How to Choose a Cheap Gaming Laptop

A lot of people choose desktop PCs because they offer unmatched customizability and allow players to pick and choose their PC’s key components depending on their gaming needs. However, building your own gaming PC from scratch can be daunting and some would rather opt for a gaming device that’s also portable.

This is where gaming laptops come in. Unlike typical laptops, gaming laptops are engineered with the right components that allow it to decently run today’s popular titles. However, gaming laptops usually come at a higher price compared to run-of-the-mill laptops ⁠— with gaming behemoths like the MSI GT76 DT-9SG Titan retailing at upwards of $4,000.

If you’re looking for a great performing gaming laptop, but don’t want to pay a premium, you can cut corners on the specs and settle for an entry-level gaming laptop. All it takes is just a little more consideration in terms of its specs. So, we’ve drafted up a short guide on how to choose a gaming laptop that won’t break the bank.

Check the CPU

Your gaming laptop should have a great performing CPU in order to smoothly run games and software. Unlike the GPU, which deals with your laptop’s visuals, the CPU dictates how well your laptop performs all-around tasks. In the past, CPUs only had one core, and that’s because the computers of the 1970s only used to work on one task at a time. But these days, HP notes how computers can have 8 or more cores, which allow them to run several programs all at once. The more cores you have on your laptop, the more power it has to run your games — but this also translates to higher costs.

Most gamers can settle for a 4-core CPU, as this can let you play at lower resolutions, which is alright for most games. Forbes points out that more processor-intensive titles like Far Cry 5 or GTA V might require six cores though, and a hexacore processor is recommended for those looking to stream their games. Ultimately, choosing between a 4-core and 6-core CPU depends mostly on the games you want to play and if you’re looking to stream them. Both are relatively affordable, but if you have some cash to spare, you might as well get a gaming laptop with a hexacore CPU.

A Good Graphics Card is Key

If you’re a stickler for stunning graphics, make sure that your gaming laptop has a good GPU or graphics card. However, high performance comes with high costs, and gaming laptops with more recent GPUs like the Geforce GTX 1660 or the GTX 1660 Ti will set you back by a few thousand dollars. If you’re not ready to shell out that much money for your gaming laptop, you have to accept that you won’t be able to play newer games with intense visuals like Cyberpunk 2077 or Control.

But that doesn’t mean that entry-level gaming laptops with older GPUs have terribly limited options. Older GPU models like Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and the GTX 1650 are often seen in gaming laptops under $1,000. With these, you can play popular and still relevant gaming titles like Dota 2, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Minecraft.

Always Choose SSD

A solid state drive (SSD) is a must for any laptop these days. Compared to mechanical hard drives (HDD), SSDs are incredibly fast and can deliver up to 100 times the performance of HDDs. What’s more, an SSD is essential if you want to boot your computer and games in a matter of seconds.

Luckily, many cheap gaming laptops these days have SSD options. However, there’s a significantly huge price difference between a 128 GB SSD and a 256 GB SSD. But even if gaming laptops with HDDs that have up to 500 GB of storage are cheaper than those that have an SSD, you’re better off sacrificing storage space for faster boot times.

Overall, our very own Matt Cupper points out that while higher prices translate to higher specs, any gamer can still find affordable laptop options that suit their needs on the market — as long as you take your time to research and shop around. You don’t need to break the bank to have a decent gaming laptop, so be sure to do your due diligence and take on board the tips we’ve listed above.

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