Budget Gaming Laptops: What To Look For Part By Part
Our first bit of advice? If gaming’s your primary focus and your budget really does dead-stop at $1,000, get the best GPU you can for the money, and let everything else follow from there. That may be at the expense of another spec or twoâa little less storage, say, or a Core i5 processor instead of a Core i7.
That said, notebooks aren’t upgradable, apart from their primary system memory and in some cases, the storage. You’re going to be stuck with the screen, the graphics chip, and the processor you buy now, so evaluate these parts wisely. If you can stretch your budget a bit to get the next-tier-higher component, it can pay dividends in terms of usable life.
Budget Pick: Acer Nitro 5
|Tested battery life:||6 hours|
If you want the cheapest possible laptop that will play games decently, get the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-44-R99Q or AN515-55-53AG. At this price, no laptop will play the latest games as well as our top picks. But the Nitro 5 is powerful enough for older games or less-demanding modern ones. The cooling system remains effective without running the fans full tilt. The laptop has a responsive keyboard and trackpad, too, and its easy to upgrade. But compared with our top pick, the Nitro 5 has more downsides: a dimmer screen with a 60 Hz refresh rate, less storage for games, no support for VR, and too much bloatware.
We tested the AN515-44-R99Q model with a six-core AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor, but we also recommend the AN515-55-53AG model with a four-core Intel Core i5-10300H processor if the AMD variant is sold out or if the Intel model is cheaper. We didnt see any differences in gaming performance between those two processors on the other laptops we tested this year. Both models usually cost $700 or less, while most other laptops with similar specs cost at least $800.
Like many of the cheap gaming laptops we tested in 2020, the Nitro 5 has a vent positioned toward the back of the laptops right side. This vent directed some warm air onto my mousing handbut since the laptop runs so cool, I didnt notice any discomfort during gaming sessions.
Who Are The Best Gaming Laptop Manufacturers
In the gaming laptop field there are, as you might expect, a lot of makers. Some of these have been producing laptops for gaming for decades, and have serious pedigree, while others are newer to the game and are producing exciting and innovative new models.
Here at T3 we rate and review the finest offerings from these makers and, as such, have created our own list of what we consider the best gaming laptop makers in the world. We think it is pretty much impossible to objectively rank these makers, as each keeps outdoing the other with new systems, but we think if you buy a system from one of these firms then chances are you’re going to be very, very happy.
Alienware Dell’s elite gaming-focussed arm has been turning out luxe, drool-tastic gaming laptops for 25 years now . As you would expect from that legacy, that means that basically every system it makes is top-tier. There’s a great attention to detail on each system’s build quality, and thanks to its backing from Dell, each is often very customisable, too.
Razer Razer’s systems don’t come cheap, at all, and they aren’t very configurable either, but they are truly elite-tier in terms of fit, finish and style. If your pockets are deep enough you can get a system with loads of gaming power, too, and thanks to Razer’s professional aesthetic, these systems can also be used in an office setting. Many models are also light and very portable.
There’s much to consider when testing out a new gaming laptop.
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Lenovo Ideapad Gaming 3i Design
The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3is Onyx Black chassis is unassuming. I wouldnt have guessed it was a gaming laptop at first glance due to the lack of any symbols or icons apart from a simple Lenovo logo in the top left corner. Whats unique about the design is that instead of featuring a simple square shape, the corners curve slightly inwards, and the lid ever so gently curves downward, like the hood of a car.
Unfortunately, the interior isnt as discreet due to the light blue keyboard font mixed with the light blue backlighting. The power button is centered just above the keyboard, and theres a blue IdeaPad Gaming logo on the hinge. While the bottom and top bezel are a little thicker than Id like, the side bezels are pleasantly narrow. Surprisingly, the webcam is not only above the screen, it also features a privacy shutter.
At 4.8 pounds and 14.13 x 9.83 x 0.98 inches, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i is relatively slim for a 15-inch laptop. The HP Gaming Pavilion 15-dk0046nr , Acer Nitro 5 and Dell G5 15 SE are all heavier than the IdeaPad.
Best Cheap Thin Gaming Laptop
Display: 15.6 FHD WVA 60Hz CPU: Intel Core i5-10300H GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti RAM: 16GB DDR4 Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD Weight: 5.18 pounds Size: 14.4″ x 10″ x 0.85″
Dell has been building up a strong fleeting of affordable gaming laptops and it’s latest G3 15 Gaming laptop is one of the best it has ever made. It’s thinner and lighter than ever at just 0.85-inches thick and 5.18 pounds. At the same time, this 15-inch gaming laptop comes packing the latest components with the combination of an i5-10300H and a GTX 1660 Ti. The included 512GB SSD is a solid starting point, and it should have you covered for a small selection of major games.
