The Best Gaming Laptops Under 1,200 Dollars of 2019

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To hit the absolute cutting edge of modern technology, you can typically expect to drop around two grand or more on a new gaming laptop.

You don’t need to spend near that amount of money to find a high end machine for running the vast majority of games in any genre, however.

Even if you are looking to get a stable 60 FPS at ultra settings on the latest open world games, you can find a computer that will more than meet your needs while staying on-budget.

Finding that one perfect model takes a good deal of searching, but luckily we’ve already done that all for you! Below we compare five of the absolute best gaming laptops under $1,200 currently available.

Picking The Best Gaming Laptop Under $1,200

When you start to get well above the thousand dollar range, you need to make sure you are actually getting a better overall hardware setup and not just paying for flashing lights. Many models bump up their price while still having basic specs on par with cheaper computers.

For this amount of money, the graphical processing power should start to meet or exceed what you’d find in a desktop. If it won’t run a fully modded version of your favorite game without giving you frame drops or lag, it should be immediately jettisoned from your consideration.

With that basic requirement out of the way, there are still many pros and cons to a variety of brands, models, and styles in the sub-$1,200 price range.

Want the absolute best graphics card at the expense of other specs? Prefer a larger 17” screen instead of the normal 15” size? Do you absolutely need a touch screen instead of a typical display? Do you crave customizable RGB lighting on all areas of the laptop?

All these questions and more will help you narrow down the best possible laptop to meet your gaming needs. Let’s start taking a look at what’s available!

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

Eluktronics N870HP6 Pro-X

Eluktronics N870HP6 Pro-X

In 2018, one of the best portable gaming machines currently available at this price range is easily the Eluktronics N870HP6 Pro-X Gaming Laptop.Although it comes with a smaller hard drive than other models, it absolutely blows away the competition in terms of graphics card, RAM, and visuals. For an absolutely killer gaming experience, this should be at the top of your list of possible buys.

The contenders for best gaming laptop under $1,200

1. Eluktronics N870HP6 Pro-X Gaming Laptop

  • Bigger screen
  • Best graphics card at this price range
  • RGB backlit keyboard
  • Smaller keyboard space
  • Smaller hard drive
  • Heavier model

Should this be your choice?

If you don’t mind going with a non-standard brand outside the typical huge names, the Eluktronics N870HP6 should easily be your pick at this price range. You won’t find a better graphics card or VR ready machine without heading into a higher price bracket.

What you get here with this lesser known brand is a durable gaming laptop that is a complete and total desktop replacement rig.

The full 6GB version of the GTX 1060 is nearing close to top-of-the-line when it comes to graphics cards. Coupled with 16GB of RAM straight from the factory, there aren’t any games you won’t be able to run at high settings.

To get all that gaming power at under $1,200 there is a trade off, however. Unfortunately you don’t get the extra 1TB secondary hard disk drive like with many other models, so you are going to run out of room for more games fairly quickly.

Upgrading the hard drive, investing in an external drive, or finding an online storage solution will be critical to getting the most out of this machine.

Overwhelmingly positive reviews from buyers mention the excellent IPS screen and loads of options for dimming or brightening different colors on the keyboard. While the screen size is larger, many reviewers mention that the keyboard itself is more compact than expected.

Hardware specifications for Eluktronics N870HP6 Pro-X Gaming Laptop
Processor7th Gen Intel Core i7-7700HQ (2.8 – 3.8GHz)
RAM16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage256GB SSD
GraphicsGeForce GTX 1060 (6GB)
Display17.3-iNCH Full HD, IPS LED Anti-Glare Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life4 hours
Weight6.9 lbs

2. ASUS Gaming Thin and Light Laptop

  • High end graphics card
  • Secondary hard drive
  • Light weight
  • No IPS screen
  • No full RGB
  • Short battery life

Should this be your choice?

If you prefer a lighter weight model but still want high end specs, ample hard drive space, and a VR ready machine, this should be your pick.

