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With Black Friday approaching, now is an excellent time to begin searching for a new gaming laptop.
Because the prices of most devices ultimately fall, Black Friday and Cyber Monday provide some of the greatest offers of the year. In prior years, I shopped for budget computers out of desperation.
To help you sidestep my mistakes, I’ve done some research for you and compared four major brands (Acer, ASUS, GIGABYTE, and MSI) which offer gaming laptops made for the so-called “price-for-performance” gamers.
- For under $1000…
- Buy an Acer gaming laptop as they give you the most value for your money in that price range.
- If there are sales, don’t be too quick to make your purchase. Make sure you check the other brands and especially MSI since you could find a laptop at the same price point but with better hardware.
- Between $1000 and $1250…
- Purchase either a GIGABYTE G5 series laptop with an RTX 3060 or an MSI Katana.
- Between the cheaper options of Acer and the more expensive ones of ASUS, you’ll get a good mix of hardware and build quality.
- For $1500 and beyond…
- You can get excellent value from the ASUS ROG series, GIGABYTE’s Aorus, and MSI’s high-end laptops. At this price range, it really comes down to a comparison between specific laptops.
- Regardless, the MSI Pulse and GIGABYTE AORUS 5 series have the cheapest RTX 3070 laptops currently on the market. Use that for guidance!
Don’t buy a GTX 1650 8GB gaming laptop!
This is the trap that most people fall into when they buy their budget gaming laptops so let’s begin with that. There are currently so many models from different brands to choose from.
However, the majority of them come with an Nvidia GTX 1650 and only 8GB of RAM while there are alternatives with RTX 3050 and even 3050 Ti that cost about the same and feature 16GB of memory.
So, except for the performance that you are losing, you also miss out on features like Ray-Tracing and DLSS. Additionally, it’s even possible that some 3060 laptops will be on sale during Black Friday and Cyber Monday period.
Check below the massive difference in performance:
It’s no secret that Acer is known for its budget gaming products, and its brand name is often associated with this reputation. There’s a good reason they are the fifth-largest PC manufacturer in the world.
Looking at their laptops, anyone can quickly realize that they almost never surpass the $2000 mark(with the exception of Acer Predator Triton 500 SE). Their pricing usually hovers between $750 and $1200.
Nevertheless, most of their models have great specs for budget gaming and, if we’re being honest, you won’t be able to get much better hardware at that price point.
Although they have acceptable build quality for their pricing, they don’t have the same luxury feel as a Razer Blade chassis. The keyboards are subpar compared to what the competition has to offer, and there have been several incidents of keyboard failure.
So, keep that in mind if you are a keyboard warrior like me. As for their monitors, they mostly use IPS-type panels so vibrant colors and excellent viewing angles are some of the features you should expect.
Acer has a variety of different warranties available to their customers depending on what type of product they are buying.
The most basic warranty is their standard warranty which covers any defects for up to one year after purchase and a two-year warranty for specific Predator laptops. If you want even more protection than this you can go with their extended service plan.
I have previously talked about this but what really separates ASUS from most other brands is the fact that they also manufacture hardware.
By getting either a TUF or ROG series laptop, you already know that the components are reliable and up to ASUS standards.
That’s also true for MSI and GIGABYTE. Additionally, some of their laptops, though not all of them, are pretty slim and lightweight so you could possibly consider this brand for gaming on the go.
The build quality and longevity are significantly better than what Acer produces. In general, they are quite sturdy, at least in my experience.
The chassis they typically use is composed of a magnesium and aluminum alloy mix, giving it the strength and durability you need to keep it protected from drops and falls. They do use some plastic on the cheaper models, too.
However, this boost in production value also affects the pricing of these laptops. Generally speaking, the price of ASUS laptops with an RTX 3050 and 16GB starts at around $950 without counting any of the sales.
Unlike Acer, they have a much wider variety of products with high-end laptops costing more than $4000.
Finally, ASUS notebooks come with a 1 or 2-year limited worldwide warranty. The after-sales support is decent since they offer you on-site support which is something that not many brands offer in general.
Regardless, you may run into some trouble if you made your purchase through a third-party retailer.
MSI laptops are known for their excellent quality, which is unsurprising given the company’s history as a component manufacturer.
They should be able to handle heavy loads without getting too hot since the manufacturers typically add a lot of extra vents at the bottom of the PC. If you get your hands on one of them, you can even see the heat pipes through there.
