Gaming performance is becoming a standard feature in laptops, in part because it’s cheaper than ever for manufacturers to pack powerful graphics cards into their products. That’s given rise to a new breed of budget gaming laptops that appear, at a glance, far more capable than those available just a few years ago.
Like jumbo shrimp, a budget gaming laptop might seem a contradiction. Yet major manufacturers like Dell and Acer have dedicated serious resources to developing affordable
Cutting more than costs
A budget laptop offers the bare minimum you need to get work done on the go, while a gaming laptop is a luxury item. Establishing a middle ground between the two presents some unique problems.
With that in mind, cutting corners in one area to deliver in another is an exercise in self-defeat for budget-minded rigs. They’re trying to reconcile two contradictory forces — and they suffer for it.
A decent gaming laptop should let you forget you’re playing on a laptop at all.
Instead, the problems are found in display quality, and build quality. Every budget gaming notebook we’ve reviewed has had issues in one, and usually both, of these areas. Flimsy hinges, cheap keyboards, and atrocious displays seem to come standard on these machines. These elements are all critical to gaming, and because they’re baked into the laptop, they can’t be upgraded later. What you get is what you’re stuck with until you buy an entirely new laptop.
Crossing the narrow threshold between a $900 laptop and a $1,200 laptop almost universally remedies these problems. Build quality leaps forward, keyboards become excellent, and displays deliver a far more vibrant image. The Acer Aspire VX 15 isn’t much fun to use. Acer’s Predator 15, which starts around $1,300, is one of the
Admittedly, that’s almost always the case, right? Spend more, and you get more. But in this case, budget
Standard budget laptops deliver the essentials you need to get online and run an office suite. But what’s the bare minimum you need to enjoy a PC game? Gaming is experiential, and there’s a lot more to enjoying a game than hitting 60 frames per second. Making a gaming laptop that is enjoyable to use is about more than just packing a powerful graphics card into a gaudy black and red chassis.
Personally, I haven’t done any serious gaming from a desktop in years — and I’m pretty much a dedicated laptop user. I’ve explored the Capital Wasteland through an old MacBook Pro running an Nvidia GPU, I’ve learned how not to play Hanzo on a Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming, and most recently I’ve dismantled drug cartels in Bolivia with a Dell XPS 15 in my lap.
For me, budget or not, a decent gaming laptop should let you forget you’re playing on a laptop at all. A big part of that is having a decent display, and a well-designed chassis, in addition to powerful internal components. Hook up an external mouse and a good
The gaming notebook market has finally achieved a balance between price and performance, and there are some great
There aren’t any great budget gaming notebooks on the market right now.
That’s a lot of money, but if spending that kind of cash on a gaming system is just not feasible, you’re not alone, and you have options. First, if you’re like me and gaming on a laptop is your preferred method, just wait a little while and try to find a last-gen gaming laptop refurbished on Amazon or from the manufacturer — or keep saving until you can comfortably cross over into the $1,000 threshold.
Alternatively, don’t get a gaming laptop at all. There simply aren’t any budget gaming notebooks on the market right now that are worth the trouble. It’s easy to convince yourself that a budget
Don’t do that to yourself. Instead, start saving for the Razer Blade you really want, or start checking out desktop components on NewEgg. An $800 gaming laptop isn’t worth your time or money.
- This essential GPU feature isn’t as simple as you think
- This is the best Dell gaming laptop you can buy
- 5 things you should never do with your gaming laptop
- Don’t ignore Spider-Man 2’s side missions. They’re the best parts of the game
- Don’t buy the Surface Laptop Go 3 — here’s what you should get instead