Best Cheap Gaming Laptops Under 300 – 2018 Budget Picks

PC gaming is known to be an expensive hobby, with new graphics cards constantly arriving at absurd prices. Mobile gaming can be even harder on your bank account, as the price tends to increase with portability.

Need to stick to a strict budget but still want to get in on the modern gaming action? We’ve rounded up five of the absolute best cheap gaming laptop under $300.

Whether you want to amass a huge Steam library, re-install old classics, or stick to Android game apps, we’ve got a solution for you!

Picking the best gaming laptop under $300

When looking for a cheap gaming laptop, you’ve got to manage your expectations. A blazing fast machine with top-notch graphics isn’t in the cards at this price range.

If you only have a few hundred to drop, you won’t get even close to VR ready. You may also spend more time playing Hearthstone than Far Cry or Call Of Duty.

To find a worthwhile gaming rig without going over the $300 mark, you have three main options to consider:

  • Pick a super cheap Windows-based laptop that can be upgraded later
  • Get better specs at the start (but more chance of defective hardware) by going refurbished
  • Ditch Steam games entirely and go with a chromebook for mobile game apps

No matter which of those three options seems most attractive to you, we’ve got a machine that will meet your needs. Let’s get started by taking a look at what’s available online these days!

If you have a few more dollars to spare. Check out our collections of best gaming laptop under $400$500 and $1000 instead. 

how to buy a gaming laptop

Tips: “Learning” before buying

If you are new to computing we suggest reading our gaming laptop buying guide for a low down on some questions you should be asking yourself before you make your final decision.

Verdict: Editor’s Choice

Dell Lat E6420

In 2018, the best gaming laptop for Steam games while staying firmly within a limited budget is the Dell Lat E6420. 

By going with a refurbed unit, you can save a huge amount of money and still get a great gaming machine.

Verdict: Runner Up

HP 15.6” Laptop

Don’t want to risk a used computer and prefer something brand new instead? HP’s 15.6” all purpose laptop has lower starting specs, but is still a respectable machine for casual gaming.

The contenders for best cheap gaming laptops under $300

1. Dell Lat E6420 – Best Refurbished Unit

  • Faster SSD
  • More RAM
  • No DVD burner
  • Refurbished
  • Smaller storage capacity

Should this be your choice?

Want a whisper quiet SSD and loads of RAM for the lowest possible price? So long as you don’t mind buying a refurbished machine, this should be your pick!

At this price range, you normally wouldn’t expect to see anything over 4GB of RAM. You’d typically get a slower HDD as well.

This Dell model defies all expectations by giving you significantly better specs than anything else at a similar pricing. With 8GB of RAM and a SSD, you get a faster, smoother experience for gaming.

The only downside is that you have to go refurbished to get this level of power for under $300.

While the machine has been used, it is repaired at the factory to return to like-new condition. It also comes pre-installed with Windows 10, so there’s no need to go through an OS installation.

Want to get a stable experience with anything from GTA V to World Of Warcraft? This is one of the few ultra cheap laptops that will get the job done.

As an older, refurbished model, there are a few caveats to keep in mind if you go this route.

The most common issue mentioned by buyers is that the drivers are usually out-of-date, so expect to spend some time updating. As an older model, this also comes with a DVD drive but has no ability burn data to a disc.

Hardware specifications for Dell Lat E6420
ProcessorIntel Core i5-2520m (2.5GHz)
RAM8GB DDR3 RAM
Storage128GB SSD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 3000
Display14-Inch Anti-Glare Display, 1336 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro 64 bit
Battery Life5.5 hours
Weight6 lbs

2. HP 15.6″ Laptop – Best New Unit

  • Larger hard drive space
  • Extra ports and DVD-RW drive
  • Less RAM
  • Slower, dual core processor

Should this be your choice?

Need to save as much money as possible while still getting a machine that can run games at low settings? This should be your pick if you prefer a new portable computer over a refurbished unit.

Frankly, at this price point you aren’t going to get anything approaching a decent graphics card. The built-in Radeon R4 chip is about the best you can hope for while staying under $300.

