I promise there are good cheap gaming laptops out there. They are like the hidden treasure at the beginning of pretty much any Disney movie from the 90s; they require intuition, exploration, the proper research, and little luck in order to find them. If you’re in the market for a good cheap gaming laptop but you don’t want to spend the equivalent of a mortgage payment to buy one, then look no further.
The first thing you want to do is find a model with the right kind of video card. For the most part, any laptop with an “onboard” video card is not going to do your games justice. You need to find a good cheap gaming laptop with an enhanced GPU such as ATI or NVIDIA. Sometimes it’s hard to find budget laptops- that is, laptops without insanely powerful and expensive core processors- bundled with exceptional GPUs, but they are out there. Use an aggregate review or system comparison site to search for models with acceptable graphics cards. Also you can ask around on different gaming forums, but be prepared for a barrage of “you can’t buy a gaming laptop for less than X dollars” comments. If you can wade through the naysayers you’ll usually be able to find one or two informed gamers willing to share their knowledge.
As you start your search for a good cheap gaming laptop, you will find a few models that are dedicated solely to gaming. These laptops tend to be extremely heavy, extremely powerful, and extremely expensive. However, they also come with a ton of bells and whistles that they average gamer simply doesn’t need in order to enjoy your basic MMO or some of the older titles. If you’re looking for a great machine that will play your games at a decent frame rate, then it’s time to get creative. Consider nicer conventional models that you could modify with the help of tech savvy friend (or perhaps a bottle of wine and a few YouTube tutorials) into the gaming powerhouse you desire. The best plan is to figure out the bare minimum specs you need based on which types of games you play the most often (open ended RPGs? Shoot em ups? MMOs?) and compare them to what’s currently out there. You may find a handful of model that have almost everything you need at the right price, and from there you’re just a hop, skip, and jump away from a great gaming laptop.
The first thing you want to look at on a good cheap gaming laptop is a Core processor. Unless you’re trying to play top of the line games on their highest settings, you really don’t need a Core i7. A Core i3 will work fine for most gamers. The Core i5 is a compromise between the two; it’s more expensive than the Core i3 and more powerful, and it also has a neat Turbo boost feature. As far as graphics go, we’ve already discussed ATI, AMD, and NVIDIA as the best options. There are also websites out there that let you look up which games will work on which graphics cards. You can use this information before you buy to check out the specs on your favorite games, or see what the GPU on a potential purchase can theoretically handle.
One decision where you do have some leeway cased on personal preferences is screen size. Some gamers swear that the bigger the screen, the better the gaming experience. However, keep in mind that larger screens will up the cost substantially on any laptop. Consider this; theoretically you are buying a gaming laptop over a traditional desktop setup because you desire portability. Perhaps you want to go over to a friend’s house on the weekends for a Call of Duty marathon. If you stick yourself with an expensive laptop with a 17” screen, you’ll be lugging around a piece of machinery weighing between 10 and 15 pounds. That will get really old, really fast. If you compromise a little bit on screen size (even a 13” screen can offer a decent experience at a nice frame rate) you can save big bucks and keep the mobile factor. Also, if you can find a model with an HDMI port, you can hook your laptop up to your television (which most likely has a larger screen than any desktop or laptop) for a truly epic gaming experience. Problem solved.
It may take a little time to find the perfect deal for a good cheap gaming laptop. You should shop the sales both online and in local tech stores. Almost every major metropolitan area will have a few dedicated electronics resale shops, as well as a few manufacturer specific certified resellers. These will be better bets than finding used models online, because they employ IT professionals to thoroughly examine and repair any models before putting them on the shelf. These stores often also sell display and refurbished models, meaning you can essentially buy a new gaming laptop for a fraction of the cost. Additionally you can wait for certain specials to come around. By doing your homework you can find out when a major manufacturer is getting ready to release a new series of laptops or a heavily anticipated model. During these periods stores often drop the prices of other, older models significantly in anticipation of their sales dropping. This is the best time to snag a good cheap gaming laptop that’s brand new. Remember to keep your list of necessary specs with you as you bargain hunt.
When you are preparing to buy your good cheap gaming laptop, you can’t expect to walk into one store and walk out thirty minutes later with your dream machine. In order to get the best deal possible, you’re going to have to put in some work. The result, however, will be hours and hours of pleasurable gaming experience with a little cash to spare for upcoming titles.