Gaming laptop under 400

laptop, computer, technology

Everyone has their own way of enjoying themselves. For some, it’s hanging out with friends, others prefer watching a movie, while some just like to curl up with a good novel. But for a lot of us (Nerd or not), video games are a primary source of entertainment. They are fun, engaging, and good for your reflexes as well as your brain (now scientifically proven). It doesn’t matter if you have a console, you believe in “PC master race,” or you simply enjoy a good mobile game, as long as you have fun.

That said, having decent gaming hardware opens up a lot of options for you. For most people, it’s either building a PC or buying a console. But for many pragmatic people, there is a more practical third choice: Gaming laptops. They are portable, multi-purpose (gaming, work, education, etc.), and they are relatively cheaper. You can buy a pretty decent gaming laptop under 400 dollars.

Granted that it might not be powerful enough to play all the latest games, especially at high settings and give you 60 FPS; it would be enough for you to have fun. Real fun.

What Should I Look For When Buying a Gaming Laptop?

One of the first things you have to understand about gaming laptops, especially if you have no gaming experience or primarily play on consoles, is that a gaming laptop is supposed to be more powerful than your typical work workday laptop. The more powerful the specs of your machines are, the better your gaming range will be.

Unfortunately, the more powerful a laptop is, the more it costs. And if you are going for a budget gaming laptop, you may have to contain your enthusiasm.

But the good news is that even within a budget range of under $400, there is quite a selection. And in order to choose the best one for yourself, it’s imperative that you learn about a few things you should look for when buying a gaming laptop. This will allow you to pick the best cheap laptop for gaming that fits your budget.

Performance (CPU, Speed)

A processor or a CPU is usually called the brain of a computer. It’s perhaps the most important component for the overall functionality of the laptop and (in a way) defines the speed and performance of the computer. For almost all other functions, a powerful CPU might as well be the most important factor of a laptop’s performance.

But that’s not the case with a gaming laptop. As video games evolved and started leveraging more heavily on the creation and rendering of 3D images, animations, and videos, a Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) became more important for gaming laptops.

Still, the CPU is crucial to the performance of a gaming laptop. And there are many things you can look into when you compare CPUs of different gaming laptops, but the three most common variables are the number of cores, threads, and clock speeds. There are also different generations of processors and their cache. For more quantifiable comparisons, you can check different benchmark results when comparing CPU performance.

RAM (Memory)

For RAM, there is a straightforward rule: The more, the merrier. Though for a lot of old games and several new ones, you may be able to get by with 4 GB (that’s what you will usually get with a gaming laptop under 400 dollars). But ideally, you should go for 8 GB. The good news is that RAM can easily be expanded from 4 GB to 8 GB (if the laptop has a spare slot), and it’s not typically that expensive. So we would highly recommend getting an 8 GB (or expanding to an 8 GB), whenever you can.

RAM can play a crucial role in the performance of a gaming laptop. It’s what stores most of the data that your processor or GPU might need to run your game at the very moment. And the more RAM you have, the less frequently your game or whatever software you are running will have to pull the data from your hard drive (which is slow)—a very common example of how RAM affects performance in Chrome tabs. If you have less RAM, your laptop might become painfully slow once you’ve opened too many tabs.

Playing Game on Laptop

Display Quality & Screen Size

Games engage you differently than movies and videos do because there is more interaction in games. Still, in the end, they also rely very heavily on visuals to capture your attention. So display quality and screen size can play an important role in improving your gaming experience. But if you have to choose between the two, a better display quality would be more important than the screen size. Graphics are an important part of a game’s appeal, and even if you have a powerful GPU to render the visuals, bad display quality can mess up your gaming experience. As for screen-size, a 15.6-inch screen is a decent enough size.

Graphics (GPU)

That’s perhaps the most important thing you need to look into when buying a gaming laptop. GPUs usually dictate what games you can play on a laptop cheap for gaming and how the games will perform on the laptop. There is a lot of difference between a laptop that can run a game and one that lets you play it without lag and on decent graphics settings. And your GPU would play an important part in it.

