The Best Gaming Laptops For Your Money?

By that, I mean the laptops that offer the best gaming performance at a given price. Because if you’re about to buy a gaming laptop, you want the one that offers the best performance possible for your budget, right?

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

You 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, Finish, Panel type, 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 and the screen hinges? Are the temperatures under load reasonable? Is the keyboard spill-resistant? Overall manufacturer long-term reliability? Is it easy to service the laptop?
7. Warranty: Warranty length? What does the warranty cover?

We then recommend laptops that offer the best overall features, 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 Best Budget Gaming Laptops!

A reminder:

My recommendations in this article are based on the prices that I saw on February 24th 2017. Prices and availability change all the time. While I can’t keep up with ever changing prices, I do recommend to you what are in my professional experience the best laptops around a price point.

Leave a comment if you have a question, a suggestion and/or any feedback that you want to share.

Summary

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

The Best Gaming Laptop under:

  1. $460
  2. $530
  3. $650
  4. $700
  5. $800

Upgrade your laptop:

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

Best Gaming Laptop under $460

Acer Aspire E5-575G-55KK

$459.99 at Newegg

Equipped with a Nvidia Geforce 940MX (2GB GDDR5) dedicated GPU and a fairly good newest generation Intel Core i5-7200U CPU.

If you want a laptop that’s powerful enough for running games at 1366 x 768 low/medium settings, or older games at a rock-bottom price, this is a good deal.

Do you want to run the most demanding games, or do you want to play at an higher resolution and or with higher visual quality settings? In that case, I recommend that you get a more powerful gaming laptop. See our other recommendations below.

Pros:

  1. Lowest cost for a gaming laptop with a decent dedicated video card.
  2. Nvidia Geforce 940MX dedicated video card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory.
  3. Intel Core i5 7200U 7th gen Kaby Lake Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.5-3.1GHz CPU
  4. Fairly light and portable for a 15.6″ gaming laptop: 15.02″ x 10.20″ x 0.94-1.19″ and 4.92lbs.
  5. Single stick of 8GB of DDR4 RAM. Easy to upgrade to 16GB (2x8GB) by adding a 8GB RAM stick.
  6. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB DDR4). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article.
  7. RAM and hard drive are easy to access, if you want to upgrade them.
  8. High capacity 1TB hard drive
  9. Available M.2 SATA III slot to add a SSD, so you can have a SSD and an hard drive.
  10. Numpad
  11. Screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  12. Screen has a matte finish, doesn’t reflect light
  13. HDMI and VGA Outputs
  14. Windows 10
  15. Decent keyboard for typing
  16. Decent speakers, especially for the price
  17. This is my opinion: It looks good, unlike some gaming laptops that are a bit too flashy.
  18. 720p HD webcam
  19. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  20. SD card reader
  21. 802.11ac WiFi with MU-MIMO support.
  22. Bluetooth 4.1
  23. Good battery life for a gaming laptop: Up to 8 hours battery life with low brightness and no WiFi. Realistically, expect 4-6 hours for web browsing, 1.5-2 hours for gaming.
  24. Total of 4 USB ports, including one USB 3.1 Type-C, two USB 3.0 Type A (one with power-off charging) and one USB 2.0

Cons:

  1. Trackpad doesn’t have dedicated buttons.
  2. No Backlit keyboard.
  3. A lot of bloatware that you’ll want to remove to speed up the laptop.
  4. Single stick of RAM means single-channel memory, not dual-channel. Expect a small (average 5%) performance hit compared to dual channel. Add a second stick for optimal RAM performance.
  5. No optical drive, but there’s room for one, so there’s also space for a drive caddy, if you want to add a SSD, you can put it in an optical drive caddy and put it in your laptop instead of an optical drive.
  6. Keyboard layout could be better. For example, the up and down arrows are half size. The power button at the top right of the keyboard could be an annoyance for some.
  7. Low performance 5400rpm hard drive
  8. Tends to attract fingerprints.
  9. Build quality is average.
  10. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.

