Want to game but don’t have the cash to purchase a premium gaming laptop? No worries, there are a number of great budget options out there. Even budget gaming laptops nowadays can sport some pretty decent CPU and GPU performance. As with any budget option, you can expect to make some compromises such as dialing back those ultra graphics settings in order to hit the 60fps sweet spot.
The important thing is that you make the right compromises. We’ve compiled a list of the best gaming laptops under $1,000 to help you in that quest. (Note that laptop prices can fluctuate and there might be times when the price of one of our picks hovers over $1,000.) We’ll keep adding more budget gaming options as we find them. And in case you’re lucky enough to find some extra money under the sofa cushion, we’ve added a pick for those who can stretch their budget a little bit further.
For more recommendations on gaming laptop, see our roundup of the best gaming laptops across all prices. Additionally, before you buy, take a look at our roundup of the best laptop deals, updated weekly—it could help you save even more!
Updated 03/15/2023: To include the MSI Sword 15 A12UE as our pick for unique style. Read our summary below for more info. Also, check out our latest review of the MSI Katana GF66. It’s a capable, if rather average gaming laptop that can handle most modern titles, but buyers would do best to wait for a sale to truly get their money’s worth.
Acer Nitro 5 AN517 – Best overall
- Strong CPU/GPU pairing for the price
- Roomy 1TB SSD with room to add second drive
- Decent battery life
- Quiet operation
- Plastic chassis is bulky and hefty
- Dim display
- So-so keyboard and tiny touchpad
- Terrible webcam
With its spacious 1TB of SSD storage, powerful performance, and impressive battery life, the Acer Nitro 5 has a lot to offer. Typically, gaming laptops have lackluster battery life due to the power-sucking hardware inside. Not the Nitro 5. This machine boasts a colossal 96 watt-hour battery, which lasted eight hours on a single charge. That’s a spectacular number, especially for a gaming laptop with a larger screen. The average battery life for most gaming machines is anywhere from three to six hours. It also runs surprisingly quiet.
The Nitro 5 is no slouch in the performance department, either. It comes armed with an AMD Ryzen 7 6800H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage. It did well in 3DMark’s Time Spy and Port Royal benchmarks, finishing first among the other RTX 3060 machines we compared it against. The laptop also produced a respectable 107 FPS when running the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark. Although the plastic chassis is on the chunkier side and the keyboard leaves a little to be desired, if it’s a reliable performer at a reasonable price point you’re after, the Nitro 5 is definitely worth considering.
HP Victus 15 – Best budget option
- Excellent price
- Good keyboard and touchpad
- Respectable processor performance
- Can handle most games at 30 FPS
- Generic design
- Disappointing build quality
- Unattractive 144Hz display
- 60 FPS is often out of reach
The HP Victus 15 might not be as powerful as some of the other options on this list, but what it lacks in performance, it makes up for by being extremely affordable. It is one of the cheapest options we’ve seen that still offers discrete graphics—albeit an older GTX 1650 model. Even though 60 frames-per-second might be out of reach on this laptop on most modern games, you can still play them at lower graphics settings. If you’re really strapped for cash but want that boost a discrete graphics card gives you, then the HP Victus 15 is worth your consideration.
Asus Vivobook Pro 15 – Best display
- Good productivity performance
- Superb display
- Rugged design
- Great battery life
- Boring aesthetics
- Unimpressive 720p webcam
- Unreliable fingerprint scanner
- Poor port selection
The Asus Vivobook Pro 15 lives up to the “Pro” title with its outstanding price-to-performance ratio. Packed with a Ryzen 7 CPU, an RTX 3050 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB M.2 NVMe hard drive, this laptop gives you the power and performance of higher-end alternatives for much cheaper. But the feature that makes the Vivobook Pro 15 stand out from the rest of the pack on this list is the gorgeous 15.6-inch OLED display that offers crisp visuals and a near-perfect contrast ratio.
True, its design doesn’t stand out, but that’s not what this laptop is about. Asus isn’t trying to beat premium laptops on design or build quality here. Instead, they want to load this laptop with so much power that the design doesn’t even matter—and they were successful. The Asus Vivobook Pro 15 gives you the power and features of a much more expensive midrange laptop for the price of a budget-friendly option.
MSI Sword 15 A12UE – Unique style
- Attractive, simple design
- Lighter than most budget gaming laptops
- RTX 3060 can handle most modern games
- Competitive pricing
- Mediocre keyboard and small touchpad
- Dim display with narrow color gamut
- CPU and GPU performance slightly behind competitors
- Webcam and connectivity don’t impress
If you’re willing to sacrifice a little substance to gain a lot of style, then the MSI Sword 15 is sure to impress. Don’t get us wrong, the MSI Sword is a more-than-capable-enough laptop for most modern games, but it is the truly unique design that makes this laptop stand out. All white with black accents gives it a sleek, futuristic look (not unlike some much more expensive Alienware laptops). At just 4.96 pounds, it’s also lighter weight than many competitors, which for those who travel or frequently carry their laptops with them, can be a worthy tradeoff for the slightly lower performance features. The MSI Sword is a great-looking, budget gaming laptop that catches the eye—and if you can find it on sale, then it becomes a great value too.
