10 Best Budget Gaming Laptops

Finding the best budget gaming laptop is a serious business. Some would go so far as to classify this as the most difficult task in computing hardware right now.

Why? Because you will have to make compromises, one way or another.

Nothing has a bigger impact on your gaming experience than your hardware. And nothing has more significant impact on the cost of your machine than dedicated gaming hardware. Mobile solutions like powerful CPUs and potent GPUs are still very expensive.

However, things are changing fast for those that link to the game on the go — this year in particular.

The arrival of some highly capable processors and graphics chips from Intel and NVIDIA means that playing the very latest PC games at decently high details is finally possible on budget notebooks. A few years back, this luxury would have cost you laptops north of $2,000.

Now, though, your hunt for the best budget gaming is much simplified. And thanks to the launch of several exciting options from big-name notebook makers, you can find some great models that are available at whatever price point you are aiming for.

Let’s see what we have on the table.

Top Tips for Buyers

  • Your gaming laptop needs a processor that is powerful enough to avoid bottlenecking the graphics card. Luckily, the HQ line of quad-core Intel Core series chips are here to save the day, which is what you will find on almost all of these machines.
  • If you cut corners on your graphics card, chances are that your laptop will only last you a year before it starts to struggle with the newest games. Get the best GPU you can afford, even if you have to save money before making the plunge.
  • Unless you want a machine for both work and play, battery life is not that much significant. Most gaming laptops are only able to power a demanding game on battery for an hour, if at all, at your desired performance levels.

Hardware

Say what you may, but we don’t consider any machine an actual gaming laptop, unless it comes with a dedicated GPU. Yes, Intel and AMD have stepped up their game in recent times on integrated graphics solutions, which remain excellent occasional gaming on older and casual titles.

You can even run some newer games on these processors if you dial back the details and resolutions.

To that extend, you may actually be able to get by with a cheaper regular laptop that relies on its CPU circuitry to push the pixels for the occasional game that you fire up. While AMD is still working on Ryzen powered chips for laptops, Intel has a good thing going with its HD Graphics line of graphics chips.

But these are not gaming laptops, not when you are serious about gaming.

Enter the Mobile GPUs

Enter the difference makers. These chips really are the difference between an ordinary laptop, and one that is meant to play games. Depending on the make and model, it will either house a Radeon chipset with the M designation, or far more likely, be powered by a GeForce silicon.

Although AMD was a contender in this space before 2017, NVIDIA has practically cornered this market right now and remains the king of the hill. Its reign goes unchallenged right now, and the situation is not looking to change until AMD brings some quality Ryzen branded solutions for mobile gaming.

But it’s not all that bad right now.

And that is because NVIDIA offers solutions at practically all price points and market segments. The company’s current generation of graphics chips, collectively known as the Pascal, or the GeForce GTX 1000 series, is the real deal.

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, GTX 1060, GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 GPUs are now available both on the desktop and mobile side and define high-end gaming. The latter three chips are the most powerful of the bunch and can power all virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift.

If you VR gaming then this is for you.

If you are looking for a future-proofed gaming solution that doesn’t involve parting with a bundle of cash and can play the latest and upcoming games comfortably, then you will have to opt for laptops that have any of the lower end GeForce GTX 1000 series chips inside.

The performance improvements these bring are hard to ignore, particularly against the older 900 series mobile GPUs. These are still available, with plenty of budget gaming laptops with the 960M and 970M available on the market right now at discounted rates.

But the GeForce GTX 1000 series is where it’s at if you’re looking at best on the budget.

The Perfect Combo

CPU and GPU are the two most important factors to consider here, followed by screen and keyboard. That’s because these are the parts that you will not be able to replace on your gaming notebook.

Tossing in an extra SSD or another RAM module takes but a few minutes, but both the processors are locked in.

Low Cost Gaming Laptops

This also means that you should go for as powerful a graphics chip as you can, if you plan on using your gaming laptop for a few years.

GPU makers have made immense strides these last two generations, but at the end of the day, you are still dealing with mobile graphics chip — un-upgradable ones, at that.

And finally, a word about battery life.

While several titles will run fine on battery, you will absolutely have to plug these laptops in while playing demanding games and open-world titles. That’s because most of these notebooks with settings built into the BIOS that cut performance to a slideshow when running these taxing titles.

The performance will suffer, sometimes to less than half, if your laptop is not getting the juice.

How much are we looking?

While the definition of a budget machine is subjective, considering all the action that happens in the high-end premium segment, we have settled on a price range between $800 to $1,200. This gets us a full spectrum of the budget buyers that are available on the market right now.

While a clean sub $1,000 price would have been nice to target, it’s always better to wait a while and save some extra money than wasting this much amount on a gaming laptop that will fall behind proceedings within a year or two.

