The PC gaming market is flooded with newer and more efficient hardware which has the gaming community psyched since the Nvidia Pascal release in 2016. Given all of this, it is curious to see how many budget gaming laptops still use the older GPUs, mostly GTX 950M and 960M. We will see as we look closely at individual laptops, how good of a performance they pack for the aforementioned budget. The most crucial deciding factor other than the GPU, will be high speed storage, CPU and of course, the display.
However, one thing should be made clear, laptops at any price point will never give a good a bang for your buck next to a PC build with a similar price tag. For the given budget of $700, you can easily build a decent gaming PC with GTX 1060 or better that will play most games at 1080p at high settings. This article solely concerns itself with the laptop market. If you already have a PC and need a secondary device for light gaming and casual use or if you absolutely need a portable gaming device then should you consider getting one of these.
Dell Inspiron 15.6” 7559
Dell has made some very interesting decisions with this model. First and foremost is the pricing, at the time of this writing Inspiron 7559 is priced at a $740 and comes packed with an i5 6300HQ, an Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M and 8 GB of DDR3L memory. The storage comes in the form of 256 GB m.2 SSD leaving a vacant slot for an extra 2.5” storage drive, if you need to expand your storage.
In terms of build quality and aesthetics, the laptop has a black soft rubber finish with beautiful red accents. The rubber finish is present around the Dell logo as well as the interiors surrounding the touchpad and the keyboard. Although initially quite appealing and luxurious this will easily get scuffed and scratched. Dust sticks to the surface it and can get annoying at times. On the other hand, being consistent with the finish, the display is a 1920 by 1080 IPS panel with a beautiful matte finish which provides decent antiglare.
As mentioned before, the CPU is an i5-6300HQ with 6M of cache, clocked at 2.30 GHz which can turbo up to a respectable 3.2GHz.Disappointingly there’s only 8GB for main memory, however, there are two RAM slots only one of which is populated with an 8GB stick. So upgrading to 16GB is easier.
But how well does it game? The GTX 960M comes with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. Popular games like DOTA2 or League of Legends can be played well over 60 FPS on average and minimum frame rates are not below 40. Even modern titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare are playable at 40 to 50 FPS provided the settings are turned to medium. As the screen resolution of 1920 by 1080 is crammed into a 15.6” display there is really no point in turn on antialiasing with the pixel density fairly high. This argument is valid for most laptops on this list.
As is typical with a laptop display, the colour gamut is quite terrible on this otherwise decent display. This is a shame as the system has enough computational horsepower for smoothly editing 1080p and 1440p videos or doing other colour sensitive work. Apart from the colour gamut fiasco, Dell has done decent job on the display, with wider viewing angle and matte finish it is perfect for gaming events and LAN parties or even outdoors. The display has a little flex to it owing to the poor build quality.
Audio solution on this model is again a very budget conscious one. The speakers are placed a little above the keyboard just underneath the lid. The higher frequencies do tend to break a lot when the volume is turned to a maximum. Additionally, there is an extra of subwoofer at the bottom which again is not that great of an audio solution. The keyboard and touchpad does look and feel cheap but are enough to get the job done.
For connective we have our usual HDMI, Ethernet port and 3 USB 3.0 ports and Wireless 802.11 ac and Bluetooth 4.0. Battery life, as you might expect with a 74WHr Lithium ion battery. To summarize, this is the final verdict for the Dell Inspiron 7559
- M.2 SSD of 256 GB for faster read-write operations.
- Powerful CPU for a snappy and responsive user experience.
- Keyboard area doesn’t overheat under heavy workloads.
- Decent build quality for the price point.
- Wide viewing angles with a decent IPS panel.
- Slow and buggy touchpad.
- Still uses a slower DDR3L RAM instead of DDR4.
- Quite heavy at 2.6kg with a bulky 130 W power adapter.
Asus X756 17.3” Premium Laptop
On the face of it, this clearly looks like a better option than the Dell Inspiron that we just discussed. It is almost $100 cheaper and has a larger display and a considerably larger storage. However, when you see where the corners are cut with this laptop you’d have a hard time swallowing that $633 price point.
The laptop comes with an i5-6200U Processor with 3M of Cache and is clocked at 2.30 GHz as a base frequency which can turbo up to 2.80 GHz. The CPU is advertised as a power efficient alternative but the hard truth is that anything more demanding than web browsing, document editing and multimedia is going to be a real nightmare with this CPU. To make the matters worse for storage we have a 5400 RPM mechanical drive which is of course something you’d want to upgrade adding further expenses.
To make the system more presentable, Asus has provided 12 GB of SDDR3 memory which is larger and faster than the previous laptop. Display comes in two variants one glossy and another with a matte finish. This 17.3” Full HD IPS panel is probably the only selling point that this laptop has. However, even your casual gamer would prefer a better video card than the measly GTX 950M with only 2GB of VRAM that is built into it. This video card is the final nail in the coffin as far as the budget gaming consumers are concerned.
Ergonomics wise, you get a considerable room with the 17.3” display and Asus as done a decent job with its touchpad and keyboard for what it is worth. For connectivity, we have a USB Type-C, another USB 3.0 and a couple of USB 2.0 ports. Also we have an HDMI and a VGA port along with integrated Gigabit LAN. For wireless we have our usual 802.11bgn and Bluetooth 4.0
Although this laptops shows up on Amazon if you are browsing for a budget gaming laptop, it certainly is not one worth selecting.