MSI laptops have been praised for their prices as well—they’re usually priced lower than other comparable brands, and they tend to have excellent value for your money. I would put them in the same boat as ASUS.
For a 3050 16GB laptop, you’ll need about $1000 dollars but if you do make the purchase on Black Friday, I wouldn’t be surprised if you get one for less than $800.
As for their customer service, it’s inferior to the rest of the brands on this post simply because it’s not available all the time. It’s like they don’t have enough money to pay people to get extra shifts.
You can only contact them during business hours and there is no live chat during the weekend.
Nonetheless, if you do get in touch with them, they are pretty reasonable. They offer a warranty based on the product that you buy which is great and actually really bad at the same time.
I would like to know the warranty that I get before buying the product. You should traditionally expect 1-2 years of warranty.
Since GIGABYTE is a relatively young player in that market, they only really offer three gaming laptop lines: the Aorus, Aero, and G5 series.
However, they do provide several variations of the same laptop, allowing you to somewhat tailor the hardware to your preferences.
They have the greatest build quality among the other companies on this list, in my opinion. The laptops are primarily built of aluminum, with some plastic used in a few places.
As for performance, you can go for the GIGABYTE G5 KD which carries an RTX 3060 and costs about $1100 or if you want to spend something extra, a GIGABYTE AORUS 17G will get the job done with its Intel i7, RTX 3080, and 32GB of RAM(which is overkill for gaming but truly good for creative tasks).
Additionally, they offer the GIGABYTE AERO 15 OLED, which may cost you a lot of money but it has an AMOLED screen and it’s one of the best laptops available if you’re a professional image/video editor.
There is one negative that I really dislike and that’s the webcam placement. Due to the fact that most of their laptops have almost bezel-less screens, they have to place the webcam at the bottom of the display where the angle of the camera is very inconvenient.
If you want to buy a GIGABYTE laptop, you should also be aware that the warranties differ significantly. With the dealer from whom you acquired the laptop, you should clarify the specifics and extent of the warranty coverage.
At this point, every brand I’ve reviewed has a ton of complaints when it comes to customer service, and GIGABYTE follows that same path.
Based on reviews, their response time can be quite slow at times so if you have issues with your laptop, I would advise you to be as patient as possible.
Thermal design matters a lot
With all being said, it’s time to talk about the most overlooked thing in the history of gaming laptops. No matter what laptop you end up picking, it’s important to take a look at its thermal structure.
All of the above brands carry very powerful specs in general, some more than others but at the end of the day, none of that is gonna matter if your laptop starts thermal throttling.
For instance, you could have a 4.8GHz boost clock processor which may literally achieve that speed for only a couple of seconds until it goes back down to its base clock frequency(e.g. 2.6GHz) after your laptop reached 100 °C.
The same applies to your graphics card. In fact, there were occasions when an RTX 3060 would outperform a 3070 simply because the former had better thermal management and thus lower temperature.
Upgradability is key
While the most expensive brands like Alienware and Razer may give you plenty of options when it comes to upgradability, this might not be the case for the more “budget” friendly ones.
It’s always important to be able to upgrade your laptop as it will significantly increase its longevity.
You should check things like the amount of RAM slots your motherboard has or if you can add an extra SSD for more storage.
In addition, it’s very common for some brands to put on sale laptops with 8GB RAM which are not upgradable so you are essentially stuck with only one stick. As the gaming industry evolves, having 16GB of RAM is a necessity.
Recommended brands based on budget
For under $1000…
Buy an Acer gaming laptop as they give you the most value for your money in that price range.
However, if there are sales, don’t be too quick to make your purchase. Make sure you check the other brands and especially MSI since you could find a laptop at the same price point but with better hardware.
Purchase either a GIGABYTE G5 series laptop with an RTX 3060 or an MSI Katana. Between the cheaper options of Acer and the more expensive ones of ASUS, you’ll get a good mix of hardware and build quality.
For $1500 and beyond…
You can get excellent value from the ASUS ROG series, GIGABYTE’s Aorus, and MSI’s high-end laptops. At this price range, it really comes down to a comparison between specific laptops.
As you’re planning your Black Friday shopping, keep in mind that the most important features of a gaming laptop remain its GPU and processor. So what’s the verdict?
For the most part, each of these laptop brands is extremely comparable when it comes to price, specs, and even performance. But it’s not quite that simple. As I mentioned, the thermal structure of laptops plays a significant role.
So, if you’re into gaming, it’s definitely worth investing some extra money in a device with better cooling.