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There’s one constant truth when it comes to gaming: Today’s ultra-new, ultra-powerful, ultra-expensive technology is going to end up in tomorrow’s bargain bin.
And that’s exactly what we’re looking for today in our search for the best budget gaming laptops: a generation behind. There’s nothing wrong with that, because if you’re constantly on the hunt for the next big thing, you’re also hurting your wallet. We’ll live happily with their trade-ins, meanwhile.
A solid budget laptop plays virtually all the latest games, connects to the best peripherals, and gives you an enjoyable overall gaming experience. Most importantly, it costs hundreds and often thousands of dollars less than this week’s new must-have gaming laptop. (And this must-have new gaming laptop will feature prominently in a future round-up of the best budget gaming laptops.)
So what are the top things to look out for when separating good budget gaming laptops from cheap junk?
Processor – You might not be able to score the Intel Core i7 “Alder Lake” or any of the other ridiculously speedy processors, but a very solid AMD Ryzen 5 processor is well within reach, as is a last-gen Intel Core i5.
Graphic card – The graphics card or GPU is probably where the most common upgrades take place. That means it’s also the place to go for a generation or even two and find yourself with an excellent GPU at a deep discount. NVIDIA has a long history of making the best GPUs, which means their older units are still great.
memory and storage – This is where you have the most control over your budget laptop purchase and can upgrade later for relatively little cost. A good middle range for your RAM is 8-12GB; don’t try to go deeper. Look for a laptop with a solid state drive (SSD) with at least 240 GB of storage space; 1TB is probably the best you’ll find if you’re on a budget. But again, both can be updated.
Check out these six great options, listed from cheapest to most expensive:
Lenovo L340 15
It’s so convenient to choose a laptop like the Lenovo L340 15 rather than spending literally triple the price, if not more, to chase the next big thing.
For a modest $655, you get a 9th Gen Intel Core i5 quad-core processor running at a crisp 2.4GHz, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, and 512GB of internal SSD storage. That alone qualifies the Lenovo L340 15 as a solid budget buy, but when you then add two 1.5W speakers with Dolby Atmos sound and nine hours of battery life, the chassis only gets stronger. The 15.6-inch screen is solid and has more than enough processing power to handle all your non-gaming PC needs.
If you’re a casual gamer and generally practical person, grab the Lenovo, appreciate its performance, and enjoy the thick stack of cash still living in your wallet.
You can max out the Acer Nitro 5 with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD and keep the price under a thousand dollars. But why not start with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB drive and save almost $250? Again, you can increase the memory and hard drive if needed. But with a device like the Acer Nitro 5, you might not have to.
The AMD Ryzen 5 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card are great for gaming and capable of handling the latest and greatest titles. The four-zone RGB keyboard looks and plays like a far more expensive machine, and the DTS:X sound beats the price by a mile.
The Acer Nitro 5 screams to be a gift for the aspiring young gamer because it offers a lot of performance for a small price, and the construction of the 15.6-inch laptop itself is solid and durable. It’s not lightweight at 5.29 pounds, but you can’t beat the value for this budget gaming laptop.
HP Victus 15.6 inch gaming laptop
We’d normally advise budget-conscious gaming laptop buyers to ignore the benchmarks, but for an $800 machine, the HP Victus 15.6-inch gaming laptop’s numbers are too good not to boast. The 12th Gen Intel Core i5 processor clocks in at up to 4.4GHz, and the 1920 x 1080 screen qualifies as Full HD, a rare find at this price point.
We’ve always been a big fan of HP laptops in general for their reliability and brand reputation, but they’re not a name typically associated with gaming. Of course, the Victus is also an excellent device for everyday use, work and school, but it also shines as an entry-level gaming laptop.
Dell flagship G15 Ryzen Edition Gaming 15 laptop
Imagine how much a gaming laptop with a processor that operates at a base frequency of 3.3 GHz and can accelerate up to 4.2 GHz would have cost a few years ago. Then take a deep breath when you realize that you can get that kind of speed for less than $900 in the form of the Dell Flagship G15 Ryzen Edition Gaming 15 laptop.
The AMD 6-core Ryzen 5 5600H processor, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 graphics card combined with a sharp 120Hz display and an extremely responsive backlit keyboard combine to create a gaming computer that we honestly can’t believe he still lives in the sub-$1000 price zone. An Alienware-inspired Thermal Cool System is the icing on the cake and will help keep Dell’s flagship G15 Ryzen Edition running at peak speed for a long time to come.
Asus Tuf A15 Laptop (19% off)
If you’re looking for a great budget gaming laptop that won’t freak out at the first bump, drop or fall, the ASUS TUF A15 is as tough as it is capable. The military-grade MIL-STD-810H construction is the selling point here, and if you’ve ever had to experience a laptop that just isn’t quite the same after a relatively minor mishap, you’ll really appreciate the ruggedness of this laptop.
But there are also brains behind this muscle power. The AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor can run at up to 4GHz and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 4GB GDDR6 graphics card make this a serious computer that can also take a beating. Cool extra perk: The ASUS TUF A15 can be opened at the bottom for easy access should you want to upgrade your RAM or add up to two more SSDs.
Dell G5 5505 High Performance Gaming Laptop
Dell is another big brand not usually associated with gaming, and yet they’re here with two of our top six picks for the best budget gaming laptops. The second entry, the G5 15 5590 Gaming Laptop, is a 2019 model that still more than holds its own in the budget gaming laptop segment.
Dell designed this laptop specifically for gaming. The interface is intuitive and easy to use, linking all your system settings to a game library for fine-tuning. Wired online gamers will appreciate the Killer E2500 Gigabit Ethernet Controller, which eliminates any latency issues you typically experience in a budget laptop. The 9th Gen Intel Core processor and NVIDIA graphics keep things moving fast and furiously, and the 15.6-inch screen is Full HD.
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