Best Gaming Laptop Under 200 – If you just want to play a few lightweight titles, a budget of $200 means your options are far better than they ever used to be. In fact, here’s how to find the best budget laptop no matter what you want a portable computer to do.
It just takes a little digging to find a machine with the performance to get the job done. By carefully considering the following aspects, you’ll be able to prioritize the features that will add the most value to your gaming experience
In a market packed with laptops that are getting thinner and faster each year, a Chromebook’s comparative advantage is usually in battery life and price. Sure, a number of companies make Chromebooks that are meant to compete with Windows machines on specs and performance, but those “premium” Chromebooks (aside from the 2017 Pixelbook) don’t carry starting prices above $650, and many (such as the Asus Chromebook Flip C434) are under $500.
And then there’s the Galaxy Chromebook, which is not at all cheap (it’s $999) and has battery life that leaves much to be desired. Samsung has taken a wrecking ball to what have traditionally been the two strongest arguments for buying a Chromebook. It’s clearly pushing a different vision for what a Chrome OS product can be: a premium device for power users.
There are two types of laptops I’ve come to expect from Acer: Standout premium models like the crazy Swift 7 ultraportable and Predator Triton 900, and mainstream laptops that are impossibly good deals — like last year’s Predator Helios 300 and this year’s Acer Aspire 5.
For more than a year, Acer’s Aspire E 15 was my go-to pick for anyone who just needed a quick, reliable laptop for general use around the home. Sadly, that model is getting harder to find, but the Aspire 5 is an excellent alternative that’s thinner, lighter and still an impossibly good deal.
The HP Chromebook 14 comes with enough features and the kind of performance that might make you consider switching. This machine is for you if all you need is an affordable device that will let you browse online, tackle basic productivity tasks, send emails, and stream shows. And, its gorgeous 14-inch display, quality trackpad, and fantastic keyboard round it up nicely.
If you want to do some heavy gaming or need to do intense graphics-related work like video editing, you’ll definitely have to look elsewhere.
The Chromebook 11 is one of the rare models in this price range that is actually pleasant to use.
The little Dell is not snazzy by any means, but it’s well-engineered. The exterior is made of textured black plastic that would look more at home in a corporate conference room than an elementary school classroom.
That’s OK, though, because the plastic feels reassuring to the touch, like it’s going to shrug off a week’s worth of tiny, not-so-clean fingers pawing at it. Dell says the system is tested to survive 30-inch drops onto a steel surface, a standard that goes above and beyond the MIL-SPEC drop testing some premium laptops are subjected to.
A powerful, reasonably priced big-screen laptop, the Dell Inspiron 16 Plus is equally capable of rendering graphics-intensive games at 1080p as it is playing a 4K movie on an airplane tray table. The laptop occupies a small slice of the market between Dell’s premium large notebooks (like the XPS 17) and bargain models (like the Inspiron 5000 series).
So far, the Inspiron 16 Plus has the market mostly to itself, but we expect new entrants over the next year. But with this laptop as good as it is—our new Editors’ Choice award winner for midrange desktop replacements—there’s little reason to wait.
Best Gaming Laptop Under 200 – BUYER’S GUIDE
THE CHROMEBOOK ROUTE
As you can see, searching for a gaming laptop under 200 dollars pretty much limits your choices to Chromebooks. However, many of them are powerful enough to get away with some lightweight gaming and some even come the Windows operating system (OS) so you’re not limited to the Chrome browser. But if you’ve never considered this option before, a big draw – besides being super portable, fast and battery efficient is that they’re oh-so cheap.
Using one for the first time, you’ll initially be surprised to find that Chromebooks offer a little less functionality than traditional laptops. For instance, since the user experience is streamlined, you won’t be able to use many of the applications you easily find on Windows or Mac systems.
Some examples of Chromebooks that aren’t relegated to the Chrome OS are the HP Stream 14 and Acer Aspire 1. Since they’re Windows-based, they use the Windows 10 OS. What’s the benefit to you? This opens you up to far more gaming options!
Speaking of portable, laptops in this range are fairly lightweight with screen sizes ranging from 10- to 14inches. But how small is too small? And in the opposite spectrum, how heavy can a gaming laptop be before it becomes unmanageable?
While it’s un-likely that your choice of gaming laptop under 200 dollars will be more than 14-inches (given the options on our list). It’s still important to think about how and when you’ll be using it so that you find one with the right size to fit all your needs besides gaming.
For instance, while a large screen will help you see your opponent more clearly. It may not be that practical if you travel frequently. And while a 10-inch laptop slips into your bag easily. Game graphics might be challenging to see.
Nothing is quite as essential to the performance of the laptop you plan to play games on as the graphics card. But this is less of concern for this price bracket because, without exception, all budget laptops under $200 come with integrated graphics. Which makes these systems best suited for the least demanding titles, like Minecraft and League of Legends.
Astonishingly, however, many of these laptops give you the option to upgrade the graphics card to something more robust (making them an even greater value) so you can play higher-end games. If you choose to run what comes with the system, understand that gaming at this level means underpowered graphics. But don’t worry, the hardware is well-suited for the least demanding games.
