While this may be a tough time for gamers as the graphics card shortage continues into 2018, the good news is that there are still plenty of great deals for laptops.
On this list, we’ve included everything from the bare minimum for playing (some) games, to the affordable low-end of high-end ($1399). There’s a laptop here for gamers of all demands and price ranges. Be sure to be on the lookout for the “Editor’s Choice” where price and performance intersect best for most users.
While a variety of factors can help take a gaming computer to the next level, in these reviews we focus on the most important one: the graphics card. When a PC has a good graphics card, this is the sole determinant of the games it can play, given that the rest of the system is decent. Since most gaming is done with a mouse, the trackpad isn’t much of a factor. While high-end gaming PCs can also have 120hz screens, a feature sought out by some gamers, this a high-end feature and not really available on a “cheap budget.”
Looking for the best cheap gaming laptop for you? Here are our top picks, listed from lowest to highest price.
1. Acer Aspire, GTX 940MX (Budget Pick)
If you’re trying to spend as little as possible, this Acer Aspire is about as cheap as it gets. Sure, it cuts some corners, but at this price, it gets the job done and that’s all that matters. Boasting a full HD screen, built-in Wifi, and a very decent i5-7200U, it’s fine for office and student use. In terms of gaming, the 940MX is hardly formidable, but it can be acceptable for light gamers.
If you’re trying to play Overwatch, for instance, you can lower the resolution to 1600×900, and play on medium texture detail, for instance, and still get a full 60FPS.
While it won’t do for playing on Ultra or even medium, for most games, one will be able to play with some compromises, generally playing at 720P or otherwise reducing the graphical quality. Check out a more detailed analysis here (NotebookCheck.net).
That said, for this price, it’s a pretty reasonable value for those looking to get into PC gaming, but who don’t have a lot to spend.
2. Dell Inspiron i7577 (Editor’s Choice)
Full disclosure: Dell sent me an i7577 to give it a spin, and not surprisingly, it lives up to its specs and then some! Boasting a solidly fast 7300HQ processor and a GTX 1060, this isn’t some dinky 940MX. This computer will play today’s modern games at medium to high settings, without breaking a sweat. Some other benefits of this particular model include really nice build quality, a bright display, and a backlit keyboard. It’s not only great for recreation, it makes for a solid video editing PC as well; though the i5-7300HQ isn’t exactly monstrous, the PC is able to use its graphics card for playback and that makes things considerably smoother than on a lesser machine.
In my experience, Dell PC’s are stable and reliable. This PC is no exception. Another factor that bodes well for this PC is its excellent heat-dispersion ability. Many gaming laptops get hot, fast. Playing Overwatch, however, didn’t seem to affect the overall temperature. I kept waiting for the fans to kick into overdrive, but they never did.
For all of these reasons, this PC is the editor’s choice. It’s a great value for gamers and anyone who needs a PC for multimedia usage, such as Photoshop or even editing Video. That said, as strictly a video editing PC, I would advise spending a bit more for a faster processor. Still, if you get this machine, you’ll be left satisfied on virtually every level.
A final perk: this laptop has a Thunderbolt 3 port. This is a new technology that gives you massively fast throughput for reading and writing data to a hard disk, for instance, or for even using an external graphics card. While laptops tend to be difficult to upgrade, the inclusion of this port means that one won’t be stuck SOL when the GTX 1060 is outdated (in 2 or 3 years). One will simply be able to hook up an even better GPU!
This is a great gaming laptop at a reasonable price. The display is nice and the performance is perfect for gaming on the go.
3. MSI GL62M
For those who can handle less attractive graphics and would benefit from a faster processor, this MSI unit offers precisely that trade. While it lacks the graphical power of the above Dell, it has a faster 7700HQ processor that’s about 30% faster than the i5 on the above model. What does that mean? Faster overall performance, better photo and video editing, and smoother multi-tasking, but it also means that the MSI simply won’t play games as well. The GTX 1050Ti is a significant downgrade from the 1060; check out this comparison on User Benchmark.
You’ll be able to get away with more gaming than a 940MX, but a 1050Ti is going to be limiting if you like your games to look great. It’s not for everyone, but it does have its perks (and drawbacks). Also, you have to love its smooth chassis.
4. Acer Predator Helios 300
If you read the last two items and had the thought “Can’t I get both the GTX 1060 AND the faster processor?”, then this is the EXACT model for you. It boasts a GTX 1060 and an i7 7700HQ which means it’s a great machine for both gaming and more multifaceted use, like video or photo editing. It also boasts more RAM than the above models, including 16GB of DDR4 RAM. It also has a backlit keyboard. One common complaint, however, about this particular model is that the screen is a bit on the dim side. Still, it’s a minor dent in a lot of shining armor. I would suggest this is overall the best value for someone who doesn’t need a gaming PC specifically, as it covers all of the bases in terms of specs. This truly is the best budget gaming laptop 2018.
5. Eluktronics Pro-X
The final PC on our list barely fits into what most would consider “cheap”, but we include it for thoroughness and to fill the gap for anyone who read “dimly lit” regarding the above model and thought “oh heck no.” This model is actually slightly less adept for video editing, but for gaming, it’s an awesome machine. It boasts an even better graphics card, the GTX 1070, the same processor, and pivotally, an IPS display with punchy, brights colors (none of that hideous TN nonsense!). If you want essentially a portable desktop for gaming without a portable desktop form factor, this PC is also really thin, but it does still weigh 5lbs, which is on the light side on this list, but obviously not particularly light compared to most laptops.