The Finest Low-cost Gaming Laptop computer for 2020

The budget gaming laptop we recommend, the Acer Predator Helios 300.
Photograph: Michael Murtaugh

Our choose

Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-52-78VL

The Predator Helios 300 provides wonderful efficiency for a low worth, and it’s the one laptop computer with our really useful specs that retains cool sufficient. Plus, it has extra reminiscence and a high-refresh-rate display.

The Acer Predator Helios 300 is the one gaming laptop computer with our really useful specs that retains cool sufficient throughout video games, plus it comes with helpful extras like 16 GB of RAM and a high-refresh-rate display—and it’s impressively low cost. Its keyboard and trackpad are responsive and comfy, and the laptop computer is simple to improve if you would like extra storage sooner or later. Its followers produce an annoying whine throughout gaming, its battery life doesn’t final a full day, and it comes with a ton of bloatware, however no different laptop computer we’ve examined offers as a lot gaming efficiency for the value.

We suggest the PH315-52-78VL mannequin with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics processor with 6 GB of devoted reminiscence, an Intel Core i7-9750H processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 256 GB solid-state drive, and a 15-inch 1920×1080 144 Hz show. It normally prices round $1,200, which is a wonderful worth for a laptop computer with these specs. We’ve even seen it on sale for much less.

A graph showing the temperature of the WASD keys after 30 minutes of playing Overwatch. All tested laptops are included, our picks are in a blue color to highlight them.
We examined all of the laptops with their fan controls on each their default and most settings, however the sooner followers made a major distinction in temperatures solely on the Predator Helios 300 and Nitro 5.

Regardless of being named after the Greek god of the solar, the Helios 300 was the one laptop computer with our really useful specs that stored cool sufficient in our checks. After half an hour of Overwatch, the Helios 300’s WASD keys—those that management motion in most video games, and those you contact probably the most—hit 104 °F (40 °C). That felt heat to the contact and will induce sweating, however the keys had been a lot cooler than these of different laptops we examined, which got here nearer to (and even exceeded) 110 °F (43 °C) in the identical check. The Acer Nitro 5, which we examined with GTX 1650 graphics, and the Asus ROG Strix G, which isn’t out there with our really useful specs, had been the one different laptops on this check group to maintain their WASD keys cool sufficient.

A chart showing the GPU and CPU temperatures of the laptops we tested.

The Predator Helios 300 stored its CPU cooler than many of the different laptops we examined, reaching 203 °F (95 °C), and it stored its GPU cool sufficient, at 178 °F (81 °C), after half-hour of Overwatch. Lots of the processors in different laptops continuously hit 212 °F (100 °C), which is approach too sizzling. The Helios 300 achieves its decrease temperatures by a mix of being undervolted out of the field—sufficient to enhance temperatures however not sufficient to negatively influence efficiency or stability—and having an satisfactory thermal system. (We tried undervolting probably the most promising rivals, such because the Lenovo Legion Y540, Lenovo Legion Y545, Dell G5, and Dell G7, however with out satisfactory cooling, undervolting didn’t make a major distinction on these fashions.)

We measured all the above temperatures on the Helios 300’s default Auto fan mode, however Acer’s PredatorSense app additionally offers user-friendly fan controls. After utilizing these controls, we examined the followers cranked to Max, and after one other half-hour of Overwatch, the WASD keys measured 97 °F (36 °C) and the CPU and GPU had been at 180 °F (82 °C) and 153 °F (67 °C), respectively. The followers on this mode had been extraordinarily loud and annoying—we’ll tackle this matter extra within the following part—however they had been efficient, whereas the followers in many of the different laptops we examined weren’t.