When you search about PC graphics, you will hear two names a lot Nvidia and AMD. And while many gaming laptops, even the budget ones, have AMD chips, very few (if any) laptops in this price range would have an Nvidia chip. Unlike PCs where graphics cards are mounted separately, on its own board (also called discreet GPU), laptops build for gaming have what you call integrated graphics. That means the GPU shares the same board (the motherboard) that the CPU is mounted upon, and they may also share resources. And for better compatibility, many budget gaming laptops come with an Intel graphics chip.

Like CPUs, graphics cards are usually measured/compared based on their core clock speed and memory bus width (calculated in bits). Integrates graphics share memory with your existing RAM, so more RAM helps with graphics as well. You can also see benchmarks results to compare the performance and power of different GPUs.

Portability (Size and Weight)

If you carry around your gaming laptop a lot, then portability and size also matter. It should be thin and compact enough to be easily carried around. But understand that for heavy gaming, you may need to keep the laptop plugged in to get all the “juice” out of your machine. But if your laptop doubles as a work computer or it’s also for your studies, you might need something compact.

Battery Life

Since most gamers keep their laptop hooked up to the power, battery life isn’t a top consideration. Gaming utilizes your hardware like no other activity (except perhaps 3D rendering), and it will reduce the number of hours you get from one charge anyway.

Durability

Durability is important for laptops you are using for gaming, but not in the conventional sense. For most laptops, their users expect physical durability from their machines and want something that’s not too delicate to handle. But for a gaming laptop, durability is usually more about the components inside. Like how much the laptop heats up when you are gaming continuously for hours and how long it can keep it up without the relevant chips burning/damaging.

Keyboard

A keyboard is very important for a laptop designed for gaming. The keys should be nimble and responsive. But a keyboard responding to a feather-light touch might be harmful. Many people prefer their gaming laptop to have a numeric keypad as well and backlighting (ideally RGB). Some people even look for key travel and actuation in their laptops (how far the keys go down and how much force you have to put in to get the key to responding). But expecting very high quality on laptops under 400 dollars is a bit unfair.

Storage Space

It depends on what kind of gamer you are. If you only keep a few games and don’t switch to new ones until you’ve finished those, you might not need a lot of storage space. Still, it’s not something you can ignore, especially in online games or games that are updated continuously (they start taking up a lot of space). Again, the more, the merrier. But you may not find the storage space too generous in many budget gaming machines, like a Lenovo Ideapad, that comes with an SSD storage (which is significantly faster).

Ports & Connectivity

Not all ports are of great importance in gaming laptops. This is something even the best gaming laptop might be lacking in and you wouldn’t care. Most people just look for a functioning USB port to plug-in the mouse and an audio jack for headphones. If you want to connect your laptop to another screen, an HDMI port will be important.

Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Gaming Laptop Under $400

If you want to buy a laptop for games cheap, your first criteria would be to get the best out of the money you are spending. But to get the best gaming experience on a budget gaming experience on affordable laptops under 400 dollars, you also have to look into the specs that matter most in a laptop for gaming: Graphics, Processing, Memory, Display quality, and Keyboard. Durability and storage space are important factors to consider, as well.

These are the factors that we’ve looked into for most of the available machines that come with an affordable price tag of 400 dollars. But understand that when you are working with a limited budget, you have to make certain sacrifices. You may get a decent GPU in one gaming laptop under 400 dollars, but not the CPU you were hoping for. Or you might pick up a machine that has low memory and expand later.

Base your choice on things you can’t change or modify, like Graphics, CPU, display, and Keyboard. You will primarily use a mouse for gaming; you can compromise on the touchpad. Similarly, you may be able to upgrade to windows yourself so that you may choose a powerful machine with an older windows version. One way to get around storage space is external memory. But you can’t install a discreet graphics card in most laptops, and neither can you change the display and the CPU it comes with.

The Best Gaming Laptop Under $400

Apart from the necessary variables that we will look into for each machine, have also included another variable, i.e., which games you might be able to play on these gaming laptops under 400 dollars. We’ve used this benchmark tool to enter the specs of the laptop and see the games it can run.

