Don’t you love the thrill of searching for a new laptop? Gaming tech keeps evolving each year, and when it’s time to upgrade, you can spend hours looking for machines with the latest configurations.
The introduction of Nvidia’s Pascal architecture in 2016 was a real game-changer for the industry, leading to the development of compact, mobile GPUs like the GeForce GTX 1080, GTX 1070, and GTX 1060.
Today’s gaming laptops offer an immersive experience similar to desktops while remaining portable. Take your machine over to your friend’s house for a session without having to haul around a desktop system. The trend of gaming laptops continues to dominate new sales in the market, but the issue is that the top-end models come with steep price tags compared to desktops.
To compensate for the price difference, manufacturing brands make gaming laptops available at several price points, depending on the configuration. Most brands offer two or three models with different setups to suit your gaming needs and your budget.
This post looks at the best affordable gaming laptops. We’ll highlight our top choices, bringing you our picks for the best cheap gaming laptop models for Q4 2021 and into 2022.
Best Budget Gaming Laptops in South Africa
With so many amazing affordable gaming laptops available, it’s tough to settle on a model that suits your gaming needs and your budget. Do you go with Acer or HP? What is the best setup for your GPU? Do you need a laptop for work and gaming? Do you travel?
A gaming laptop is a serious investment, and it’s going to set you back tens of thousands of rands, so you need a machine tailored to your lifestyle and work requirements. We’ll give you options for the best budget gaming laptop in all of these categories. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Acer Predator Helios 300
If you’re looking for our top choice for the best cheap gaming laptop, we recommend the Acer Predator Helios 300.
When you first set eyes on the Predator Helios, it’s clear it’s a purpose-built laptop for gaming. The decals on the lid and the clean black and teal finish make this an attractive machine, with the dimensions on the device working out to 0.9 x 14.3 x 10 inches (HWD).
It’s not the lightest machine, weighing 2.2-kilograms, but it’s within the average weight for a gaming laptop considering the screen size. We like the partial aluminium finishes on the palm pest, lid, and keyboard deck, providing an eye-pleasing aesthetic. There’s minimal chassis flex, and you get the coveted one-handed opening of the lid.
The Predator Helios 300 offers you tremendous gaming power, featuring a six-core Intel Core i7-10750H processor and a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU. The machine really excels with its triple-digit frame rate 244Hz 1920 x 1080 IPs display featuring a 144Hz refresh rate.
You get an immersive gaming experience for the 15.6″ screen with ample screen brightness, wide-view angles, anti-glare, and 100% rated coverage of sRGB colour spaces for dynamic visual effects. The four-zone RGB keyboard also offers true RGB control and the ability to save your profiles.
The Predator Helios 300 doesn’t come with any fingerprint or biometric security features or a webcam, but that’s pretty standard for many gaming laptops. You get two fans mounted in the rear of the machine, and they run fairly quiet in performance mode. The PredatorSense app gives you further control over the fan operation.
The Predator Helios 300 comes with Intel’s 10th Generation “Comet Lake” processors, but there’s no support for Thunderbolt 4. On the left, you find two USB 3.2 ports (5Gbps), an E2600 2.5Gbps Ethernet jack, and an audio jack. The right features USB Type-C and Type-A ports and HDMI 2.0b and mini DisplayPort 1.4 video outputs.
The Predator also supports Killer DoubleShot Pro, with a Killer AX1650i wireless card supporting Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5. The laptop prioritizes game traffic over your Ethernet, using Wi-Fi for all other tasks.
Overall, the Predator Helios 300 wins our top spot for the best affordable gaming laptop.
- Large 240Hz screen with smooth resolution.
- Quiet fan cooling.
- Built-in overclocking and superior performance.
- Good selection of ports.
- Aesthetic black and teal finish.
- Sharp chassis corners might not suit everyone’s design tastes.
- Somewhat bulky.
Acer Nitro 5
Next up on our list of the best budget gaming laptops is the Acer Nitro 5. If you’re looking for an affordable machine, then the Nitro 5 is the solution.
This laptop features the six-core Ryzen 5 5600H, mates with a 4GB GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, with 8GB of RAM, outperforming the 10th generation Core i5 processors while coming in with a decent price tag. It’s a great alternative to the Predator Helios 300 for gamers that can’t stretch their budget to the Predator.
