Whether you’re a Mac or Windows person, it’s obvious that laptops have overtaken desktop PCs in popularity and market share, and when you hear the word “computer” today, you likely imagine one of these portable machines. It’s not hard to see why: Computer hardware has become lighter, cheaper, and more powerful at an exponential rate, and few gadgets have benefited more from this than gaming laptops. Once viewed by many as a questionable value, these machines have grown much more affordable relative to desktops in recent years. In 2020, you no longer have to look far and wide to find a good cheap gaming laptop with capabilities to rival desktop computers for well under a grand.
You’ll probably always get the most for your money by building a desktop gaming PC, but most people understandably don’t want to deal with that — and let’s face it, it’s hard to beat the simple convenience of a laptop in today’s mobile world. You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for one of these portable gaming systems, though; plenty of great gaming laptops can be had for around $1,000 or much, much less, and to help you pick the right one, we’ve gathered up a handful of the best cheap gaming laptop deals that you can find online right now — including a few super-affordable picks that ring in at less than $500. Read on:
Today’s best cheap gaming laptop deals
- — $279 ($320 off)
- — $479 ($170 off)
- — $699 ($200 off)
- — $750 ($80 off)
- — $850 ($249 off)
- — $999 with rebate ($200 off)
— $279 ($320 off)
You’re not likely to find a good gaming laptop with a dedicated GPU for less than $500, and you’re almost certainly not going to find a new one for half that much. AMD has largely bridged this gap between dedicated and integrated graphics, however, with its unique APUs (accelerated processing units, although AMD no longer uses this moniker) which are CPUs that feature built-in graphics processing capabilities. The 14-inch Motile Performance laptop packs one of these processing units, the AMD Ryzen 3 with Vega 3 graphics, combining the convenience of a super-cheap featherweight work laptop with a bit of added gaming power.
You’re not going to be running the latest games at high settings, of course, but if you’re looking for what is easily the cheapest of cheap gaming laptops, the Motile ultrabook might be the one. Its vibrant 14-inch THX-tuned display has a 1080p resolution as well (no corner-cutting 720p nonsense here), and its Ryzen APU is paired with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive. At $279 — down from a retail price of $599 — you’d be hard-pressed to find a cheaper laptop than this that’s still capable of handling some light gaming.
— $479 ($170 off)
The Motile laptop is admittedly pretty bare-bones, so if you’re willing to up your budget (but still want something that slides in under $500), the Acer Nitro 5 is nice upgrade that will give you a bit more juice for gaming. It packs a Ryzen 5 2500U CPU with a Radeon 560X discrete GPU — a tier above the Vega graphics to be sure — and you get a full 8GB of RAM, which is the minimum amount of memory that we recommend unless you’re going super-cheap.
The Nitro 5 laptop also offers a nice big 1TB hard drive, giving you plenty of room for installing those games, and it comes sporting a 15.6-inch 1080p display so you’ve got a bit more screen real estate as well. The Acer Nitro 5 is already a pretty good value at its normal $649 price, but a $170 discount means you can score this cheap gaming laptop for $479 from Walmart right now.
— $699 ($200 off)
If the Acer Nitro whetted your appetite but you’re willing to shell out a little more for a faster CPU and bigger display, the 17-inch MSI GF75 Thin gaming laptop is hard to beat. It runs on a ninth-generation Intel Core i5-9300H CPU (which clocks a bit higher than the above Nitro’s Ryzen 5) along with a GTX 1650 GPU and 8GB of DDR4 RAM.
What sets this one apart from most is its nice wide 17.3-inch 1080p display, which puts it closer into the “desktop replacement” category. Like other MSI laptops, the GF75 also features a nice backlit keyboard, yet has an attractive slimmed-down design that’s not as chunky as some MSI machines. The MSI GF75 Thin gaming laptop would normally set you back $899, but a $200 savings cuts it down to $699.
— $750 ($80 off)
Every gamer knows you’re going to pay more for a dedicated graphics card — even in a cheap gaming laptop with an entry-level GPU — but if you want to enjoy playing modern games at good settings, the juice is worth the squeeze. This Acer Nitro 5 is one of the best mid-range gaming laptops out there with a discrete video card: The 15-inch machine pairs an Intel Core i5-9300H CPU with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, which are very solid specs for a budget gaming rig.
