Desktop PCs will always have their place, but in 2020, it’s hard to beat the portable convenience of Windows and MacOS laptops. Thankfully, computer hardware has become so advanced that even gaming laptops — once considered a questionable value at best — are much more common (which is to say, more affordable) than they were in decades past. Today’s top gaming laptops can easily stand on par with custom gaming desktops and you no longer have to spend a fortune to get a good one, either.
If you’re on the hunt for laptop deals but you specifically want a portable PC that can handle some gaming, look no further: We’ve rounded up a selection of cheap gaming laptop deals below. Our picks cover a wide range of price points to fit any budget, and better still, every single one comes in at under a grand.
Today’s best cheap gaming laptop deals
- — $350
- — $620, was $830
- — $780, was $880
- — $799 after rebate, was $999
- — $950, was $1,149
- — $999
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, the Acer Aspire 5 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.
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 HP Pavilion 15z is a nice upgrade that will give you a bit more juice for gaming. It packs a Ryzen 7 3700U CPU with Vega 11 graphics — a worthy upgrade over the Ryzen 5 2500U — and you get a full 12GB of RAM, which is even more than the minimum 8GB of memory that we recommend unless you’re going super-cheap.
The HP Pavilion 15z laptop also offers a nice snappy 512GB SSD, and it comes sporting a 15.6-inch 1080p display. A $210 discount means you can score this cheap gaming laptop for $620 right now.
If the Radeon Vega laptops whetted your appetite but you’re willing to shell out a little more for a faster CPU and discrete GPU, then the Acer Nitro 5 gaming laptop offers some nice upgrades for the money. It runs on a ninth-generation Intel Core i5-9300H CPU along with a GTX 1650 GPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and a generously sized 512GB SSD.
Its 1080p Full HD display sits at a nice big size for gaming at 17.3 inches, and like other gaming laptops, the Acer Nitro 5 also features a backlit keyboard. This gaming laptop would normally set you back $880, but a $100 savings cuts it down to $780.
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 15-inch MSI Alpha 15 is one of the best mid-range AMD-powered gaming laptops out there with a discrete video card: It pairs an Ryzen 7 3750H CPU with a Radeon RX 5500M GPU, which are very solid specs for a 1080p gaming rig.
The MSI Alpha 15 also features 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 15.6-inch 1080p 120Hz display, and its rugged design isn’t overly bulky and gives you a nice RGB backlit keyboard for those late-night play sessions. A $200 discount (after a $100 rebate card) knocks this gaming laptop down to $799, making it one of the better mid-range picks out there at the moment for a cheap gaming laptop boasting a proper GPU.
One look at the new Dell G3 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 i5-9300H CPU and an Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q GPU, which is hands-down the best midrange graphics card on the market right now.
Along with that, you’ve got 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 15.6-inch 1080p display, and even though it lacks a garish “gaming laptop” aesthetic, the Dell G3 still features a nice-looking backlit keyboard to complement its sleek looks. Just as attractive is its price: This Dell G3 configuration rings in at $950 right now ($200 off), which is a solid deal on a premium gaming laptop that’s packing a GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q GPU and still fits within our $1,000 budget.
If you’re looking for the best gaming laptop that can be had for less than a grand, you’ve found it: This upgraded 15.6-inch MSI GF65 Thin gaming laptop boasts excellent desktop-like specs with an Intel Core i5-9300H 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 MSI GF65 Thin gaming laptop comes in at $999, sliding right under our $1,000 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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