Offering plenty of hard drive space with only a slight reduction on the graphics side, ASUS has a solid contender here for best thin gaming laptop.

You only drop down to the 3GB version of the GTX 1060 — which is still more than capable of running nearly anything on ultra — but otherwise stay at the high end on the specs.

In terms of gaming bells and whistles, this model features red backlighting on the keyboard, but not full RGB color control.

After using the computer for extended periods, buyers rave about the gaming performance, but also usually had a complaint on the screen performance. You get a standard TN screen here instead of the more advanced in-plane switch (IPS) style.

If you are used to standard laptop screens needing to be adjusted to look at straight on at a particular height level, then you aren’t particularly losing out on anything. Videophiles who need the greatest and newest technology may want to look for a better screen, however.

Hardware specifications for ASUS Gaming Thin and Light Laptop
Processor7th Generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ (2.8 – 3.8GHz)
RAM16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
GraphicsGeForce GTX 1060 (3GB)
Display15.6-Inch Full HD Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life2 hours
Weight4.9 lbs

3. Alienware AW15R3

  • Alien FX lighting
  • Lower price
  • Built-in overclocking controls
  • Less RAM
  • No SSD
  • Very heavy model

Should this be your choice?

If you demand a high end graphics card but still want to save money now by upgrading the RAM and hard drive later, then this laptop should easily be your pick. With the Alienware branding and lighting options, it also has the extra bells and whistles for people who like to game in style.

Alienware’s entry in our best laptops from $1100 – $1199 is a compromise mid-range option that has major trade offs in order to hit a lower price point.

As the cheapest entry here, you can save quite a bit of money by going this route — if you can wait on upgrading some of the specs down the line.

The graphics card remains at the GTX 1060 model so you don’t lose on the raw graphical output, however 8GB of RAM and no SSD drive means overall lower speeds. The motherboard can handle up to 32GB, however, so there’s plenty of room to expand.

There’s also no card reader and no optical drive, so you’ll either have to transfer data via USB thumb drives or go for completely digital storage.

Buyers frequently cite the Alien FX lighting as a main selling point, which allows you to play with the light settings on the touchpad and logo instead of just the keyboard.

Hardware specifications for Alienware AW15R3
ProcessorIntel Core i5-7300HQ (2.5 – 3.5GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
Display15.6- FHD IPS Anti-Glare Display with G-Sync, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life5.5 hours
Weight8 lbs

4. ASUS VivoBook Pro 15

  • 4k Touch screen
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Larger hard drive
  • Less powerful graphics card
  • No extra gaming bells and whistles

Should this be your choice?

If you don’t care about flashing lights and laser-etched designs but instead want a touch screen and great specs, then this should be your pick!

Woah, woah, woah. A 4k touch screen at under $1,200? Yep, and it’s got pretty nifty specs for high end gaming as well.

While you have to drop down to the 4GB version of the GTX 1050 to get the touch screen, all the other specs are more than adequate for nearly any game at medium to high settings.

The seventh gen processor and 16GB of RAM out of the factory work well for nearly any type of application, and the dual hard drive setup offers ample storage space.

Gamers who bought this model frequently mention the high end touch screen visuals, although they cite the standard “business” design as a possible downside. While the keyboard is backlit, the basic silver clamshell design looks more like a work or school model than a high end gaming rig.

Hardware specifications for ASUS VivoBook Pro 15
ProcessorIntel Core i7-770HQ Processor (2.5 – 3.8GHz)
RAM16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
GraphicsGeForce GTX 1050 4GB
Display15.6-Inch 4K UHD WideView Touch Panel Display, 3840 x 2160 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life3 hours
Weight5.1 lbs

5. MSI GL73 8RC-032

  • Tons of extra gaming goodies
  • Bigger screen
  • 8th gen processor
  • Least powerful graphics card

Should this be your choice?

Want a big screen, high end processor, and tons of extra gaming goodies? You should strongly consider the MSI GL73 if you don’t mind giving up a little bit of graphical power to save money.

