While the PC may still win the day over video consoles for graphics and gameplay, the price of gaming equipment can be a big drawback.
Arguably the most important part of a gaming computer, this does everything for your visuals – from special effects to geometry. Here are links to each of the four articles in this quarter’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published).
To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering! Unless your time is more valuable than your money, we typically encourage PC gamers to consider building their own machines. The System Builder Marathon turns into a friendly competition amongst Thomas, Don, and I, during which we chase the highest performance and best value.
Of course, we continue to provide the total cost of all components, now including an operating system, in a final “Price As Tested”. I like to tell folks new to PC building that they should do their homework, understanding the mechanics of how components work together, what they cost, and how they affect performance.
Memory prices, especially, move violently from one quarter to the next, sometimes affecting the other hardware I can afford. From there, approximately $300 remained to secure the graphics card, processor, and motherboard. Many modern games knock entry-level host processors to their knees, so I wanted to go with an Intel Core i3 or AMD FX-6300. I myself just could not see buying a setup like this because of complete lack of a CPU upgrade path. There’s no such thing as a perfect budget gaming laptop, even in 2016, and we’ve found at least one serious flaw in every one we tested. Acer’s North American online store has suffered a serious security breach affecting anyone who purchased anything between May 12, 2015, and April 28, 2016. If you own our runner-up pick, the Lenovo Ideapad Y700, make sure to uninstall the Lenovo Accelerator Application: Open the Apps and Features app, select Lenovo Accelerator Application, and click Uninstall. We’ve added HP’s new line of Omen gaming laptops to the What to look forward to section below. We’ve updated this guide with links to the expandable 8GB RAM we’d get right now, which is available from Crucial.
We tested five new budget gaming laptops, including the most recent version of the Acer Aspire V Nitro, and have chosen the $800 Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (7559) as our new pick, replacing the Acer Aspire V Nitro VN7-591G-77FS, which is no longer available. We’ve finished testing five new gaming laptops, and we’ve decided that the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 will be our new pick.
Our pick, the Acer Aspire V Nitro VN7-591G-77FS, is no longer available, and the V Nitro has been updated with a Skylake processor, a USB 3.1 Type-C port, and a new Wi-Fi card. Our new pick for the best budget gaming laptop is the Acer Aspire V Nitro VN7-591G-77FS, which has the most powerful specs for the best price of any budget gaming laptop we looked at this year. Our new pick for best budget gaming laptop is the $1,150 Acer Aspire V Nitro VN7-591G-77FS. No other laptop has this much gaming power at this low of a price (though, its keyboard is a bit shallow). The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 has amazing specs for the price and is easy to upgrade when your budget allows. The Lenovo has a more comfortable keyboard, but it costs more, weighs more, and has louder fans and a shorter battery life.
If the Dell is out of stock, the Lenovo Ideapad Y700 is the next best option, but it costs about $350 more. If you want to upgrade to a laptop with vastly superior gaming performance, a bigger and nicer screen, a better keyboard, and a quieter, more effective cooling system, check out our main gaming laptop pick. I’ve tested, lived with, and reviewed hundreds of laptops during my career, and I’ve spent time with countless other models while covering the CES trade show, attending events, and visiting stores. A cheaper laptop won’t perform as well as a top-of-the-line one—as you’d expect—but can still play many AAA games on high settings, with exceptions for particularly demanding games like The Witcher 3. But if you want to play new games with all the eye candy, you’re better off with a desktop or a gaming laptop with a more powerful graphics card.
If you don’t need to play new titles on the highest settings but want a somewhat portable laptop that’s capable of playing games, this is for you.
The most important specs for a budget gaming laptop are its graphics card, processor, RAM, and storage. For $1,300 or less, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M is the most powerful graphics card you can get.