Ultimately, there’s no such thing as a perfect budget gaming laptop.

At least, not yet.

We are getting there, and the next two or three years promise much for Full HD gaming on laptops, as the deluxe machines focus on 4K performance. But right now, manufacturers are forced to make at least one serious compromise to keep prices low — and occasionally more than one.

That said, there’s an exciting selection available this year, and here are our best picks.

Budget Gaming Laptops Comparison Chart

Laptop

Type

Price

Processor

Graphics

RAM

Storage

Screen Size Inches

Weight

Battery Life in Hours

Acer Aspire VX 15

$974

Core i7 7700HQ

GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

16GB

256GB SSD

15.6

5.5 lbs

4 hrs

Acer Nitro 5

$949

Core i5 7300HQ

GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

16GB

256GB SSD + 1TB HDD

15.6

5.1 lbs

3 hrs

Acer Predator Helios 300

$1049

Core i7 7500U

Intel HD 620

16GB

256GB SSD

15.6

5.9 lbs

2 hrs

Alienware 13 R3

$1165

Core i5 7300HQ

GeForce GTX 1050Ti

8GB

256GB SSD

13.3

5.8 lbs

2 hrs

ASUS VivoBook M580VD

$799

Core i5 7300HQ

GeForce GTX 1050

8GB

256GB SSD

15.6

5.1 lbs

3 hrs

Dell Inspiron 15 7000

$899

Core i7 7700HQ

GeForce GTX 1050

8GB

128GB SSD + 1TB HDD

15.6

5.6 lbs

4 hrs

HP Omen 15t

$1149

Core i7 7700HQ

GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

12GB

128GB SSD + 1TB HDD

15.6

4.8 lbs

4 hrs

Lenovo Legion Y520

$999

Core i5 7300HQ

GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

8GB

256GB SSD

15.6

5.3 lbs

3 hrs

MSI GL62M

$874

Core i5 7700HQ

GeForce GTX 1050

8GB

128GB SSD + 1TB HDD

15.6

5.2 lbs

4 hrs

MSI GP72X Leopard-667

$1149

Core i5 6300U

GeForce GTX 1050

16GB

128GB SSD + 1TB HDD

17.3

5.9 lbs

2 hrs

Battery Life

Continuous Web Surfing over WiFi, at 50% screen brightness with a song playing in the background

Dell Inspiron 15 7000

4:40

MSI GL62M

4:24

Acer Aspire VX 15

4:15

HP Omen 15t

4:09

Acer Nitro 5

3:56

Lenovo Legion Y520

3:25

ASUS VivoBook M580VD

3:16

Acer Predator Helios 300

2:42

MSI GP72X Leopard-667

2:36

Alienware 13 R3

2:19

Hours

LONGER BARS INDICATE BETTER PERFORMANCE

Windows Application Benchmarks

The overall score of a series of test including office tasks, image editing, and video conferencing.

Acer Aspire VX 15

85

Lenovo Legion Y520

81

Dell Inspiron 15 7000

72

MSI GL62M

68

HP Omen 15t

65

Acer Predator Helios 300

62

Alienware 13 R3

59

Acer Nitro 5

56

ASUS VivoBook M580VD

54

MSI GP72X Leopard-667

51

Score

LONGER BARS INDICATE BETTER PERFORMANCE

Gaming Performance

Average framerate while playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on High settings at 1080p.

Acer Predator Helios 300

64

Acer Aspire VX 15

44

Acer Nitro 5

42

HP Omen 15t

41

Lenovo Legion Y520

41

Alienware 13 R3

40

MSI GP72X Leopard-667

29

MSI GL62M

27

Dell Inspiron 15 7000

26

ASUS VivoBook M580VD

24

Frames

LONGER BARS INDICATE BETTER PERFORMANCE

Temperature

Surface temperature of the WASD keys using an IR Thermometer after playing 30 minutes of DOOM.

Lenovo Legion Y520

68*

Acer Predator Helios 300

72*

HP Omen 15t

76*

Dell Inspiron 15 7000

77*

ASUS VivoBook M580VD

80*

Acer Aspire VX 15

88*

MSI GL62M

94*

Alienware 13 R3

96*

Acer Nitro 5

98*

MSI GP72ZX Leopard-667

100*

* Celsius

SHORTER BARS INDICATE BETTER PERFORMANCE

You have seen the reports of our testing. Now we will elaborate the configurations and features of these budget gaming laptops in detail.

1. Acer Predator Helios 300

The Acer Predator Helios 300 at $1,049 is the absolute clear winner here. Why, you ask, with curious eyes? Because the value it offers is unmatched. This is the only budget gaming laptop that gets you the GeForce GTX 1060, all 6GB of it, for the ultimate, next level performance.