The Dell G3 15 should also be of interest to those looking for a sleeper gaming laptop. Nothing about this machine screams the fact that you’re living the gamer life. If anything this machine’s sleek blue lines make it look more like a budget school laptop, which can be a good thing if you plan to take it out every day.
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How To Choose A Cheap Gaming Laptop
The two main considerations when choosing a good cheap gaming laptop are naturally going to be what youre willing to spend and which graphics card you want , and these two are closely linked as your budget is going to determine what graphical performance tier you can afford. However, dont overlook some of the smaller things that you might personally want in a gaming laptop convenience features such as programmable button macros, customizable RGB keyboard backlighting, and so on so that you dont jump on that great deal only to end up with something that doesnt actually meet your needs. For more detailed hardware analysis, read on.
Are Budget Laptops Any Good
Absolutely! Depending on what you need your laptop to do, budget options can be just as good as their high-end counterparts. If you only need a laptop for watching Netflix and answering emails, a budget Chromebook can save you hundreds of dollars and perform no worse than something that costs $2,000 or more.
That said, you do need to be careful about which system you pick. Budget laptops tend to make some sacrifices where the expensive options dont, so be sure to make sure that the system youre interested in can do what you need it to before buying.
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Recommended High Settings Requirements
The gaming laptops that are able to support the graphics complex games are a little expensive and I would recommend checking our best gaming laptops 2022 compiled list to find your high-end flagship that supports the high-end games. Luckily, all the gaming laptops that are mentioned on the list come with lightning fast hardware components that crush all games like a boss.
Realme Book Core I3 11th Gen
- Core i3 11th Gen Intel Integrated Iris Xe
- 8 GB/256 GB SSD/Windows 10 Home
- 14 inch, Real Gray, 1.38 kg, With MS Office
- 14 inch 2K QHD, IPS LCD Display
- Finger Print Sensor for Faster System Access
- The Windows 11 Upgrade rollout plan is scheduled to begin in late 2021 and will continue into 2022. The specific timing will vary as per the device.
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Th Acer Nitro 5 An515
The second Nitro 5 on our list features an Intel Core i5-10300H instead of AMDs Ryzen 7, as well as a RTX 3060 GPU with 95 W TGP, a 15-inch display, and 16 GB of RAM.
Despite a previous generation GPU gaming performance and, more importantly its price, are good.
The RTX 3060 SKU is currently unavailable in North America. The RTX 3050 model sells on with prices starting at around $850.
Where To Get The Best Cheap Gaming Laptops In The Uk
It is definitely possible to game on a budget, and these magnificent laptops will certainly help you get there. Thankfully the vast majority of laptops on this list are also available to purchase in the UK, with just the one exception. Otherwise, take your pick, as there are plenty of great options to choose from. Don’t see the laptops below? Click here.
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Limitations You Can Live With
Naturally, a budget laptop is one thats more affordable than cutting-edge machines, and in the majority of cases, a lower price means less-powerful internal hardware. Thats not a bad thing. For example, if you spend most of your computer time browsing the web or watching movies, chances are you dont need the latest-generation processor or an ultra-powerful video card. You can save a lot of money by finding a budget laptop that makes reasonable compromises.
As youre shopping for budget laptops, consider the most common hardware compromises youll encounter.
- Video hardware: Most budget laptops either use underpowered graphics processing units , or they power their video by sharing resources with the main processor . In these cases, video on the laptop will be adequate, but thats about it. Watching Netflix will be fine, but your laptop will struggle with more intense video tasks such as playing video games and editing videos.
“If youre thinking about buying a budget laptop with an 11-inch screen, make sure the diminutive size isnt too small for your hands. Some users complain that there isnt enough room to comfortably type on the corresponding keyboard. “
Best Win 10 Ultracompact Around $200
- SD card slot for storage expansion
- Only 32GB of internal storage inhibits app installs
- 1,366-by-768-pixel screen makes text fuzzy
- Poor camera quality
Gone are the days when a decent laptop would cost you north of $1,000. It’s now possible to pick up a full-size or ultraportable Windows 10 notebook with a processor powerful enough for use at home, school, or work, for between $300 and $500. It’s also possible to find full-featured Chromebooks and hybrid systems that give you both laptop and tablet functionality in one device for less than that.
You should be prepared to compromise in one aspect or other, however. While it’s certainly possible to find a powerful laptop with a 15-inch screen, you might have to make do with a flimsy keyboard and touchpad. Likewise, you could buy an impeccably made ultraportable that uses a modest CPU and a small storage drive to achieve its low price. Understanding those trade-offs, and matching up a budget laptop’s strengths and weaknesses with what you will do with it, is the key to making a happy purchase. Here’s help.
