The 8 Best Gaming Laptops for Under $1,000 in 2021

You don't have to spend thousands to get the best gaming laptops

The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
Introduction

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Gaming PCs tend to have better graphics, more storage, faster speeds, and better cooling systems than regular PCs, so you often pay more for a gaming PC. A gaming laptop offers many of the benefits you get with a gaming PC, but it’s portable, so you can take it with you on the go. However, it can be tough to find a gaming laptop that’s affordable, yet will still play AAA titles seamlessly. 

We researched and tested countless laptops to find the best gaming laptops under $1,000. Even within this lower price range, there are a lot of feature-packed laptops on the market, and they offer everything from custom cooling solutions to the ability to upgrade (some) existing hardware specs (e.g. RAM). While it’s true that they can’t compete against top-of-the-line gaming rigs, these notebook PCs are still capable of handling a majority of modern games with no problems at all. So, if you have a maximum budget of $1,000 and are planning to dip your toes into the world of gaming, here are some of the best gaming laptops available.

The Rundown
Best Overall:
Acer Nitro 5 at Walmart
Noteworthy features include stereo speakers with 'Waves Maxx' audio enhancements, and integrated twin cooling fans.
This laptop definitely looks the part, boasting a clean design, backlit keys, a 15.6-inch LCD screen, and venting along the back.
If you’re looking for a gaming laptop capable of being an everyday productivity machine, check out the HP Pavilion 15t-dk100.
The dual 1.5W speakers with Dolby Audio sound better than most budget laptop speakers.
Best 17-Inch:
MSI GF 75 Thin at Amazon
The 17-inch FHD 120hz display produces a clear and detailed picture.
Its 15.6-inch Full-HD display comes with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and uses IPS technology to deliver consistent colors.
The laptop's design is complemented by 'Acid Green' highlights on everything from the logos to the keyboard's backlighting.
Best Splurge:
MSI GF 65 Thin at Amazon
The 15.6-inch Full-HD display features a 120Hz refresh rate, giving you an ultra-smooth gaming experience without any motion blur.

Best Overall: Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop

Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop
What We Like
  • Upgradable

  • Several connectivity options

  • Effective cooling system

What We Don't Like
  • Somewhat heavy

Acer's Nitro 5 is undeniably one of the best gaming laptops you can buy for less than $1,000. Specs will depend on the configuration you choose, but for $1,000, you can get a Nitro 5 laptop with a Ryzen 5 hexa-core processor (4600H), 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, and 256 GB of SSD storage. Combine that with NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1650Ti, which comes with 4GB of dedicated GDDR6 RAM, and you can play most (if not all) AAA gaming titles sans issue.

The 15.6-inch Full-HD panel sports a 1080p resolution and uses "In-Plane Switching" (IPS) technology for accurate color reproduction across all viewing angles. For connectivity and I/O, the laptop includes 802.11ax Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, USB Type-A, USB Type-C, and 3.5mm audio. The Nitro 5 also features a fully backlit keyboard, and its red lighting accentuates the machine's two-tone color scheme even further.

Among other noteworthy features are stereo speakers (with "Waves Maxx" audio enhancements), and integrated twin cooling fans that work with Acer's "CoolBoost" technology to keep the laptop cool even when it's under heavy workloads. This laptop is a bit on the bulkier side, but it performs well at an affordable price.

“Featuring well-rounded hardware specifications and the latest in connectivity options, Acer Nitro 5 offers a lot of value for your money.” - Rajat Sharma, Product Tester

Most Popular: Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop

What We Like
  • Clean design

  • Powerful additions

  • Doesn't feel like it already lags behind other laptops

What We Don't Like
  • Short battery life

The Acer Predator Helios 300 series gaming laptop easily gives you everything you need while also remaining somewhat affordable. This laptop definitely looks the part, boasting a clean design, backlit keys, a 15.6-inch LCD screen, and venting along the back. 

While there are different configurations available, the one you can find for under $1,000 (on sale and refurbished) includes an Intel i7 six-core CPU with 2.6Ghz processing speed, a GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card with 6 GB dedicated GDDR6 memory, 16GB of DDR4 SDRAM, 512GB SSD storage drive, and a Lithium ION battery with 6-hour max runtime. 

While this configuration is the cheapest available, there are plenty of options that allow for higher-end specifications, although this will lead to a higher price tag. The lowest-tier version of the Predator Helios 300 will not only let you play the best games, but you should be able to run them on high settings as well.

Best Value: HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 15t-dk100

HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 15t
What We Like
  • Great for productivity

  • 16GB of RAM

  • Solid graphics card

What We Don't Like
  • Slower boot speed

If you’re looking for a gaming laptop that’s equally capable of being an everyday productivity machine, check out the HP Pavilion 15t-dk100. With powerful internal hardware, it can power through your workday and run some of your favorite gaming titles. 

