These days, manufacturers have expanded their product offering to include more lightweight and affordable computers that have been optimized to run on battery power for longer periods of time. Nvidia and Intel have been very successful when it comes to reducing the cost of their hardware components whereas AMD has not really been able to gain much of a foothold in the gaming laptop market (or in the desktop gaming computer market for that matter). Nowadays, it is entirely possible to purchase a very decent gaming laptop (equipped with a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip and a Core i7 processor) capable of running games in Full HD for around 800 dollars.
We didn’t test any gaming laptops that failed to meet our specs requirements (see the How we picked section for more details), and we didn’t test any that were too expensive, since this is a budget guide. As a result, we eliminated any laptops with a GTX 1060 or GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU above $1,400, as well as any laptops with a GTX 1050 Ti above $950—at that price, it’s worth getting a more powerful graphics processor instead. Here’s everything we tested against our picks in 2018:
As far as storage is concerned, hard drive prices have come down compared with solid-state drives, so finding large capacities isn't too much trouble. 1TB of storage and maybe even a small SSD alongside are common in budget laptops. The display will almost certainly be 1080p (1,920-by-1,080 resolution), as 720p is now reserved only for cheap non-gaming systems and increasingly uncommon. The RAM will likely top off at 8GB in budget laptops, but you will find some (more ideal) 16GB laptops in this range.
At the moment, the most widely used display panel technology is IPS, which offers better color rendition and better viewing angles than TN display panels. Moreover, while the vast majority of displays operate at 60 Hz, there are a few displays – like the one on the Acer Helios 500 – which operate at 120 to 144 Hz. Some displays are even G-Sync compatible, making them immune to “tearing” effects.
It includes one of the fastest graphics engines you can find anywhere in the mobile range and this implies that with the butter smooth FPS you can play any game. The Grant Theft Auto 5 performed ~60FPS when played at ultra settings while the Witcher 3 performed ~63FPS when played on the same settings. Its hardware delights the senses for the gaming experience.
Lenovo dialed back the design on its latest gaming laptops to help them compete with Razer, but without the higher prices. The Legion Y530 starts at $750 with a GTX 1050 or $840 with a 1050Ti. Unfortunately, there currently isn't an option for a 6GB GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, but if you're willing to step back to its Y520 predecessor you can get one in that model for $1,099.
A laptop based around the next-step-up GeForce GTX 1060, meanwhile, is ideal for no-compromise 1080p gaming. We've seen GTX 1060-based gaming rigs priced anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. The biggest values are likely to be found in this lot, and the GTX 1060 is the baseline for using your laptop with a virtual reality (VR) headset. (See our picks for the best laptops for VR.)
If the GPU is the heart of a gaming laptop, then the processor and RAM are the brain and hippocampus. Your laptop's processor (CPU) handles everything that doesn't have to do with graphics, such as performing some of a game's physics calculations and controlling its non-playable characters. It also affects the performance of all of your non-gaming applications, including your browser, OS and productivity apps. When picking out your CPU and RAM, keep the following tips in mind.
It’s no secret that dedicated graphics cards offer far better performance than integrated graphics, however, this doesn’t mean that you can’t game on laptops without dedicated GPUs. This is due to the fact that Intel has come a long way with their integrated graphics and Blizzard have even mentioned that almost 25% of all Overwatch players are playing the game on a system with integrated graphics. While Overwatch is a newer title, don’t expect to play titles such as Mass Effect: Andromeda or Battlefield 1 on high settings or with great frame rates.
This big, badass notebook ($3,712 from Origin) pushes the pedal to the metal with the most potent hardware available, and then Origin PC cranks things to 11 by overclocking both the full-fat GeForce GTX 1080 and the Core i7-8700K processor. Yes, this laptop rocks a desktop processor, and not just any desktop processor—it’s the fastest one currently available. With 6 cores and 12 threads, the EON17-X demolishes CPU benchmarks. It blazes through triple-A games. Hell, it might be able to literally crush its slim, trim Nvidia Max-Q competition.
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Because they usually require dual GPUs for the smoothest gameplay at native resolution, 4K gaming laptops are still the exception, and still expensive. And keep this in mind: Only the most powerful graphics cards can render complex game animations at playable frame rates across the full screen at 4K, so a 1080p screen may actually be a better use of your money if all you do is play games.
If money is no object, set your sights on the Acer Predator 21 X (if you can find one!). The madman's ultimate gaming rig comes with a pair of GTX 1080 SLI graphics cards, 64GB of RAM, a 21" curved screen, and an integrated eye tracker. There's even three hard drives — a 1TB platter drive and dual 512GB SSDs. Even better, you'll get a full complement of Cherry MX Brown keyboard switches and a custom Pelican rolling case.
Performance is excellent; the quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ is a great chip not only for gaming, but for video editing as well, while the GTX 1060 graphics hardware is more than good enough for the latest games at High settings in Full HD. Round that off with a bit of old-school design charm and an excellent keyboard, and you have a very attractive machine.
In our chart at the top of this article and in our list below, we've mapped out our top-rated models to investigate. Note that a few of the configurations sent to us for testing were a bit above $1,000; some remain so, while others have fallen below the one-grand line since. Also, note that most of these models are a single version of a machine in a varied line. So use the linked reviews as guidelines, not absolutes, when assessing each laptop family. You may not get quite the level of performance we did, if key components were downgraded in the march below $1,000. But you should get a solid idea of the laptops' screen, build, and input quality from our reviews.
We’ll be starting the list off with a budget-friendly solution, the Acer Aspire E15. This simple, unassuming laptop may not be the ultimate gaming machine, but it does a number of things right, making it a viable choice for gaming. But most importantly, it is the cheapest laptop on this list, so if you’re looking for an affordable way to play your favorite games away from home, then this might just be the best choice.