2020 Gift Guide: Our Favorite Affordable Gaming Laptops

By on November 10, 2020

2020 Gift Guide

10 years ago, PC gaming was mostly about DIY custom rigs in souped-up tower cases. Gaming laptops were overpriced, overstuffed monstrosities—never mind, that’s actually still a thing. But today, gaming laptops can be sleek, they can be cheap, and they can even look and act like regular laptops!

Where they might suffer in price-to-performance ratio or limited customization, PC gaming laptops offer portability, can double as work machines, and usually have premium display technology.

Of course, you can break the bank and get every bell and whistle crammed into a single machine (like the $4000 Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition with 4K OLED and Quadro RTX). But if, like most of Ben’s visitors, you’re interested in affordable gaming laptops that are robust enough to play new games for the next few years to come, then please read on!

Most of our favorite affordable gaming laptops on this list use AMD Ryzen processors. AMD has really come a long way, and Ryzen is now the chip du jour for gaming PCs. They cost less and performance is arguably better.

You’ll see some commonalties among the starting specs here, which is to be expected, considering their (relative) price constraints. All of the laptops in this guide have Full HD (1080p) IPS displays, but you will find some with faster 144Hz (even 240Hz) refresh rates. If you play a lot of online multiplayer games like Call of Duty, Fortnite, Overwatch and the like, you will want to select the fastest refresh rate and GPU options that you can afford (120Hz refresh or better and GTX 1650 Ti graphics or better).

And, sure, the RTX 3000 Series mobile GPUs are now available, but affordable they are not… if you can even find them.

One last thing: if you’re thinking of pulling double duty for work, keep in mind that none of these otherwise excellent gaming laptops has a decent webcam. Corners had to be cut somewhere…

It’s Black Friday season, so watch for price drops and deals on these affordable gaming laptops on Ben’s in the coming weeks (set deal alerts here)!

Under $700

1. Acer Nitro 5

Base price: $670.

Starting Specs: 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 Full HD 60Hz IPS display, 6-core AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor, 8GB DDR4 memory, 256GB PCIe SSD storage, 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics, red backlit keyboard, 720p webcam.

Weight/size: 5.07 lbs. / 0.9″ thick.

Release year: 2020.

Pros: Low price. Easy to upgrade storage. Fantastic battery life for gaming laptop (up to 11 hours). Despite the budget components, the 6-core Ryzen 5 4600H chip gives 10th Gen Core i7 processors a run for their money. Plus, there are configuration options for Intel CPUs. Has 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6.

Cons: Plastic build. Yep, the 720p webcam is not good.

Buy at Best Buy Check Deals on Ben’s

2. HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop

Base price: $699.

Starting Specs: 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 Full HD 60Hz IPS display, 6-core AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor, 8GB DDR4 memory, 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD storage, 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics, green single-zone backlit keyboard, 720p webcam.

Weight/size: 4.37 lbs. / 0.93″ thick.

Release year: 2020.

Pros: Great price: will be one of the hottest tickets on Black Friday with prices as low as $450 (at Best Buy) .

Cons: Plastic build. Bland design for a gaming machine (might be a plus for some). Display is just OK. Budget 720p webcam (i.e. not good).

Buy at Best Buy Check Deals on Ben’s

$700 to $1,000

3. ASUS TUF A15

Base price: $800.

Starting Specs: 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 Full HD IPS display,  6-core AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor, 8GB DDR4 memory, 512GB PCle NVMe SSD storage, 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics, RGB backlit keyboard, 720p webcam.

Weight/size: 5.1 lbs. / 1.0″ thick.

Release year: 2020.

Pros: Industrial, military-grade (MIL-STD-810H) chassis. Options for 144Hz displays. Options for 8-core Ryzen 7 4800H, but the base 6-core Ryzen 5 4600H chip gives 10th Gen Core i7 processors a run for their money. Easy to upgrade.

Cons: The dual fans are noisy. Webcam is below average.

Buy at Best Buy Check Deals on Ben’s

4. Lenovo Legion 5

Base price: $810.

Starting Specs: 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 Full HD 120Hz IPS display, 6-core AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor, 8GB DDR4 memory, 128GB PCle SSD storage, 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics, white backlit keyboard, 720p webcam.