A Core i5 processor, 16GB of RAM, 256GB SSD Drive, and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card with 3GB dedicated memory helps this machine plays the latest games and can easily run reports for work. The 4.92-pound device offers up to 10 hours of battery life and has a 15.6-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS anti-glare display.

Best Sound: Lenovo IdeaPad L340

What We Like
  • Simple and elegant design

  • Dolby speakers

  • Good value for the price

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy

If your budget is $1,000 or less, the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming L340 will leave you some money to spend on a few games and peripherals, while still giving you an excellent system. This laptop manages to punch well above its weight, and its pros far outweigh its cons. 

The design is simple and timeless, so it can double as a work computer that will not draw too much attention. The 15.6-inch FHD screen looks great, although it maxes out at 1080p resolution. It includes an Intel i5 (or better) processor, GeForce 1650 graphics card, and the 8 GB DDR4 RAM should give you enough power to play most games. The dual 1.5W speakers with Dolby Audio sound better than most budget laptop speakers, but the battery is on the shorter side at around 5 hours. Overall, this laptop stands ready to get you gaming.

Best 17-Inch: MSI GF 75 Thin Gaming Laptop

What We Like
  • Large screen

  • Lightweight considering the size

  • Upgradable

What We Don't Like
  • A bit noisy

The MSI GF75 manages to serve several purposes at a very good price. It looks like a gaming laptop, while also being clean enough to bring to work. The red and black design screams gamer, while the back of the laptop has one simple logo without many of the common gamer tropes such as hard plastic edges or a ton of RGB lighting everywhere, though the keyboard does have backlighting. 

The 17-inch FHD 120hz display produces a clear and detailed picture. You have enough power to play most modern titles, as it has an Intel i5 2.6GHz processor, 8GB DDR4 RAM, and a GeForce 1650 graphics card. 

The included 512 SSD is a larger drive than most laptops offer at this price point, and this helps to make up for the shorter battery life, which is around 5 hours. The cooling fans tend to be a little loud when fully revved up, but this is more of a minor annoyance than anything else. One of the best features is just how thin this laptop is without feeling cheap, which makes it great for traveling.

Best Display: ASUS TUF FX505DT-AH51

What We Like
  • Durable construction

  • Comfortable keyboard

  • Anti-dust cooling system

What We Don't Like
  • Poor port layout

Considering the amount of visual detail today's games have in each frame, your gaming system needs a great display to do it full justice. Say hello to the ASUS TUF FX505, a gaming laptop that gives you just that, and a lot more. Its 15.6-inch Full-HD display comes with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and uses "In-Plane Switching" (IPS) technology to deliver consistent colors at all viewing angles.

The panel has a 120Hz refresh rate, resulting in super-smooth gameplay with almost no motion blur. The laptop is powered by AMD's Ryzen 5 3550H processor, working alongside 8GB of DDR4 RAM and 256GB of PCIe SSD storage. You also get an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB of discrete GDDR5 RAM for all your gaming needs. Connectivity and I/O options include Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, USB Type-A, and 3.5mm combo audio.

The TUF FX505 is a well-built laptop, a fact that is further cemented by its MIL-STD-810G certification. The machine's dual cooling fans help improve thermal performance, and two "anti-dust" tunnels at their edges force out dirt and dust improving long-term reliability. The major downside to this laptop is its port layout, as they are cramped on the left hand side. But, this is a small complaint considering its performance.

Best Design: HP Pavilion 15 Gaming

What We Like
  • Ample amount of RAM

  • Comes with all standard connectivity options

  • Attractive design

What We Don't Like
  • Average screen and refresh rate

Sporting a matte-finished "Shadow Black" chassis marked by sharp angles and beveled edges, the HP Pavilion 15 Gaming looks just as menacing on the outside as it is on the inside. The laptop's design is complemented by "Acid Green" highlights on everything from the logos to the keyboard's backlighting. Under the hood, you get a ninth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, along with 12GB of DDR4 RAM and 256GB of NVMe SSD storage.

For gaming, the Pavilion 15 features an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM. The laptop's 15.6-inch Full-HD IPS panel is surrounded by thin side bezels that make for an immersive viewing experience. As far as connectivity and I/O are concerned, you get Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, Gigabit Ethernet, USB Type-A, USB Type-C, HDMI, 3.5mm combo audio, as well as a multi-format card reader. Other features worth mentioning include an HD webcam, dual-array microphones, and front-firing stereo speakers tuned by Bang & Olufsen.

Best Splurge: MSI GF 65 Thin

What We Like
  • Lightweight yet premium design

  • Top-notch performance

  • Good sound

What We Don't Like
  • Battery life isn't the best

If you’re OK with spending your entire budget, the MSI GF 65 Thin has a lot to offer for its sub-$1,000 price. Helmed by Intel's ninth-generation Core i7 processor, the MSI GF 65 Thin packs in 8GB of DDR4 RAM and 512GB of m.2 NVMe SSD storage. Then there's NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU, which includes 6GB of discrete GDDR6 RAM and allows the laptop to make quick work of even the most demanding of AAA gaming titles.

