Budget gaming laptop FAQs
What are the differences between a budget gaming laptop and a midrange or high-end gaming laptop?
The best budget gaming laptops are more powerful than ever. But the absolute most powerful gaming laptops will still cost hundreds of dollars more.
Right now, the best graphics card you can get in a budget laptop is an RTX 4070, and even that’s incredibly rare. If you want an RTX 4080 or RTX 4090 — the kind of cards that can run games at high settings in 4K and run virtual reality titles without a stutter — you’ll need to open up your wallet.
These more expensive laptops will also have better CPUs, meaning apps and files will open and load faster; better screens with higher refresh rates and clearer speakers, which help your games look and sound better; and more storage space, meaning you can have more games and apps installed at once. Depending on the model, they might be able to do all this while having better battery life and lighter frames.
Some will also include extra bonuses, like the mechanical keyboards built into high-end Alienware models or the customizable chassis featured on some Asus laptops.
What kind of games will I not be able to play on a budget gaming laptop?
There are very few, if any, games you outright won’t be able to play on even the cheapest laptops we’ve featured here. That includes hyper-intensive titles like Cyberpunk 2077, Forza Horizon 5, and Far Cry 6.
But if you’re only using an RTX 4060 or older, don’t expect to play those intensive titles at the highest settings without any stuttering, especially if ray tracing is enabled. That’s doubly true if you plan on connecting the budget laptop to a 4K monitor, which will put extra stress on the GPU.
RTX 40-series cards support Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) feature, which uses AI to artificially increase your frame rate in some games. But even this feature isn’t perfect and is prone to lag spikes.
Is it worth buying a gaming laptop with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 20-series or 10-series graphics card?
This is a complicated question. If you’re looking for a budget gaming laptop with the highest amount of graphical power possible, then no, you should stick with an RTX 30-series graphics card or higher.
But older gaming laptops with RTX 20-series and 10-series cards aren’t bad — they can still handle most games at medium-to-high settings and are cheaper than ever. And spending less money on the GPU means you’ll have more money to spend on the CPU, RAM, storage space, and other features, which can be equally as important to some users.
You also shouldn’t discount gaming laptops with AMD graphics cards! We haven’t recommended any here simply because we feel Nvidia offers more value per dollar in laptops. Nvidia cards are also better at ray tracing and exclusively support DLSS. But new AMD cards, like those from the AMD Radeon RX 70-series, are still incredibly capable for most games. Check out our AMD vs. Nvidia graphics card guide for more details on how the brands stack up.
How will budget gaming laptops change in 2024?
2024 is set to be a big year for PC gaming.
As of this writing, Intel has just released its new lineup of Intel Core 14-series laptop processors, along with a line of Intel Core “Ultra” processors that are specially made for premium laptops. And later in 2024, we’re expecting to see even more new Intel laptop CPUs with features geared toward AI enthusiasts. For more details, check out my guide to Intel’s 14th-generation Core and Core Ultra CPUs.
And although release dates haven’t been confirmed yet, analysts are also expecting a new line of AMD Ryzen CPUs and AMD Radeon graphics cards, along with the next line of Nvidia GeForce RTX 50-series graphics cards.
Once these new CPUs and GPUs come out, the gaming laptops that feature current-gen specs will likely go down in price — that includes many of our picks for the best budget gaming laptops, which will get even more affordable.
Some budget laptops, like the Dell G15, will eventually get updates that let you buy them with the newest cards. Despite this, we don’t expect their prices to increase significantly.
In short, as gaming laptops get more powerful, the budget models that you can already purchase right now — which are already pretty fantastic — will become even better buys.