The Best Gaming Laptops For Your Money?

By that, I mean the laptops that offer the best gaming performance at a given price.

Why would you want that? Because if you’re about to buy a gaming laptop, might as well get the one that offers the best performance possible for your budget, right?

If you have the time to do research… but who does?

Many of us don’t have the time to read or the knowledge to understand detailed laptop reviews and specifications and just want the answers.

In other words, what you want to know is:
What’s the best gaming laptop for my budget?

So if you don’t have the time, don’t worry. We’re here to help you with this article.

The features that we evaluate in order to make our recommendations:

1. Price
2. Performance: CPU, RAM, Storage, Video Card and Wireless Adapter
3. Screen: Size, Resolution, Matte or Glossy, Panel type (TN, IPS, etc.), Brightness, Contrast, Viewing Angles and Color Accuracy
4. Portability: Dimensions, Weight, Real-life battery life during average web browsing?
5. Usability: Keyboard: Layout, Key size, Travel/Pressure, Key Shape and any additional Function keys. Touch pad quality, trackpoint, backlit keyboard, numpad, Operating System, which ports are offered, Webcam resolution, sound quality, optical Drive, noise levels.
6. Reliability: How solid is the chassis? Are the temperatures under load reasonable? How solid are the screen hinges? Is the keyboard spill-resistant? Overall manufacturer long-term reliability? How easy is it to service the laptop?
7. Warranty: Warranty length? What does the warranty cover?

We then recommend laptops that score the best overall, at various price points.

Alternatives recommendations:

We also sometime suggest alternative recommendations, with clear explanations as to why they are interesting alternatives. That way, you can easily choose the best laptop to answer YOUR needs and desires.

Put all of this together and you get this article: The 5 Best Gaming Laptops from $430 to $900!

A few reminders:

I’ll use this opportunity to remind you that this article is only a guideline for the prices I’ve seen on February 15th 2016.

Keep in mind that this article is based on the best prices from B&H, NewEgg and/or Amazon. Prices and availability change all the time. While I can’t keep up with ever changing prices, I can suggest to you great laptops that you won’t regret buying.

Summary

Click on any of these links to jump to the section that interests you. Alternatively, scroll down to see them all, in this order.

The Best Gaming Laptop for:

  1. $430
  2. $500
  3. $700
  4. $800
  5. $900

Upgrade your laptop:

  1. Upgrade the RAM
  2. Upgrade the hard drive to a larger/faster model or to a SSD
  3. USB DVD and Blu-ray External Burners
  4. The Best WiFi Routers, WiFi Adapters and Bluetooth Adapters

Best Gaming Laptop for $430

Lenovo Z51 (80K601CSUS)

$429.99 at Newegg

Equipped with an AMD Radeon R7 M360 dedicated GPU and a fairly Intel Core i5-5200U CPU.

If you want a laptop that’s powerful enough for running games at low/medium settings, or older games at medium/high settings at a rock-bottom price, this is a good deal.

If you want to run the latest games with good frame rates though, I recommend that you get a more powerful gaming laptop.

Pros:

  1. Lowest cost for a gaming laptop with a decent dedicated video card
  2. AMD Radeon R7 M360 dedicated video card
  3. Fairly powerful CPU: Intel Core i5 5200U 5th gen ‘Broadwell’ Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.2-2.7GHz
  4. Fairly portable for a gaming laptop: 15.12″ x 10.43″ x 0.97″ and 5.06 lbs.
  5. RAM can be upgraded to 16GB (2x8GB)
  6. High capacity 1TB hard drive
  7. Backlit keyboard
  8. Numpad
  9. Optical Drive
  10. Screen has a matte finish, doesn’t reflect light
  11. HDMI and VGA Outputs
  12. Windows 10
  13. Fairly good keyboard for typing
  14. Good speakers, especially for the price
  15. Decent build quality, looks good
  16. 720p HD webcam
  17. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  18. 4-in-1 card reader
  19. 802.11ac WiFi
  20. Bluetooth 4.0

Cons:

  1. Trackpad doesn’t have dedicated buttons.
  2. Cover is a fingerprint magnet
  3. 4GB of RAM, 1x 4GB DDR3. Add a 4GB stick to have 8GB, or a 8GB stick to have 12GB or swap for a 16GB (2x8GB) kit.
  4. Poor battery life: Up to 4 hours battery life
  5. Keyboard layout could be better. For example, the right arrow key is part of the numpad, meaning that the 0 key is halved.
  6. Low performance 5400rpm hard drive
  7. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.

Best Gaming Laptop for $500

Get the Acer Aspire E E5-573G-52G3 from Amazon


$499.99 at Newegg


Equipped with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 940M 4GB and a fairly powerful Intel Core i5 CPU.

Pretty much all games should be playable at a 1366 x 768 resolution with medium, high or even maxed out details.

