The best cheap gaming laptops can provide good performance while staying on budget, but finding them can be a daunting task. However, daunting doesn't mean impossible.There are a bunch of viable choices to consider. And despite their prices, these cheap laptops can do just about everything their more powerful brethren can, including supporting VR headsets and playing AAA titles at solid frame rates.
And while the newest laptops with the more powerful components may be out of your budget that doesn't mean you can't get a gaming laptop with last-gen's specs, which are still plenty powerful, for a reasonable price.
We've compiled a list of the best cheap gaming laptops because we know gaming is an expensive hobby. With all the games and peripherals, it can get pricey really fast.
Over the course of a year, we review over 100 laptops covering every price point and use case. When it comes to cheap gaming laptops, we evaluate a number of criteria including gaming and overall performance, display, battery life and of course, value.
Whether you're looking for a gift for the gamer in your life or want an affordable way to frag on the go, here are the best cheap gaming laptops under $1,000.
Best cheap gaming laptops right now
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The Dell G5 15 SE (2020) is a great mainstream gaming laptop thanks to its wild CPU performance, awesome battery life and bright 15.6-inch display. With its AMD processor, the system continuously blew out the competition. The notebook also impressed with its battery life, lasting over 7 hours. Throw in an AMD graphics card that can hold its own on even the most demanding AAA titles and you've got a certified winner.
Plus, the laptop has a display that's equal parts bright and vivid along with a seriously comfortable keyboard. And we're fans of the iridescent silver paint slathered over the hood and the healthy port offering, which lets you attach all of your necessary peripherals. The Dell G5 15 SE (2020) is one of the best gaming laptops you can get for the price.
See our full Dell G5 15 SE (2020) review.
The HP Gaming Pavilion 15-dk0046nr is an entry-level gaming laptop with a powerful Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GPU, with an agile SSD and great battery life, all wrapped up in a striking, fairly portable design. Its combination of specs, power and endurance earned the laptop a place on our top cheap gaming laptops under $1,000 page.
The Pavilion 15 is not to be slept upon simply because it’s a budget system. It packs some powerful specs which means the notebook can play games at good frame rates. And at nearly 6 hours of battery life, it’s got endurance to spare. It also manages to stays pretty cool, even while gaming. Still, if you’re looking for a surprisingly powerful entry-level system at a great price, the HP Pavilion 15 should be at the top of your list.
See our full HP Gaming Pavillion 15-dk0046nr review.
If you’re looking for a gaming laptop for a ridiculously cheap price, look no further than the Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020). For just under $700 the Nitro 5 offers class-leading battery life, a powerful AMD Ryzen 5-4600H processor and a comfortable keyboard. But this laptop's real claim to fame, like most modern AMD-laden laptops is the battery life. The Nitro 5 clocks in at 11 hours and 9 minutes, a time previously unheard of in a gaming laptop.
Thanks to the AMD processor, the Nitro 5 offers serious performance, especially for a laptop in its price range. The Nvidia GTX 1650 GPU means that you'll have to play your AAA titles at lower settings to get decent frame rates. You'll make a few compromises, like a dim display, but for a sub-$700 gaming system, there are more hits than misses.
See our full Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) review.
The TUF Gaming FX705 is a good choice for anyone who wants a large, midrange, yet cheap gaming laptop. The FX705's 17.3-inch, 144-Hz display is vivid and detailed, and its Core i7 CPU and GTX 1060 GPU provide excellent all-around performance. The laptop also has a comfortable keyboard with customizable lighting, plenty of ports and over 4 hours of battery life, which is impressive for a gaming laptop at any price point.
We were thoroughly impressed with the laptop's 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 display with its 144Hz refresh rate. Not only did the laptop deliver incredibly smooth frames, it's also bright and vivid. It's great for watching movies and playing games. Overall, the Asus TUF Gaming FX705 is a solid midlevel gaming laptop that offers excellent performance at a reasonable price.
See our full Asus TUF Gaming FX705 review.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 is a budget gaming laptop that offers decent performance thanks to its RTX 3050 GPU, but the inadequate display will turn some away. If you don’t care how deep your colors are or how bright your screen can get, this is the laptop for you, especially if you’re willing to settle for playing games at medium graphics settings.
If that sounds harsh, keep in mind it is under $800, which makes it a decent choice for those looking to save their money first and foremost. However, the money you save is also why the IdeaPad Gaming 3 embodies “budget gaming laptop” in nearly every way, as you’re making some serious sacrifices to performance and visual fidelity. At the very least though, the speakers are surprisingly crisp and the battery lasts quite a bit longer than the competition.
