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There is one constant truth when it comes to gaming: Today’s ultra-new, ultra-powerful, ultra-expensive technology will end up in tomorrow’s bargain bin.
And that’s where we’re looking today in our quest for the best budget gaming laptops: one generation behind. There’s not a thing wrong with that, because those who are constantly chasing the next big thing are also doing some serious damage to their wallets. We, meanwhile, will happily live with their trade-ins.
A solid budget laptop will play virtually all the newest games, connect to the best peripherals, and give you an enjoyable overall gaming experience. Most importantly, it will do it for hundreds and often thousands of dollars less than this week’s must-have new gaming laptop. (And that must-have new gaming laptop will be prominently featured in a future roundup of best budget gaming laptops.)
So what are the most important things to look for as you sort out good budget gaming laptops from cheap junk?
Processor – You may not be able to score the Intel Core i7 “Alder Lake” or one of the other ludicrous-speed processors, but a very solid AMD Ryzen 5 processor is well within range, as is a last-gen Intel Core i5.
Graphics card – The graphics card, or GPU, is probably where the most frequent upgrades happen. Which means it’s also the place you can slide in one or even two gens behind and find yourself with an excellent GPU at a steep discount. NVIDIA has been making the top GPUs for a long time, 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 also where you can upgrade later on for relatively little cost. A good midlevel range for your RAM is 8-12 GB; try to not go any lower than that. Look for a laptop with a solid-state drive (SSD) with at least 240GB of space; 1TB is probably the best you will find while staying on a budget. But, again, both can be upgraded.
Check out these six great choices, listed from least to most expensive:
Lenovo L340 15
There’s so much practicality to choosing a laptop like the Lenovo L340 15 rather than spending literally three times the price, if not more, chasing the next big thing.
For a modest $655 you get a 9th Gen Intel Core i5 quad-core processor which runs as a crisp 2.4 GHz, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, and 512GB of SSD internal storage. That alone qualifies the Lenovo L340 15 as a solid budget buy, but then you add two 1.5W speakers with Dolby Atmos sound and a nine-hour battery life, and the case just gets stronger. The 15.6-inch screen is solid, and it has more than enough processing power to cover all of your non-gaming PC needs.
If you’re a casual gamer and an overall practical person, grab the Lenovo, appreciate its performance, and savor the thick stack of bills that still live in your wallet.
Acer Nitro 5
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 at 8GB of RAM and a 256GB drive and save almost $250? Again, you can bump up the memory and the hard drive down the road if you need to. But with a machine like the Acer Nitro 5, you might not need to.
The AMD Ryzen 5 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card are both great for gaming and capable of handling the newest and best titles. The four-zone RGB keyboard looks and plays like a far more expensive machine, and the DTS:X sound far outperforms the price.
The Acer Nitro 5 practically begs to be a gift for a burgeoning young gamer, because it provides a lot of power at a small price, and the construction of the 15.6-inch laptop itself is solid and durable. At 5.29 pounds it’s no featherweight, but the value for this budget gaming laptop is unbeatable.
HP Victus 15.6-Inch Gaming Laptop
We normally would advise budget gaming laptop shoppers to ignore the benchmarks, but for an $800 machine the HP Victus 15.6-Inch Gaming Laptop’s numbers are too good to not tout. The Intel 12th Gen Core i5 processor moves at up to 4.4GHz, and the 1920 x 1080 screen qualifies is as Full HD, a rare find at this price.
We have always been a big fan of HP laptops in general for their reliability and brand reputation, but they’re not a name normally associated with gaming. The Victus is of course also an excellent machine for everyday tasks, work and school, but it also shines as an entry-level gaming laptop.
Dell Flagship G15 Ryzen Edition Gaming 15 Laptop
Think of how much a gaming laptop with a processor that cooks along at a base 3.3GHz and can max boost up to 4.2GHz would have cost just a couple of years ago. Then take a deep breath when you realize that you can score that kind of speed for under $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 team up with a sharp 120Hz display and super-responsive backlit keyboard to create a gaming computer that we frankly can’t believe still lives in the sub-$1000 price zone. An Alienware-inspired Thermal Cool System is the cherry on the sundae, and it will help keep the Dell Flagship G15 Ryzen Edition speeding along for a long time to come.
Asus Tuf A15 Laptop (19% Off)
If you want a great budget gaming laptop that won’t freak out from the first bump or drop or fall, the ASUS TUF A15 is as rugged as it is capable. Military-grade MIL-STD-810H construction is the selling point here, and if you’ve ever had to live through a laptop that is just never quite the same after a relatively minor mishap, you will greatly appreciate the toughness of this laptop.
But there are brains behind this brawn too. The AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor can run up to 4GHz, and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 4GB GDDR6 graphics card make this a serious computer on top of being one that can take a licking. Cool extra perk: The ASUS TUF A15 can be opened at the bottom for easy access in case you want to upgrade your memory or add as many as two more SSDs.
Dell G5 5505 High Performance Gaming Laptop
Dell is another big brand not normally associated with gaming, and yet there they are with two of our six picks for 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 sector.
Dell designed this laptop specifically for gaming. The interface is intuitive and easy to use, and it links all of your system settings with a gaming library for fine-tuning. Hardwired online gamers will appreciate the Killer E2500 Gigabit Ethernet controller, which kills any latency issues you may normally experience in a budget laptop. The 9th Gen Intel Core processor and NVIDIA graphics keep things moving fast and furious, and the 15.6-inch screen is Full HD.