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 Mid-Range Gaming Laptops!

A reminder:

My recommendations in this article are based on the prices that I saw on January 22nd 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 for:

  1. Less than $900
  2. Less than $1100
  3. Less than $1250
  4. 3.75lbs without any performance sacrifice!

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 less than $900

Prostar Clevo N855HJ

Equipped with a Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 (2GB GDDR5) dedicated graphics card and a powerful and newest generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive, the Prostar Clevo N855HJ offers unheard of gaming performance at this price point.

Starting at this price point, you can now get the newer 10xx generation of Nvidia graphic cards, with the launch of the Geforce 1050. In short, 10xx series in notebooks offer significantly better graphic performance than the previous 9xx series, allowing you to run games with higher levels of visual quality, higher framerates and higher FPS rate, thanks to the new Nvidia Pascal architecture featured in the Geforce 10xx series.

They are much closer to their desktop counterparts in terms of performance as opposed to the previous series which had to be significantly cut down in performance to be integrated into gaming laptops.

With this gaming laptop, you can play most games at 1920 x 1080, although you may have to cut down visual quality to get good enough frame rates, depending on how demanding the game is. I’d recommend scrolling down to a model with a Geforce GTX 1060 if you want to game at 1920 x 1080 with maximum visual settings and high frame rates.

This model comes in different configurations with my base recommendation starting with 8GB of RAM and a large 1TB hard drive.

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. Depending on your configuration you get either 1x 8GB or 16GB (2 x 8GB) of DDR4 2400MHz RAM.
  4. High capacity 1TB hard drive.
  5. Available configurations with a 128GB or 256GB M.2 SSD which greatly improves the laptops responsiveness and booting speed.
  6. M.2 slot support both the lower cost M.2 SATA III SSDs and the higher performance, but more expensive PCIe M.2 SSDs
  7. Hard drive is a 7200rpm model, so it’s not as slow as 5400rpm hard drives.
  8. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect sunlight.
  9. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB DDR4). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article.
  10. 1x USB 3.0 Type-C, 2x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 2.0 ports
  11. Keyboard is backlit.
  12. Numpad
  13. Dedicated left and right click buttons on the trackpad.
  14. Ethernet RJ45 port.
  15. 1x HDMI and 2x Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs allowing you to have up to 3 external monitors!
  16. 6-in-1 card reader (MMC/RSMMC/SD/Mini-SD/SDHC/SDXC)
  17. Windows 10
  18. 1080p 2MP Full HD webcam
  19. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  20. 802.11ac WiFi
  21. Bluetooth 4.0
  22. Fairly thin for a gaming laptop, at 25mm, less than 1″.
  23. Programmable keyboard macros
  24. 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.

Get the Prostar Clevo N855HJ: 2 recommended models

With RAM, 8GB is enough for pretty much all games, but 16GB will help your laptop last longer. It will also help if you like to have many applications open at the same time or do some photo/video editing. Again, you can always upgrade the RAM later.

As for the SSD, having twice the storage capacity will allow you to install more games and programs on the high performance SSD.

8GB RAM, 1TB HDD and 128GB SSD : Click here to see the price on Amazon
16GB RAM, 1TB HDD and 256GB SSD: Click here to see the price on Amazon

Alternative that’s available worldwide:

MSI GL62M

msi1060 If 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.

You also don’t get a SSD, but you can easily add one.

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:

Intel Core i5-7300HQ Quad-Core 2.5-3.5GHz, 8GB RAM:  – $899.99 at B&H (Worldwide shipping)
Intel Core i7-7700HQ Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.8-3.8GHz, 16GB RAM: – $999.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Best Gaming Laptop for less than $1100

ASUS ROG STRIX GL753VD-DS71

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $1099.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
 – $1099.00 at Newegg

Compared to the model above, this laptop is a nice step up in performance with the Nvidia Geforce 1050 Ti graphic card with 4GB of graphic memory instead of 2GB.

The Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB makes 1920 x 1080 gaming more accessible than with the Geforce GTX 1050 2GB 1050, thanks to higher graphic performance and twice the memory. That said, you may still have to cut on visual quality in more demanding games.

You get a powerful Intel Quad-Core i7-7700HQ combined with 16GB RAM which means it can easily handle multiple programs and multi-tasking.

You also get a Full HD (1920 x 1080) display with a matte finish which means it doesn’t reflect sunlight, as well as good viewing angles and decent color accuracy.

As a sweet bonus, this laptop comes with a nice little bundle on Amazon and Newegg that includes a code for the Watchdogs 2 game, a choice of indie game, an ASUS wireless controller, a XOTIC PC mouse pad and a XOTIC PC laptop cooling pad!

Pros:

  1. Great gaming performance with the Nvidia Geforce 1050 TI dedicated video card with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
  2. Intel Core i7 7700HQ 6th gen Skylake Quad-Core 2.8-3.8GHz CPU
  3. Backlit RGB keyboard
  4. 16GB of DDR4 RAM (2 x 8GB)
  5. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB DDR4). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article
  6. Easy maintenance : The RAM and storage can be upgraded via a back panel that’s removable by removing 2 screws.
  7. 1 TB HDD which is plenty of storage for games and content such as images, videos and music.
  8. Hard drive is a 7200rpm model, so it’s not as slow as 5400rpm hard drives.
  9. Large 17.3″ screen
  10. Screen has a matte finish, so it doesn’t reflect light.
  11. IPS like display panel, this means you get a better color reproduction and better contrast than a TN panel but not as good as an IPS panel.
  12. HDMI and mini display port to plug in two external monitors.
  13. Windows 10
  14. Empty M.2 slot, so you can a M.2 SATA III or M.2 PCIe SSD high-performance storage device.
  15. HD webcam
  16. Optical drive
  17. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  18. RJ45 Ethernet port.
  19. SD card reader
  20. Bluetooth 4.1
  21. Total of 5 USB ports, including one USB 3.1 Type-C and three USB 3.0 Type A and one USB 2.0
  22. Numpad
  23. ASUS offers a 1 year damage protection warranty on this model.
  24. Included bundle

Cons:

  1. Battery life could be better: runs 1-1.5 hours while gaming, 3-5 hours otherwise
  2. The hard drive doesn’t offer the responsiveness and performance of a SSD. Although there is a free m.2 slot so you can add one.
  3. No dedicated left and right trackpad buttons.
  4. Not small nor lightweight: 16.3 x 10.6 x 1.2″ and weights 6.6lbs. Not a surprise, it’s a 17.3″ gaming laptop.

Best gaming laptop for less than $1250

MSI GE62VR Apache Pro VR

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $1249.99 at Newegg

With this gaming laptop, you get a powerful Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU, a Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060 graphic card with 6GB of VRAM graphic card, a 1920 x 1080 screen, 12GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive.

We’re talking about high-end performance at a mid-range price. It is considered a VR (Virtual Reality) ready laptop. This laptop will be able to run pretty much all games with maxed out details in a 1920 x 1080 resolution.

Compared to the recommendation above, this is a massive upgrade when it comes to gaming performance, thanks to the Geforce GTX 1060 6GB graphic card, comparable to the desktop Geforce GTX 1060 6GB, which easily offers 60-75% more performance than the Geforce GTX 1050 Ti found in the recommendation above and pretty much twice the performance of the Geforce GTX 1050 found in the first recommendation!

Don’t be fooled by models with the Geforce GTX 1060 3GB. Not only do you get half the memory, but also also a lower performance graphic card. In other words, their performance isn’t similar to models with the Geforce GTX 1060 6GB.

You’re also getting a 128GB M.2 PCIe SSD, which is about 4 times faster than regular SATA III SSDs, which are more responsive than a regular hard drive and greatly improves booting speed. This is high-end storage performance. You also get more RAM with 12GB instead of 8GB, this will improve your laptop’s multi-tasking ability.

