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 May 15th 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. $730
  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 under $500

Acer Aspire E5-575G-55KK

$499.99 at Newegg

Equipped with a Nvidia Geforce 940MX (2GB GDDR5) dedicated GPU and a fairly good newest generation Intel Core i5-7200U 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 7200U 7th gen Kaby Lake Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.5-3.1GHz CPU
  4. Fairly light and portable for a 15.6″ gaming laptop: 15.02″ x 10.20″ x 0.94-1.19″ and 4.92lbs.
  5. Single stick of 8GB of DDR4 RAM. Easy to upgrade to 16GB (2x8GB) by adding a 8GB RAM stick.
  6. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB DDR4). 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 capacity 1TB hard drive
  9. Available M.2 SATA III slot to add a SSD, so you can have a SSD and an hard drive.
  10. Numpad
  11. Screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  12. Screen has a matte finish, doesn’t reflect light
  13. HDMI and VGA Outputs
  14. Windows 10
  15. Decent keyboard for typing
  16. Decent speakers, especially for the price
  17. This is my opinion: It looks good, unlike some gaming laptops that are a bit too flashy.
  18. 720p HD webcam
  19. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  20. SD card reader
  21. 802.11ac WiFi with MU-MIMO support.
  22. Bluetooth 4.1
  23. 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.
  24. 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

Acer Aspire E5-575G-562T

– $594.99 at Newegg

What you get with this laptop is greatly improved boot speed, better overall responsiveness, faster programs and game launch, all thanks to the 128GB SSD. You also get a 1TB hard drive to store all your games.

You also get a backlit keyboard and an outstanding up to 12 hours battery life. Mind you, that’s 12 hours of text editing/light web browsing. Battery life during gaming is obviously lower, but should still be better than the average 1-2 hrs you usually get when gaming on a gaming laptop.

You get the same CPU (Intel Core i5-7200U) and RAM (8GB) as my recommendation above.

You get a good step up in terms of gaming performance, with the Nvidia GeForce 950M 2GB GDDR5 graphic card. With this, pretty much all games should be playable at a 1366 x 768 resolution with high or even maxed out details.

Gaming at 1920 x 1080 is possible with older and/or less demanding video games, or with low/medium visual settings when running newer games.

Pros:

  1. Nvidia Geforce 950M dedicated video card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory.
  2. Intel Core i5 7200U 7th gen Skylake Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.5-3.1GHz CPU
  3. 8GB of RAM.
  4. RAM can be upgraded to 16GB (2x8GB DDR4). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article.
  5. RAM and 2.5″ drive bay can be easily accessed via the bottom panel that can be removed and is only held by three screws.
  6. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  7. 128GB SSD speeds up boot times, games launch faster and makes the system much more responsive.
  8. 1TB hard drive so you get plenty of storage for games
  9. SSD is M.2 type, so you have a 2.5″ expansion bay in the bottom panel that’s available to add an extra 2.5″ storage drive.
  10. Numpad
  11. Backlit keyboard
  12. HD webcam
  13. 802.11ac WiFi with MU-MIMO support.
  14. Bluetooth 4.12
  15. LAN RJ-45 port.
  16. SD card reader.
  17. HDMI and VGA Outputs
  18. Windows 10
  19. Amazing battery life for a gaming laptop: Up to 12 hours battery life. Realistically, expect around 3.5-4 hours of gaming.
  20. 4 USB ports: 1x USB 3.1 (Type-C) 2x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 2.0

Cons:

  1. Keyboard layout could be better. The up and down arrows are half size. The power button at the top right of the keyboard could be an annoyance for some.
  2. Build quality is average
  3. No optical drive
  4. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.

Best Gaming Laptop for $700

ASUS FX550IU-WSFX

– $729.00 Newegg

This model is a nice step up from my previous recommendation as you get a better graphic card: the AMD Radeon RX 460 with 4GB of VRAM.

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.

