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.
Refresh rate: Most laptops you’ll see will have 1080p resolution and a 60Hz display. And for many gamers, that’s absolutely enough. Higher resolution displays (2560 x 1440, 3840 x 2160) are pretty, but top out at 60Hz. That’s why for some gamers, 1080p may be the best option. Some vendors offer FHD displays with a faster, 144Hz refresh rate for smoother gaming. Of course, you need a great GPU and to play on settings that emphasize frame rate over graphical fidelity to take advantage.
The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM has Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics and a high-refresh-rate 120 Hz display, and in our tests it kept its WASD keys cool enough. But we found that it suffered from a rattly trackpad, a poor three-hour battery life, and terrible speakers, and it’s much harder to upgrade than the Dell G7—you have to remove 11 screws and take off the whole underside of the chassis, as opposed to the G7’s single screw and convenient panel. The FX504GM also has poor build quality; the chassis felt hollow to us, and the keyboard deck and lid flexed easily under pressure. We also experienced some unexpectedly low performance across multiple games and benchmarks. We’ve reached out to Asus to investigate that issue, but for now, we can’t recommend the FX504GM.
Dell has a couple of (more or less) entry-level product lines: the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (which is equipped with a GeForce GTX1050 graphics chip) and the more recent G3 (17″) and G5 (15″) which incorporate a GeForce GTX 1050, 1050 Ti or 1060 Max-Q graphics chip. One high-end G5 model is equipped with a 4K display. LaptopMag’s test highlights this computer’s good design, good-quality audio, good upgradability, and good overall performance. However, the poor performance of this computer’s display cast something of a cloud over its positive characteristics.
VR and the Highest Settings: A GTX 1070 will let you play through just about anything on high settings, while the GTX 1080 is the most powerful card out there for laptops right now and will allow for smoother VR and special effects. These are the cards that will let you start pumping up effects like Nvidia Gameworks. Laptops in this range can start in the high $1,000 dollar range, and, depending on what other specs you need, go over $3,000.
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