit scissors-like keys, a 1080p display and a dust-proof airing system. It also comes with a 128 GB SSD that’s coupled with a 1TB (7200RPM) HD drive for extra storage. The MSI GT72S Dominator Pro G-219 with more ports and a Blu-ray player clearly delivers an excellent gaming experience that that makes it a choice pick for gaming laptops.
The ASUS ROG GL502VS-DB71 is a midrange laptop that’s powered by the GTX 1070. It is designed offer an incredible gaming experience to users, although its slight overclocking tendency limits its optimum performance. Since Nvidia’s introduction of the GeForce GTX 10-range GPUs for laptops, they have been gaining positive grounds even with gaming desktops. The ROG GL502VS is among the newest entrants, and it features, alongside the GTX 1070 GPU with Pascal style; a sixth-generation Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB system memory.
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.
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.
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.
In an effort to produce sleeker, more portable gaming laptops, Nvidia launched an initiative in 2017 named Max-Q, a term borrowed from the aeronautics industry. In that scenario, it describes the maximum amount of aerodynamic stress an aircraft can sustain. Here, it refers to a combination of hardware and software modifications that allow higher-end graphics cards to fit into thinner chassis than traditionally possible. By limiting the power ceiling of cards like the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070, less heat is produced, meaning less room is needed for cooling and heat dissipation.
Many found that replacing it with an M.2 SSD helped solve this problem. It comes with two USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port, and a compact USB-C 3.1 connector, as well as an HDMI and VGA video output for connecting multiple screens, and there is also a multi-format memory card reader. The full-size keyboard is sadly not backlit, but many noted that its key travel and feedback are great, and the touchpad is said to be good overall, but compared to higher-end laptops, it is not as responsive.
When we say slider, Corsair includes a hex screwdriver with the mouse that lets you adjust the slider as per your grip and the reach of your thumb. It’s nice to see Corsair paying attention to the detail. The mouse comes with one of the best sensors in the market, it uses an impressive Pixart ADNS 3988 sensor. The sensor supports a max DPI of 12,000, however, the DPI can be adjusted as per your need.
$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.
VR and the Highest Settings: A GTX 1070 will let you play through just about anything on high settings, while the GTX 1080 is the most powerful card out there for laptops right now and will allow for smoother VR and special effects. These are the cards that will let you start pumping up effects like Nvidia Gameworks. Laptops in this range can start in the high $1,000 dollar range, and, depending on what other specs you need, go over $3,000.
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 laptop comes with a long list of ports and also has a good heat exhaust system, making it a perfect choice for gamers and all other hardcore users. As far as the graphics on the laptop are concerned, it comes with the Intel UHD 620 integrated graphics. All in all, the laptop offers an excellent set of specifications for a little above $500, but considering the design and performance of this laptop, we think it’s worth it.
Alienware laptops are known for their cool designs and high-end specifications which deliver a superior gaming experience. It features an Intel Core i7 7th Gen processor and 8 GB of RAM, along with a 6 GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card which runs almost all the advanced games seamlessly. Its 1 TB HDD and 256 GB SDD provides ample space to store your pictures, videos and music.
For many years, the speakers built into gaming laptops did not provide sufficiently good audio quality to take full advantage of a video game’s sound effects and in-game music. Nowadays, some gaming laptops integrate a very sophisticated audio system capable of offering advanced performance, deep bass tones, and adequate power (some examples include the Asus Rog Zephyrus and the MSI GS65 Stealth). For lower-end computers, there is always the possibility of connecting external Bluetooth/WiFi speakers or a good pair of headphones.
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.
Heat: A gaming laptop’s GPU and CPU produce a lot of heat. Without an effective cooling system, the machine will overheat, which can slow gaming performance, shorten the laptop’s lifespan, or even burn you.1 No gaming laptop can keep completely cool—all that heat has to go somewhere. But it needs to keep its internals, the WASD keys (the most-used section of the keyboard for gamers, as those four keys often control in-game movement), and the left palm rest (where your left hand rests while using the WASD keys) cool. It’s a bit more forgivable for the laptop to get hot in areas with less direct contact with your skin, such as the underside and the strip above the keyboard.
With said, if you are wondering about the technical details, you should know that the ROG Spatha comes with an awful lot of programmable buttons, and that’s not all, you also get a charging bad that looks stylish as hell. Now at this point, you may have guessed that the mouse is wireless, well, here’s a catch, you can use it wirelessly without any input lag, and you can use it with the wire as well. You get the RGB lights, and pretty much every other feature you’d expect from a flagship mouse. The mouse comes with 12 programmable buttons that can be programmed as per your needs using the Asus Armoury software, you also get 8,200 max DPI, amazing ergonomics and comfort for long gaming sessions, the main buttons use Omron switches that are rated for a really high click cycle, and even if they wear out, you can always replace them.
