Cheap gaming laptops are as mythical as unicorns in the eyes of most gamers and finding them online can be a real chore. We spend hours of research every week scouring the web for the best gaming laptops under $500 and list them right here for anyone on the hunt for a new mobile machine. Our top level guide to the best gaming laptops of 2017 /2018 also offers an overview of all budget netbook hardware if you need to compare specs for any laptop.
The Y530 kept its GPU among the coolest, along with our other picks, at 160°F (71 °C) after 30 minutes of Overwatch and 163 °F (73 °C) after the same time playing The Witcher 3. Its CPU hit 207 °F (97 °C) in both tests, which is about average and what we expect to see in this category. (That may seem extremely hot, but it’s not cause for alarm for these processors.)
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.
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.
The Dell Inspiron I3567-5664BLK-PUS 15.6-inch laptop has received positive reviews for its decent specs for the price, coming with an Intel i5-7200U and 8GB of RAM, affording you decent multitasking capabilities and a machine powerful enough to run some demanding programs reasonably well. Users liked the backlit keyboard and the 2TB of storage space. The construction is said to be solid, too, which impressed many users. However, some pointed out that screen quality is subpar, offering limited viewing angles, and furthermore, it is only 720p.
We measured the laptops’ internal temperature using HWMonitor and measured the surface temperature at various points on the keyboard and underside using an IR thermometer. We tested each laptop’s screen using some of the Lagom LCD monitor test pages, and we used each of the finalists for several workdays to get a feel for the keyboard, trackpad, screen, and speakers.
The bargain-priced Lenovo Legion Y530 (available via Lenovo) could be a good entry-level gaming laptop if you manage your expectations. It’s impressively portable and has a solid feature set. Unfortunately its middling graphics card struggles to deliver buttery visuals from today’s AAA games, and its performance will only go downhill as more demanding titles come down the pike. Read our review.
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.
Mice that are specially designed for RTS games and MMOs, on the other hand, look quite different. The most extreme come outfitted with an array of 10 or more programmable buttons. Usually set just under the tip of the thumb, these buttons can serve as simple shortcut triggers, or be programmed to execute longer macro commands. (For more on these mice, see our specialized guide to the best mice for MMO games.)
The battery life of most gaming laptops should be ok when you arent gaming. I'm sure most of us understand this. For people who want to play games but also need a laptop for work or school, the batteries should last long enough. I'm assuming most if not all of them are set up so you can run them off the intagrated graphics until you need the dedicated for gaming or whatever.
The SteelSeries Rival 700 isn’t your average gaming mouse. While you’ll find an accurate 16,000 DPI sensor, a comfortable design and RGB lighting, the Rival is actually equipped with a vibrating motor and OLED screen. This allows the Rival 700 to integrate with games such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, providing feedback to the user that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Right now, Nvidia graphics cards are found on the overwhelming majority of new gaming laptops. You’ll generally find laptop specific parts on machines launched in 2014 and 2015 (such as 950M, 960M etc), but from this year all Nvidia laptops get full desktop-level GPUs. This is because the company’s ‘Pascal’ architecture is so efficient it can squeeze into the same space as an old-style laptop GPU without needing extra cooling. Look out for 10-series cards such as the GTX 1050, GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080.
Once you've come back down to earth, consider Dell's Alienware 17 R5. It's widely regarded as one of the highest-performing gaming laptops on the market, and you can spec it out with an Intel Core i9 processor, a GTX 1080 graphics card, and a staggering 32GB of RAM. The laptop weighs in at nearly 10 pounds, and at max specs, it'll cost you a comparatively reasonable $3,500.
Clevo is king of the hill in terms of true DTR machines, and the P870TM is their latest incarnation, featuring up to a Core i9-9900K desktop class CPU, and up to SLI GTX 1080 for the ultimate in performance. As a true DTR you can outfit it with 64 GB of DDR4, and basically whatever combination of storage you'd like. The 1920x1080 144 Hz G-SYNC display is on the low-side in terms of resolution, but with the high refresh the gaming will be incredibly smooth, since this is one of the few laptops that can easily drive the maxium refresh rate on this resolution. Being a DTR though, you could also just connect it to a UHD display on your desk as well.
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.
On the outside of the laptop, you'll notice the stunning looks of this gaming machine. The design is inspired by the F-22 stealth with smooth lines and angled surfaces. This laptop looks as great as it performs. Under the hood, you get the 1TB HDD that's supported by an m.2 PCIe SSD. This combination ensures that the operating system can prioritize intensive programs and games as needed, leading to a much smoother experience.
$2,000 - $3,000: When you're spending this kind of money, you'll definitely get a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with at least 16GB of RAM. You'll find configurations with the new PCIe SSDs for lightning-fast game installs and loads. Screen-resolution options include 1920 x 1080, 2560 x 1400 and 3840 x 2160. Regarding graphics, you can get a laptop with a single 1080 or dual 1070M in SLI configuration. You can also snag one of the new lightweight Max-Q laptops at this price range. Ultra smultra, with these kinds of specs you can play any game at the highest settings without fear of lag or ugly tearing.
