It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of gaming on a laptop seemed like little more than a pipe dream. Now, though, there aren’t only a ton of great gaming laptops, but there are plenty of budget laptops for gaming as well. Whether you’re interested in playing the latest AAA games or looking to revive your nostalgia for some old favorites, HotRate can help you.
We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a cheap gaming laptop and carefully scoured the internet in search of the best budget gaming laptop models based on those criteria. We’ve also included all of the important specs in each entry, so you can shop smarter without having to hunt for the information that you need.
TL;DR - 12 Best Budget Gaming Laptops:
- Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop
- ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX502 Gaming Laptop
- ASUS VivoBook 15 Thin and Light Laptop
- Asus TUF FX505DT Gaming Laptop
- Lenovo Ideapad L340 Gaming Laptop
- Razer Blade Pro 17 Gaming Laptop
- MSI GS65 Stealth-006 Ultra Thin and Light Gaming Laptop
- HP Omen 17-cb0050nr Gaming Laptop
- MSI GF63 Thin 9SC-614 Gaming Laptop
- Acer Nitro 7 Gaming Laptop
- Lenovo Legion Y545 Gaming Laptop
- Dell G5 15 Gaming Laptop
1. Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop
Some truly mighty hardware for an overall solid piece of tech
With a price tag of around $1200, the Acer Predator Helios 300 is one of the most expensive budget laptop models on our list, but it's also easily one of the best. The 10th Generation i7 processor is a pretty mighty piece of hardware in its own right, and it's well-matched by the inclusion of a GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card. That's a solid foundation for any gaming laptop.
If the standard configuration of this gaming laptop isn't quite to your specifications, you have a few different options to choose from. The PredatorSense platform is one of the best tools for configuration management around. Killer DoubleShot Pro protocol also guarantees you a fast and stable connection for all of your online gaming.
2. ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX502 Gaming Laptop
A device that pushes the boundaries of a budget gaming laptop
The $2,000 price tag here means that the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S really tests the boundaries of what constitutes a cheap gaming laptop, but it's just too good of a gaming machine to not earn a place on this list. The display is bright with great color reproduction, and it supports an impressive refresh rate of 240 Hz and a response rate of 3 milliseconds.
This is a great-looking gaming laptop, too. Sleek and stylish, it manages to pack in a lot of ports without creating a monstrosity of a machine. This is a gaming laptop with a lot of power, so it only makes sense that it uses one of the best cooling systems around. Multiple blades and the ability to configure between three fan modes mean you can scale your fan usage to the demands of specific games.
3. ASUS VivoBook 15 Thin and Light Laptop
Sleek and ergonomic design for an impressive all-round device
If the idea of a roughly $500 gaming laptop makes you hesitate, you wouldn't be alone. However, this ultra-lightweight and thin laptop more than deserves its place on our best-of list. It may use an integrated rather than discrete memory card, but AMD chips are designed to offer better graphical performance at lower prices.
Ergonomics are a high priority in the construction of this cheap gaming laptop. The ErgoLift hinge provides a clever way to elevate your keyboard while providing you with the right angle to read your screen closely, and the backlit chiclet keyboard feels great even during extended and high anxiety gaming sessions.
4. Asus TUF FX505DT Gaming Laptop
Impressive gaming on the go with a sturdy aluminium chassis
The TUF FX505DT takes a similar tact to the VivoBook S15 in how they keep things at a budget level price. In this case, the slightly better AMD processor is actually complemented by a dedicated NVIDIA discrete graphics card. That's not a bad deal at all for a price increase of only $150.
If you want to game on the go, you don't have to worry about this budget gaming laptop failing you. The aluminum chassis body is constructed according to military standards, and ASUS makes use of a powerful anti-dust cooling system to make sure that the internals are kept safe.
5. Lenovo Ideapad L340 Gaming Laptop
A genuinely solid all-round gaming laptop
The Lenovo Ideapad L340 could be seen as the prototype for a budget gaming laptop. It's not the best at any one particular thing, but it hits all the markers that you'd expect for the price point, and the result is one of the most well-rounded budget gaming laptop models we've had the pleasure of reviewing. The i5 processor is built on ninth-generation architecture, and it goes well with the NVIDIA graphics card.
Even better, this budget gaming laptop is packed with a pretty great sound system, so you won't have to budget extra audio accessories into your laptop spending. Easy toggling between "quiet" and "quick" modes also provides the ability to jump seamlessly depending on the power usage of your game in the moment.
6. Razer Blade Pro 17 Gaming Laptop
The Razer Blade Pro represents the best performance of a cheap gaming laptop, although it may stretch your perception of what constitutes cheap gaming laptops. The specs here are right on the money, though. The Intel Core i7 processor is ninth-generation and paired with a pretty heavy-duty graphics card.
The Razer Blade Pro also offers some of the best real estate in a gaming laptop. The 17-inch screen gives you more room to immerse yourself in your gaming experience. A biometric scanner gives you some of the best security around. Since this is a Razer laptop, you can of course expect to find top-line RGB lighting with a wealth of customization options.