#1: Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop

Pros
  • Great for gaming.
  • Amazing display quality.
  • Fast processing speed for everyday usage.
  • Backlit keyboard.
Cons
  • Windows 10 ‘S’ limits your choices.
  • Many users found issues with Acer and Microsoft support for this laptop.
Acer Aspire 5

Key Specifications

Graphics Chip: AMD Radeon Vega 3

Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 3200U (Dual-Core, Clock Speed: 2.6 GHz and can be boosted to 3.5 GHz)

Memory: 4 GB DDR 4 RAM

Storage: 128 GB SSD

Display: 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display

The Acer Aspire 5 is one of the best gaming laptops you can get for around 400 dollars. It comes with an entry-level Vega 3 chip and a modest processor, but that’s enough to give you a lot of options when it comes to gaming. You can play lightweight games like Among Us, Minecraft, and some relatively heavier (but older) games like Fortnite, PUBG, GTA V, and Rocket League.

The 4 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD, and the presence of Windows 10 S might limit your choices a bit, but you can expand the RAM and use external memory to get around this issue. Plus, the SSD contributes a lot to the killer performance of Acer Aspire 5. The battery life of Acer Aspire 5 is fine as well if you keep the brightness low and use it for non-gaming stuff (like studies and work), and it can be an excellent machine to watch videos thanks to its extraordinary display quality.

It is also Amazon Alexa enabled. At 3.97 lbs, it’s not exactly feather-light, but it’s decently portable. Overall, Acer Aspire 5 is one of the best gaming laptops under 400 dollars.

Buy the Acer Aspire 5 here on Amazon.

#2: ASUS F512JA-AS34 VivoBook 15

Pros
  • Decent performance for online and light games.
  • Powerful machine for everyday use.
  • Backlit and decent quality keyboard.
Cons
  • Data transfer only through type-C for certain connections.
  • Windows 10 S is a bit problematic (preferably convert to Windows 10 Home)
  • Short battery life.
ASUS F512JA-AS34 VivoBook 15

Key Specifications

Graphics Chip: Intel HD G1

Processor: 10th Generation Intel Core i3 1005G1 (Dual-Core, Clock Speed: up to 3.4 GHz)

Memory: 8 GB DDR 4 RAM

Storage: 128 GB SSD

Display: 15.6-inch Full HD (Resolution 1920 x 1080)

This stylish and vividly colored machine was created more as an affordable fashion statement than gaming, but it is a laptop around 400 dollar price range and offers amazing hardware. It’s powered by one of the newest in-line Intel processors, and the build seems quite durable. The keyboard comes with a numeric keypad, is backlit, and decent quality. The graphics chip might not be as powerful as the Intel UHD 620 or even AMD Vega 3, but your gaming experience wouldn’t take too much of a dip.

The display quality is fine for indoors but not great for outdoors, since its brightness is a bit limited. It comes with windows 10 S, but the rest of the laptop is impressive, especially for the price.

Buy the ASUS F512JA-AS34 VivoBook 15 here on Amazon.

#3: HP 15.6″ HD Intel 10th Gen i3-1005G1 3.4GHz

Pros
  • Lightweight and sleek build.
  • Good battery life.
  • Decent speed.
Cons
  • Modest graphics chip.
HP 15.6″ HD Intel 10th Gen i3-1005G1 3.4GHz

Key Specifications

Graphics Chip: Intel HD G1

Processor: 10th Generation Intel Core i3 1005G1 (Dual-Core, Clock Speed: up to 3.4 GHz)

Memory: 4 GB DDR 4 RAM

Storage: 128 GB SSD

Display: 15.6-inch diagonal HD SVA

Apart from the display quality, price-tag (used), and the RAM, which you should upgrade to 8 GB, this is essentially the same laptop as above. You can easily play GTA V on it, which should give you an idea of what else you can play on it. A 10th Gen Intel Core i3 is powerful enough for most of the regular stuff people use laptops for. It offers decent value for money, but it’s not a power-horse of a machine. Still, for laptops under 400, it’s pretty great.

It comes with the trademark HP quality, and it’s rugged enough for everyday use. The battery is fine as well, though the windows 10 S version might offer some problems when you try to install certain apps/software.

Buy the HP 15.6″ HD Intel 10th Gen i3-1005G1 3.4GHz here on Amazon.