OriginPC - If you’re getting an Origin, it’s probably because you want customization options. The company offers a wide variety of paint jobs and skins and lets you choose from an array of different processors, GPUs and overclocking options. You can also get thermal compounds to keep things cool and you can even pick the exact RAM and storage you want.
It’s no secret that dedicated graphics cards offer far better performance than integrated graphics, however, this doesn’t mean that you can’t game on laptops without dedicated GPUs. This is due to the fact that Intel has come a long way with their integrated graphics and Blizzard have even mentioned that almost 25% of all Overwatch players are playing the game on a system with integrated graphics. While Overwatch is a newer title, don’t expect to play titles such as Mass Effect: Andromeda or Battlefield 1 on high settings or with great frame rates.
For a long time, competitive gamers strongly preferred wired gaming mice to wireless ones to eliminate perceived latency, as well as the possibility of a battery running down in the midst of a heated match. Many serious players still hold that bias, but Razer, Logitech, and others have released higher-end mice of late with low latency ratings that ought to satisfy at least casual gamers.
The SteelSeries Sensei 310 is arguably the best gaming mouse for lefties, offering a comfortable design and intuitive thumb buttons, regardless of whether you game with your left or right hand. The Sensei 310's eight total buttons are highly customizable via SteelSeries' Engine 3 software, and the tweakable RGB backlighting is a nice added touch. Most importantly, the Sensei 310 is fast and responsive, making it easy to snipe enemies or command units no matter your dominant hand.
Alienware: Known for its distinctive spaceship design complete with out-of-this world lighting, Alienware does a solid job of offering value while still delivering high-end specs. However, outside of its predetermined configurations, there isn't much room for customization. The company typically offers a 1-year warranty with on-site service after remote diagnosis.
The Logitech G300s has been on the market for quite some time, which is why it doesn't cost that much. Don't let the price fool you, though. The G300s is a comfortable, versatile mouse that takes full advantage of the intuitive Logitech Gaming Software. This small peripheral packs a surprising amount of buttons, and you can even customize a few LED lights.
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"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."
OriginPC: OriginPC's default design typically won't turn heads, but they are the go-to-guys when it comes to customization. From custom paint jobs, thermal compounds to a TV Tuner, as long as you have the money, the sky's the limit. OriginPC's standard warranty offers lifetime 24/7 tech support and even offers a dead-pixel warranty in case of a defective display.
The viewing angles do suffer somewhat due to it being a lower quality TN panel, however, but it does come with touch screen functionality at least. The case is made of all plastic and feels somewhat cheap, and its look isn’t much to write home about according to some users, but these aesthetics are generally affiliated with budget laptops. Fortunately it is reasonably lightweight, so you can take it along with you without much of hassle.
Mice aimed at first-person shooters, for one, tend to feature ratcheting scroll wheels—letting you cycle through your arsenal without selecting the wrong weapon—and on-the-fly resolution switchers. The latter will help you snap-change between the broad tracking you need in a frantic shootout and the tight control for lining up a sniper shot. (Sometimes this feature is dubbed something like "sniper mode," and it may involve a dedicated button for getting granular.)
Next in the low-cost gaming segment is the Dell G3 Series 15. It's currently on sale for $699 making it one of the lowest cost gaming notebooks. The $699 price also gives you a choice between a 1 TB HDD model, or a 256 GB SSD version, which lets you choose based on how large your gaming library is, whether to take a slower spinning drive with plenty of space, or a SSD for better system performance all the time, but you may have to add space later. The G3 Series 15 can be had with a Core i5-8300H on the base, or up to a Core i7-8750H. A Geforce GTX 1050 is the opening GPU, and Dell offers a GTX 1050 Ti on the higher end configurations. The display is a 1920x1080 IPS, and although it's not the best display around, the GTX 1050 should be able to drive it while gaming at reasonable frame rates.
Nowadays, most LCD displays for gaming laptops have a matte finish which makes them less susceptible to reflections. Other factors to consider are a display’s luminosity, color fidelity, and its range of displayed colors. Manufacturers sometimes promote their displays based on these characteristics (however, you should always consult the tests performed by specialized technology reviewers in order to verify the veracity of these claims).
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.