It doesn’t make sense to spend $700 on a computer that’ll be obsolete in a year when $1,000 or so can buy one that will last twice as long. Because the GTX 960M is a weaker card than the GTX 970M that we recommend in our high-end gaming laptops guide, it provides worse gaming performance today and will fall further behind with newer, more demanding games. A solid-state drive can speed up boot times and reduce loading times in games, but most gaming laptops in our price range have 1 TB of hard drive storage and no SSD. Some of the budget laptops we tested had effective fans that moved air away from internal components and high-contact areas. Budget gaming laptops come in all sizes, most commonly 17 inches or 15 inches, and sometimes 13 inches. We searched the websites of Acer, Asus, Alienware, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Toshiba, Dell, and other major laptop manufacturers to come up with our initial list of contenders. Then we narrowed our list to laptops that fit our criteria and had positive reviews from trusted sources like AnandTech, CNET, Laptop Mag, Notebookcheck, and PCMag. That left us with five finalists for our early 2016 update: second-generation Acer Aspire V Nitro, MSI GE62 Apache Pro, Asus ROG GL552VW, Lenovo Ideapad Y700, and Dell Inspiron 15 7000.
We put our finalists through much of the same rigorous testing as our best gaming laptop contenders. The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 provides the best gaming performance for the least amount of money. The fans are unobtrusive; they don’t run constantly when browsing the Web or drown out dialogue or music during gameplay. Trackpads aren’t hugely important for gaming laptops because most people use a mouse while gaming, but they’re useful if you want to use the laptop for work or school. It doesn’t have the cheap, hollow rattle that plagues the trackpads on some budget gaming machines.
Battery life is great for a budget gaming laptop, lasting 7 hours and 27 minutes in PCMag’s battery drain test.
The Dell Inspiron is constructed of a combination of hard plastic frame and comfortable soft-touch plastic on the palm rest and lid.
Most laptops have horrendous speakers; I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve recommended a great pair of headphones instead. The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 is the best gaming laptop you can get for the least amount of money, but it has a few problems.
Our recommended configuration of the Dell has only 8 GB of RAM and comes with a 256GB solid-state drive, but no additional storage.
The Dell is really easy to upgrade: Open a panel held on by a single screw, and put your new drive and RAM into the empty slots. The $800 model we recommend has an Intel Core i5-6300HQ processor and no hard drive, while the $900 model has a Core i7-6700HQ processor, but no SSD.
Most gaming laptops—including budget machines, now—have comfortable, deep keyboards that cushion your fingers during long gaming sessions. At 5.67 pounds, the Dell is on the heavier end of the spectrum, but every budget gaming laptop we tested weighs between 5 and 6 pounds. PCMag gave the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 an Editors’ Choice award in December 2015, and concluded, “The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series (7559) is an excellent value, offering good gaming and productivity performance at a reasonable price.
If our main pick is out of stock, the next best option is the Lenovo Ideapad Y700, which costs about $350 more.
If you get the Lenovo Ideapad Y700, make sure to uninstall the Lenovo Accelerator Application: Open the Apps and Features app, select Lenovo Accelerator Application, and click Uninstall. In our gaming tests, the Lenovo Ideapad Y700’s keyboard stayed the coolest of all the budget gaming laptops we tested. The Lenovo Ideapad Y700’s fans can be heard all the time, even during simple tasks like checking email. The keyboard has an ostentatious red backlight, and as with most Lenovo keyboards, the keys are comfortable, springy, and responsive. The Lenovo’s keyboard is comfortable, springy, and responsive, but the keys are coated in an off-putting scritchy texture. The touchscreen version of the Lenovo Ideapad Y700 that we tested has a yellow-green tint compared with the Dell, and it was distractingly reflective.
The Samsung Series 3 NP350V5C is a sleek gaming laptop from that weighs in at just over 5.5lbs. It should be noted that although this system has great components for the price, it is lacking in a few areas. With the release of Intel's Pentium Anniversary processor, powerful entry-level gaming PCs are now a reality.
A decent gaming PC can easily outperform any of today’s consoles, but it will cost considerably more.
The saving allows you to build a less expensive PC, or as is the case in our round-up, to buy a faster graphics card. Although your warranty protects you from system failures due to overclocking, it’s theoretically possible for Intel to pull the plug, and put pressure on vendors to remove the overclocking features in forthcoming BIOS updates.
