In our chart at the top of this article and in our list below, we've mapped out our top-rated models to investigate. Note that a few of the configurations sent to us for testing were a bit above $1,000; some remain so, while others have fallen below the one-grand line since. Also, note that most of these models are a single version of a machine in a varied line. So use the linked reviews as guidelines, not absolutes, when assessing each laptop family. You may not get quite the level of performance we did, if key components were downgraded in the march below $1,000. But you should get a solid idea of the laptops' screen, build, and input quality from our reviews.
Stefan Vazharov and Brandon Carte of Best Products featured the Logitech G613 LIGHTSPEED Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and the Logitech G903 LIGHTSPEED Wireless Gaming Mouse in their guide to “60+ Gifts for Gamers to Level Up Their Experience.” They shared that “the G613 wireless mechanical keyboard by Logitech is an excellent way to make your favorite people better gamers, as well as more effective typists." They additionally noted that the Logitech G903 is a “solid contender for being the best of its kind, it features pro-grade performance in wireless and wired mode, ambidextrous design with customizable buttons and lighting (via a software suite), and excellent 20+ hours of battery life.”
But if you want to play new games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on ultra settings, you’re better off with a desktop or a gaming laptop with more powerful graphics. A $1,200 desktop is much more powerful, and you can easily upgrade it in the future. And if you opt for a higher-end gaming laptop, you’ll be able to crank up those graphics settings for years—rather than months—to come.
The choice of CPU is also important. All the laptops on this list come equipped with quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with ‘HQ’ or ‘HK’ at the end of their model names, but you’ll find some cheaper models on the market that only have a ‘U’ suffix. This denotes a much lower-power, dual-core processor that can prove to be a huge bottleneck in games if you have a high-end graphics card.
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.
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.
Know that the presence or absence of a dedicated control utility is a big differentiator between low-end and high-end gaming mice. Some cheap gaming mice will come with no software of their own. Without such a utility, you'll be able to customize mouse commands only within a game (via its in-game menus) or in Windows' own mouse settings. That's not necessarily a bad thing; just know what you are getting, or not getting.
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.
So, what makes the difference? Comfort and accuracy come more naturally to some models than others. An extra button in the right spot can speed up switching modes or weapons, saving you life-or-death fractions of a second. And the right supporting software can power simple or complex shortcuts that decide defeat or victory. Here's what to look for in a right-fit gaming mouse.
For increased comfort, some gaming mice allow you to customize their actual bodies to your hand. Removable weights, often resembling small steel pills, are common in better gaming mice. Adding or removing these weights from slots inside the mouse body will shift the overall feel and the amount of drag. Some models take this even further, letting you adjust the center of balance, or change the height and pitch of the palm rest.
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.
If the GPU is the heart of a gaming laptop, then the processor and RAM are the brain and hippocampus. Your laptop's processor (CPU) handles everything that doesn't have to do with graphics, such as performing some of a game's physics calculations and controlling its non-playable characters. It also affects the performance of all of your non-gaming applications, including your browser, OS and productivity apps. When picking out your CPU and RAM, keep the following tips in mind.
But what seals the "best value" award for the G502 is that it includes a series of 3.6-gram weights to be added or removed from the body of the mouse, allowing users to increase/decrease the weight to find an optimal fit. While I love that the Mamba Tournament Edition is already weighted from the get-go, the option to add weight to the Proteus Spectrum—combined with its multiple buttons and adjustable wheel/DPI settings—grant it a very desirable amount of flexibility.
Some features that are must-haves in non-gaming laptops aren’t quite as important here. Poor speakers can be bypassed with a good pair of headphones, and most people use a mouse instead of the trackpad while gaming. Battery life and portability have never been the strong suits of gaming laptops, which spend most of their lives plugged in and stationary.
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.
Corsair didn’t just release a product range suited for every budget oriented, as well as well high-end gamers, but they made sure that all the products don’t share a drastic difference between the price they have and the features they give. That means that whether you are buying their mid-high range K70, or their enthusiast range K95, you won’t be sacrificing on the features a lot. That is something really good, and something a lot of other companies don’t follow.