Best Budget Gaming Laptops

The Helios may not be filled to the brim with fancy features, but it packs in the right punches where they matter the most. This powerful graphics unit is flanked by a 7th generation Core i7 processor, and 16GB of RAM, while the 15.6-inch Full HD display and a 256GB SSD seal the deal. And what a deal this is!

This Acer handily beats all the other laptops in this list, and runs practically any game you throw at it at, including VR titles. Add to the mix its metal chassis, backlit keyboard, and custom-engineered cooling, and you get an experience unlike any other. At a downright unbelievable price. Get this!

Pros

Cons

  • Incredible price
  • GeForce GTX 1060
  • Top performance in almost all games
  • Stylish build, quality construction
  • Gorgeous IPS Screen with good viewing angle
  • VR ready
  • Single USB3 Port
  • Speakers just okay

2. Lenovo Legion Y520

January 2017 brought with its news that Lenovo was finally breaking into the gaming business. And the Chinese giant did not disappoint, unveiling several new creations at CES. The most alluring of which is the Legion lineup of gaming machinery, with the Legion Y520 being a noteworthy highlight.

Low Cost Gaming Laptops

Available for a shade under four figures, the configuration with the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card, and a powerful Core i5 or i7 HQ processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB solid-state drive is something that will last you a while, as long as you have undemanding gaming needs.

It’s about as inexpensive as it can get for a build like this, keeps relatively cool, offers a good screen, and a stylish red and black design. The only places where it falters a bit is the short battery life. And that it is a bit trickier to upgrade than the other laptops in this list. Otherwise, the Legion Y520 is legit.

Pros

Cons

  • Good Value
  • Stylish Design
  • Cool quiet and powerful
  • Lighter than most gaming laptops
  • Battery life could be better
  • Complicated upgrade process

3. MSI GL62M

Known for both its graphics cards and gaming machines, MSI has made a name for itself in the gaming community for delivering excellent creations across the board. The GL62M is no different, and is usually found top of the sales charts, due to its good value.

Low Cost Gaming Laptops

Our configuration costs $875, and came with a Core i7 processor, the GTX 1050, 8GB of RAM, and a combo of 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD. All housed in a thin and light body, with Steel Series red backlight, a keyboard with Edge Glow technology, and Nahimic audio enhancer for virtual 7.1 surround sound.

Speed and performance was impressive overall, more so considering its price. Expect to run many of the latest games at high settings, even some less demanding ones on ultra. The GL62M performs admirably, and looks good doing it. That it offers a range of exclusive features, is only icing on an excellent cake.

Pros

Cons

  • Superb Value
  • Excellent Keyboard
  • Stays cool, even during load
  • Crystal clear screen
  • Plenty of space
  • Thin and Fragile plastic
  • Serviceable Speakers
  • Touchpad takes some getting used to

4. Acer Nitro 5

Acer is a bit hit or miss when it comes to hardware, but boy, when they get it right, they get it right! The only named Nitro 5 is a beast of a gaming machine, cramming in a lot of hardware goodness at a sweet, sweet price of $949.

Best Budget Gaming Laptops

Just take note: a 7th generation Intel Core i5 chip, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, 16GB of memory, a combination of 256GB SSD and 1TB HDD, all housed in an unassuming red and black chassis, with a solid 15.6-inch Full HD display that rocks at 1920 x 1080 pixels.

Features like Acer real harmony and Dolby Audio Premium immerse you in the experience, while the backlit keyboard illuminates. If you can live without the hard drive, Acer also sells an SSD only mode of the Nitro 5 for $899, which makes it even more of excellent value.

Pros

Cons

  • Good Value
  • Fast snappy performance
  • Plenty of RAM
  • Good sound quality
  • Battery not the best
  • Fan is a little loud

5. Dell Inspiron 15 7567

With its 7th generation Intel Core i5 processor and the NVIDIA GTX 1050 graphics unit, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 delivers reliable frame rates across the board in the latest games. You will have to dial the settings down to medium in more demanding titles, though.

Best Budget Gaming Laptops

But everything runs, and multitasking is also no issue in this machine that delivers a lot of bang for your buck. We recommend spending $50 extra to get the variant with the IPS screen, over the default TN panel, which is the biggest letdown of the Inspiron 15 7000.

It keeps its cool when playing games, at the downside that its fans get almost distractingly loud. And then there’s the fact that there are no USB Type-C ports on this machine. But that is rounded up by an amazing battery life, and decent enough keyboard and trackpad. Overall, a solid bet.

