Best Gaming Laptop Under 1200 dollars – Our Top Picks

 

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Are you trying to find the best gaming laptop under 1200 dollars? With brand-new AAA games such as Battlefield V, Call of Duty Black Ops IV, Forza Horizon 4, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Just Cause 4, and Fallout 76 scheduled for release within the next couple of months, you need to ensure that your gaming system is capable of taking on the most demanding titles of this year. While entry-level gaming laptops can be purchased for under 800 dollars, those machines will lose their ability to run AAA games at a satisfactory quality within one or two years. Sure, you spend less money now but your investment will fail to deliver a good experience within just 2 years. However, we are not asking you to go out there and splurge 2000 or 3000 bucks on a top-of-the-line gaming laptop. That is something 90% of us cannot afford, and the higher you go in the price range, the fewer benefits you get for your money.

But what about the so-called “sweet spot” in the gaming laptop market? The prices for laptops like these can range from 900 to 1200 dollars, and they come with just the right amount of muscle to run AAA games at medium to high settings and 60 fps, for at least the next 2-3 years. If you consider value for money, midrange gaming laptops offer the most performance per dollar. And they are relatively lightweight, unlike their more expensive cousins. Ultra high-end gaming laptops require thicker bodies and more complicated cooling systems to take care of all the heat created by packing such powerful mobile CPUs and GPUs into a tiny space.

If you are stuck with an old gaming laptop that forces you to lower the graphical settings every time you play a new game, while in constant fear of the damn thing overheating and shutting down on you in the middle of an intense gaming session, it is time to invest in a new laptop. Fortunately, we have done all the research for you and created a list of gaming laptops, arranged in the order of increasing price. The most expensive one is under 1200 dollars and offers features such as an NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB graphics card, and 144Hz IPS display. Please note that you will need a high refresh rate display if you are interested in competitive gaming. This applies to CS GO, Overwatch, DOTA 2, and League players. If you are serious about competitive gaming and aspire to become a pro, do not purchase a laptop featuring a display that has a refresh rate below 100Hz. Most expensive high-end models with >120Hz screens tend to cost upwards of 2000, but we managed to find a reasonably priced Acer gaming laptop for less than 1200 bucks that is equipped with a brilliant 144Hz IPS panel.

Without furtho ado, here are our top contenders…

 

best gaming laptop under 1200 - The MSI GV62

MSI 15.6″ Performance Gaming Laptop – Balling on a Budget

Overview:

While it is the cheapest laptop on our list, do not make the mistake of thinking it is an inferior machine. The MSI engineers worked hard to ensure that the GV62 8RD-200 delivers smooth 1080p, 60 fps gameplay in all modern AAA titles for at least the next 2 years. It is loaded with a very capable 8th gen Intel Core i5 CPU, and a GTX 1050ti graphics card from NVIDIA. This laptop is the pinnacle of mobile gaming on a low budget, and is definitely a worthy contender for best gaming laptop under 1200 It can run DOOM 2016, NFS Payback, Battlefield 1, Call of Duty WW II, Prey, Witcher 3, etc. with ease. Just select a mix of medium and high settings, and you are good to go.

Features:

What makes this particular laptop different from all its competitors in this price range is the upgraded graphics card; most of the competition under 1000 dollars uses the base model GTX 1050. The 1050ti is equipped with 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM, compared to the 1050, which only has 2 or 3GB of GDDR5 VRAM depending on the model. This bonus VRAM comes in handy if you wish to use high-quality textures or mods, since those will take up extra memory. Besides, if you plan to run games in 1440p, you will need at least 4GB of VRAM. Since you already have a beefy GPU to support 60 fps gaming at a high resolution, you can hook up your MSI GV62 8RD-200 with an external display such as a 1440p monitor using the HDMI output.