Best Gaming Laptop for $530

Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575G-53VG

– Click here to see the price on Amazon

What you get with this laptop is greatly improved boot speed, better overall responsiveness, faster programs and game launch, all thanks to the 256GB SSD, a backlit keyboard, a DVD drive and a longer, up to 12 hours battery life.

Other than that, gaming performance is similar to the laptop above.

Of course, I’m aware that 256GB isn’t much with the size of video games these days. That said, this laptop has a free 2.5″ drive bay that’s easy to access, so you can easily add a 2.5″ hard drive (See our best hard drives recommendations; make sure to pick a 2.5″ drive) to have additional storage space. Just shut down the laptop, unplug the power, remove the bottom panel (3 screws), insert the hard drive, put back the bottom panel, plug the power, boot and format the hard drive so it’s ready to use. It’s that easy.

This laptop is powerful enough to run games at 1366 x 768 low/medium settings, or older games.

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

Pros:

  1. Nvidia Geforce 940MX dedicated video card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory.
  2. Intel Core i5 6200U 6th gen Skylake Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.3-2.8GHz CPU
  3. 8GB of RAM.
  4. RAM can be upgraded to 16GB (2x8GB DDR4). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article.
  5. RAM and 2.5″ drive bay can be easily accessed via the bottom panel that can be removed and is only held by three screws.
  6. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  7. 256GB SSD speeds up boot times, games launch faster and makes the system much more responsive.
  8. SSD is M.2 type, so you have a 2.5″ expansion bay in the bottom panel that’s available to add an extra 2.5″ storage drive.
  9. Numpad
  10. Backlit keyboard
  11. HD webcam
  12. Optical drive
  13. 802.11ac WiFi with MU-MIMO support.
  14. Bluetooth 4.0
  15. LAN RJ-45 port.
  16. SD card reader.
  17. HDMI and VGA Outputs
  18. Windows 10
  19. Amazing battery life for a gaming laptop: Up to 12 hours battery life. Realistically, expect around 3.5-4 hours of gaming.
  20. 4 USB ports: 1x USB 3.1 (Type-C) 2x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 2.0

Cons:

  1. Keyboard layout could be better. The up and down arrows are half size. The power button at the top right of the keyboard could be an annoyance for some.
  2. 256GB is a little low considering that some games take a considerable amount of storage space. On the other hand, you can easily add another drive via the bottom panel as there is a free 2.5″ slot for a storage drive.
  3. Build quality is average
  4. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.

Alternative

This model is also available in refurbished at Newegg. Refurbished means that the model has been restored to look and work like a new model. You also get a 90 days warranty. You can get it here for $449.99 at Newegg.

Best Gaming Laptop for $650

ASUS FHD F550VX-NH76

asusbudget3– 649.00 at Newegg

You get a powerful Intel Core i7-6700HQ Quad-Core CPU, a Nvidia Geforce GTX 950M 2GB GDDR5 video card, a 1920 x 1080 screen, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive.

Compared to the recommendation above, you get a significantly more powerful CPU, a more powerful video card and more storage space thanks to the hard drive.

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 with older and/or less demanding video games.

Note that this is an open box model, meaning that some accessories may be missing and that the warranty is limited 30 days. Still, considering what you get at this price, it’s a great deal that I recommend.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce 950M 2GB GDDR5
  2. Powerful Intel Core i7 6700HQ 6th gen Skylake Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.6-3.5GHz CPU
  3. Single stick of 8GB of DDR4 RAM. Easy to upgrade to 16GB (2x8GB) by adding a 8GB RAM stick.
  4. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB DDR4). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article.
  5. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  6. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect sunlight.
  7. 128GB SSD speeds up boot times, games launch faster and makes the system much more responsive.
  8. 1TB hard drive gives you plenty of storage space for all your games, music, videos, photos, etc.
  9. Numpad
  10. Webcam
  11. SD card reader
  12. 802.11ac WiFi with MU-MIMO support.
  13. Decent build quality, with an aluminum screen back cover.
  14. Bluetooth 4.0
  15. HDMI and VGA Outputs
  16. LAN RJ-45 port
  17. Windows 10
  18. 3 USB ports: 2x USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0
  19. Finish that’s resistant to fingerprints.

