Before we dive into our list of the best cheap gaming laptops, let’s go over what to look for in a gaming laptop. After all, just because a device is affordable and has “Gaming” in its name doesn’t mean it’s going to get the job done for everyone. The main features to consider when shopping for a cheap gaming laptop are its GPU, display resolution, amount and kind of storage, and even portability are things you should keep in mind when shopping for an inexpensive gaming laptop.
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.
That said, there are still some basic conclusions to be drawn about graphics performance. In general, the higher the model number within a product line, the higher the 3D performance. So an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 generally produces higher frame rates and higher-quality graphics than an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or GTX 1070. A single high-end discrete GPU will let you play the latest AAA gaming titles on a 1080p screen with all the bells and whistles turned on, and be fine for entry-level VR play. Adding a second GPU (a rare and expensive option) will let you run the latest games more comfortably on 4K and 5K displays, or let you hook up multiple monitors to your laptop.
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
The Dell G7 had the loudest fans of the budget gaming laptops we tested (except for the nearly identical Dell G5), and their whooshing drowned out in-game dialogue, forcing me to crank up the volume or put on headphones to hear. But the fan noise was an issue only when I was playing games—the G7 was dead silent when I used it for a full day of work—so it shouldn’t be a problem while you’re taking notes during class or browsing the Web.
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.
True, it’s not the most powerful gaming laptop on this list, but it definitely presents the best value for your money – it comes with a great CPU and a powerful GPU that is more than capable of fully utilizing that 1080p 144 Hz display. Furthermore, while some may find its 256 GB of storage limiting, as mentioned before, it can easily be expanded. All of this makes for a very reliable and versatile laptop that will be a good match for most people’s needs.
If you're truly serious, and insist on playing all your games at very high detail settings and the highest possible screen resolution (for most laptops, that's 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, assuming you're playing on the laptop's screen and not an external display), you're just going to have to shell out some bucks, especially if you want that laptop to stay game-viable at those settings for more than a couple of years. Future-proofing like that demands top-end graphics silicon: Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1070 or GTX 1080. And that means spending, at current prices, $1,500 or more on your laptop.
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.
I tested/used a bunch of mice for this roundup, and this one was far and away my favorite, and the one I'd buy. It feels sturdier than even some more expensive gaming mice, and the added weight gives it a feeling of heightened precision. As an added bonus, the Mamba Tournament Edition also includes a very nice transport/storage case, and its strobing RGB LED lights are of subtler stuff than some of the more aggressive-looking mice in this roundup. For the money, this is the best mouse for the most gamers.
At this point, the major mouse makers' software packages have been through generations of refinement, so they are slick. Logitech Gaming System (LGS), Corsair Utility Engine (CUE), and Razer Synapse are three of the best-regarded mouse- and keyboard-control utilities that cater to gamers. All offer advanced tweakability, with CUE regarded by many users and reviewers as the deepest, but also the trickiest to master in-depth.
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.
If you want a gaming laptop for less than $1,000, get the Lenovo Legion Y530. Because of its lower-powered graphics card, the Y530 won’t play demanding games as well for as many years to come as our top pick, but it keeps cool and has a bright screen, a comfortable keyboard, and a responsive trackpad. The Y530 is also about a pound lighter and significantly more compact than the Dell G7 and G5, but it’s a pain to upgrade. We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics processor with 4 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i5-8300H processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive. But if the Y530 costs more than $900 at the time you’re shopping, we recommend saving up for our top pick and its more powerful graphics processor instead.
Featuring a 1080p G-Sync screen and wealth of different configuration options that let you pair an Intel Core i7 with an Nvidia GTX 1060, 1070 or 1080, the mid- and top-specced versions are both more than powerful enough to run triple-A games with their graphics maxed. This, plus an excellent RGB keyboard and a solid set of speakers, make it a great choice for laptop gamers who don’t have the extra cash, or space, to grab a dedicated monitor or sound system.
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.)
In the process of writing this buyer’s guide, we began by searching for manufacturers that offer one or more gaming laptop product lines. Next, we selected the computers that have the best price-performance ratio (based on tests conducted by a number of online websites such as Tom’s Hardware and LaptopMag). Finally, we organized these computers by brand: Acer, Asus, Dell, Gigabyte, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.
In terms of display size, a 15-inch screen is the sweet spot for a gaming laptop. You can buy larger 17-inch displays, but this can jack up the weight to way beyond 5 pounds. We've seen 12-pound "portables" in the gaming sector that will definitely weigh down your backpack. We recommend at least a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-resolution) screen. Larger displays are capable of giving you higher-than-1080p resolutions, but choose wisely, as a resolution of QHD+ (3,200 by 1,800 pixels, and uncommon) or 4K (3,840 by 2,160 pixels, a bit more common) will boost the final cost twice: first for the panel, and second for the higher-quality graphics chip you'll need to drive it to its full potential.
Fortunately for anyone interested in acquiring a gaming laptop with decent battery autonomy, there are a number of models on the market that have highly optimized hardware configurations like the Asus ROG Strix Hero II (which has almost 5 hours of autonomy), the Acer Predator Helios 300 (approximately 6 hours 50 minutes of autonomy) or the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (around 7 hours of autonomy). This last computer takes advantage of Nvidia’s Max-Q design in order to allow its GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip to consume less power while remaining fully capable of gaming in Full HD. The Alienware 13 (OLED) also has a battery autonomy in excess of 7 hours (tested using office software).
Speaking about the exterior of the laptop, it comes with a decent star gray color finish and stands out in looks from any other ordinary laptop out in the market. Moreover, it comes with great ergonomics making it comfortable to hold. Speaking about the specifications of the device, under the hood, the laptop is powered by an Intel Core i5-8250U quad-core processor paired with an 8GB of RAM. It sports a 15.6-inch Full-HD NanoEdge display with ASUS’s splendid software enhancement to safeguard the user’s vision even after prolonged usage. Storage on the laptop is backed by a 1TB hard drive which offers more than enough room to store all your favorite games, photos, music, movies and other data.
Our unbeatable range of Windows Laptops includes the industry’s leading brands. Browse our range of Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, Samsung & PC Specialist laptops. Choosing the right Laptop for you can be difficult. We help you get it right – with advice on the ideal laptops for gaming, work, social and casual use, full spec details to compare laptops & our easy to use laptop buying guide.