This is one of 3 articles dedicated to laptops for Gaming and Creative Pros:

1. Best Budget Low-cost Gaming Laptops (this article)
2. Best Mid-Range Laptops for Gaming and Creative Pros
3. Best High-End Laptops for Gaming and Creative Pros

Are you a Creative Pro that wants an Apple Macbook?

No problem, we have articles to help you find the best Macbook for your needs:
1. How you can choose the best Apple Macbook 12
2. How to choose the best Apple Macbook Air 13
3. How to choose the best Apple Macbook Pro 13
4. How to choose the best Apple Macbook Pro 15

Summary: Best Budget Laptops for Gaming and Creative Pros

Click on any of these links to jump to the section that interests you, or scroll down to see them all, in this order.

Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-Core + GeForce MX150
i5-8250U +  MX150, better display and battery
Core i5 7300HQ + GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
Core i5 8300H + GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
For Creative Pros: Core i7-8750H 6 cores + 1050 Ti

Upgrade your laptop:

Upgrade the hard drive or the SSD

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 Laptops for Gaming and Creative Pros!

A reminder:

My recommendations in this article are based on the prices, in USD, that I saw on October 12th 2018. 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.

Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-Core + GeForce MX150

Acer Aspire A5 A515-51G-53V6

 

– 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.

It’s easy to add a 2.5″ hard drive (or SSD), if you want more storage capacity. See The Best Internal Hard Drives article and scroll down to the 2.5″ hard drives to see my recommendations.

Alternative that’s available with worldwide shipping

Acer NX.GTCAA.009:
$579.00 from B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

While it’s not exactly the same model as the one above (NX.GTCAA.020), you can buy the very similar NX.GTCAA.009 from B&H, who offer worldwide shipping.

Both offer the same CPU and graphic card, so gaming performance is unchanged. RAM, storage and battery capacity are the same as well.

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. 8GB of RAM: 4GB soldered + 4GB stick of DDR4
  6. RAM can be upgraded to 20GB (4GB soldered + 16GB).
  7. RAM and hard drive are easy to access, if you want to upgrade them.
  8. High performance M.2 SATA III SSD storage
  9. Numpad
  10. Screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  11. Screen has a matte finish, doesn’t reflect light
  12. HDMI Output
  13. LAN RJ-45 port
  14. Windows 10
  15. Decent keyboard for typing
  16. Decent speakers, especially for the price
  17. 720p HD webcam
  18. SD card reader
  19. 802.11ac WiFi with MU-MIMO support.
  20. Bluetooth 4.0
  21. Good battery life for a gaming laptop: Up to 7 hours at minimal brightness, text editing. Expect 4-6 hours of web browsing with decent brightness.
  22. Total of 4 USB ports, including one USB 3.1 Type-C, one USB 3.0 Type A and two USB 2.0
  23. Backlit keyboard
  24. There’s space to add a 2.5″ SATA III drive (hard drive or SSD) and it’s easy to access.
  25. Optical drive

Cons:

  1. Trackpad doesn’t have dedicated buttons.
  2. Trackpad isn’t the best
  3. 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.
  4. Storage is limited to 256GB.
  5. Build quality is average
  6. TN display offers limited color reproduction, limited viewing angles and contrast

i5-8250U + MX150, better display and battery

Acer Aspire E15 E5-576G-5762

 – Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $539.99 at Newegg (Refurbished)

Performance wise, this model offers the same performance as the Acer Aspire A5 recommended above, with the same CPU, RAM, graphic card and storage.

What does this Acer Aspire E15 offers then?
1. A better display panel, equipped with an IPS panel, which offers better color reproduction, wider viewing angles and better contrast.
2. A longer battery capacity: Equipped with a 62.2Wh (Watt hours) battery instead of a 47.7 Wh battery, so roughly 30% more battery capacity.
3. Higher maximum RAM capacity: With two RAM slots, you can upgrade all the way to 32GB (2x16GB), unlike the A5, which is limited to 20GB (4GB soldered + 16GB in slot)

If this is important for you, then the Acer Aspire E15 is a better choice. Just the better display quality is worth it in my opinion, but if you only care about gaming performance and are on a tight budget, the Acer Aspire A15 is a great purchase too.

