Cheap Laptops For Gaming, Reviewed!
If you're looking to get into laptop PC gaming, or you're looking to add a mobile device to your digital arsenal, there are plenty of cheap laptops for gaming that are perfectly suited to delivering an entry-level experience for 3D gamers. With the advancement in processor technologies, the integration of GPUs, and the increasing horsepower that can be had in an affordable computer, finding gaming laptops under 500 dollars is now a reality.
But while it's possible to find cheap laptops for gaming, our research has shown that some of the best cheap gaming laptops can be had for under 700 or 800 dollars. Higher end gaming laptops can still be considered cheap, compared to just a few years ago, at around the 1500 dollar price band. At OverdrivePC, we're focused on giving you the information you need to make a decision as to what the best solution is for your budget.
You can easily drag and drop gaming laptop models below for a quick spec comparison, as well as check the lowest prices and get the best discounts. Be sure to scroll down for our picks for best entry-level gaming laptops, and read more about what makes these computers special.
Compare Cheap Laptops For Gaming
What is a gaming laptop?
A gaming laptop looks just like any other laptop. It has a screen, keyboard, touch pad, speakers, and inputs/outputs. With a gaming laptop you can have it all. You can surf the web, work on presentations, browse social media, and everything else that you could do on a smart phone, but you can do one thing that other devices can’t: play PC games. What sets a gaming laptop apart from your run of the mill laptop is the balance of hardware that, for the price, delivers the highest 3D frame rates in its class.
In order to achieve this performance, there are three important components that need to be taken into consideration. Anyone can max out their budget and buy the best of every category, but it takes research, that we’ve done for you, to find the right mix of hardware to deliver performance in an affordable computer laptop.
Here are the best cheap laptops for gaming right now
Dell has hit the sweet spot with this 15 inch gaming laptop. They’ve stripped out all of the unnecessary frills and focused on building a balanced system that delivers high frame rates for an excellent price. It’s our choice for best gaming laptop under 800 dollars. Read our full review.
A quick overview:
- At the heart of the system is the extremely powerful, but very affordable NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M. Based on NVIDIA’s Pascal architecture, this GPU also sports 4GB of fast GDDR5 memory.
- The Intel Core i5-6300HQ delivers high frequencies, up to 3.2GHz, which is fantastic for games that like more speed, not cores. While it lacks HyperThreading, that technology is not as crucial in games, and compromises would have to be made in price or performance to move up to the Core i7.
- The included 256GB M.2 SSD is fast, delivering several times the performance of a traditional hard dive.
- There’s a second bay for a larger, traditional HDD for additional storage
- The 8GB of RAM is a single stick configuration, but it is easily upgraded to dual-channel memory with the addition of another 8GB stick of memory.
Believe it or not, there are gaming laptops under 500 dollars. In fact, this gaming laptop is closer to 400 dollars than it is 500! But it’s not without compromise. While most gaming laptops have a discrete, or stand-alone graphics processing unit, the 3D graphics engine is actually integrated into the CPU of this laptop. AMD has a very unique product in that they own their own graphics division, Radeon Technologies Group, as well as the CPU technology that goes into their APU products. This puts them in the unique position of delivering entry-level 3D gaming without the need for additional graphics horsepower. It’s not high end, but it’ll run games. Read our full review.
A quick overview:
- The Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Series has an AMD A10-8700P APU, rated at 1.8GHz with a 3.2GHz boost. It has two processor modules and four total cores.
- Integrated into the APU is a Radeon R6 graphics core, with 6 compute units, 384 shaders, and support for the latest 3D technologies like DirectX 12. It utilizes the system memory for both the CPU and the GPU.
- The 1366×768 resolution panel is about the maximum resolution you can expect to play 3D games, so it’s ok that you’re not getting a crisper, 1080p panel.
- It includes a 1TB 5400rpm spinning-platter HDD for the OS, but can be upgraded to an SSD, which we recommend.
- It comes with dual channel 8GB (2x4GB) of DDR3 memory, which also delivers the bandwidth the APU needs to deliver maximum frame rates.
Most Important Components For Gaming Computers
- GPU – the graphics processing unit is going to be the make-or-break starting point for a gaming laptop. This is the chip that is primarily responsible for displaying the images you see in a game. It does all the lighting, handles the complex characters, and brings environmental effects to life in a realistic manner. Read our Buyers’ Guide for information on what graphics processor is right for you.
- CPU – the CPU actually plays second fiddle to the GPU. The central processing unit is a general purpose computational device. It handles the housework, and feeds the GPU the information it needs to create the 3D environment you see on your screen. It also handles getting information from your hard drive, putting it in memory, and also communicating with the various components in your laptop to ensure that your inputs from your mouse and keyboard are handled appropriately, as well as manage devices like your network card. Read our Buyers’ Guide for more information on what CPU you should consider in your gaming laptop.
- Memory – there’s two types of memory (not to be confused with storage, that comes in the form of a hard drive, more on that later) – GPU memory and System memory. GPU memory on a discrete (add-in card, not integrated into the CPU) GPU will sit on the board itself. There are several types of GPU memory. Listed from slowest to fastest they are: GDDR3, GDDR5, GDDR5X, and HBM/HBM2. System memory is used by your operating system, applications, and your hardware inside of your PC. If you have too little system memory, your computer will go to the storage device to create virtual, or paged memory pools. That is an extremely slow and inefficient method, and will lead to slow downs during games and delays in loading levels. Read our Buyers’ Guide to get more information on GPU and system memory types.
What Kind Of Games Can I Play On A Cheap Laptop For Gaming?
It’s important to go into a purchase for an affordable laptop that you intend to game on with a reasonable set of expectations. You will not be able to crank all of the details to max. If that’s what you want, you’ll need to spend a bit more. But what we’re trying to find is the best performance, at the best price, that can also make sure that you just have FUN on your gaming laptop.
While you technically can play every type of PC gaming on a cheap laptop designed for gaming, you won’t be doing it at high resolutions, or maximum frame rates. Newer technologies like VR or 4K resolutions are definitely out of the question. But what you can expect is 720p gaming or its equivalent running at low or medium settings, and around 30-45+ frames per second. This means that some of the “twitch-shooters” – first-person perspective games that require quick reflexes and have a lot of action going on the screen at one time – are probably going to be played on low, and at low resolutions, in order to get the frame rate as high as possible.
Many popular tournament games, like DOTA 2 however, can be played with the details turned slightly up, due to the lower stress put on the systems lower-end components. Many RPGs, simulators, and strategy games, as well as casual online games, are a breeze for these systems. You can also reach back to games that are just a year or two old and find that many AAA best-selling games are perfectly playable on a cheap gaming laptop.
The key here is to make sure that you understand what it is you’re buying, and what it’s going to deliver to you. If you’ve made it this far, we recommend you read some of our free buying guides to understand the components and the products on the market, so you’ll get the best bang for the buck.