Shopping for a decent gaming laptop that is reasonably priced given their specifications can be tricky, especially since there are so many laptops that label themselves as gaming laptops. Based on critic reviews and general customer feedback, the following guide explores four of the best mid-tier gaming laptops that’ll tame the brutal requirements of modern games.
What to expect?
A mid-tier gaming laptop will allow you to play most games on medium to high settings at 30-60 frames per second comfortably at 1920 x 1080. They will be quick, as they will often be fitted with a blazingly fast CPU and copious amounts of RAM to power through multiple applications at once. They generally offer similar computing power to that of the high-end machines and are great for handling demanding tasks and maintaining a high level of performance. But unlike their high-end counterparts, they will be fitted with an entry-level to mid-tier Nvidia 10-series graphics card that is excellent for 1080p gaming, such as Nvidia’s GTX 1050, 1050Ti, or 1060. Those that have the Nvidia GTX 1060 will meet the minimum requirements for running VR applications, but 4K gaming will still be out of the question, as this is where the premium gaming laptops outshine the lower end GPUs.
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 7577
Nvidia’s Max-Q technology is Nvidia’s power efficient and relatively new GPU technology that reduces heating, fan noise and power consumption in laptops with a slim form factor, all while delivering a class-leading gaming performance. The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 7577 is one of the only laptops in the sub $1000 price range that offers Nvidia’s Max-Q GTX 1060, and it is packed alongside a powerful quad-core Intel i5-7300HQ and 8GB of DDR4 RAM inside a frame that is just under an inch thick. While the quad-core i5-7300HQ is not as powerful as the Acer Predator Helios 300’s CPU, it still packs a strong enough punch to run any modern game with headroom to spare.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 7577 has an attractive, unassuming design that almost seems to underplay its aggressive gaming power, especially when compared to Dell’s Alienware series, featuring a dark gray case with soft red backlighting on the keyboard. The Predator Helios 300 does offer better gaming performances overall, but you can expect similar frame rates at 1080p with this laptop. The 1920 x 1080 IPS display has a matte finish that effectively prevents glare, but matte displays generally reduce the colour accuracy somewhat and can make things seem slightly more dim, as is the case with the Inspiron 15 7000 7577. For storage, you get a 128GB M.2 SSD that will allow you to boot fast, and you will be able to include a few of your more important programs on it allowing them to load up lightning quick. There is also an included 5400RPM 1TB hard drive for storing game folders, but it is much slower than the SSD. Notable complaints include its performance throttling when running on battery, and sadly it doesn’t have G-Sync, which would have been an excellent feature.
MSI GL62M 7REX
The MSI GL62M 7REX is another no-frills gaming laptop that offers a superb 1080p gaming experience. Despite its fairly bland looking case that features the familiar red-backlit dragon sigil, it has a solid construction that is both stable and durable, and the thin form factor makes it conveniently portable. Opening the lid, you will find a built-in SteelSeries keyboard with red-backlighting and an anti-ghosting key. It sports a 1920 x 1080 IPS matte display that is, much like the above competitors, fairly dim, and it does suffer from some colour degradation. For any laptop geared towards gaming, the most important component is almost always the GPU. The MSI GL62M 7REX features a middle-of-the-road Nvidia GTX 1050Ti that will still deliver a favourable gaming performance for most current AAA titles, but it doesn’t quite meet the standard for VR. Oculus has said that they would support these cards, but the experience will be less than ideal when compared to the GTX 1060 or above.
The hardware, including the SSD and HDD combo, the seventh-generation Core i7-7700HQ and 8GB of RAM, will handle almost any demanding tasks you throw at it, making this laptop great for users looking for a productivity laptop too. Its cooling suffers due to the thinner design, much like the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 7577 and the Acer Predator Helios 300, so it is worthwhile investing in cooling pads alongside your new laptops.
Lenovo Legion Y520
While the Lenovo Legion Y520 may only have Nvidia’s GTX 1050Ti like the MSI GL62M 7REX-1896US, it does offer a boost in performance of over 10% when compared to the standard GTX 1050. Lenovo has made some compromises to bring the price tag down by including the Intel Core i5-7300HQ processor, which, without a doubt, will easily keep up with current AAA titles. Depending on your budget, however, you can opt for the configuration that included the seventh-generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, but this will require you to fork out some extra cash. The 8GB of included DDR4 2400MHz RAM is sufficient for multitasking and it easily meets the standards for newer games, but you can always add another 8GB stick if you feel the need to boost your overall productivity. The components are housed in a plastic case that is stable and it easily rivals with the above competitors. It certainly won’t win any awards for looks, as the aesthetics are kept to a minimum, but instead, Lenovo focused on what is inside.
Once opened, you find a similar design to ASUS ROG laptops, featuring a matte black palm rest with a keyboard and power button that feature red accents, along with the keyboard backlighting. The 1920×1080 resolution IPS display is not the greatest due to its average brightness and contrast levels, and its colour saturation is barely adequate according to the folks over at notebookcheck. For the price, however, the display is hardly a deal breaker, and it will still be more than satisfactory for gaming and Netflix binges. The impressive audio quality that the Legion Y520 reproduces is due to the built-in Harman certified speakers. The 256GB M.2 SSD is a decent size overall, considering most gaming machines in this class come with a small 128GB SSD, but it will fill up fairly quickly, especially for those of us who own large Steam libraries but adding a second SATA based SSD, or a cheaper but slower mechanical storage unit, can give you that extra storage space that you require.
Acer Predator Helios 300 15.6-inch
Acer’s Predator Helios 300 hit the shelves and almost instantly became a top seller across online markets. Its colour combination makes it very recognizable as a Predator laptop and its reliable gaming performance has made it a crowd favourite, especially since it doesn’t leave a gaping hole in your pocket like some of the higher end Predator laptops. Naturally, a few sacrifices had to made in order to make it more affordable. You get a wide viewing-angle, Full-HD IPS display, but when compared to its higher-priced counterpart within the well-known Predator range, the screen is less bright and somewhat dim according to those who have used it.
Its Kaby Lake i7-7700HQ processor is helped along by 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and its most attractive feature, the GB6 GTX 1060, is an absolute beast when it comes to 1080p gaming, and it meets the minimum requirements for running VR gear. It manages ultra settings at 60 FPS and above with popular titles such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, Far Cry Primal, and Battlefield 1, and it runs most modern demanding games at 60FPS comfortably at high settings, including the Witcher 3. You get a blazing fast M.2 256GB SSD, but space is fairly limiting for those with a massive Steam or Origin library. You can easily purchase another mechanical hard drive that offers more storage space if you have some extra cash lying around, and it does ship with a cradle for a SATA based hard drive. It is priced around $50 above $1000 currently on Amazon.com, but it is well worth the extra few bucks.
With there being a slew of laptops hitting that sweet spot of just under a $1000, it is hard to include them all, we have tried to compile a list of some of the best and brightest out of the bunch. These are the laptops that have immense positive feedback from both customers and critics. While these laptops may not fit everyone’s needs, should you want to play the latest and greatest from Steam and the Windows Store, you can’t go wrong with any laptop on this list.