The next step down in performance comes from the nVidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti, and, if overclocked, it will still enable good gameplay at high resolutions, but you’re going to have to bring down the quality a notch or two to maintain high enough frame rates. This is essential to stop your CPU from overheating, but it’s especially important with an overclocked one. For more immersive gameplay, go for the largest display you can find and one with a good contrast ratio. The type of controllers you need depends on how your PC is set up, and only Chillblast includes a keyboard and mouse as standard.
The Home benchmark reflects command tasks for typical home use with lower computing requirements such as web browsing, photo editing and low-end gaming.
The Creative benchmark is aimed more at enthusiasts and professionals working with multimedia and entertainment content. The Work test is geared towards office work tasks like creating documents, web browsing, spreadsheets and video conferencing. We measure the power consumption of each PC base unit when idle, and again while running at its performance limit.
Because gamers demand the best performance from their hardware, we allow vendors to overclock PCs in this category.
We pay close attention to the physical characteristics of each PC, its noise output and its build quality, delving inside the case and taking note of the quality of components used, cabling and airflow. The YoyoTech Warbird RS5 offers a possibly over-ambitious overclock to 4.6GHz, but comes with an SSD a€“ reducing boot times and speeding up game loading a€“ at the expense of a faster graphics card which would deliver better frame rates.
A steal at only A?549 for the full system, the Wired2Fire VX-6 performs very well at the lowest overall price of the group.
The Cyberpower infinity Apollo Pro delivers excellent performance and good features at a very competitive price point. You wouldn’t be able to ask for a more demanding software task than running games, and some of the best computers have been known for having problems with the most intense games. Gaming isn’t particularly memory-intensive so you don’t need to be worrying too much about this. Once you have considered what bits you want or bought them then you can find video guides from places like New Egg on building your computer. Generally, this refers to the process of selecting and assembling the various hardware and software components able to satisfy your computing needs. If you're brand new to this and looking for a step-by-step reference, check out How To Build A PC: From Component Selection To Installation, which we just updated for 2014. Once we get our machines put together, we run them through a suite of synthetic benchmarks, application workloads, and demanding 3D games. Review samples sent by hardware vendors are sometimes screened to deliver the best possible experience. Taken together, this information should paint a clearer picture of value, while acknowledging the personal nature of cases, optical drives, and even the OS. I've built a great many PCs and I stay current on what's available, so I already have a good sense for the hardware in my budget.
That'd limit my budget to AMD's Radeon R7 260X, with $50 or $60 leftover for a motherboard and heat sink. Otherwise, I would have preferred an Intel Haswell-based Pentium, which could later be replaced with a Core i5 or i7. There were no worthy platform options within range that could have helped me free up the $40 I'd need for a Radeon R9 270, unless I was also willing to drop to 4 GB of RAM.

But after spending 23 hours on research and testing—on top of 70 hours spread over the past two years—we’ve determined that the $800 Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (7559) is the best gaming laptop for people on a budget. Our previous revision linked to a desktop RAM upgrade that was incompatible with our picks. The Dell has the best performance for the lowest cost (by far), plus a decent screen, good trackpad, and long battery life. We plan to test the new Acer, the Lenovo Ideapad 700, the Asus GL552VW, and possibly an updated version of our runner up, the MSI GE62 Apache.
If your budget is particularly tight, we recommend the Acer Aspire V Nitro VN7-591G-70RT, a configuration that has half the memory of our top pick and no solid-state drive but includes 4 GB of graphics memory. Our runner up will be the $1,100 MSI GE62 Apache 082, which has a better keyboard but no SSD and only 2GB of graphics memory. It’s more expensive than our top pick and more difficult to upgrade, and the i7 processor doesn’t provide a notable performance advantage over the cheaper model. The Lenovo has a Core i7 processor, twice as much RAM, a 128GB solid-state drive in addition to the 1TB hard drive, and a keyboard that stays cooler and has deeper key travel than the Dell’s. For about $350 more than the Dell, you get twice the RAM—which isn’t essential and can be upgraded easily later—and a small solid-state drive. I’ve reviewed most of the gaming laptops—both budget and high-end—that were released in the past four years, and and have spent thousands of hours gaming on laptops since high school. It’ll serve you well for classic games (like StarCraft II or Team Fortress 2), and you can expect it to play most games on at least medium settings for the next couple of years. A $1,200 desktop is much more powerful than a $2,000 gaming laptop, and a desktop you build—even a cheap one—can easily be upgraded in the future. Many cheap gaming laptops lack a solid-state drive, so in that case you’ll have to pay extra to upgrade later.
