Best Gaming Laptops Under $400 – 2018 Cheap But Powerful Options

Laptops with high end specs for gaming don’t usually come cheap. If you want to play new games on high settings, the price tag generally jumps up considerably.

Those working within a tight budget can still take part in the gaming fun, however.

Looking for the best gaming laptop under $400? We’ve got you covered, whether you need a multipurpose laptop for college or just want a new portable gaming rig to take to the coffee shop.

Picking the best gaming laptop under $400

When looking for an affordable, high performance machine there’s a lot more to consider than just price alone. A huge range of hardware specs and features can be found within the same general price range.

Anyone can locate a budget notebook on sale for well under $400. Finding a model that will work for gaming is a different story, and you need to be careful in considering all the possible options.

To keep the price low, you have to be willing to compromise in one or more areas. Whether it’s the graphics card, RAM, processor speed, or the size of the hard drive, something will take a hit.

Between screen sizes, resolutions, and even touch screen models, you have a wide range of possibilities to consider!

There are plenty of ways to stay at $399 or less without sacrificing on the specs. Trying out a used machine that’s been refurbished and returned to factory specifications is an excellent option.

If you exclusively want a new laptop, there are still portable models that will allow for light gaming without dropping frame rates. Let’s get started looking at the five best budget laptops currently available!

If you have few more bucks to spare. Check out our collection for best gaming laptops under $500 and $1,000 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

Acer Aspire E 15

Acer Aspire E 15In 2018, there’s a serious toss up between the Lenovo 320 15-ABR and the Acer Aspire E 15 for the title of best gaming laptop. Both have similar specs, with a few pros and cons that may decide which options is best for your needs.

At this price range, both offer high quality graphics and processing power, but there’s a slight trade off between the two. The Lenovo comes with more RAM, while the Acer has a faster 8th gen processor.

Either can work extremely well for your gaming habit, especially if you are willing to install some upgrades down the line.

The contenders for best cheap gaming laptops under $400

1. Lenovo 320-15ABR

  • High end graphics for price
  • Optical drive
  • Slower HDD
  • Lower screen resolution

Should this be your choice?

For a cheap but powerful laptop that can run most games, this should absolutely be your pick. If you want higher screen resolution or a different processor, then check out the contender below instead.

When you have less than $400 to spend, you aren’t likely to find a better machine than the Lenovo 320.

A dedicated graphics card simply won’t be an option at this level. The combination of 8GB of RAM with the Radeon R7 chip is the best you can hope for, and that’s what you get here.

In terms of gaming power, that hardware combo mixed with the A-12 series processor will run most games at stable frame rates.

If your goal is to play PUBG, Fortnite, Warcraft, etc. while still using a laptop for school or work, this should be one of your top choices. You’ll have to turn down the graphics on newer FPS entries, but that’s a small price to pay for such an affordable computer.

To get a machine with these specs at this lower price, you do have to deal with some downside. For gaming you always want images to look their best, and that’s one of the biggest snags here.

The 320 features a lower screen resolution than other models in this price range, and that may be a deal breaker for videophiles.

Buyers who reviewed this Lenovo model were extremely happy with the high end specs at such a reasonable price. They nearly all mentioned the noisy HDD however, and recommend swapping to a faster SSD if you have some extra cash to spend on an upgrade.

Hardware specifications for Lenovo 320-15ABR
ProcessorAMD A12-Series (2.7GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R7
Display15.6-Inch LED Backlit Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life5.5 hours
Weight5.07 lbs

2. Acer Aspire E 15

  • 8th gen processor
  • Best screen resolution
  • Less RAM
  • Slower HDD

Should this be your choice?

Are you taking a gaming laptop to college and need both performance and high battery life? This model should easily be your pick, especially if you plan on upgrading components!

Although it has less memory, the Aspire E is basically neck and neck with the Lenovo 320 for best gaming laptop.

Taking a hit on the RAM means less graphical output, since the integrated R7 graphics chip pulls from the onboard system memory. There’s a big upside here, though, and that’s the processor performance.

Trading off RAM for processing power, the 8th gen Intel i3 processor gives you faster speeds and at lower power consumption. Gaming will always require more battery power than simple web browsing, but the battery life here is still top-notch.

As a major bonus, the Aspire E features better screen resolution than the Lenovo. You won’t typically find this high a level of screen detail for crisp graphics at under $400.

The two issues most commonly brought up by buyers are the mismatched RAM (4GB + 2GB) and the slower HDD. Both of those issues are easily overcome with simple upgrades by installing an 8GB stick of RAM and an SSD later on.

Hardware specifications for Acer Aspire E 15
ProcessorIntel Core i3-8130U (2.2 – 3.8GHz)
RAM6GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R7
Display15.6-Inch Full HD Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life13 hours
Weight5.27 lbs

3. Dell Inspiron 15.6 inch HD Flagship

  • Faster SSD
  • Optical drive
  • Less powerful graphics chip
  • Slower CPU

Should this be your choice?

Want a top of the line SSD for fast booting and quieter operation? If you don’t mind taking a hit on the graphical output and processor speed, this should be your pick!

Dell’s Inspiron line definitely looks more like your typical college homework laptop than a high end gaming machine. It packs a pretty hefty hardware lineup underneath that unassuming exterior, however.

The big draw to this model over the other contenders is that you get a solid state drive right out of the box. Avoiding the need to swap out the existing drive with an aftermarket unit on your own is a huge plus.

That issue alone can save a lot of headaches involved with reinstalling Windows. While swapping a HDD to an SSD isn’t difficult, it does often mean changing BIOS settings or buying an adapter.

As always, there’s a trade off to be made by getting the faster, quieter SSD.

