How to buy the right gaming laptop this Black Friday without breaking the bank

Gaming laptops are a great way to play the latest games when you're away from home, and they are increasingly powerful enough to make g...

Gaming laptops are a great way to play the latest games when you're away from home, and they are increasingly powerful enough to make great desktop PC replacements for many gamers.

It's no wonder then that gaming laptops are some of the most popular deals during Black Friday, especially because many of the best gaming laptops are also fairly expensive. This is even more true for laptops with RTX 3080 GPUs or high-resolution and high-refresh displays from top brands like Razer, Gigabyte, and Alienware. But with some good Black Friday gaming laptop deals, these laptops can see some dramatic price cuts, sometimes by more than $500/£500.

But even if you're looking for something more in the midrange or budget category, there are still going to be some great cheap gaming laptop deals, and in many cases, you'll be able to find plenty, like the HP Victus 15, that won't force you to sacrifice too much when it comes to hardware or performance.

There are some laptop deals that you'll want to avoid though, and not just on the low end of the price spectrum where you'd expect to find some of the shoddier products. There are going to be plenty of high-end gaming laptops that look great at first glance, but are much less of a deal when you dig deeper into the specs.

As we all get ready for the holiday sales event, there are a whole lot of reasons to expect great deals this year and we'll help you sort out which ones to look for and which ones to avoid.

What to look for in a Black Friday gaming laptop deal

So what should you be on the lookout for when you go Black Friday shopping? There are some key points to remember when it comes to buying a gaming laptop.

First, we're already pushing the bounds of what a great gaming laptop really needs to play the best PC games, since nearly every modern AAA game is targeted at console compatibility first rather than trying to max out what the best gaming PC is capable of handling. The days of asking "But can it run Crysis?" have come and gone, honestly.

As such, there's very little reason to turn your nose up at a 12th-gen Intel Core i5 or an AMD Ryzen 6000-series CPU paired with an Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU, since this kind of gaming laptop is more than capable of playing everything currently available at pretty high settings at 1080p. 

And since 1080p is what even high-end gaming laptops generally stick with in order to max out the display's refresh rates, you don't need much more than this right now and these are going to see some great price cuts this Black Friday.

Second, keep in mind that on a laptop, a 4K display doesn't really get you that much more than a 1080p in terms of crispness. Yes, you're doubling the pixels-per-inch, so images will be twice as sharp, but the images are also going to be much smaller on a 14- or 15-inch display than they would be on the best gaming monitors pushing 32 or 42 inches across. 

Our eyes just aren't able to appreciate the fine details on something as small as a gaming laptop display, especially not when things are blazing across in an action-packed title like Doom Eternal or some competitive shooters. At most, look for 1440p if all you care about is PC gaming. You're not missing out on much by settling for 1080p, but you will likely save a lot of money.

There are a couple of Black Friday-specific considerations to mention as well. First, you're going to see a lot of high-end laptops with very gaming-specific hardware get some eye-popping price cuts this Black Friday. 

Here's an example from last year:

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED YD, 15.6-inch 4K AMOLED, Intel i7-11800H, Nvidia RTX 3080, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD | $2,999 $1,899 at Newegg (Instant savings and rebate)
Save $1,100 -
Right off the bat, you're saving $800 with this Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED, but with an additional mail-in rebate offer, you can save another $300, bringing the total savings to $1,100. This is definitely one of the best Black Friday gaming laptop deals we've seen, but it ends early tomorrow morning, so you need to move on it soon if you want to save big on this beast.

If you are keen on getting a laptop that can play the latest games with the highest graphics fidelity possible, then you can find some great deals on the best mobile workstations for creative professionals that have all of the same hardware as the most premium gaming laptop, but come with perks like OLED 4K displays that gaming laptops generally lack. 

The drawback is that these displays are going to have standard 60Hz refresh rates, since that isn't the kind of thing that creatives really need for their work. Non-OLED displays might also have awful pixel response as well, which make them less suitable for fast-paced gaming. 

That said, if you're looking to take in the eye candy at a leisurely pace, then a creative workstation might be a smart way to get a great deal on very powerful hardware. If you're looking to game competitively though, you're going to want to stick to proper gaming laptops with more responsive, higher-refresh displays.

Gaming laptops across the board will see price cuts

A gaming laptop on a desk

(Image credit: Future)

We've been doing this for many, many years now, and we've got plenty of experience watching how the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events tend to run. The past couple of years has, with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting supply chain issues, upended things for sure.

There are still some pretty consistent throughlines though, namely that the cadence of gaming laptop releases provides plenty of incentive for retailers to clear out some inventory and make way for newer products with the very latest hardware.

These latter gaming laptops are usually the least likely to see price cuts, but that will still happen, so don't expect the only gaming laptops to go on sale to be those that are one or two generations behind everyone else.

What's more, most of the newest mobile computing hardware, like new mobile processors and GPUs, are announced early in the year, typically around CES. And since most laptop hardware has been on the market for several months now, if not for over a year, we're expecting new mobile CPUs and GPUs to be announced or at least teased in January from AMD, Intel, and Nvidia. 

That means that demand for the current-gen tech is likely to soften this Black Friday as people wait to see what is revealed next year. As a result, prices on current-gen gaming laptops will have to drop lower to compensate, and you should definitely take advantage of these deeper price cuts.