Of course, this is an entry-level gaming laptop and you should expect that some games have to be played on medium settings. However, you can expand this laptop later. For example, it has a second RAM slot for additional memory and an m.2 slot for a solid-state drive. Overall, this is a very good budget laptop with plenty of features at a great price point.
This budget-friendly gaming laptop from HP promises to provide very stable yet power-packed performance for the asking price. Thanks to it’s AMD Ryzen 5 chipset; this is an able laptop when it comes to handling games. It comes preloaded with 8GB of RAM to take care of the multitasking on the system. Storage on the laptop is backed by a small yet extremely fast 128GB of SSD which offers enough space to store couple of games and other data.
The Lenovo Legion Y530 lasted 5 hours, 4 minutes in our Web-browsing battery test—about half an hour short of the Dell G7, Dell G5, and HP Pavilion 15t, but longer than any other contenders. That isn’t long enough for the Y530 to survive a full day of work or classes, but gaming laptops aren’t known for their battery life, and the Y530 is still one of the most portable options.
The Precision Touchpad was responsive and worked well for standard gestures in our tests, but the G7, like its predecessors, lacks an easy way to disable the trackpad. Every other gaming laptop we’ve tested—except for the Dell G5 and Dell G3—has this feature because pressing the trackpad with your palm while gaming can cause accidental clicks and in-game deaths. We spent hours playing games on the G7 and found that the trackpad’s palm rejection was superb and didn’t cause any accidental clicks. (My hands run cold and rarely sweat, though, so your mileage may vary.) It’s possible (but inconvenient) to disable the trackpad by going into the Device Manager, selecting Human Interface Devices, right-clicking HID-compliant touch pad, and selecting Disable. (Dell, please add an easily accessible toggle to the next iteration.)
The G3 15 has its downsides, including a Full-HD display that isn’t as bright as we’d like, frame rates that struggle to reach 60 fps on top-tier games, and a weight exceeding five pounds (although it’s not as massive as some gaming laptops). But when we compared it to the Acer Nitro 5, another budget gaming laptop we like, with an even lower price point, there was no contest. The G3 15 posted stronger benchmarks and battery life. In particular, its GTX 1050 Ti graphics showed the limitations of the Nitro 5's mere GTX 1050. Nothing wrong with the Nitro 5, but if you can afford the G3 15 we tested, it's the better choice. Read our full review.
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.
At the mid-range we see laptops with either the NVIDIA GTX 1060, or for a bit more money, a GTX 1070, both of which are a powerful gaming GPU in a mobile form factor. ASUS offers the Republic of Gamers branding Strix lineup, and the GL504 model is their 15.6-inch range. Featuring the GTX 1060 in the GL504GM, and GTX 1070 in the GL504GS models, there's a wide range of performance here depending on budget. ASUS offers either the Intel Core i5-8300H quad-core, or the Core i7-8750H hex-core CPU, and up to 32 GB of DDR4 RAM support. There's a full range of SSD choices, and you can of course also fit it with a HDD for extra space.
In our tests, the G7’s WASD keys—the ones that control movement in most games, and the ones you touch the most—hit 103 °F (39 °C) after half an hour of Overwatch. Those temperatures felt warm and could induce sweating, but they weren’t uncomfortable to touch like the Acer Predator Helios 300’s too-toasty 110 °F (43 °C) in the same test. The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GE, which we tested with less powerful GTX 1050 Ti graphics, was the only budget gaming laptop we tested this year that kept its WASD cluster comfortably cool at 94 °F (34 °C).
The Dell G7 15 is a mid-size gaming laptop with middle-of-the-road GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics, middling battery life, and—you guessed it—a mid-range price tag. But this system boasts a stellar feature that sets it apart from the crowd: a six-core, benchmark-crushing Core i7 processor that’ll thrill content creators. Indeed, the G7 15’s overall performance is only a step or two behind that of our current top pick among 15-inch gaming laptops, the thinner and lighter MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RE—and it costs about $600 less. Despite a dim screen and an occasionally too-hot chassis, this is still a worthy contender.
The Acer Nitro 5 Spin delivers solid multitasking power, good battery life, a comfortable keyboard and oodles of versatility thanks to its easily convertible design. A Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU means that you can play most games at low or medium settings. It's a solid choice for games looking for an affordable gaming system that does more than play games.