There’s still a surprising level of gaming versatility even with these lower specs, however. This is  the bottom end of where you can expect to get GTA V to run, but it will install and play on this machine.

You can’t expect to play something like Battlefield 1 at high setting here, but anything that’s less graphics-intensive will run at stable frame rates.

While meant for school or work, this HP model will give you solid performance on older games. If you still regularly play Fallout New Vegas, The Sims, Diablo, and so on then this isn’t a bad option.

Buyers often bring up the included optical DVD-RW drive, which is becoming more of a rarity these days. They also like the HMDI output and extra USB ports for connecting peripherals or using an external monitor.

Hardware specifications for HP 15.6″ Laptop
ProcessorAMD A6-9220 (2.5GHz)
RAM4GB DDR4 RAM
Storage500GB HDD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R4 Graphics
Display15.6-Inch WLED Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life6 hours
Weight4.41 lbs

3. Lenovo Thinkpad T430 (refurbished)

  • More RAM
  • Decent processor
  • No webcam
  • Smaller hard drive
  • Low battery life

Should this be your choice?

Don’t mind going refurbished and want to save money now in exchange for upgrading later? This should be your pick if you are comfortable swapping out parts on a laptop!

Another refurbished model, the Thinkpad T430 offers serious competition for the contenders listed above. With 8GB of RAM and an i5 processor, you’ll get good speeds on both older games and newer apps.

As always, the main problem here will be the integrated graphics card. While you will be able to run most games, be prepared to turn down the graphics settings on anything new.

The mid-range 320GB hard drive doesn’t offer a ton of space for installing big games. Since it’s not an SSD you also get a louder, slower experience overall.

Considering how much money you save by going refurbished, that may not be an issue, however. If you are willing to pull out the screwdriver and upgrade to an SSD later on, this is among the best machines below $300.

For buyers who reviewed this model, the main issues to keep in mind here are the lack of a webcam and a battery flaw.

Unfortunately, the batteries on these refurb models tend to die very quickly, and that’s a consistent complaint in most reviews. You may need to budget to buy a new battery almost immediately if you pick this option.

Hardware specifications for Lenovo Thinkpad T430
ProcessorIntel Dual Core i5 (2.6 – 3.3 GHz)
RAM8GB DDR3 RAM
Storage320GB HDD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 4000
Display14-Inch LCD Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro 64 bit
Battery Life2 hours
Weight4.7 lbs

4. Lenovo IdeaPad

  • Quad core processor
  • Thin and light
  • Less RAM
  • No SSD

Should this be your choice?

When price is your main concern but you still want a decent laptop that can run most games, this should be your pick.

If you aren’t willing to try out a refurbished machine, Lenovo’s IdeaPad offers the standard level of specs to expect from a $200 – $299 computer.

Machines at this price aren’t typically made with gaming directly in mind. Larger amounts of RAM, faster processors, and better graphics cards are the domains of more pricey units.

That being said, the quad core processor and Radeon R4 graphics will let you get a decent number of games booted up.

Still regularly play old classics like Age Of Empires 2 or Starcraft? This will handle anything from previous generations of games and get acceptable frame rates on a few newer titles.

Serious gamers will also likely need more than 500GB of space, as that can fill up quickly. Don’t be afraid to crack open the case and install a bigger drive (preferably an SSD) when you run out of room!

Buyers frequently mention the lower price as their main motivator, but have a few quibbles with the design. The right shift key in particular is in an odd position, so you may need to get used to the layout.

Hardware specifications for Lenovo IdeaPad
ProcessorA6-7310 Quad-Core (2.0GHz)
RAM4GB DDR3 RAM
Storage500GB HDD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R4
Display15.6-Inch HD Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life5 hours
Weight4.85 lbs

5. Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible

  • Touch screen
  • Extremely light and thin
  • No internal hard drive
  • Doesn’t come with Windows

Should this be your choice?

Want to save a whole bunch of money and get something super portable? If you are willing to limit your gaming to apps and online titles, this should be your pick!

