You may have spent days researching for the ideal gaming laptop. You might have found some promising machines, but you may have also found them to be just beyond your budget.
The goal of this post is to let you know which corners you can cut and what should be your top priorities when looking for a gaming laptop under $1000. And at the end, I’ll identify the best laptops just under 1K, that offer what you could expect from a $1100 – $1500 laptop. If I’ll manage to shave off a few hundred dollars off your next laptop, I’ll consider my job done.
But first things first. I will go through the essential features of a gaming laptop. I’ll look at which features you can afford to compromise on and, more importantly, which features you shouldn’t do without.
I’ll start off with a guide and specific tips on how to identify a good gaming laptop within our budget. At the end, I’ll list out the best laptops under $1K right now.
Balancing gaming and work is not an easy feat. The same can be said if you’re trying to get a laptop that suits both. Though, if you’re OK with a heavy laptop – balancing gets a lot easier.
I won’t beat around the bush. This post is split into 2 parts – a guide to a great gaming/work laptop step by step and a list of recommended laptops.
Let’s begin with the requirements for the perfect laptop for gaming and work. I think I won’t surprise you by saying that finding the best laptop for gaming requires identifying what you need for working hard and playing hard.
Finding the best World of Warcraft laptop depends on your budget and on the visual settings you’re willing to tolerate. Luckily, the core game engine is so old that there’s no need to get top-of-the-line hardware. That should be great news if you’re searching for a WoW laptop under $500.
How am I going to find the best laptops for WoW?
Update November 13th, 2016.
I’ve updated this post multiple times in October and now I’m rolling out the November update. This time, I’m including a lot of new laptops as more and more laptops come with Intel 7th generation processors or/and Nvidia GTX 10xx graphics.
First, I’ll show you what are the exact requirements for a laptop instead of the generic stationary PC-oriented requirements. Then I’ll guide through each of them so you’ll know where you can cut corners and what is an absolute must. Finally, I’ll list out 6 best World of Warcraft laptops in their price ranges starting from $350 and ending with $3. Got it?
Any 4th-7th gen i3, i5 or i7 processor; AMD A6-5200 or up; Intel M3-6Y30
i5-6300HQ; any 4th-7th gen i7 Q-series processor (i7-4720HQ, i7-5700HQ, i7-6700HQ…); (this does NOT include i7-*500U CPUs)
Any integrated graphics in 5th-7th processor (except generic HD Graphics and HD Graphics 510); Any dedicated Nvidia graphics card; AMD Radeon R7/R9 M300 series
Nvidia GTX 960M; Nvidia GTX 970M/1060 for high frames above Full HD resolution
These requirements are NOT official – I used the official requirements to match their recommended components to equivalent laptop parts. I used 3rd party benchmarks including 3DMark and PassMark tests.
Sims 4 does not necessarily need a very fast laptop. In fact, it is one of the easiest games to pick a laptop for. Of course, if you want to get the best deal, which is exactly tailored to what you’ll need to run Sims 4 – it helps to know what exactly you should be looking for.
To find the best Sims 4 laptop, I went through PC requirements, converted them to equivalent laptop components and what are the precise processors and video cards you should look for. Finally, I’ve picked out 5 best laptops for Sims 4 depending on your budget and the graphics settings you want to play the game on.
To begin with, let’s examine what is important for a Sims 4 laptop.
OS, Sound Card, Hard Drive, DirectX and other requirements are easily met by any modern laptop
There are a few more different 3rd party sources for Sims 4 requirements which can help us to get a better grasp on what should be our target. These are the recommended specs for Sims 4:
Processor: Intel Core i5-750
Video card: Nvidia GTX 650
Memory: At least 4 GB RAM
These system requirements are targeted towards stationary personal computers and not laptops. Now, I’ll adapt these requirements to laptops one-by-one.
Also, we don’t need to worry about Sims 4 expansion packs (Get to Work, Get Together), game packs, stuff packs and other DLC.
The Sims 4 Laptop Mode
Just before we start, I need to address The Sims 4 Laptop Mode. It allows running Sims 4 with very old and weak machines, including some of the cheapest laptops out there. That’s why if you just want to run Sims 4 on the cheap – even the most basic laptop will be enough (more on that in recommendation section).
One of the best things about League of Legends is how well optimized it is for cheap laptops. That’s why you don’t have to break a bank if you just want a notebook for casually playing LoL. Apart from that, League scales pretty well into better hardware (except for multi-core usage, but that’s a problem for many games with lock-step engine). But if we want to find the best laptop for League of Legends, there’s some research to be done.
Quick update. Last guide update: November 15. I’ve decided to refresh the guide with the latest laptops with the new Intel Core 7th gen processors and Nvidia GTX Pascal video cards.
In short, expect to spend under $800 for a basic laptop for League, powerful laptop – under $1300 and around $1500 for some of the best laptops for League of Legends. The latter will be able to handle gaming way beyond LoL.
At the same time, there are plenty of reasons to get a more expensive laptop for LoL if you’ve got the budget for it.
Obviously, you might need a laptop with better specs for other games. Few PC games are as accessible as League is, so you’ll need to spend some cash on latest hardware if you like to keep on top on the latest releases. But since you’re getting a laptop for LoL now, I guess you’re sticking with it for a while and I won’t assume that you need a laptop with a top-notch graphics card.
But even if you only see yourself playing League of Legends for the next few years, you might need a better rig if you’re considering streaming. Even if you’re not dreaming about going pro, having an occasional stream for a couple of your best mates can be fun.
Now I’ll break down all main requirements one-by-one.
Searching for the best laptop for streaming can be very problematic as it requires comparing benchmarks and reading a lot of reviews. When you consider that even the best laptops will get some negative responses, it’s borderline impossible to find a universally acclaimed model.
A quick sidenote on what type of streaming I refer to
This post is not about watching Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, HBO or anything else of that matter.
Don’t get me wrong – every laptop I’ll recommend is easily more than enough for this type of streaming. But this post is for you if you want to stream video to other people – likely on Twitch via apps like OBS. This includes gameplay, gaming talk shows and streaming creative work.
But since you’re already here and you simply want to stream movies/clips – the following laptops will be way too good (and way too expensive) for just that. For basic streaming over Netflix, HBO Now, Youtube there are 3 basic models.