See our full Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 review
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Laptop Mag has been testing and reviewing laptops for over two decades. We test over 150 different models per year, subjecting each system to a series of rigorous benchmarks that provides a complete picture of performance, battery life and usability.
Our expert reviewers also use each product to see how it looks and feels in everyday situations. Because we see so many different notebooks, we can compare each to its direct competitors and give you an idea of how it stacks up to the average laptop in its price band.
How we test gaming laptops
When we bring a laptop into our laboratory, our goal is to see how it would work if you brought it into your home or office. While we use a number of industry standard benchmarks such as Geekbench and 3DMark, we focus heavily on real-world tests that we have developed in-house. But in the case of gaming laptops, we also make sure to run a number of synthetic gaming benchmarks, using our chosen titles integrated tests. We also game for several hours to established real-world results.
To test endurance, the Laptop Mag Battery test surfs the web at 150 nits of brightness until the system runs out of juice. To judge pure processing power, we use a giant spreadsheet macro that matches 65,000 names with their addresses, a video transcoder that converts a 4K video to 1080p and the Geekbench 4 synthetic test. We measure graphics prowess with both 3DMark Ice Storm / Fire Strike and a series of actual game titles.
We use a colorimeter to measure screen brightness and color gamut while other instruments help us determine a laptop's key travel and ambient heat. See this page on How We Test Laptops for more details on our benchmarking procedures.
How to find the right cheap gaming laptop
When shopping for a gaming laptop, there's a lot to consider. To help you choose a system, here are five key points to keep in mind when choosing a system.
Budget: What you get for the money.
You can find good inexpensive gaming laptops for under $1,000. However, more powerful mainstream gaming laptops are often priced between $1,500-$2,000. Premium systems typically cost more than $2,000 and come stacked with a host of high-powered goodies such as high-powered specs and tricked-out software.
Screen Size: 15 inches is the go-to
It's very rare that you'll find a 13 or 14-inch gaming laptops nowadays as smaller bezels and lighter frames have paved the way for seriously thin-and-light gaming laptops. That means the days of chunky 15.6-inch laptops putting a strain on your back are over (almost).
From there, you have the 17.3-inch desktop replacements that like their smaller counterparts are becoming super svelte. But there are still the big behemoths that don't skimp on the specs. However, weighing upwards of 8 pounds, those big boys are made for your home gaming station.
Screen Resolution: 1080p for high refresh rates, 4K for detail
When it comes to gaming laptops displays, you want to strike a balance between frame rates and aesthetics. And in case you're planning to get a truly mobile system battery life is also deserves consideration. We recommend checking out a system with a 1080p resolution. Panel makers are now serving up screens with high refresh rate, topping out at 360Hz with a 3 millisecond response rate. But don't count out 4K screens yet as we're starting to see laptops with 4K displays with 120Hz. Keep in mind that laptops with lower resolutions tend to have longer battery life overall.
Refresh rate: 120Hz is the sweet spot
Depending what kind of games you're playing, particularly first person shooters and MOBA, you'll take anything that will enhance accuracy. Surprisingly, the higher a display's refresh rate is, the more accurate your shot become. It's a phenomenon that we've experienced first hand during many demos. And while 60Hz is passable, right now we recommend investing in a panel with at least a 120Hz refresh rate.
Intel or AMD?
A couple of years ago, the answer to this question would have been undoubtedly Intel. But AMD has made a furious comeback with its new Ryzen CPUs, which are delivering great overall performance. Thanks to the architecture in the new Ryzen chips, they're super power efficient without sacrificing productivity. The Ryzen 5000 series CPUs have consistently impressed with its performance versus battery life.
Not to be outdone, Intel's 11th Gen chips are nothing to sneeze at. Laptop manufacturers have started rolling out systems with the Intel's 11th Gen H-series Tiger Lake chips. The 10-nanometer chips are extremely powerful, but still at the low-end of the spectrum with the overclockable HK-series CPU, due to launch soon. Why do you want to invest in an overclockable processor, because with the touch of a button, you can squeeze even more power out of the system. It comes in handy when you're multitasking or playing a really demanding game.
Battery Life: At least 4.5 hours
Unless it's plugged in, gaming laptop battery life tends to be very short, especially when gaming. However, gaming laptop battery life has gotten increasing longer over the years. So much so, that anything under 4.5 hours is considered below average. But we've just reviewed our first gaming laptop that's lasted into the double digits. With results like that, we expect gaming laptops will match their non-gaming counterparts sooner than later. Our most power efficient gaming laptop ran over 11 hours and sits on our longest-lasting laptops page.
Specs: 1080p / Core i5 / 16GB Are Best Bets
You can spend a lot of time delving into specs, but here are the key components to think about. If you just want really good mainstream performance, go for a Core i5 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 1080p screen.