Other important features include its heat and noise management, keyboard, display, trackpad, and (to a lesser extent) speakers.
The 950M has the same problem, only more so; for example, the 950M has difficulty running Far Cry 3, released in 2012. All of the contenders in our test group have an Intel Core i5-6300HQ or Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor or better. Swapping in an SSD later is usually easy, though, so a solid-state drive isn’t a requirement.
Many cheap laptops flex and creak under light pressure, sound hollow or plasticky, and have wobbly lids.
We also browsed boutiques such as Clevo, Digital Storm, iBuyPower, Origin PC, and more, but didn’t find any laptops that met our price range and hardware requirements.
We also dismissed machines that had dealbreaking flaws—such as severe overheating—mentioned in one or more trusted reviews. We tested the laptops using BioShock Infinite’s benchmarking mode and by playing half an hour of Borderlands 2 on Ultra with Vsync off.
It provides the best performance for the lowest cost and is the easiest to upgrade when your budget allows.
The next-cheapest gaming laptop that meets our specs requirements, other than a different configuration of the Dell, costs around $350 more. None of the budget gaming laptops we tested in 2016 had fans that were too loud, but nearly all were louder or more distracting than the Dell’s. In Laptop Mag’s test, the Inspiron 15 7000 lasted 6 hours, 45 minutes, compared with the Lenovo Ideapad Y700’s 4 hours, 16 minutes in the same (non-gaming) test. It lacks the metal lid of the Asus and Lenovo laptops we tested, but the Dell feels sturdy and doesn’t feel hollow or creak under pressure like the MSI GE62 Apache. The Dell’s speakers give music and games a harsh edge, but they’re far from the worst budget gaming laptop speakers we’ve heard. Our runner-up, the Lenovo Ideapad Y700, costs $350 more and has an i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 128GB solid-state drive, and a 1TB hard drive. Both the drive and RAM are fairly simple to install, so we recommend this option if you’re comfortable doing so.
The lower-end processor on the $800 model isn’t a dealbreaker because both processors are quad-core and have similar performance. The left side of the keyboard reached 39°C (102°F) after 30 minutes of playing Borderlands 2.
Out of the five budget gaming laptops we tested in 2016, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 had the shallowest keyboard. Every other gaming laptop we’ve tested has this feature, because pressing the trackpad with your palm while gaming can cause accidental clicks and in-game deaths.
Neither the components nor the underside of the chassis reached temperatures hot enough to cause concern.
I could hear the fans whirring even during non-demanding tasks, like checking email or writing this review. The keys are deeper than the Dell’s—exactly 0.25 millimeter deeper, according to Laptop Mag’s tests—but are covered in a rough, gritty texture. We recommend the less expensive non-touch version of the Y700 instead, because non-touch laptops have slightly better battery life and less-reflective screens, and because touchscreens aren’t an essential feature for a budget gaming laptop.
This budget gaming laptop can run new games (Hitman: Absolution, FarCry 3) on high to medium settings. The Antec Nine Hundred Two, Logitech G19 keyboard, and Logitech Z-523 speakers looked great on the outside; a Core i7-860 and Radeon HD 5870 GPU shredded polygons inside. While the Pentium G3258 processor is an inexpensive component, a motherboard with an overclockable Z97 Express chipset is relatively costly.
Similarly, Windows Update could also be used to install new processor microcode with the same effect.
You’ll need to carefully read through release notes before installing any BIOS updates and also keep an eye on any processor-related fixes via Windows Update.
Your choice comes down to either ultimate performance now, or extra features and the confidence that future updates won’t slow down your PC, later.
The difference is noticeable, but it won’t prevent you from playing any of your favourite games.
There’s not enough money in the budget for fancy liquid-based coolers, so most vendors have opted for traditional heat-pipe based heatsink and fan combos.
Smart internal cable management helps with airflow, while fan controllers let you reduce noise or boost cooling as necessary.