7. MSI GS65 Stealth-006 Ultra Thin and Light Gaming Laptop
More reasonably priced is this gaming laptop from MSI. This laptop can consistently maintain a steady 60 fps at 1080p resolution, and the screen offers a 144 Hz refresh rate in addition to anti-glare protection for gaming in brighter conditions. The specs here are similar to those of Razer Blade Pro, though the Intel Core i7 processor here is a slightly older generation.
The overall design here is built capably for travel. It's compact and lightweight, and it also supports an above-average battery life that allows you to keep playing even when you don't have immediate access to a power source.
8. HP Omen 17-cb0050nr Gaming Laptop
The Omen by HP offers a plus-sized screen that's especially great for immersing yourself in single-player games and better reading the battlefield when in a multiplayer match. The hefty ninth-generation Intel Core i7 processor makes it more than a match for even the newest and best AAA games.
This cheap gaming laptop also made the smart choice of including both an SSD and an HDD, giving you both better loading speeds and a pretty hefty amount of storage space to work with. The Omen Command Center also gives you a wealth of different options for fine-tuning your personalized gaming experience.
9. MSI GF63 Thin 9SC-614 Gaming Laptop
A $600 laptop obviously isn't going to offer the same quality graphics and computational performance as some of the $2000 models on our list, but MSI really makes the most of the budget they're working with. They manage to squeeze a ninth-generation i5 chip and a discrete GTX 1060 chip into this cheap gaming laptop despite the very petite and portable form factor.
Surprisingly, despite the overall quality of the specs for the price, MSI has included a truly top-shelf audio system that's capable of replicating the 3D surround sound experience. While the seven-hour battery life isn't the best cheap gaming laptop performance we've seen, it can still keep you going most of the day.
10. Acer Nitro 7 Gaming Laptop
There's a lot to love about the 2020 edition of the Acer Nitro 7. Storage is split among a solid-state and traditional hard drive, giving players the best of both worlds, and the Core i7 processor in the Acer Nitro really makes the most of the ninth-generation architecture that Intel has put out.
The LED IPS display on the Acer Nitro includes backlighting, so you can see what's going on in-game even in darker lighting conditions without having to run the risk of glare ruining your perfect shot. In keeping with those beefy processor specs, a full 8 GB of memory keeps everything on the Acer Nitro running smoothly.
11. Lenovo Legion Y545 Gaming Laptop
If there's something you expect to find in an entry-level laptop, the Lenovo Legion Y545 offers it. In fact, the graphics processor exceeds expectations by relying on an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, and the hexa-core ninth-generation processor provides a little more oomph that older Intel models simply can't match.
While a decent number of cheap gaming laptops come with dual drives, this one offers an upgrade to 512 GB for the solid-state drive, leaving you with 1.5 GB of storage to work with. The ports are well-positioned and allow you to expand your storage with up to two external drives.
12. Dell G5 15 Gaming Laptop
If you're looking for the best cheap gaming laptops, the Dell G5 certainly fits the bill. Just over a thousand bucks gets you a hefty ninth-generation Intel Core i7 processor and a dedicated NVIDIA GTX GPU. The decision to go with a traditional hard drive may be unconventional, but it does allow for over a terabyte of storage.
Keeping this cheap gaming laptop from overheating is a dual cooling fan system that makes use of advanced thermal design for some of the best results around. The keyboard backlighting is fully customizable to help give your setup a nice bit of extra character.
Budget Gaming Laptop Buyer’s Guide
So what do we mean when we talk about a budget gaming laptop? Unfortunately, a budget gaming laptop isn’t the same as a budget general-purpose laptop, which might fall into the range of $300 or less. Most cheap gaming laptops are going to fall somewhere in the range of $500 to $1500 (see also our guide to the best $1500 gaming laptops), but there are some laptop models that fall outside of this range just because of the level of value that they offer for the price.
Since we’ve covered the important specs regarding shopping for a laptop in our other guides, we’ll instead focus our attention in this guide on the sort of features and specifications that you can expect to find in cheaper gaming laptops. We’ll also answer some of the questions we hear most frequently from customers looking for the best budget gaming laptops.
Shopping for a gaming laptop on a budget means having to make some sacrifices. The very last thing you’ll want to skimp on is the central processor, though. After all, gaming laptops with below-average CPUs are going to see significantly reduced performance across the board. The size of your budget will naturally affect what sort of CPU you can afford.
When looking at the cheapest laptops – those generally in the range of less than $700 – you’ll probably want to settle for an AMD processor. While AMD doesn’t excel at high-end components, they offer great value for the buck in the lower budget range. One step up from that is the i5, which can handle most modern games, although you won’t be able to run them at the highest settings. Once you start looking at costs of over $1000 (see our best gaming laptops for under $1000), you’ll start to see gaming laptops that include an Intel Core i7 processor. These generally represent the best cheap gaming performance offered in the budget category.