Playing at 1920 x 1080 is possible with older, less demanding video games.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce 940M 2GB
  2. Fairly powerful CPU: Intel Core i5 5200U 5th gen ‘Broadwell’ Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.2-2.7GHz
  3. Fairly portable and quite thin for a gaming laptop: 15.02″ x 10.08″ x 0.98″-1.15″ and 5.29lbs.
  4. 8GB of RAM
  5. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  6. 1TB hard drive
  7. Numpad
  8. No Optical Drive, but there’s an optical drive slot, so there’s space for a hard drive caddy. So if you replace the hard drive by a SSD, you can put the hard drive in the optical drive caddy.
  9. 720p HD webcam
  10. 802.11ac WiFi
  11. Bluetooth 4.0
  12. HDMI and VGA Output
  13. RAM can be upgraded all the way to 16GB (2x8GB)
  14. Windows 10
  15. Acceptable battery life for a gaming laptop: Up to 5 hours

Cons:

  1. Keyboard layout could be better. Left shift key is combined with another key, Enter key is combined with another keyboard, the up and down arrow keys are smaller, half the size of the left and right arrow keys.
  2. Power button is located at the top right of the keyboard. Be careful not to accidentally hit it.
  3. Low performance 5400rpm hard drive
  4. No optical drive
  5. Average trackpad
  6. Average build quality
  7. Speakers aren’t that good
  8. A ton of bloatware.
  9. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.

Best Gaming Laptop for $700

Get the ASUS X550JX-DB71 from Amazon

$699.99 at Newegg

For $700, you get a powerful Intel Core i7 quad-core CPU and a Nvidia Geforce GTX 950M.

Pretty much all games should be playable at a 1366 x 768 resolution with medium, high or even maxed out details.
Gaming at 1920 x 1080 is possible too, although you’ll have to lower details more or less, depending on how demanding the game is..

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce GTX 950M 4GB
  2. Powerful CPU: Intel Core i7-4720HQ Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.6-3.6GHz
  3. 8GB of RAM
  4. 1TB hard drive
  5. Numpad
  6. Optical Drive
  7. Backlit keyboard
  8. Good build quality
  9. 720p HD webcam
  10. 802.11ac WiFi
  11. Bluetooth 4.0
  12. HDMI and VGA Output
  13. Acceptable battery life for a gaming laptop: Up to 5 hours

Cons:

  1. Windows 8.1. Can be upgraded to Windows 10 for free until July 31st 2016.
  2. Refurbished laptop: 90 days warranty
  3. Low performance 5400rpm hard drive
  4. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.

Best Gaming Laptop for $800

Get the Dell Inspiron i7559-763BLK from Amazon

About the Dell Inspiron i7559-763BLK:

The Dell Inspiron i7559-763BLK is an oustanding laptop for the price.

You get a powerful Intel quad-core CPU, a great Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M dedicated video card, high-performance SSD storage, a high resolution 1920 x 1080 screen with an IPS panel for accurate colors, great contrast and large viewing angles, a backlit keyboard and last but not least, an outstanding battery life for a gaming laptop: Up to 10 hours!

Video games should be playable at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with medium, high or maximum details.

Pros:

  1. Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M 4GB dedicated video card
  2. Intel Skylake 6th generation quad-core CPU: Intel Core i5-6300HQ 2.3-3.2GHz Quad-Core
  3. 8GB of DDR3L 1600MHz RAM: You can multitask, run a few applications at the same time, or have a lot of web browser tabs open at the same time without slowdowns.
  4. High performance SSD storage (SanDisk Z400s M.2 2280 256GB)
  5. Intel 802.11ac WiFi adapter: Reliable, long-range
  6. Screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, anti-glare
  7. Screen with an IPS panel for more accurate colors, large viewing angles and great contrast
  8. Outstanding battery life for a gaming laptop: Up to 10 hours!
  9. Backlit keyboard
  10. Laptop is easy to upgrade: Only one screw to remove the bottom panel.
  11. 1 empty RAM slot, you can add another memory stick for additional RAM and higher performance with dual-channel RAM
  12. 1 empty SATA III 7mm slot, you can add a hard drive or a SATA III SSD
  13. Bluetooth 4.0
  14. 3 USB 3.0 port
  15. Great sound system, for a laptop
  16. Dual fans so it doesn’t overheat/throttle even during heavy gaming sessions

Cons:

  1. No optical drive: Get an external USB optical drive if you want one. I recommend some further down in the article.
  2. Not exactly lightweight: 15.1″ x 10.4″ x 1″, 5.67 pound
  3. Storage capacity for the SSD is 256GB, you get about 200GB that’s usable. Consider adding a SATA III SSD or hard drive to have more storage capacity for your games.

Best Gaming Laptop for $900

Get the Dell Inspiron i7559-2512BLK from Amazon


$889.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the Dell Inspiron i7559-763BLK:

This Dell Inspiron is similar to the one above, except that you get an Intel Core i7 CPU, compared to a Core i5 above. Don’t be fooled: Be are quad-core models, the difference is that you get higher frequencies by 300MHz (2.6-3.5GHz vs 2.3-3.2GHz) Hyper-Threading with the Core i7-6700HQ, unlike the Core i5-6300HQ.