A closeup of the WASD keys on the Acer Predator Helios 300 gaming laptop.
The Predator Helios 300 highlights its WASD keys in an aggressive shade of blue. Photograph: Michael Murtaugh

The keyboard is responsive, and the marginally concave keys cup every finger for a cushty gaming expertise. The entire keyboard has an ice-blue backlight, and the WASD, arrow, and Predator keys are outlined in a extra intense shade of blue. Acer additionally managed to squeeze in a full-size quantity pad. The Helios 300’s one-piece Precision Touchpad is responsive and labored effectively for traditional gestures in our checks. Throughout video games, you’ll be able to disable the trackpad with Fn + F7 to forestall unintentional clicks or motion along with your palm.

A closeup of the trackpad on the Acer Predator Helios 300 gaming laptop.
The Predator Helios 300’s Precision trackpad was dependable in all our checks. Photograph: Michael Murtaugh

The Helios 300’s 144 Hz 1920×1080 IPS show is brilliant, and its excessive refresh charge is very nice for less-demanding first-person video games like Overwatch. In such video games, the place the laptop computer can keep a excessive body charge, every little thing appears smoother and sharper. (You can even see the distinction in contrast with a regular 60 Hz display once you’re scrolling shortly up and down an internet site; the higher-refresh-rate display appears smoother, whereas the 60 Hz display appears jagged and skips round.) We didn’t discover any egregious colour tints or boring colours on the Helios 300’s display. Compared, the show on our price range choose, the Acer Nitro 5, didn’t get as brilliant—255 nits on the Nitro 5 versus 342 nits on the Helios 300—and its reds and greens had been noticeably undersaturated.

In our Internet-browsing battery check, the Helios 300 lasted 4 hours, 54 minutes. It received’t final by a full day of labor or lessons, however that’s about common for a gaming laptop computer. We had been capable of squeeze out about quarter-hour extra battery life by decreasing the display’s refresh charge to 60 Hz, however that didn’t produce a sufficiently big distinction in battery life to make doing so worthwhile. In the event you want a laptop computer that may play video games and last more away from an outlet, think about the Nitro 5, which lasted 8 hours, 36 minutes in the identical check.

At 5.07 kilos, the Helios 300 is on the lighter finish of the price range gaming laptops we examined this yr—most weigh between 5 and 6 kilos. It measures 14.2 inches broad, 10 inches deep, and 0.9 inch thick, so it can match into any backpack that may accommodate a 15-inch laptop computer. It’s actually no ultrabook, however its dimension and weight are perfect for a laptop computer that may each play video games effectively and maintain cool. A lot of the different contenders this yr have related dimensions, although the Dell G5 and G7 are a bit bigger.

The Acer Predator Helios 300's innards, bottom case removed.
Our choose is simple to improve—when you take away 10 screws to get inside. Photograph: Michael Murtaugh

Our really useful configuration has an empty M.2 PCIe slot and an open 2.5-inch drive bay, so you’ll be able to add drives should you want extra storage. We particularly like that the Helios 300 comes with a tough drive connector, so that you don’t have to purchase your individual connector should you select so as to add a drive. To open up the laptop computer, you first take away 10 Phillips screws on the underside after which pop off the underside of the chassis. In earlier years, we appreciated gaming laptops with simpler entry panels and fewer screws, however each laptop computer we examined in 2019 requires eradicating at the very least 9 screws to achieve entry. A plastic opening software could make eradicating the underside of the laptop computer a bit simpler, however we didn’t want it on this mannequin like we did to get into a number of different laptops we examined.

  • A closeup of the inputs on the left side of the Acer Predator Helios 300 gaming laptop.

    On the left aspect, the Helios 300 has a Kensington lock slot, a charging port, an Ethernet port, two USB-A ports, and an audio jack. Photograph: Michael Murtaugh

  • A closeup of the inputs on the right side of the Acer Predator Helios 300 gaming laptop.

    On the precise aspect, yow will discover a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port, one other USB-A port, a Mini DisplayPort, and an HDMI port. Photograph: Michael Murtaugh

The Helios 300 has one USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) port, three USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort 1.4 port, an Ethernet jack, an audio jack, and a Kensington lock slot. It comes with a one-year restricted guarantee.

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