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The best cheap gaming laptop deals for August 2020

The laptop landscape has shifted a lot in the last decade. Touchscreens, 2-in-1 designs, and featherweight ultrabooks are all the rage today, but some of the biggest advancements have been made with gaming laptops. Once seen as a questionable value that lagged far behind their desktop counterparts, gaming laptops can now easily go toe-to-toe with custom-built desktop PCs. Of course, you’ll pay extra for the built-in displays, downsized hardware, and portability that you get with a laptop — but we can help soften that blow a little.

In this roundup, we’ve brought you a half-dozen of the best cheap gaming laptop deals available right now from online retailers, with each of our picks coming in at under a grand — including a couple very affordable ones that will set you back less than half of that. If you’re ready to get your game on and save some cash, keep reading:

Today’s best cheap gaming laptop deals

  • Acer Aspire 5 Radeon Vega 3 Laptop$350
  • Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Radeon Vega 8 Laptop$450
  • Acer Nitro 5 GTX 1650 Gaming Laptop$670, was $700
  • Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 GTX 1650 Ti Laptop$800, was $830
  • HP Pavilion GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q Gaming Laptop$900, was $1,100
  • MSI GF65 Thin RTX 2060 Gaming Laptop$949 with code W3SCHYWAY22, was $999

Acer Aspire 5 Radeon Vega 3 Laptop — $350

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

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 less than $400. 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 15-inch Acer Aspire 5 slim laptop packs one of these processing units, the dual-core AMD Ryzen 3 3200U with Vega 3 graphics, combining the convenience of a super-cheap work laptop with a bit of light 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, this Ryzen 3 PC might be the one. Its vibrant 15.6-inch display has a 1080p resolution (no 720p corner-cutting here, thankfully), and its Ryzen APU is paired with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive. At just $350, you’d be hard-pressed to find a cheaper laptop than this that’s still capable of handling some light gaming.

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Radeon Vega 8 Laptop — $450

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Laptop (white background)

The previous laptop is admittedly pretty bare-bones, so if you’re willing to up your budget (but still want something that slides in under $500), this Lenovo IdeaPad 3 is a worthy upgrade that will give you a bit more juice for gaming. It packs a Ryzen 5 CPU with Vega 8 graphics — a nice upgrade over the Ryzen 3 — and you get a full 8GB of RAM, which is twice the minimum 4GB of memory that you usually see on cheap sub-$500 gaming laptops.

The Lenovo IdeaPad 3 laptop also offers a nice snappy 256GB SSD, and it comes sporting a 14-inch Full HD display. You can score this cheap gaming laptop for $450 right now.

Acer Nitro 5 GTX 1650 Gaming Laptop — $670, was $700

Acer Nitro 5 15 Gaming Laptop (white background)

If the Radeon Vega laptops whetted your appetite but you’re willing to shell out a little more for a discrete GPU and bigger display, then the 15-inch Acer Nitro 5 gaming laptop offers some nice upgrades for the money. It runs on a 10th-generation Intel Core i5-10300H CPU along with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 256GB SSD, which are excellent specs for modern gaming at this price.

Its 1080p IPS display sits at a great size for gaming at 15.6 inches, and like other gaming laptops, this one also features a backlit keyboard. A gaming laptop like this would normally set you back around $700-$800, but it’s available for just $670 right now.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 GTX 1650 Ti Laptop — $800, was $830

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 Laptop

One look at the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 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 Intel Core i5-10300H CPU and an Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti GPU, which is hands-down one of the best midrange graphics cards 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 Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 still features a nice-looking backlit keyboard to complement its sleek looks. Just as attractive is its price: This gaming machine rings in at $800 right now, which is a solid value for a premium gaming laptop that’s packing a GTX 1650 Ti GPU and still fits well within our $1,000 budget.

HP Pavilion GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q Gaming Laptop — $900, was $1,100

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, you need one. This new HP Pavilion is one of the best mid-range Nvidia-powered gaming laptops out there with a discrete video card: It pairs a Core i7 CPU with a GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q GPU, which are fantastic for a sub-$1,000 1080p gaming rig.

The laptop also features 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 15.6-inch 1080p display. Its nice-looking design is well-ventilated and gives you a backlit keyboard for those late-night play sessions. At $900 after a $200 discount, it’s an excellent value and one of the best mid-range picks out there at the moment for a cheap gaming laptop boasting a powerful GPU.

MSI GF65 Thin RTX 2060 Gaming Laptop — $949 with code W3SCHYWAY22, was $999

MSI GF65 Thin Gaming Laptop (white background)

If you’re looking for the best gaming laptop that can be had for a grand, you’ve found it: This 15.6-inch MSI GF65 Thin laptop boasts excellent desktop-like specs with an Intel Core i5-9300H quad-core CPU, an Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU with 6GB VRAM, and 8GB of RAM, along with a nice big 512GB solid-state drive.

This high-value gaming laptop will set you back $949 with checkout code W3SCHYWAY22, landing right below our budget limit and making this perhaps the beefiest gaming laptop you can score for around a grand 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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