A quick response time will ensure that fast, frantic gameplay remains blur free, although not all gamers will notice the difference. An advantage of buying a pre-built overclocked computer is that all of the overclocking will be covered by the vendor’s warranty. Unlike the previous PCMark 7 benchmark, the new version doesn’t produce a single overall figure.
It is more demanding on the processor and includes transcoding tests as well as further gaming workloads. This test does not stress the gaming and multimedia capabilities of the PCs in this group test. During the idle test, the PCs hard drives are still spinning and the power-management features are not enabled. We require that any tweaked component is designed for overclocking, and that the PC vendor offers a comprehensive warranty. Long warranties are sought after, but we also look at the terms and conditions – specifically, whether faulty PCs must be returned to the vendor at your cost and if both parts and labour are included. It offers excellent build quality and will take on all comers at general application performance, but will ultimately disappoint dedicated gamers.
It offers class-leading graphics performance combined with a high-spec Intel X97 Express-based motherboard which will ensure performance and upgrade capability in the future. It also packs a speedy hybrid drive which increases overall system responsiveness, although it can't match the gaming speeds of the fastest systems we have tested. The unofficially overclocked H81 Express based motherboard helps keep costs low enough to allow for a speedy graphics card within our assigned budget. There are plenty of add-ons and upgrades that you get sold by the customer service guys in the store – most of which aren’t needed. While the latter is generally the suggested option you’ll be looking at ?230 for the top-end option (i7) while middle of the road i5 will set you back ?170. While 8GB would be a dream, 4GB wouldn’t be a disaster and there tends to be little in the MHz. Top of the range will see you shell out close to ?1,000 for the Nvidia 690, for less than half price you can get the Nvidia 680 or AMD 7970 and they will see you right. You need a socket type that your processor can use so keep that in mind, while you need to correlate it to your memory as well.
And there plenty of great boutiques that cater to folks who want beefy parts, but aren't comfortable tinkering inside of their cases. Rather, the Marathon is an ongoing look at the hardware market, what's available, and how it performs. First, we are focusing specifically on the prices of components that affect performance, leaving the parts that don’t impact benchmark results out of the value equation.
So to start, I added supporting components (memory, storage, and power) to my shopping cart as filler, if only to see what I'd have leftover for the platform's foundation.
So, I added the cheapest 8 GB dual-channel DDR3 kit to my cart, and told myself that I'd consider 4 GB later as a last resort.
And this time, the best values were all AMD cards: the Radeon R7 260X, R7 265, and potentially a R9 270.
In attempt to retain as much relevance as possible in games at 1920x1080 (Full HD), I dropped down to the most basic game-worthy processor options.
Rather, my only concern was competing as aggressively as possible right here and right now. In the end, I decided to break the budget just a bit in order to double available storage capacity. And by the time they are actually upgrading, they will be buying new CPU and new motherboard aka a whole new platform.
It has all the specs you need for $350 less than its closest competitor, offering up the best gaming performance possible for the lowest price. If you own another Lenovo laptop or desktop, check to see whether your computer is listed here.
In the meantime, we think the $950 Acer Aspire V Nitro VN7-592G-71ZL is the best option and the MSI GE62 Apache 276 is a good runner up, and we’ll have more information once we’ve tested the new contenders. If our top pick is unavailable, our runner-up, the MSI GE62 Apache-082, has a better keyboard than the Acer but less memory and a noisy fan. To give you an idea of what a good deal this is it’s worth comparing it with the next-cheapest option that meets these specs: You could buy the Dell, add a 1TB hard drive and 8 GB of RAM, and still have more than $250 left to spend on games.
Even so, it’s about $250 less expensive to get the $900 model and upgrade it with a solid-state drive and more RAM than it is to buy the runner-up, the Lenovo Ideapad Y700. But the Lenovo has louder fans, its chassis is heavier, and its battery life is a couple of hours less than that of the Dell Inspiron 15 7000. The machines have similar gaming performance, though the Lenovo will have faster loading times and an advantage in multitasking. If you have less than $1,500 to spend but want to play games decently or if you value portability over performance, our budget pick is the best choice. For those people, a smaller, cheaper gaming laptop—one that weighs less than 6 pounds, has a 15-inch screen, and costs less than $1,300—is the best option.
