Gaming laptops can get incredibly expensive, with high-end models easily costing upwards of $2000 or $3000. But the good news is, you don’t need to spend a small fortune to get a capable gaming machine. There are plenty of budget-friendly options that deliver solid performance without breaking the bank.
In this blog post, we’ll recommend the top 5 budget gaming laptops that offer great value for money. We’ll discuss their specs, real-world gaming performance, overall usability, pros and cons, and do an analysis on the price versus value you get.
Whether you’re a casual or hardcore gamer on a budget, you’ll find the perfect affordable gaming laptop here! Let’s dive in.
Overview of The Top 5 Budget Gaming Laptop Picks
When compiling this list, we focused on laptops that cost $800 or less. This price limit allows more gamers access to portable, decent gaming rigs without having to spend excessively.
We also emphasized real gaming performance metrics like frame rates and graphics settings over just hardware specs alone. A gaming laptop needs to play current and demanding games smoothly to make the cut!
Finally, we factored in overall usability, build quality, battery life, and versatility for school, work, or everyday use. You want a well-rounded laptop, not just a clunky “gaming only” machine.
With these criteria in mind, here are our top recommendations:
Laptop 1: Asus TUF Dash 15
This lightweight Asus stands out for its stellar performance at an affordable price. With an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU, Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 512GB SSD, it handles AAA games at 60fps smoothly while staying under $800. Battery life is excellent, and the display is vibrant. The tradeoff is a less premium build.
Laptop 2: Acer Nitro 5
Acer’s workhorse budget gaming laptop packs an AMD Ryzen 5 CPU, Nvidia GTX 1650 GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD, and 15.6” 1080p display, easily running popular competitive games at high frame rates. The cooling system prevents overheating during gaming marathons. At around $700, it’s a gaming powerhouse for the price.
Laptop 3: MSI GF65 Thin
This thin and sleek MSI laptop delivers performance that rivals more expensive rigs thanks to the Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU. With an Intel i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and 144Hz display, you can game in full HD with high frame rates. The tradeoff is shorter battery life when not gaming. Just over $800 gets you premium specs.
Laptop 4: Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3
Lenovo’s understated looking laptop hides some beefy gaming hardware inside for less than $700. With AMD Ryzen 5 CPU, GTX 1650 GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD, and 15.6″ 120Hz display, it will satisfy most gamers who want smooth frame rates without breaking their budget. Battery life is also above average.
Laptop 5: Dell G15 Gaming Laptop
Dell’s mainstream gaming rig keeps up with more expensive models thanks to Nvidia RTX 3050 graphics and Intel i5 processor. Combined with 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and 15.6″ 120Hz screen, it powers through 1080p gaming and multitasking workloads while staying cool under pressure for just over $800. The no-frills design keeps the focus on performance.
In-Depth Discussion of Each Gaming Laptop
Now that you have a brief overview, let’s take a deeper look at each laptop’s full specs, real-world gaming benchmarks, design and build quality, and overall pros and cons.
Asus TUF Dash 15 – The Lightweight AAA Gaming Contender
The Asus TUF Dash 15 packs impressive gaming performance into a portable and military-grade durable chassis. Here are the key specs:
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU with 4GB VRAM
- 11th Generation Intel Core i5-11300H CPU
- 8GB DDR4 RAM
- 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD
- 15.6” Full HD 144Hz IPS-level display
This hardware allows the Asus to deliver buttery smooth frame rates even in demanding AAA games:
- Red Dead Redemption 2 – 62 fps (1080p, High Settings)
- Control – 76 fps (1080p, High Settings)
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – 48 fps (1080p, High Settings)
- Cyberpunk 2077 – 55 fps (1080p, High Settings)
As you can see, you can play new graphically intensive releases at over 60fps if you tune some settings down to medium. Competitive esports titles easily fly over 144fps to take full advantage of the high refresh rate display.
Daily multitasking is a breeze thanks to the speedy SSD and six-core i5 processor. The laptop stays cool under extended gaming loads too.
The MIL-STD-810H certified construction can take some bumps and bruises from travel. And at just 4.41lbs, your shoulders won’t tire out carrying this around school or work either.
Battery life is where the Asus TUF excels, with close to 9 hours away from a charger with light usage. Even when gaming, you will get 2+ hours which is rare for a gaming laptop.
Overall, for just $799, the Asus TUF Dash 15 is a fantastic value. You get awesome 1080p AAA gaming speeds in a lightweight and durable chassis with long battery life. Just don’t expect premium build materials at this price, but everything that counts for gaming is done right.
Acer Nitro 5 – The Budget 1080p Gaming Workhorse
Acer has won over budget gamers with the practical performance focus of the Nitro 5. It skips fancy extras in favor of maxing out specs that improve gaming speeds. Let’s examine the hardware powering this workhorse:
- AMD Ryzen 5 4600H CPU
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB VRAM
- 8GB DDR4 RAM
- 256GB NVMe SSD
- 1TB HDD for storage
- 15.6” 1080p IPS display with 144Hz refresh rate
For under $700, that’s a beastly combination that chews through HD gaming:
- CS:GO – 189 fps (1080p, Ultra)
- Valorant – 290 fps (1080p, High)
- Overwatch – 127 fps (1080p, Ultra)
- Fortnite – 74 fps (1080p, High)
- GTA V – 105 fps (1080p, Very High)
As expected, competitive online titles run fantastically with the 144Hz display keeping up. You can also comfortably run AAA games at 60fps if you lower some settings.
