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, in USD, that I saw on February 2nd 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. $590
  2. $680
  3. $750
  4. $900

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 $590

Acer Aspire 5 A515-51G-515J

Click here to see the price on Amazon

Equipped with a Nvidia Geforce MX150 dedicated GPU, which offers higher performance than the old GeForce GTX 950M with GDDR5 while consuming less power. It’s also equipped with GDDR5, not crippled with lower performance DDR3.

You also get a pretty good CPU, with the 8th generation Intel Core i5-8250U CPU. This is a 4 core, 8 threads CPU, with frequencies of 1.6 to 3.4GHz. This CPU is much more powerful than the previous generation low-power CPU from Intel, which only had 2 cores!

If you want a laptop that’s powerful enough for running recent games at 1366 x 768, or older games at Full HD, and as inexpensive as possible, this is a good deal.

Do you want to run the most demanding games at full HD 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 MX150 dedicated video card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory.
  3. Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.6-3.4GHz CPU
  4. Windows 10
  5. Fairly light and portable for a 15.6″ gaming laptop: 15.02″ x 10.35″ x 0.82″ and 4.41lbs.
  6. Dual stick of RAM means dual-channel memory
  7. Two stick of DDR4 RAM. 4GB onboard (soldered) + 4GB stick
  8. RAM can be upgraded to 20GB (1x4GB onboard + 1x16GB DDR4). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article.
  9. RAM and hard drive are easy to access, if you want to upgrade them.
  10. High performance M.2 SATA III SSD storage
  11. Numpad
  12. Screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  13. Screen has a matte finish, doesn’t reflect light
  14. HDMI Output
  15. LAN RJ-45 port
  16. Windows 10
  17. Decent keyboard for typing
  18. Decent speakers, especially for the price
  19. This is my opinion: It looks good, unlike some gaming laptops that are a bit too flashy.
  20. 720p HD webcam
  21. SD card reader
  22. 802.11ac WiFi with MU-MIMO support.
  23. Bluetooth 4.0
  24. Decent battery life for a gaming laptop: Up to 7 hours battery life of web browsing.
  25. Total of 4 USB ports, including one USB 3.1 Type-C, one USB 3.0 Type A and two USB 2.0
  26. Backlit keyboard
  27. There’s space to add a 2.5″ SATA III drive (hard drive or SSD), but you’ll need to get an upgrade kit from Acer.

Cons:

  1. Trackpad doesn’t have dedicated buttons.
  2. A lot of bloatware that you’ll want to remove to speed up the laptop.
  3. No optical drive
  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. Storage is limited to 256GB.
  6. Tends to attract fingerprints.
  7. Build quality is average at best.
  8. Screen equipped with a TN panel: Limited colors, limited viewing angles and contrast

Best Gaming Laptop for less than $680

Dell Inspiron i5577-5328BLK

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $699.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Equipped with a quite powerful 7th generation Intel Core i5-7300HQ Quad Core CPU, combined with 8GB of RAM, which can handle relatively heavy workloads and do some multi-tasking.

The best part is that you get a Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 with 4GB of VRAM.

With a laptop like this, most video games should be playable at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with medium, high or maximum details.

On the downside, the hard drive is a 5400rpm model, so Windows and programs take a longer time to load, compared to a faster 7200rpm hard drive or SSD storage. That said, there’s an available M.2 slot, so you can add a M.2 SSD (NVMe or SATA), to have the best of both worlds: Fast storage with the SSD and lots of storage with the hard drive.

You also get a screen equipped with a TN panel, so viewing angles are limited and colors aren’t as accurate.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce  GTX 1050 with 4GB of VRAM
  2. Quite powerful Intel Core i5 7300HQ 7th gen Skylake Quad-Core 2.5-3.5GHz CPU
  3. 1TB hard drive.
  4. 8GB of DDR4 RAM
  5. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB ( 2 x 16GB of DDR4 RAM )
  6. 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  7. Backlit keyboard
  8. Decent keyboard layout
  9. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light.
  10. 3x USB 3.0 ports.
  11. 1 x HDMI output.
  12. SD card reader.
  13. Bluetooth 4.2
  14. RJ45 Ethernet port
  15. 802.11ac WiFi
  16. Windows 10 home

Cons:

  1. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.
  2. No optical drive
  3. Hard drive is a 5400RPM model, which aren’t the fastest hard drives.

Best Gaming Laptop for less than $750

Acer Nitro 5 AN515-51-55WL

– Click here to see the price on Amazon

Compared to the model above, you get a more powerful graphic card, the Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti with 4GB of VRAM.

You also get a much better screen, with an IPS panel, meaning that you get larger viewing angles, better contrast and more accurate colors.

With a laptop like this, most video games should be playable at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with medium, high or maximum details.

On the downside, you only get 256GB of storage. It is an high performance SSD, but 256GB isn’t much storage for a lot of games. On the plus size, there’s space for you to add a 2.5″ hard drive or 2.5″ SATA SSD to this laptop.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti with 4GB of VRAM
  2. Quite powerful Intel Core i5 7300HQ 7th gen Skylake Quad-Core 2.5-3.5GHz CPU
  3. 256GB high performance SSD.
  4. Empty 2.5″ drive bay to add an additional storage drive
  5. 8GB of DDR4 RAM
  6. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB ( 2 x 16GB of DDR4 RAM )
  7. 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  8. Backlit keyboard
  9. Decent keyboard layout
  10. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light.
  11. Screen equipped with an IPS panel: Good contrast, accurate color reproduction and great viewing angles.
  12. 4x USB ports, including one USB Type-C.
  13. 1 x HDMI output.
  14. SD card reader.
  15. Bluetooth 4.2
  16. RJ45 Ethernet port
  17. 802.11ac WiFi
  18. Windows 10 home

Cons:

  1. No optical drive

Best Gaming Laptop for $900

Lenovo Legion Y520

– $899.99 at B&H (Worldwide shipping)

Compared to my recommendation above, you get a more powerful CPU, which will slightly improve gaming performance, as well as overall performance if you run heavy applications, such as photo, video or 3D editing.

You also get additional storage, with the combination of a 128GB very high performance PCIe SSD and a 1TB hard drive.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti with 4GB of VRAM
  2. Powerful Intel Core i7-7700HQ 7th gen Skylake Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.8-3.8GHz CPU
  3. 240GB SSD for an improved responsiveness and booting speed
  4. 8GB of DDR4 RAM
  5. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2 x 16GB of DDR4 RAM )
  6. 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  7. IPS panel for better color reproduction, wide viewing angles and better contrast.
  8. Backlit Keyboard
  9. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light.
  10. 4 USB ports! 1x USB 3.1 (Type-C), 2 x USB 3.0 and 1 x USB 2.0 ports.
  11. 1 x HDMI output.
  12. 4-in-1 card reader.
  13. Bluetooth 4.1
  14. RJ45 Ethernet port
  15. 802.11ac WiFi
  16. Windows 10 home
  17. Relatively lightweight for a gaming laptop: 5.28lbs

Cons:

  1. No optical drive
  2. Poor battery life: Don’t expect more than 4 hours.

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.

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

OWC Mercury Pro External USB 3.0 16x Blu Ray reader/writer, $129.75 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.