Saving up for a high-end gaming laptop is also a better idea than buying budget because it will play graphics-intensive games for years (rather than months) to come.
You’ll need to put more money into keeping a budget laptop relevant in the long run—through SSD and RAM upgrades—compared with a high-end gaming laptop that already has a solid-state drive and at least 16 GB of RAM (not to mention a better graphics card).
To find out what games you can and can’t play (and on which settings), take a look at Notebookcheck’s useful chart of Computer Games on Laptop Graphic Cards. Any more expensive, and you’re better off saving up for our main gaming laptop pick, which has superior gaming performance, a more effective cooling system, a nicer keyboard, and a better screen. We tested 2013’s BioShock Infinite on its Ultra settings, and found that it uses about 2.5 GB of VRAM. Without an effective cooling system, the machine will overheat, which can slow gaming performance, shorten the laptop’s lifespan, or even burn you. Some got too hot in important spots: the underside of the chassis, the WASD keys (the most-used section of the keyboard for gamers, since those four keys often control in-game movement), and the left palm rest.
Most gamers use a mouse instead of the trackpad, but people on a budget are more likely to use their gaming laptop for Web browsing and everyday tasks. We focused on 15-inch models for this guide because they strike a good balance between screen size and relative portability.
A well-made laptop will hold up better over years of use (and occasional abuse) but also costs more. We measured the laptops’ internal temperatures using HWMonitor and measured the surface temperature at various points on the keyboard and underside using an IR thermometer.

The Inspiron kept its internal components and underside at reasonable temperatures during demanding gaming tests, and its fans were among the quietest we tested. For that kind of money you could buy a 1TB hard drive for the Dell, another 8GB of RAM, and have more than $250 left to spend on games (and you end up with a larger solid-state drive and a faster hard drive than the laptop that costs $350 more). The Acer Aspire V Nitro VN7-592G had the loudest fans, the MSI GE62 Apache’s fans made a buzzing noise, and the Lenovo Ideapad Y700’s fans ran at an audible level all the time, even during less demanding tasks like checking email. They make for a more immersive gaming experience than cheaper, older TN (twisted nematic) panels, which look horrible when viewed from any angle other than straight on.
Our pick won’t quite last for a full day of work or classes, but it’ll outlast the competition.
The Inspiron’s plastic body can flex a little under pressure, but we don’t expect that to occur in regular use. Simply remove a single screw, pop off the bottom panel, and plug in your 2.5-inch drive and extra stick of RAM. The i5 processor lacks hyper-threading, but most games don’t need more than four cores anyway, so the i5 is fine for a budget gaming laptop.
This felt warm to the touch, but wasn’t enough to make my palms sweat during long gaming sessions. The keyboard isn’t bad—the keys are backlit, responsive, and snappy, and their depth feels similar to the keys on a MacBook Pro—but longer gaming sessions on the Dell left my wrists and knuckles a bit more tired than the competition did. We spent hours playing Borderlands 2, League of Legends, and other games on the Dell, and found that the trackpad’s palm rejection is superb and didn’t cause any accidental clicks. But the Lenovo’s fans run louder, its chassis is heavier, and it has a couple of hours shorter battery life than the Dell Inspiron 15 7000. For about $350 more than the Dell, you get twice the RAM—which isn’t entirely necessary and can be upgraded at little cost and with little effort later—a 1TB hard drive, and a smaller solid-state drive. The Lenovo’s WASD keys measured 34°C (94°F) after 30 minutes of playing Borderlands 2, which felt about the same temperature as my fingertips. Occasionally, the fans made a slight buzzing or grinding noise, which can be irritating in a quiet room, but won’t be noticed over other sounds.
The discrete graphics can be turned on or off depending on what applications you run which will save you battery life while on the go.