One more advantage the 1050ti has over the base 1050 is its extra CUDA cores. The base 1050 has only 640 CUDA cores, whereas the 1050ti has 768 of them. This allows the 1050ti to process more graphical data at a faster rate, so your MSI gaming laptop will be able to play games on higher graphical detail without any glitches or frame drops. According to various benchmarks and side-by-side comparisons, the 1050ti is around 15% faster than the base 2GB version of the 1050. In some games, the 4GB 1050ti is up to 30 percent faster than the 2GB 1050. If you love open-world games or RPGs such as the Witcher or Skyrim, we highly recommend that you purchase this laptop.

Another cool bonus that you get with the GV62 8RD-200 is a custom red-backlit SteelSeries gaming keyboard. And no, we are not talking about a cheap freebie USB keyboard with the name “Steelseries” printed on top of it. The keyboard in this MSI laptop has been designed and manufactured in collaboration with Steelseries. SteelSeries is one of the most famous gaming peripheral companies in the world, alongside Razer and Corsair. They are renowned for making some of the best mechanical gaming keyboards, gaming headsets, gaming mice, and mousepads. Note that this laptop doesn’t include a mechanical keyboard, since that would simply take up too much space and raise the costs by a very high margin. However, the keyboard is extremely responsive with short travel and very low noise. You have smooth keypresses and subtle tactile feedback, which means you never press something by accident, and you always know what you just pressed. Multi-key input is supported, so you will not jam the input if you press more than 2 or 3 keys together. The WASD keys are spaced out from the rest, and the edge of each key is illuminated with a bright crimson glow that helps you game in the dark.

 

Pros:

  • Superb processing power, thanks to the Intel 8th generation Core i5 CPU. This laptop comes with an i5 8300H, which is a hyperthreaded quad-core processor so it has a total of 8 threads. The massive thread count combined with 8MB of cache results in truly insane multitasking performance, comparable to the previous generation i7 processors, even though this is just an i5 and middle of the pack in its family. Base frequency is a respectable 2.3 GHz, with a turbo speed of up to 4 GHz that comes in handy while gaming or creating content.
  • The GTX 1050ti is a step above the base 2GB GTX 1050 that you will find in almost every gaming laptop under 1000 dollars. We are happy to see MSI deliver such amazing performance at a relatively low price for a gaming laptop. It costs less than the competition, and performs around 15 percent better in almost every game that we tested.
  • Loaded with 8GB of DDR4 high-speed memory, so you will be able to game and multitask efficiently. If you are really into content creation and want to do a lot of browsing and streaming while running games, we suggest that you add an extra 8GB DDR4 RAM stick to the laptop. It is a very easy process, you just have to remove a couple screws from the base.
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit preinstalled
  • 6” FHD IPS-level display for wider viewing angles and true colors.
  • 16GB of Intel Optane high-speed memory for lightning-fast load times on key programs.
  • Cooler Boost 4 combines 6 copper heat pipes and dual independent cooling fans, one each for the CPU and GPU. This results in efficient heat dissipation, which makes the laptop run quieter and cooler while gaming.

Cons:

  • Barely lasts 4 hours on a full charge with some casual gaming and movies, battery life drops even further if you run graphics intensive games.
  • Not something you would want to use in the school or college, owing to its low battery life and gamer-laptop looks.
  • No optical drive, slow 5400rpm 1TB HDD

 

 

the best gaming laptop under 1200 - Dell

Dell 15.6″ Gaming Laptop – Maximum Value for Money

Overview:

If you had exactly 1000 dollars to spend on a gaming laptop, then this is the only one we would recommend. It features an NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB graphics card and an Intel 8th generation i5 CPU for a remarkably low price. And despite cramming all that juicy hardware into this sleek, futuristic-looking chassis Dell somehow managed to spare enough money on the budget to somehow throw in an IPS display. The result is a laptop that we think might just be perfect.

Features:

What does a gamer truly want in a laptop? Good performance is obviously the primary requirement. But it isn’t enough to just have a powerful CPU and GPU combo if your laptop uses an inferior display. Nobody carries a TV or monitor around with them while traveling, it is not something that you can shove into your backpack like a laptop. So you better make sure that your laptop comes with a nice display built-in. You also need a laptop with fast memory, since your super fast processor is useless if you combine with slow RAM that cannot feed the CPU data at a quick enough rate, or store information that the CPU just processed. Finally, you need fast storage, which is going to be in the form of an SSD. A good gaming laptop will get some things on our list right, and compromise on the other aspects. However, a great gaming laptop gets it all right and delivers a complete package for a truly wonderful experience.