Cons:

  1. Keyboard layout could be better. The arrow keys overlap with the numpad which can be bothersome.
  2. Low performance 5400rpm hard drive but there is a 128GB SSD so you get fast boot times and a responsive laptop.
  3. Poor battery life : up to 5 hours.
  4. Keyboard isn’t backlit.
  5. No optical drive, but there’s room for one, so there’s also space for a drive caddy, if you want to add an additional storage drive, you can put it in an optical drive caddy and put it in your laptop instead of an optical drive.
  6. Single stick of RAM means single-channel memory, not dual-channel. Expect a small (average 5%) performance hit compared to dual channel. Add a second stick for optimal RAM performance.
  7. That said, out of that 128GB SSD, you get less than 100GB available to use. In order to keep getting optimal performance, you want to keep at least 10%, preferably 20% of that space free.
  8. No optical drive
  9. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.

Best Gaming Laptop for $700

MSI PE60 6QE-1268

– $699.99 msibudgetat Newegg

This model is a nice step up from my previous recommendation as you get a better graphic card: the Nvidia GeForce GTX 960m 2GB GDDR5.

With this graphic card, you will be able to to play most games at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with a decent fps rate. Although some newer, more demanding games may require you to reduce graphic details to get smoother gameplay.

On this model, you get a fairly powerful Intel Core i5-6300HQ, which is a quad-core CPU, combined with 8GB of RAM which is enough for gaming.

You also get a 256GB SSD which makes it more responsive and gives you a much faster booting speed.

While I’m aware that 256GB isn’t all that much space to store games, it is possible to remove the bottom panel, where there is a free 2.5″ slot to add an extra storage drive. If you want to add an additional internal storage drive, read The Best Internal 2.5″ and 3.5″ Hard Drives article to see our recommendations.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce 960M 2GB GDDR5
  2. Powerful Intel Core i7 6300HQ 6th gen Skylake Quad-Core 2.3-3.2GHz CPU
  3. 256GB SSD which improves the laptops responsiveness and booting speed.
  4. 8GB of DDR4 RAM
  5. RAM and storage can easily be upgraded by removing the bottom panel.
  6. 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  7. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light.
  8. Optical Drive
  9. 1 x USB 3.0 (Type-C), 2 x USB 3.0 and 2 x USB 2.o ports.
  10. 1 x HDMI and 1 x Mini Display Port outputs
  11. SD card reader.
  12. Bluetooth 4.0
  13. RJ45 Ethernet port
  14. Intel 3165 Stone Peak WiFi
  15. Windows 10 Pro
  16. Backlit keyboard
  17. In my opinion, this model looks good and has a nice, clean finish
  18. Dedicated left and right touchpad buttons.
  19. Great keyboard layout
  20. Good weight for a 15.6″ laptop : 5.29lbs.
  21. Decent battery life : up to 5.5 hours of web browsing with WiFi.

Cons:

  1. 256GB SSD is not much storage space. Although it is possible to add a 2.5″ storage drive in the laptop.
  2. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.

Best Gaming Laptop for $800

Prostar Clevo N855HJ

-Click here to see the price on Amazon 

The Prostar Clevo N855HJ is the budget gaming laptop to beat, moving the performance bar even higher when it comes to what you can get in a budget gaming laptop!

You get a powerful latest generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ Quad-core CPU, a great and newest generation Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 2GB GDDR5 dedicated video card, 8GB of RAM and a large 1TB hard drive for storage.

