The Best Gaming Laptops Under $1000 [March 2021]
It wasn’t so long ago that gaming laptops were the worst way to get into PC gaming. Sure, they afforded you some level of portability, but at their core, they were a terrible value. Even half a decade ago, gaming laptops were heavy and bulky, sacrificing battery life for mobile GPUs that couldn’t hold a candle to their desktop siblings. Their designs would get you laughed out of any board room or business meeting, and the price tag often meant paying twice as much for half the performance of prebuilt gaming desktops—to say nothing of building your own.
Since 2017, however, gaming laptops have slowly become a great option for anyone who needs the portability of a laptop with the power of a desktop PC. Their design language has become far more neutral, with metallic blacks and accent colors instead of the extreme greens and reds of last year. Battery life isn’t quite as solid as you might find on an ultrabook, but in the best gaming PCs, you’re now able to squeeze out up to five or six hours of regular use, helping to make a gaming laptop actually feel like a laptop. Most importantly, mobile GPUs aren’t the laughingstock of PC gaming anymore. Nvidia’s Max-Q line of GPUs come close to rivaling their full-fledged counterparts, while some cards even reach desktop status without the requirement for throttling.
The price of gaming laptops has also changed, and it’s now possible to find a great gaming PC for well under $1,000. You shouldn’t expect 4K, ultra-high settings on these laptops, but for anyone looking to play modern PC games at 1080p, we’ve got you covered. Check out our guide to the best gaming laptops under $1,000.
When it comes to budget gaming laptops, no one has done a better job in the last few years than Dell. While the sub-$1000 gaming market has rapidly expanded, only Dell has truly taken advantage of the field, offering gamers their hit G-series of laptops that continue to give customers one of the best bang-for-your-buck deals online today. That’s continued with the all-new Dell G5 15, fully redesigned in 2020 to offer gamers incredible power at a price well under a grand. And while it might not compete with some of the powerhouses available for just a few hundred bucks more, if you’re hard set on a price below $1000, Dell’s G5 continues to be the choice to get.
Although we recommend picking up the model we linked above—powered by Intel’s 10th-gen Core i5-10300H—Dell now offers a new “Special Edition” of the G5 15, now powered by AMD’s six-core 4th-gen Ryzen 5 4600H. Both chips are decently powerful for this price range, and although AMD manages to outperform Intel’s efforts in multicore performance, it’s worth remembering that Intel still beats AMD in single-core performance. Ultimately, the choice between these two processors is up to you, but in our eyes, the Intel model continues to be the better buy—for now, at least.
Alongside Intel’s Core i5, Dell paired this machine with a one-two punch of NVIDIA’s GTX 1650 Ti and 8GB of DDR4 RAM. Neither one of these are the fastest or most powerful options you can get on the market today, but that doesn’t mean you should turn your head away. While some laptops in this price range do double the RAM, NVIDIA’s GTX 1650 Ti is about as powerful as you can get without heading into the four-digit price range. You can’t upgrade a graphics card within a laptop, but you can buy additional RAM down the road, making this a worthwhile tradeoff. Meanwhile, the 256GB M.2 NVMe SSD is great for speedy storage, although its pretty limited in terms of storage space.
Specs aside, the G5 is a pretty standard gaming laptop. It has the looks of your typical modern gaming gear, with sharp angles and stylized key fonts. Still, it shouldn’t look too out of place in a standard office environment, so don’t worry too much about bringing it into work. A solid IPS display with a standard 60Hz refresh rate, mediocre battery life, and surprisingly solid speakers round out a pretty typical budget gaming laptop.
When shopping for a gaming laptop under $1000, you have to make certain sacrifices in order to achieve that target price. Dell’s G5 isn’t perfect, but it remains one of the best entry-points for gamers on a budget looking for a PC to take to college to master both exams and the newest RPGs alike. While it might not be designed for VR or ray-tracing, for standard gaming, it’s hard to beat Dell’s efforts here.