The SSD and AMD processor also boot up and load games rapidly. And the dual fan cooling system keeps heat under control so frames don’t drop during long sessions.
With a plastic build and thicker bezels around the screen, the Acer Nitro 5 won’t win any design awards. But the matte black chassis fits right in with gaming aesthetics. You also get an adequate 5 hours of battery life for school or work when not gaming. Plus there are plenty of ports including Ethernet, HDMI, and USB.
For gamers who just want the best performance possible on a tight budget, the no-nonsense Acer Nitro 5 delivers in spades.
MSI GF65 Thin – Sleek Looks with Stealthy Power
MSI manages to cram an Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU into this slim and attractive chassis while keeping the price just over $800. This gives it performance that rivals more expensive rigs. Let’s see what else is powering the MSI GF65 Thin:
- Intel Core i5-10500H CPU
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 GPU with 6GB VRAM
- 8GB DDR4 RAM
- 512GB NVMe SSD
- 15.6” 1080p 144Hz IPS-level display
For a budget gaming laptop, these are impressive specs that translate into velvety smooth framerates:
- Horizon Zero Dawn – 71 fps (1080p, High Settings)
- Red Dead Redemption 2 – 57 fps (1080p, High Settings)
- Cyberpunk 2077 – 48 fps (1080p, High Settings)
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – 88 fps (1080p, Medium Settings)
You can comfortably play any modern title at max settings if you’re willing to tweak a few settings. And esports or online games will scream past 144fps for buttery gameplay. The high refresh rate display makes everything look silky smooth.
Daily performance is also snappy thanks to the hexa-core i5 CPU and NVMe SSD. The matte black chassis is pleasingly subtle for a gaming laptop while still feeling sturdy.
However, expect only around 4 hours of battery life while doing general productivity work. And when gaming, you will need to stay plugged in.
If you want gaming laptop performance that keeps up with more premium devices at a budget price, the MSI GF65 Thin is a top choice. You get premium Nvidia RTX graphics and display in a reasonably slim package.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 – Understated Looks, Beastly Performance
Don’t let the plain black exterior fool you – the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 packs some savage gaming hardware inside. Here are the vitals:
- AMD Ryzen 5 5600H CPU
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB VRAM
- 8GB DDR4 RAM
- 256GB SSD
- 1TB HDD for storage
- 15.6” 1080p 120Hz display
This balanced combination delivers excellent 1080p speeds:
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider – 55 fps (1080p, Highest settings)
- Fortnite – 71 fps (1080p, High settings)
- Apex Legends – 68 fps (1080p, High settings)
- Valorant – 280 fps (1080p, High settings)
Modern single player games play smoothly at max settings. And you can push over 100fps on competitive multiplayer titles to benefit from the 120Hz display.
Daily productivity is powered efficiently by the Ryzen 5 CPU and speedy SSD. The subtle style with thinner bezels is suited for school and office use when you aren’t gaming.
Battery life is above average at over 6 hours for web browsing and document work. But expect less than 2 hours when gaming unplugged.
With performance nearly on par with more expensive rigs and a battery suited for schoolwork, the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 is a well-rounded pick under $700. You’re getting awesome 1080p speeds in a package built for productivity too.
Dell G15 – No Frills Performance Powerhouse
Some gaming laptops go overboard with flashy lights and designs. The Dell G15 takes the opposite approach, focusing solely on maximizing performance for the price. Here’s what’s under the hood:
- 11th Gen Intel Core i5-11260H CPU
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 GPU with 4GB VRAM
- 8GB DDR4 RAM
- 512GB NVMe SSD
- 15.6” 1080p 120Hz display
This hardware provides smooth framerates even in the latest games:
- Hitman 3 – 71 fps (1080p, High Settings)
- Forza Horizon 5 – 60 fps (1080p, High Settings)
- Battlefield V – 105 fps (1080p, High Settings)
- Call of Duty: Warzone – 75 fps (1080p, High Settings)
The Dell G15 keeps up with more expensive rigs thanks to the RTX 3050 GPU and speedy i5 processor. AAA titles play excellently at high settings, with esports games blazing past 120fps.
The understated black chassis stays cool under load thanks to the powerful fans and heat pipes. The SSD boots Windows 10 rapidly, and the 144Hz screen makes everything look silky smooth.
Battery life is just average at 4-5 hours for document editing and web browsing. But this machine was built for gaming, and it delivers excellent 1080p speeds for under $850.
For gamers who care about performance over flash, the reasonably priced Dell G15 is the perfect match. It runs modern titles smoothly without wasting money on unnecessary extras.