Weight/size: 5.5 lbs. / 1.0″ thick.

Release year: 2020.

Pros: 180-degree hinge. Option for 144Hz display. Option for 8-core Ryzen 7 4800H, but most will be happy with the 6-core Ryzen 5 4600H chip. Option for RTX 2060 GPU.

Cons: Plastic build. Nondescript design for a gaming laptop (might be a plus for some). 720p webcam is what you’d expect (not great—surprise!).

Alternate: You can buy this same laptop with an Intel processor (aka the Legion 5i).

Buy at Lenovo Check Deals on Ben’s

5. Dell G5 15 SE

Base price: $900.

Starting Specs: 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 Full HD WVA display (60Hz), 6-core AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor, 8GB DDR4 memory, 256GB PCle NVMe SSD storage, 6GB AMD Radeon RX 5600M graphics, 4-zone RGB backlit keyboard, 720p webcam.

Weight/size: 5.51 lbs. / 0.85″ thick.

Release year: 2020.

Pros: Options for 120Hz or 144Hz displays. Options for 8-core Ryzen 7 4800H or Ryzen 9 4900H, but most will be happy with the starter 6-core Ryzen 5 4600H chip.

Cons:  Looks are not flashy or exciting (plastic). The base Radeon RX 5600M graphics card has average performance, so it’s better to spring for higher end options. 720p webcam is not good (sensing a theme here?).

Alternate: You can buy this laptop with an Intel processor (aka the G5 15).

Buy at Dell Check Deals on Ben’s

6. MSI Bravo 15

Base price: $980.

Starting Specs: 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 Full HD 144Hz IPS display, 6-core AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor, 16GB DDR4 memory, 512GB NVMe SSD storage, 4GB AMD Radeon RX5500M graphics, single-zone backlit keyboard, 720p webcam.

Weight/size: 4.10 lbs. / 0.85″ thick.

Release year: 2020.

Pros: Good price point for the specs. Light and thin for gaming laptop. Support for FreeSync Premium, which is great at this price. Options for 8-core Ryzen 7 4800H, but most will be happy with the 6-core Ryzen 5 4600H chip.

Cons: Hard to find right now (currently not available at most retailers, including Best Buy and Amazon). Budget 720p webcam.

Buy at Best Buy Check Deals on Ben’s

Over $1,000

7. Acer Predator Helios 300

Base price: $1200.

Starting Specs: 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 Full HD 144Hz IPS display, 6-core 10th Gen Core i7-10750H processor, 16GB DDR4 memory, 512GB NVMe SSD storage, 6GB NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics, 4-zone RGB backlit keyboard, 720p webcam.

Weight/size: 5.07 lbs. / 0.9″ thick.

Release year: 2020.

Pros: Aluminum chassis. Option for 240Hz refresh rate. Powerful graphics. Good sound. Easy to upgrade storage (2 x M.2 slots and 1 x 2.5″ bay). Turbo button on keyboard for overclocking.

Cons: $1200 stretches the definition of “affordable” laptop. Many, many configurations (so very Acer), but no customization. Keyboard layout.

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8. ASUS ROG Zephyrus M15

Base price: $1250.

Starting Specs: 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 Full HD 240Hz IPS display, 6-core 10th Gen Core i7-10750H processor, 16GB DDR4 memory, 1TB PCle NVMe SSD storage, 8GB NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics, RGB (single zone) backlit keyboard.

Weight/size: 4.19 lbs. / 0.74″ thick.

Release year: 2020.

Pros: Thin and light for a gaming laptop. 14″ laptop footprint. Fast display (3ms response time/240Hz refresh). Good design (“premium” plastic). Option for 4K display.

Cons: $1250 stretches the definition “affordable” laptop. No webcam (might be a plus for some).

Alternate: The comparably priced and spec’d G15 model has the Ryzen 7 4800HS processor.

Buy at Best Buy Check Deals on Ben’s

Check Ben’s for the latest PC Gaming deals

About Joe Warner

I'm the senior editor of The CheckOut. I am an aficionado of shiny gadgets and classic Hollywood movies and can also tell you the names of the late '80s Swedish Davis Cup team members.

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