The best options under/around $600 are gaming laptops with a Radeon 8750M performance level and 1080p screen. The 1080p screen is a big plus compared to past laptops under $600 and you should look for it. The Radeon 8750M / 7730M GPUs or the Nvidia GT 730M (which I see no more) offer good medium-range gaming performance, even for 1080p resolution.
Compared to the HD4600 / Radeon 7660G integrated graphics, the 8750M is easily 50%-100% faster on average, depends on the game, so it is a much more cost effective way to go.
For now, I’d suggest waiting for some better deals or go to a higher budget of around $800, then you can get considerably more 3D performance and some extra features. Another option is going refurbished or used with warranty, like Dell 3540
- The Acer V5-572G-54S6 (15.6″) for ~$550 (Newegg, Amazon 1, Amazon 2) with GT 840M, I5-4210U, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD. It’s a very cost effective gaming laptop around this price. The 720p display is average at best, but it’s replaceable. You can get a better display for $70-$90, like one of these. Battery performance is also rather good and you can expect around 5-6 hours.
- [Refurbished] Dell 3540 (15.6″), $500-$600 with 1080p display (TN, but nice one), Radeon 8850M, 4GB RAM, basic 500GB HDD. Currently, a very good deal for such a laptop with rather good display, low temps and good battery. The 8850M / M265X provides good enough 3D performance for $550-$600 and at least as good as the Y40, for example. Review.
- Lenovo Y40 (14.0), ~$660, review. Specs: I7-4510U, 8GB RAM, 500GB SSHD, 1080p display, Radeon M275 2GB DDR3. The 3D performance of the M275 is limited by the DDR3 so it’s mot much faster than the 840M options in this list (sometimes not at all) and 1080p display is mediocre, but replaceable. However, if you want a smaller machine for such a price, this is a good option and the SSHD is a plus. Also, the M275 does have advantage in some games where VRAM speed is less of a bottleneck.
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.