Gaming laptops have always been expensive. Even now, a top of the line Alienware gaming laptop can cost over $5000. The best gaming laptops need high-end components to run the latest games at the highest settings. Using a desktop PC to play games will always provide better performance. But, the best gaming laptops are becoming more affordable all the time. They are compact enough to carry with you wherever you go and powerful enough to play the newest games.
If you don’t have this kind of budget, you don’t need to worry. There are some incredible gaming laptops available for less than $1200.
There have been enormous advancements in gaming laptop technology in the last ten years. You no longer have to buy an external GPU to give your laptop the graphical processing power of a desktop PC to play your favorite games. As technology improves, faster CPUs and GPUS are becoming cheaper every day. Budget gaming laptops are no longer outliers.
As you read our top 10 choices for the best gaming laptops for under $1200, you might wonder why we haven’t included the cheapest gaming laptops on the market. While it is possible to buy a gaming laptop for $500 or less, we don’t necessarily recommend this. You’ll only be able to play old/ basic games on high graphics settings, or the newest games on low graphics settings if you can play them at all. If you can find an extra $200+, you will see an enormous difference in the performance of your laptop.
Without further ado, here are our top picks for the best gaming laptop under $1200.
12 Best Gaming Laptops under $1200
Top 5 Best Gaming Laptops Under 1200 Dollars
The screen is larger than the other gaming laptops in our top 5, at 17.3 inches. The resolution is 1920×1080, and the refresh rate is 120Hz. This is all standard. But the components are better than standard.
The GPU is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660, which has 6GB of video memory. This dedicated graphics card can handle the most graphically demanding games without breaking a sweat.
The A17 features the AMD Ryzen 7 4800H processor, which has 8 cores. You can watch your favorite Twitch streamer, play Metro Exodus, and chat on Facebook simultaneously.
The 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD are out of this world value, considering the top of the line CPU and GPU in this gaming laptop.
The A17 also has some extra and unique features, such as reduced fall damage from the military-grade design. You can take this laptop anywhere and feel safe knowing the internal components will not get damaged from any knocks or drops. The A17 is also easy to upgrade, with slots for extra RAM and storage. It features two self-cleaning fans. This means you won’t have to spend an hour every few weeks cleaning the dust out of the fans to stop it overheating.
The ASUS A17 offers incredible value for money, currently priced under $1100. In this price category, the Asus A17 is THE gaming laptop to beat.
The 3rd version of Acers Predator Helios 300 has seen many improvements from the previous version.
The battery life has doubled to 7 hours – about average for a gaming laptop. It has a sleek metal design, unlike many other laptops in this category, which are predominantly plastic.
The screen is 15.6inches, with a resolution of 1920×1080 and a refresh rate of 240Hz. This offers stunning visuals for a budget gaming laptop. The screen brightness and color are vibrant.
The dedicated graphics card is a GTX 1060 which comes with 6GB of video RAM. This is enough to run the newest games at high settings while maintaining great FPS.
The Predator Helios 300 also comes with 16GB of DDR4 RAM. This allows your games, and individual levels within games, to load up quickly.
The standard storage is a 256GB SSD – ample space for between 5 and 10 games depending on size. If you need extra storage the Predator Helios 300 has an accessible storage slot to add a second SSD.
The processor for the Helios 300 is the Intel Core i7 2.8GHz. Acer has chosen to sacrifice some processing speed to provide a better GPU. This is not a bad trade-off as this laptop is designed for gaming.
The only common complaint from users and reviews is that the laptop can run hot if used for over an hour. Although, this is a common problem with gaming laptops.
Depending on the sale price, this gaming laptop costs around $1200 and just fits. our budget.
The MSI GF65 is, in our opinion, the best-looking laptop on this list. The red-backlit keyboard looks incredibly sleek. There areseveral versions of this gaming laptop, each with varying components. The version described here costs under $1000.
The GF65 features some unique features, alongside some powerful components. Its Intel i7, 6 core processor, and NVIDIA GeForce GX1660Ti GPU are cooled by MSIs cooler boost 3 technology. This technology ensures top performance no matter what your choice of game by keeping the key components cool. The processor and graphics card are top of the line, showing impressive benchmarks on the latest games. The MSI’s 7-hour battery life is fairly standard for a gaming laptop, as is the 256GB SSD storage.
When you first lift the lid, you will notice how the screen looks larger than it is, 15.6 inches, due to the tiny borders around its edge. The screen offers great clarity and depth of color, with 1920×1080 resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate.
The first thing you notice when you look at the Lenovo Legion 5 is its minimalist design. From the outside, it doesn’t look like it can be powerful. It’s thin, light, and when you switch it on, the keyboard lights up in yellow. And yet, for $999 it packs a punch.
The legion 5 features the AMD Ryzen 7 4800 processor, which has 8 cores. This is ample processing power to handle playing your favorite games while talking on Discord and browsing the web.
