Laptops come in all shapes, sizes, and functionality. Some people use them for web browsing and word processing, while others use them for image editing or 3D art projects. There are developers who use them for coding and programming. But what if you just want to enjoy a game or two every now and then?
A dedicated gaming laptop like Alienware can cost thousands of dollars. Some of this high cost is because these types of laptops come with premium CPUs, advanced graphics processors and dedicated cooling systems.
But what about those who enjoy casual gaming when they’re off work or have some down time? For them, a cheap gaming laptop that doesn’t cost a lot is their best option, just as long as they’re not expecting to play games at their highest resolutions.
If you’re one of these more casual gamers, let’s look at some of the best budget gaming laptops that you can buy right now.
The Different Types of Laptop Operating Systems
First of all, you need to understand that computer gaming exists in three distinct platforms—Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. For the sake of comparison, I won’t be including Mac OS in this review.
Game companies usually develop on Windows because they have the largest consumer base in the gaming market. Then the developers will often port their games to Mac or Linux OS at some point in future in order to expand their availability and consumer base. Some developers may also create games for both Windows and Mac OS at the same time.
Why is this important? Chrome OS, an operating system developed by Google, has been gaining popularity in recent years. The open source software allows laptop manufacturers to include the free operating system in their bundle, which in turn lowers the cost of the laptop. This is why Chromebooks are less expensive— there is no OEM software to pay to Microsoft, which can end up saving you a lot of money.
Top 5 Affordable Gaming Laptops: Microsoft Windows
In the first section of this review, the top five affordable gaming laptops that are featured all operate out of a Windows environment. The reason that I selected the Windows OS is that they have thousands of games available, including all the latest games which have been released in 2016.
The second set of five cheap gaming laptops that I review will focus on Chromebooks. While they may not be able to run Windows games straight out of the box, you do have the option of installing games from the Chrome Web Store. The Chrome Store currently features a large variety of gaming apps. Alternatively, you can install Linux on your Chromebook which will give you access to Steam Linux, which is one of the most popular platform to get games these days.
Are you ready? Let’s dive into the first segment.
1. Lenovo Z70
The Lenovo comes with a huge 17.3” display, featuring 1920 x 1080 pixel screen resolution. It has an Intel Core i5–5200U 2.4GHz processor, 8 GB of SDRAM, a 1TB 5400RPM hard drive, as well as an 8 GB solid-state drive. The Z70 also comes with a GeForce GT840M graphics processor with 2GB RAM and a DVD rewritable optical drive.
Part of what makes the Lenovo stand out is the dual 1TB hard drive as well as an 8GB SSD. Hybrid drives have been becoming more popular recently, as they help improve boot up and loading times by off-loading commonly accessed apps and documents from a computer’s RAM into the SSD.
Another great feature of the Lenovo Z70 is the dedicated NVIDIA GeForce 840M graphics card, which is excellent for gaming and streaming video. The Lenovo comes with JBL-designed speakers and Dolby Advanced Audio for an exceptional surround sound experience.
The Lenovo’s 1080p screen offers crisp resolution, which makes it perfect for watching videos. Combined with the mega huge 17.3” display, powerful graphics card, and quad-core processor, and you have the second best affordable gaming laptop available right now.
The Lenovo Z70 currently ships with Windows 10.
Next on the list is the Acer Aspire E 17, which is similar to the Lenovo in terms of specifications.
Like the Lenovo Z70, the Acer Aspire comes with a 17.3” full HD display at 1920 x 1080 pixels, and features an Intel i5 2.2GHz processor, 8GB SDRAM and a 1TB 5400RPM hard disk. The Acer Aspire also comes with a dedicated graphics card–a GeForce 940M with 4GB VRAM.
The Acer has an amazing full-HD widescreen display with ComfyView LED-backlit technology, which makes gaming and video viewing an immersive experience. The built-in Acer TrueHarmony high-performance sound system enhances audio by boosting bass and overall volume. The custom equalizer makes music and gaming soundtracks come to life.
What makes the Acer Aspire stand out from the Lenovo Z70 is its NVIDIA 940M graphics card which is a newer version. In computing, it’s always better to choose the latest processor. Even though it doesn’t come with a rewritable DVD like the Lenovo, you just have to ask yourself if this is a feature that you’ll actually use.
Both laptops have a similar price tag, but the Acer Aspire’s better GPU makes it the number one cheap gaming laptop on this list.
The Acer Aspire currently ships with Windows 10.
It’s also important to point out that the Lenovo Z70 and Acer Aspire are the only two laptops in this review to feature 1080p displays.
The ASUS comes with a 15.6” touchscreen display at 1366 x 768 pixels, AMD A4–5000 quad-core 1.5GHz processor, 6GB RAM, and a 750GB 5400RPM hard disk. The ASUS also features a dedicated graphics card–a Radeon HD 8330 GPU for powerful gaming capabilities.
