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 June 5th 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 for:

  1. Less than $950
  2. Less than $1200

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 $950

About the Prostar Clevo N850HK1

Capable of handling most games at 1080p (1920 x 1080 / Full HD)

With this gaming laptop, you can play most games at 1080p, although you may have to cut down visual quality to get good enough frame rates, depending on how demanding the game is. I’d recommend scrolling down to a model with a Geforce GTX 1060 if you want to game at 1920 x 1080 with maximum visual settings and high frame rates.

Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti + Intel Core i7-7700HQ:
Equipped with a Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti, (4GB VRAM GDDR5) dedicated graphics card and a powerful latest generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, the Prostar Clevo N850HK1 offers unheard of gaming performance at this price point.

The newer 10xx generation of Nvidia graphic cards, for notebooks, offer significantly better graphic performance than the previous 9xx series, allowing you to run games with higher levels of visual quality, higher framerates and higher FPS rate, thanks to the new Nvidia Pascal architecture featured in the Geforce 10xx series.

To give you an idea, the Geforce GTX 1050 Ti is comparable to the old Geforce 970M!

The new 10xx series graphic cards are much closer to their desktop counterparts in terms of performance as opposed to the previous series which had to be significantly cut down in performance to be integrated into gaming laptops.

Available in multiple configurations:

What I love about this laptop is that you can buy it in multiple configurations, allowing you to choose the configuration that you prefer!

1. 15.6″ or 17.3″ screen
You can get either the more portable model with a 15.6″ screen or the model with a larger 17.3″ screen if you prefer larger screens and don’t mind the additional weight.

2. 8GB (1x8GB) or 16GB (2x8GB) of RAM
8GB is still good enough for gaming. You can easily add another 8GB stick of DDR4 2400MHz SODIMM RAM if you want to upgrade in the future.

16GB (2x8GB) means that you get dual-channel memory, for twice the memory bandwidth. Gaming performance will get a slight boost (~5%) but applications that benefit from more memory bandwidth (think workstation type applications, rendering, 3D, video/photo editing, etc.) will get a significant boost in performance.

16GB will also ensure that you have enough memory to run multiple applications without running out of memory. If 16GB isn’t enough for your needs, you can upgrade to 32GB (2x16GB).

3- Storage
The laptop is equipped with both a M.2 slot (for SATA III or PCIe M.2 SSDs) and a 2.5″ drive bay (for 2.5″ hard drives or a SATA III 2.5″ SSD).

All configurations are available with a 1TB 5400 RPM hard drive and a choice of a 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD. You can also choice a configuration that only has the hard drive.

Pick what you prefer and keep in mind that you can add a M.2 SSD if you pick a model that only has an hard drive.

Get the 15.6″ Prostar Clevo N850HK1

8GB RAM, 128GB SSD +  1TB HDD : – Click here to see the price on Amazon
16GB RAM, 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD : Amazon or Newegg ($1149.00)
16GB RAM, 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD from Amazon or Newegg ($1249.00)

Get the 17.3″ Prostar Clevo N870HK1

8GB RAM, 1TB HDD from Amazon or Newegg ($999.00)
8GB RAM, 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD from 
Amazon or Newegg ($1149.00)
16GB RAM, 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD from Amazon or Newegg ($1299.00)

Pros:

  1. Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti dedicated video card with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.
  2. Highly powerful Intel Core i7-7700HQ 7th gen Kaby Lake Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.8-3.8GHz CPU
  3. Depending on your configuration you get either 1x 8GB or 16GB (2 x 8GB) of DDR4 2400MHz RAM.
  4. 1 TB high capacity hard drive.
  5. Available configurations with a 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD which greatly improves the laptops responsiveness and booting speed.
  6. M.2 slot support both the lower cost M.2 SATA III SSDs and the higher performance, but more expensive PCIe M.2 SSDs
  7. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light.
  8. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB DDR4 2400MHz). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article.
  9. 1x USB 3.0 Type-C, 2x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 2.0 ports
  10. RGB backlit keyboard
  11. Numpad
  12. Dedicated left and right click buttons on the trackpad.
  13. Ethernet RJ45 port.
  14. Fingerprint scanner for extra security
  15. SD card reader
  16. 1x HDMI and 2x Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs.
  17. Windows 10
  18. 1080p 2MP Full HD webcam
  19. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  20. IPS display panel which means you get a more accurate color reproduction, better contrast and large viewing angles
  21. 802.11ac WiFi by Intel: highly reliable
  22. Bluetooth 4.2

Cons:

  1. No optical drive
  2. Hard drive is a 5400RPM hard drive : slower than 7200RPM drives and SSDs
  3. Keyboard layout could be better. For example, the arrow keys overlap with the numpad which can be bothersome.

Worldwide Alternative

Lenovo Legion Y520

– $999.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the Lenovo Legion Y520

This model is amazing if you are looking for an alternative that offers the same gaming performance as my recommendation above, but that also ships worldwide.

It has the same Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphic card with 4GB of VRAM combined with a powerful Intel i7-7700HQ CPU and 8GB of RAM so you get a great gaming performance while also being able to handle multiple demanding tasks at once.

