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 July 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. $500
  2. $600
  3. $750
  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 E5 15

Refurbished: – Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $487.19 at Newegg

New: – Click here to see the price on Amazon

Available at a lower price as a refurbished laptop or brand new.

Equipped with a Nvidia Geforce 940MX (2GB GDDR5) dedicated GPU and a fairly decent 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 Geforce 940MX dedicated video card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory.
  3. Intel Core i5 6200U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.5-2.8GHz CPU
  4. Windows 10
  5. Fairly light and portable for a 15.6″ gaming laptop: 15.02″ x 10.20″ x 0.94-1.19″ and 4.92lbs.
  6. Single stick of 8GB of DDR3 RAM. Easy to upgrade to 16GB (2x8GB) by adding a 8GB RAM stick.
  7. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB DDR3). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article.
  8. RAM and hard drive are easy to access, if you want to upgrade them.
  9. High capacity 1TB hard drive
  10. Available M.2 SATA III slot to add a SSD, so you can have a SSD and an hard drive.
  11. Numpad
  12. Screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  13. Screen has a matte finish, doesn’t reflect light
  14. HDMI and VGA Outputs
  15. Windows 10
  16. Decent keyboard for typing
  17. Decent speakers, especially for the price
  18. This is my opinion: It looks good, unlike some gaming laptops that are a bit too flashy.
  19. 720p HD webcam
  20. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  21. SD card reader
  22. 802.11ac WiFi with MU-MIMO support.
  23. Bluetooth 4.0
  24. 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.
  25. 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 $600

Dell  Inspiron 15 5000
– $649.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

What you get with this laptop is a great step up in terms of gaming performance, with the AMD Radeon RX 460 4GB DDR5.

You also get the same amount of RAM as my previous recommendation: 8GB.

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.

Pros:

  1.  AMD Radeon RX 460 dedicated video card with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.
  2.  AMD A10-9630P Quad-core 2.6-3.3GHz CPU: Not as powerful as Intel quad-core CPUs, but more powerful than dual-core variants.
  3. 8GB of  DDR4 RAM
  4. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  5. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light
  6. 1TB hard drive so you get plenty of storage for games
  7. Available M.2 slot to add extra storage
  8. Decent keyboard layout
  9. Numpad
  10. Backlit keyboard
  11. 802.11ac WiFi
  12. Bluetooth 4.1
  13. LAN RJ-45 port.
  14. SD card reader
  15. HDMI Output
  16. 720p Webcam
  17. Windows 10
  18. 3 USB 3.0 ports
  19. Decent battery : 7 hours of surfing on the web with WiFI. Expect much less from gaming.

Cons:

  1. Screen equipped with a TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.
  2. Maintenance isn’t easy to do : there is no maintenance hatch and even with all the screws removed, the bottom panel is still hard to remove
  3. No SSD
  4. No Optical drive
  5. Hard drive is a 5400 RPM drive, which aren’t the fastest drives.
  6. The glossy surface of the case is easy to scratch and prone to fingerprint

Best Gaming Laptop for $750

Dell Inspiron i5577-5328BLK

– Click here to see the price on Amazon

At this price point, what this model has to offer is unheard of.

It is equipped with a quite powerful newest 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.

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
  17. Good weight for a 15.6″ laptop : 5.7lbs.

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 $800

Acer Aspire VX

-Click here to see the price on Amazon

Compared to my recommendation above, you keep the same CPU, amount of RAM and graphic card, but you gain a much better display: it is equipped with an IPS panel.

This means you get more vibrant colors, better contrasts and larger view angles.

You also get a 256GB SSD, this means your laptop is much more responsive and boots way faster.

256GB isn’t much storage space for games, which is why this laptop has a 2.5″ slot available to add extra storage. You do need to contact Acer support to get the free 2.5″ bracket and power cable though.

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. 256GB 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. Iron-red Backlit keyboard
  8. Good build quality
  9. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light.
  10. 1x USB 3.1 (Type-C Gen 1), 2 x USB 3.0 and 1 x USB 2.0 ports.
  11. 1 x HDMI output.
  12. SD card reader.
  13. Bluetooth 4.2
  14. RJ45 Ethernet port
  15. 802.11ac WiFi with MU MIMO technology
  16. Windows 10 home
  17. Stays quiet under load
  18. Good weight for a 15.6″ laptop : 5.5lbs.

Cons:

  1. No optical drive
  2. Keyboard layout could be better : the arrow keys overlap with other keyboard keys, which can be bothersome.
  3. Battery life could be better: 5.5 hours while surfing the web with WiFi

Worldwide Alternative

MSI GL62M: – $799.99 at B&H (Worldwide shipping)

If you live outside the U.S and you are looking for a model that offers the same performance, the MSI GL62M is the way to go.

You get the same powerful Intel Core i5 7300HQ CPU with a 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM.

The graphic card is a small step down from the main recommendation as you get the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 with 2GB of VRAM instead of 4GB. At this point it will not affect gaming performance much but you may need to tune down texture detail in more demanding games to get a better framerate.

You also lose the IPS panel, which means you get a display that has less vibrant colors, poor contrasts and narrow view angles.

Although at this price point, it is the only viable option for people who need to 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.