It also features one of the newest GPUs from NVIDIA; the GeForce GTX 1660ti, which has an impressive6GB of memory. This graphics card can handle anything you throw at it, from Tomb Raider on high settings to a 12-hour session on League of Legends.
The Legion 5 offers a massive 16GB of DDR4 RAM, which will allow you to switch between games, web browsing, and the latest shows on Netflix.
An SSD with 512GB storage comes pre-installed. That is enough to have your favorite ten games installed at any one time, as well as any programs you use.
This list is about the best gaming laptops for under $1200. But if we were looking for the best laptop under $1000 this would be the #1 choice.
Last but not least is the HP Pavilion 15. This is the cheapest gaming laptop on this list but is by no means
the worst. At a frugal $819 it is the cheapest laptop on the current market from which you can expect any decent performance.
It features a 6 core AMD Ryzen 5 4600h processor and a GTX 1650 GPU. The GPU has only 4GB of video memory. This is more than enough video memory to play most games at medium/ high settings. But, the Pavilion 15 will struggle to play the latest releases using the highest settings.
The battery, too, only lasts 5 hours and comes with 8GB of RAM, rather than 16GB as on the other four laptops on this list. Compared side by side with the other gaming laptops on this list you will notice slower loading speeds for programs and games. HP has offered, alongside a 256GB SSD, a 1TB hybrid SSHD (a mixture of a legacy mechanical hard drive and a more modern SSD).
While it’s easy to see where HP has saved money, what they offer is impressive. The Pavilion 15 is a powerful gaming laptop for anyone on a tight budget or looking for their first gaming laptop.
Key Considerations – Gaming Laptops under $1200
The most important component in any gaming laptop is the graphics card. If you want to be able to see foliage, shadows, smooth edges, and crystal clear water your laptop MUST have a dedicated GPU. If you plan on buying one of the cheapest laptops available and using an external GPU to play games, your money would be better spent on a desktop PC.
Gaming laptops without dedicated GPUs use integrated graphics. This will only allow you to play the most basic games at the low settings. Avoid laptops with only integrated graphics when looking for a gaming laptop for under $1200.
When deciding which graphics card suits your needs, your primary concern should be how much video memory it has. The more memory your graphics card has, the better the textures and image quality will be. 4GB is the least you should look for. 6GB is enough to play almost any game on high settings depending on the other components in the laptop.
Your next consideration should be the CPU or processor. The CPU is the brain of your laptop. You should ensure the laptop you choose has an adequate processor. The two main attributes to look out for are the number of cores and the clock speed. The more cores you have, the more demanding processes you can have running at the same time. This means you can run Discord in the background and have a few Chrome tabs open, all while playing Tomb Raider.
Most modern processors offer hyperthreading. This means each physical core splits into two virtual cores, which allows more processes to run at the same time without using more battery. The clock speed determines how much information can be processed at one time. The higher the clock speed, the faster your processes will run.
All the gaming laptops on this list have 8GB of RAM as a minimum. A few have options to add more if you wish. More RAM (rapid access memory) will increase the speed of information transfers between components. The more RAM you have, the faster your processor will interact with your graphics card and other components. If your gaming laptop has at least 8GB of RAM, your games, and the individual levels within the games, will load quickly.
The only real question you need to ask yourself when choosing a storage system is whether you want to pay a little extra for an SSD. The short answer is yes, you do. Solid-state drives use flash memory to load data much faster than the mechanical hard drives they are quickly replacing. Due to the technology they use, SSDs are also lighter and more robust than mechanical hard drives.
The average screen size for the best gaming laptop in 2021 is 15 inches. The bigger the screen the heavier the laptop. There are Alienware laptops that come with a 19-inch screen, which adds significant weight to your backpack. The consensus among gamers who use laptops instead of a desktop PC is that a 15-inch screen is good, but the minimum. Anything smaller could strain your eyes. The minimum resolution you should look for in a gaming laptop is 1920×1080. It’s unusual to find gaming laptops under 1200 bucks with a higher resolution than this.
Conclusion – Best Gaming Laptops under $1200
What our list shows is that buying a gaming laptop for less than $1200 is no longer the stuff of dreams. You don’t have to put up with two-hour battery life or sub-par graphics if you have less than $1200 to spend.
While all the gaming laptops under 1200 dollar on our list offer great value for money, the best choice is the ASUS A17. The sheer power offered for less than $1200 didn’t make any sense when we first went through the specs. We assumed that there was some kind of regular fault, or that the battery lasted 11 minutes, or that it overheated after half an hour. But none of our concerns were valid. The ASUS A17 gaming laptop is simply incredible.
Although the HP Pavilion 15 has the lowest specs of any gaming laptop on this list, it gets an honorable mention for its sheer affordability. We couldn’t find a gaming laptop anywhere for under $800 that could play graphically demanding games while keeping a frame rate above 30.
As with most tech purchases, the more you spend the more you get. The ASUS A17 offers the perfect middle ground between cost and performance.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!