The best options under/around $600 are gaming laptops with a the Radeon M385X (only the Lenovo Y700 AMD) and laptops with GT 940M (and sometimes GTX 950M) and an 1080p screen, currently. The 1080p screen is a big plus compared to past laptops under $600 and you should look for it. This kind of performance is adequate for low-midrange graphics settings.
If you are willing to go refurbished and up to $650-$660, you can get yourself a nice Dell 7559 with GTX 960M, IPS, I5-6300HQ and an IPS, which will be much faster than the Y700 in DX11 and will have less problems because the Intel+NV ecosystem and manufacturer support are currently better.
Frankly, there was not a lot of change in gaming performance in this price range in the last year or year and a half and besides some deals here and there. Some aspects were improved, like display quality, in some laptops.
For now, I’d go with the 7559 for $650-$660 and with the Y700 for $550-$600.
[Flash Deal] Acer VN7-571G 15.6″, GTX 950M DDR3, 1080p IPS, 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD for $550! excellent deal!
- [Refurbished] Dell Inspiron 7559, for $650-$750 15.6″: I5-6300HQ (4C/4T), GTX 960M 4GB, 1080p IPS display and 1TB SSHD/256GB SSD. Easily the fastest under $650 if you are willing to spend that much and go refurbished (which includes official Dell warranty). The 7559 lately became available refurbished via Dell Home Outlet, eBay and others. I think this is a good purchase if you are interested mostly in gaming performance. The IPS display is nice but not great and lacking some color, speakers and keyboard can be described as mediocre. Thermals are pretty ok and gaming performance for $650 is the highest you can get.
- Lenovo Y700 AMD Version (New/Open box), for $600-$640 15.6″, comes with an AMD FX-8800P APU, Radeon M385X 4GB GDDR5 GPU, 8GB DDR3L RAM, reasonable 1080p IPS display and 1TB HDD. The HDD is quite slow but you can replace it or add an M.2 drive instead. The Radeon M385X is quite fast, but limited by the CPU performance (thanks to Lenovos’ clocks algorithm) and by AMD’s DX11 drivers, but the performance should be a lot better with DX12/Vulkan based titles. This is easily the fastest and most interesting machine for $600, even though it is open box. The build quality is quite good and speakers are best in class up to $1000. Keyboard is ok, and thermals reasonable too.
- Refurbished/Used laptop with GTX 850M/950M/860M/960M (refurbished only link) under $700. I have no specific recommendation, expect making sure the laptop has an 1080p display and at least 6-8GB RAM. Usually you can find laptops like the Lenovo Y50 or MSI GP60/GE60
- The other recommendations are currently the same as the $500 laptops recommendations – please check.
Acer VN7-571G 15.6″ (review), from Newegg. This model comes with the previous generation Broadwell I5 CPU and a GTX 950M DDR3 GPU, so for $600 it is a very good performer. The screen is a 1366×768 screen, probably not that good, but it is replaceable. For $600, it is probably the fastest, by far.
Acer V5-552PG(15.6″) for $380! A8-5557M, Radeon 8750M, 4GB RAM, 720p. Screen is lousy, build quality and speakers are average at best, but for $380 you can’t beat it in terms of gaming performance per money in the $600 section. If you are looking for something cheap, that’s an excellent option! Acer V5-561G-6407 15.6″ with Radeon R7 M265 (which is actually the older 8750M), 6GB DDR3 and 500G HDD. Weight is around 2.4kg (not as good as the previous V5-552G 2kg) and it is rather cool and quiet. The only problem is the lousy 720p display – for those of us who like to tinker with stuff, I would recommend replacing the display with a good like this AUO 1080p IPS display – see here how it works. Battery performance should be around 4-5 hours *at least* and build quality is so-so.
For heavy gamers, I would recommend saving some more money or wait for good refurbished deals.
For higher performance, I suggest checking the 600$-800$ gaming laptops recommendations. The $800 up to $1000-$1100 gaming laptops are usually much more cost effective in terms in gaming performance (like screen quality) and general value you get for your money.