The 9 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

There’s no denying the fact that when it comes to gaming PCs, the concept of “cheap” doesn’t really exist. This is even more so in case of gaming laptops, which are easily some of the most powerful notebook PCs available out there. However, that doesn’t mean you have to shell out a fortune in order to have a great gaming experience while on the move. Even for less than $1000, there are a lot of feature-packed laptops in 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 $1000 and are planning to dip your toes into the world of gaming, here are some of the best gaming laptops you can get. Also, be sure to check out our constantly updated guide to the best laptop deals happening right now, for great machines at steep discounts.

Best Overall: Acer Nitro 5

What We Like
  • Easy to upgrade

  • All connectivity options included

What We Don't Like
  • Somewhat heavy

Offering unbeatable performance at an amazing price, Acer's Nitro 5 is undeniably one of the best gaming laptops that you can buy for less than $1000 today. It's powered by a ninth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, paired with 8GB of DDR4 RAM and 256GB of NVMe SSD storage. However, the real star of the show is NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, which comes with 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 RAM and allows you to play most (if not all) AAA gaming titles sans any issues.

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 Wi-Fi 802.11ax, 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 (Black & Red) 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.

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

Most Popular: Acer Aspire E 15

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 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 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.

Best Display: ASUS TUF FX505DT-AH51

What We Like
  • Durable construction

  • Comfortable keyboard

What We Don't Like
  • No USB Type-C port

Considering the amount of visual detail today's games have in each frame, your gaming system needs a great display to do them full justice. Say hello to 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 1920x1080 pixels and uses "In-Plane Switching" (IPS) technology to deliver consistent colors at all viewing angles.

That said, what really sets this panel apart is its 120Hz refresh rate, resulting in super-smooth gameplay with almost no motion blur. The laptop is powered by AMD's Ryzen 7 3750H processor, working alongside 8GB of DDR4 RAM and 512GB 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. ASUS TUF FX505 is a well-built laptop, a fact that is cemented even further 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.

Best Design: HP Pavilion 15 Gaming

What We Like
  • Ample amount of RAM

  • Comes with all standard connectivity options

What We Don't Like
  • Dated Bluetooth standard

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 512GB 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

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

If you have $1000 to spend on a gaming laptop and don't mind spending every penny, look no further than MSI's GF65 Thin. Helmed by Intel's ninth-generation Core i7 processor, it 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. MSI GF65 Thin also comes with a fully backlit keyboard and boasts an advanced cooling system that uses up to 6 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 hair-brushed finish.

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

Final Verdict

Although all of the above-mentioned gaming laptops are incredible, our overall recommendation is the Acer Nitro 5. Its hardware specifications make for an enjoyable gaming experience, and you also get the ability to upgrade components easily. Then there’s the price, which makes the whole package even better.

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

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.

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.