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 November 27th 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. Less than $900
  2. Less than $1000
  3. $1250

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

Acer Nitro Black Edition 15.6″ VN7-592G-72VQ

Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $898.00 at Newegg

Equipped with a Nvidia Geforce 960M (4GB GDDR5) dedicated GPU, a powerful Intel Core i7-6700HQ and 16GB of RAM, the Acer Nitro Black Edition offers good performance and is quite portable for a gaming laptop, at .9″ thick and 5.07lbs.

For its price it delivers better performance than other builds who generally offer a 2GB 960M Nvidia Gefore instead, a slower CPU and less RAM.

The only thing that it really lacks is a better hard drive and/or an SSD. Then again, that’s something that you can upgrade.

Pros:

  1. Nvidia Geforce 960M dedicated video card with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.
  2. Intel Core i7 6700HQ 6th gen Skylake Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.6-3.5GHz CPU
  3. 16GB of DDR4 RAM  (2x8GB DDR4)
  4. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB DDR4). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article.
  5. High capacity 1TB hard drive
  6. Thin and lightweight for a mid-range gaming laptop: .9″ and 5.07lbs
  7. Thunderbolt 3 (USB 3.1 Type C) Port
  8. Numpad
  9. Keyboard Backlight
  10. Windows 10
  11. Decent keyboard for typing
  12. Four stereo speakers
  13. Decent build quality, with aluminum.
  14. This is my opinion: It looks good, unlike some gaming laptops that are a bit too flashy.
  15. 720p HD webcam
  16. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  17. SD card reader
  18. 802.11ac WiFi with MU-MIMO
  19. Bluetooth 4.0
  20. Good battery life for a gaming laptop: Up to 6 hours battery life with low brightness and no WiFi. Realistically, expect 4-5 hours for web browsing, 1.5-2 hours for gaming.
  21. Screen is equipped with an IPS Panel which means great viewing angles, better contrast and more accurate colors.

Cons:

  1. Trackpad doesn’t have dedicated buttons.
  2. No optical drive
  3. No Ethernet RJ-45 port
  4. 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.
  5. Low performance 5400rpm hard drive
  6. Maintenance : Battery, hard drive and RAM are hard to access so upgrading isn’t that simple.
  7. Can run hot under sustained heavy load: A cooling pad is probably a good idea, I wouldn’t put it on your legs for a long gaming session.

Best Gaming Laptop for less than $1000

ASUS FX502VM

Click here to see the price on Amazon

Compared to the Acer above, this laptop is a significant upgrade in performance, with the latest generation Nvidia Geforce 1060. While the 1060 might not seem like a big upgrade from the 960, it is a massive upgrade in performance.

To give you an idea, the Geforce GTX 1060 offers about 25% more performance than the Geforce 980m graphic card, which itself is easily over two times faster than the 960m.

You get a slightly less powerful processor than the Acer Nitro, the i5-6300HQ, but since you get much more powerful graphic card, you’ll still get far better gaming performance.

You get 16GB of RAM which is perfect to run multiple programs and a 1TB hard drive to store all your content and games.

Pros:

  1. Outstanding gaming performance with the Nvidia Geforce 1060 dedicated video card with 3GB of GDDR5 memory
  2. Intel Core i5 6300HQ 6th gen Skylake Quad-Core 2.3-3.2GHz CPU
  3. Backlit 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. RAM and hard drive are easy to access, if you want to upgrade them.
  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. Screen has a matte finish, so it doesn’t reflect light.
  10. Thin and lightweight for a gaming laptop: 0.9″ thick and 4.9 lbs.
  11. HDMI and mini display port to plug in your display on a external screen.
  12. Windows 10
  13. Decent keyboard for typing
  14. Decent speakers
  15. Good build quality
  16. 1080p Full HD webcam
  17. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  18. RJ45 Ethernet port.
  19. SD card reader
  20. Bluetooth 4.0
  21. Total of 4 USB ports, including one USB 3.1 Type-C and three USB 3.0 Type A
  22. Numpad
  23. ASUS covers this model with an accidental damage warranty for a year.

Cons:

  1. Battery life could be better: runs 1-2 hours while gaming, up to 5 hours otherwise
  2. TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.
  3. No optical drive
  4. No dedicated left and right mouse buttons.
  5. The hard drive doesn’t offer the responsiveness and performance of a SSD.

Best gaming laptop for less than $1250

ASUS ROG Strix GL502VM 15.6″

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
$1229.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
$1229.00 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, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive.

Compared to the recommendation above, this is a major upgrade for different reasons. First of all, you have a better CPU going to the  i7-6700HQ from the i5-6300HQ. You a graphic card with twice the memory (6GB vs 3GB).

The best part is getting Nvidia G-Sync, which syncs your display and graphic card, to prevent screen tearing and minimize stutter and input lag. This makes your gaming experience smoother and better.

On top of that this laptop is extremely portable for a gaming laptop as it only weights 4.8 lbs. Anything below 5lbs is light for a gaming laptop. As a matter of a fact, you couldn’t get a gaming laptop that powerful and that lightweight until now, thanks to the new 10xx series Nvidia graphic cards.

Pretty much all games should be playable at a 1920 x 1080 resolution with high or maxed out details.

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

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. Two sticks of 8GB (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. Supports Nvidia’s G-Sync which prevents screen tearing, minimizes stutter and input lag for an improved and smoother gameplay.
  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 a gaming laptop : 0.94″ thick and 4.8 lbs
  12. Numpad
  13. HD webcam
  14. Decent keyboard for typing
  15. Bluetooth 4.0
  16. 802.11ac WiFi
  17. HDMI and Mini DisplayPort output.
  18. Windows 10
  19. Empty m.2 PCI-Express SSD slot to add an high-performance storage device.
  20. 4 USB ports: 3 USB 3.0 and 1 USB 3.1 (Type C) ports.
  21. Backlit Keyboard.
  22. SD card reader
  23. ASUS covers this model with an accidental damage warranty for a year.

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. No Optical drive
  3. Average battery life : up to 5hrs so expect around 1-2 hours while gaming.
  4. TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.
  5. No dedicated left and right mouse buttons.
  6. The hard drive doesn’t offer the responsiveness and performance of a SSD.

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 $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 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.