This Nitro 5 configuration also features 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD plus a 1TB HDD, and a 15.6-inch 1080p display, and its rugged design isn’t overly bulky and gives you a nice RGB backlit keyboard for those late-night play sessions. An $80 discount knocks this Acer Nitro 5 gaming laptop down to $750, making it one of the better value picks out there at the moment for a cheap gaming laptop boasting a proper GPU.
— $850 ($249 off)
One look at the Asus Tuf tells you that this is a gaming laptop that doesn’t scream “gaming laptop” at everybody in the room, which is to say that it’s a great option if you want capable hardware without the flashy angular LED-covered designs that (understandably) turn many people off. Under the hood, this sleek-looking PC comes loaded with impressive specs including an AMD Ryzen 7 R7-3750H CPU and an Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti GPU, which is arguably the best midrange graphics card on the market right now.
Along with that, you’ve got 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 15.6-inch 1080p display, and even though it lacks a garish “gaming laptop” aesthetic, the Asus Tuf still features a nice-looking backlit keyboard to complement its great brushed finish. Just as attractive is its price: This Asus Tuf configuration rings in at $850 right now ($249 off), which is a solid deal on a premium gaming laptop like this packing a GTX 1660 Ti.
— $999 with rebate ($200 off)
If you’re looking for the best gaming laptop that can be had for less than a grand, you’ve found it: The 15.6-inch MSI GE65 Raider gaming laptop boasts excellent desktop-like specs with an Intel Core i7-9750H CPU, an Nvidia GTX 1660Ti GPU with 6GB VRAM, and a boosted 16GB of RAM (which is the ideal amount to run with a dedicated GPU, but can be rare to see on most cheap gaming laptops that typically come with 8GB).
This high-value MSI GE65 Raider gaming laptop comes in at $1,099 thanks to its $100 discount, but a limited-time $100 mail-in rebate knocks it down even further to just $999 — making this perhaps the beefiest gaming laptop you can score for around a thousand bucks at the moment.
How to choose a cheap gaming laptop
The two main considerations when choosing a good cheap gaming laptop are naturally going to be what you’re willing to spend and which graphics card you want (considering the GPU is what actually makes a laptop a “gaming laptop”), and these two are closely linked as your budget is going to determine what graphical performance tier you can afford. However, don’t 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 don’t jump on that great deal only to end up with something that doesn’t actually meet your needs. For more detailed hardware analysis, read on.
What makes a good cheap gaming laptop?
A good cheap gaming laptop should first and foremost be affordable, but you don’t want to go for the first deal you find that simply happens to meet your budget. You can expect to pay at least $600 (usually closer to $700) for a cheap gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card, although you can find a few that have AMD APUs with built-in Vega graphics for less than that. Also bear in mind that Nvidia recently released its new line of 16-series GPUs which have completely replaced the older 10-series graphics cards as the entry-level and midrange GeForce GPUs. In 2020, you’re better off avoiding older laptop models with these 10-series cards and sticking with the newer ones, as the price is about the same and they will generally come with more up-to-date CPUs as well.
In the budget-friendly price brackets, the most powerful graphics card you’re likely to find in a cheap gaming laptop right now is arguably the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, although you can expect to spend nearly your full budget for a laptop with this kind of graphical horsepower. If you’re going cheaper, though, then you’ll see cards like the GTX 1650, GTX 1650 Super, GTX 1660, and RX 500-series, pretty much all of which are still very capable of running modern titles at 1080p/60fps at good to high in-game settings.
For memory, 8GB of RAM should be the bare minimum (unless you’re going really cheap), and 16GB is a better mark to aim for in a modern gaming system. A higher refresh rate of 144Hz on the laptop display will also ensure a smoother experience when playing at higher framerates, but that’s something that you’ll typically find on gaming laptops hovering around the $1,000 mark with the nicer midrange GPUs like the GTX 1660 Ti. That’s one of the sacrifices you’ll make with a cheap gaming laptop, but if you know what to expect, you shouldn’t end up disappointed.
Are cheap gaming laptops good for work?
A gaming laptop is still a laptop and can do everything that a laptop computer can do — that includes work. In fact, even a cheap gaming laptop can offer some advantages: Faster processors and increased RAM will make all of your non-gaming software run noticeably faster, and graphical work such as video editing and rendering will go much more quickly with a dedicated graphics card. Even if you mostly use your PC for work first and only light gaming, it might be worth it to shell out a little more cash for a cheap gaming laptop for the better hardware you’ll be getting.
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