You still get 8GB of RAM, but the Radeon R4 chip isn’t quite up to par with the R7s featured on the contenders above. Lower graphics could be a deal breaker if you want to run games at medium settings.

Hardware specifications for Dell Inspiron 15.6 inch HD Flagship
ProcessorAMD A6-9200 (2.0GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage256GB SSD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R4
Display15.6-Inch HD Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life6 hours
Weight5.07 lbs

4. HP 15.6 Inch Touchscreen

  • Touchscreen
  • Strong CPU and graphics for this price
  • Slower HDD
  • Refurbished

Should this be your choice?

Want a cheap gaming laptop that also has a touch screen and loads of hard drive space? This should be your pick!

When your goal is to get the most possible power for the lowest possible price, don’t be afraid to try out a refurbished machine. They undergo extensive re-building and testing before being shipped out, so hardware problems are rare.

This model is a bit heavier than our other contenders, but otherwise has comparable RAM, processor speed, and graphics. So what makes this refurbished model worth considering?

Well, for starters, it has a touch screen! Getting that level of functionality at this price is an absolute steal if you prefer a touch screen input.

Buyers constantly mention the responsive touch screen as the reason for buying this unit. They do warn about low sound quality and a noisy HDD, however.

As with most of these cheaper laptops, be prepared to install an SSD and use headphones for gaming.

Finally, be careful when buying this particular laptop from third party sellers on Amazon. It seems some of them are listing a slightly different model that doesn’t include the optical drive or touch screen.

Hardware specifications for HP 15.6 Inch Touchscreen
ProcessorIntel Core i3-6100U (2.3GHz)
RAM8GB DDR3 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 520
Display15.6-Inch HD BrightView Touchscreen Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life6 hours
Weight6 lbs

5. 2018 Lenovo Ideapad 320

  • Lowest price
  • Light weight
  • Weakest processor
  • Slower HDD

Should this be your choice?

Do you need to save the most money possible while still getting acceptable gaming performance? If budget is your main concern, this should be your pick!

At just over $300, this is easily the most budget-friendly of our contenders for best gaming laptop. You simply won’t find a less expensive option with these specs.

With 8GB of RAM and the Intel HD 500 integrated graphics, you can expect to run games at solid frame rates. While you may need to turn down the settings, Fortnite, CS:GO, and DOTA 2 will all perform well.

There are clear downsides to picking the least expensive option, however. The Celeron processor just doesn’t compare to the higher end specs on the other contenders, for instance.

As with many notebooks at this price range, you also start out with the slower HDD and a lower screen resolution.

If portability and design are major factors for you, keep in mind that this model is very light weight. The attractive denim blue finish on the exterior is also quite easy on the eyes.

Buyers often cite the full size keyboard and built-in DVD burner as major selling points, as optical drives are becoming more rare these days.

Hardware specifications for 2018 Lenovo ideapad 320
ProcessorIntel Celeron N3350 (1.10 – 2.40GHz)
RAM8GB DDR3 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsIntel HD 500
Display15.6-Inch HD Anti-Glare Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life5 hours
Weight4.85 lbs

What Are The Best Options For Graphics At This Price Range?

In order to stay under the $400 price tag, a dedicated GeForce graphics card normally won’t be a feasible option. That can severely curtail your gaming experience, unfortunately, and prevent you from running anything on high settings.

Even when buying a cheap laptop, its still possible to get acceptable frame rates at decent graphics settings. You just have to shop smart and know what you are looking for ahead of time.

At this price range, the top of the line graphics chips will be the AMD Radeon R7 or Intel UHD 620. They won’t compare to something like the GTX 1050 card, but they will get the job done better than older technology.

Keep in mind that both the Radeon and Intel integrated chips are still utilizing shared graphics memory. This means that if you have more RAM, you can expect a better graphical experience.

If you have to save money by getting a lower end graphics chipset, always aim for the most RAM and fastest processor available.

What Are The Minimum Specs I Should Accept?

At this price, you can officially ditch anything that only comes with 4GB of RAM out of the box. That just simply won’t work for most games and is too big a corner to cut for saving money.

In the vast majority of cases, always stick to a minimum of 8GB of RAM with any notebook. The only exception to that rule is if there’s a compelling trade off, like with the Acer Aspire E’s 8th gen processor.

As mentioned above, try to find a model that has either a Radeon R7 or Intel UHD 620 on the graphics specs.

In terms of processing speed, its usually better to avoid the slower Celeron processors. When you go that low, you can expect Windows 10 updates to take several hours to complete.

Don’t forget to take a look at what refurbished options are available as well. Although there’s the possibility of hardware problems needing repair, you can get much better specs at a lower price.

Can I Save Money Now And Upgrade Later?

You don’t need to spend hundreds (or even thousands) all at once on a top-of-the-line laptop. Instead, you can upgrade part by part over time as your budget allows.

8GB of RAM is a respectable amount to start with, but when dealing with integrated graphics, eventually you will want more.

The older HDD technology is also slowly being replaced with faster solid state drives. Swapping out a drive means reinstalling Windows, but it will give you a much faster boot up time.

If you plan on upgrading components later, look for notebooks that specifically mention their maximum amount of RAM.

Some motherboards will accept 16GB, while others can go all the up to 32 or even 64GB. Be sure to also check the system specs and look for an M.2 slot for easy hard drive upgrades.

Conclusion

Ready for a great gaming experience but don’t have quite enough money to spend on a high end machine?

Any of these five best gaming laptops under $400 will have you fragging your friends in the arena without needing to take out a loan! 

What did you think of our best gaming laptop picks, and have you seen any better deals at this price range? Sound off in the comments below!

Still looking to save even more money on a cheap but powerful gaming laptop? Check out our list of best gaming machines under $300 over here.

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