Just keep in mind that third-party resellers on Amazon often keep their prices higher than what Dell offers at their own online store after discounts, so make sure to check out Dell’s website for both advanced configurations and better prices.
- Great performance for the price
- Solid speakers
- Mediocre design
- Can be price inflated
While Dell might own the budget gaming market, Lenovo has made a real play for the same space this year, offering two different gaming laptops available for under $1000.
Our first entry in this year’s battle is the Legion 5, part of Lenovo’s wider Legion brand of gaming devices that continue to garner critical acclaim throughout the industry. Following a trend in 2020, Lenovo has partnered with AMD to introduce their new Ryzen 7 processors to more customers than ever before, bringing the price-to-performance ratio far lower than most of the other models on this list.
With a Ryzen 7-4800H, this is one of the fastest laptops on the list in multicore performance, as well as one of the only laptops to offer an eight-core CPU in this price bracket. The rest of the specs aren’t too bad either. 8GB of RAM and a GTX 1650 from NVIDIA won’t blow anyone away, but it’s more than enough to provide a solid gaming experience, especially for competitive titles that don’t try to impress with graphics. If you’re into League or Valorant, you won’t have to worry about performance at all.
What does impress, however, is Lenovo’s storage and display tech. The Legion 5 includes a 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD, the largest and fastest drive on this list, perfect for storing dozens of your favorite titles without worrying about disk space. Lenovo didn’t stop there: it’s also the only manufacturer to offer a display with a 120Hz refresh rate below the $1000 mark. That makes a huge difference in competitive play, where you can reduce your graphics to achieve a frame rate above 60 FPS. The hardware may not be able to run Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla at a steady 120 FPS, but for your average college student, playing Overwatch or Fortnite with a higher frame rate is a big deal.
All in all, Lenovo’s new Legion 5 is a big step in the right direction for budget gaming laptops, and it’s all thanks in part to that new partnership with AMD. While Ryzen’s single-core performance may not be at the level of Intel’s, the advancements offered by AMD are truly staggering, and it’s exciting to see where the company will end up in just a couple of years.
- 120Hz display under $1000
- Great multi-core performance
- AMD can't compete with Intel on single-core performance
- Lacking the Ti version of the 1650
Asus has long been one of our favorite PC manufacturers, and their ROG line is one of the best ways to buy into PC gaming today. When it comes to gaming on a budget, you’ll want to take a long look at the G531GT, a fantastic alternative to Dell’s G5. Although the design is a bit tacky—complete with the stereotypical red highlights—Asus used a clean black design for the lid, bordering the line well between business and gaming laptops. The screen—a 15.6″ 1080p panel with a 60Hz refresh rate—features minimal bezels along the top and sides of the display, but unfortunately, those bezels come at the cost of a webcam. It’s a curious omission, though you could always throw an external webcam in your bag for when you require one.
Specs-wise, the G531GT combines a 9th-generation Intel i7-9750H with an Nvidia GTX 1650, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD for storing your games and other files. The speakers sound fine—nothing to write home about, but headphones won’t be required for regular use—and the keyboard and trackpad are excellent. If there’s one single thing that keeps Asus’ laptop from rising to the top of the list, it’s battery life. The 48Wh internal battery is pathetically small, even for a gaming laptop. In the best of conditions, you’re still unlikely to get more than four hours of life out of the G531GT. Still, at just $999 (with sale prices often dropping below the $900 mark), Asus’ entry into the budget gaming field is a worthy entry, even if it doesn’t quite hit the highs of either of our top picks.
- Good design
- RGB keyboard
- Minimal bezels
- Weak battery life
- No webcam
If you’re a Lenovo fan who would rather stick with an Intel processor, you aren’t out of options. Although not branded under their Legion gaming line, Lenovo’s IdeaPad L340 is a gaming laptop through and through, powered by an Intel i5-9300H, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GTX 1650. It’s not the most powerful laptop on this list, but with an understated design, a surprisingly thin and light frame for a 15″ gaming notebook, and quality speakers, Lenovo’s newest IdeaPad is perfect for games like Overwatch, Dota 2, and Apex Legends.