Most people are familiar with the fact that many gaming laptops are not able to operate for very long on battery power due to their high-performance characteristics. In practical terms, computers such as the MSI GT75 Titan and the Asus ROG Zephyrus only have a battery autonomy of two to three hours…if at all! In fact, the measurements performed on these computers by the Laptopmag website were conducted using them to surf the internet via a WiFi connection. When these computers are used for gaming, their already low battery autonomy is further reduced (by half). Therefore, a connection to mains power is indispensable for these particular gaming laptops.
That said, a maxed-out Core i7 CPU is less crucial for gaming than it is for processor-intensive tasks such as video editing and media-file production work. With current-generation Intel CPUs, you'll get plenty of pep even from a four-core "Coffee Lake"/8th Generation Core i5. A Core i7 of the same generation is actually a hefty six-core/12-thread processor that, we'd argue, is overkill for casual gamers who need to mind what they spend. So, our bottom line: Opt for a Core i5 or i7 chip with four true cores if you can; a six-core chip is gravy.
The first thing you'll notice about this new HP gaming laptop is the exclusive Star Wars design. On the outside, the laptop features Star Wars engravings and a backlit, Jedi-red keyboard. But that's not all: The laptop comes pre-loaded with a ton of digital Star Wars items! You get rare wallpapers, screen savers, concept art, and original trilogy storyboards from the Star Wars archives. Plus, you can customize all system sounds with built-in audio files from the movies (think R2-D2 and light sabers).
The world’s most advanced display technology can currently be found on the Alienware 13″ which is equipped with an OLED display! OLED technology is capable of displaying brilliant colors, reproducing 220% of the sRGB spectrum, and offering good luminosity. Unfortunately, due to its high cost, this technology has not yet been widely implemented by manufacturers.
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.)
One of the typical features that sets apart a gaming laptop is a colorful, backlit keyboard. These vary quite a bit from model to model, with more elaborate backlighting going hand-in-hand with higher prices and a higher general level of other components. Almost all budget gaming laptops will employ single-color backlighting (most often, red or white) to keep costs down. The next step up is lighting programmable by zone, with three or four blocks of the keyboard independently customizable in different colors, but this is not common in budget machines. Keyboards with per-key, individually programmable lighting are the province of high-end machines only.
Below we've sketched out what GPU and other specs you need in a cheap gaming laptop that will run games at surprisingly decent frame rates for at least a couple years. (Without breaking the bank, of course) The bottom line? Dell's last-generation Inspiron 15 7000 will run most current-gen games on low-med settings at 40-60 FPS (See it on Amazon) / (See it on Amazon UK), It's a great pick for a casual gaming + daily driving laptop. Read on for more!
The Predator Helios 500 (PH517-51) employs a 17.3” Full HD or 4K display which is either G-Sync or Freesync compatible at 144 Hz. It also incorporates the following chips: Intel Core / Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 or AMD Ryzen / AMD Vega (not yet available, but the first tests have already been conducted). Its Intel processor is either a Core i7-8750H (6 cores at 2.2 GHz) or i7-8950HK (6 cores at 2.9 GHz). The test recently performed by the Laptopmag website is conclusive: it praises the excellent quality of this computer’s speakers and the ability of this computer to maintain a reasonably low temperature when gaming.
Theoretically, you may find a gaming laptop with an Intel Core i3 or one of AMD's CPUs installed, but those are uncommon: Systems with Intel Core i3 and comparable entry-level AMD processors are certainly capable of playing many games, but why limit yourself from square one? That said, if you have to make the choice between a high-end CPU and a high-end GPU, go for the graphics. For example, we'd recommend getting a Core i5 CPU over a Core i7 if the money saved could then go toward an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU instead of a GTX 1050. Spending the money on the GPU makes more sense than spending it on the CPU if gaming is your main concern.
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.
One of the perks of living in the 21st century is the constant stream of technology that is available for us to use. The majority of people know how to use laptops and computers, but most of us are not computer wizards. The majority of people use simple computer skills for work and leisure purposes, whom I would define as an average computer user. As a college student who uses the internet for leisure and study purposes as well as basic Microsoft Office functions, I would classify myself as an average computer user. Thus, I am writing this review for the average computer user.
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.
Christopher Coke of PC Perspective published his review of the Logitech G PRO Gaming Headset, awarding it PC Perspective’s Gold Award. He shared, “with pro gamers now competing in million dollar tournaments and filling out stadiums of their own, PC gaming peripherals are going to the way of Nike, inextricably tying themselves to competitive gaming with marketing and team sponsorships."
Traditionally gaming laptops have been three things: big, heavy, and expensive. That isn't always the case any longer, as components have gotten smaller and more portable, and increased competition has caused prices to fall quite a bit as well. You still generally get what you pay for in terms of performance and portability, but you can get a great portable 1080p machine these days for less than $1,000 — sometimes way less — which was rarely the case just one generation of hardware ago.
Whether you're in the market for a new laptop or a new computer, shopping online is a fantastic way to get unbeatable prices and great deals. Laptops are the preferred choice for many users, from busy professionals constantly on the go to students and gamers. Whatever laptop you're looking for, you can find the best laptop deals here. We have all the latest and most current laptop offers so check back regularly as deals change all the time.