As far as storage goes, you get a 128GB SSD for an improved responsiveness and fast booting speed. On top of that, you get a 1TB hard drive so you get enough storage space for all your games.

 

Pros:

  1. Equipped with the AMD Radeon Rx460 with 4GB of VRAM
  2. Decently powerful AMD FX-9830p 3.0-3.7GHz Quad-core Processor.
  3. 128GB SSD which improves the laptops responsiveness and booting speed.
  4. 1TB hard drive.
  5. 8GB of DDR4 RAM
  6. 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  7. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light.
  8. Optical Drive
  9. 2x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 2.0 ports
  10. 1 x HDMI and 1 x VGA outputs
  11. SD card reader.
  12. Bluetooth 4.0
  13. RJ45 Ethernet port
  14. 802.11ac WiFi
  15. Windows 10 home
  16. Good weight for a 15.6″ laptop : 5.40lbs.
  17. ASUS 1 year accidental damage protection.

Cons:

  1. Screen equipped with a low-quality TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.
  2. Keyboard layout could be better, the arrow keys overlap with the numpad, which can be bothersome.
  3. Hard drive is a 5400RPM model, which aren’t the fastest hard drives.

Best Gaming Laptop for $800

Prostar Clevo N855HJ

– Click here to see the price on Amazon 

The Prostar Clevo N855HJ is the budget gaming laptop to beat, moving the performance bar even higher when it comes to what you can get in a budget gaming laptop!

You get a powerful latest generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ Quad-core CPU, a great and newest generation Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 2GB GDDR5 dedicated video card, 8GB of RAM and a large 1TB hard drive for storage.

Most video games should be playable at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with medium, high or maximum details.

Note that while we recommend the base model to keep the cost low, there are options on the laptop’s page to choose a model with more RAM, or a SSD or both.

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. 8GB of DDR4 2400MHz RAM
  4. High capacity 1TB hard drive.
  5. M.2 slot support both the lower cost M.2 SATA III SSDs and the higher performance, but more expensive PCIe M.2 SSDs
  6. Hard drive is a 7200rpm model, so it’s not as slow as 5400rpm hard drives.
  7. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB DDR4). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article.
  8. 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 2.0 ports
  9. Keyboard is backlit.
  10. Numpad
  11. Dedicated left and right click buttons on the trackpad.
  12. Ethernet RJ45 port.
  13. 1x HDMI and 2x Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs allowing you to have up to 3 external monitors!
  14. 6-in-1 card reader (MMC/RSMMC/SD/Mini-SD/SDHC/SDXC)
  15. Windows 10
  16. 1080p 2MP Full HD webcam
  17. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  18. Display is matte: doesn’t reflect light
  19. 802.11ac WiFi
  20. Bluetooth 4.0
  21. Fairly thin for a gaming laptop, at 25mm, less than 1″.
  22. Programmable keyboard macros
  23. 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.

Worldwide Alternative

ASUS FX53VD-ES74: – $899.99 at B&H (Worldwide shipping)

If you live outside the U.S and you are looking for a model that offers a slightly better performance, the ASUS FX53VD-ES74 is the way to go.

You get the same powerful  Intel i7-7700HQ CPU with 8GB of RAM.

The graphic card is a small step up from the main recommendation as you get the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 with 4GB of VRAM instead of 2GB. This will allow you to increase details and run higher resolution texture packs.

As for storage, this laptop has a 128GB M.2 SSD for a better responsiveness and booting speed, combined with a 1TB hard drive so you get a good amount of storage for all your games.

Note that before, I used to recommend the MSI GL62M from B&H, which is roughly $50 less, but seeing as it had a less powerful CPU, the Intel i5-7300HQ, no SSD and the Nvidia GeForce 1050 with 2GB of VRAM, it makes more sense to get the ASUS FX53VD-ES74 for $50 more and get a much better experience. At that price, compared to what the ASUS FX53VD-ES74 offers, it just isn’t worth being on the list anymore and I would definitely recommend spending the extra 50$ instead.

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.