We like the 15.6-inch WQHD 144Hz 1080p display for clear resolution on high frame-rate games. You get 50% more pixels than with a full-HD (1080p) option. As a result, there’s less scrolling and a sharper picture, with plenty of room for docking your apps side-by-side.
The chassis design of the Nitro 5 is purpose-built for gamers, giving you measurements of 0.94 x 14.3 x 10 inches (HWD), and it weighs 2.3-kilograms which is fairly bulky compared to the Predator. However, the keyboard is fantastic, giving you a short, linear feel.
The Nitro 5 features two USB 3.2 Type-A ports, one USB Type-C port, an HDMI 2.1 video output, a headset jack, and a Killer E2600 Ethernet jack. However, there’s no Thunderbolt support with the USB-S connection.
Acer adds the MediaTek MT7921 network card offering Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5, and you get a webcam but no biometric identification. The Nitro is easy to upgrade, with two M.2 slots and a 2.5-inch drive bay. DIMM slots allow for easy memory upgrades.
The two cooling fans in the rear run slightly noisy in performance mode, but the perforations on the bottom of the chassis allow sufficient airflow. You’ll get around 7-hours of battery life from this machine when watching movies.
Overall, the Nitro 5 is a great choice for an entry-level gaming laptop and one of the most affordable high-performance models available.
- Excellent alternative to Intel i5 setups.
- Fast performance from the Ryzen 5.
- High-resolution WQHD display.
- Good battery life.
- Packed with configurations.
- Plastic chassis.
- Similar chassis design to the Predator.
If you’re looking for the best budget gaming laptop at a rock-bottom price, we recommend going with the MSI GF63. This machine features the Intel i7-9750H processor paired with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU for outstanding performance on a budget. You also get 1TB hard drive space, 128GB SSD, and 8GB DDR4 RAM.
Despite its affordable value, the MSI team didn’t hold back on the design, with a slick chassis design flaunting narrow bezels and a brushed-aluminium finish with black and red colours that catch your attention. Its lightweight design weighs just under 1.9-kg, measuring 0.85 x 14.13 x 10 inches (HWD).
The keyboard features comfortable black keys with red accents and decent keystroke travel. You get red monochromatic backlighting which you can turn off, and the only drawback is that it’s challenging to see the lettering on the keys in low light conditions.
On the sides of the chassis, you’ll find a single USB Type-A 3.1 port on the left and one USB Type-C 3.1 port on the right, along with two USB Type-A 3.1 ports, 3.5mm mic-in and audio-out jacks, and an RJ-45 Ethernet jack.
The MSI GF63 features a 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 panel running at 60Hz, which is all you need for an outstanding gaming experience. You can expect around 7-hours of battery life from the machine when watching videos, which is par for the course.
Overall, the MSI is the best choice for cash-strapped gamers looking for affordable quality in a gaming laptop.
- Lightweight and easy to carry.
- Affordable pricing.
- Neat black and red chassis.
- Narrow screen bezels.
- Quiet fans.
- AAA gaming limited to sub-60fps at 1080p.
- Battery life is not as good as the Acer models.
HP Omen 15
The HP Omen is another solid choice for the best affordable gaming laptop. This model is a close competitor to the Acer Nitro 5, and it’s hard to choose between them. The Omen 15 features the six-core Ryzen 5 5600H paired with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 for superior gaming performance.
The Omen lacks the design flair of the Nitro 5, and you get a more office-friendly look with a brushed aluminium chassis and keyboard featuring a 26-key rollover, ensuring the machine registers all inputs while gaming. The Omen 15s 144Hz anti-glare screen offers 300 nits with 72% coverage of the NTSC gamut. You get wide viewing angles, and the picture will never wash out.
The laptop weighs just over two kilograms, measuring 0.89 x 14.1 x 9.4-inches (HWD). There are big air intakes on the rear of the chassis providing airflow to the fans, and the sides of the machine feature four 3.2 Gen 1 USB ports, one Type-C and three Type-A, mini DisplayPort and HDMI 2.0a video outputs, an SD card reader, Ethernet jack, and headphone/microphone combo jack.