#4: HP 15-bs234wm Intel Pentium N5000 (Renewed)

Pros
  • Decent graphics chip.
  • Good capacity hard drive.
  • Aesthetically pleasing.
  • Rugged build.
Cons
  • Older processor.
  • It seems slow to people used to SSD.
HP 15-bs234wm

Key Specifications

Graphics Chip: Intel UHD Graphics 605

Processor: Intel Pentium N5000 (quad-core, Clock Speed: up to 3.2 GHz)

Memory: 4 GB DDR 4 RAM

Storage: 500 GB

Display: 15.6-inch diagonal HD SVA BrightView WLED-backlit

This is the first true quad-core laptop on this list. It’s a decent refurbished machine that HP itself sells. Not a full HD and not exactly the best gaming laptop on this list, but it’s a pretty decent machine for older games like Mafia 2, GTA V, COD Black Ops II, and Minecraft. And its HD display is decent quality and easy on the eyes. It doesn’t come with an SSD, but the 500 GB storage is a plus for people who have many things to store.

People usually don’t like refurbished products, but this would be an exception. It fits neatly into the $400 price range, and it’s powerful enough; even with its old processor, it can offer you a good gaming experience.

Buy the HP 15-bs234wm here on Amazon.

#5: Lenovo Ideapad 330S 15.6″ HD Narrow-bezels Widescreen Laptop

Pros
  • Great value for money.
  • Powerful specs for the price.
  • Good for gaming, better for regular use.
Cons
  • Battery life is limited.
  • No Backlit keyboard.
Lenovo IdeaPad 330S

Key Specifications

Graphics Chip: Intel UHD Graphics 620

Processor: 8th Generation Intel Core i3-8130U (dual-Core, Clock Speed: Up to 3.4 GHz)

Memory: 8 GB DDR 4 RAM

Storage: 256 GB SSD

Display: 15.6-inch HD TN Narrow-bezels

This Lenovo Ideapad is powered by an 8th generation Intel Core i3 processor (some users got a different 10th generation processor). The battery life and the absence of a backlit keyboard in the Lenevo Ideapad aren’t great, but the other specs are amazing, especially for the price. You have a powerful 8th generation Intel Core i3 processor, which has two physical cores, but if you consider hyper-threading, it might as well be a quad-core processor. The display gets you a maximum resolution of 1366 x 768, which is fine for a laptop for gaming, especially when you are browsing for the cheapest laptop for gaming.

You get a lot of hardware with the Lenovo Ideapad, and for a laptop under 400 dollars price range, that’s a bargain. You can play Among Us, Civilization VI, and COD Black Ops II easily on this laptop.

Buy the Lenovo Ideapad 330S here on Amazon.

#6: Dell Latitude E7270 UltraBook (Renewed)

Pros
  • Rugged and durable build.
  • Good quality, backlit keyboard.
  • It includes a smart card reader.
  • Windows 10 Pro.
Cons
  • Small screen size.
  • Problems with USB ports.
Dell Latitude E7270

Key Specifications

Graphics Chip: Intel HD Graphics 520

Processor: 6th Generation Intel Core i5-6300U (Quad-Core, Clock Speed: Up to 3.0 GHz)

Memory: 8 GB DDR 4 RAM

Storage: 256 GB SSD

Display: 12. 5-Inch HDF (1366 x 768) Anti Glare LCD (not full HD)

If you don’t mind a smaller screen, an older generation processor, a tad underpowered graphics chip, and the absence of a full HD display, then this is one of the few good laptops you can get. It is an i5, which is another first on the list, and a true four core processor (6 if you consider hyper-threading). The graphics chip is a bit less potent than the usual 620, but the SSD and 8 GB RAM will make up for it. You can have a good gaming experience with this machine. It’s one of the more modest gaming laptops under 400 that you can get.

You can run Sims 4, GTA V, Skyrim, and Blender on this machine.

Buy the Dell Latitude E7270 here on Amazon.

