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What to Look For If You Want the Best Cheap Gaming Laptop?

by Liam Major
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The gaming laptops of today are a vast improvement on their counterparts from years and decades past. What once were bulky, heavy devices with poor performance and even worse battery life, are now sleek and fast with plenty of juice to last you through hours of high-speed gaming. But there is one constant that hasn’t really changed: price.

Just like gaming desktops, gaming laptops can be expensive if you opt for one with the most high-end of components, the best screen, or the fanciest paint job. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great gaming experience on something a little cheaper. In fact, the best cheap gaming laptops can be surprisingly capable machines. You just need to know what you’re looking for.

Image of the Chillblast Phantom 15" RTX Gaming Laptop

Everyone’s different

What’s affordable to one person will be different for someone else, and what’s considered “cheap,” will be different for different potential buyers. The types of games you want to play will also play a major part in what you should opt for. If you’re looking to play AAA games on the cheap, you may have to make further sacrifices to get what you want. If you want to play indie or classic games, then you might be able to save even more.

Whatever your budget though, there is an economical gaming laptop out there for you.

Picking the right components

Whenever it comes to affordable gaming, you need to temper your expectations a little. Just as you can’t expect to buy a desktop PC that can handle 4K gaming with ray tracing at 100+ FPS on a limited budget, you can’t expect the same on a laptop. Since you’re buying all the input options, display, and battery in the same bundle too, there are some sacrifices that you have to make for affordable gaming.

But if you know the right place to trim the fat, the right components and features to focus on, you can get a great, affordable gaming laptop that plays your favourite games without difficulty.

The GPU

The first place we can look to make some savings in finding the best cheap gaming laptop is in the components under the hood. Tailoring them to the games you want to play now and in the near future is a great way to save money. You don’t need a laptop with a high-end graphics chip if all you’re doing is playing indie games from the late ’00s.

GPUs are one of the major expenses in gaming laptops and are a contributor to both lower battery life and increased weight and noise levels due to the additional cooling capacity required. If you’re only looking to play indie games, or classic titles in your GoG library, then you might consider skipping a dedicated gaming chip altogether.

If you do want to play some AAA games at lower detail settings, or Esports games at high frame rates, a discrete GPU is worth paying for, but you don’t need to buy something super expensive or high-end. The Nvidia GTX 1660Ti is a fantastic mid-level gaming GPU which will cover all your bases without costing the earth. The Chillblast Defiant 17″ laptop pairs that chip with a fantastic six-core Intel Core i7-9750H CPU, a great display, fast memory, and super speedy storage for a snappy and responsive gaming laptop experience. All for under £1,500.

Image of the Chillblast Defiant 17" Gaming Laptop's RGB keyboard

If you need even more graphical power, Chillblast also offers laptops with Nvidia RTX 2060, 2070, and 2080 graphics options, but they do tend to raise the price significantly. So be sure to only buy what you need if your focus is on getting the best cheap gaming laptop.

The display and other quality of life extras

Another component that can help lower costs and improve battery life is the display. While it might be nice to play even lower detail games at 1440p or 4k, higher resolutions demand a lot from whatever GPU you have (whether it’s discrete or onboard the CPU) and that means lower frame rates, potentially lower detail settings to maintain a playable experience, and a greater drain on your battery. It also bumps up the cost.

If you want to find the best cheap gaming laptop, you want to stick to a 1080p screen.

Other cost savings you can make when buying an affordable gaming laptop is to stick to smaller quantities of storage (a small SSD and larger HDD are a great way to enjoy the benefits of both) and to restrict yourself to eight, or at most, 16GB of RAM. You definitely won’t need more than that unless you’re doing something intensive like video editing as well as gaming, and more will only add to the cost unnecessarily.

Quality of life extras like keyboard backlighting and thinner bezels are a nice touch too, but leaving them off your eventual laptop choice can help save you a little more too.

Close-up image of an Nvidia 1660 GPU chip

Intel vs AMD

A major considering in any laptop purchase is the CPU. While that won’t have as great an impact on your gaming and cost as some other components, it does contribute, especially at 1080p, and there are some extraneous factors worth considering too.

When it comes to raw gaming power, Intel CPUs tend to come out on top – but often only when paired with a dedicated gaming graphics chip. Intel’s UHD 600-series graphics are far from stellar, even in the more high-end eighth and ninth-generation CPUs. 11th-generation Iris Pro graphics in its 10th-generation Ice Lake processors are far more capable, but those only tend to be available in more expensive, modern laptops.

If you’re opting for a budget build without a dedicated gaming GPU, an AMD CPU may be a better choice. AMD’s mobile processors all offer dedicated graphics based on its Vega architecture, which in recent Ryzen 3000 and Ryzen 4000 generations are impressively capable – typically far more so than the Intel alternative. Although they still aren’t going to stack up well against a discrete graphics chip (even an entry-level option), Vega onboard graphics will offer playable frame rates in indie games, older AAA games, and Esports titles at reasonable detail levels.

You’ll find similar processor configurations in our AMD gaming desktops. While that might not be what you’re looking for, if you’re on a tight budget, it’s always worth considering a desktop. You might need to pay for a monitor and keyboard/mouse separately, but the components can be a lot more powerful and cost effective. It’s where AMD shines too, so if you’re on team red, check out our custom AMD desktop system configuration and select the components you want and need most of all.

Image of an AMD Ryzen 3000 CPU

Buy the best cheap gaming laptop for you

Everything here is purely a recommendation as only you will know exactly what you want to do and what you need. But this guide should give you some starting points for your own buying journey. Focus on what you need, more so than what you want, and you should come away with the best cheap gaming laptop you can buy.

If you need any more help, Chillblast system builders and gaming laptop experts are on hand at all times to answer your calls and questions. Get in touch, and we’ll walk you through the whole process, from component selection, to custom software options and overclocking for those who want a little more performance for their money.

More resources:

It’s no secret that gaming laptops on the whole are pretty costly, so check out this article for 3 reasons why gaming laptops are so expensive!

Check out this article for a more in-depth look at what features are important when buying a gaming laptop!

Still can’t decide between a laptop and a PC? Check out this article that takes a look at what’s better for gaming: a laptop or PC?

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