The ASUS is the only gaming laptop on this list to feature a touchscreen display, which is a unique feature and worth considering. It also comes with a DVD rewriter and 3 USB ports–2 USB 3.0 and 1 USB 2.0.
The Acer Aspire currently ships with Windows 8.
The next review is for the Toshiba Satellite C55-B5270 which also features a 15.6” display screen that is similar to the ASUS K552EA. The Toshiba features a TruBrite LED-backlit display at 1366 x 768 pixels and gives you plenty of room for working or gaming.
This laptop comes with an Intel Pentium N3530 2.16GHz processor, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB 5400RPM hard disk, and a DVD SuperMulti drive that supports 11 formats. The Toshiba Satellite has an Intel Integrated Graphics chip, which is slightly less powerful than dedicated processors. Despite the decreased power, The Toshiba Satellite C%%-B5270 is still capable of playing games, as long as you don’t expect it to perform as well an NVIDIA or AMD.
The Toshiba Satellite C55-B5270 currently ships with Windows 8.
Not to be confused with the Toshiba above, the Satellite C855D-S5950 features a different processor—an AMD E–300 1.3GHz model. While it may not have as much processing power as the Satellite C55-B5270, this Toshiba Satellite model has an extra trick up its sleeve—an AMD Radeon HD 6310 graphics card. This is beneficial for gaming because a dedicated graphics processor is able to process and render graphics more efficiently, taking the strain off the computer’s main CPU.
The Satellite C855D-S5950 comes with a 15.6” 1366 x 768 HD TruBrite LED-backlit display, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 5400RPM hard disk and a DVD SuperMulti drive. It also costs slightly less than the Toshiba Satellite C55-B5270, making it the cheapest gaming laptop in this top 5 list.
The Toshiba Satellite C855D-S5950 currently ships with Windows 8.
Top 5 Affordable Gaming Laptops: Chromebooks
The five laptops below feature Chrome as their operating system. Many of them are extremely affordable, especially if you’re looking for a cheap gaming laptop under $200 If you are tech-savvy and don’t mind installing Linux OS, a Chromebook may be the right choice for you. Though the feature fewer of the more powerful specifications of traditional models, these laptops are definitely worth considering if you’re interested in a more economical option.
The Hisense Chromebook is an 11.6”laptop with 1366 x 768 pixels and features a Rockchip 1.8GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC flash storage. It is no doubt the cheapest gaming laptop on this list.
The ASUS Chromebook also has an 11.6”, 1366 x 768 pixel display. It runs on an Intel Celeron 2.16GHz processor with 2GB of RAM. It comes with a 16GB solid-state drive which is slightly faster than eMMC flash drives. It also comes with an Intel HD Graphics processor, which makes it a great option for cheap gaming laptops under $200.
The Dell CRM3120–1667BLK features an Intel Celeron N2840 2.16GHz processor with 2GB SDRAM and 16GB of eMMC flash storage. Its screen size is 11.6” and has a resolution display of 1366 x 768 pixels. The Dell costs a little over $200.
5. Acer C720
The Acer C720 is the last 11.6” Chromebook on this list, and it is also the priciest. However, this cheap gaming laptop should be considered due to its Intel Celeron 1.4GHz processor, 4GB RAM and 32GB solid-state drive. The C720 has a display resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
Buyer’s Guide: What’s the Difference between SSD and eMMC?
You’ll definitely want to think about this when looking for affordable gaming laptops. Solid-state drives (SSD) are the fastest hard-disks available today because they don’t use spinning disks to read and write data. eMMC is a type of flash storage that is similar to SD storage cards. eMMC is often used in cheaper laptops because they don’t cost as much as SSD. In short, solid-state drives are faster and of better quality. The downside is that they cost a lot.
This is something to take into consideration when deciding between two laptops with different types of flash storage. Don’t be confused by the label “flash storage” and assume that it is using SSD. Read the fine print to ensure that you choose the right laptop.
I want to reiterate that gaming laptops under $200 exist and can be found. The Hisense and ASUS Chromebooks are good examples. But if you are a serious gamer on a budget, ask yourself whether a $200 laptop is going to suit your needs.
A cheap gaming laptop under $200 like a Chromebook may cost very little, but you should weigh the pros and cons of getting Chrome OS versus Windows OS. The latter is definitely easier to work with, and requires less tinkering on your part to install Linux OS on the Chromebook, which you’ll need to do in order to install Steam.
If you can afford to spend a bit more, then both the Toshiba Satellites on this list offer good value for the price tag. They both feature 15.6 inch displays and come with plenty of storage. The Toshiba Satellite C855D-S5950 even has a Radeon GPU.
Even the best affordable gaming laptop in this review–the Acer Aspire E 17, with a cost of around $650—offers exceptional value for its price. Boasting a 17.3” display and a GeForce 940M graphics card with 4GB of VRAM, the Acer Aspire is truly a budget gamer’s dream come true.