The 8 Best Gaming Laptops for Under $1,000 in 2020

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

The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide

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Finding the best gaming laptop for under $1,000 doesn't mean you have to make huge compromises on quality and performance. Though you will need to figure out what your priorities are going in (display, the best GPU, whether you'll also need rock-solid productivity), it's increasingly possible to get a portable PC that's well specced for modern games without bankrupting yourself.

One of the keys to shopping for a budget gaming machine is to figure out just how much performance you really need to squeeze out of it. If this is just going to be a backup to your killer desktop rig, and you only plan to play games like Fortnite or Minecraft when you're commuting, you don't need a beastly RTX graphics card (and you won't need to pay the massive premium that comes with that kind of tech). And while gaming will always prioritize GPU over CPU, if you also plan to do a lot of work/productivity stuff, you'll need at least a capable processor backing up all the graphics hardware.

Most Popular: Acer Aspire E 15 E5-576-392H

What We Like
  • Amazing price

  • Excellent battery life

  • Attractive full HD display

What We Don't Like
  • Underwhelming GPU

Boasting 13 hours of battery life and an astoundingly low price tag, the Acer Aspire E 15 is the ideal choice for economical gamers on a budget. It weighs 5.27 pounds and is made with a highly durable polycarbonate plastic. The 15.6-inch widescreen display features full HD resolution, and its built-in speakers produce a punchy, surround-sound experience.

The hardware is well-equipped for mid-range gaming, with an 8th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, 6GB dual channel memory, a 1TB hard drive, and an Intel UHD 620 graphics card. The Acer also boasts 802.11ac wireless with MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input, and multiple output) for a faster and more stable connection with online games. Considering the price point, this model is an absolute steal and will serve you well for mid-range games. Not enough processing power for your needs? Acer is one step ahead: the E 15 includes an accessible compartment for the SSD and memory, so you can install upgraded hardware with ease. Our reviewer, Jeremy, praised it for its impressive performance at this ridiculously low price point.

"The full HD screen and snappy performance make productivity tasks a breeze." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Overall: Lenovo Legion Y520

What We Like
  • Great speakers

  • Compact and portable

  • Highly customizable

What We Don't Like
  • 7th Gen CPU

The Lenovo Legion Y520 is powered by a 7th generation Intel Core processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics and has a 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080) HD display, as well as hybrid storage. Whether you’re using headphones or not, the inclusion of Harman Audio with Dolby Premium sound adds dual two-watt speakers designed specifically to immerse you directly into gameplay. The machine also has great customization settings, so you can choose your active keys, network priority, and cooling features. Moreover, thermal engineering on the Y520 adds strategically placed fans and vents to keep hot air continuously moving out the underside of the laptop. As for dimensions, it's just 1.02 inches thick and weighs 5.3 pounds.

Best Value: HP Pavilion Power 15

What We Like
  • Great for productivity

  • 12GB 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 Power 15. With powerful internal hardware, including a Core i7 processor, 12GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive and an AMD Radeon RX 550 graphics card with 2GB dedicated memory, this machine plays the latest games and can easily run reports for work. The four-pound device offers 10 hours of battery life and has a 15.6-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS anti-glare display that offers viewing angles of up to 178 degrees.

Best Splurge: MSI GL72M 7RDX-800

What We Like
  • Large, beautiful HD display

  • Powerful CPU

  • Multiple video outputs

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

MSI’s GL72M 7RDX-800 gaming laptop offers an exceptionally powerful and beautiful machine that comes equipped a 17.3-inch (1920 x 1080 pixels) HD display. Under the hood is an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, 1TB HDD and 128GB SSD for increased application loading time. Running NVIDIA’s GTX 1050 2G GDDR5 graphics card, the MSI is ready to handle high-definition games without batting an eye. You can even add up to two additional monitors for truly immersive gameplay (or multitasking) via the HDMI or DisplayPort connections. MSI also packed in Cooler Boost 4 tech that adds six total heat pipes among the GPU and CPU, so it handles the heat with aplomb.

Best Display: Dell i7559-5012GRY

What We Like
  • Incredible 4K display

  • Outstanding audio

  • Included SSD for faster loads/boot time

What We Don't Like
  • 6th Gen processor

The display on Dell’s i7559-5012GRY 15.6-inch 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) gaming laptop has a 4K LED touchscreen that offers outstanding clarity with true-to-life colors. Beyond the display, the audio experience on the Dell is equally outstanding. Waves MaxxAudio Pro allows total control over the sound performance and it works even better when paired with the NVIDIA GTX 960M video graphics. Powering all of these features are a 6th generation Intel quad-core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive supported by an 8GB SSD for extra fast application loading. It weighs 6.1 pounds and has 10 hours of battery life.

Best Sound: Lenovo IdeaPad L340

What We Like
  • Very portable

  • Expansive 17" display

  • Highly customizable

What We Don't Like
  • Subpar battery life

Lenovo presses right up against what's possible in terms of display and gaming performance for under $1,000 with it's 2019 IdeaPad L340. The most immediately striking feature is the generous 17" screen, an IPS panel sporting FHD resolution. Despite that massive display, however, the L340 still clocks in at a relatively light 6.13 pounds, and is one of the most portable 17-inch laptops on the market.

Powerful thermal fans ensure that the L340 will stay cool under pressure, even while pushing the 9th gen processor and discrete Nvidia GTX graphics card to the limit. If you want to spend a little extra and eke out more performance, Lenovo gives you a huge suite of customization options—everything from the processor and storage to the included software suite can be altered to suit your preferences/needs.

Runner-Up, Best Sound: Acer Aspire VX 15 Gaming Laptop

What We Like
  • Excellent Dolby audio

  • Speedy 256GB SSD

  • Vibrant backlit keyboard

What We Don't Like
  • Fairly heavy

The sleek-looking Acer Aspire VX 15 supports the company's TrueHarmony technology and Dolby audio premium sound, which means a well-balanced and surprisingly powerful audio experience. Fortunately, the sound isn’t the only thing noteworthy about the VX 15. Its Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti with 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM also make for terrific performance. A red backlit keyboard illuminates for easy visibility in both day and night conditions, while dual fans help maintain performance levels and eliminate the chance of the laptop overheating. It weighs 5.51 pounds and has up to six hours of battery life.

Best Storage: Dell Inspiron i5577

What We Like
  • Big 512GB SSD

  • 16GB of RAM

  • Excellent CPU

What We Don't Like
  • No standard HDD

Dell’s Inspiron i5577 has 512GB SSD, which might not add as much storage overall as competitive models with 1TB of HDD space, but SSD performance far outpaces standard drive performance, so it's still an exceptionally attractive option. Other features include 16GB of RAM, an Intel Core i7 3.8GHz processor, NVIDIA’s GTX 1050 graphics card and a 15.6-inch Full HD display. Adding even more to the gameplay value is the inclusion of Dell’s MaxxAudio. Battery life is an underwhelming four to five hours and it weighs 5.7 pounds.

Final Verdict

For pure bang for buck in the gaming laptop market, the Acer E 15 is impossible to beat, with its low price point, incredible battery life, and solid performance. For a slightly more capable machine at a slightly higher price, consider Lenovo's Legion Y520, which delivers a slightly better dedicated GPU and fantastic customization options.

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

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.

What to Look for in a Gaming Laptop

SSD - The impact of a slow hard drive on the overall gaming experience is severely underrated. Look for a gaming laptop with a blazingly-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.