Whether you’re looking for the best gaming laptop, the best desktop, or just the best keyboard, you always want to make sure you’re getting the absolute best bang for your buck. But how can you know whether or not those sticks of RAM are overpriced, or if the graphics card inside is the one that’s going to take you up the leaderboards on the latest online shooters?
#1 Dell Inspiron i7559
Award: Pick Editor’s Choice
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Best budget option for gamers who need to watch their wallet.
Although it may not look the sexiest or have any of the “extreme” accents that many gaming peripherals can’t go without these days, the Dell Inspiron i7559 is hiding a whole lot of value in a very small (and impossibly light) package.
The key to being able to pack in so much graphical power without upping the cost to the level of its competitors lies in the CPU, which only clocks in at an i5-6500HQ and a measly 8GB of DDR3L RAM. When you’re shopping on a budget and looking for value though, these types of compromises are where you find the best deals. Most AAA games that demand a lot from your system aren’t nearly as reliant on CPU and RAM power as they used to be, offloading much of that responsibility to the GPU instead. With a massive GTX 960M with 4GB DDR5 VRAM, this means the Dell will have no problem handling almost any title you can think of without batting an eye, and will only experience minor slowdowns during intense multi-tasking processes like video editing or heavy web browsing.
Related: Also try the best gaming laptops for school.
All this in mind, it’s impossible to argue with the Dell’s bargain basement price of just $799. Sure, you’ll have to deal with a slightly slower CPU and limited RAM to get it, but for your money there simply isn’t a better deal on shelves today.
#2 Pick MSI GS60 Ghost Pro 4K
Price: $1,767.00 | Features: Beautiful 15.6″ 4K display, 16GB DDR4 2133MHz RAM
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The GS60 Ghost Pro is a 4K gamer’s paradise.
While the initial shock of the sticker price on the MSI Ghost Pro 4K may make it a little bit more difficult to believe this is a machine that’s good for your money; believe us when we tell you it’s putting out a value like few other laptops on this list can.
With a massive 6GB of VRAM on its included GTX 970M, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a beautiful 15.6″ UHD 4K display, the MSI Ghost is an all-in-one monster that could stand toe-to-toe with any gaming desktop without moving an inch.
Related: Check the best laptop for League of Legends.
Add to this a stellar, sleek design for $1767 and what you get is a laptop that is a bit on the pricier side, but pays it back in dividends whether you’re on the road, at home, or sloughing around somewhere in between.
#3 Pick Lenovo Y700
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: JBL speakers and a 3W subwoofer create media watching bliss.
The Lenovo Y700 has got an odd look, but its specs and price are right in line with what you’d expect from a gaming laptop that’s doing everything it can to get you the best possible value for your hard-earned dollar.
With a solid pair of 2W JBL speakers and a 3W subwoofer to boot, the Y700 is perfect for gaming or – perhaps more importantly depending on who you ask – media watching on the go. With its raised screen and ultra-cool fan system, this is a laptop that will sit on any surface without melting its own components, all without sacrificing any of the sound quality that many other laptops in this class leave behind in favor of better ergonomics.
Add in a 4GB GTX 960M with an Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor and it’s clear that while Lenovo may not exactly be a leader in the space of gaming laptops, they’re definitely no slouch, either.
#4 Pick Gigabyte P35x V5
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Insane graphics performance for any gaming machine out there.
Some gamers value a low price, while others prefer to balance price against other features like media watching capabilities and a nice screen. Then, there’s the gamers who just want pure, unadulterated power.
Enter the Gigabyte P35x V5, which to put it bluntly, has no business being the price it is. The P35x somehow manages to cram in many of the same specs we’ve come to expect around this price point (8GB of RAM, i7-6700HQ, etc), all while stuffing in an extra Nvidia GTX 980M 8GB on top. This puts it head and shoulders above the rest of the entries here, which don’t even come close to matching the raw output that the 8GB version of the 980M is capable of.
If you’re okay giving up a few other luxuries like a nice screen in order to get the absolute maximum graphics power out of your mobile machine, look no further than the Gigabyte P35x V5.
#5 Pick Acer Predator 17 G9-791-78CE
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Predator is just as powerful as it is beautifully assembled.
Since getting my hands on the Acer Predator 17, it’s been difficult for me to put it down. There’s no one category where the Predator 17 completely blows the rest of the other gaming laptops here clear out of the water, but it’s the collective experience of the whole that really works to bring the whole thing together.
