Gaming is an expensive pastime between the most expensive games and the hardware to play it. But you don’t necessarily need to spend thousands of dollars on a gaming notebook to play. Most gaming laptops under $1000 get a 1080p screen, a gaming-grade CPU, and a dedicated GPU.
Should you disable the settings? Depending on the game it might be. . There are caveats in this price range. Some won’t have the latest generation processors, the GPUs won’t be very powerful, they might only have 8GB of RAM and the storage space won’t hold more than a few games at a time. . . You have to make sacrifices. But you should find something that will allow you to play some games, especially if you like esports and indie titles, that don’t use that much graphics power.
As power users, if you have a way to spend a little extra cash, we urge you to consider it. We also have details The best gaming laptops under $1,500 and the Overall the best gaming laptops. A better GPU, SSD or screen will go a long way. But if your bank account is hurting like many right now, there are still options for you and, if you have more money later, you can usually upgrade the RAM or storage yourself.
We run benchmarks on a variety of gaming laptops from different brands at different price points, so we know what to look for in a PC. You should be able to run a lot of games on the best gaming laptops under $1,000, though not always at their highest settings or quality.
The best gaming laptops under $1,000
We’ve featured the Acer Nitro 5 several times as a solid example of the kind of gaming laptop you can get on a budget. The model we tested, with an Intel Core i5-12500H, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, 512GB SSD and 16GB RAM makes it capable of playing many games. It was priced at $899.99 when we checked, but we’ve seen it on sale as low as $799.99.
16GB of RAM is more than you’ll see in this price range, which is good for performance, and a 512GB SSD lets you keep a few games. In our testing, we found the display a bit washed out, reaching 144 Hz, which is faster than others in the class. There you have to make a comparison of quality and speed.
Like many budget gaming notebooks, Acer has really covered the Nitro 5 in bloatware. You’ll want to uninstall some of them to make room for more games (and enjoy a cleaner experience overall).
We also like that Acer left room to expand the storage down the line. There’s an empty 2.5-inch drive bay, and Acer includes a SATA cable in the box so you can add a hard drive or SSD to make room for more games. Many laptops in this price range don’t include additional, affordable storage space.
More: Acer Nitro 5 review
If you’re looking for something very affordable, the HP Victus 15 is a good place to start. HP offers a base configuration using an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650. We tested it with a 512GB SSD for $799.99, but as of this writing it looks like there’s now a $699.99 option with a smaller 256GB drive.
In some ways, Victos succeeds in appearance. It’s cheap, but it doesn’t look like it. In fact, it looks more like a business machine than a gaming laptop. If you want to double up on work and play, you can — in our test, the Victus 15 and Intel Core i5-12450H performed well on productivity tests.
The GTX 1650 GPU means you’ll have to turn down some gaming settings. While it scores playable on many of our benchmarks, you may want to lower your resolution or some settings for higher frame rates.
You can upgrade the GPU up to the RTX 3050 Ti on HP’s website. If you have the trick, it’s a useful upgrade, as it will have more storage space to hold more games. (There was a second SSD slot in our unit if you want to do this yourself later.)
Read: HP Victus 15 review
At $899.99 to start (and as we tested it), the Dell G15 offers solid 1080p gaming for the money. With the exception of some shipments, you still need to tweak settings to play intense games at high frame rates.
Like the other laptops on this list, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Tearing down our review unit, we found 8GB of single-channel RAM, which makes for an easy upgrade. A 512GB SSD can hold a few games, but it can also be a bottleneck down the line (some budget gaming laptops have even less storage!).
In our testing, we found the Dell G5 to run very cool and the screen to be bright (at least compared to other budget gaming notebooks). That being said, the keyboard is a little soft and the touchpad can be a little sticky. At the very least, you’ll want to invest in some peripherals during play.
Read: Dell G15 (5520) review
Like most gaming laptops under $1,000, the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 doesn’t start with the best specs. We tested it for $709.99 with a Core i5-12500H, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD.
That RAM was single channel, and the SSD was small. But at around $700, that might give some budget buyers room to do better by adding more storage and RAM.
Despite the low price, many cheap laptops look like they were designed years and years ago, so you get a sleek, modern style. And for the price, the speakers are great, and you get a 1080p display with up to 120 Hz for esports games.
So the IdeaPad Gaming 3 has good bones, if you’re looking for something cheap and willing to ditch the settings. And if your budget is a bit higher, you can get it with more RAM or storage and still stay under four figures.
Read: Lenovo IdeaPad Game 3 review
What to expect from the best gaming laptops under $1,000
- GPU: The graphics card can have the biggest impact on how well your gaming laptop plays games, especially when it comes to high resolution and multi effects. The cheapest gaming laptops we’ve tested are using Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1650, an older card that requires some settings to be turned down. If you can get an RTX 3050 or better yet an RTX 3050 Ti in your budget, that’s a card that will get you a little more. If you see a system for sale with an RTX 3060 in this price range, jump on it. We haven’t seen any AMD-based GPUs in these laptops yet.
- Screen: Expect a 15-inch laptop, which seems to be the most popular size in this price range. As mentioned, gaming laptops range between 14 and 17 inches. You won’t get anything higher than 1080p resolution, which should be fine given that the low-end GPUs in these PCs aren’t great for gaming at 2K or 4K. A 144 Hz screen can be seen in these laptops, although the cheapest ones come with a standard 60 Hz panel. 144Hz is a bonus for sending games, assuming you run them at lower settings to achieve those frame rates.
- CPU: You can’t be too picky here. Most of these laptops come with an Intel Core i5 or Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5, although occasionally you’ll see something with an i7 or R7. Many laptops in this price range are using older chips like Intel’s 11th gen, but not all.
- Random Access Memory: While more expensive laptops have moved to DDR5, most gaming laptops under $1,000 are still using DDR4. Expect 8GB at the low end, although some systems squeeze in 16GB. Some systems give you one stick of 8GB RAM, known as single channel. Strongly consider upgrading to 16 GB by paying extra at the time of purchase or buying more RAM and installing it yourself.
- Storage: You can probably get a 256GB or 512GB SSD. The 512GB SSD is a big advantage here, as you won’t be able to fit that many games on a 256GB drive. (Remember, Windows takes up space too!) Do your homework on upgrading. In our testing, we’ve found that some of these laptops have room for more drives that you can add yourself at a lower cost than what laptop vendors charge you.
Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,000: The Bottom Line
Even the best gaming laptops under $1,000 are an exercise in compromise. Some companies prefer low-end GPUs, while others cut costs with smaller SSDs. You need to decide what you want to give up. But if you make the right choices, you can enjoy budget PC gaming even if you have to compromise some settings or reinstall some games. And with some planning, you can make some improvements yourself that will make for an incredibly better experience.
Of course, performance is not the only thing to consider. You’ll want to see how these laptops look and feel and whether they offer the ports you need and the keyboard you love. So do some research and make sure you’re getting everything you need before you buy something.
Deals on the best gaming laptops under $1,000
Whether you’re shopping for one of the best gaming laptops or another model that didn’t make our list, you can find some savings by checking out our list of Dell Coupon Codes, HP Coupon Codes, Lenovo Coupon Codes, Razer Promo Codes. or Newegg promo codes.
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