If you’re willing to spend a little bit more…
Dell G16 – Best for work and play
- Strong performance for the price
- Versatile and bright 16-inch 16:10 QHD display
- Thunderbolt 4 on board
- Bulky, boring design
- Mushy keyboard, tiny touchpad
- Grainy 720p webcam
- Lots of fan noise
If you’re able to stretch your budget, the Dell G16 is a fantastic laptop for work or play. It crushed the competition in the processor department. That means it has plenty of power for everyday tasks like office productivity, video chatting, checking e-mail, and more. This laptop also turned in 131 FPS while running the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark. For hardware, it features an Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage. The G16 isn’t the most attractive laptop we’ve ever reviewed, but it gets the basics right and that’s what really matters. If you’re on the hunt for a laptop that you can work and play on, there’s no better option than the G16.
How we tested
The PCWorld team puts each and every Windows laptop through a series of benchmarks that test GPU and CPU performance, battery life, and so on. The idea is to push the laptop to its limits and then compare it against others we’ve tested. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each test and the reasons why we run them.
- PCMark 10: PCMark 10 is how we determine how well the laptop handles lighter tasks like web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, and so on.
- HandBrake: HandBrake is more intensive than PCMark 10. It basically measures how long a laptop’s CPU takes to encode a hefty 30GB file.
- Cinebench: Cinebench is a brief stress test of the CPU cores. It does this by rendering a 2D scene over a short period of time.
- 3DMark: 3DMark checks if 3D performance remains consistent over time by running graphic-intensive clips.
- Gaming tests: We benchmark each gaming laptop using several titles.
- Video rundown test: To gauge battery life, we loop a 4K video using Windows 10’s Movies & TV app until the laptop dies.
What you should look for in a budget gaming laptop
When it comes to picking the right gaming laptop, it really depends on what you want to do with it. Do you plan on playing lightweight indie titles like Stardew Valley (no shade, I love this game) or something more visually demanding like Cyberpunk 2077? Are you going to use the machine for work as well as play? It’s possible to get reliable performance out of a gaming laptop that costs under a grand, but you’ll need to take a hard look at the individual components. You don’t need a powerful GPU for something like Fortnite. You can run even most of the newest games very well at 1080p resolution with even entry level graphics cards if you don’t mind dialing down the in-game visual settings from Ultra to more-reasonable High to Medium settings. You’ll almost certainly need to do so to hit 60 frames per second in modern games on a gaming laptop under $1,000, but the good news is they should still look good, especially on a laptop display.
- GPU: The thing about the GPU is that it can’t be swapped out and upgraded later, so you need to be real choosy about which one you pick, as this component will determine how well your machine runs games. Luckily, you don’t need the best of the best to get reliable gaming performance. The GTX 1650 is an entry-level GPU that’s affordable and good enough for 1080p gaming with mid-to-high graphics settings. That said, expect lower frame rates on newer titles. If you’re looking for a bit more power, the more modern RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti are preferred options, and commonly found in gaming laptops under $1,000. You may occasionally find a deal on an RTX 3060-powered laptop under $1,000, but they’re relatively rare.
- CPU: Like the GPU, the processor can’t be upgraded either, so you’ll want to be selective. For Intel, we’d recommend an 11th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7. For AMD, you’ll want to spring for a Ryzen 4000 or 5000. A processor with at least four cores is good, but six cores or more is better.
- RAM: You’ll want at least 8GB of RAM. If you can afford 16GB of RAM, go for it. Memory is normally upgradable, so you can always swap it out and add more later on.
- Storage: Storage impacts how many games and applications you can install on your laptop. Like RAM, storage is often upgradable and can be swapped out later. However, you should aim for at least 512GB of SSD storage plus a hard drive, as AAA titles tend to eat up a lot of space. SSDs load games faster, as data is stored on chips rather than spinning disks.
- Display: 1080p is what you can expect at this price range, either with a 60Hz or 144Hz (preferred) refresh rate. Budget gaming laptops don’t always have the best displays, as that’s where manufacturers tend to cut corners to keep the cost low. If you’ve got a dim display, you can always pick up an external monitor to plug into it.
- Battery life: Generally speaking, gaming laptops are known for having poor battery life. That’s because they use a ton of power. They also tend to be heavier than other laptops because they need more space for heatsinks and other cooling components. Depending on the use, most will last anywhere from four to six hours on a single charge. That said, there are a few exceptions. The HP Envy 14 (featured above), for example, hit the 15 hour mark during our battery test.