The second most important spec for a gaming laptop is the graphics processor. When looking for cheap gaming laptops, this is one of the places where you may need to make some brutal sacrifices. In other words, at a lower budget, you may have to settle for an integrated rather than dedicated processor. Since an integrated processor shares memory with the CPU, that means a serious downgrade to your graphics capabilities.
If you do decide to go with an integrated graphics card, we generally recommend going with AMD. Since they’re a manufacturer of both central processors and graphics processors, their integrated graphics cards tend to perform a whole lot better. It isn’t until you start to hit gaming laptops in the price range of about $700 that you start to see great gaming laptops with NVIDIA cards. The GeForce GTX 1650 is going to be your best bet for a graphics card.
Slimming down on memory is one of the ideal ways to cut corners when looking for the best cheap gaming laptop. That’s not to say that RAM isn’t important with gaming laptops. In fact, a decent amount of RAM can have a pretty major impact on how well the CPU in a gaming laptop operates. That’s because it’s usually pretty easy to upgrade the RAM when compared to other components. Memory sticks are very cheap, and many cheap gaming laptops come with hatches that allow you to swap them out easily.
That said, we still recommend that you invest in at least 8 GB of memory. While just half of that will be appropriate for casual games, any AAA game and even a decent number of indie games are going to require at least 8 GB. More is always better, but you can consider making upgrades once you have your cheap gaming laptop up and running.
Games are becoming pretty huge, and if you want to keep all of your favorites readily accessible without having to rely on sometimes inconsistent streaming, storage is going to be a necessity. Due to their durability and speed, SSDs are the best choice for gaming, but some models come with both an SSD and an HDD to provide you with both speed and scale.
Fortunately, the hard drive is another one of those components that’s very easy to replace. In fact, there are more options here than with memory. While a lot of models allow you to physically install a new hard drive with ease, you can also make use of external hard drives or flash drives that can easily connect to your computer through the USB drive. You may also want to consider cloud storage, which allows you to access your files wherever you have an internet connection. Just keep in mind that cloud storage can’t be used for storing games.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Gaming Laptop Under $500?
Finding a proper gaming laptop for under $500 is tough, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The ASUS VivoBook is easily among the best cheap gaming laptops, and it retails for $477. While it does have to cut corners to get the appropriate performance, it manages to succeed by making use of a Radeon CPU with a pretty strong integrated graphics card.
Which Gaming Laptop Should I Buy?
If you want the best of the best cheap gaming laptops, look to the ASUS ROG Zephyr S. While it retails for right around $2000 and arguably sits right at the border of mid-range and cheap gaming laptops, it offers truly impressive performance that can keep up even with the newest games on the market.
What is a Good Laptop for Gaming?
While we’ve outlined a lot of great cheap gaming laptops on this list, we have a special fondness for the Acer Predator Helios. It falls right into the middle of the pack in terms of pricing but includes some specs that impressively exceed its $1000 asking price. That includes a ninth-generation i7 chip and a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card. That goes well beyond what most cheap gaming laptops can promise.
Do you need an External Plug-and-Play Keyboard and Mouse with a Gaming Laptop?
The keyboard end of this question is up for debate. There are many people that consider the keyboards that their laptop comes equipped to be more than sufficient, while PC gaming purists may find the idea of gaming on a laptop keyboard to be less than ideal.
Having a gaming keyboard connected to your laptop is not a bad idea if you have hands that are bigger than average and find that the confines of a laptop keyboard don’t work for you, but this is not necessarily a problem for everyone. If you have a big enough laptop bag for carrying an external keyboard around with you then it shouldn’t be too much of an extra burden for you to manage, but it probably won’t be necessary for most people.
Using the trackpad for gaming isn’t really a suitable option, as these were not designed to be used as a gaming peripheral. Even with multi-touch enabled trackpads there just isn’t enough versatility to allow players to get the most out of their experience. In this instance, it is definitely worth the extra effort of carrying around a primary gaming mouse that you can connect up to your laptop’s USB port, or even connect wirelessly in the case of Bluetooth mice.
Carrying a mouse around in your laptop bag will likely not be too much of a hassle, so this is definitely recommended for anyone that finds themselves wanting to game a little while they are out and about. Laptops are not meant to be used as gaming controllers, so a mouse and keyboard are a must.
There are many gaming mouse models on the market, and many of them feature advanced features such as macros and DPI sensitivity settings that can be used in real-time while you are in-game, which allow you to adapt your playstyle without having to interrupt the gaming action.
If you are considering an external keyboard and mouse, you might want to consider looking into some of the best gaming desks, too.
You can consider our guide a road map to the best cheap gaming laptops available right now. While they cover a wide range of different price points, they fully represent the range of options available among entry- and mid-level models. We encourage you to let us know about your favorite budget laptops below. If you decide there’s nothing on here that quite meets your needs, we have plenty of other articles about the best gaming laptops available in 2021.If you liked our article on budget gaming laptops, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.