And the Dell G5 is truly amazing, since it combines an 8th generation Intel i5 processor with an NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB graphics card, and 8GB of 2666 MHz DDR4 RAM. All of this is supported by super fast storage, in the form of a 128GB SATA SSD that lowers boot times and game loading times significantly. You will notice that your Dell G5 boots up within 7 seconds of pressing the power button, even with a whole bunch of startup programs enabled such as antivirus, Discord, etc. And this small but fast storage is backed up by slower, but massive storage which is the 1TB 5400rpm HDD. This HDD is where you store all downloaded movies, music, and game installers. The OS and most frequently accessed games reside in the SSD.

It all comes together with the beautiful 15.6” Anti-Glare IPS display. Colors are true to life, contrast is amazing, and viewing angles are superb so you don’t have to constantly reposition yourself while watching content with friends around the laptop. The dual front-firing speakers are professionally tuned by Waves MaxxAudio for maximum clarity while gaming or watching movies. You can decode the direction from which enemies are approaching, and listen to every minute detail on the battlefield while playing shooter games. The sound of a grenade pin being released, the chatter from radios, sound of bullet shells dropping to the ground, etc. Everything can be heard, and there is no lag during online gaming thanks to the 2 x 2 WLAN which supports long range 802.11 ac WIFI. The HDMI 2.0 port lets you connect your Dell laptop to a 4k TV for maximum immersion while playing the latest AAA movies or games.

Pros:

  • Intel Core i5 8300H CPU, quad core with 8 threads, 8MB cache and 4 GHz boost clock.
  • NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB graphics card. This is something you rarely find in laptops under 1500 dollars. It is around 30 to 40 percent better than the base 2GB GTX 1050, and nearly 15 percent better than the 4GB GTX 1050ti
  • 8GB of 2666 MHz DDR4 RAM, upgradeable up to 32GB
  • 128GB SSD + 1TB 5400rpm HDD
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit preinstalled
  • 6” IPS display for true colors and wide viewing angles
  • Red backlit gaming keyboard with programmable macro keys and n-key rollover
  • Dual front firing speakers tuned with Waves MaxxAudio
  • 25mm thick, weighs 6.28 pounds

Cons:

  • Keys on the keyboard feel hollow and less tactile compared to some of the keyboards we tested on competing brands such as Acer or MSI
  • The 5400rpm HDD is rather slow, and at some point you might have to upgrade it to a 7200 rpm HDD or even an SSD
  • Display is slightly dim by default, you will have to tinker with the brightness

 
 

the best gaming laptops under 1200 dollars - ASUS Slim is lightweight performer

ASUS VivoBook 17” Laptop – Big Power in a Slim Package

Overview:

Thin as a MacBook or Razer Blade, while packing enough power to rival even the most hardcore gaming notebooks. It looks sleek and has subtle styling, but underneath its calm exterior you will find a vicious gaming machine. Powered by an Intel 8th generation i7 CPU, this is no ordinary Ultrabook.

Features:

Most gaming laptops we review aren’t suited for office or college. Why? Because they look like they were drawn up by a 12-year-old kid in his bedroom, who thought that the design looks edgy and cool. Spaceships and supercars are the inspiration behind the looks of most gaming laptops, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Bay stole the looks for one of his new Transformers movies. But the ASUS VivoBook puts us in a conundrum- we can’t say it is NOT a gaming laptop, just one look at the spec sheet and it becomes obvious that this machine is perfect for gaming. After all, it packs a GTX 1050 4GB and an i7 8550U processor. On the other hand, it doesn’t have any of the traditional gaming laptop shenanigans- no bulky body, no LEDs plastered all over the place, and a keyboard that doesn’t hurt your eyes to look at.

