One exciting trend we saw at CES 2017 was the surge in gaming laptops priced below the $1,000 mark. In a category dominated by tricked-out gaming rigs that sell for thousands of dollars, the introduction of NVIDIA’s new GeForce GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti graphics open up new affordable options for anyone who wants gaming capability in an inexpensive laptop design. These discrete graphics cards offer gaming-grade performance on current titles, delivering 60 frames per second at full HD (1080p) resolution. In this affordable gaming category, we saw several new models announced by major manufacturers, including Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung.
While there are some strong similarities between these four new systems, especially on the hardware front, they are far from identical. Varied features, capabilities and aesthetics make each one distinct. However, they all have one important thing in common: a price that puts PC gaming in the reach of many, many more people.
Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming
While Dell has primarily sold gaming systems under the Alienware brand, it announced an updated version of its unsung gaming hero, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming. We called it out recently as the best sub-$1,000 gaming laptop, and Dell has upped the ante with new hardware and an improved design.
The previous model was essentially a regular Inspiron with a fancy paint job, and the new version gets a makeover, with larger rear-facing ventilation grilles for better cooling, a patterned lattice speaker grille across the front of the chassis and a new aesthetic that makes it clear the laptop is built for the gaming grid.
The updated model benefits from NVIDIA’s new entry-level gaming graphics cards. While that’s a far cry from the multi-monitor 4K- and VR-ready performance more expensive models offer, gaming at 1080p is perfectly acceptable for the budget gamer. It’s even more acceptable in terms of price, with starting configurations selling for $799.
Lenovo has renamed and rebranded its gaming laptop line. The once drab-sounding Ideapad Y series is now the Lenovo Legion line of gaming laptops. This week, Lenovo announced the first two members of the Legion family: the 15-inch Legion Y520 and the 17-inch Legion Y720.
The new Legion Y720 has plenty of gaming chops and some new glowing features. The laptop now has a multicolor backlit keyboard – a feature previously restricted to the most premium models. More importantly, it comes with the now standard NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics and can be configured with up to a quad-core Core i7-7700HQ processor. New functions abound, with optional Microsoft Hello and surround sound, and VR capability comes standard on models with at least an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU.
Lenovo has also added some software to expand the usefulness of your VR headsets. A VR media center lets you watch movies in a virtual theater and gives you the option to play many non-VR games through the headset, using your gaze for aiming and cursor control. The laptop has Xbox controller support built in, so there’s no need for any clunky dongles just to use your favorite gamepad.
The 15-inch Legion Y520 will be available this February with a starting price of $899, while the larger and better-appointed Legion Y720 should be available in April, with base configurations selling for $1,399 or more.
Samsung has jumped into gaming with both feet with the new Notebook Odyssey line of gaming laptops. These slim, affordable gaming rigs feature lightweight plastic designs with a lot of visual pizzazz. A glowing logo adorns the lid while a glossy, LED-backed visual feature surrounds the touchpad. Samsung points out that the Notebook Odyssey has sculpted keycaps for comfort and a dedicated button for performance boost.
The underside of the laptop is essentially an integrated cooling pad, allowing better airflow thanks to a patterned ventilation grille. The grille panel can also be removed, providing access to user-upgradeable RAM and SSD slots. The laptops will offer a number of configurable options, but the 15-inch model can be outfitted with up to 32GB of RAM, while the 17-inch boasts up to 64GB. The Notebook Odyssey will be available in 15- and 17-inch sizes, with both black and white options for the 15-inch model and the 17-inch available only in black.
The 15-inch Samsung Notebook Odyssey will be available sometime this spring, and the 17-inch model will follow later in the year. Pricing details were not yet available as of this writing.
Acer Aspire VX 15 Notebook
While Acer has been in the affordable gaming category for years with its Predator and Aspire Nitro V model lines, it also has something new up its sleeves for the introduction of NVIDIA’s new budget gaming cards. The Acer Aspire VX 15 may not have the snazzy Nitro name, but it looks a lot more like a gaming system, with a red-on-black color scheme, large red-ringed ventilation grilles on the back and a red backlit keyboard.
The Aspire VX 15 can be outfitted with up to an Intel Core i7-7700HQ quad-core processor and 16GB of RAM, though users can upgrade it themselves to as much as 32GB. It will also be available with either the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or the VR-ready NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060. The laptop is available this month, starting at $799.