6GB of ram is not very generous, however ram is so cheap these days you can easily upgrade if you want to. This could cut you off from future bug fixes which may arrive in updates which also disable overclocking. One of these, paired with an overclocked Pentium Anniversary Edition processor can deliver smooth gameplay with high-quality settings at the maximum resolution of a full HD monitor or TV. Low-cost examples of these can still provide better cooling performance and less noise and a stock Intel cooler. TN-based monitors cost less and provide most of these features, but IPS-based displays will give you better overall colour reproduction and wider viewing angles, but response times tend to be slower. A gaming sound card can provide a more immersive experience by adding multiple sound effects. The longer the warranty the better, but be on the lookout for a collect-and-return option rather than a return-to-base one.
For the full-load torture test, we run Prime 95 to force all CPU processing threads to maximum utilisation and stress system memory. Were it not for a couple of failures during testing, this would have been a strong contender for our Best Buy award.
So, take a look at the specifications you need and join the renaissance (it might also be worth knowing your budget, being prepared to shop and knowing your way around a computer).
Even if you’re on horrendously tight budget, you need at least two cores running above 3 gigahertz which may be less than ?100 – AMD A10-5800K is recommended. A budget approach would see the Nvidia GTX 660 come in for just over ?200 or ?100 for GTX 650. Overclocking your graphics card or getting more than one can be something that you are considering but you tend to be able to find what you want from standard offerings. That is in your hands, but making sure you have the right kit is more than half the battle. Yet, at some point, even seasoned pros had to get their feet wet with a first build or major upgrade. Tom’s Hardware has a team of editors who tackle one build each, publishing their experiences successively once per quarter. Distilled down, our rigs can typically get by with $50 dedicated to a case and optical drive, though the resulting configuration wouldn't necessarily be something we'd want to build. Prices and availability fluctuate daily, so I didn't get crazy about fitting under a ceiling. We don't give credit for mail-in rebates, which come and go, so those models would set me back $120, $150, and $190, respectively. Our parts were ordered back in May, so my best shot was with AMD’s Athlon X4 750K, the least expensive host processor I could buy sporting a fully unlocked CPU multiplier. But still i'll say a combination of G3258 + H97 and overclock it or a i3 4150 + H97 without overclocking will be a better option. The Inspiron keeps its components and underside at reasonable temperatures during demanding gaming sessions, and its fans are among the quietest we tested. Also, the 128GB solid-state drive is too small to store more than a couple of games, and it’s more difficult to upgrade later than the Dell is. The Lenovo Ideapad Y700 still has a decent price-to-performance ratio, but it can’t match the Dell. This is a good fit for anyone who needs to carry a laptop for work or school tasks but wants something that can handle gaming better than an ultrabook. A budget gaming laptop is a temporary fix for a couple of years if you can’t invest in a desktop or a more expensive laptop (or if you need something that’s moderately portable). You can’t get a good gaming laptop for $700 or less—the graphics cards they come with (Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M or worse) can’t handle current AAA games at high settings, let alone future ones. Cheaper cards (like the GTX 950M) are available in laptops costing $700 or less but aren’t powerful enough to justify the savings.
If you cut corners on your gaming laptop’s graphics card, you’ll hate that computer in six months to a year, versus the two or more years a laptop should last. The Core i5 lacks hyper-threading, a feature that doesn’t provide a tangible benefit for most games, so the i5 is good enough for a budget gaming laptop.) A great budget gaming laptop should also have at least 8 GB of RAM—plenty for most games—but 16 GB (or room to add more) is even better.
For the same reason, battery life, size, and weight are also more important in this category than for traditional gaming laptops. All the 17-inch models we researched were too expensive, and we didn’t find any great 13-inch laptops that fit our criteria. We tested each laptop’s screen using some of the Lagom LCD monitor test pages, and used each for several work days to get a feel for their keyboards, trackpads, screens, and speakers. The keyboard has the shallowest key travel of any gaming laptop we’ve tested—about as deep as a MacBook Pro keyboard—and the WASD keys got a bit too warm in our tests, but the keyboard is responsive and good enough for most people playing games. The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 has amazing specs for the price, and it’s easier to upgrade than most budget gaming laptops. The Inspiron’s screen doesn’t get as bright and is less color accurate than some of the competition.