So we guess it is safe to call this machine an all-rounder. You can use it for home, school, office, and when you feel like it you can even show up at your friend’s house for a LAN party with it. The display is phenomenal, and the keyboard is a pleasure to type on. There is no optical drive, but who needs an optical drive when you have a USB Type C port and 802.11 dual-band ac WIFI. The body is just 0.8” thick, and the giant 17” display is perfect for gaming or watching movies. The laptop itself is only 16.2” wide, despite featuring a 17” screen. Charging the battery is a fast process, it goes from zero to sixty percent in just 49 minutes.

Pros:

  • Intel Core i7 8550U low-voltage processor. It is only 5% slower than the i7 7700HQ which is a standard voltage CPU but draws just 15 watts of power compared to the 45 watts of the 7700HQ. The higher single thread speeds of the 8550U during turbo (4GHz vs 3.8GHz) means that regular applications will open up faster and run smoothly (browsing, documents, videos, etc.). The larger cache allows for super-fast switching between tabs or windows.
  • NVIDIA GTX 1050 4GB which is an upgraded version of the base 1050. It has twice the VRAM allowing for better performance in open-world games. If you have HD textures enabled, or have installed a lot of mods this extra VRAM might come in handy.
  • 16GB of DDR4 RAM, which is twice as much compared to most similarly priced gaming laptops
  • Average battery life of this laptop is around 1 hour higher than most true gaming laptops, mainly because of its low-voltage CPU
  • 17” IPS panel
  • 8” thick and weighs just 4.6 pounds

Cons:

  • Heats up easier compared to a true gaming laptop, since it uses a single-fan cooling system instead of dual independent fan coolers that you will find on almost every modern gaming laptop.
  • The 256GB SSD is great, but it still features a painfully slow 5400rpm HDD. Whether you want a single SSD that is smaller in capacity than an SSD + HDD is personal preference, but in a laptop of this type we would much rather have a 512GB SSD instead of a 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD.
  • Comes with some bloatware preinstalled

 

 

ASUS ROG Strix Hero Edition – Insanely Powerful, Highly Customizable

Overview:

Both the ROG Strix GL503 and the Predator Helios laptops feature Intel’s 2nd most powerful mobile CPU: the i7-8750H. The most powerful 8th generation processor you can find on any laptop in this world is the Intel i7-8850H, which is basically an 8750H boosted to a slightly higher clock from the factory. If your biggest concern is raw power, then this is the best gaming laptop under 1200 for you.

Features:

If you want a laptop for gaming, streaming, and creating your own content, accept no substitute- the ASUS ROG Strix Hero edition GL503E comes with the best CPU you can get under 1500 dollars as well as a killer graphics card in the GTX 1050ti 4GB from NVIDIA. It is a monster at multitasking, thanks to the hexacore processor which has a total of 12 threads. The base clock of the i7-8750H is 2.2 GHz and it boosts all the way up to 4.1 GHz. The cache is absolutely massive at 9MB, which means you can switch between tabs, windows, and several programs that are running simultaneously with absolutely zero delay. The 16GB of DDR4 RAM greatly helps with multitasking as well as gaming, guaranteeing that you will have a smooth experience on this laptop for at least another 4 years before you need a memory upgrade.

You can play a game while streaming that very game in 1080p 60fps on YouTube or Twitch, and downloading content in the background with 50 tabs opened in Google Chrome and 4 different videos playing in multiple media players. Maybe even throw in an anti-virus scan in there, to make sure that your CPU is being put through its paces. Despite all this load, we are still certain that the i7-8750H is not going to show any signs of weakness, which means you cannot overload this CPU in any way under regular workloads. You would have to be a creative professional or some kind of data scientist to truly exceed the limits of what this processor can do.

