Finding suitable and cheap gaming laptops is a hard task, especially with so many options on the market. Here’s a guide to help you make an informed decision.
People love portability; everyone loves powerful hardware. These two basic customer requirements kicked off the advent of the tech segment we now know as ‘Gaming Laptops.’ This demand resulted in the industry, launching product after product in this sector of the market. However, the astounding number of options makes it hard to choose good cheap gaming laptops that actually deliver value for money, without compromising on your gaming experience.
Here, we’ll lay out our recommendations for the best gaming laptops under $1000.
A ‘Gaming’ Laptop? Really?
Before going further, let me get one fact straight before our beloved PC warriors pick up their pitchforks. Even though laptops have come a long way in terms of portability, power, and performance, they still cannot compare to the gaming experience on a desktop. This is due to PC hardware developing just as fast, if not faster, than laptops.
Still, people do need portable devices. Whether it’s a college student or a traveling professional, aren’t going to stop, just because they can’t carry large desktops everywhere.
Gaming laptops are targeted at people that need reasonable computing power on the move.
I fit the bill. How do I choose one?
Now, let’s help you make the right choice when picking one of these gaming laptops.
Generally, gaming is CPU, GPU, and memory intensive. The 3 most important parts of the laptop need to be top-notch, which is rough because they’re the most expensive. Lots of people make the mistake of favoring one component over the others. This causes a bottleneck in the system since any computer can only perform as fast as its slowest hardware component.
Of course, this will cause significant inflation in the price tags of these products. However, make sure that you spend your money on the right gaming laptop.
I will address a few factors (features) that you need to consider before deciding on a laptop you want to buy:
1. Size & weight
With great power comes great size. Sadly, this is true in almost all cases. As the performance capability of a laptop increases, the size increases to accommodate the excess heat dissipated by the powerful hardware.
If you don’t mind lugging around a huge laptop or can just keep your computer at a particular location, semi-permanently, then you can get the best hardware, without worrying about the size and weight of the laptop.
However, if you’re bothered by size and require significant portability, then you have two options. Consider buying a desktop for gaming, or compromise on your gaming experience with marginally inferior performance and hardware but a more portable gaming laptop.
2. Screen Size & Resolution
Who doesn’t love gorgeous 4K displays and large screens? Any gamer worth their salt will instantly prefer larger, high-resolution displays. However, when it comes to cheap but good gaming laptops, there’s a catch.
Gaming laptops do offer high-resolution, 4K, 2K, and full-HD displays. However, what manufacturers conveniently fail to mention is laptop hardware is often not strong enough to run games at that high a resolution.
So there you are, with a beautiful 4K display on a laptop that gives you 10 FPS (60 is considered playable by hardcore gamers, while casual gamers are happy with 30) on the latest game release.
If you have to drop your resolution to achieve playable FPS, then there’s no point to paying the premium cost that these screens add.
Keep in mind that running and rendering games at higher resolutions, such as 4K, requires the best hardware available in the market.
3. CPU / Processor
Intel currently dominates the high-performance CPU market. Although the AMD Ryzen offers some hope for a competitive market, Intel monopolizes the CPUs in gaming laptops, at least for the time being.
Too many people just ignore their CPU, concentrating on GPU, portability, and even screen sizes or resolution. This is a fatal mistake if you want a high-performance, cheap gaming laptop. A GPU does play a critical role in the performance of a game on a laptop, don’t dismiss the importance of a powerful CPU.
A few simple rules for you to follow when researching CPUs in a potential cheap gaming laptop purchase:
a: Steer clear of any laptop model with an Intel CPU that has the suffix ‘U’ or ‘T.’ These CPUs are optimized for battery life, which translates to sub-par performance – not what you need for gaming. For example – the Intel Core i7-7600U is very energy efficient, but it sacrifices clock speed for that.
b: Never settle for any CPU model below the Core i7 brand name. If you follow rule (a) in addition to this rule, then your processor will have 4 physical cores – offering a significant performance bump over the dual-core models. However, a casual gamer can make do with a Core i5 as well, but a Core i3 is a strict no-no.
c: Don’t get fooled by ‘Turbo Boost’ promises of higher clock speeds. Unlike desktops, laptops heat up faster. This means the CPU will fall back to baseline speeds after short bursts, leaving you with minimal improvement over long periods.
The GPU, or the Graphics Processing Unit, handles a significant amount of the heavy lifting of gaming. As the GPU manages all graphics-intensive tasks, like rendering textures, I can’t overstate how important it is.