This is the best mid-range gaming laptop for your money as of today.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce 1060 6GB GDDR5 graphic card
  2. Intel Core i7 6700HQ 6th gen Skylake Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.6-3.5GHz CPU
  3. One stick of 8GB and one stick of 4GB (12GB) of DDR4 RAM. You easily upgrade to 16GB if you want by replacing a 4GB stick with a 8GB stick.
  4. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB DDR4). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article
  5. RAM, 2.5″ hard drive and M.2 SSD are easy to access, if you want to upgrade them.
  6. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect sunlight.
  7. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  8. IPS display panel which means you get a more accurate color reproduction, better contrast and large view angles
  9. 1 TB hard drive so you have plenty of space for your games and all your content.
  10. Hard drive is a 7200rpm model, so it’s not as slow as 5400rpm hard drives.
  11. Pretty light and thin for such a powerful gaming laptop : 1″ thick and 5.2 lbs
  12. Numpad
  13. HD webcam
  14. Good build quality, metal build
  15. Good keyboard for typing
  16. Keyboard can be customized with multiple backlit colors and programmed with personalized macros.
  17. Characters on the keyboard have a large font, making them easy to read.
  18. Dedicated left and right mouse buttons on the trackpad.
  19. Optical drive
  20. Bluetooth 4.0
  21. 802.11ac WiFi
  22. HDMI and Mini DisplayPort output.
  23. Windows 10
  24. Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) connectivity
  25. 4 USB ports: 1x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 3.1 (Type C) ports.
  26. SD card reader

Cons:

  1. Keyboard layout could be better. For example, the right arrow key overlaps with the Numpad on the right. This can be annoying for some people.
  2. Poor battery life : Expect 2-3 hours

Best Lightweight Portable Gaming Laptop

MSI 14.0″ GS43VR Phantom Pro-006

portablemsi– $1199.00 at Newegg

If you are looking for a more portable gaming laptop, the MSI GS43VR Phantom is only 0.87″ thick and weight 3.75lbs which is outstanding for such a powerful gaming laptop.

Performance wise, it has the same CPU (Core i7-6700HQ) and graphic card (Geforce GTX 1060 6GB) as the model above, so you can play pretty much all games at 1920 x 1080 with max settings.

It has a large 1TB hard drive to store your games and a 128GB SSD to improve your laptop’s responsiveness and booting speed.

Finally, you get a Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060 that has 6GB of graphic memory which means your laptop will be able to run most games with maxed out details in a 1920 x 1080 resolution.

This item is an open box product which means that it may be missing accessories and that its warranty is limited to 30 days. Considering that most issues happen within 30 days and considering what a great deal you’re getting here, I fully recommend this laptop if you want a smaller and lighter gaming laptop with no gaming performance sacrifice compared to the 15.6″ model!

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce 1060 6GB GDDR5
  2. Intel Core i7 6700HQ 6th gen Skylake Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.6-3.5GHz CPU
  3. 16GB of DDR4 RAM
  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 screen that doesn’t reflect sunlight.
  7. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  8. IPS display panel which means you get a more accurate color reproduction, better contrast and large view angles
  9. 1 TB hard drive so you have plenty of space for your games and all your content.
  10. 128GB SSD which greatly improves the laptops responsiveness and booting speed.
  11. Hard drive is a 7200rpm model, so it’s not as slow as 5400rpm hard drives.
  12. Really thin and light for such a powerful gaming laptop : 0.87″ thick and 3.75 lbs
  13. HD webcam
  14. Decent keyboard for typing
  15. Bluetooth 4.1
  16. 802.11ac WiFi with MU-MIMO technology.
  17. HDMI and Mini DisplayPort output.
  18. Windows 10
  19. Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C)
  20. 3 USB ports: 2x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 3.1 (Type C) ports.
  21. Backlit Keyboard.
  22. SD card reader

Cons:

  1. No numpad
  2. No Optical drive
  3. No dedicated left and right trackpad buttons.
  4. Can get noisy under heavy load.

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 Mid-Range 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.