And once you are done testing the power of the CPU on your brand new laptop, you can finally divert your attention to its brilliant cooling system that automatically ejects dust to maintain a steady cooling performance over the lifespan of the laptop. No longer will you have to take the laptop apart and clean out the exhaust fins once every year. And the best part is that your laptop will actually run quieter since there will be nothing to clog the outlets, meaning that your fans won’t have to ramp up their speed and create unnecessary noise. The only sound you will be hearing while playing games on this laptop is from the brilliant onboard stereo speaker system. Couple that with the fully customizable RGB gaming keyboard, and you have yourself a true desktop replacement. It even features a 120Hz IPS gaming display with a response time under 3 milliseconds. If that doesn’t impress you, nothing will.

Pros:

  • Core i7-8750H processor with 6 cores and 12 threads. Base clock 2.2 GHz with boost up to 4.1 GHz, and has 9MB of cache. This is the second most powerful CPU Intel has ever put in a laptop, second only to the i7-8850H which is basically an 8750H with a slight overclock.
  • NVIDIA GTX 1050ti 4GB graphics.
  • A 15.6” IPS display with 120Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time for competitive gaming.
  • ASUS Aura RGB customizable gaming keyboard.
  • Exclusive anti-dust cooling system with dual 12V fans that are enclosed in specially designed chambers that separates the dust from the air, increasing cooling performance and prolonging laptop lifespan. It also means less noise, and lower maintenance.
  • Display Port, HDMI, and USB Type C ports
  • Intel Wireless-LAN 9260, dual-band Gigabit AC WIFI with speeds up to 1.7 Gbps.
  • 128GB PCIe SSD in combination with 1TB FireCuda HDD

Cons:

  • Abysmal battery life
  • Heavy, at almost 6 pounds
  • The touchpad is not very responsive

 

 

Acer Predator Helios 300 – Built for Competitive Gamers

Overview:

If you have the money, this is THE laptop to buy. It is the only gaming laptop we could find in this price range that offers a 144Hz IPS display. There is the ASUS ROG Strix with a 120Hz screen, but we all know that 144 > 120. Not just numerically, but from an actual gaming perspective. People who are competitive gamers can tell the difference between 120Hz and 144Hz, even though it is slight. And both 120Hz as well as 144Hz are miles ahead of 60Hz displays.

Features:

It is often said that 60fps gaming is the standard for smooth, responsive experiences. But that only applies to story-based games or AAA titles that you play for the visuals. If you don’t care about visuals but love to see a super-high framerate on the corner of your display, then go ahead and grab yourself an Acer Predator Helios 300 laptop. It is the king of the hill as far as mid-range gaming laptops are concerned. Not only does this laptop pack a killer graphics card, but it also features the Intel Core i7-8750H CPU which is for all intents and purposes, the most powerful you are going to get in any laptop on the market with a budget that isn’t above 3000 dollars.

And the GTX 1060 in this laptop isn’t a neutered 3GB version- it is the full-fat 6GB model, with all 1280 CUDA cores. You can play Overwatch, DOTA 2, CS GO, League, Rainbow Six Siege, and several competitive games in 144+ fps with high graphics settings. The CPU is fully capable of handling super high framerates, and you have a monitor that can display all those frames. Not only is this a 144 Hz monitor, but it also has a response time under 3ms while using an IPS panel. Just try to purchase a 1080p 144Hz IPS monitor and see how much one of those costs- probably around 300 dollars. And most 144Hz IPS monitors have a response time close to 5ms.

On top of all the power and amazing display, you also get a customizable iron-red backlit gaming keyboard and Acer TrueHarmony audio. Granted the keyboard on this laptop isn’t RGB like the one in the ASUS Strix, but that is the slight compromise you have to make when you go for a better display and a more powerful GPU. Besides, most of us serious gamers don’t want a miniature Christmas tree underneath our noses while we are gaming, it can be pretty distracting. Usually, you just set your RGB keyboard to one static color and forget about it. With the PredatorSense control center, you can monitor stuff like fan rpm for both the CPU and GPU coolers, temps, loads, etc. It may be right at the top of the budget, but if you are looking for the best gaming laptop under 1200 dollars, this is definitely one you should be considering.

