However, this is still a budget gaming laptop, and affordability is its greatest strength. The MX150 is an amazing solution if you’re mainly into eSports games, but it will inevitably struggle with newer, more demanding games. Needless to say, if eSports and indie games are your primary focus and/or you’re fine with dropping the settings in AAA games, you won’t find a gaming laptop better than this one.
Most gaming laptops have a “chicklety” keyboard. If you can’t stand this type of keyboard, your only real alternative is to connect a better-quality external model. However, if you only ever use your keyboard for pressing the ZQSD keys, its quality will not really be an important factor. The same can be said about a computer’s trackpad which can always be replaced with an external mouse for greater in-game accuracy.
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.
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).
The Acer Predator Helios 300 has Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics and a 144 Hz high-refresh-rate display, but its WASD keys reached 110.2 °F, the hottest of any budget gaming laptop we tested this year, even with Acer’s Cooler Boost software enabled. Its fans sounded high pitched and a bit grating, it had a poor 3.5-hour showing in our battery life tests, and it comes with too much bloatware.
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.
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.
Its R5 graphics boasts a GPU clock speed of 800MHz (Boosted) and will allow you to play some of the best classic titles and even some of the Twitch chart toppers such as CS: GO and League of Legends. You will even be able to play GTA V and Battlefield 4 if you don’t mind playing those games on lower settings. If you are more of a browser-based gamer, then you will love the responsive touchscreen that will allow you to play your favorite games without the need of the laptop’s trackpad.
Razer isn’t exaggerating when it calls its Blade 15 (available on Amazon) the “world’s smallest 15-inch gaming laptop.” While it’s impressive to get a six-core 8th gen Core i7-8750H and GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q performance into a compact chassis, note that it’s densely packed and feels heavy for its size. If you can deal with the additional weight, the payoff may well be worth it. Read our review.
There are currently many different types of displays on the market; however, the standard remains the 15.6″ or 17.3″ Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) display. Some manufacturers, such as Dell (Alienware) even offer 13.3-inch displays. There are even a few QHD (2560 x 1440 pixels) displays on the market (Dell Alienware again) as well as a few 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) displays.
We recommend the $1,250 model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive. The G5 is available in black or red, and has a red-backlit keyboard in place of the G7’s blue-accented design. But because of the screen, we recommend the G5 only if the G7 is unavailable.
ASUS’s budget- concious 2017 Vivobook F510UA-AH51 15.6-inch is a truly capable machine for the price and suited to casual gamers looking to play some modern titles on low settings. It is snappy and responsive thanks to its 8th Generation i5-8250U 1.6GHz CPU and 8GB of RAM, allowing your applications to run comfortably without making the laptop feel sluggish. The design has been improved over to last year’s VivoBook, and it is both lighter and thinner, weighing in at 3.7 pounds, making it highly portable.
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Minimal Portability (17 - 18 inches): If you plan to keep your laptop in your home and leave it on your desk or just move it between rooms, a system with a 17 or 18-inch display like the Alienware 17 should be fine. Laptops in this size range are usually the most powerful, because they have plenty of room for heat-generating components. However, they're heavy to carry, a tough fit for most bags and too power-hungry to use unplugged for very long.
For a high-end system, we recommend 16GB, so you can have more than one gaming session, your messaging app, several websites, a webcam program, and your video streaming program open simultaneously. A midrange gaming laptop should function fine with 8GB of memory, but be aware that many new laptops are not upgradable. You may be stuck with the amount of memory you order.
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.
"Love it!...Good Mouse...I'm sure the mouse is built quite well, but my Logitech MX Anywhere 2 (a portable laptop mouse) feels more solid than the G305....The up to 12,000 dpi sensor technology in the G series optical mice is impressive, and honestly I would recommend anyone who spends a decent amount of time in spreadsheets or especially diagramming using a mouse purchase a gaming mouse for those uses as well - the high quality sensors make those jobs much easier."
The G7’s 60 Hz 1920×1080 IPS display was neither the best we tested nor the worst. It made games look good, and the G7’s display looked noticeably better than the G5’s and G3’s screens, which both had a sickly greenish tint. We found that the G7’s screen couldn’t get as bright as those of the other budget gaming laptops we tested, maxing out at 228 nits compared with the Lenovo Y530’s 266 nits and the Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM’s above-average 317 nits. And although it’s not a requirement, we’d love to see a higher-refresh-rate panel available on the Dell G7, since that would make first-person games smoother and more enjoyable.
Time your purchase right and you could land yourself a wonderful deal. You'll find unbeatable laptop discounts during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but you'll also find great deals throughout August during back-to-school sales. Check whether a new model is about to be launched as well because many stores discount old inventory to clear the shelves for newer models. Manufacturers often announce rebate deals on Mondays, so check for these before you buy.