Gaming is an expensive hobby between pricey games and the hardware to play it on. But you don’t necessarily need to spend thousands of dollars on a gaming notebook to get playing. There are a number of gaming laptops out there for under $1,000 that will get you a 1080p screen, a gaming-grade CPU and a discrete GPU.
Will you have to turn down the settings? Possibly, depending on the game. There are going to be caveats in this price range. Some won’t have the latest-generation processors, GPUs won’t be the most powerful, you may get just 8GB of RAM and the storage space may not hold more than a few games at once. . . You’ll have to make sacrifices. But you should be able to find something to let you play some games, especially if you like esports and indie titles, which don’t use as much graphics power.
As power users, we highly recommend that if you have the means to spend a bit more, that you consider it; we also maintain lists of the best gaming laptops under $1,500 and the best gaming laptops overall. A better GPU, SSD or screen will go a long way, and you’re likely to get better build quality, too. But if your bank account is hurting like so many are right now, there still are options for you and, if you have more money later, you can usually add more storage or upgrade the RAM on your laptop on your own.
At CES 2023, we saw some new budget GPUs announced. It’s likely that a new swath of sub-$1,000 gaming notebooks will be powered by the new Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050.
We run benchmarks on a wide variety of gaming laptops at different price points from a swath of different brands, so we know what to look for in a PC. With the best gaming laptops under $1,000, you should be able to run most games, albeit not always at their highest settings or resolution.
The Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,000
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We’ve often held up the Acer Nitro 5 as a strong example of the kind of gaming laptop you can get on a budget. The model we tested, with an Intel Core i5-12500H, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM makes most games playable. It cost $899.99 when we tested it, but we’ve seen it on sale as low as $799.99.
The 16GB of RAM is more than you often see in this price range, which is good for performance, and the 512GB SSD will let you hold a few games. While in our testing, we found the display to be a bit washed out, it does reach 144 Hz, which is faster than others in its class. You’ll have to make a quality versus speed comparison there.
Like many budget gaming notebooks, Acer has really covered the Nitro 5 in bloatware. You’ll want to uninstall some of that to make room for more games (and enjoy a cleaner experience in general).
We also liked 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 that you can add a hard drive or SSD to make room for more games. Not too many laptops in this price range include room for extra, affordable storage.
More: Acer Nitro 5 Review
If you’re looking for something really cheap, the HP Victus 15 is a good place to start. HP offers it with a base configuration utilizing an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650. We tested it at $799.99 with a 512GB SSD, but as of this writing, it appears that there’s now a $699.99 option with a smaller, 256GB drive.
In some ways, the Victus succeeds in its looks. 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 testing, the Victus 15 and its Intel Core i5-12450H did decently on productivity tests.
The GTX 1650 GPU means you’ll have to turn settings down on some games. While it achieved playable scores on many of our benchmarks, you’ll likely want to lower your resolution or some settings for the most stable frame rates.
On HP’s site, you can update the GPU as far up as an RTX 3050 Ti. If you have the means, it’s a worthwhile upgrade, as will more storage space to hold more games. (There was a secondary 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. Outside of some esports, you’ll still need to turn down settings to play intense games at high frame rates.
Like other laptops on this list, there’s plenty of room for upgrades. When we tore our review unit down, we found 8GB of single-channel RAM, making for an easy upgrade. The 512GB SSD can hold a few games, but could also be bumped up down the line (some budget gaming laptops have even less storage!)
In our testing, we found that the Dell G5 runs fairly cool and that its screen is bright (at least, relative to other budget gaming notebooks). That being said, the keyboard is a bit mushy and the touchpad can stick a little. At the very least, you’ll likely want to invest in some peripherals while gaming.
Read: Dell G15 (5520) Review
Like many gaming laptops under $1,000, the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 doesn’t start out with the best specs. We tested it at $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 with a price around $700, that may leave some budget buyers with room to make it better by adding more storage and RAM.
Despite the low price, you get sleek, modern styling, which is nice, as many cheap laptops look like they were designed years and years ago. And for the price, the speakers are pretty good, and you get a 1080p display that goes up to 120 Hz for esports games.
So the IdeaPad Gaming 3 has good bones, assuming you’re looking for something cheap and are willing to turn down settings. And if your budget is a bit higher, you may be able to find it with more RAM or storage and still stay under four figures.
What to Expect From the Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,000
- GPU: The graphics card is likely to have the biggest effect on how well your gaming laptop plays games, especially when it comes to high resolutions and lots of effects. The cheapest gaming laptops we’ve tested are using Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1650, which is an older card that will require you to turn down some settings. If you can find an RTX 3050 or, better yet, an RTX 3050 Ti in your budget, that’s a card that will get you a bit further. If you see a system on sale with an RTX 3060 in this price range, jump on it. We haven’t seen any AMD-based GPUs in these laptops just yet.
- Screen: Expect a 15-inch laptop, which appears to be the most popular size in this price range. That being said, gaming laptops typically range between 14 and 17-inches. You won’t get anything higher than 1080p resolution, which should be fine considering that the low-end GPUs in these PCs aren’t good for gaming at 2K or 4K. It’s possible to see a 144 Hz screen in these laptops, though the cheapest will come with a standard 60 Hz panel. The 144 Hz is a bonus for esports games, assuming you run them at low enough settings to achieve those types of 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, though you may occasionally see something with i7 or R7. A number of laptops in this price range are using older chips, like Intel’s 11th Gen, but not all of them.
- RAM: While more expensive laptops have moved on to DDR5, most gaming laptops under $1,000 are still using DDR4. Expect 8GB on the low-end, though some systems do squeeze 16GB in. Some systems give you just one stick of 8GB RAM, known as single-channel. Strongly consider upgrading to 16GB, either by paying extra at purchase time or by buying more RAM and installing it yourself.
- Storage: You’re likely to find either a 256GB or 512GB SSD. A 512GB SSD is a big advantage here, as you’re not going to fit that many games on a 256GB drive. (Remember, Windows takes up space, too!) Do your homework on upgradeability. In our testing, we found some of these laptops have room for more drives that you can add yourself later at lower costs than what laptop vendors will charge you.
Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,000: Bottom Line
Even the best gaming laptops under $1,000 are an exercise in compromise. Some companies opt for lower-end GPUs, while others cut costs with small SSDs. You’re going to have to decide what you’re willing to give up. But if you make the right choices, you’ll be able to enjoy PC gaming on a budget, even if you have to turn down some settings or reinstall some games. And with some planning, you may be able to make some upgrades yourself that will make for a dramatically better experience.
Of course, there is more than just performance to consider. You’ll want to see how these laptops look and feel, and whether they offer the ports you want and a keyboard you like. So do some research and make sure you’re getting everything you need before you buy something. If you can, check out the laptop in person before you buy.
Discounts 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 quite make our list, you may find some savings by checking out our lists of Dell coupon codes, HP coupon codes, Lenovo coupon codes, Razer promo codes or Newegg promo codes.
MORE: Best Gaming PCs