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.
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.
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.
The G7 is super easy to upgrade—just remove one screw, pop off the bottom panel, and you have access to all the drive and memory slots. Our recommended configuration comes with an M.2 solid-state drive installed, a connector for a 2.5-inch SATA drive, and two RAM slots, both of which are occupied in our recommended config. Inside the laptop, Dell even includes friendly instructions for installing a hard drive and a reminder on top of the battery to remove it before working on any internal components. And the single screw stays attached to the access panel, so you couldn’t lose it if you tried.
So what hardware is inside? Well, you get the popular Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6 GHz processor, capable of handling current games on high settings. The CPU is paired with the excellent and highly-recommended NVIDIA GTX 960M GPU. It's an amazing graphics card that offers high gaming performance at a great price. All that is combined with a very fast 256GB solid-state drive and a high-quality screen. The HP OMEN delivers a very good hardware combination for the price.
Measurements performed by our colleagues at the Laptopmag website show that the MSI Titan achieves a maximum temperature of 59 degrees after 15 minutes of gameplay – which is not too bad. The Asus ROG Zephyrus has a maximum temperature of 67 degrees – which is still OK. However, the MSI GS65 Stealth’s maximum temperature of 90 degrees is likely to be problematic for some users.
Although the lack of a dedicated graphics card will make running newer games challenging, the E5-575-33BM can run popular games such as Counter-Strike GO on medium to high settings with no problem. While many sub $500 laptops are still being offered with entry-level 1366 x 768 display panels, the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM comes with a Full-HD 1920 x 1080 display with respectable image quality. The 1000GB storage drive is sizable but low in comparison to modern solid state drives.
If you can’t spend more than $1,000 but still want a laptop that can play games, get the Lenovo Legion Y530. It won’t play new games as well for as long 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 more of a pain to upgrade yourself.
We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB solid-state drive. This configuration usually costs around $1,200, in line with the other laptops we considered with similar specs. The G7 is available in black or white; we prefer black because the white lid on our unit scuffed a bit during our testing, but they cost the same, so follow your heart.
The Y530’s keyboard is comfortable to type on and responsive thanks to its deep, snappy keys, and its white backlight and perfectly ordinary font are the most tasteful we’ve seen on a gaming laptop. We also appreciate the inclusion of full-size arrow keys rather than the typical half-size ones manufacturers cram in, as on the Dell G7. This does mean that the number pad is farther back and a bit awkward to reach, but most people who play games will use the arrow keys more frequently.
The HyperX Pulsefire FPS Pro has everything an enterprising first-person shooter gamer needs. A coarse, textured grip will keep your hand right where it needs to be, while a smart button layout will put a few extra commands at your fingertips. Even the software is fairly easy to use, letting you customize attractive lighting patterns or adjust the high-quality sensor's DPI range. Compared to similar gaming mice, the Pulsefire FPS Pro doesn't cost much, either, making it the best FPS gaming mouse for those who are just getting into the multiplayer scene.
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.
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.
Apart from that, we should also note that 32 GB of RAM is indeed an overkill in a gaming laptop, unless you also plan on using some memory-hungry professional software as well. If not, MSI sells several more affordable variants of this laptop, including versions with a GTX 1060 instead of a 1070, differing amounts of RAM, and different storage solutions.
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.
Storage: Hard drive or SSD? Why not both? Some budget gaming laptops will come with only a hard drive (usually 1TB), but the majority of gaming notebooks also include a small SSD to serve as a boot drive. It’s not uncommon to see a 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD working in tandem. If you can get a larger SSD you may see decreased loading times, but that will also cost you quite a bit more money. Make sure you get a faster, 7,200-rpm HDD as opposed to a 5,400-rpm HDD.