If you're shopping for a gaming system on a limited budget (in this case, between roughly $800 and $1,200), you're going to need to make some sacrifices. Maximizing power while staying within a limited price range is the goal, but you'll have to accept that some of the components won't be comparable with the more expensive laptops you'll see while browsing. That said, $1,200 is a reasonable ceiling for what some buyers are ready to spend on a gaming laptop, and you can still get a solid system for that much or less.
Although the E15 comes with a Full-HD IPS display, some have noted that it is fairly dim compared to higher end displays. Regardless, you will get decent viewing angles and the matte finish will prevent any potential glare. It has a solid battery life of around 8 hours and 30 minutes, with Acer even claiming up to 15 hours of battery life, though heavier applications and games will drain its battery life a lot faster. The NVIDIA GeForce MX150 is by no means a beast compared to higher end cards, and most modern AAA titles will struggle somewhat, but lowering the graphics will afford you some playability even on next-gen titles.
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.
Next in the low-cost gaming segment is the Dell G3 Series 15. It's currently on sale for $699 making it one of the lowest cost gaming notebooks. The $699 price also gives you a choice between a 1 TB HDD model, or a 256 GB SSD version, which lets you choose based on how large your gaming library is, whether to take a slower spinning drive with plenty of space, or a SSD for better system performance all the time, but you may have to add space later. The G3 Series 15 can be had with a Core i5-8300H on the base, or up to a Core i7-8750H. A Geforce GTX 1050 is the opening GPU, and Dell offers a GTX 1050 Ti on the higher end configurations. The display is a 1920x1080 IPS, and although it's not the best display around, the GTX 1050 should be able to drive it while gaming at reasonable frame rates.
Alienware: Known for its distinctive spaceship design complete with out-of-this world lighting, Alienware does a solid job of offering value while still delivering high-end specs. However, outside of its predetermined configurations, there isn't much room for customization. The company typically offers a 1-year warranty with on-site service after remote diagnosis.
The entry-level Pascal gaming chip is the GeForce GTX 1050, typically found in models starting around $700 to $800. The GTX 1050 is capable of playing most of today's games at 1080p resolution with medium to high settings. Keep in mind that the GTX 1050 may be on the edge of playability at high settings, depending on the game. You may want to opt for the next step up, a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti-based model, for a bit more graphics muscle. The floor on GTX 1050 Ti-based laptops was about $850 at this writing, with models ranging up to about $1,200. These two chips make up the heart of the under-$1,000 budget-laptop market here in late 2018.
Of the GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti-powered laptops, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is the best-built we’ve seen so far, and it has the best battery life. It stands out in these important areas, and puts in decent gaming performances as well. It’ll manage the latest AAA games at Full HD at Medium settings, and older titles at High. Playing eSports games such as Overwatch? It won’t even break a sweat.
After picking our hardware criteria, we scoured the websites of major gaming laptop manufacturers like Acer, Alienware, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, and Samsung. We also browsed boutique makers such as Clevo, Digital Storm, iBuypower, Origin PC, and Xotic PC, but few of those sell configurations that meet our hardware criteria and budget; selecting every component can get very expensive very fast, so customizing isn’t ideal for buyers on a tight budget.
But what seals the "best value" award for the G502 is that it includes a series of 3.6-gram weights to be added or removed from the body of the mouse, allowing users to increase/decrease the weight to find an optimal fit. While I love that the Mamba Tournament Edition is already weighted from the get-go, the option to add weight to the Proteus Spectrum—combined with its multiple buttons and adjustable wheel/DPI settings—grant it a very desirable amount of flexibility.
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.
Regardless of the low color accuracy (blue cast ex-works), the Full HD panel shows real potential, and the sound and picture quality are also very persuasive. The 120 Hz display refresh rate and the Nvidia’s G-Sync technology combo averts hard to watch tearing and offers much smoother picture. However, the 100% sRGB and 75% AdobeRGB are still kept for workstations and other professional devices only, very suited for design and photo editing.
Enjoy an immersive gaming experience with the Intel Core i7 7th Gen processor which comes with 8 GB of DDR4 RAM and a 4 GB AMD Radeon 530 graphics card. It provides an ample storage space of 1 TB to store the many games you play. This laptop features a 39.6-cm (15.6) display that comes with a Full HD LED-backlit widescreen anti-glare display, that makes gaming a joy.
Budget systems usually reach their attractive prices not just through the balance of build quality and components, but also from bloatware. Having junk like Norton trials and eBay apps pre-installed translates to revenue in the PC maker's pocket, allowing them to hit aggressive prices. So, know going in that you may need to do some uninstalling once you've unboxed it and fired it up.
Such high product churn means there isn’t really a best time of the year to buy a gaming laptop, but here are some things that might be worth looking forward to: Intel’s first eighth-generation Core processor and quad-core ultrabook chips, Nvidia’s Max-Q approach to designing thinner and quieter laptops, MSI’s new gaming laptops, Lenovo’s Legion Y920 laptop, Acer’s Predator Triton 700 laptop, and Samsung’s Notebook Odyssey laptop.
If you'd rather spend your money on Humble Bundles than hardware, then you don't actually need a hardcore gaming laptop. Along the same lines, if you're looking for a Minecraft box for the kids, you don't need to spend the money attached to the phrase "gaming laptop." A machine with a discrete graphics card, an SSD, and 8GB of RAM should take care of you.
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.
Frame rates aren't going to be fast enough for enjoyable play on high detail settings with newer graphically demanding games. In our tests, however, older games such as Bioshock Infinite were playable on high, as were popular online games such as Overwatch and Fortnite. Below are a couple of our favorites, but if you're a casual gamer keep an eye out for the MX150 elsewhere.
As far as RAM is concerned, there’s really not all that much to be said. Entry-level laptops generally have 8 GB of RAM which is enough for gaming. More expensive computers are often equipped with 16 GB or 32 GB of RAM which could be useful if you are a frequent user of graphics design or video editing software. With the exception of EVGA models, no laptop is able to adjust its RAM frequency beyond JEDEC certification limits.
The SteelSeries Sensei 310 is arguably the best gaming mouse for lefties, offering a comfortable design and intuitive thumb buttons, regardless of whether you game with your left or right hand. The Sensei 310's eight total buttons are highly customizable via SteelSeries' Engine 3 software, and the tweakable RGB backlighting is a nice added touch. Most importantly, the Sensei 310 is fast and responsive, making it easy to snipe enemies or command units no matter your dominant hand.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080: This is the card to beat. During our testing, gaming laptops outfitted with a 1080 GPU routinely top the category average on high-end games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto V with the special effects settings and resolution turned all the way up. And of course, Nvidia 1080 can easily support all your virtual-reality adventures. Just be prepared to shell out a pretty penny, since 1080s are only found in high-end systems like the Razer Blade Pro or the Acer Predator 17X.
Also look at the key layout. Models with an isolated cluster of arrow keys or well-defined WASD keys get bonus points, in our book. Also, because most budget gaming laptops are 15.6-inch models, check for a dedicated number pad to the right of the main key area, if you prefer to have one—or not, for that matter. Some machines of this screen size will have one, some won't. (A 17-inch laptop almost invariably will, however.)
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