- Larger display for better viewing experience.
- Weak CPU
- Slower HDD instead of an SSD
- Low on VRAM
Lenovo IdeaPad 700
Lenovo IdeaPad is a midway compromise between the Dell Inspiron 7559 and the Asus X756 that we have previously seen. This particular model comes with an i5-6300HQ, 12 GB of RAM, 256 GB of PCIe storage (M.2 connection of course) and slightly less disappointing GTX 950M with 4 GB of VRAM.
The display is a 1920 by 1080 FHD IPS panel and has a decent antiglare coating which gets the job done. The GPU is very weak, to be honest, but this is where Lenovo has decided to cut corners it seems. Titles like GTA V, Overwatch and Fallout 4 are playable at medium to high settings hovering at nearly 30 to 40 FPS, the bare minimum. On the flipside, games which are CPU intensive, such as Minecraft, can perform much better thanks to the powerful processor. Editing 1080p videos with this is not going to be a problem either.
In terms of peripheral connectivity, it has 2 USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, standard Ethernet adapter and a Kensington Security Slot. For wireless, we have 802.11 ac and Bluetooth 4.0.
All the specs in the world can’t make you happy if the user experience is bitter and clumsy. The laptop body is entirely of plastic and, thanks to this, the lid does have quite a bit of flex to it. The keyboard too has quite a bit bendy, especially on the left side. The keyboard is similar to the Dell Inspiron with similarly low key travel and overall build quality is what you’d expect from a budget gaming device. However, they do manage to keep the keyboard comfortably cool even when gaming. Audio is yet another place where they have cut the corners so don’t expect them to be crystal clear or extra loud, they are added just for the sake of completeness.
To be fair, Lenovo has done quite a nice job as far as the aesthetics are concerned. The device looks sleek and premium for the given price point.
If you are under a severe budget restrain, and can’t afford the Dell, then this is an easy choice.
- High performing CPU
- Better RAM in terms of both speeds and size
- 256GB PCIe storage for a very snappy and responsive system
- Thin and light
- Good aesthetics
- The GPU is quite meagre.
- Poor build quality
Acer is really not doing anyone any favour with the excessively complicated model number. What more is that several reviewer, including Amazon, has the same model on the display as F15 instead of F5. To make matters worse, Newegg seems to have no mention of the SSD storage in this model. For the purpose of completeness the only source we are considering is the official Acer website.
Anyways, getting on with the device itself, it comes with an i5-7200U processor clocked at 2.50GHz and it can turbo up to 3.10GHz with the usual 3M of cache. This is the only Kaby Lake processor that we have on this list of budget laptops, and we will come back to it. The applications do get enough leg room with the 12GB of DDR4 SDRAM.
The price on Acer’s website is $700 although you can get it for much cheaper, on Amazon or Newegg. For storage we have a 128 GB solid state drive and a 1TB mechanical drive. This will give you enough space to fit most of your Steam library comfortably and have no compromises in terms of speed. Disappointingly enough, however, it comes with the 4GB variant of the GTX 950M which would play most demanding titles at 24 to 30 FPS. However, as we have seen previously, 950M is mostly what you’d expect at this price point.
Yet another let down by Acer is the choice of a TN panel for their full HD display. Poor viewing angles and bad colour reproduction is, not surprisingly, the first thing you’d notice. However, if you want really good response time for say, fast-paced FPS games, then you may want this panel over its IPS counterpart.
In terms of connectivity we have a single USB Type-C, one USB 3.1 port, two more USB 3.0 port and lastly a single USB 2.0 port. For Wireless it has the 802.11 ac standard along with a Gigabit Ethernet adapter. It is good to see Acer using Kaby Lake’s increased peripheral connectivity to their advantage. Audio quality is at par with most other $700 laptops, but isn’t the ideal solution by any stretch. The keyboard is not something a gamer can complain about but typing on it can be painful and inaccurate. We also have a 2800mAh Lithium ion battery and with the power efficient processor, it can be stretched for up to 5 hours of use.
We’d, however, like to mention the dilemma with the i5-7200U. At the time of this writing, this processor is edging ahead of the i5-6300HQ on the single core performance but lags behind on the multithreaded performance terribly. From a gamer’s perspective, this is the clear choice but if you need those extra cores, for whatever reason, go with any other model with an i5-6300HQ.
- Powerful yet power efficient CPU
- Both an SSD and an HDD included
- Faster and larger RAM
- TN Panel
- Weaker GPU than the Inspiron 7559
- Poor multithreaded performance
- Vague information and poor marketing
The final verdict
The Inspiron 7559 clearly wins out in terms of performance and is certainly the most reasonable option to go for, if you can stretch the budget. However, it may not be the ideal bang for buck with the substantially higher price tag.
We’d really like to recommend Acer F5, but there are really inconsistent specs listed on Amazon and Newegg than what the official website says. The major selling point of having an SSD and a mechanical drive is not even mentioned on Newegg. This is where the Lenovo IdeaPad takes the title of being the best bag for your buck.