Let's take a look under the hood: The new ASUS Metal is an amazing choice for gaming. It runs all PC games we threw at it flawlessly at medium settings. The laptop is powered by Intel's 6th-generation Core i7-6500U. Of course, you can tune the CPU from 2.5GHz up to 3.1GHz with Intel's TurboBoost for even more performance. The laptop's GPU is a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M. There's a good reason why most budget gaming laptops include this card: It offers a great price-to-performance balance and very long lifespan. The laptop's specs are topped off with 8GB of RAM and a generous 512GB SSD storage. It's a solid combination that runs games well.
After spending more than 40 hours researching and testing 10 budget gaming laptops in late 2018, we found that the Dell G7 15 Gaming is the best one you can get. It’s an excellent value, and its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics card will play games on high to medium settings for years. It keeps its most-touched surfaces and components cool enough during long gaming sessions, and it has no dealbreaking flaws.
The Predator Helios 300 boasts a rather aggressive exterior, replete with red highlights and conspicuous geometric details. And much like the MSI GV62, the keyboard comes with a red LED backlight. This clearly establishes its identity as a gaming laptop at the very first glance, though what’s under the hood doesn’t disappoint either – and we should hope so, considering the price tag.
The storage and memory in the Y530 are upgradable, but it’s a pain in the butt to do so. In contrast to the Dell G7’s and G5’s convenient access panel held in by a single screw, the Y530’s design requires you to remove 11 screws and the entire bottom of the chassis to get inside. And although it’s possible to wedge a small flathead screwdriver into the seam, spudgers will likely make the job easier and reduce the risk of your gouging the laptop. Once inside, you can replace the M.2 PCIe drive or the 2.5-inch hard drive, or add another stick of RAM. The memory is hidden beneath a tiny metal house; our recommended config comes with one 8 GB DIMM and one open slot.
A gaming laptop is constrained by its graphics processor; that’s the component that has the biggest impact on gaming performance, and you can’t upgrade it. Many cheap gaming laptops also lack either a solid-state drive or a roomy hard drive for storage, so you may have to pay extra to upgrade that later. You’ll need to put more money into keeping a budget laptop relevant in the long run—through storage and memory upgrades—than you would for a high-end gaming laptop that already has a solid-state drive and at least 16 GB of RAM (not to mention better graphics). A cheap gaming laptop is a temporary fix for a couple of years if you can’t invest in a desktop or a more expensive laptop (or if you need something that’s moderately portable).
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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.
Ever since the 2016 launch of mobile Pascal, gaming notebooks have mostly closed the gap with their equivalent desktop cousins. With Nvidia's previous-generation "Maxwell" architecture, mobile-graphics-chip performance tended to be roughly 70 to 80 percent of what you'd get from the desktop cards they were based on. (See our picks for the top gaming graphics cards for 1080p play.) But the Pascal mobile chips deliver almost equivalent performance to their desktop counterparts of the same name, assuming they are implemented in machines with a complementary CPU, and in designs that do the GPU's thermal needs justice. (Most do.)
Planning on spending hours upon hours handing out beatdowns in Fortnite or Call of Duty? Check out the Dell G3 15 Gaming laptop, which lasted an impressive 6 hours and 37 minutes on our battery test. Gamers also get a system capable of kicking out some solid frame rates and good sound, thanks to a GTX 1050 Ti GPU and some powerful speakers. And at 5.2 pounds and 0.9 inches thick, this is one of the thinnest entry-level gaming laptops available.