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 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 3 Best Gaming Laptops from $400 to $800!

Dell Inspiron i7559_763BLK

The Dell Inspiron i7559_763BLK, the best gaming laptop for $800.

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 December 14th 2015.

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. $400
  2. $600
  3. $800

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 $400

ASUS X550ZA-WH11(WX)

$409.99 at Newegg

Equipped with the Radeon R6 integrated GPU, part of the AMD A10-7400P APU. Most games should be playable at a 1366 x 768 resolution with low or medium details.

If you want a laptop that’s powerful enough for gaming with low settings, at a rock-bottom price, the ASUS X550ZA-WH11(WX) is a good deal.

Pros:

  1. Lowest cost for a gaming laptop with decent gaming performance
  2. AMD Radeon R6 integrated video card, 384 GPU cores, up to 654MHz, part of the AMD A10-7400P APU
  3. Decent CPU for a gaming laptop that costs so little: AMD A10-7400P ‘Kaveri’ Quad-Core 2.5-3.4GHz
  4. Fairly portable for a gaming laptop: 15.00″ x 9.90″ x 1.20″ and 5.1 lbs.
  5. 8GB of RAM, 2x 4GB DDR3
  6. RAM can be upgraded to 16GB (2x8GB)
  7. High capacity 1TB hard drive
  8. 1 yr warranty that covers accidental damage
  9. Numpad
  10. Optical Drive
  11. Screen has a matte finish, doesn’t reflect light
  12. HDMI and VGA Outputs
  13. Windows 10
  14. ‘Instant On’ wakes up the computer from sleep very quickly. This laptop also boots decently quickly despite the slow hard drive.
  15. Fairly good keyboard for typing
  16. Good speakers, especially for the price
  17. Decent build quality, looks good
  18. Cover isn’t a fingerprint magnet

Cons:

  1. Trackpad doesn’t have dedicated buttons.
  2. Poor battery life: Most reviewers report 2-3 hours battery life
  3. Keyboard layout could be better. For example, the right arrow key is part of the numpad, meaning that the 0 key is halved.
  4. 802.11n WiFi
  5. No card reader
  6. No Bluetooth
  7. Ethernet (LAN) is limited to 100Mbps
  8. Low performance 5400rpm hard drive
  9. Low resolution (VGA) webcam
  10. Screen with a low 1366 x 768 resolution
  11. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best Gaming Laptop for $600

Acer Aspire VN7-571G-59NE

$599.99 at Newegg

Equipped with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M 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.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce GTX 950M 4GB
  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 0.86-0.94″ and 5.29lbs.
  4. 6GB of RAM
  5. 1TB hard drive
  6. Numpad
  7. Optical Drive
  8. Backlit keyboard
  9. Good build quality
  10. 3x USB 3.0 ports
  11. 720p HD webcam
  12. 802.11ac WiFi
  13. Bluetooth 4.0
  14. HDMI Output
  15. RAM can be upgraded all the way to 16GB (2x8GB)

Cons:

  1. Windows 8.1. Can be upgraded to Windows 10 for free until July 31st 2016.
  2. Limited battery life: Up to 4 hours
  3. Screen with a low 1366 x 768 resolution
  4. Low performance 5400rpm hard drive
  5. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best Gaming Laptop for $800

Dell Inspiron i7559-763BLK

$799.99 at 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.

Click here to go back up to the summary

Alternative available internationally:

The ASUS GL551JW-WH71(WX) – $799.99 at B&H (International Shipping) offers similar gaming performance to the Dell above, with an Intel Core i7 quad-core CPU and the Geforce GTX 960M as well.

You also get 8GB of RAM, a backlit keyboard, three USB 3.0 ports and a 1920 x 1080 screen. On the downside, you get a larger storage capacity but lower performance 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive and a shorter battery life.

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

$34.99 (Amazon)
$34.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

2x4GB (8GB) kit: Crucial 8GB (2x4GB) 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM

$37.99 (Amazon)
$39.98 (B&H – International Shipping)

2x8GB (16GB) kit: Crucial 16GB (2x8GB) 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM

$67.99 (Amazon)
$69.98 (B&H – International Shipping)

Click here to go back up to the summary

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

SSD wise, pretty much all SATA III models are 7mm thick, so they should fit in pretty much any laptop.

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 SSD in it and clone your laptop’s hard drive to it. This will help you minimize downtime and make your life easier compared to having to re-install everything.

It also means that you can use the hard drive that came with your hard drive for external portable storage, such as backups.

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:
$14.99 (Amazon)
$13.40 (B&H – International 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.

Click here to go back up to the summary

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 is the one with the best customer reviews:
$24.24 (Amazon)
$24.28 (B&H – International 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 – $82.95 (B&H – International Shipping)

LG BE14NU40 14x:
$129.95 (Amazon)
$129.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

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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 3 Best Budget Gaming Laptops from $400 to $800!.

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.