There’s a lack of biometric security features like a fingerprint reader with the Omen, but you get a 720p web cam included in the chassis. The battery life with the Omen 15 is impressive, giving you 9-hours of video-watching time and fast charging from empty to 50% in 45-minutes.
The Omen 15 also includes Wi-Fi 6 connectivity to help you ditch the dependence on ethernet. Overall, you get a high-performance package in a clean looking chassis. It’s a top contender to the Nitro 5, but the price tag is a little steeper.
- Beefy gaming laptop at an affordable price.
- Long battery life with fast charging capacity.
- 1080p 144Hz IPS Display for immersive gaming experiences.
- Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.
- 26-key rollover keyboard registers all inputs.
- Somewhat pricey.
- A bit chunky on the design.
- No RGB lighting for the keyboard.
Lenovo Legion Y540
The Lenovo Legion Y540 is another great choice for gamers who want a machine to pull out at the office. The sleek, steel-grey chassis features the backlit “Y” emblem on the top, aluminium on the sides and stealthy-looking exhaust vents for the two cooling fans in the rear.
The Legion Y540 features the Intel i7-9750H processor paired with the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU and 8GB RAM. This machine stands out due to its 17.3-inch full HD Anti-Glare IPS-level display built with a 144Hz refresh rate for the smoothest visual experience that’s on par with the Predator Helios 300.
The laptop weighs 2-kilograms and measures 0.9 x 14.2 x 10.5-inches (HWD), offering you side screen bezels and an aesthetic look that’s as suitable for the office as it is for gaming at home. You also get a 720p webcam, but there’s no biometric identification on the machine.
The Lenovo Legion Y540 features a flex-free keyboard deck with soft, precise key travel for an enjoyable typing experience. You also get a full-size function key row, and a preinstalled Lenovo Vantage app automatically disables your Windows key.
The right and left sides of the machine feature a single USB 3.1 Type-A port and a headphone/microphone combination jack on the right. The device’s rear houses the mini-DisplayPort, USB 3.1 Type-C port, USB Type-A 3.1 port, and an Ethernet jack.
Overall, the Lenovo Legion Y540 is a great option for the budget-conscious gamer looking for a dual-purpose machine for work and play.
- Lightweight design.
- Slimline form factor ideal for travel.
- 17.3-inch full-HD anti-glare IPS-level display.
- Great for professional office use.
- Poor battery life compared to the Acer and HP.
- No Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Asus TUF Dash F15
If you’re looking for a gaming laptop with classic styling, the Asus TUF Dash F15 is a great choice. This model comes with a MacBook-style design, evidenced by the white chassis. It’s a highly portable machine, lightweight, and easy to carry around with you between meetings or to the local Mugg & Bean.
The Asus TUF Dash F15 features an Intel Core i7-11370H processor paired with an RTX 3060 graphics chip, allowing for 1080p gaming in high resolution, thanks to the 144Hz screen rate. The top and side screen bezels are minimal, adding to the slimline design of the white chassis.
This laptop measures 0.78 x 14.2 x 9.9-inches (HWD), providing a slimline form factor and a computer that’s easy to fit in any bag. There’s no biometrics and no webcam, but you do have a dual-way microphone for chats. The Asus TUF Dash F15s island-style keyboard comes with turquoise backlighting, but there’s no option for RBG.
The port selection on the TUF Dash F15 offers a Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port on the left, along with three USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports, microphone and Ethernet jacks, and an HDMI 2.0b video output. You also get an Intel AX201 Wi-Fi card that supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.
This budget gaming laptop is a great choice for travellers and people that carry their machines daily.
- Compact and lightweight, good for travelling.
- Excellent battery life.
- Powerful performance in a compact package.
- Good for everyday use.
- The screen needs to tilt back more.
- No biometrics or webcam.
Our review of the best affordable gaming laptop models brings you a selection of our top performers. We have dedicated gamer laptops and choices for designs that are most suitable for use in the office. There’s something to handle the needs of every gamer at prices you can afford.
Investing in an affordable gaming laptop will set you back a decent amount of money. However, choosing one of the models on this list ensures you get the best value for your money with your new machine.