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Why You Should Trust Us
Ive spent thousands of hours gaming on laptops since high school, and Ive personally tested and reviewed hundreds of laptops, including most budget and high-end gaming models released in the past six years. Ive also written or edited most of Wirecutters gaming guides, including our reviews of laptops, keyboards, mice, controllers, and headsets.
Realistic Expectations Of Gaming Performance
The unfortunate reality is that when you reach budgets of $500 for a gaming laptop, you are unlikely to get good FPS performance on even moderately demanding games. Most gaming laptops under $500 will come with integrated graphics instead of a separate, dedicated GPU, so you cant expect the same level of performance.
Older games may run on decent Frames Per Second on medium-high settings, but for anything new, unless it has low requirements , you will generally need to fork out more money. Our best gaming laptops for under $1,000 guide may be your best port of call. Alternatively, if mobility isnt that big a priority for you, wed suggest looking at desktop machines such as our $700 self-build gaming PC, or pre-build gaming PC for under $800. Ultimately you will nearly always get at least 50% more performance out of a desktop machine for the same price as you would from a laptop, as the power and cooling restrictions of the laptop chassis limit performance substantially.
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Lenovo Ideapad Gaming 3i Webcam
The 720p shooter in the IdeaPad Gaming 3i took images that look like they came from a flip phone.
The test shots were pixely and blotchy to the point where all of the detail in my hair was a blur. It translated the blue tape on the wall behind me into pure black. To top it off, the poor contrast nearly blew out most of the window, save for a few patches of outside greenery. If you plan on streaming, take a look at our best webcams page.
How We Test Gaming Laptops
When we bring a laptop into our laboratory, our goal is to see how it would work if you brought it into your home or office. While we use a number of industry standard benchmarks such as Geekbench and 3DMark, we focus heavily on real-world tests that we have developed in-house. But in the case of gaming laptops, we also make sure to run a number of synthetic gaming benchmarks, using our chosen titles integrated tests. We also game for several hours to established real-world results.
To test endurance, the Laptop Mag Battery test surfs the web at 150 nits of brightness until the system runs out of juice. To judge pure processing power, we use a giant spreadsheet macro that matches 65,000 names with their addresses, a video transcoder that converts a 4K video to 1080p and the Geekbench 4 synthetic test. We measure graphics prowess with both 3DMark Ice Storm / Fire Strike and a series of actual game titles.
We use a colorimeter to measure screen brightness and color gamut while other instruments help us determine a laptop’s key travel and ambient heat. See this page on How We Test Laptops for more details on our benchmarking procedures.
A Cheap Laptop With Standout Build
The Yoga C740 is as straightforward as a laptop can get. It has a sturdy aluminum build and perfectly fine 10th Gen Intel processors. We were pleasantly surprised by the devices audio the upward-firing speakers on the sides of the keyboard deliver a nice surround-sound experience. The keyboard and touchpad are both quite comfortable to use. Theres not much to complain about and not much to enthusiastically praise if youre looking for a sub-$800 Windows laptop with a well-made aluminum chassis and a sturdy frame, youre looking for the Yoga.
The C740 is a year old now, but that means you can get it at very affordable prices. Were looking forward to reviewing its successor, the Yoga 7i, shortly in the future.
The Best Cheap Tablets And Hybrids: 2
Tablets rose in popularity throughout the 2010s, and though we have plenty of reviews of thoseâtake a look at our overall roundup of the best tablets, as well as our favorites running the Windows 10 and Android operating systemsâthey are sufficiently different from traditional clamshell-style laptops that they don’t always make good substitutes. Some come with detachable keyboards, but most of these are far less comfortable for typing on your lap than a conventional laptop.
Convertible 2-in-1s, however, do make a good substitute for traditional clamshells. These machines let you flip between a laptop and a tablet, by folding the keyboard out of the way. You should consider one of these convertible systems if you primarily want the typing capability of a laptop, but occasionally would appreciate the lie-back, passive-consumption convenience of a tablet.
See our guide to the best 2-in-1 convertible and hybrid laptops for more information about this popular segment of the market. In part because of their added complexity compared with traditional clamshell designs, you won’t find quite as many affordable ones, but there are a few Windows 10 and Chrome OS-based models that cost $500 or below. They come in both permanently attached designs, and in detachable-keyboard designs.
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Best Cheap Gaming Laptop Deals For September 2021
It wasnt too long ago that gaming laptops were widely considered a questionable value at best, but those days are well behind us in 2021. PC hardware has advanced to the point where the best gaming laptops can now compete with custom-built gaming desktops thanks to AMD Radeon and Nvidia GeForce mobile GPUs that capable of running the latest AAA titles with ease. Todays gaming laptop displays even feature modern enhancements like vertical sync technologies and high refresh rates for smoother play. You dont have to spend a fortune to get a good one, either, and our weekly roundup of the best gaming laptop deals is your chance to score a beefy portable battle station and save some serious cash.