The 15.6-inch Full-HD IPS display features a 120Hz refresh rate, giving you an ultra-smooth gaming experience without any motion blur. As for connectivity and I/O options, there's Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0, USB Type-A, USB Type-C, HDMI, and 3.5mm audio included in the package.

The GF65 Thin also comes with a fully backlit keyboard and boasts an advanced cooling system that uses up to six heat pipes (for cooling both CPU and GPU) to ensure optimal performance even under heavy workloads. All of this goodness comes packed in a slim frame that looks great with its airbrushed finish.

“It may be a bit expensive, but MSI GF65 Thin can effortlessly handle just about everything you throw at it.” - Rajat Sharma, Product Tester

Final Verdict


Although all of the above-mentioned gaming laptops are incredible, our overall recommendation is the Acer Nitro 5 (view at Amazon). Its hardware specifications make for an enjoyable gaming experience, and you also have the ability to upgrade components easily. Then there’s the price, which makes the whole package even better. If you’re looking for something larger, we recommend the MSI GF 75 Thin (view at Amazon).

How We Tested

Our testers and expert reviewers use a variety of methods and benchmark tests to evaluate gaming laptops under $1,000. We look at design, weight, screen size and resolution, port placement, and any other special features like mechanical keyboards and RGB lighting. For screens, we also look at the type of screen it is, the refresh rate, and if it's compatible with FreeSync and/or G-Sync. For objective performance measures, we use common tests like PCMark, 3DMark, Cinebench, and others to get scores for CPU and GPU capabilities. We also fire up demanding games, enable an FPS counter, and play the games on high settings to see frame rates.

Additional factors we take under consideration are the strength and quality of wireless connectivity and audio quality. To test battery life, we stream video at maximum brightness to measure runtime, along with general usage over the course of a day. Finally, we look at the value proposition and competition, to see how sub-$1,000 gaming laptop stacks up against rivals in a similar price range. Most of the gaming laptops we test are purchased by us; only newer ones are sometimes provided by a manufacturer, but that has no impact on our objective evaluation.

About Our Trusted Experts

Erika Rawes has been writing professionally for more than a decade, and she’s spent the last five years writing about consumer technology. Erika has reviewed roughly 125 gadgets, including computers, peripherals, A/V equipment, mobile devices, and smart home gadgets. Erika currently writes for Digital Trends and Lifewire.

A technology journalist with more than six years (and counting) of experience, Rajat Sharma has tested and reviewed dozens of laptops over the course of his career so far. Before joining Lifewire, he was associated as a senior technology editor with two of India’s largest media houses - The Times Group and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited.

David Beren has been covering the tech industry for more than a decade and has accumulated extensive experience in PC, laptop, and mobile tech. He's written for a number of top tech sites and also managed content for lead mobile companies like Sprint and T-Mobile.

Jeremy Laukkonen is a tech journalist with a knack for making complex subjects easily digestible. He specializes in laptop and PC technology, and also runs his own automotive blog.

FAQs

Is a $1,000 gaming dollar laptop worth it?

Yes. Many of the laptops you can get for under $1,000 dollars are capable of running games in 1080p at 60 FPS, and can easily compete with a PS4 Pro or similar console. This is basically like getting a portable console that can also handle work, school, productivity, internet activities, and entertainment all in one package.

How much should I pay for a decent gaming laptop?

You don’t want to go too cheap when purchasing a laptop, especially a gaming laptop. However, you can find deals on refurbished or older models. The $750 to $1,000 range is realistic for a budget gaming laptop. If you choose a good model in that range, you should be able to play most modern games on high enough settings to really enjoy them. 

Which gaming laptop brand is best?

The best gaming laptop brand often changes hands with each iteration of releases. Dell may make a powerful Alienware laptop, only to have that model be topped by HP or Acer shortly after. What really matters is making sure you find a quality laptop within your budget that will allow you to play your favorite games. Also, look while for affordable support and a good warranty. Do your research and pick a model that fits your needs.

What to Look for in a Gaming Laptop

SSD

The effect of a slow hard drive on the overall gaming experience is severely underrated. Look for a gaming laptop with a blazing fast SSD, and you can say goodbye to slow load times and other similar headaches. It’s also perfectly fine to go with a model that includes a hybrid drive or both a HDD and an SSD, as long as you store your games on the SSD.

IPS display

When budget is a big concern, shelling out for a fancy monitor immediately after buying a brand new gaming laptop is no fun. Look for a model that includes an IPS display that’s capable of handling at least a 1920 x 1080 resolution. You may need to settle for a 15-inch screen at this price point, but it’s worth stepping up to a 17-inch model if you can.

Powerful GPU

An exceptionally slow CPU can create a bottleneck, but an underpowered GPU is far more likely to ruin your gaming experience. Look at the games you want to play, and shoot for a GPU that’s at least in the neighborhood of the recommended specifications.

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