Hold up now, you may be thinking, what’s a Chromebook doing on this list? Surely a tablet with no internal HDD can’t be meant for gaming?

Well, it actually can. You may need tore-think what exactly is meant by “gaming,” however.

In terms of specs, this actually meets or exceed several of the options above. The processor and RAM combo is easily on par with the IdeaPad.

But without the standard Windows OS and no large storage space, how are you going to play games? Surprisingly, there are quite a few gamer options for Chromebooks these days.

Plenty of classic titles are available through the Google Play store and are compatible with a Chromebook. Game like Tekken, Amazing Katamari, and Pocket Mortys — in addition to updated SNES classics — can all be played here.

For the Battle Royale fans, don’t forget that Fortnite is slated to hit the Android app store later this year as well! Note that if you have a gaming desktop already, you can also stream your Steam catalog over to this device with the Steam Link app.

Buyers constantly mention loving the high battery life and full 360 degree rotation of the screen. The only downside frequently brought up is the small amount of internal storage space, so look for an online backup solution!

Hardware specifications for Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible
ProcessorCeleron N3150 (1.60 – 2.08GHz)
RAM4GB DDR3 RAM
Storage32GB Flash Memory
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics
Display11.6-Inch HD Touch Screen Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemChrome OS
Battery Life10 hours
Weight2.76 lbs

What’s The Best Graphics Card On Laptops Under $300?

Without question, graphics will be the biggest bottleneck here that interferes with your gaming potential. While you can often upgrade the RAM on cheap laptops, there isn’t room for a new GPU.

Likewise, upgrading the CPU is almost always a no-go on portable computers. That means you want to try to get the best starting options possible if you aren’t willing to go to a higher price range.

The GeForce 950M to GTX 1050 graphics card range are where you start to get a high end gaming experience. Unfortunately, that’s just not feasible at this price point and won’t come in most sub-$300 machines.

Unless you manage to find a killer sale or get a refurbished system, most laptops under $300 will feature integrated graphics. The best you can usually hope for here is an Intel HD 4000 series or an AMD Radeon R4.

With that level of graphics output, expect to play games on low to medium settings at best, and for some newer games not to run at all. You will be unlikely to get playable frame rates on Overwatch or Far Cry 5, for instance.

What Do I Lose Out On At This Price Range?

When you have to stick to a small budget, high end hardware specs just won’t be available. Besides getting less RAM and a slower processor, there are other trade offs that will be necessary.

When you stay below the $300 threshold, lower screen resolutions will be pretty standard in most models. That won’t matter much for web browsing or word processing, but it can be a pain for gaming or watching Netflix.

Unless you go with a hybrid tablet / laptop crossover such as the Chromebook, don’t expect to get a touch screen model, either. 14 – 15 inch screens will be the norm, with no options available for larger 17 inch models.

With no moving parts and faster boot speeds, solid state drives are now becoming industry standard. They haven’t been adopted yet at the lower price ranges, however.

If you get a portable computer at this low a price, you will likely either get a standard HDD, or at most an SSD with a very small storage capacity. An external disc drive will become a necessity if you don’t upgrade the internal drive.

How Can I Get A Better Experience From Here?

Unquestionably there are many concessions to be made on the hardware side when buying a cheap laptop.

You don’t have to go all the way to the bottom of the barrel, however, and there are options for upgrading later.

Many lower priced laptops feature a secondary RAM slot so you can upgrade from 4GB to 8GB of memory. Swapping out the existing drive with a larger SSD is also easier than you’d think.

In many cases, the upgrade process only requires removing a single screw. With some models the process is a little more intensive, and you may have to pull off the entire bottom cover.

For gamers, there are more upgrade options than just increasing the base specs. Don’t forget about external peripherals!

You can get a better experience by spending a bit more on a high end gaming mouse, headphones, speakers, or an external monitor.

Conclusion

Want to play your favorite games on the go but don’t have a huge wad of extra cash lying around? One of these five best cheap gaming laptops under $300 will get you gaming without breaking the bank!

What did you think of our cheap laptop picks, and have you found any better specs at this price range? Let us know in the comments section below!

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