#7: 2019 HP 14, 14″ HD Thin & Light Flagship Laptop Computer

Pros
  • Light, sleek but solid build.
  • Decent battery timing.
  • It offers fast performance thanks to a decent processor and an SSD.
Cons
  • Windows 10 S.
  • The keyboard is a bit sensitive.
HP 14

Key Specifications

Graphics Chip: Intel HD Graphics 620

Processor: 7th Generation Intel Core i3-7100U (Dual-Core, Clock Speed: 2.4 GHz)

Memory: 4 GB DDR 4 RAM

Storage: 128 GB SSD

Display: 14-Inch HD display

It’s one of the relatively newer laptops that are available for the price range. The hard drive isn’t huge, but since its SSD, that allows it to speed things up. The graphics chip is characteristic of gaming laptops under 400 dollars, the Intel HD 620. The Intel Core i3 processor is up for running most of the games other laptops on this list will run. It’s beautiful to look at, easy to handle, and if you look past the delicate and shifty keyboard, the overall build is decent enough. The windows 10 S might irritate you, but you can upgrade to a different version and improve the situation drastically.

Buy the HP 14 here on Amazon.

#8: 2019 ASUS 14″ Premium High-Performance Laptop

Pros
  • Good value for money.
  • Rugged build.
  • Good for general purpose use.
Cons
  • Boot up is a bit slow.
  • Low battery life.
ASUS 14″ Premium High-Performance Laptop

Key Specifications

Graphics Chip: AMD Radeon R4

Processor: 7th Generation AMD A6-9225 (Dual-Core, Clock Speed: up to 3.1 GHz)

Memory: 4 GB DDR 4 RAM

Storage: 500 GB SATA

Display: 14-Inch HD display with WLED backlight

When you buy laptops for gaming cheap, there are certain sacrifices you have to make, especially when you are working with a budget and looking for a gaming laptop under 400 dollar price range. The AMD Radeon GPU is on par with most other GPUs on this list. But this gaming laptop is a bit underpowered compared to many others on this list. Still, it’s good for general purpose use and some light gaming as long as you don’t exhaust that AMD Radeon chip to death. The 500 GB hard drive is a plus as well.

Buy the ASUS 14″ Premium High-Performance Laptop here on Amazon.

#9: Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Laptop

Pros
  • It comes in multiple variants.
  • Decent display quality.
  • USB C port.
Cons
  • A bit heavier than other gaming laptops
  • Windows S.
Dell Inspiron 15 3000

Key Specifications

Graphics Chip: Intel UHD Graphics

Processor: 10th Generation Intel Core i3-1005G1 Processor (Dual-Core, Clock Speed: up to 3.4 GHz)

Memory: 4 GB DDR 4 RAM

Storage: 128 GB SSD

Display: 15.6-inch display

Even in its basic configuration, the Dell Inspiron can be considered one of the best gaming laptops under 400. Even though it doesn’t come with a powerful AMD Radeon chip and has integrated Intel UHD graphics instead, the machine is very neat for the price you pay. The processor is powerful enough, and if you can upgrade the RAM to 8 GM, the Dell Inspiron 15 might offer performance to rival many of the more powerful machines on this list. It doesn’t have a full HD display, but you might not feel the quality lacking in, especially for a laptop under 400 dollars. The Core i3 processor and SSD are enough to turn it into a fast machine.

Buy the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 here on Amazon.

#10: 2019 Lenovo IdeaPad S145 15.6″ Laptop

Pros
  • Non-existent fan noise.
  • Aesthetically pleasing and portable.
  • Decent storage space.
Cons
  • Slower than laptops with SSD
  • Mediocre display quality.
Lenovo IdeaPad S145

Key Specifications

Graphics Chip: AMD Radeon R4

Processor: 7th Generation AMD Core A6-9225 Processor (Dual-Core, Clock Speed: up to 3.0 GHz)

Memory: 4 GB DDR 4 RAM

Storage: 500 GB

Display: 15.6-inch display

Closing the list is another Lenovo Ideapad. It’s a beautiful device and powerful enough for light gaming, but might not be considered the best gaming laptop, even in this price range. The display isn’t full HD, but the build is rugged enough, and you can use it to store a lot of school and work files. Higher storage space comes with an unfortunate lack of speed that SSD offers.

Buy the Lenovo IdeaPad S145 here on Amazon.

Verdict

We would stick with our first two choices in most cases. They are arguably some of the best gaming laptops you can find under $400. At this range, you may have to make some sacrifices, and the machines might still be lacking, but if you do your research and you know what kind of gaming you are going to do on that laptop, you can narrow down the list of best gaming laptops in your budget, and find something that delivers for you.

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