You’re looking for a new gaming laptop, but your wallet isn’t keen on spending big bucks. Problem is, the best budget gaming laptop is hard to find given the plethora of overwhelming options flooding the internet. To ease your wallet’s frustration, we weeded through the confusion to list the best solution that should fit your needs… at least for now, anyway.
Lucky for you, Nvidia is gearing up to launch its RTX 20 Series discrete graphics chips for laptops in the near future. That means the laptops on this list should see another price hack before those GPUs appear in new laptops. You’re already starting to see some eighth-generation CPUs creep into gaming laptops under $1,000, thus availability should get better in the near future as well.
So what’s the best budget gaming laptop? We couldn’t decide on simply one, so we have five that won’t require selling organs on the black market. Comb through the descriptions and check out their specifications to see what model best fits for your on-the-go-gaming needs. We also provide advice on how to pick the best budget gaming laptop at the end of our list.
Acer Nitro 5
Kicking off our list is the Acer Nitro 5. It’s not exactly thin and light, measuring 1.2 inches thick and weighing 5.51 pounds, but it will get the job done when you’re gaming on the go. Powering this laptop is a seventh-generation Intel Core i5-7300HQ quad-core CPU with a base speed of 2.5GHz and a maximum speed of 3.5GHz. It’s also backed by Nvidia’s discrete GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip with 4GB of dedicated, on-board video memory.
For this configuration, we chose 16GB of system memory, a 256GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive. You can lower the price by optioning for 4GB or 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD. Want more storage? Acer offers a 1TB SSD and a 2TB hard drive too at an additional cost. Other bells and whistles packed into Acer’s laptop include a 15.6-inch IPS display with a 1,920 x 1,020 resolution, USB-C connectivity, Bluetooth and Wireless AC networking, an “iron red” backlit keyboard and a battery promising up to 8.5 hours on a single charge.
Like the Acer model, the FX503 gaming laptop provided by Asus delivers a 15.6-inch screen with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, but in this case it’s not an IPS screen. Asus doesn’t say what type of technology it’s using on the display, only that it’s “IPS-level.” Backing this screen is Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 discrete graphics chip with 4GB of memory, and Intel’s Core i7-7700HQ four-core processor with a base speed of 2.8GHz and a maximum speed of 3.8GHz.
According to the specifications, the FX503 measures 0.9 inches thick and weighs 5.7 pounds. It includes 8GB of system memory, 128GB of storage on an SSD and 1TB of storage on a hard drive. You’ll also find Bluetooth and Wireless AC connectivity, a handful of ports including HDMI and Mini DisplayPort outputs, a backlit keyboard (red only), and easy access to the memory and storage for future manual upgrades.
Dell G5 15 Gaming
We’re not exactly sure why the Dell G5 15 Gaming laptop is selling for such a low price given what you’ll find inside. Unlike the Acer and Asus models, the G5 15 is powered by an eighth-generation Intel Core i5-8300H four-core processor with a base speed of 2.3GHz and a maximum speed of 4.0GHz. It’s also powered by Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q discrete graphics chip with 6GB of dedicated video memory.
Dell’s laptop features a 15.6-inch IPS screen with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. Under the hood, it consists of 8GB of system memory (2,666MHz), a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive. You’ll also find a Thunderbolt 3 port transferring data up to 40Gbps, Killer networking (Ethernet and Wireless AC), and a backlit keyboard (white only). This laptop weighs 6.28 pounds and measures 0.98 inches thick.
HP OMEN 15
Here’s another gaming laptop with Intel’s eighth-generation Core i5-8300H four-core processor. It’s joined by Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 Ti discrete graphics chip with 4GB of dedicated video memory, and a meaty 12GB of system memory clocked at 2,666MHz. That spells out to two accessible memory slots: One with 8GB and one with 4GB, and manually upgradable to 32GB.
HP’s Omen 15-branded laptop measures 0.98 inches thick and weighs 5.40 pounds. It’s based on a 15.6-inch IPS screen with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive. You’ll also find a two-zone backlit keyboard (red only), Bluetooth 4.2 and Wireless AC connectivity, Mini DisplayPort output, USB-C connectivity, and a battery promising up to 10 hours and 45 minutes of mixed usage.
MSI GL62M 7REX
MSI’s GL62M 7REX gaming laptop is based on Intel’s seventh-generation Core i7-7700HQ four-core processor and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 Ti discrete graphics chip with 4GB of dedicated graphics memory. What makes this laptop stand out among the others on our list is the keyboard: It’s manufactured by peripheral maker SteelSeries packing “edge glow” technology, anti-ghosting and a 1.9mm key travel distance.
Other ingredients thrown into MSI’s GL62M include a 15.6-inch screen with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, 8GB of system memory (32GB max) clocked at 2,400MHz, a 128GB SSD, a 1TB hard drive, Nahimic 2 audio, HDMI and Mini DisplayPort outputs, USB-C connectivity and more. This laptop is the largest in our group measuring 1.06 inches thick and weighing 5.29 pounds.
What to look for in a gaming laptop
If you’re looking for a mobile gaming solution under $1,000, you’re simply not going to find high-end processors and top-of-the-line discrete graphics. Many products you’ll discover under that price are based on six-generation CPUs and as of late, older seventh-generation chips. We were lucky to find a few models under the $1,000 cap with an 8th-gen chip to slap on our list.
That said, when searching, you’ll need to focus on the number after the hyphen in the processor’s name. For instance, the Core i5-8300H is an eight-generation chip as shown by the “8” in the label. Newer doesn’t necessarily always mean better, but you certainly don’t want outdated technology powering your games.
On the display front, the sweet spot price-wise is 15.6 inches. It’s also a good carrying size: The 17.3-inch models can get bulky and 13.3-inch models just feel small visually when gaming. The sweet spot also appears to be the GeForce GTX 1050 TI and the GTX 1060, which aren’t bad discrete chips. Nvidia’s “Max-Q” label means the company retooled its graphics chip design to offer the best performance in a thin and light laptop although it won’t be as speedy as the “vanilla” counterparts used in bulkier laptops.
Ultimately what you want is a newer processor and one of these discrete graphics chips. You’ll also want dual storage: An SSD as your boot drive, and a hard drive to store all of your data. Since SSDs are typically faster, it’s the ideal place for Windows 10 and your most demanding games. Other titles and media that don’t require fast data access can reside on that second hard drive. You’ll definitely need two storage devices given many popular PC games consume loads of space.
Next, a little explanation about In-Plane Switching, or IPS. This is a display technology designed for rich colors and wide viewing angles. It follows the older Twisted Nematic (TN) screen technology used for years, which has its own benefits such as high brightness levels and faster response times. Most gaming laptops now rely on IPS panels but will fall back to other cheaper technology to reduce the overall price.
Finally, given you’re investing in a gaming notebook, you won’t see loads of uptime on a single charge. They also typically ship with bulky power bricks that are required to get the best framerates out of your laptop’s hardware. Still, keep an eye out for battery times for when you simply want to use the laptop to troll Facebook or read our other “best of” articles.