While you probably shouldn’t expect to reach frame rates higher than 60 FPS, the combination of Intel’s 9th-gen Core i5 processor and the GTX 1650 is more than enough to get you by at mid-level settings. The L340 also doubles as a great laptop for outside gaming. A built-in quiet mode allows you to keep your fan noise down while boosting battery life when you aren’t gaming, so whether you’re taking a work call or making your way through Horizon: Zero Dawn on Steam, you can keep your work and gaming life separated all on one machine.
There are a couple of drawbacks to this device. At $929, Dell’s G5 does offer better specs for less cash, especially if you buy directly through Dell’s online store. The GTX 1650 should be enough for games with less power, but you aren’t going to be pushing Cyberpunk 2077 on this thing at maxed-out graphics—not that you’d be doing that with the Ti version of the card anyway.
Generally, we think the IdeaPad is great for anyone looking for a general use machine that doubles as a solid gaming experience. If you want a gaming laptop first and foremost, both Dell’s G5 and Lenovo’s own Legion 5 are great alternatives with a bit more power for around the same price. However, with Black Friday pricing, you can find this laptop as low as $699, making it the cheapest price on this list by far. At that price, it’s a must-have.
- Great design
- Perfect for Intel die-hards
- Recent sales
- More of a laptop that can game rather than a gaming laptop
- Around the same price as the G5 for worse performance
AMD has been making a major splash in the PC gaming scene over the last few years, and they’ve teamed up with MSI to create an all-AMD laptop that squeaks in just under $1,000, while still offering some incredible bang for your buck. For $969, MSI and AMD’s partnership gets you access to a quad-core Ryzen 7 3750H processor—one of the first 7 nanometer chips designed for gaming laptops—matched with a 4GB Radeon RX 5500M GPU. For Nvidia fans willing to make the jump, that matches the GTX 1650 in performance, helping to provide solid and reliable 1080p gaming. Throw in a 120Hz display and a 512GB NVME SSD drive, and you’re really cooking with fire.
Unfortunately, you do make some slight trade-offs to meet that performance-to-price mark. The design of the laptop is unexceptional and messy, like MSI couldn’t decide whether the Alpha should look like a business or a gaming laptop and chose to meet in the middle. The green logo fails to match the black and red look of the remaining portion of the unibody, and at 1.1″ thick, it’s a bit chunky along the back of the unit. Still, it’s a solid value buy for anyone looking to pick up an affordable, speedy laptop, and thanks to the partnership with AMD, buyers can see solid performance gains over what Intel could offer.
- AMD partnership
- Solid 1080p performance
- Mediocre design
- Thick and heavy
If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest option (at least, by MSRP) for mobile gaming, HP’s got you covered. With a price that comes in just under Dell’s low-end G3, HP has made a capable gaming laptop that allows anyone with $750 in their pocket to start gaming on the go. That low price comes with some drawbacks, of course. You’ll have to put up with one of the chunkiest designs on this list, along with a black and green design that pales in comparison to how Razer handles their iconic color scheme. Frankly, it looks bad, and the sharp angles along the lid doesn’t improve the appearance of the device. However, the bezels along the 15″ display do look better than Dell’s, and the addition of a USB-C port is great to see.
Specs-wise, HP’s offering compares well to Lenovo’s IdeaPad, offering the same 9th generation Intel Core i5-9300H and Nvidia GTX 1650. However, Lenovo’s IdeaPad does offer double the storage over this laptop, and the same complaints about 8GB of RAM feeling paltry on a gaming laptop apply here as well. As always, you’ll likely want to upgrade both your storage and memory if you pick this one up, which does increase the price from its usual MSRP by a couple hundred dollars. Still, if you’re looking to save as much money as possible right now while leaving the door open down the road to add storage and memory, HP’s gaming laptop is a decent offering, Just make sure you’re aware of the limits before slapping $750 down on the counter.
- Incredibly cheap
- Decent specs
- Limited RAM
- Design screams "gamer"