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

Note that while we recommend the base model to keep the cost low, you can obviously choose a model with more RAM, or a SSD or both.

Pros:

  1. Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 dedicated video card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory.
  2. Highly powerful Intel Core i7-7700HQ 7th gen Kaby Lake Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.8-3.8GHz CPU
  3. 8GB of DDR4 2400MHz RAM
  4. High capacity 1TB hard drive.
  5. M.2 slot support both the lower cost M.2 SATA III SSDs and the higher performance, but more expensive PCIe M.2 SSDs
  6. Hard drive is a 7200rpm model, so it’s not as slow as 5400rpm hard drives.
  7. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB DDR4). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article.
  8. 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 2.0 ports
  9. Keyboard is backlit.
  10. Numpad
  11. Dedicated left and right click buttons on the trackpad.
  12. Ethernet RJ45 port.
  13. 1x HDMI and 2x Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs allowing you to have up to 3 external monitors!
  14. 6-in-1 card reader (MMC/RSMMC/SD/Mini-SD/SDHC/SDXC)
  15. Windows 10
  16. 1080p 2MP Full HD webcam
  17. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  18. Display is matte: doesn’t reflect light
  19. 802.11ac WiFi
  20. Bluetooth 4.0
  21. Fairly thin for a gaming laptop, at 25mm, less than 1″.
  22. Programmable keyboard macros
  23. Up to 7 hours of battery life: Expect 3-5 hours when web browsing, 1.5-2.5 hours when gaming

Cons:

  1. No optical drive
  2. Keyboard layout could be better. For example, the arrow keys overlap with the numpad which can be bothersome.
  3. 8GB model only: Single stick of RAM means single-channel memory, not dual-channel. Expect a small (average 5%) performance hit compared to dual channel. Add a second stick for optimal RAM performance.

MSI GL62M

msi1060If you live outside the U.S and you are looking for a model that offers a similar performance. The MSI GL62M has the same Nvidia Geforce 1050 graphic card, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB Hard drive.

It’s available with a slightly less powerful CPU: the Intel Quad-Core i5-7300HQ. Don’t be fooled by the Core i5 name, it is still a quad-core CPU, you just lose the Hyper-Threading feature, which doesn’t affect gaming performance much, if at all. It is still quite powerful so your gaming performance shouldn’t be affected at all by it.

It’s also available with the more powerful Core i7-7700HQ and 16GB of RAM, if you want a laptop that can also handle photo/video editing or just last you longer overall.

 Get the MSI GL62M:

– $899.00 at B&H (Worldwide shipping)

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. A quick google search should provide that info. Feel free to ask me in the comment section if you aren’t sure and can’t find the info.

Visit The Best Computer Memory (RAM) article for my recommendations. Note that you’ll want SODIMM RAM, either DDR3 or DDR4 depending on your laptop.

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.

Upgrade to a SSD or upgrade your current SSD to get higher capacity and/or higher performance!

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 or from 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.

Looking for a different external case or need a specific cable? Leave a comment if you need assistance with finding what’s best for your needs.

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

The LG GP60NB50 8x, from Amazon or from B&H (Worldwide Shipping), is the one with the best customer reviews.

USB Blu-Ray Burner

I recommend three 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-XD05S 6x, from Amazon or $74.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

– ASUS BW-12D1S-U 12x from Amazon or $97.50 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

OWC Mercury Pro External USB 3.0 16x Blu Ray reader/writer, $129.50 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

WiFi routers, WiFi Adapters and Bluetooth adapter:

Need a WiFi router, an USB WiFi adapter or an USB 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 Best Budget Gaming Laptops!

I invite you to leave a comment, let me know what you thought of this article.

Do you think that I forgot a pro or a con for a laptop?

Perhaps you believe that there’s a better option than my recommendation and want my professional opinion.

A laptop might no longer be available or you may have some questions.

Just leave a comment below now and I’ll get back to you.