How To Choose The Best Budget Gaming Laptop
Looking at the top contenders, you might be wondering how to decide on the best budget gaming laptop for your needs. Here are some tips:
- Determine the types of games you want to play – Are you into AAA single player masterpieces, competitive online shooters, massively multiplayer games, retro arcade games? Your gaming preferences will inform priorities.
- Consider the most important specs based on game genres – For AAA games, prioritize the GPU and display. For esports, high refresh rate screens are key. Storage affects load times. RAM helps with multi-tasking.
- Know the specs needed to run desired games smoothly – Check system requirements, read reviews, and watch benchmark videos to see real-world performance. Shoot for at least 60fps at high settings.
- Compare laptops head-to-head in your budget range – Our top 5 contenders provide a great starting point. Compare their hardware and benchmarks to the games you wish to play.
- Read reviews from trustworthy sources – Hands-on evaluations reveal nuances beyond specs. Build quality, heat management, and battery life all matter.
- Factor in your non-gaming usage – Will you use this at school for work too? Mobility may matter. Pick something not too flashy in those cases.
- Consider future proofing and upgrade options – Can RAM or storage be upgraded later? Pick a GPU that will stay relevant. Shoot for quad or hexa-core CPU.
By keeping your own usage, budget, and gaming preferences in mind while checking reviews and benchmarks, you’ll identify the best budget gaming laptop for your needs. It’s about balance – not just raw power.
Frequently Asked Questions About Budget Gaming Laptops
If this is your first gaming laptop purchase, chances are you still have some questions about finding an affordable rig. Let’s tackle some of the most frequently asked questions from budget-minded gamers:
Q: What GPU do I need for 1080p gaming at high settings?
A: For smooth 60fps+ gaming in modern AAA games at 1920 x 1080 resolution and high detail settings, you will want at least an Nvidia GTX 1650 or 1660 Ti GPU. For even better future proofing, consider a laptop with an RTX 2060 or 3050 Ti.
Q: How much RAM do budget gaming laptops need?
A: 8GB of RAM is the sweet spot for most budget gaming laptops. 16GB is better for serious multitasking, future proofing, and very demanding games. Upgradable RAM is a plus.
Q: Do budget gaming laptops overheat under demanding loads?
A: Gaming rigs generate a lot of heat. But most budget laptops employ good cooling systems using dual fans and plenty of heat pipes and vents. Overheating typically only occurs after years of accumulated dust buildup.
Q: Can budget gaming laptops be upgraded later if needed?
A: Many budget gaming laptops allow you to add more RAM and larger/faster storage down the line. Just avoid models with RAM and storage soldered to the motherboard. Look for accessible SSD slots and open RAM bays when shopping.
Q: How long will a budget gaming laptop last before I need to upgrade?
A: You can expect 2-4 years of great 1080p performance on high settings in new releases before you will need to lower some graphics options. 5+ years if you play mostly esports or older games. Upgrading storage and RAM can extend usefulness further.
Q: Should I get a gaming laptop or desktop PC for the same budget?
A: Laptops give you mobility that desktops lack. But desktops offer better upgradability and peak performance for the same money. If you value portability, get a laptop. If raw power in a fixed location is preferable, get a desktop.
Q: Are cheap gaming laptops under $600 worth considering?
A: Generally not if you want to play modern AAA games at 1080p high settings. But if you mostly play esports, MOBAs or older titles, a budget gaming laptop under $600 can deliver good performance. Just expect to lower settings in more demanding games.
Q: What companies make the best budget gaming laptops?
A: Asus, Acer, MSI, Dell, Lenovo, and HP all make great affordable gaming laptop options. Focus less on brand and more on the specific components and performance metrics according to your needs and budget.
Q: How much storage space do I need for gaming laptops?
A: Get a laptop with at least 512GB of SSD storage. 1TB is even better for housing your game library. Having a secondary HDD in addition to the boot SSD gives you space for more games. External storage is also an option.
Q: Do I need a high refresh rate display for gaming?
A: A 60Hz 1080p screen is fine for casual gaming. But for competitive online games, a 120Hz, 144Hz or even 165Hz display will make a big difference, allowing you to fully take advantage of high FPS beyond 60.
Game On Your Budget with a Value-Packed Gaming Laptop
You don’t need $2000 to $3000 get an awesome gaming laptop. As our top 5 budget gaming laptops prove, you can play modern titles with great frame rates without emptying your wallet.
Factor in your own gaming preferences and needs rather than getting sucked in by branding and specs alone. Read reviews, watch benchmark tests, and assess real-world performance to find the best match in your budget range. Focus on the GPU, display, cooling, processor and RAM rather than aesthetics and extras.
With the right research, you can find an affordable gaming rig that will provide countless hours of entertainment. The Asus TUF Dash 15, Acer Nitro 5, MSI GF65 Thin, Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3, and Dell G15 are fantastic options to consider that won’t break the bank.
Maximize your budget with a smart purchase, and enjoy awesome PC gaming performance without having to take out a loan or blow your savings. Powerful gaming is now accessible to more people than ever before thanks to these value-packed budget gaming laptops.