We recommend disabling the Dell Audio software enhancement; in our experience it made everything sound terrible, distant, and echoey—headphones included. And it’s easier to add a storage drive to a laptop that already has Windows on an SSD than it is to add an SSD and move your Windows install to it. We don’t think this is a dealbreaker at the Dell’s price, but if you require a more comfortable keyboard, check out our runner-up, the Lenovo Ideapad Y700. It’s also possible, but inconvenient, to disable the trackpad by going into the Device Manager, selecting Human Interface Devices, right-clicking HID-compliant touch pad, and selecting Disable.
Also, the 128GB solid-state drive is too small to fit more than a couple of games, so most of your games will still need to live on the 1TB hard drive.
The battery only charges to 80%, however this is to make the battery last much longer than conventional batteries.
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This enables the pairing of a low-cost Pentium Anniversary CPU with a low-cost budget motherboard and is the way most of these PCs have been put together.
Although this card didn’t perform as well as a GTX 750Ti, there are plenty of games where it will beat the performance of the MSI card quite convincingly.
At the same time we run the Geeks3D Furmark benchmark to stress any installed graphics cards. The lower-end versions are fine for those who don’t really give too much though for texture levels and dynamic lighting of pixels but it’s whether you wish to compromise. A great many off-the-shelf machines lack the add-in graphics card you'd need for ample performance. First, it's evaluated in stock form, with all of the hardware running the way it was intended.
That's why we took our $500, $1000, and $1500 budgets, subtracted $50 from them, and used the result as our performance-oriented targets. My tweaking would be limiting primarily by AMD's bundled cooler and ASRock's affordable A75-based motherboard. Plus, the Dell can double as a very capable school or work laptop thanks to its good trackpad, long battery life, and decent screen.
That’s all the information necessary for someone to make fraudulent purchases online or by phone. If you go with this option, make sure to uninstall the Lenovo Accelerator Application, because it’s a security vulnerability. While 2 GB of VRAM is fine for most games today, video memory demands will only increase in the future, so we focused on laptops with 4 GB of VRAM. We tested to find out which laptop was the least bad at cooling without drowning out the speakers with loud fans.
Likewise, poor speakers are disappointing but easily remedied with a pair of headphones or external speakers. We also played a smattering of other games, including League of Legends, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, and Rogue Legacy. The Dell also has a good trackpad, long battery life, and a decent screen compared to the other budget gaming laptops we tested. The Inspiron’s underside measured 45°C (113°F) at its hottest point, which sounds hot but feels only warm to the touch. But no budget gaming laptop has a great screen, and it’s difficult to tell the difference between them with a naked eye in a side-by-side comparison. We’d prefer that the keyboard stayed cooler, but the Dell’s temperatures aren’t dealbreaking.
The Lenovo Ideapad Y700 still has a good price-to-performance ratio, but can’t match the Dell.
Not everyone who touched the keyboard felt the same way though, so if you have issues with texture, try to find a Y700 in a store to find out if it bothers you.) The right Shift key is about half the standard size and can be easy to miss. You’ll have to go with an H81 Express or B85 Express motherboard to stay within our budget.
If you intend to push your pre-overclock PC even further, choose one with a powerful cooling system.
We leave these tests running for 10 minutes, then record the power consumption and the CPU temperature reached. It shouldn’t cause too much bother when you’re looking for the top pc games download available. Then, we tune all of the parts as enthusiasts looking for even more speed through tweaking and overclocking. In this way, we free ourselves to experiment with higher-end enclosures and add-ons like Blu-ray drives without a negative impact on comparative value. Because we are now purchasing (and giving away) Windows 8.1 with our systems, my lowest-cost machine tips the scales around $600 as-tested. Note that the breach affects only those people who purchased directly from Acer, not through third parties such as Amazon.
The hottest bottom we measured this year registered 53°C (127°F), which is too hot to use comfortably on your lap. Some of our readers don’t want to see a $20 DVD burner interfere with their processor and graphics budget, while others believe that a Blu-ray burner and $150 case are necessary.
The Dell was cooler than almost every laptop we tested, except for our runner-up, the Lenovo Ideapad Y700. The Dell’s keyboard got warmer than we’d like, however, and we’ll discuss that more in the next section.

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