Pros

Cons

  • Aggressive style and performance
  • Long battery life
  • Easy upgradability 
  • Effective cooling
  • No USB Type-C Port
  • Webcam a letdown
  • Shallow keyboard feel
  • Bulky

6. HP Omen 15t

HP has also recently upped its gaming game, with the Omen line. The Omen 15t gets you a 7th generation Core i7 chip, and pairs it with the GTX 1050 to deliver commendable productivity and gaming prowess on the cheap.

Best Budget Gaming Laptops

It also gets you sharp, vivid images from a 1920 x 1080 IPS display. But that’s no surprise, as good screen quality is something that HP is known for. The laptop itself is fairly portable — the lightest unit on our list by far.

Fans on the Omen 15t are active and kept the machine reasonably quiet during all our gaming tests, and never got loud enough to affect the gaming experience. The 1050 is limiting in performance when compared to the 1050 Ti, but it will still play nearly everything, more or less.

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent build quality
  • Great Screen
  • Stays cool
  • Fairly lightweight
  • Slightly expensive

7. ASUS VivoBook M580VD

If you don’t care about all that fancy glitz that most gamer laptops are designed with, and would rather have something that is stylish and looks good when you take it to office or school, then this ASUS VivoBook is where it’s at. Its clean aluminum build makes for quite a looker.

Best Budget Gaming Laptops

The included Core i7 processor is perfect for nearly any task you throw at it and runs browsers and creativity programs as well as the games. The GeForce GTX 1050 delivers the exact level of performance that you would expect from it, and the SSD keeps all operations fast and smooth.

Good things to report on the included trackpad, and keyboard, too, while the sound is not bad at all. The only thing that knocks off a star is the display. The TN panel takes a sheen out of the device, when an IPS one would have made it a contender. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find something better for $799.

Pros

Cons

  • Perfect for both work and play
  • Core i7 processor
  • Clean and sleek
  • Good Build
  • Runs cool and quiet
  • Subpar TN Panel
  • Okay battery life

8. Alienware 13 R3

The biggest advantage of the more affordable configuration of the Alienware 13 is that it still comes with the same stylish build and the trademark customizable lighting of its bigger, more expensive brothers. Expect the same gorgeous backlit keyboard too.

Best Budget Gaming Laptops

But this laptop is more than just a beautiful boy. It’s 7th generation Core i5 chip, and the powerful NVIDIA GeForce 1050 Ti graphics unit delivers good framerates on its 1920 x 1080 screen. The display is something that you will have to live with, but then again, it makes way for more portability

An 8GB RAM may seem like a compromise for some, but what you are paying for is the Alienware brand. This budget Alienware 13 may not be best at anything when it comes to performance and specifications, but it oozes style and portability at a neat enough price.

Pros

Cons

  • Stylish brand 
  • Polished build
  • Top quality screen
  • Small footprint
  • Less powerful hardware at more price
  • Very heavy for its size

9. MSI GP72X Leopard-667

For those who are okay with the notion of winning some and losing some, then this MSI Leopard merits a look. It gives you a very capable processor that powers its 17.3-inch screen with a 120Hz panel. But it also takes away some of the fun by packing in the GTX 1050, instead of a more powerful GPU.

Low Cost Gaming Laptops

Yes, you guessed it right, this is a machine that is better suited for eSports players, those who are into those fast-paced competitive titles. All of which run mighty fine on the GP72X, and look good while doing so. It is also an excellent machine for doing creative work like video and image editing.

Ultimately, this is a tool that offers surprisingly good power at its price. And ticks many of the right boxes along the way, with its capacious SSD, backlight keyboard, solid speakers, and plenty of memory. This makes it an ideal laptop for a particular subset of users: those who like to work as hard as they play.

Pros

Cons

  • Reasonably priced
  • Large screen
  • Excellent panel
  • Equally adept at work and play
  • A more powerful GPU would have been better
  • Short Battery life

10. Acer Aspire VX 15

While ASUS seems to have staked a claim in the mid to high-end segments, Acer is pulling off wonders at the budget side of things. This member of the Aspire family, the VX 15 gets you the power of a 7th generation Intel Core i7 and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti for a shade under four figures.

Low Cost Gaming Laptops

Throw in 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, and you are cooking with gas! The overall fit and finish of this laptop are exceptionally futuristic, and this is visible in the hard edge design and the stylish color scheme of the chassis. The company has nailed the specifications, price, and style.

That’s not to say that the Acer Aspire VX 15 is without its issues, though. The trackpad is nowhere near the caliber a machine like this deserves, and you will need to use an external mouse to game. The built-in mic is also a bit of a disappointment. But on the whole, the good far outweighs the bad here.

Pros

Cons

  • Fantastic value
  • Gorgeous, vibrant screen
  • Capacious RAM and storage
  • Silent keyboard
  • Build feels a little cheap
  • Click heavy touchpad

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