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 September 22nd 2016. 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 for:

  1. $500
  2. $600
  3. $700
  4. $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 for $500

Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575G-52RJ

$499.99 at Newegg

Equipped with a Nvidia Geforce 940MX (2GB GDDR5) dedicated GPU and a fairly powerful Intel Core i5-6200U 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 940MX dedicated video card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory.
  3. Intel Core i5 6200U 6th gen Skylake Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.3-2.8GHz 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. Numpad
  10. Screen has a matte finish, doesn’t reflect light
  11. HDMI and VGA Outputs
  12. Windows 10
  13. Decent keyboard for typing
  14. Decent speakers, especially for the price
  15. Decent build quality, with aluminum.
  16. This is my opinion: It looks good, unlike some gaming laptops that are a bit too flashy.
  17. 720p HD webcam
  18. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  19. SD card reader
  20. 802.11ac WiFi
  21. Bluetooth 4.1
  22. 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.
  23. 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. 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 (preferably same capacity) for optimal RAM performance.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  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 $600

Acer E5-575G-5341


$599.99 at Newegg

For the low price of 600$, you get a quad-core Intel Core i5-6300HQ CPU, a Nvidia Geforce GTX 950M 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 more powerful video card, a much faster boot time and a more responsive laptop thanks to the SSD.

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, less demanding video games.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce 950M 2GB GDDR5
  2. Intel Core i5 6200U 6th gen Skylake Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.3-2.8GHz 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. RAM and hard drive are easy to access, if you want to upgrade them.
  6. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  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. 720p HD webcam
  11. 802.11ac WiFi with MU-MIMO support.
  12. Bluetooth 4.0
  13. HDMI and VGA Outputs
  14. Windows 10
  15. 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.
  16. 3 USB ports: 2x USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0

Cons:

  1. 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.
  2. Low performance 5400rpm hard drive but there is a 128GB SSD so you get fast boot times and a responsive laptop.
  3. 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.
  4. No optical drive
  5. 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 (preferably same capacity) for optimal RAM performance.
  6. Average build quality, at least you get an aluminum cover for the screen.
  7. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.

Best Gaming Laptop for $700

ASUS GL551VW-DS51

$699.00 at Newegg

The ASUS GL551VW-DS51 is an excellent laptop for its price. Compared to the $600 recommendation, you get a much more powerful CPU, a more powerful video card and a better build quality and a top-notch cooling system.

Equipped with a Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5, the ASUS GL551VW-DS51 will run video games at its native resolution of 1920 x 1080 with medium, high or maximum details.

CPU performance wise, you get a 6th generation high-performance Intel Core i5-6300HQ, which is a quad-core + Hyper-Threading CPU running at 2.3-3.2GHz.

 

Two other big pros that you also gain are the screen with an IPS panel (more accurate colors, large viewing angles and great contrast) and the backlit keyboard.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5
  2. Powerful CPU: Intel Core i5 6300HQ Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.3-3.2GHz
  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. RAM and hard drive are easy to access, if you want to upgrade them.
  6. Matte (anti-reflection) screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution
  7. Screen with an IPS panel for more accurate colors, large viewing angles and great contrast
  8. 1TB 7200rpm hard drive
  9. Numpad
  10. Optical Drive
  11. Backlit keyboard
  12. Good build quality, looks great in my opinion.
  13. Great cooling system that will have no problem with long gaming sessions.
  14. 720p HD webcam
  15. Good speakers
  16. SD card reader
  17. 802.11ac WiFi
  18. Bluetooth 4.0
  19. Windows 10
  20. Mini DisplayPort port and HDMI port
  21. Three USB 3.0 ports

Cons:

  1. Average battery life: Up to 5 hours. If this is a deal-breaker for you, see the laptop below, with similar gaming performance, but a far longer battery life.
  2. Quite heavy (5.95lbs) and thick (1.28″).

Best Gaming Laptop for $800

Get the Dell Inspiron i7559-2512BLK from Amazon

About the Dell Inspiron i7559-2512BLK:

The Dell Inspiron i7559-2512BLK is an oustanding laptop for the price.

You get a powerful Intel Core i7 Quad-core + Hyper-Threading CPU, a great Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M 4GB GDDR5 dedicated video card, a 256GB high-performance SSD drive, 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.

Compared to the Core i5-6300HQ recommended in the best $700 gaming laptop, the higher frequency CPU Core i7 in this laptop will give you a small boost in gaming performance, but a major boost in performance for photo, video editing, 3D rendering or any task that’s CPU intensive thanks to the Hyper-Threading feature.

You also get a 1TB Hybrid Hard Drive (with a 8GB SSD cache). This means that Windows and games will launch more quickly and that the system will feel more responsive compared to having a traditional hard drive it it. It’s not as fast as a SSD, but remember that you get 1TB of storage capacity too. You can choose to add a M.2 SATA III SSD if you want, to have a SSD and a hard drive.

Don’t forget: You’re getting a laptop with a 6th generation Intel Core i7, a Geforce GTX 960 4GB, an IPS 1080p screen, a backlit keyboard and more at this price!

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

Alternative for $850

Get the Dell Inspiron I7559-3763BLK from Amazon


$849.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the Dell Inspiron I7559-3763BLK:

This Dell Inspiron i7559-3763BLK is identical to the Dell Inspiron i7559-2512BLK recommended above, except that you get 16GB of RAM instead of 8GB.

Lightweight and thin alternative with a 512GB SSD

ASUS K501UW-AB78

Click here to see the price on Amazon

The ASUS K501UW-AB78 offers somewhat lower gaming performance than the Dell. It’s equipped with the same video card, but a lower performance CPU, the 2.5-3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-6500U.

That said, it is one of the most portable 15.6″ gaming laptop available and it’s pretty much the only decent budget lightweight gaming laptop.

Another big pro is that it’s equipped with a 512GB SSD, which is rare thing on a gaming laptop in this price range.

So if you don’t mind lower CPU performance, slightly lower video game performance and a lower quality TN-panel equipped screen, in order to get a laptop that’s lighter and has a 512GB SSD, the ASUS K501UW-AB78 is an alternative to consider.

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.

Pick one of the following recommendations below, depending on if your laptop comes with a single stick of RAM or two and whether it supports DDR4 or DDR3. I recommend the sticks that offer the best combination of reliability and low price that are available internationally.

DDR4

Add a single 8GB DDR4 stick:
Crucial 8GB 2133MHz DDR4 SODIMM from Amazon
$33.99 B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Get a 2x8GB (16GB) DDR4 kit:
Crucial 8GB (2x4GB) 2133MHz DDR4 SODIMM from Amazon
$66.99 B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Get a 2x16GB (32GB) DDR4 kit:
Crucial 16GB (2x8GB) 2133MHz DDR4 SODIMM from Amazon
$127.99 B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

DDR3 (Compatible with laptops requiring DDR3L)

Add a single 8GB DDR3 stick:
Crucial 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM from Amazon
$34.99 B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Get a 2x8GB (16GB) DDR3 kit:
Crucial 16GB (2x8GB) 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM from Amazon
$69.98 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.

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 $80.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

– ASUS BW-12D1S-U 12x from Amazon or $99.95 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.