Pros:

  1. Lowest cost for a gaming laptop with a decent dedicated video card and a good display.
  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. One 8GB stick of DDR3L 1600MHz RAM.
  6. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB). 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 performance M.2 SATA III SSD storage
  9. Numpad
  10. Screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  11. Screen has a matte finish, doesn’t reflect light
  12. IPS display for a good color reproduction, great viewing angles and contrast
  13. HDMI Output
  14. LAN RJ-45 port
  15. Windows 10
  16. Decent keyboard for typing
  17. Decent speakers, especially for the price
  18. 720p HD webcam
  19. SD card reader
  20. 802.11ac WiFi with MU-MIMO support.
  21. Bluetooth 4.0
  22. Outstanding battery life for a gaming laptop: Up to 15 hours at minimal brightness, text editing. Expect 7-8 hours of web browsing with decent brightness.
  23. Total of 4 USB ports, including one USB 3.1 Type-C, one USB 3.0 Type A and two USB 2.0
  24. Backlit keyboard
  25. 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.
  26. Optical drive

Cons:

  1. Trackpad doesn’t have dedicated buttons.
  2. Trackpad isn’t the best
  3. 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.
  4. Storage is limited to 256GB.
  5. Build quality is average

Core i5 7300HQ + GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB

Acer Nitro 5 AN515-51-55WL

– Click here to see the price on Amazon

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

You also get a significantly more powerful CPU, the Intel Core i5-7300HQ. While it is only a “Core i5″ and an older design compared to the Core i7-8250U, they are both quad-core CPUs and the Core i5-7300HQ runs at a much higher base frequency, 2.5GHz, compared to 1.6GHz for the Core i7-8250U.

Sure, the difference in Turbo frequency (3.5GHz vs 3.4GHz) is small, but the Core i7-8250U cannot maintain high Turbo frequencies for prolonged amount of times, due to its lower TDP, while the Core i5-7300HQ, with its 45W TDP, can maintain high Turbo frequencies for a long time without any problem.

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
  2. Battery life is shorter

Core i5 8300H + GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB

MSI GV62 8RD-200

– Click here to see the price on Amazon

Compared to the model above, you get a newer and higher performance CPU, the Intel Core i5-8300H 2.3-4.0GHz Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading.

You also get significantly more storage capacity, with a 1TB hard drive. It’s also equipped with Intel Optane memory, which acts as storage cache, effectively storing the most frequently used data, to automatically increase system responsiveness.

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

At 4.8lbs, it’s fairly light for a 15.6″ gaming laptop too.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti with 4GB of VRAM
  2. Quite powerful Intel Core i5 8300H 8th gen Coffee Lake Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.3-4.0GHz CPU
  3. 16GB Intel Optane cache storage.
  4. 1TB hard drive for game storage
  5. 8GB of DDR4 RAM
  6. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB ( 2 x 16GB of DDR4 RAM )
  7. 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  8. Dedicated mouse buttons
  9. Backlit keyboard
  10. Decent keyboard layout, full size arrow keys
  11. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light.
  12. Screen equipped with an IPS panel: Good contrast, accurate color reproduction and great viewing angles.
  13. 4x USB ports, including one USB Type-C.
  14. 1 x HDMI and 1x Mini Displayport outputs.
  15. SD card reader.
  16. Bluetooth 5.0
  17. 720p HD webcam
  18. RJ45 Ethernet port
  19. 802.11ac WiFi
  20. Windows 10 home

Cons:

  1. No optical drive
  2. Battery life is short, expect 3-5 hours

For Creative Pros: Core i7-8750H 6 cores + 1050 Ti:

ASUS 15.6″ TUF Gaming FX504GE

– $949.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Compared to my recommendation above, you get an even more powerful CPU, which will improve gaming performance, as well as overall performance if you run heavy applications, such as photo, video or 3D editing. The Core i7-8750H is a six-core CPU, running at 2.2-4.1GHz, with Hyper-Threading support, so it can handle up to 12 threads at the same time.

With the combo of a 128GB PCIe NVMe high-performance SSD storage (for Windows and programs) and a 1TB hard drive (for games), you get the best of both worlds when it comes to storage technology: High performance and high capacity.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti with 4GB of VRAM
  2. Powerful Intel Core i7-8750H 8th gen Coffee Lake Six-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.2-4.1GHz CPU
  3. 128GB PCIe NVMe for fast boot, a responsive laptop and fast application launch
  4. 1TB hard drive gives you plenty of storage capacity for your games.
  5. 8GB of DDR4 2666MHz RAM
  6. RAM can be upgraded to 16GB (Add a second 8GB stick) or 32GB (2 x 16GB of DDR4 RAM )
  7. 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  8. IPS panel for better color reproduction, wide viewing angles and better contrast.
  9. Red Backlit Keyboard
  10. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light.
  11. 802.11ac WiFi 2×2 MU-MIMO
  12. Windows 10 home
  13. Nvidia Optimus technology allows you to switch between integrated graphics (maximum battery life) and dedicated graphics (maximum performance)
  14. Fairly lightweight for a gaming laptop: 4.7lbs
  15. Full size arrow keys

Cons:

  1. No optical drive
  2. No dedicated mouse buttons.

Upgrade your Laptop:

Upgrade your hard drive:

You can add or 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.

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.