One of the best ways to see what kind of gaming laptop deals to expect this year is to look at what we saw last year. Thanks to the magic of the internet, we're able to bring you some highlights from our 2021 Black Friday coverage to illustrate. 

Asus ROG Zephyrus M16, RTX 3060, Intel Core i9, 40GB RAM: $3,329 $2,449 at Newegg
Save $880 on this incredible gaming laptop from Asus ROG, one of the most respected producers of gaming laptops in the world. Not only are you getting that RTX 3060 GPU, but also an 11th-gen Intel i9 processor and a whopping 40GB of RAM.

MSI Creator 15 A11UE-491 | Intel Core i7, RTX 3060, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD: $1,849 $1,449 at Newegg
Save $400 -
Black Friday / Cyber Monday sees this mid-range laptop from MSI's Creator line at 22% off. That's $400 in savings for a notebook that will supercharge your creative workflows, whether that's photo and video editing, graphic design, or streaming your gaming sessions. Besides the 11th-gen i7, RTX 3060, 16GB RAM innards, you're also getting that crisp 4K display.

MSI Sword 15 A11UD-001 | Intel Core i7, RTX 3050 Ti, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD: $1,199.99 $899.99 at Best Buy
Save $300 -
MSI's Dragon Blade-inspired not only looks good, but also comes with a lot of power. And, it's 25% off from now until Black Friday, dropping this specific configuration below $1,000. What do you get in exchange? An 11th-gen Intel Core i7, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 TI GPU, 8GB RAM, and 512GB SSD storage, alongside an FHD screen. That's not too shabby for 1080p gaming.

MSI Pulse GL66 11UGK-001| Intel Core i7, RTX 3070, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD: $1,499 $1,294 at Amazon
Save $204 - You need not spend over $2,000 on an RTX 3070-powered gaming laptop. For one day only, MSI is dropping the price of this powerful piece of kit down and giving you $204 in savings. The only thing better than its high-end internals are its fast 1080p screen that boasts a 144Hz refresh rate, perfect for fast-paced games.

Dell G15, AMD Ryzen 7, Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti, 8GB, 512GB | $1,149 $879 at Best Buy
Save $270 -
This 15.6-inch gaming laptop from Dell brings some serious power for less than $1,000 this Black Friday. With an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H CPU, Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti graphics, 8GB DDR4 RAM, 512GB SSD, and a 120Hz refresh rate, your games will look and play great on the go.

Things to avoid this Black Friday when shopping for a gaming laptop

girl gaming on a laptop

(Image credit: Ninma)

No matter what kind of gaming you plan to do, there are a couple of things that you're likely to see this Black Friday that you're going to want to avoid unless the price is absolutely unbeatable.

First, don't look for anything less than 8GB RAM unless you are only planning on casual gaming. Windows 11 is going to take up a lot of RAM, so you're not going to have a whole lot to work with for your other programs, and gaming generally requires a good bit of RAM in order to run smoothly.

If you're looking at high-end devices, make sure that you're not paying extra for "premium" hardware from two or three generations ago. If you see a $2,000 gaming laptop with a ninth-gen Intel Core i7 in it, you can get new hardware for roughly the same price elsewhere, and you definitely should.

Another thing you might see a lot of right now is a "gaming" Chromebook. Look, don't get us wrong, we love Chromebooks, but Chromebooks typically don't have the specs required for locally installed games (and couldn't run almost any of them even if they did), and cloud gaming is viable but still iffy on a Chromebook. Come back to us next year once we've had a chance to really push the new line of gaming Chromebooks to see what they are capable of before making that kind of jump.

Finally, there is the question of MacBooks. Typically, MacBooks haven't been seen as gaming machines in a serious way and that hasn't really changed even with the latest Apple silicon.

There are plenty of games that you can play on a Mac, mind you, and some of us are actually quite bullish on the Mac's gaming potential in the years ahead. Capcom just released Resident Evil Village on the Mac and other developers are likely to start following suit in the coming years, but we're not there yet and the future of Mac gaming remains to be seen. If you're looking to play all of the latest PC games right now, you're still going to need a Windows laptop.

Gaming laptop spec cheat sheet

One of the most overwhelming things about shopping for a gaming laptop on Black Friday is trying to make sense of the completely incomprehensible specs that manufacturers tend to throw at customers. If you've never bought a gaming laptop before or you're buying one for someone else and you aren't a gamer yourself, it can feel like you're reading a foreign language.

Fortunately, we have tested so many gaming laptops that we've learned what's worth buying and what is best avoided. We've broken down the kinds of specs you're going to want to target for premium devices, our suggested specs for the best balance between performance and price, and the minimum specs you should be targeting if you're looking for a more budget option but still want the laptop to provide a solid gaming experience.

Component Premium Suggested Minimum
CPU Intel Core i9-12XXX or AMD Ryzen 9 6XXX Intel Core i7-12XXX or AMD Ryzen 7 6XXX Intel Core i5-11XXX or AMD Ryzen 5 5XXX
GPU Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti or greater Nvidia RTX 3060 or RTX 2070 Nvidia GTX 1650
RAM 32GB or greater 16GB 8GB with a free DIMM slot
Storage More than 1TB 1TB 256GB
Monitor Resolution 2160p (4K) 1440p 1080p
Monitor Refresh Rate 240Hz or higher 165Hz 144Hz (60Hz if 4K resolution)

Today's best gaming laptop deals

If you don't want to wait for Black Friday, you can check out some of the best gaming laptop deals available right now.



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