The build quality is incredible, the keyboard and trackpad are a joy to use for hours on end, and the screen is perfect for watching a movie or marathon multiplayer gaming sessions. Add to this the 32GB of RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD that come as a cherry on top, and you have a rock-steady all-around gaming laptop that will stand up to any test you throw its way.
It’s great for anyone who’s never owned a gaming laptop before or this is your 10th in a decade, either way with so many over-the-top additions without the over-the-top weight, you’re left with a gaming laptop that checks every box you could think of.
Key Factors and Features to a Good Gaming Laptop For the Money
- When you’re trying to get the best value for your money in any product category, the main key is compromise.
- That said, almost all the laptops on this list (save for one outlier) is rocking Intel’s mobile powerhouse; the Core i7-6700HQ
- Processors aren’t as important for gaming as the graphics card, but you should still never sink below the “i5” line of CPUs unless you can’t avoid it in the price bracket you’re searching in
- RAM is another flexible aspect of gaming PCs, because it’s not as immediately vital as the graphics card.
- The general rule here is to never go below 8GB, as this is the minimum amount that any game (whether it’s Hearthstone or GTA V) will need to render its graphics and the graphics of the operating system smoothly at the same time
- And now we come to the most important feature of any gaming laptop worth its salt: the GPU
- Nvidia has released cards for every budget you could imagine in this space, but the three big chips to look out for are the GTX 960M, the GTX970M, and the GTX980M
- Each has their own applications and cost-to-benefit ratios, but overall you want a card that can carry its own in AAA titles (the 970M 3GB strikes a nice balance here), but also isn’t so expensive that you’re pricing yourself out of a machine with better specs on the side.
- Never get a gaming laptop without at least a 128GB SSD, if you can avoid it
- As we’ve mentioned before, the speed difference between an SSD and HDD for gaming is extreme, meaning you’ll spend a whole lot more time waiting around during loading screens if you opt for the HDD-only option instead
- Some people say they can’t live with anything except 4K resolution on their laptops, while others are just fine living in a world where 1920 x 1080 is the norm
- Screen size and resolution almost always boil down to personal preference, and which is right for you depends on what your budget looks like and the features you want included most on your next machine
- Budget laptops have a bad habit of skimping on build quality in favor of beefier specs, and even a few selections on this list are slightly guilty of the sin.
- That said, as long as you’re buying from a reputable manufacturer like Acer, Gigabyte, or MSI, you can be sure that the company will guarantee the longevity and toughness of its cases and keyboards for upwards of three years after your initial purchase.
Mistakes to Avoid
Buying Features You Won’t Use: As we mentioned above, getting the best laptop for the money is all about maximizing the variety of features against the price, and making your pick from there. If you want a 4K screen and don’t mind giving up a little graphical power to get it, there’s a laptop for that. If you want big, boomy speakers but couldn’t care less about the size of the SSD, there’s a laptop for that too.
“Budget” Doesn’t Mean “Cheap”: All the gaming laptops on this list are pricey by normal standards, save except for the Dell Inspirion i7559. A gaming laptop can’t be upgraded, which means you should always save up as much as you can to buy the best machine you can to ensure it lasts more than a few product cycles and game releases without becoming obsolete. The more you spend upfront on your next device, the longer it’s going to stick around in the broad scope of things.
Which Gaming Laptop for the Money is Right For You?
Of all the lists we’ve written on this subject, this list definitely has the most variety and options between the best gaming laptops on shelves right now. “Value” is in the eye of the beholder, which is why we’ve included so many different choices for any price tier and budget.
Pound for pound, dollar for dollar it’s impossible to beat the value you get with the Dell Inspiron i7559, but it doesn’t do everything you could possibly want out of a laptop on its own. That’s where alternatives like the boomy Lenovo Y700 or Gigabyte’s graphical workhorse the P35x come in to fill the void. The Predator 17 is a solid all-around impressive laptop, while the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro features a gorgeous 4K screen that’s perfect for movie watching, gaming, or both at the same time with all the extra real estate you’ll have to play around with.
The best gaming laptop for the money isn’t always the one that’s easiest on your wallet – it’s the one that gives you the features you want in one package, with no extra frills to distract you from the best part of owning once of these machines in the first place: gaming to your heart’s content for hours and hours on end.