You also get a 1TB Hybrid Hard Drive (with a 8GB SSD cache) instead of a 256GB SSD.

Still, getting a laptop with the latest generation Intel Core i7, a Geforce GTX 960 4GB, an IPS 1080p screen, a backlit keyboard and more is a great deal for less than $900!

Video games should be playable at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with medium, high or maximum details.

Pros:

  1. Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M 4GB dedicated video card
  2. Intel Skylake 6th generation quad-core CPU: Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.6-3.5GHz Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading
  3. 8GB of DDR3L 1600MHz RAM: You can multitask, run a few applications at the same time, or have a lot of web browser tabs open at the same time without slowdowns.
  4. High storage capacity 1TB hard drive, with a 8GB SSD cache for faster OS boot and faster launch of often used programs.
  5. Intel 802.11ac WiFi adapter: Reliable, long-range
  6. Screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, anti-glare
  7. Screen with an IPS panel for more accurate colors, large viewing angles and great contrast
  8. Outstanding battery life for a gaming laptop: Up to 10 hours!
  9. Backlit keyboard
  10. Laptop is easy to upgrade: Only one screw to remove the bottom panel.
  11. 1 empty RAM slot, you can add another memory stick for additional RAM and higher performance with dual-channel RAM
  12. 1 empty M.2 slot, you can add a M.2 SSD.
  13. Bluetooth 4.0
  14. 3 USB 3.0 port
  15. Great sound system, for a laptop
  16. Dual fans so it doesn’t overheat/throttle even during heavy gaming sessions

Cons:

  1. No optical drive: Get an external USB optical drive if you want one. I recommend some further down in the article.
  2. Not exactly lightweight: 15.1 x 1.0 x 10.4″, 6 pounds

Upgrade your Laptop:

Upgrade your RAM:

RAM can easily be upgraded on most laptops. Do note that some laptops cannot be upgraded at all, due to their unique design. I provide that info for main recommendations, for alternatives, you can find that info on the product information page, usually under specifications. Otherwise, a quick google search on the manufacturer’s website should provide that info. Feel free to ask me in the comment section if you aren’t sure and can’t find the info.

Pick one of the following recommendations below, depending on if your laptop comes with a single stick of RAM or two.

I recommend the most reliable sticks that I can find and that are available internationally.

Add a single 8GB stick: Crucial 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM from Amazon

$33.99 B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Get the 2x4GB (8GB) kit: Crucial 8GB (2x4GB) 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM from Amazon

$37.98 B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Get the 2x8GB (16GB) kit: Crucial 16GB (2x8GB) 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM from Amazon

$67.98 B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Upgrade your hard drive:

You can upgrade your hard drive to a faster and/or a larger hard drive. See our article on The Best Hard Drives (HDD) For Your Money and scroll down to the best 2.5″ hard drives for my recommendations.

Some laptops accept hard drives with a 7mm height, others with a 9.5mm height. Some laptops, can only accept drives with a 7mm height, but those are the exception rather than the norm.

Upgrade to a SSD

A SSD (Solid State Drive) is far faster than a hard drive (See our SSD FAQ) and it also consumes less power than a hard drive, so replacing a hard drive by a SSD will slightly boost your laptop’s battery life.

If you want to upgrade your hard drive to a SSD, I recommend that you read our ‘The Best SSDs (Solid State Drives) For Your Money‘ article.

I also recommend getting an external hard drive enclosure, so you can put your hard drive in it and use it for additional storage

When you replace the hard drive that your laptop came with, I recommend putting it in the Sabrent USB 3.0 2.5″ SATA Hard Drive Enclosure from Amazon
$14.99 B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

This particular enclosure comes with a retractable cable that is connected to the enclosure, so you don’t lose/forget it and it makes the whole package more compact too. It comes with an extension cord if you need it.

USB DVD and Blu-Ray Drives

If your laptop doesn’t come with an optical drive and you want one, here are my recommendations for external USB optical drives.

USB DVD Burner

There are many models of USB DVD Burners. The LG GP60NB50 8x, from Amazon, is the one with the best customer reviews.
$24.63 B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

USB Blu-Ray Burner

I recommend two USB Blu-Ray burner. Make sure to plug them in an USB 3.0 port to get the maximum speed possible.

In order of price and burning speed:
Pioneer BDR-XD055 6x, $74.99 at B&H /9 (Worldwide Shipping)

LG BE14NU40 14x from Amazon
$119.99 B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

WiFi routers, WiFi Adapters and Bluetooth adapter:

Need a WiFi router, a faster WiFi adapter or a Bluetooth adapter for your laptop? Check out our recommendations for The Best WiFi Routers, Best WiFi Adapters and Bluetooth Adapter.

Conclusion

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article on the 5 Best Budget Gaming Laptops from $430 to $900!

Of course, with this being such a long article with many recommendations and alternatives, you may find some typos.

Alternatively, you may believe that there’s a better option than my recommendation.

Or you may have some questions.

If that happens, please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.