Although it has the less powerful GTX 1050 card, everything else about this MSI entry is clearly aimed squarely at the serious gamer crowd.

With an 8th gen processor and larger screen, what you get here is essentially a desktop replacement.

To further sweeten the pot for the gaming crowd, there are several hundred dollars of extra freebies bundled with the laptop, including a backpack, headset, mouse, and wired gaming controller. With the lower price here than many other models in this range, you are actually getting more for less

The dedicated graphics card option will be the only sticking point for running the latest games on ultra settings. While it technically meets the minimum specs for the HTC Vive, this model just barely misses out on the graphics front for the Oculus Rift. For a truly VR ready machine, you may want to look elsewhere.

Hardware specifications for MSI GL73 8RC-032
Processor8th Gen Intel Coffee i7-8750H (2.2 – 4.1GHz)
RAM16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
GraphicsGeForce GTX 1050 (4GB)
Display17.3-Inch Full HD eDP Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life4 hours
Weight5.95 lbs

What Should I Expect From A Desktop Replacement?

In many cases, the listed battery life for gaming laptops is actually for idle web browsing or video streaming while watching shows on Netflix or Hulu.

Actual gaming — especially for extended periods — at high to ultra settings will engage the graphics card and draw significantly more power.

What this means is that for many laptops at this price range, the effective battery life while playing anything from Warframe to Rocket League is going to be around an hour or two.

If you engage in long sessions of online gaming with Battle Royale titles, MMORPGs, and so on, that essentially means the laptop needs to be plugged in at all times. Unfortunately, that’s just a side effect of getting so much graphical processing power into so small a space.

Whether you game with your laptop at home from your couch or out at the local coffee shop, make sure to be in close range of an outlet if you want to get the most out of your expensive machine!

Be sure to also keep in mind that with dual hard drive setups — where one drive is an SSD for faster booting and one is an HDD for more space — the laptop may default to the smaller drive.

You may need to play around with the settings to avoid immediately filling up the SSD while installing your games and apps.

What Specs Can I Give Up To Save Money?

When you cross the thousand dollar threshold, you should start to expect the best of the best in many areas when buying a new laptop.

Obviously you want the best return on investment when willing to spend $1,100+ on a gaming rig. There are a still a handful of potential trade offs to make to stay on budget, but for the most part you should get something that’s close to top of the line.

Unless you are specifically budgeting for upgrading later and don’t mind less RAM out of the box, 16GB should typically be the lowest system memory acceptable at this price range. 8GB of RAM will still run most games and apps, but you may notice frame rate drops.

You can also save some money by choosing slightly different models with varying hard drive options. Dropping down to an SSD only, or going with the 128GB secondary SSD instead of 256, can mean spending $50 – $100 less with your new laptop.

Will I Be VR Ready With These Laptops?

In most cases, this is the price range where you can reliably expect most machines right out of the box to be capable of running virtual reality games.

There are a few notable exceptions however, so pay careful attention to the system specs if you are specifically trying to find a gaming laptop that will work with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, etc.

To be certain you can hook up to a VR system and run games at acceptable frame rates, at a bare minimum you typically want the GTX 1050 Ti graphics card. Upgrading to the 1060 at 3GB or 6GB is a safer bet, however. 

Regardless of your graphics option, you will get the best VR performance if you are running 16 – 32 GB of RAM and utilizing a 7th or 8th gen Intel processor.

Getting the most powerful laptop at the best price

With these five options you should be able to find a perfect gaming rig that offers everything you want. Whether you prefer a bleeding edge graphics card, a touch screen, or a larger form factor, there’s something here for every gamer. 

What did you think of our picks for the best gaming laptop under $1,200, and are you planning on picking up any of these models soon? Let us know in the comments below!

Looking for something a little more budget-friendly that doesn’t sacrifice gaming power? Be sure to check out our roundup of best laptops under $1,000 instead.

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