You also get a 128GB SSD for an improved responsiveness and booting speed.

128GB SSD isn’t much in terms of storage, which is why this laptop also comes with a 1TB hard drive so you can store all your games.

Note that the hard drive is a 5400RPM drive which means it doesn’t offer the best reading and writing speed compared to  7200RPM hard drives and SSDs. However this doesn’t affect the laptops responsiveness at all. Although some heavier games might be a bit slower to load than on other types of drives.

Best Gaming Laptop for $1200

About the Prostar Clevo N850HP6

Perfect for handling games at 1080p  (1920 x 1080 / Full HD)

With this gaming laptop, you can play most games, old and new, at 1080p at a or close to maximum visual settings.

You get a powerful Intel i7-7700HQ Quad-Core CPU and 16GB of RAM, this laptop can handle any demanding tasks you throw at it.

If you are looking for an equal gaming performance at a 2560 x 1440 (1440p) resolution, I’d recommend going for a model with a more powerful graphic card instead. If you are indeed looking for a more powerful model, check out The Best High-end gaming laptops.

Available in multiple configurations:

What I love about this laptop is that you can buy it in multiple configurations, allowing you to choose the configuration that you prefer!

The laptop is equipped with both a M.2 slot (for SATA III or PCIe M.2 SSDs) and a 2.5″ drive bay (for 2.5″ hard drives or a SATA III 2.5″ SSD).

All configurations are available with a choice of SSD : 120GB or 500GB. Some configurations have a 1TB Hard drive and others do not.

I do not recommend the model with only a 250GB SSD and no hard drive, unless you plan on adding a second drive: 250GB just isn’t enough space for Windows, programs and your games.

Pick what you prefer and keep in mind that you can add a hard drive if you get a configuration that only has an SSD and that you need extra storage for your games.

Get the Prostar Clevo N850HP6

16GB RAM, 120GB SSD +  1TB HDD from Amazon
16GB RAM, 500GB SSD from Newegg ($1299.00)
16GB RAM, 500GB SSD + 1TB HDD from Amazon or Newegg ($1399.00)

Pros:

  1. Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060 dedicated video card with 6GB of GDDR5 memory.
  2. Highly powerful Intel Core i7-7700HQ 7th gen Kaby Lake Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.8-3.8GHz CPU
  3. 16GB of DDR4 2400MHz RAM.
  4. 1 TB high capacity hard drive.
  5. Available configurations with a 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD which greatly improves the laptops responsiveness and booting speed.
  6. M.2 slot support both the lower cost M.2 SATA III SSDs and the higher performance, but more expensive PCIe M.2 SSDs
  7. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect sunlight.
  8. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB (2x16GB DDR4 2400MHz). See our recommended RAM upgrades toward the end of the article.
  9. 1x USB 3.0 Type-C, 2x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 2.0 ports
  10. RGB backlit keyboard
  11. Numpad
  12. Dedicated left and right click buttons on the trackpad.
  13. Ethernet RJ45 port.
  14. Fingerprint scanner for extra security
  15. SD card reader
  16. 1x HDMI and 2x Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs.
  17. Windows 10
  18. 1080p 2MP Full HD webcam
  19. 1920 x 1080 1080p Full HD display
  20. IPS display panel which means you get a more accurate color reproduction, better contrast and large viewing angles
  21. 802.11ac WiFi by Intel: highly reliable
  22. Bluetooth 4.2

Cons:

  1. No optical drive
  2. Hard drive is a 5400RPM hard drive: slower than 7200RPM drives and SSDs
  3. Keyboard layout could be better. For example, the arrow keys overlap with the numpad which can be bothersome.

Worldwide Alternative

Lenovo Legion Y720

– $1299.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the Lenovo Legion Y520

This model is a great choice if you are looking for an alternative that offers the same gaming performance as my recommendation above, but that also ships worldwide.

You get the same powerful Nvidia GTX 1060 graphic card with 6GB of VRAM, which means your gaming performance is just the same as my main recommendation.

You also get the powerful Intel i7-7700HQ CPU and a good 16GB of RAM, which is more than enough for gaming. This laptop can easily handle multiple demanding tasks at once.

You also get a 128GB PCIe SSD for an improved responsiveness and booting speed. PCIe SSDs are some  of the fastest drives on the market as of now.

128GB isn’t much in terms of storage, which is why this laptop also comes with a 1TB hard drive so you can store all your games.

Note that the hard drive is a 5400RPM drive which means it doesn’t offer the best reading and writing speed compared to  7200RPM hard drives and SSDs. However this doesn’t affect the laptops responsiveness at all. Although some heavier games might be a bit slower to load than on other types of drives.

Upgrade your Laptop:

Upgrade your RAM:

RAM can easily be upgraded on most gaming laptops. 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 DDR4. Double-check the frequency (in MHz) of the RAM in your laptop and pick the same frequency for the RAM sticks that you’ll buy.

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, so double-check that before buying a hard drive.

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 $99.95 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 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.