Pros:

  • Intel Core i7-8750H CPU
  • NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB graphics
  • 16GB DDR4 RAM, upgradeable up to 32GB
  • 6” IPS 144Hz display, with 3ms response time for ultra fast reactions in competitive gaming
  • All-metal AeroBlade 3D Fan cooling
  • Iron red backlit gaming keyboard with programmable keys and n-key rollover
  • Gigabit dual-band AC WIFI
  • USB Type C, HDMI, and mini DisplayPort
  • Metal chassis with brushed aluminum finish on the deck
  • PredatorSense lets you monitor and control CPU and GPU fan speeds, temps, load, etc. in real time
  • 256PCIe NVMe SSD with an empty slot for any 2.5” storage of your choice

Cons:

  • The WASD area of the keyboard can get warm at times, since it is where the GPU is located.
  • Limited storage, since it only has a 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD. Note- this 256GB SSD is much faster than a standard SSD, which is already several times faster than an HDD. You have a free slot to add any 2.5” storage of your choice, so you can add a cheaper but larger SATA SSD for mass storage.
  • Questionable battery life.

 

 

So, what is the best gaming laptop under 1200?

Now that you have read about the pros and cons of each of our choices for a top gaming laptop under 1200 dollars, you must be thinking to yourself “hmm, all of these seem very compelling. How to decide which one is the best for me?” Well, let us make it simple for you. If you want the cheapest gaming laptop that you can currently buy and not worry about it becoming obsolete within the next year or two, get the MSI GV62. Even though it costs nearly 800 bucks, it is the most wallet-friendly option on our list and manages to deliver an amazing experience in the latest AAA titles without forcing you to turn down the graphical settings to a point where the game starts to look bad.

Now, let’s consider the laptop that provides maximum value for money- the Dell G5. It looks great, has an amazing IPS display, and packs a GTX 1060 6GB graphics card. You just can’t go wrong with this one. Whether you are a casual gamer, content creator, or college student, the Dell will serve you well. It is both sleek as well as powerful.

The ASUS VivoBook is a surprise package. It is sleek like a MacBook at just 0.8” thick and weighs under 5 pounds despite sporting a 17” IPS screen. But underneath the hood lies incredible power- an Intel i7-8550U processor and the NVIDIA GTX 1050 4GB graphics card. You can max out most AAA games on this laptop while maintaining 60 fps average framerate. And once you are done gaming, you can carry it over into office or college with enough battery life left over to power through the day. And just in case you need to recharge, remember that the battery goes from zero to sixty percent charge in just 49 minutes. And you won’t look like an edgy teenager while using this laptop, thanks to its subtle yet bold styling.

If you want the best of both worlds, try out the ASUS ROG Strix Hero edition laptop. It is both sleeker than its competition, and more powerful. Both this laptop as well as the Predator Helios feature Intel’s 2nd most powerful CPU ever to go into a laptop- the 8th generation Core i7-8750H. This processor is capable of running 4 to 5 different background programs while you are gaming and streaming at the same time. Coupled with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a very capable GPU in the 1050ti, the ROG Strix is an impressive gaming machine. Oh, and let’s not forget its 120Hz IPS screen.

If you are willing to ditch the RGB keyboard of the ASUS ROG Strix laptop in exchange for something that truly affects your gameplay- get the Acer Predator Helios 300. It is THE BEST gaming laptop under 1200 dollars if you have the money for something like this. With a 144Hz display, Acer makes sure that even the most competitive of gamers are able to enjoy their favorite games while they are away from the gaming desktop in their homes. An RGB keyboard or edgy styling doesn’t make you better at games. Neither does a 144Hz display. But the 144Hz display means that you can’t blame your loss on lag, and it ensures that you are not limited by the hardware on your computer.

In conclusion, our pick for Best Gaming Laptop Under 1200 dollars is the Acer Predator Helios 300. It is the most powerful of the bunch, and features the best display- 144Hz IPS with 3ms response time. Your choice may vary based on your budget and needs, which is why we made sure to include 4 other machines on our list that each fulfills a different purpose for gamers.