In this hardware segment, NVidia and AMD, both offer high to medium performance chips. To make it easier, I’ll list the popular GPU models, based on a couple gaming requirements.
a) The hardcore laptop gamer – Requires blistering FPS at high screen resolutions (2K and above) with all graphical eye-candy maxed out. Suggested GPU Models: NVidia GTX 1080 (laptop), NVidia GTX1070 (laptop), NVidia GTX 980M. AMD GPUs, unfortunately, do not compare to these high-end NVidia offerings at this time.
b) The midrange laptop gamer – Needs blistering FPS at all costs, doesn’t need graphical settings maxed, and can settle for lower resolutions if needed. Suggested GPU Models: NVidia GTX 970M, NVidia GTX 1060 (laptop), AMD Radeon RX570, AMD Radeon RX470, NVidia GTX 960M, NVidia GTX 850M. The best cheap gaming laptops with these chips will offer a mid-range performance to gamers. You will have to compromise on either resolution (lower than 4K) or graphics settings.
c) The casual or indie laptop gamer – Rarely plays big title games on their laptop. They usually have a separate desktop for gaming or no interest in big title games at all. Require smooth gameplay, and do not need nor expect high graphics settings, resolutions, etc. Suggested GPU Models: Intel Iris Pro 5200, NVidia GT 840M, NVidia GT 850M, AMD Radeon R9 M375, NVidia GT 940M.
5. Memory or RAM
Good cheap gaming laptops usually provide plenty of memory (RAM), as it is cheaper than the other hardware components mentioned above. Nonetheless, please make sure that ANY gaming laptop you buy should have at least 8 GB of RAM.
Although the amount of RAM your laptop needs will vary depending on your usage, 8 GB is a safe minimum that should allow most games to run smoothly.
More than 8 GB RAM ensures butter-smooth functioning of the operating system, browsers, and games, with leeway for multitasking as well.
6. Battery Life
This is literally the last feature to focus on if you want a laptop that can play all the latest game releases without breaking a sweat. Powerful hardware draws more power – it’s as simple as that. If battery life is a significantly important feature for you, then the best cheap gaming laptop category is the wrong segment to browse.
Most gaming laptops offer anywhere between 2-6 hours of battery life. This varies with the tasks being run on the laptop during that time. Watching movies, for example, will use lesser power than playing a game.
Unfortunately, some cheap but good gaming laptops do offer all the above features. They have solid hardware, more than enough RAM, and excellent battery life but they heat up like a bag of coals as soon as you run anything CPU/GPU intensive.
When hardware parts heat up, they start underperforming to avoid getting damaged. In the middle of an exciting game, your system will go from working perfectly to stuttering and plummeting frame rates. It may even crash and restart. This might be annoying, but it’s just your system protecting itself from heat damage.
Although a notebook cooler does alleviate this issue, it does not fix it.
8. SSD/HDD (Solid State Drive or Hard Disk Drive)
It may seem like the fastest or most powerful hardware is always the best choice for gaming. Well, not for this particular hardware component. Don’t get me wrong – I personally use an SSD, but you should understand what exactly it improves before deciding you need one.
An SSD has no moving parts, so it improves data read and write speeds. This significantly reduces the time it takes for the game, map, or scenario to load. However, it has little to no impact on the actual in-game performance.
So, if you’re on a budget and don’t mind waiting a few extra seconds before the game starts, you don’t really need an SSD. On the other hand, if you’re impatient and have a sizeable budget, then go ahead and splurge on an SSD. However, its importance is minimal from the gaming point of view, so make sure that you research the other components (CPU, GPU, RAM, screen) extensively before deciding on this one.
Since games are getting bigger and bigger as they get more complicated, opting for a hard disk with a capacity lower than 1TB (1024 GB) is sure to cause you grief down the line. Plus, juggling external hard drives is never fun.
I recommend good cheap gaming laptops having a minimum 1 TB Hard Disk with an added SSD if you feel the need for one.
Here are some of our TOP picks:
Acer Predator Helios 300
ASUS ROG STRIX
ASUS TUF Thin & Light Gaming Laptop
HP OMEN 15.6-inch Gaming Laptop
ASUS FX503VD 15.6” FHD
If you’re a hardcore gamer AND want the best cheap gaming laptop as your sole gaming machine, be prepared to spend a small fortune on the perfect one. Make sure that companies’ marketing tactics never fool you into picking up sub-par hardware for a bloated price.
You should find cheap but good gaming laptops if you keep all the above features and factors in mind during your pre-purchase research.