Hey Lifehacker, I have a bit of a problem. My old tank of a laptop (Latitude E4300) is crapping out. The fan is going so fast every hour it overheats! I'm in the market for a new laptop for up to $1000 (money is tight, I'm a student on Subway pay), and I need it to perform well with games. I know that laptops aren't made for gaming but I need the portability. Is there a laptop that can play games, running at maybe medium settings, for under $1000? Thanks, Game For Anything
Once upon a time you needed to spend in excess of $2500 to get a decent mobile gaming fix. Thankfully, today's laptop technology has become a lot more powerful and affordable.
For $1000, you should be able to get a respectable gaming laptop boasting an Intel Core i7 or i5 processor, up to 8GB of RAM and a dedicated graphics card (look for 'NVIDIA GeForce' or 'AMD Radeon' in the specifications list). This will be more than capable of handling most PC games at medium settings along with other demanding tasks such as HD video editing.
You can currently score some great savings on previous-generation laptops which are still perfectly acceptable for gaming. Retail stores like JB Hi-Fi are still in the process of clearing old stock to free up shelf space for the shiny new gadgets announced at Computex. Tell the sales rep you're only interested in models that are around a year old and you should be able to find some significant discounts.
Just look for something with similar specs to those mentioned above and be prepared to go a little north of $1000. Also try to avoid sleek and shiny models from the big manufacturers — unless you're paying top dollar, there's usually a trade-off between aesthetics and performance (i.e. — you want a work horse, not a show pony.)
You might also want to consider a refurbished model. I just did a quick skim online and found a Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E530 for just $750 which comes with a 15.6in screen, an Intel Core i7-3612QM CPU, a NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M graphics card, 6GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive.
Alternatively, it might be possible to tease a bit more life out of your existing laptop by going down the upgrade path, which will cost you a lot less than $1000. The first step is to check that you have the latest video card drivers installed for your laptop's GPU — sometimes new updates get released that can provide a significant boost to performance.
If your laptop has an ExpressCard slot you may be able to connect a desktop graphics card to it via an external dock. (Read how it's done here.) Many laptop models, including the Latitude E4300, also come with expandable memory. You might be able to get some decent speed gains by adding a few sticks of RAM which is very affordable.
Finally, it could be worth your while downloading a gaming optimisation app such as Game Booster. This is a software tool specifically designed for gamers that turns off background applications and system tray utilities to free up additional resources.
If any readers have a laptop upgrade tip or a specific model that they'd like to recommend, please let GFA know in the comments section below.
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