No matter how much you spend or what you intend to do with your laptop, performance depends on the quality of the CPU and RAM. Even at the low-end side of the gaming laptop spectrum, some machines will outclass others when it comes to the performance of the hardware offered – A gaming laptop under 200 shouldn’t cry every time you open a basic flash game. And since your using it for gaming, it shouldn’t be un-usably sluggish.
RAM (RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY)
While we’re on the subject of RAM, having more will increase the speed of the system. We recommend at least 4GB of at least DDR3 SDRAM for gaming. While this amount of memory may be challenged when it comes to multitasking with multiple windows open…
It’s surprisingly sufficient for supporting the middling graphics of games like Counter Strike and League of Legends. But if you want your new $200 gaming laptop to feel more responsive, buy one that lets you upgrade the RAM module to 6 or 8GB in the future.
This is another major component that’ll affect how much you’re able to enjoy the games you play. Decent frame rates are highly dependent on the quality of the graphics card and the CPU. But did you know that you could tweak the FPS for enhanced visuals?
You won’t be able to store games and files on board like you can with standard gaming laptops that offer a bigger hard drive. Even if you don’t go with a Chromebook, all cheap laptops under $200 have tiny flash drives. 32GB of space is typical in this arena (the operating system and systems files usually take up half that space).
If on-board storage is important to you, look for systems with a built-in MicroSD card slot to expand storage. Other than that, you’re going to want to store as much as you can (except the game you’re playing) on the cloud. Alternatively, you can also opt for storing important files on an external device, like a USB drive or external hard drive.
This isn’t one of the stronger features for a gaming laptop under 200 dollars, which is why we shoved it as far down the list as we could. Many laptops in this range lose some visual quality and won’t be able to push many titles to ultra-high settings.
As our list demonstrates, most come with the low 1366 x 768 HD resolution; it’s practically synonymous with the cheap laptop segment. You usually only get a dim TN panel with no IPS which doesn’t deliver great image quality. But this panel type is pretty good for gaming as it relates to response time.
Think about the equipment you regularly use to play PC games, like external monitors, a backlit keyboard or a gaming mouse – you’ll likely want an HDMI port to plug into that larger external monitor.
Ports are getting smaller and fewer, especially on budget systems. And some manufacturers have all but wiped them off laptops. Make note of the ports you need and make sure the laptop you’re considering supports them.
One thing you can be sure of, most gaming laptops under 200 dollars have great battery stamina compared to dedicated gaming laptops. But the importance of this feature depends entirely upon the type of user you are.
If you’re a road warrior always commuting and travelling, battery life is hugely important. In that case we encourage you to read many reviews for the runtime on the device you’re most interested in. If, however, you always have a power outlet readily available then you only need to make sure your power cord is right next to you.
We think that if you’re going to make an investment like this, it’s important to think about durability. Materials used in constructing the chassis on even gaming laptop under 200 dollars aren’t always top-shelf. However, you can find a few gems like the Acer Chromebook C202 Acer Chromebook 14 CB3 and Lenovo IdeaPad S150 which work to elevate your budget laptop experience by providing durable, even premium looking chassis. Opt for the laptop that feels the sturdiest to support the stress of gaming and life.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of games can I play on a $200 laptop?
If you want to do more than fling birds at objects, older games are great for laptops at this price level – think games that around 10+ years old that only require 64MB of RAM. Mario All Star and Sim City are great examples of games that will play well on a gaming laptop under 200.
Is an MHD (mechanical hard drive) good enough for a 200-hundred-dollar gaming laptop?
SSDs are much faster than MHD storage units. But if you want more space at this price level, go with a laptop that offers a mechanical hard drive. However, if you prioritize faster boot times and games that load faster (as we do), an SSD or eMMC flash storage is really the only way to go.
What kind of components do you get with gaming laptops under 200?
You’ll find mostly netbooks and Chromebooks, even Windows-based Chromebooks. These are going to be laptops like the HP Stream or a refurbished Dell with a Celeron/Pentium CPU. Let’s just say that the performance of the hardware isn’t all that impressive. But if you go used or refurbished, you could get your hands on older laptops at around $200 with an i7 CPU. Just be mindful that the GPU will be able to play the games you have in mind for the system.
Should I opt for a gaming laptop under 200 that offers a Celeron or Pentium CPU?
Depending on whether you’re going for dual core or quad core, Pentiums and Celerons can offer roughly the same performance. But in a pinch, Pentiums tend to edge out Celeron CPUs in performance tests.
I hear a lot about the HP Stream 14 and Acer Aspire 1, but I honestly don’t know which to choose?
For basic productivity tasks, like checking emails, editing word documents and excel sheets, you can’t go wrong with the HP Stream 14. But overall, the Acer Aspire 1 is a better laptop with a faster CPU and better full HD screen.
Building your own gaming rig will always give you the maximum possible performance. But there’s one thing that PCs can’t genuinely deliver: portability. Even if you build the most small-form-factor PC in the world, you’ll still need a monitor, peripherals, and a power outlet near you to get things going.